Jackal by Erin E. Adams

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: October 4th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Mystery, Thriller, Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Audiobook, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

A young Black girl goes missing in the woods outside her white Rust Belt town. But she’s not the first—and she may not be the last. . . .

It’s watching.

Liz Rocher is coming home . . . reluctantly. As a Black woman, Liz doesn’t exactly have fond memories of Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a predominantly white town. But her best friend is getting married, so she braces herself for a weekend of awkward and passive-aggressive reunions. Liz has grown, though; she can handle whatever awaits her. But on the day of the wedding, somewhere between dancing and dessert, the bride’s daughter, Caroline, goes missing—and the only thing left behind is a piece of white fabric covered in blood.

It’s taking.

As a frantic search begins, with the police combing the trees for Caroline, Liz is the only one who notices a pattern: a summer night. A missing girl. A party in the woods. She’s seen this before. Keisha Woodson, the only other Black girl in school, walked into the woods with a mysterious man and was later found with her chest cavity ripped open and her heart missing. Liz shudders at the thought that it could have been her, and now, with Caroline missing, it can’t be a coincidence. As Liz starts to dig through the town’s history, she uncovers a horrifying secret about the place she once called home. Children have been going missing in these woods for years. All of them Black. All of them girls.

It’s your turn.

With the evil in the forest creeping closer, Liz knows what she must do: find Caroline, or be entirely consumed by the darkness.


First Line:

Tanisha Walker loved the stars. She didn’t memorize the paths of the cosmos of their patterns.

Jackal by Erin E. Adams

When I first read the blurb for this book (and saw the striking cover), I thought this would be a great book to read around Halloween. And I did intend to read this book on or around Halloween. But life gets in the way, and I ended up pushing this book off until mid-January. However, I am glad that I read it when I did. Jackal was a disturbing book, and honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to handle reading it around Halloween.

Some prominent trigger warnings come with this book. I had googled it when I got the approval from Random House, so I knew what I was getting into reading it. The trigger warnings are racism (explicit), fatphobia (moderate), domestic violence (detailed in one scene), alcoholism (explicit), anxiety (explicit, it triggered mine in places), death of a child/children (all explicit, I had nightmares), and kidnapping (moderate to explicit). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

Jackal takes place entirely in the mountain town of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. It is a fast-paced book that kept my eyes glued to the pages. I could see similarities to where I am living now, as sad as that is.

The author did not write the characters in Jackal to be likable. I don’t know how to explain, except I could see these characters walking the streets of my town. Out of the introduced characters, I liked Liz and Mel the most. Something about them struck a chord with me, and their characters stayed with me long after I finished the book.

  • Liz—She was a freaking mess. She didn’t want to come home to Johnstown and, in fact, had spent almost all of her adult life avoiding traveling there. But she came home because Mel, her best friend, was getting married and Liz was in the wedding. When Caroline was kidnapped, and fingers began pointing to Liz, she was desperate to find her. Her detective work wasn’t the best, but Liz did find some good leads (even when the cops didn’t and wouldn’t). All the while, she depended on the one cop she trusted to help her. I loved how she connected Caroline to the other missing girls.

Jackal fit perfectly into the horror genre. At first (and I had to read Tanisha’s chapter a few times to get it through my thick head) because I didn’t understand what was happening. But the author was able to drop enough hints and build it up so that I did understand. Add in the racial tensions and the tensions over the kidnapping, and this book exploded. There was a mystery angle that added extra depth to the storyline. I liked figuring out who took the girls (all teenagers/pre-teens) and the motivation. I thought that I knew, but yeah, I didn’t.

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Liz, Caroline’s kidnapping, and the other girl’s murders and how it ties together. The author kept me guessing who the kidnapper was, and she had me think of one person when it was someone else. I loved that the author wrote short chapters about each of the girls who were killed from 1985 and on. I also loved how she tied those killings to Caroline’s kidnapping. There was a part in the book explaining why each girl was killed, and it blew my mind.

The storyline with Liz, the Jackal, Caroline, and the killers was terrific. It went in-depth into the racial and class division in Johnstown. It also explained the Jackal and the motivations behind the killings.

Several smaller sub-storylines added extra depth to the main one. Those more minor storylines explained why Liz was the way she was. They also illustrated several other things brought up in the book. Put it this way; I will never look at a baggie of popcorn the same way again. Talk about disgusting!!!

The end of Jackal was interesting. I will not say a lot, but Liz was fantastic. The author explained the Jackal’s roots (and it did surprise me). There is also a small scene at the end where Caroline lists every girl killed. But other than that, I can’t say anything more because of spoilers.

I recommend Jackal to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and non-graphic sexual situations. Also, see my trigger warning above.

Many thanks to Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Erin E. Adams for allowing me to read and review Jackal. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading this review of Jackal, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The Second You’re Single by Cara Tanamachi

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin

Date of publication: January 31st, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary Romance, Contemporary, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Fiction, Humor, Adult, Adult Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Cheerfully irreverent, bitingly funny, and filled with romantic charm, The Second You’re Single is all about navigating the most romantic month of the year, and how love always seems to arrive when you least expect it.

Freelance writer Sora Reid believes in inertia. She’s the odd one out in a close-knit family of go-getters, including her Japanese-American mom, who hints about her need to lose weight, and her soon-to-be married, overachieving younger sister, who needs her to have a date for the wedding, since a wedding party couples’ dance with their Scottish great uncle Bob simply won’t do. For Sora, minimal input, minimal expectations is the way to go. She’d rather stay at home with her insufferable neighbor and her adorable pitbull.

The one thing that disrupts her inertia: an intense dislike for Valentine’s Day. What is it with the commercial love machine? Why do we pin our hopes on one romantic day, when staying home with a package of bacon and a bottle of tequila would be way better? Sora’s been betrayed and disappointed more than once and her heart is starting to feel like her Grandma Mitsuye’s antique Japanese ceramic bowl, with its many gold-filled cracks.

When her pledge to stay single in February inspires readers to #gosolo, Sora has a responsibility to empower her readers. But relationships aren’t built to last, so it shouldn’t be that hard. Right?

Enter Jack Mann. A muscle-bound baker who looks like he lifts logs on the weekends, Sora hasn’t thought of Jack since they were in elementary school together. When they see each other at the local grocery store and the attraction hits hard, Sora knows she has to shut it down, quick. She can’t #gosolo AND get the guy. She can’t let down her readers. And relationships always end, so why should Jack be any different–even though he’s confounding all her long-held expectations of love?


First Line:

Valentine’s Day has snuck up on me like a porch pirate.

The Second You’re Single by Cara Tanamachi

When I first read the blurb for The Second You’re Single, I didn’t like it. I am not a huge Valentine’s Day fan, but I am not an all-out hater. So I sat on this invite for a while. I wanted to make sure that I wanted to read a book about a bitter woman complaining about Valentine’s Day. I was confident and glad I did because this book was nothing like I thought it would be. It wasn’t a book about a bitter woman complaining about Valentine’s Day, that’s for sure.

Before I get into the review, I want to let you know that this book has several trigger warnings. They are body shaming (multiple people shame Sora about her weight throughout the book), fatphobia (ex’s new girlfriend and Jack’s ex both make comments), miscarriage (Sora and her ex), cancer (Jack’s niece had leukemia as a toddler), cheating (both Jack and Sora’s exes cheated on them. Also Sora’s sister gets cheated on by her fiancee), bullying (Jack was severely bullied by classmates growing up, Sora experienced online bullying towards the end of the book), death of a parent (Sora’s father dies before the book starts but she is still working through grief), verbal abuse (Sora’s father verbally abused them), neglect and its repercussions (Jack’s ex), stalking (Jack’s ex), and depression (Sora). If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading this book.

The storyline for The Second You’re Single was funny and interesting. Sora had just found out that her ex was lying to her. He was married with children….not the single DJ she was led to believe. Disillusioned with men and the holiday that caters only to people in relationships, Sora writes an article for the online magazine she works for promoting #gosolo for February. What she wasn’t expecting was how much it resonated with people. She wasn’t expecting Jack to walk into her life right as #gosolo took off, and she certainly wasn’t expecting to fall in love with him. Can Sora keep her promise to her readers about going solo for the month of February? Will she be able to keep her relationship with Jack under wraps? What about Jack’s blonde model ex-girlfriend? Will Sora be able to compete with her?

The Second You’re Single was a fast-paced, hilarious romance that takes place in Chicago. Let me clarify that it takes place in winter in Chicago. I was cold even reading this book.

The characters in The Second You’re Single were well-written. I was able to connect with all of them, even the “villains” (aka Jack’s ex and Sora’s neighbor). Some characters I wished had more page time, and others I wished were scaled back.

  • Sora—While I loved her character, I thought she was a hot mess for most of the book. I did think that she was depressed for a good part of the book, and guess what? She had reason to be. She had a tough few years with some awful things happening to her. I would have been surprised if she wasn’t depressed. She couldn’t trust her feelings when it came to Jack (because his ex was semi-stalking him), and she needed to be single until March 1st. Again, I wasn’t surprised when everything blew up in her face. But it was after that made me impressed with her. Oh, and her love of bacon. I think she and my 9-year-old would get along great. She also cut through the BS when it came to her sister. But I wish that it had been sooner.
  • Jack–Did he have his issues? He did. He comes across as too needy and a little desperate at the beginning of the book. He was also too kind to his ex. He took everything that woman did with grace and understanding; that was amazing. I also liked that he understood Sora’s situation with solo February. But I didn’t think he got how big it was until he was forced to the side and hidden away. I didn’t blame him for feeling the way he did. I would have done the same thing.

The Second You’re Single fits perfectly into the romance genre. It was a friends-to-lovers trope with a healthy dose of Instalove thrown in. I am not a fan of Instalove but I did like it in this case. Because Sora and Jack knew each other in elementary school (Sora was Jack’s only friend, and she stood up for him against bullies), Jack loved her back then. So, it wasn’t hard for me to imagine them falling for each other within a few weeks of their meeting. Oh, let’s not forget the comedy angle of this book too. I was dying laughing at the one-liners that Sora had.

The storyline with Sora, Jack, their relationship, the #gosolo challenge, and Jack’s ex was interesting. I didn’t know how anything would end except Sora and Jack’s relationship. As I said above, I thought Jack was too nice to his ex, and it did come back to bite him in the butt, big time. Their breakup wasn’t unexpected (it happens in all romances), but what was unexpected was Sora’s come to Jesus moment with her best friend (who is a therapist) after. Everything said was true, and I liked that Sora took what she said to heart. The #gosolo challenge was fun, and I could see it happening in real life (maybe it has?).

There were several secondary storylines that I enjoyed reading. There are some that I hope the author follows up on (Jack has several unmarried brothers and Sora has a sister).

The end of The Second You’re Single was your typical HEA. I was surprised at who was instrumental in pushing Sora and Jack back together. But, considering what happened and the talk this person had with Jack, I should have seen it coming. I loved seeing Sora and Jack’s changes, both together and separately. But, it was the scene on the playground that got me. I was laughing and crying at once.

I recommend The Second You’re Single to anyone over 21. There are sexual scenes and situations, language, and mild violence. Also, see my trigger warnings above.

Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Cara Tanamachi for allowing me to read and review The Second You’re Single. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading this review of The Second You’re Single, then you will enjoy reading these books:

WWW Wednesday: February 1st, 2023

WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam at Taking on a World of Words.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?


Personal:

I hope you all had a wonderful week last week.

My week after Wednesday was pretty good. My drama from earlier in the week went away, and I got an apology from a higher-up.

Miss R had horseback riding, and she did pretty well. I had a long talk with her trainer, and we are revising a plan to work on her nervousness about jumping.

I spent the weekend just chilling at home. Saturday, we returned to the shelter to look at what they had for dogs and cats. One stood out to me. Her name is Dolly, and she is a 1-year-old pit mix. She was so sweet!! Both Miss R and I want her. But she is still on medical hold (weaning eight puppies, and she had just been spayed) and will be on hold until she is healed and the babies are weaned.

Monday, BK came into the living room and swore he saw a tiny kitten on our back porch. I called BS until I checked our Ring. Yup, there was a kitten, and I saw it on Tuesday, eating the food we set out for the two ferals we feed. It looks to be between 6-8 weeks old, and it appears to be at least half Lynx-Point Siamese. There is no way that a young kitten would wander away from its home. I am thinking it was dumped. We’re going to bring it in, clean it up (and sex it), and then take it from there—which means it will join our family.

Shows I Watched: Secrets of the Zoo: Tampa (it was on NatGeo), OPLive (on Reelz), and The Last of Us (on HBO Max). This week’s The Last of Us episode had me in tears. I’m not going to give spoilers, but that was a great storyline and the acting (chef’s kiss).

What I Cooked/Baked: Miss R and I made Pizza Lollipops Monday night. I wasn’t too sure how they were going to turn out. But 2 out of the three kids liked them. If you are going to make these, I recommend 450 for 10-15 mins (check after 10). 450 at 25-30 mins would have burned them. And a big shout out to Hobby Lobby for having popsicle sticks!!

Reading:

I am getting a lot of reading done these days. Sitting in the car rider line for an hour helps with that.

The longest book I read this week: Jackal. I had difficulty concentrating while reading this book, and it took me longer than usual to read.

The shortest book I read this week: The Healing. It was a short book, and I finished it within a couple of hours.

Other Interesting Bookish News: I am still reordering my Goodreads Shelves. It’s time-consuming, but it needs to be done. I bought The Joy of Cooking (the 2019 edition). I figured it is a must-have for the house.

How was your week? Read anything good? Did you do anything exciting? Watch anything new? Cook anything good?

As always, let me know if you have read or are planning to read any of these


What I Recently Finished Reading:

Bought free from Kindle/Read for the Cover Scavenger Hunt Challenge

“Confess!”
Patrick Lahm is down on his luck. Late for his book signing, out of gas and stuck in a storm. He hitches a ride to the Kurtain Motel where he is forced to spend the night. The small motel seems harmless enough at first, but as the night drags on, Patrick and the other guests slowly begin to realize there is a lot more to their temporary lodging than meets the eye.

Something evil is at work at the Kurtain Motel; something that creeps into the deepest, darkest corners of your mind and tugs at the chords of sanity until they finally break. On the longest night of his life, Patrick soon finds out that there is a reason why skeletons are kept in closets. He realizes that your sins always find a way to catch up with you, no matter how hard you try to run.

Welcome to the Kurtain Motel, where all your nightmares come true.

From author and bought through KU/Review set for 2-6

When the past collides with the present…

It was an ordinary day in Friar’s Ridge when Jess took a wrong turn on the way home and, on the spur of the moment, acquired a book at the local market. When she discovers a photograph of a woman within, an indomitable spirit in the form of a small boy enters the life Jess shares with her seven-year-old son, Jonas.

A friendship develops between Jonas and the ghost boy, but something darker is lurking beneath the boy’s friendly demeanour. Meanwhile, Jess oscillates between reality and that of another dimension, her protective nature compromised by a dark and mysterious realm.

She begins to search for the lady in the photograph, who she believes is the ghost boy’s mother. Little did Jess realise that this would lead her to the heart of an undiscovered abhorrent crime, but who was responsible?

And what really happened that fateful hot summer’s day by the park lake?


What I am currently reading:

ARC from NetGalley/Review coming 2-7

Three ordinary people risk everything for a chance at redemption in this audacious, utterly gripping novel of catastrophe and survival at the end of the world, from the acclaimed author of The Chalk Man

Hannah awakens to carnage, all mangled metal and shattered glass. During a hasty escape from a secluded boarding school, her coach careened over a hillside road during one of the year’s heaviest snowstorms, trapping her inside with a handful of survivors, a brewing virus, and no way to call for help. If she and the remaining few want to make it out alive, with their sanity–and secrets–intact, they’ll need to work together or they’ll be buried alive with the rest of the dead.

A former detective, Meg awakens to a gentle rocking. She is in a cable car suspended far above a snowstorm and surrounded by strangers in the same uniform as her, with no memory of how they got there. They are heading to a mysterious place known to them only as “The Retreat,” but when they discover a dead man among their ranks and Meg spies a familiar face, she realizes that there is something far more insidious going on.

Carter is gazing out the window of the abandoned ski chalet that he and his ragtag compatriots call home. Together, they manage a precarious survival, manufacturing vaccines against a deadly virus in exchange for life’s essentials. But as their generator begins to waver, the threat of something lurking in the chalet’s depths looms larger, and their fragile bonds will be tested when the power finally fails–for good.

The imminent dangers faced by Hannah, Meg, and Carter are each one part of the puzzle. Lurking in their shadows is an even greater threat–one that threatens to consume all of humanity.


What books I think I’ll read next:

ARC from NetGalley/Review set for 2-9

In April Asher’s next Supernatural Singles novel, Not Your Ex’s Hexes, a one-night-stand between a willful witch and a broody half-demon conjures an adventure that wouldn’t be complete without several magical mishaps.

For her entire life, Rose Maxwell trained to become the next Prima on the Supernatural Council. Now that she’s stepped down, it’s time for this witch to focus on herself. And not think about her impulsive one-night stand with Damian Adams, a half-Demon Veterinarian who she can’t get out of her head. Neither of them is looking for a relationship. But when Rose is sentenced to community service at Damian’s animal sanctuary it becomes impossible for them to ignore their sparking attraction. A friends-with-benefits, no feelings, no strings arrangement works perfectly for them both.

After a sequence of dead-end jobs, it’s not until Rose tangos with two snarly demons that she thinks she’s finally found her path. However, this puts Damian back on the periphery of a world he thought he left behind. He doesn’t approve of Rose becoming a Hunter, but if there’s one thing he’s learned about the stubborn witch, it was telling her not to do something was one sure-fire way to make sure she did.

Working—and sleeping—together awakens feelings Damian never knew he had…and shouldn’t have. Because thanks to his ex’s hex, if he falls in love, he’ll not only lose his heart—but his humanity.

ARC from author/Review set for 2-10

Speak of pain, and I’ll tell you of the Time who stole it away…

Besieged by war, ravaged by monsters, and crawling with the undead, the land of Okarria is dying. Seventeen-year-old Emara survives by using her modest healing gift to save as many as she can while eluding the invaders who thirst for her enchanted blood.

So when a cursed cat saves her life and reveals Emara is the legendary Time Heir the necromancer king’s been searching for, she agrees to act as bait in a plot to destroy him. But when the plan goes horrifically awry, Emara must discover how deep her powers go, what she can change…

And what she cannot.

Unfortunately, Time Heirs have a history of getting killed, and with Okarria’s future on the line, Emara may have no choice but to follow in her ancestors’ footsteps.

Free Kindle Purchase/Reading for the Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge

Eli likes uncomplicated. Kill the Vampire Coven Master, save the little girl, simple and uncomplicated. That changes with a phone call. Life gets complicated quickly when Eli finds out that he has to work with his most dangerous foe, a beautiful demon succubus. When Good and Evil have to work together against a common enemy, Eli has to wonder, who’s going to put the knife in his back, his enemies, or his allies.

Free Kindle Purchase/Reading for the Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023

You feel ecstatic! Until you kill yourself.

The Happy Chip is the latest nanoengineering wonder from the high-flying tech company, NeoHappy, Inc.

Hundreds of millions of people have had the revolutionary nanochip injected into their bodies, to monitor their hormonal happiness and guide them to life choices, from foods to sex partners.
Given the nanochip’s stunning success, struggling science writer Brad Davis is thrilled when he is hired to co-author the biography of its inventor, billionaire tech genius Marty Fallon.

That is, until Davis learns that rogue company scientists are secretly testing horrifying new control chips with “side effects”—suicidal depression, uncontrollable lust, murderous rage, remote-controlled death, and ultimately, global subjugation.

His discovery threatens not only his life, but that of his wife Annie and their children. Only with the help of Russian master hacker Gregor Kalinsky and his gang can they hope to survive the perilous adventure that takes them from Boston to Beijing.

An edge-of your-seat thriller, The Happy Chip spins a cautionary tale of unchecked nanotechnology spawning insidious devices that could enslave us. It dramatically portrays how we must control our “nanofuture” before it’s too late.

February 2023 TBR

January has flown by for me (I don’t know about you guys).


Indie Authors/Publishers

From Author
From Author
From Novel Cause
From Novel Cause
From Author

NetGalley


Reading Challenges:

Dead and Gondola (Christie Bookshop: Book 1) by Ann Claire

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Holiday, Christmas, Adult, Contemporary, Audiobook

Series: Christie Bookshop

Dead and Gondola—Book 1

Last Word to the Wise—Book 2

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

When a mysterious bookshop visitor dies under murderous circumstances, the Christie sisters and their cat Agatha call on all they’ve learned about solving mysteries from their favorite novelist in this new series debut.

Ellie Christie is thrilled to begin a new chapter. She’s recently returned to her tiny Colorado hometown to run her family’s historic bookshop with her elder sister, Meg, and their friendly bookshop cat, Agatha. Perched in a Swiss-style hamlet accessible by ski gondola and a twisty mountain road, the Book Chalet is a famed bibliophile destination known for its maze of shelves and relaxing reading lounge with cozy fireside seats and panoramic views. At least, until trouble blows in with a wintery whiteout. A man is found dead on the gondola, and a rockslide throws the town into lockdown—no one in, no one out.

He was a mysterious stranger who visited the bookshop. At the time, his only blunders were disrupting a book club and leaving behind a first-edition Agatha Christie novel, written under a pseudonym. However, once revealed, the man’s identity shocks the town. Many residents knew of him. Quite a few had reason to want him dead. Others hide secrets. The police gather suspects, but when they narrow in on the sisters’ close friends, the Christies have to act.

Although the only Agatha in their family tree is their cat, Ellie and Meg know a lot about mysteries, and they’re not about to let the situation snowball out of control. The Christie sisters must summon their inner Miss Marples and trek through a blizzard of clues before the killer turns the page to their final chapter.


First Line:

I swung open the heavy oak door and blinked at the figure taking shape in the blizzard.

Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire

I love mysteries set in bookstores and/or small towns, and this book has both. It was a given that I would accept the invitation from the publisher. I am glad that I did because this was a great mystery.

Dead and Gondola is the first book in the Christie Bookshop series. So, my usual drivel about reading previous books does not apply here. You can safely read this book and not wonder about storylines or characters.

The plotline for Dead and Gondola was interesting and engaging. Ellie has returned to her hometown to help her older sister run their family’s acclaimed book shop, The Book Chalet. Ellie wasn’t expecting an older man to show up at the shop, looking for a woman named CeCe and carrying a rare book. She also wasn’t expecting to witness that same older man get murdered. And she certainly wasn’t expecting her long-time employee to disappear simultaneously. With the roads out of town closed, Ellie takes it upon herself to investigate. What she discovers shocks her to her core and throws suspicion at everyone in her village. Who killed the older man? Why did her employee disappear? What connects the two?

Dead and Gondola is a medium-paced book set in the fictional town of Last Word, Colorado. I loved the description of the town. It is a ski town, and the author did go into what it was like living in a town that relies on skiing for income. But she also showed what living in a small town was like.

The characters in Dead and Gondola weren’t as fleshed out as I would have liked them to be. But, seeing this is the first book in the series, I expect some character growth in the later books. Besides that, I loved seeing the assortment of people that made up Ellie’s world. They were as unique as the town was. I also liked the darkness in this town and the people.

  • Ellie—I liked her, but she annoyed me during parts of the book. There were points in the book where I couldn’t connect to her. She became almost obsessed with discovering who murdered the older man and why. I did feel bad for her when the murderer was revealed. Honestly, I was shocked and understood why she felt that way. Also, I did like her flashbacks to childhood and reading. I was the same way!!

The storyline with the older man, the mysterious CeCe, his murder, the book, and Ellie was well written. The author took me on a ride with this one. It had more twists and turns in the plotline than a mountain road. And the red herrings!!! There were a lot of them. I loved the twist the author put into this plotline. And who the murderer was!! I couldn’t believe it. It wasn’t who I was expecting it to be.

The storyline with Mrs. Reed, her disappearance, the shop, Ellie, and Meg was also very well written. I was with Ellie for almost half the book. I thought something terrible had happened to her. But then she was found, and I couldn’t help but be slightly irritated by Ellie. I was like, “Leave the poor woman alone!!” Then the author had a twist in this plotline that had me shaking my head. And the author led me to believe one thing when the opposite happened.

Dead and Gondola fit perfectly into the cozy mystery genre. The author kept me guessing a few things (see above), and a big twist at the end of the book took me by surprise.

The end of Dead and Gondola was interesting. The author was able to wrap up the main storylines in this book in a way that I enjoyed. But she did leave enough wiggle room for book 2. I can’t wait to read book 2!!

I recommend Dead and Gondola to anyone over 16. It is a clean book (no kissing, no sex), but there is some mild language and violence.

I want to thank Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam, NetGalley, and Ann Claire for allowing me to read and review Dead and Gondola. All opinions expressed in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading my review of Dead and Gondola, then you will enjoy reading these books:

Affinity for Pain (Newborn City: Book 1) by R.E. Johnson

Publisher: IngramSpark

Date of Publication: October 21st, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Romance. Dark Fantasy

Series: Newborn City

Affinity for Pain—Book 1

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Perfect for fans of J.R. Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series and Keri Lake’s
Nightshade, Affinity for Pain is a dark paranormal romance that is steamy,
action-packed, and full of emotional intrigue.

Hope Turner is the ideal human-hunting assassin, and she is damn good at her job. A daughter of the Chakal, a race of hybrid demons lacking physical sensation and
emotion, Hope was always brutally efficient in her work. She never struggled with a case, that is, until she was assigned to take down Ciaran O-Connor – a stubborn,
strong-willed bodyguard with a dark past and severe PTSD.

He also happens to be her soulmate.

When the omaeriku – an inescapable soulmate bond – takes hold of her, Hope is hit with a wave of emotion and physical sensation for the first time in her life. Finding herself unable to kill Ciaran and ending up on her former boss’s hit list, Hope and Ciaran must escape into hiding. Immediately, the chemistry between Hope and Ciaran is electric. However, they must try to direct their focus on finding a way to take down Marcus Dentry, their newfound common enemy, who was both Hope’s former boss and Ciaran’s former captor and torturer.

However, as they spend more time together and succumb to their physical desire for each other, the newfound emotion and pain brought forth by the soulmate bond begin to overwhelm Hope. Can Hope learn to handle her sudden emotions, both the good and the bad, before it drives her away from the only person who can make her feel? And can Hope and Ciaran track down Marcus and exact their revenge before he gets to them first?

Inspired by the works of authors like Robin McKinley and Neil Gaiman, Affinity for
Pain is a great next read for smut-lovers seeking a romance that includes action,
intimate vulnerability, and electric chemistry. Click “Add to Cart!” today!


First Line:

“And now I’m late. Ugh. This guy better die quick.”

Affinity for Pain by R.E. Johnson

One of my guilty pleasures is reading books that contain a lot of smut and have the tropes of fated mates. Yes, I am one of those people who read those werewolf smut snippets on Facebook (come on, you know you did it!!). So, when I read the blurb for this book, I was immediately intrigued. Not because it has werewolves (spoiler, it doesn’t) but because it was the same kind of book, except it has demons. So, how could I say no? Well, this book was a lot darker than those snippets. Not that I didn’t enjoy it (I did), but this book might not be the right fit for most people.

Now, saying that, I am going to put the trigger warning up front. I am not easily shocked (by anything in life). But the triggers in this book shocked me. Some things discussed in the book took me by surprise, and some (to be frank), disgusted me. So, here are the trigger warnings, and there might be a spoiler or two in there (sorry!!) This book contains cursing (a lot of foul language), explicit sex that includes kink (some BSDM, praise, and first time), torture (graphic), sexual assault (on a male), discussion of past trauma related to male sexual assault and captivity, kidnapping, combat, gun fights, mentions of suicide, and pregnancy. If any of these trigger you, I recommend not reading the book. As I said, I am not easily shocked, but this book shocked me. I took the trigger warnings directly from the author’s website.

Affinity for Pain is the first book in the Newborn City series. Because it is the first book in the series, you don’t need to read another book to catch up on what’s happening. There is a website (see the paragraph above) where you can see trigger warnings, the book synopsis, a glossary, and the characters. I found it very helpful as a reference while writing this review.

