Thursday, February 25, 2021

TLC Tour Review: The Shadow Box by Luanne Rice

Title: The Shadow Box

Author: Luanne Rice

Year Published: 2021

Category: Adult fiction (mystery)
Pages: 368
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (Connecticut)

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher for a fair review

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): After artist Claire Beaudry Chase is attacked and left for dead in her home on the Connecticut coast, she doesn’t know who she can trust. But her well-connected husband, Griffin--who is running for governor--is her prime suspect.

Just before the attack, Claire was preparing for an exhibit of her shadow boxes, one of which clearly accuses Griffin of a violent crime committed twenty-five years ago. If the public were to find out who her husband is, his political career would be over. Claire’s certain her husband and his powerful supporters would kill her to stop the truth from getting out.

When one of Claire’s acquaintances is murdered, the authorities suspect the homicide is linked to the attack on Claire. As the dual investigations unfold, Claire must decide how much she’s willing to lose to take down her husband and the corrupt group of elites who will do anything to protect Griffin’s interests and their own.

Purchase Links Amazon | Books-A-Million | Barnes & Noble

Connect with Luanne Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Review: Ok. Luanne Rice has written 37 (!) books before this one and it turns out, she is an alumnus of my college: Connecticut College. How have I not heard of her before? I am embarrassed!
Anyway, back to the book itself. Wow. This is such a good book! I am bummed that I had to wait almost a week to post it since it's part of a tour. But, finally. Here's the published post.

This book is full of tension (like butterflies in my stomach, can't wait to find out who did it tension). The chapters are told from multiple points of view, depending on whose story needs to come out at the time (and I love multiple POV), but we mostly hear from Claire, the victim on page one. I loved that past deeds by various characters came out, threading their way into relevance in everyone's present. 

It was also fun to have a book set in the area where I went to college and to hear the towns (New London, Mystic) and geographical features (Long Island Sound, the Thames River, Block Island) as the backdrop to the action. And action there is. The first sentence has Claire wondering if she is dead or dying. Bam! Right out of the gate this book grabs the reader so hold on for the ride.

I woke up at 3:30am and my first thought was "oh, I can't sleep, that means I can read Shadow box!" I definitely want to read more of Luanne Rice's books now. Have you read any of them? If so, which ones do you recommend?

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet (Author): "R"
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Literary Escapes--Connecticut
  • Popsugar--A prompt from a previous Popsugar challenge (2020--an author with more than 20 books)

Review tour:

Monday, February 8th: Bewitched Bookworms

Monday, February 8th: @sarahandherbookshelves

Tuesday, February 9th: @madismysteries

Wednesday, February 10th: Hallie Reads

Thursday, February 11th: Kahakai Kitchen

Friday, February 12th: Always With a Book and @k2reader

Monday, February 15th: @jessicamap

Monday, February 15th: @nurse_bookie

Tuesday, February 16th: @bookclubfor1

Tuesday, February 16th: @wherethereadergrows

Wednesday, February 17th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews and @bluntscissorsbookreviews

Thursday, February 18th: @welovebigbooksandwecannotlie

Friday, February 19th: @reading_with_nicole

Monday, February 22nd: She Just Loves Books and @shejustlovesbooks

Monday, February 22nd: @the.magicalpages

Tuesday, February 23rd: Books and Bindings

Wednesday, February 24th: @lyon.brit.andthebookshelf

Thursday, February 25th: Helen’s Book Blog

Friday, February 26th: Living My Best Book Life and @livingmybestbooklife

Monday, March 1st: Girl Who Reads

Wednesday, March 3rd: Mystery Suspense Reviews

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

YA Review: The Edge of Anything by Nora Shalaway Carpenter (CYBILS finalist)

Title: The Edge of Anything

Author: Nora Shalaway Carpenter

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction
Pages: 336
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (NC)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): Len is a loner teen photographer haunted by a past that's stagnated her work and left her terrified she's losing her mind. Sage is a high school volleyball star desperate to find a way around her sudden medical disqualification. Both girls need college scholarships. After a chance encounter, the two develop an unlikely friendship that enables them to begin facing their inner demons.

But both Len and Sage are keeping secrets that, left hidden, could cost them everything, maybe even their lives.

Set in the North Carolina mountains, The Edge of Anything explores the transformative power of friendship and how it can help you find yourself and the goodness in life, even when everything feels broken.

Review: This book was a finalist for the CYBILS Awards so I read it as a round 2 judge.

I hadn't heard of this book before having to read it for the awards, but I really think it's a good one. I have always liked it when stories are told from different characters' viewpoints and we get to know both Sage and Len individually before their lives intersect. While Sage is dealing with a physical ailment and how it will affect her life, Len's problem is emotional and mental. Both are dealt with in a way that makes the reader feel empathy for them, better understand the issue, and hope that they seek professional help.

Sage and Len's families feature quite prominently in the story and we can see how they both help and hinder the girls' attempts to get help, treatment, and how they contribute to the problems. It's very real and very painful at times. But the author also allows both girls to have pride in who they are as they battle their demons. Her author's note at the end explains how she also dealt with the same thing Len has and it makes sense that it was handled with love and realism.

I highly recommend this book. 

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • A to Z--"E"
  • Alphabet Soup--"S"
  • Diversity--Mental illness
  • Literary Escapes--North Carolina

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

YA Review: Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas

Title: Concrete Rose

Author: Angie Thomas

Year Published: 2021

Category: YA fiction
Pages: 368
Rating: 5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (MS--it doesn't actually say where this takes place, but the author grew up and lives in Mississippi so I am saying that's the location)

Summary (from the inside flap of the book): If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison.

Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control.

Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father.

Suddenly he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different.

When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can't just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

Review: Angie Thomas does it again. I think this book is as good as The Hate U Give and better than On the Come Up. How's that for a review opening?!

I'm going to say something controversial: I like it when authors don't just put BIPOC characters in stereotypical roles and I am surprised that Angie Thomas does this. This book has young black men as drug-selling gang members, fathers at seventeen years old, and with dads in prison. But, there is hope in this novel as well. 

The main character, Maverick, and his family are so tight-knit and caring. Both his mom and dad love him, want him to succeed, and support him in all that he does. His extended family is the same. And, Maverick himself starts to get his act together throughout the book and I felt hopeful for a generational change at the end.

I liked the characters, the story, and the writing. If you liked Angie Thomas' previous books, then this one will win you over for sure.  

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Diversity--Black characters and author
  • Literary Escapes--Illinois and Tennessee
  • Popsugar--a rock (concrete, yeah, it's a stretch) in the title

YA Review: Even if We Break by Marieke Nijkamp

Title: Even if We Break

Author: Marieke Nijkamp

Year Published: 2020

Category: YA fiction (mystery)
Pages: 320
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (AZ)

FTC Disclosure: I bought this book with my own money

Summary (from the inside flap of the book):
FIVE friends go to a cabin.
FOUR of them are hiding secrets.
THREE years of history bind them.
TWO are doomed from the start.
ONE person wants to end this.

For five friends, this was supposed to be one last getaway before going their separate ways―a chance to say goodbye to each other, and to the game they've been playing for the past three years. But they're all dealing with their own demons, and they're all hiding secrets.

Finn doesn't trust anyone since he was attacked a few months ago. Popular girl Liva saw it happen and did nothing to stop it. Maddy was in an accident that destroyed her sports career. Carter is drowning under the weight of his family's expectations. Ever wants to keep the game going for as long as they can, at all costs.

When the lines between game and reality start to blend with deadly consequences, it's a race against time before it's game over―forever.

Review: This book was a finalist for the CYBILS Awards so I read it as a round 2 judge.

I have read two other books by this author (Before I Let Go and This is Where it Ends) and liked them both so I was looking forward to reading this novel. Too bad this one didn't work for me. 

The premise of this one sounded good. It's a mystery with friendship issues, you're never sure whom to trust, and it includes trans and differently neurological characters. But, they play a game like Dungeons and Dragons, which I am just not into. So, if you are, totally read this book. I couldn't get into the premise of the book and the awkwardness and anger among the characters who are supposed to be friends. I wish I had more to say about it, sorry!

I also wish I knew someone else, other than the CYBILS judges, who has read this to see what they think about it.

Challenges for which this counts: 
  • Alphabet Soup--"N"
  • Diversity--autism/neurodiverse and trans characters
  • Cloak and Dagger

Monday, February 22, 2021

TLC Excerpt Tour: Her Dark Eyes by J. T. Ellison

I am excited to participate in the TLC Book Tour for Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison. For this tour, I am just doing an excerpt from the novel. I have previously read Ellison's Tear Me Apart, which I really liked and this one looks good as well.

Summary: Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison’s breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget—and some won’t survive.

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…

Purchase Links MIRA | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Connect with J. T. Website | Facebook | TwitterInstagram


“If adventures will not befall a young lady in her own Village, she must seek them abroad.”

