Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Book Review: The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda

Title: The Favorite Daughter
Author: Kaira Rouda
Publication Date: May 21, 2019
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 368
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From the author of the page-turning domestic suspense Best Day Ever, comes another gripping novel of psychological suspense set in an upscale Southern California community, for fans of B.A. Paris and Shari Lapena.

The perfect home. The perfect family. The perfect lie.

Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.

It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days—and nights—at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl—dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed?

The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together… 

Have you ever read one of those books where you simultaneously hate the main character but are also rooting for them? The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda was one of those books for me. It will be very hard for me, because this book was just SO good, but there will be no spoilers in this review.

This is a psychological suspense novel about Jane Harris, a woman who strives to have the perfect home, the perfect body, and the perfect family. Imperfections are not allowed in her life. One year prior to the start of the book, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and ever since, Jane has been stricken with grief and struggling with her own anxieties. She grieved, went to therapy, took anti-depressants, and she cut herself off from everyone including her daughter and husband, but she decided all of that was over. She was ready to pull her life back together.

Her husband, David, planned a memorial service to celebrate Mary on the one-year anniversary of her death. Three days following the memorial service, Betsy, an amazing artist, would be graduating high school and going to a local community college which made Jane very happy. Keeping her daughter close was important to her. After the memorial, Jane noticed an anonymous letter in her purse saying there was more to Mary’s death than everyone thought and she continued receiving letters after the memorial, throwing even more chaos into Jane’s life.

Jane was ready to get her family back in line. She had to be in control, and nothing less would do. After Mary and Cash, the family dog, died, both David and Betsy distanced themselves from her. David stayed at work later and later and Betsy spent more time out with her friends, but Jane never let them get too far from her with tracking apps and the ability to read all of their sent and received text message exchanges.

This was a five star read for me! I couldn’t put this book down. The story is told strictly from Jane’s point of view and it moves at a fast pace. To her, life is a show and she is an actress who is always on stage. Every woman is jealous of her and every man is in love and flirting with her. Everything that happens in her life is by her manipulation. She is narcissistic, selfish, and manipulative yet I still somehow found myself rooting for her and her plans.

This was my first Rouda book, but it absolutely will not be my last! 

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Audiobook Review: The Hollow Heart by Marie Rutkoski

Title: The Hollow Heart (Forgotten Gods #2)
Author: Marie Rutkoski
Publication Date: September 9, 2021
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Pages: 304
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Review for book 1

Intrigue, romance, and magic abound in the heart-stopping conclusion to Marie Rutkoski’s Forgotten Gods duology.

At the end of The Midnight Lie, Nirrim offered up her heart to the God of Thieves in order to restore her people’s memories of their city’s history. The Half Kith who once lived imprisoned behind the city’s wall now realize that many among them are powerful. Meanwhile, the person Nirrim once loved most, Sid, has returned to her home country of Herran, where she must navigate the politics of being a rogue princess who has finally agreed to do her duty.

In the Herrani court, rumors begin to grow of a new threat rising across the sea, of magic unleashed on the world, and of a cruel, black-haired queen who can push false memories into your mind, so that you believe your dearest friends to be your enemies.

Sid doesn’t know that this queen is Nirrim, who seeks her revenge against a world that has wronged her. Can Sid save Nirrim from herself? Does Nirrim even want to be saved? As blood is shed and war begins, Sid and Nirrim find that it might not matter what they want…for the gods have their own plans.

Marie Rutkoski has been one of my favorite authors since my early blogging days. I've devoured every one of her books and each of them has made my favorites shelf, so I knew that The Hollow Heart would be no different! I could not wait to jump back into this world and see how Nirrim and Sid's story ended. I have to say, the audio did not disappoint (how could it with Justine Eyre narrating?), although the story wasn't quite what I was expecting. 

The Hollow Heart picks up with Sid arriving back in Herran and Nirrim leading a revolution in her own country. It seemed to divide readers, but I am firmly on the side of loving that Kestrel and Arin are in this story! I will admit that I didn't love Kestrel as a mother, but I am so glad I got to see more of how their story continued after The Winner's Kiss ended. As much as I enjoyed the fan service of seeing Sid's parents, I do wish that the two main characters of this series weren't separated for 90% of the book. 

