Book Review – Sparks Like Stars

Sparks Like Stars by Nadia Hashimi / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Kabul, 1978: The daughter of a prominent family, Sitara Zamani lives a privileged life in Afghanistan’s thriving cosmopolitan capital. The 1970s are a time of remarkable promise under the leadership of people like Sardar Daoud, Afghanistan’s progressive president, and Sitara’s beloved father, his right-hand man. But the ten-year-old Sitara’s world is shattered when communists stage a coup, assassinating the president and Sitara’s entire family. Only she survives. 

Smuggled out of the palace by a guard named Shair, Sitara finds her way to the home of a female American diplomat, who adopts her and raises her in America. In her new country, Sitara takes on a new name—Aryana Shepherd—and throws herself into her studies, eventually becoming a renowned surgeon.

New York, 2008: Thirty years after that fatal night in Kabul, Aryana’s world is rocked again when an elderly patient appears in her examination room—a man she never expected to see again. It is Shair, the soldier who saved her, yet may have murdered her entire family. Seeing him awakens Aryana’s fury and desire for answers—and, perhaps, revenge.

Thoughts

I loved this book!!

The story started out a little slow but that isn’t a bad thing as it quickly picked up and kept me interested until the very end.

This book will definitely tug at your heartstrings as it is pretty emotional throughout and I gave it 5 stars.

Book Review – Malibu Rising

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid / Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis

Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of twenty-four hours, their lives will change forever.

Malibu: August, 1983. It’s the day of Nina Riva’s annual end-of-summer party, and anticipation is at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to be around the famous Rivas: Nina, the talented surfer and supermodel; brothers Jay and Hud, one a championship surfer, the other a renowned photographer; and their adored baby sister, Kit. Together, the siblings are a source of fascination in Malibu and the world over—especially as the offspring of the legendary singer, Mick Riva.

The only person not looking forward to the party of the year is Nina herself, who never wanted to be the center of attention, and who has also just been very publicly abandoned by her pro tennis player husband. Oh, and maybe Hud—because it is long past time to confess something to the brother from whom he’s been inseparable since birth.

Jay, on the other hand, is counting the minutes until nightfall, when the girl he can’t stop thinking about promised she’ll be there.

And Kit has a couple secrets of her own—including a guest she invited without consulting anyone.

By midnight the party will be completely out of control. By morning, the Riva mansion will have gone up in flames. But before that first spark in the early hours before dawn, the alcohol will flow, the music will play, and the loves and secrets that shaped this family’s generations will all come bubbling to the surface.

Malibu Rising is a story about one unforgettable night in the life of a family: the night they each have to choose what they will keep from the people who made them… and what they will leave behind.

Thoughts

Dual timelines and family drama! That always makes for a great book.

Taylor Jenkins Reid has quickly become one of my go-to authors and this book did not disappoint! It was super fast paced and I loved the characters and the storyline!

This book earned 4 stars from me.

Book Review – Finlay Donovan Is Killing It

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It by Elle Cosimano / Genre: Mystery

Synopsis

Finlay Donovan is killing it . . . except, she’s really not. She’s a stressed-out single-mom of two and struggling novelist, Finlay’s life is in chaos: the new book she promised her literary agent isn’t written, her ex-husband fired the nanny without telling her, and this morning she had to send her four-year-old to school with hair duct-taped to her head after an incident with scissors.

When Finlay is overheard discussing the plot of her new suspense novel with her agent over lunch, she’s mistaken for a contract killer, and inadvertently accepts an offer to dispose of a problem husband in order to make ends meet . . . Soon, Finlay discovers that crime in real life is a lot more difficult than its fictional counterpart, as she becomes tangled in a real-life murder investigation.

Thoughts

This book might be a mystery, but I have never laughed so much in my life! The antics that Finlay and her nanny/sidekick Vero get into are hilarious.

The book definitely ended with a great cliffhanger which I’m sure will play out in the next book in the series.

This book earned 5 stars from me.

Book Review – The Dead Season (Shana Merchant #2)

The Dead Season (Shana Merchant #2) by Tessa Wegert / Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Synopsis

Senior Investigator Shana Merchant has spent years running from her past. But she never imagined a murder case would drive her to the most dangerous place of all–home.

After leaving the NYPD following her abduction by serial killer Blake Bram, Shana Merchant hoped for a fresh start in the Thousand Islands of Upstate New York. Her former tormentor has other plans. Shana and Bram share more than just a hometown, and he won’t let her forget it. When the decades-old skeleton of Shana’s estranged uncle is uncovered, Bram issues a challenge: Return home to Vermont and solve the cold case, or the blood he spills next will be on her hands.

As Shana interviews members of her family and the community, mining for secrets that could help her solve her uncle’s murder, she begins to realize how little she remembers of her childhood. And when Bram grows impatient and kidnaps again, leaving a trail of clues Shana alone can understand, she knows his new victim will only survive if she wins the psychopath’s twisted game. In order to solve one mystery, Shana must wade into her murky past to unravel another.

Thoughts

I really enjoyed the first book in the Shana Merchant series (Death In The Family) and this second book did not disappoint!

We learned more about Shana as well as Bram, the serial killer who previously abducted her, and what their connection is.

Tesa Wegert recently announced 2 more books will be released in this series and I can’t wait to see what will be in store for Shana and Bram!

It’s a gripping, suspenseful story that I couldn’t put down and I gave this book 4 stars.

Book Review – What Comes After

What Comes After by Joanne Tompkins / Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Synopsis

After the shocking death of two teenage boys tears apart a community in the Pacific Northwest, a mysterious pregnant girl emerges out of the woods and into the lives of those same boys’ families–a moving and hopeful novel about forgiveness and human connection.

In misty, coastal Washington State, Isaac lives alone with his dog, grieving the recent death of his teenage son, Daniel. Next door, Lorrie, a working single mother, struggles with a heinous act committed by her own teenage son. