The Unsuitable

“A girl never stops needing her mother.” –The Unsuitable by Molly Pohlig

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Henry Holt & Co, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Molly Pohlig

(3.72 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Historic / Gothic

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 14, 2020, by Henry Holt & Co

Trigger Warnings: cutting, self-harm, suicide, abuse

Pages: 288 (Kindle version)

#TheUnsuitable #Unsuitable #MollyPohlig

Iseult realized that the actual madness would be to live by the rules of the rest of the world.

You’ve read Victorian fiction before (most likely). Many of you may list it as one of your faves and may have instantly thought of books by any of the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, or George Eliot. You’re imagining full skirts with petticoats, and dapper gentlemen with calling cards. This is that, and just a wee bit more. Let’s read the blurb…

Iseult Wince is a Victorian woman perilously close to spinsterhood whose distinctly unpleasant father is trying to marry her off. She is awkward, plain, and most pertinently, believes that her mother, who died in childbirth, lives in the scar on her neck.
Iseult’s father parades a host of unsuitable candidates before her, the majority of whom Iseult wastes no time frightening away. When at last her father finds a suitor desperate enough to take Iseult off his hands—a man whose medical treatments have turned his skin silver—a true comedy of errors ensues.
As history’s least conventional courtship progresses into talk of marriage, Iseult’s mother becomes increasingly volatile and uncontrollable, and Iseult is forced to resort to extreme, often violent, measures to keep her in check.
As the day of the wedding nears, Iseult must decide whether (and how) to set the course of her life, with increasing interference from both her mother and father, tipping her ever closer to madness, and to an inevitable, devastating final act.

She wanted to go on unnoticed, unbothered, unperturbed. But her time was up.

Now, you’ve read the blurb and you think that you are ready for anything that Molly Pohlig throws at you, right? You are so, so wrong, my friend.

You are not ready for the oddity of having one of the main characters be a semi-corporeal dead woman, you are not ready for a silver man to appear as one of the more normal characters, you are not ready for the level of confusion and bitterness that exists within Iseult, and you are not even ready to deal with learning to say her name correctly throughout the entire book ( it’s “Ee-soolt”, by the way).

What young man wants a wife who loathes him, and whom he loathes in return?

I have read some odd books in my day. Most of them have been stories that came across through NetGalley or through a free ARC of some sort. Many of them have charmed me and eventually won me over in the end. Others have left me feeling blank, confused, and like I’ve wasted hours of my valuable time. And then there are books like The Unsuitable. It’s difficult to come to grips with a book where so much is happening that falls just left of center. But oh, you want to absorb it all and relate and grasp it all!

Full disclosure: I put the blame on you, but maybe it’s just me who was slightly unprepared. There is no way I would have known that the disembodied voice of someone’s nagging mother wouldn’t read more funny! Instead, it is a dark and not-so-subtle reminder about the importance of mental health and a strong family support system. Iseult had neither.

You do not get to win…you get to live… you do not get to do both.

So this one was difficult to rate, if I’m being honest. It’s a debut novel, so you feel that just a little as you’re reading through; however, it isn’t annoyingly amateur at all. This is a novel with depth and dark humor, an unreliable narrator, and questionable reality. If things like that are your jam, then you are in the best luck of your life, my friend!

Molly Pohlig

Molly Pohlig graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English, and from University College Dublin with an MA in Film Studies. She is the associate editor for Vogue Knitting magazine, and has written humorous pieces and personal essays for Slate, The Toast, Racked, and The Hairpin. -bio from

Blog Tour | Sunrise on Half Moon Bay

Blog Tour | “Sometimes the happiness we’re looking for has been there all along…” –Sunrise On Half Moon Bay

**Many thanks to Harlequin/MIRA and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Robyn Carr

(4.24 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance / Women’s Lit

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: April 14, 2020, by Harlequin / MIRA Books

Pages: 336 (Kindle version)

#SunriseOnHalfMoonBay #RobynCarr #MIRABooks

It’s just that I’m so careful about what I let myself feel because I’m afraid I might crack. And if I crack, I might collapse and never get up again.