A lot of Sid's storyline revolved around misunderstandings and miscommunication, which I usually can't stand, but I really related to her and didn't mind it quite as much as I usually would. In The Midnight Lie it was obvious that Sid was very confident in herself, but I really liked seeing her more vulnerable side after her heartbreak. On the other hand, Nirrim was extremely difficult to connect to or root for. In fact, her character bordered on irredeemable for me, which really is a shame because I loved her in book one. 

Marie Rutkoski expanded on the world and mythology in The Hollow Heart, even including one of the forgotten gods as a POV character. It was interesting to see the magic and deities that Arin believed in confirmed as reality (although I honestly can't remember how big a part this played in the original trilogy). It makes me wish that The Winner's Trilogy had been a bit magical too! 

My main complaint is that this series should have been longer. The Hollow Heart truly felt like a second book in a series and I wish that there was going to be a book three. I know that this was always planned as a duology, but the ending is so abrupt and comes after such a brief reunion between the lead characters, that it doesn't feel completed. I desperately wanted more time with Nirrim and Sid together and to see how they worked through all that happened while they were apart.

This book wasn't exactly what I was hoping for, but I still enjoyed the time I spent in this world. I'm not sure if Rutkoski has plans to write more in this world, but I would definitely love to see more of these characters in the future! 

Friday, October 8, 2021

2020 TBR Revisited

As I recently discussed, I am a terrible mood reader. For this reason, I almost never follow my TBR, but I still make them for Top Ten Tuesday posts four times per year. I thought it would be fun to look back at my lists for 2020 and see how many books I actually got around to reading!

12 out of 36. Oof. (Note: Since I made this graphic I did start and DNF Addie LaRue.)

Of the books I read, most were sequels or series enders. The new-to-me books that I picked up were The Project by Courtney Summers, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown, The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher, and When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole. My favorites of the twelve were The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter and The Empire of Gold by S.A. Chakraborty, both highly anticipated sequels. 

Despite not having read them, I do own seventeen additional books on this list. I may need to go on a buying ban, to be honest. Maybe I'll actually get around to reading them in the year to come!

Do you stick to TBR lists?
Have you read any of these?
Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Book Review: Her Soul to Take by Harley Laroux

Title: Her Soul to Take (Souls Trilogy #1)
Author: Harley Laroux
Publication Date: April 10, 2021
Publisher: Self Published
Pages: 459
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I earned my reputation among magicians for a reason: one wrong move and you're dead. Killer, they called me, and killing is what I'm best at.

Except her.

The one I was supposed to take, the one I should have killed - I didn't.

The cult that once controlled me wants her, and I'm not about to lose my new toy to them.


I've always believed in the supernatural. Hunting for ghosts is my passion, but summoning a demon was never part of the plan. Monsters are roaming the woods, and something ancient - something evil - is waking up and calling my name.

I don't know who I can trust, or how deep this darkness goes.

All I know is my one shot at survival is the demon stalking me, and he doesn't just want my body - he wants my soul.

Her Soul to Take is book 1 in the Souls Trilogy. Although all the books are interconnected, they are stand-alone and can be read in any order.

Okay, I am finally reviewing this book in hopes of making everyone read it. (Okay, definitely not everyone. PLEASE check the trigger warnings on Goodreads!) To be honest, Her Soul to Take is probably not a book I ever would have picked up on my own, but when I saw it recommended by Hannah Whitten, I snatched it up immediately. 

Rae has just moved back to the tow her family is from and one of the first people she meets is Leon, who's kind of a jerk. Then she ends up accidentally summoning Leon, who happens to be a demon who's currently stalking her as his prey. Leon ends up liking Rae way much more than he should and decides he wants her soul for his own.

This isn't just romance - Leon is hunting Rae for the culty family he serves (against his will). This book is equal parts sexy and terrifying with an almost Lovecraftian mythology that I absolutely loved. These demons aren't just for the swoons, there is actual horror in Her Soul to Take and that is definitely my jam. 