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey


Our First Glimpse

Isle Isola, Italy

The prow of the boat powers through the stormy waters, the spindrift lacing the air. Misting water gathers on my cheeks and hair. I’m grateful for Jack’s bulk behind me. His hands are warm on my shoulders, his mouth almost touching the tender skin of my neck.

“That’s it, darling. There’s the island. What do you think?”

It’s a good thing he’s standing behind me—it gives me time to school my face into a somewhat neutral expression. My pulse betrays me, though, rioting blood through my body, singing through my veins, making me feel more alive than ever before.

What do I think?

Oh. My. God.

The island is stunning. It shoots straight up from the water, the sheer rock face stark and unforgiving. We’re approaching from the southwest, this I know from eavesdropping on Jack’s conversation with the captain. From this vantage point, Isola seems to drift on top of the water, though I know it is an illusion.

The cliff is adorned with tiny shoots of bougainvillea desperate for purchase and a steep stone edge that makes my heart go into my throat. I’m not afraid of heights, but the idea of standing up there, looking out over the water, and stepping wrongly, makes me suddenly terrified, even as I long to set the colors of the cliffside on a canvas.

The formula begins brewing in my head. Two parts ultramarine, two parts raw umber, a dab of titanium white to brighten up the edges, tone the middle with Payne’s—


“Incredible,” I manage, brought back to earth, voice breaking on the words.

Jack squeezes me closer. “I know. I love that cliff. We used to scare Mom and Dad, promising one day we’d try diving off the edge. There’s no way—it’s much too high, but it was so fun to watch them panic.”

“Cruel children.”

“All children are cruel, aren’t they?” Jack says absently. “They don’t know any better. Look, there’s the Villa.”

I can’t see it, not yet, not until the boat rounds the promontory. The shoreline appears, a rocky beach with lines for a few small boats stretching into the channel. To the left, a smattering of pastel-colored houses built one atop the other stagger drunkenly up the cliffside. Gunmetal stone walls bisect the hills to the west, the terraced olive groves and vineyards that produce for the family’s bespoke line verdant with promise. And then the edges of the Villa appear, copper and rust and molded stone, and I fight back a gasp.

Truly, it is misnamed; not a villa, it is a castle. A modern fortress, down to its gated entry, state-of-the-art security system, and helicopter landing pad.

An island castle, beautiful and forbidding, and soon to be mine. No, ours. This vivid, lush, foreboding Italian paradise where I am going to marry the man of my dreams belongs to his family, to whom I am about to pledge my life.

I glance down at the teak deck of the boat carrying us to the island like Odysseus home from the wars. The Hebrides, it’s called, named for another set of isolated islands popular amongst the Compton clan.

A boat. Who am I kidding? This is a full-blown mega-yacht.

“It’s perfect,” I say. I turn in his arms and kiss him full on the mouth. Jack isn’t fooled.

“What’s the matter, darling?” He lifts my chin and searches my face, his cobalt eyes full of concern—they are the color of the sea, where the waves meet the rocks. “You look a little green. Is your head hurting?”

I fight the flashback as it happens—the searing pain, the confusion, the rough edge of the EMT’s blanket. My hand travels to the lump on the back of my skull. It is tender, and the stitches itch. I tap the scopolamine patch behind my ear, just to make sure it’s still there. Check.

Despite my precautions, I am feeling a little peaked. The waves have been surging on the trip over from the mainland, and the yacht moves in time.

“I’m fine. I just love you. For making all of this happen, for…everything.” I rest my forehead against his collarbone. He smells good, of cedar and sunshine and home.

Excerpt Tour:

Monday, February 15th: From the TBR Pile

Tuesday, February 16th: Kahakai Kitchen

Wednesday, February 17th: Seaside Book Nook

Thursday, February 18th: What is That Book About

Friday, February 19th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm

Monday, February 22nd: Helen’s Book Blog

Tuesday, February 23rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark

Wednesday, February 24th: Reading Reality

Thursday, February 25th: Palmer’s Page Turners

Friday, February 26th: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd

Monday, March 1st: Living My Best Book Life

Tuesday, March 2nd: Book Reviews and More by Kathy

Wednesday, March 3rd: Books & Bindings

Thursday, March 4th: Jathan & Heather

Friday, March 5th: Novel Gossip

Saturday, March 6th: Where the Reader Grows

Monday, March 8th: Art Books Coffee