Affinity for Pain had a dark but exciting plotline. Set in the fictional city of Newborn City in New York, this fast-paced book is centered around Hope Turner, a Chakal demon assassin, and Ciaran O’Connor, an ex-underground fighter who escaped the demons who kidnapped and tortured him. Hope has been hired to assassinate Ciarian. She is chosen because she always gets the job done. But once Hope sees Ciaran, she realizes she has bonded to him, which is called an omaeriku. With her race, it is a cherished bond, but she doesn’t want it. Unfortunately for her, it has happened, and she can’t kill Ciaran. As the bond intensifies and Hope experiences pain for the first time, she becomes overwhelmed. She channels everything into finding Marcus, her ex-boss and Ciaran’s ex-captor. Will they find Marcus? Will they be able to defeat him? Will the bond stay intact?

The author created complex characters for this book. There were so many layers; I feel she didn’t even show everything and kept some layers under wrap for the next book.

  • Hope—I liked her. A bit of background here, she is a Chakal demon. Hope is a successful assassin because she lacks pain and wants to keep it that way. The females of her race cannot feel pain until they meet their soul mate. But once she sees and realizes that Ciaran is her soulmate, she goes back and forth if she wants to be with him. The best way to get rid of the bond is to kill him. But she didn’t; instead, she forced herself to embrace the one thing she didn’t want. I was a little confused by that but hey, her fictional life. I will say that she was loyal, and once she decided to trust someone, she had their back. Overall, she was a solid character.
  • Ciaran—Holy crap, where do I begin with this guy. He was kidnapped and forced to fight in an underground gladiator arena against other demons. He was also Marcus’s special pet (use your imagination, shudder). He was instrumental in escaping and burning the club where he was being kept captive. And because of that, he has severe PTSD and intimacy issues. My heart broke for him. When he came to New York, he was full of wonder and wanted to see the world. Instead, well read above. He was a lethal killer. His time in the ring made sure of that. I wanted to ship him back to Ireland, get him into therapy, and let him heal.
  • Marcus—He was one of the evilest characters I have ever read. Yes, I know he was a demon, but he took evil to a new level. The things he did to Ciaran were unspeakable. I was left shaking after certain events in the book because I wanted to hurt him.

The secondary characters in Affinity for Pain were just as well written as the main ones. But, the author left a lot to the imagination. Dimitri is who I am talking about. I couldn’t figure out his deal except that he was loyal to Ciaran. Even the type of demon Dimitri was wasn’t talked about. All I knew was that he was from Russia, a demon with extraordinary power (he used that twice), and that was it. It made me want more!!!

Affinity for Pain is a very dark paranormal romance. It fit very well in the paranormal category. I loved the backstory of how the author introduced the demons to the world. It was fascinating, and I can’t wait to see what other kinds of demons are out there. As for the romance angle, I was a little iffy on that. It was an Instalove situation (fated mate bond). I am not a fan of Instalove. But in this case, it worked. I also felt that there was no work to the romance. It jumped from the bond to sex, sex, and more sex.

The storyline with Hope, Ciaran, and their bond was interesting. I liked how the author explained how the Chakal demons society worked. It was interesting to see a male-dominated society with its own Gods and rules. The only thing I disagreed with was forced breeding. But the author didn’t spend much time on that. I did like how Hope and Ciaran worked together. She was also good for his PTSD and wasn’t judgemental when he finally told her about what happened to him while kidnapped.

The storyline with Ciaran, Marcus, Ciaran’s kidnapping, and his ultimate journey for revenge was heartbreaking. I will warn you; it does get graphic. Marcus does some awful things to Ciaran, and the author doesn’t sugarcoat it.

The end of Affinity for Pain was interesting. I say interesting because of what happened and how everything was resolved or not resolved. I will not get into it, but I look forward to seeing what book 2 brings with Hope and Ciaran. I also hope that Dimitri and Reddina are featured more. I want to know more about him and her.

I would recommend Affinity for Pain to anyone over 21. There is graphic violence, graphic language, and graphic sexual situations. Also, see the trigger warnings at the beginning of the review.

I want to thank R.E. Johnson and Novel Cause for allowing me to read and review Affinity for Pain. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Affinity for Pain, you will enjoy reading these books:

Bookish Travels—January 2023 Destinations

I saw this meme on It’s All About Books and thought, I like this!! So, I decided to do it once a month also. Many thanks to Yvonne for initially posting this!!

This post is what it says: Places I travel to in books each month. Books are lovely and take you to places you would never get a chance to go. That includes places of fantasy too!!

So….enjoy!! Please let me know if you have read these books or traveled to these areas (other than the fantasy….lol).


Panem

District 12, Capitol

United States

Florida
Ohio (Chestnut)
Maine (Dearmont)
New York (New York City, upstate New York)
Crooked Tree (unknown state)
New York (Willow Cove)
Massachusetts (Boston, Riverton)
Massachusetts (Pittsfield, Boston, Amherst)
Florida (The Everglades)
California (Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, Pasadena, Studio City)
Texas (Houston)
North Carolina (Raleigh)
Washington D.C.
Massachusetts (Coventry)
California (San Verde)
Wisconsin (Fontana, Lake Geneva)
Florida (Accident)
Colorado (Last Word)
Washington (North Bend, San Juan Islands, Seattle), Montana
Illinois (Chicago)
Pennsylvania (Johnston)
Iowa (Ames, Sibley), Minnesota, South Carolina (Columbia),
Alabama (Summerland, Hell), New York (New York City)
Illinois (Chicago), New York (New York City), Montana

Ljosland

Hrafnsvik

Japan

Tokyo

Guatemala

Guatemala City

France

Limoges, Perigueux
Giverny

Scotland

Edinburgh
Edinburgh, North Berwick

England

Hull
London
Bellehaven Bay, Regency London
Essex, London, Kent

India

Delhi, Kanpur, Calcutta, Brahmapur

Argentina


Italy

Ostia, Padua, Port of Civitavecchia, Palmro, Sicily, Florence, Rome, Milan, Pompeii, Amalfi, Tropea

Hungary

Budapest

Slovenia

Ljubijana

Germany

Berlin

Austria

Vienna

Murder up to Bat (A Front Page Mystery: Book 2) by Elizabeth McKenna

Publisher: Maureen Lippert

Date of Publication: August 23rd, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Cozy Mystery, Fiction

Series: A Front Page Mystery

The Great Jewel Robbery—Book 1

Murder up to Bat—Book 2

Purchase Links: Kindle | B&N | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Mystery with a whiff of romance…After falling in love with the quiet lake life and a certain police detective, former Chicago Tribune reporter Emma Moore trades interviewing jocks for chasing champion cows at the county fair. As a small-town newspaper reporter, she covers local topics both big and small, but when her friend Luke is arrested for the murder of the head coach of his club softball team, she’ll need to hone her investigative skills to clear his name. Emma calls up best friend Grace for help, and together the women go up against cutthroat parents willing to kill for a chance to get their daughters onto a premier college sports team.

It’s the bottom of the ninth with bases loaded, and murder is up to bat. Can Emma and her friends bring the heat and win the game?


First Line:

The beauty queen’s solemn brown eyes showed indifference to the crowd around her.

Murder up to Bat by Elizabeth McKenna

I have stated this in past reviews, but I need to read more mystery. Now, I know you all are sitting there, looking at my January Wrap-Up and going, “Really? But this list says you do!” Trust me; I don’t. And this lack of reading diversity was why I chose to review Murder up to Bat. I am glad that I did because this book was terrific to read.

Murder Up to Bat is the second book in the A Front Page Mystery series. This book can be read as a stand-alone book. I was thankful for that since I wouldn’t say I like picking books up mid-series. I would suggest reading the previous book, though. That way, you can get a handle on the different characters and their relationships. But if you don’t, that’s fine. The author gives a brief rundown of everything at the beginning of the book.

Murder Up to Bat is a fast-paced book set in a small town in Wisconsin. I can count on my hand how many books I have read that have taken place there. There are mentions of Chicago, but they stay only at that mentions.

The storyline for Murder Up to Bat was interesting. Emma’s friend, Luke, was a once-promising baseball player whose career ended with an injury. He decided to open a gym and help fund a softball team. After confronting the temperamental head coach, Luke is discovered standing over his body the following day, holding a bloody softball bat. Not believing he was guilty, Emma puts her investigative journalism skills to work. What she finds stuns her. Softball is a highly competitive sport; some parents will do anything to get the attention of a college agent. But would they murder for it? Or is there something else going on?

This book attracted me because the mystery plotline centered around high school softball and how competitive it can be. It bordered on unbelievable at times. My oldest daughter (17) played four years of softball—3 years in our local rec league, and she started softball back at our middle school when she was in 6th grade. During those years, I couldn’t believe how the parents and the coaches would act toward the kids. So, it was believable when the mystery was centered around the dead coach. And the deeper I got into the book, the more I could see this happening in real life. The author’s note at the end also had me nodding my head in agreement.

I will say that no matter what sport, you have people who are jerks – even in horseback riding (my youngest is learning to jump hunter style). One woman told me Miss R should be further along than she is. My response was kind but to the point. Miss R had a very traumatic event when she first started learning. It continues to affect her learning and her confidence. If she has any questions about how Miss R is doing, speak to Mrs. L (the trainer) or Mrs. A (the barn owner), and they will answer her concerns. She did, threw a fit (because her daughter was riding with someone “lesser”…sigh), and was told not to come back. As I said, every sport has that one jerk ( or entitled parent).

The characters in Murder up to Bat were well-written. I did feel a certain disconnect with Emma during the first couple of chapters, but once the mystery of the dead coach started, that went away. Not reading book one contributed to my feeling that way.

  • Emma—As I said above, I did feel disconnected from Emma during the first couple of chapters. But I could see what a loyal friend she was. She and Grace were 100% certain that Luke did not kill the coach (even if the evidence said otherwise). I liked how protective she was of Luke. I also loved how she wasn’t afraid to go toe-toe with the detective in charge of the investigation. It was her determination and investigative skills that uncovered the murderer.

Murder Up to Bat fit perfectly into the cozy mystery genre. While I knew that Luke didn’t kill the coach, I was at a loss for who did. Then Emma started uncovering all these juicy details, and my suspect list grew. When the author revealed who did it, I was surprised. And the way it was revealed!!! Hoo-baby, it was good.

The storyline with Emma, her investigation, and the murder was terrific. While I was already familiar with how crazy softball parents are (see above), it was amusing to see the lengths some of these parents were willing to go to. The author took me on a ride with Emma’s investigation into the coach’s murder. There was a big twist in that storyline that I didn’t see coming. I loved it!!!

The end of Murder up to Bat was good. The author was able to wrap up the main storyline in a way that I loved. She also left it open for another story. I cannot wait to read another book in this series.

I would recommend Murder up to Bat to anyone over 16. It is a clean book with no sexual situations and very mild language. There is mild non-graphic violence.

I want to thank Maureen Lippert (publisher), NetGalley, and Elizabeth McKenna for allowing me to read and review Murder up to Bat. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading this review of Murder up to Bat, then you would enjoy reading these books:

January 2023 Wrap Up

January was a busy reading month for me. Because of that, I could complete all my reading challenges for the month!! Woot!!

It was also a busy month, personally, for me. The highlights of this month are:

  • Miss B left her dual high school and college credits program.
  • Snickers going to the emergency vet with a bloody eye. She came home with a torn tear duct and a torn lower lid.
  • BK going back to traveling each week
  • And my not-so-great, horrible week last week.

BK and I have been watching Game of Thrones (we’re on season 7), and we started watching The Last of Us.

I have been experimenting with new cooking recipes. I made a Greek Lemon Chicken Orzo soup with Miss R last week.

As always, let me know if you have read any of these books and (if you did) what you thought of them.


Books I Read:

KU Purchase—No Review
From Author
Kindle PurchaseNo Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
From Publisher—Review coming February 17th
From Publisher
From Publisher
From Publisher
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
KU Purchase—No Review
From Publisher
From Author
From Publisher
From Publisher
From PublisherReview coming July 11th, 2023
KU Purchase—No Review
Kindle Purchase—No Review
From Author
Kindle Purchase—No Review
From Publisher
From Publisher
From Publisher
KU purchase—No Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
From Author
From Publisher
Kindle Purchase—No Review
From Publisher—Review Coming February 2nd
From Publisher—Review coming February 3rd
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
Free Kindle Purchase—No Review
From Author—Review coming February 3rd

Books I got from NetGalley:

Wish Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine/Bantam
Limited Time Read Now from SMP
Read Now from Crooked Lane Books
Read Now from John Hunt Publishing
Invite from SMP
Read Now from Crooked Lane Books
Read Now from Crooked Lane Books
Read Now from Crooked Lane Books
Read Now from Crooked Lane Books
Read Now from Crooked Lane Books
Wish Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine
From SMPG
Invite from SMP
Read now from Crooked Lane Books
Wish Granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Del Rey
Wish granted from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine/Del Rey
Limited Time Read Now from St. Martin’s Press/St. Martin’s Griffin
Invite from Saint Martin’s Press

Books I got from Authors/Indie Publishers:

From Author
From Author
From Novel Cause
From Author
From Author
From Author

A Paroxysm of Fear by Chad Miller

From Author

Giveaway Winners

Paperback—Won from a giveaway. Not sure which one….lol
Kindle—Won from Goodreads Giveaway
Kindle—Won from Goodreads Giveaway

Books Reviewed:

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano (review here)

Misfire by Tammy Euliano (review here)

The Bandit Queens by Parini Shroff (review here)

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman (review coming February 17th)

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham (review here)

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert (review here)

The Rom-Com Agenda by Jayne Denker (review here)

Son of the Poison Rose by Jonathan Maberry (review here)

Emily Wilde’s Encylopedia of Faeries by Heather Fawcett (review here)

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes (review here)

Shadowed Visions by Reily Garrett (review here)

The Things We do to Our Friends by Heather Darwent (review coming February 27th)

The Devil You Know by P.J. Tracy (review here)

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center (review coming July 11th)

A Body Washes Ashore by Bradley Pay (review here)

All Hallows by Christopher Golden (review here)

A Guide to Being Just Friends by Sophie Sullivan (review here)

One Duke Down by Anna Bennett (review here)

Murder Up to Bat by Elizabeth McKenna (review here)

Dead and Gondola by Ann Claire (review here)


Reading Challenges

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (for Cover Scavenger Hunt 2023—a bird)Finished 1-1-2023

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (for The StoryGraph Onboarding Challenge—-Read a book with more pages than the longest book you read in 2022)—Finished 1-17-2023

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica (for The StoryGraph Read the World—Argentina)—Finished 1-17-2023

The Tea Dragon Society by Kay O’Neill (for The StoryGraph’s Genre Challenge—a contemporary or literary fiction novel with disability rep)—Finished 1-24-2023

The Reader by M.K. Harkins (for Beat the Backlist 2023—a backlist book)—Finished 1-24-2023

The Shape of Thunder by Jasmine Warga (for Scavenger Hunt TBR Book Challenge—Read the most recently added book to your TBR)—Finished 1-3-2023

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (for Scavenger Hunt—a book written by a woman using a male perspective)—Finished 1-19-2023

The Nightmare Man by J.H. Markert (for Popsugar Reading Challenge 2023—a book you meant to read in 2022)—Finished 1-5-2023

Lost Soul by Adam J. Wright (for 2023 TBR Toppler—a TBR vet)—Finished 1-3-2023

In Our Blood by William J. Goyette (for 2023 Monthly Themes—books that make you feel cold)—Finished 1-10-2023

Before the Coffee Get Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi (for 2023 Reading challenge—a translated work)Finished 1-11-2023

All Hallows by Christopher Golden (for 2023 ABC Challenge—A)—Finished 1-19-2023

The Family Game by Catherine Steadman (for Romanceopoly 2023!—read a thriller or mystery where one of the main characters are a detective or private investigator)—Finished 1-3-2023

Hello Stranger by Katherine Center (for 2023 TBR Prompts—a 5-star prediction)—Finished 1-16-23

Goodreads Monday: Pretty Broken Girl (Pretty Broken: Book 1) by Jeana E. Mann

This is a weekly meme where anyone can choose a random book from their Goodreads TBR and highlight it. This meme was formerly featured on LaurensPageTurners and was taken over by Budget Tales Book Blog.


Love isn’t always pretty. Sometimes you have to break the thing you love in order to put the pieces back together again.

“Life is all about choices. Do I want pizza or a hamburger for dinner? Should I wear a red skirt or blue slacks to work? Do I take a million dollar check and divorce the love of my life to keep my baby brother out of jail? In case you’re wondering, I took the check. Now my ex is back in my life. He’s still angry and…he’s my new boss.”

Pretty Broken Girl is the passionate retelling of a marriage gone wrong.

From the boardroom to the bedroom, Dakota Atwell and Samuel Seaforth are locked in a battle of wits and desire. One of them will break. One of them will pay. Both of them want to win. Neither of them expects to fall in love…again.

This is Book 1 of a five book series. It contains adult language, adult situations, and hot steamy sex with a HFN ending. Although it can be read as a standalone, it will be much more enjoyable when read with the other books in the series.