I adored everything about this book! This is definitely a dark romance, though, so make sure that's your genre before picking it up. I loved the dynamic between Rae and Leon and the way their romance slowly developed throughout this very tense book. Five out of five spice, definitely not for the faint of heart!

I cannot recommend this book highly enough for dark romance readers who also like some horror in their books. Her Soul for Revenge comes out later this month and I cannot wait to get my hands on it!

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Weekly Recap: 8/15 - 10/2


Hi, everyone! I'm not even going into why I've been away. I'm back now. Hurray! I'll be sharing everything I read in the last half of August through today since I haven't done a recap since then. For once I can report that none of my dogs are actively trying to die or giving me major anxiety! Rufio did decide about a month ago that he doesn't like eating so we've had to get creative with feeding him. His vet believes he'll grow out of it after his neuter, which happens this Monday. Please cross your fingers for a quick and easy recovery!





The topic was favorite reading spots for Top Ten Tuesday
ARC review of Kingdom of the Cursed
Book review of The Family Upstairs
Book review of You
I did an eight month roundup for Saturday Screen Time
I shared my Fraterfest TBR
The topic was Fall TBR for Top Ten Tuesday



I'm linking up to Stacking the Shelves & The Sunday Post!
Saturday, October 2, 2021

ARC Review: How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days by K.M. Jackson

Title: How to Marry Keanu Reeves in 90 Days
Author: K.M. Jackson
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Publisher: Forever
Pages: 336
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//I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review//

Bethany Lu Carlisle is devastated when the tabloids report actor Keanu Reeves is about to tie the knot. What?! How could the world's perfect boyfriend and forever bachelor, Keanu not realize that making a move like this could potentially be devastating to the equilibrium of...well...everything! Not to mention, he's never come face to face with the person who could potentially be his true soulmate—her.

Desperate to convince Keanu to call off the wedding, Lu and her ride-or-die BFF Truman Erikson take a wild road trip to search for the elusive Keanu so that Lu can fulfill her dream of meeting her forever crush and confess her undying love. From New York to Los Angeles, Lu and True get into all sorts of sticky situations. Will Lu be able to find Keanu and convince him she's the one for him? Or maybe she'll discover true love has been by her side all along...

I just finished How to Marry Keanu Reeves by K. M. Jackson. I was struggling between whether to give this book 3.5 or 4 stars but in the end I decided on four stars.

This book is about a black woman named Bethany Lu Carlisle who sees a tweet that Keanu Reeves is getting married in 90 days and this devastated her. She literally created a 5 step plan to find Keanu, talk him out of his impending marriage, and tell him he should marry her. So, Lu and her best friend of 20 years, True, went on a road trip and different adventures where they tried to catch Keanu before he disappeared.

When I first read the description, I figured Lu was in her 20s because that’s just an extremely immature reaction to a stranger getting married, even if that stranger is the beautiful, talented, and philanthropic Mr. Reeves. I was flabbergasted to find out she was in her 40s and it really cast her in a negative light for me. She was so obsessed that she was focused on her phone waiting for new tweets while she was in an extremely important business meeting. She was just extremely immature and emotionally stunted due to a past trauma she never dealt with.

The saving grace of this book for me was Truman Erickson. True was funny, sweet, honest, unafraid of his emotions, and emotionally mature. I anticipated chapters from his POV and scenes containing his character. He was also a very selfless and brave person. He was written as THE perfect book boyfriend.

My only complaints about this book, aside from my initial dislike of Lu, was that I personally believed there weren’t enough chapters from the POV of True. Instead of the chapters alternating like most books do, there could be 5 chapters of Lu and then 1 chapter of True and then back to Lu. My second complaint is that the author used the incorrect phrase “I could care less” when “I couldn’t care less” should have been used (that’s a common mistake that always grinds my nerves).

This book will be published on November 2, 2021 and I HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone who loves romantic comedies! I’ve already pre-ordered my copy and I’m excited to read the final draft.