This pandemic is teaching us a lot. I don’t think I’m only speaking for myself when I say that we are learning to appreciate the little things more. We are longing for what we considered to be normal. We are hoping to return to what we were used to before the world effectively stopped.

But that’s the thing about big changes; you almost never go back to the way things were beforehand, at least not completely. Addie and Justine – sisters who are each experiencing big life changes – are learning this the hard way. Let’s check out the blurb:

Adele and Justine have never been close. Born twenty years apart, Justine was already an adult when Addie was born. The sisters love each other but they don’t really know each other. When Addie dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents, Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement at the time but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both women.
Addie had great plans for her life but has been worn down by the pressures of being a caregiver and doesn’t know how to live for herself. And Justine’s success has come at a price. Her marriage is falling apart despite her best efforts.
Neither woman knows how to start life over but both realize they can and must support each other the way only sisters can. Together they find the strength to accept their failures and overcome their challenges. Happiness is within reach, if only they have the courage to fight for it.

Real love can be a little boring sometimes. Or at least not so pretty.

Sometimes, like the global pandemic we’re all experiencing right now, big changes happen very quickly. Other times, change is very slow. It creeps up on you and surprises you when you’re least expecting it. Either way, your response to life-altering events will shape your immediate and long-term future.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay demonstrates that beautifully. The two main characters both manage their changes in different ways, but their resilience and fortitude in the face of tough decisions and major setbacks can certainly encourage us today irl.

… living well is the best revenge.

As you know by now, I try to be honest and fair in my reviews. If I love a book, you won’t get me to stop gushing about it. If I don’t care for it, I’ll say that, but I will always try to find the silver linings.
While this book won’t be one of my faves for the year, I think it’s an important read for those who have experienced the things these sisters do. Starting life over after having others depend on you exclusively for their well-being, or rebuilding a life after someone you love betrays that trust and commitment – both situations can be daunting and scary. These are common themes and relatable for so many. Carr’s writing speaks to those issues and offers the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel; lemonade for life’s bitter lemons.

I hope you and your family are managing the pandemic and quarantine well. I hope you are finding some zen in the midst of all the turmoil and that you are also finding some very good books to read!

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is available now at any of the following retailers:

Robyn Carr

Robyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at

A Good Neighborhood

“This story isn’t a police procedural. It’s not a legal thriller. Is it a cautionary tale? We think it is – but we wish it weren’t.” -A Good Neighborhood by Therese Anne Fowler

**Many thanks to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Therese Anne Fowler

(4.06 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Contemporary

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: March 10, 2020, by St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 279 (Kindle version)

#AGoodNeighborhood #ThereseAnneFowler

Who can say what might have been? We’re only here to tell you what was.

You’ve seen them before – the emotional book reviews where readers own up to weeping over the plot or over the death of a beloved character (which often has the opposite effect on me – making me angry instead of weepy). The criers. They admit to crying in private, in public, whenever and wherever the emotion strikes them. I am not a crier.
I may have read the same book, but didn’t have the same reaction. Is it jealousy that I’m feeling? Could be. Only a very, very few books have ever made me cry (one of which was The Shack, where I sobbed uncontrollably during my lunch break at work and almost got sent home for the day.) Books have a magnificent way of tugging on our emotions in various ways. We laugh, we get angry, we are afraid, and, yes, some of us cry. I’ll let you read the blurb and then we’ll talk about my reaction to this new release.

In Oak Knoll, a verdant, tight-knit North Carolina neighborhood, professor of forestry and ecology Valerie Alston-Holt is raising her bright and talented biracial son. Xavier is headed to college in the fall, and after years of single parenting, Valerie is facing the prospect of an empty nest. All is well until the Whitmans move in next door―an apparently traditional family with new money, ambition, and a secretly troubled teenaged daughter.
Thanks to his thriving local business, Brad Whitman is something of a celebrity around town, and he’s made a small fortune on his customer service and charm, while his wife, Julia, escaped her trailer park upbringing for the security of marriage and homemaking. Their new house is more than she ever imagined for herself, and who wouldn’t want to live in Oak Knoll? With little in common except a property line, these two very different families quickly find themselves at odds: first, over an historic oak tree in Valerie’s yard, and soon after, the blossoming romance between their two teenagers.
Told from multiple points of view, A Good Neighborhood asks big questions about life in America today―What does it mean to be a good neighbor? How do we live alongside each other when we don’t see eye to eye?―as it explores the effects of class, race, and heartrending star-crossed love in a story that’s as provocative as it is powerful.

…it’s in the telling of a tragedy that we sow the seeds – we hope – of prevention of future sorrows.

The first thing I absolutely loved about A Good Neighborhood is the omniscient third person narration. This is your all-knowing neighbor who lives next door. I have one, and you probably do too – even if you don’t know about her, she knows all about you! This neighbor has seen all and knows all about everything that’s going on in the Oak Knoll subdivision. She guides us through the events of the story by dropping loaded hints from chapter to chapter with a sympathetic voice, and giving us deep-dives into each of the main characters’ lives.

We also get parts of the story from the POV of the individual characters. It makes the story even more well-rounded and meaningful for readers. The author mentions in the acknowledgments that she really did her homework to be able to accurately represent the diverse characters in the story. And, for the most part, I think she did an admirable job.

No one can be known by only what’s visible.

The next thing that I love is how the author develops each of the characters so steadily and with such care that, even if you’re not quite sure about them yet, you’re invested. So, we’ve got a compelling story, a dramatic narrator, and completely engaging characters, but this story… y’all. It had me hooked from the first chapter all the way through to the epilogue. I’m not a fast reader, but I finished this book in one day – another rarity for me. It was that addictive.

OK, so what does any of this have to do with crying? Well, I’ll tell you. The characters, development, and circumstances of this story progress in such a way that you hear the whistle far in the distance long before you witness the train wreck. And you can’t look away. By the time the story hits its apex, it is such an inevitable disaster that the tears were rolling before I could even consider biting them back. I cared about what was happening to these families, and when it got ugly, I couldn’t bottle up the emotion. I guess it’s injustice that makes me weepy!

Lawsuits aren’t exactly loving. Even if they’re right.

This book is gripping, the story in entirely relevant to events of today (without being preachy), and it is written so well that I was completely engulfed in the lives of these five people and how their interactions set the stage for events that played out like a 10 pm network drama.

I was already familiar with Therese Anne Fowler from her book A Well-Behaved Woman, which I also rated highly. She is a thoughtful, descriptive writer who ushers you in, offers you tea, ad invites you to stay a while. So you do, and you end up not regretting one single moment.

Preorder A Good Neighborhood
at any of the following retailers today:

barnes and noble

Therese Anne Fowler

(Pronounced ta-reece) is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author whose novels present intriguing people in difficult situations, many of those situations deriving from the pressures and expectations of their cultures as well as from their families. -bio from

The Kissing Game

“I bet you a kiss you can’t resist me.” -The Kissing Game by Marie Harte

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Sourcebook Casablanca, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Marie Harte

(2.86 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Adult Romance / Contemporary

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: February 4, 2020, by Sourcebooks Casablanca

Pages: 320 (Kindle version)

#TheKissingGame #MarieHarte

…to say Rena was a romantic was like saying Picasso had toyed with painting.

Picture your perfect Valentine’s Day celebration. Does it involve an embarrassingly large flower delivery? An uber-cuddly teddy bear holding a dozen red roses? Or maybe an insanely big diamond being handed to you by the man of your dreams who just happens to be down on one knee? Valentine’s Day is supposed to be a day to celebrate love, but it’s also a day that can pack on the pressure – especially if your relationship is anything like Rena and Axel’s. Check out the blurb…

Rena Jackson is ready. She’s worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she’s almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena’s also a diehard romantic, and she’s had her eye on bar regular Axel Heller for a while. He’s got that tall-brooding-and-handsome thing going big time. Problem is, he’s got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, Rena’s about ready to give up on Axel and find her own Mr. Right. Game on. At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He’s been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he’s way out of his depth and she’s slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play.

I try to forget I want a boyfriend, a lover, a friend who’ll put me first. But that desire for love is always there.

You’ve got a beautiful, single, driven woman and you’ve got a handsome, single, successful, dedicated man; it’s a recipe for a classic love story, right? Mmm… maybe. You’ve got the love story part right anyway. But nothing about Rena and Axel’s love story could be considered “classic”.

He’s a giant, moody brawler, and she’s a headstrong businesswoman longing for a real-life love. So what could possibly keep them apart? Try a violent father, bad timing, and a gang of white supremacists. Yeah, that’ll do it.

Heller is great and all, but he’s too wild. And honestly, I don’t think he could romance his way out of a kissing booth.

OK, so this romance has some serious draws – a hunky leading man and a charming leading lady, some serious roadblocks to love, and a large supporting cast that keeps the dialog busy. So why only 2 stars?

Well, I had no preconceived notions going into this cute-covered romance. It’s my first by this author, so I had no idea what to expect or what I’d be getting into. Turns out, although the premise was entirely appealing, the actual story was less than it had the potential to be. There was a lot of repetitive action and several senseless misunderstandings that seemed manufactured for the sake of adding conflict. Guys, I really, really wanted to like this book so much more than I actually did.

However, if you are looking for a quick, VDay-themed, sex-infused romance, or if you’re just really into hot German men – oh, and hunky firefighters! – then don’t count this one out.

The Kissing Game is available February 4, 2020 at any of the following retailers:

Marie Harte

Award-winning author Marie Harte has been writing professionally since 2005. She’s both a NY Times and USA Today bestselling author and has written over 110 books and counting. Marie writes books with heat and humor.
-Bio courtesy of

The Tenant

“Writing a murder mystery is like trying to braid a spiderweb, thousands of threads stick to your fingers and break if you don’t keep your focus.” -The Tenant

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Scout Press, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Katrine Engberg

(3.67 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Crime Fiction / Mystery

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: January 14, 2020, by Scout Press

Pages: 368 (Kindle version)

#TheTenant #KatrineEngberg

Sound is equivalent to life, except when the sound is a doorbell bearing bad news, then sound is equivalent to death.

We’ve all heard the saying that art imitates life. Is it true, and is it equally true the other way around? I think a solid argument for either is demonstrated very well in The Tenant. Here’s the blurb…

When a young woman is discovered brutally murdered in her own apartment, with an intricate pattern of lines carved into her face, Copenhagen police detectives Jeppe Korner and Anette Werner are assigned to the case. In short order, they establish a link between the victim, Julie Stender, and her landlady, Esther de Laurenti, who’s a bit too fond of drink and the host of raucous dinner parties with her artist friends. Esther also turns out to be a budding novelist—and when Julie turns up as a murder victim in the still-unfinished mystery she’s writing, the link between fiction and real life grows both more urgent and more dangerous.
But Esther’s role in this twisted scenario is not quite as clear as it first seems. Is she the culprit—or just another victim, trapped in a twisted game of vengeance? Anette and Jeppe must dig more deeply into the two women’s pasts to discover the identity of the brutal puppet-master pulling the strings in this electrifying literary thriller.

A lack of evidence and divergent theories are not the optimum combination for solving a crime.

I started out loving this book. There’s just something about Scandinavian crime-fighters that piques my morbid interest. We’ve got Danish backdrops, imperfect main characters, a grisly murder, and a killer who is going off the rails. Can it get any better? The jury’s still out on that.

Although I do consider this a good series debut for Anette and Jeppe’s characters, somewhere in the middle the wheels fell off. Were there too many suspects? Too much internal conversation? Too much of not enough? I can’t precisely put my finger on it, but whatever it was, it made a good book just not quite click for me.

The second we die, we become someone’s job. In some ways a crime scene is reminiscent of a theater production. A web of silent agreement that, taken altogether, makes up a whole. On cue.

Ultimately, I gave this book a star and a half for captivating character development in Jeppe, a star for the excellent first few chapters, and a star for the future potential of this police procedural/detective series. I wouldn’t mind reading more about these characters as long as the plots stay original and the action doesn’t drag.

Oh, and let’s learn more about Anette’s backstory next time!

Katrine Engberg

A former dancer and choreographer with a background in television and theater, Katrine Engberg has launched a groundbreaking career as a novelist with the publication of The Tenant. She is now one of the most widely read and beloved crime authors in Denmark.

Blog Tour | The Glittering Hour

⇒Blog Tour: The Glittering Hour by Iona Grey – “It all started with the treasure hunt.” – The Glittering Hour

Author: Iona Grey

(4.31 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Historical Fiction / Romance

Format: Kindle

Publish Date: December 10, 2019 by Thomas Dunne Books

Pages: 480 (Hardcover)

#TheGlitteringHour #GlitteringHour

Many thanks to the author and Thomas Dunne Books for providing a free galley of this book for my review. I received no monetary compensation and my thoughts are my own.

It may be silent and empty, but it has its store of treasures to be discovered and secrets waiting to be revealed…

Bad boys. Man-oh-man, do we love them! We love to watch them, to be close to them, to be near their electric energy. And when we can’t, we love to read about them. And they don’t have to even necessarily be “bad”, but just bad for us, or inappropriate, or unacceptable in some way. It makes them all the more enticing.

Heathcliff, Darcy, Lestat, even Rhett Butler – it’s the bad boys that put the zing into a romance, not the straight-laced, do-gooder that your parents always seem to prefer. It’s the motorcycle-riding, black leather-wearing, rock musician that your father despises (and your mother wishes your father was) that always gets your blood pumping.

Why am I talking about bad boys in this review of The Glittering Hour – a touching, romantic historic novel about self-discovery? Because one particular “bad boy” catches the eye of Selina Lennox, and everything she thinks she knows about life changes in an instant.

Here is the blurb: “Selina Lennox is a Bright Young Thing. Her life is a whirl of parties and drinking, pursued by the press and staying on just the right side of scandal, all while running from the life her parents would choose for her.
Lawrence Weston is a penniless painter who stumbles into Selina’s orbit one night and can never let her go even while knowing someone of her stature could never end up with someone of his. Except Selina falls hard for Lawrence, envisioning a life of true happiness. But when tragedy strikes, Selina finds herself choosing what’s safe over what’s right.

The relief of finding each other, of escaping, made them reckless, and they ran.

I began this review with a fun, frivolous draw into this novel, but it has so much more to recommend it than a dangerous liaison. The Glittering Hour is a thoughtful, touching, backward peek into a mother’s rollicking youth by a daughter who is hungry to really know her.

The magic of this book is in the dual timelines, knit together by a crafty treasure hunt through which Alice Carew is able to escape the drafty darkness of her grandparents’ home and enter the world her mother flourished in decades before as a Bright Young Thing, hounded by journalists and chastised by her prudish parent.

Yes, you have read the bad boy tale before (ok, maybe three dozen times), but this story has heart, and it is one that I could actually see moving onto the <gasp> big screen. With delicious imagery and beguiling characters in both timelines, it is not a story that one would forget easily.

You know I never like to give too much away about a book (Don’t you know you’re just supposed to trust me and either read it or skip it based solely on my Smell Rating?!). For some stories, the way the width and breadth of an epic tale unfolds only adds to the way it lingers in your mind afterwards. Its touching moments, its devastating conflicts, its sacrifices, and its celebrations build from chapter to chapter to create something unforgettable. And this is just such a book. Grab a flute of champagne, tie on a corset (or not), have a box of tissue handy (just in case), and

Iona Grey

IONA GREY is the author of the award-winning Letters to the Lost. She has a degree in English Literature and Language from Manchester University, an obsession with history and an enduring fascination with the lives of women in the twentieth century. She lives in rural Cheshire with her husband and three daughters.

One Night Gone

It was the perfect place to disappear. -One Night Gone

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Harlequin – Graydon House, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Tara Laskowski

(3.72 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: October 1, 2019, by Harlequin – Graydon House

Pages: 348 (Kindle version)


Nothing worked out to be perfect. There was no perfect, no happy-ever-after. No happy ever, it seemed.

When I was younger, I used to go to the carnival with my friends and family. We would always go at night because it was just more magical then – the lights, the jaunty carnival music, and the sinfully delicious carnival sweets. The best nights of the summer were spent on the Ferris Wheel or the Tilt-A-Whirl; I never wanted to go home!

So who would have ever guessed that so much could be going on in the background of such a fun experience? The danger behind the scenes of all the twinkly lights and laughter in One Night Gone proves that all is not what it seems – not at the carnival or in the town of Opal Beach where it settles every summer.

Here’s the blurb: “One sultry summer, Maureen Haddaway arrives in the wealthy town of Opal Beach to start her life anew—to achieve her destiny. There, she finds herself lured by the promise of friendship, love, starry skies, and wild parties. But Maureen’s new life just might be too good to be true, and before the summer is up, she vanishes. Decades later, when Allison Simpson is offered the opportunity to house-sit in Opal Beach during the off-season, it seems like the perfect chance to begin fresh after a messy divorce. But when she becomes drawn into the mysterious disappearance of a girl thirty years before, Allison realizes the gorgeous homes of Opal Beach hide dark secrets. And the truth of that long-ago summer is not even the most shocking part of all…

The possibilities were whirling inside me, gaining momentum like a tropical storm gathering strength just off the coast.

When I finished reading this book back in October, I wrote the following review on Goodreads: “The perfect mystery for a spooky October reading list – haunting and expertly unveiled. The interlacing dual timelines, expertly disclosed secrets, and crafty characters will pull you into this mystery more and more with every chapter.”

That must have been a good day when I was feeling very generous and kind because now that the book has sat with me for a couple of months, I feel a little differently.

My opinion hasn’t shifted to the other end of the spectrum – It isn’t a bad book, but I am not as enthusiastic about it as I was initially. Laskowski is a good writer, so the problem is not with the calibre of her prose. It was just missing the big payoff in the end.

I had the sense I was the last woman on earth, that in my quiet drive alone the rest of humanity had vanished.

Here is what I appreciated: the main characters in each timeline were survivors. They both faced extreme challenges and found ways to overcome them – granted, with varying degrees of success. That contributed to an intriguing premise that, unfortunately, ended up being a bit bland by the end.

One Night Gone is available now at any of the following booksellers:

And read an excerpt of the first chapter HERE

If your book club is interested in exploring this twisted suspense novel, the author has made a book club reader’s guide available for you HERE. Check it out!

Tara Laskowski

Tara Laskowski is the award-winning author of two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders, which The Guardian named a best book of 2017. Tara earned a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MFA from George Mason University and currently lives in Virginia. One Night Gone is her first novel.

The Family Upstairs

Be careful who you let in. The Family Upstairs

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Atria Books, and the author for the opportunity to read a free ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Author: Lisa Jewell

(4.14 stars – Goodreads rating)

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

Format: Kindle

Publication Date: November 5, 2019, by Atria Books

Pages: 352 (Hardcover), 464 (Kindle version)


It’s only now, with decades of hindsight, that I can see how odd it was.

II really want to move closer to my job and my daughter’s school, so I’m currently house-hunting online and by word-of-mouth. Someone recently asked me if I would mind living in a condo. My answer was a hard and fast “no”. Why? Because people are weird.

And after I sat down and swallowed this suspenseful story about the perils of cohabitation, I feel incredibly justified in my answer! Told from multiple perspectives and different timelines, with fatally flawed characters, this is a story that will grab you and pull you into the depths of family for which dysfunctional is an aspiration. Here’s the blurb…

Soon after her twenty-fifth birthday, Libby Jones returns home from work to find the letter she’s been waiting for her entire life. She rips it open with one driving thought: I am finally going to know who I am. She soon learns not only the identity of her birth parents, but also that she is the sole inheritor of their abandoned mansion on the banks of the Thames in London’s fashionable Chelsea neighborhood, worth millions. Everything in Libby’s life is about to change. But what she can’t possibly know is that others have been waiting for this day as well—and she is on a collision course to meet them. Twenty-five years ago, police were called to 16 Cheyne Walk with reports of a baby crying. When they arrived, they found a healthy ten-month-old happily cooing in her crib in the bedroom. Downstairs in the kitchen lay three dead bodies, all dressed in black, next to a hastily scrawled note. And the four other children reported to live at Cheyne Walk were gone.

The weakness of men lay at the root of every bad thing that had ever happened.

OK, what drew me in immediately: (1) an unexpected inheritance, (2) an abandoned mansion, (3) London – all the creepiest strangeties happen in London (and if “strangeties” isn’t a word, it should be, and (4) a baby alone in the midst of chaos. Everything about that summary says you-must-read-this-book. And I am so glad that I did.

When you begin to read a book and you immediately know that you don’t have a clue what is going on or how it’s all going to turn out, that’s when you have the most fun. What begins as the story of a woman learning about her birth parents and possibly getting a much-needed new start in life, quickly becomes something much, much more.

I knew what I had to do and it does not cast me in a good light. But I was a child. I was desperate. I was trying to save us all.

Living with people is tricky whether they be family, friends, or strangers. Can anyone you live with be completely trusted to lock the doors if they’re the last ones in, or to not leave their flat iron on while everyone’s at work? My guess is no. But if the worst you have to ever deal with is having a roommate who plays his music a bit too loud on a work night, then you have it a million times better than the Lamb family living in the mansion on Cheyne Walk.

Lisa Jewell has given us a book (another one!) with great pacing, captivating characters with varying degrees of drastic difficulties and believability, and the meat and bones of a story so dark that its small victories feel like supernovas. Five stars to this new release that I couldn’t hardly put down. If you don’t have it already, this book needs to be on your TBR and on your bookshelf. And after you read it, I think you’ll agree with me – single-family living is the way to go!

The Family Upstairs is available now at any of the following retail stores:

Read an excerpt here: The Family Upstairs Excerpt

Lisa Jewell

Lisa Jewell is the internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including the New York Times bestseller Then She Was Gone, as well as I Found YouThe Girls in the Garden, and The House We Grew Up In. In total, her novels have sold more than two million copies across the English-speaking world and her work has also been translated into sixteen languages so far. Lisa lives in London with her husband and their two daughters. Connect with her on Twitter @LisaJewellUK and on Facebook @LisaJewellOfficial.

Bad Man

by Dathan Auerbach
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

(3.94 stars – Goodreads rating)

To Be Published August 7, 2018, by Doubleday

Genre: Fiction / Horror (ish) / Mystery / Suspense

Format: Kindle

Page Count: 320 pgs (Kindle version)

badmanThey’d seen flyers for Eric here and there over the years… they never really looked. No one ever does.

When I think about what makes a good horror story, one of the most important components is the atmosphere. Auerbach sets us up in a small Floridian town and then strips us of all sense of security and comfort. He surrounds his characters with grief, poverty, and suspicion, and therefore creates a perfect setting for this creepy tale that weaves real-life horror with a little something extra.

Eric has been missing for five years and no one has any answers as to what could have happened to him. His big brother, Ben, was the last one to see him and seems to be the only one committed to still searching for him. When Ben takes a job at the same store where Eric went missing, strange things begin to occur that convince him that someone does know what happened to Eric and they’re trying to reach out to him. But is it to help him or to stop him from asking questions?

The Bad Man will leave you guessing. The unreliable narrator, the creepy store setting, and Ben’s shady coworkers and friends all manage to introduce more questions as you read than they answer. I found the book to be quite engrossing; however, the ending was wholly unsatisfying in that there were several strings left hanging that made even the epilogue seem incomplete.

I would recommend this book to lovers of horror and mystery that don’t mind a story that leaves you with lots of questions at the end. This one isn’t tied up with a neat little bow. And if you don’t mind filling in the blanks for yourself, this is definitely the book for you.

**Many thanks to NetGalley, Doubleday Books, and the author for providing this ARC for me to read a review.**

About the Author



Dathan Auerbach was born in the southern United States and has lived there for most of his life. He is the author of Penpal.

(Biography taken from Bad Man)


The Bluegrass Files: Down the Rabbit Hole (Book 1)

by F J Messina
Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

To Be Published April 1, 2018, by Blair/Brooke Publishing

Genre: Mystery / Romance

Format: Kindle Edition

#TheBluegrassFiles:DownTheRabbitHole  #NetGalley

bluegrassfilesYou get what you can get when you can get it. That’s how it goes in this business.

Down the Rabbit Hole is FJ Messina’s first novel and the first in a planned series of mysteries featuring private investigator Sonia Vitale and her business partner Jet. The Bluegrass Files series will follow the adventures of the women of Bluegrass Confidential Investigations as they solve big cases in their small town.

This novel is set primarily in Lexington, KY with attention given to Lexington Castle, the sprawling farms, and of course, the bourbon! It is in this small-town setting that Sonia takes on a case to catch a man cheating on his girlfriend and winds up uncovering much, much more than infidelity. At the same time, she attracts the attention of more than one man – both of whom may end up being instrumental in solving her case, ending her recent romantic drought, and saving her life. 

Messina’s debut novel has the potential to grow into a well-loved series. Readers who fall in love with Sonia and Jet will forgive the sometimes clunky flashbacks and their weepiness and will revel in the constant action: car chases, shoot-outs, and clandestine night stakeouts.  Plus, there are plenty of clever traps set for “bad guys” which don’t work out just as often as they do.

I would recommend Down the Rabbit Hole to fans of complicated love triangles who don’t mind a little I Love Lucy-type humor with their mysteries. At times the main character comes off as a bit fragile and indecisive, and that can be annoying for those who appreciate a more assertive lead character. However, the author may have been trying to portray her as a more believable personality.

Messina’s second and third books in this series, The Bluegrass Files: Twisted Dreams and The Bluegrass Files: The Bourbon Brotherhood, are already in the works and planned for 2018 releases.

I gave the book 3 generous stars mainly because I believe in rewarding a genuinely good first effort.

*Many thanks to NetGalley and Blair Brooke Publishing for the opportunity to read and review the ARC of this book.

About the Author

Portrait of Frank MessinaWebsite



Messina was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a German-immigrant mother and a first-generation Italian-American father, neither of whom could speak English until they entered public school. It wasn’t until early high school that Frank found his life-long passion─music.

Messina really didn’t begin writing fiction novels until the summer of 2015 when he and his wife used the beautiful backdrop of Asheville, NC to lay the foundations of what would eventually become the novel, Down the Rabbit Hole.

(Bio fragments from author’s own website)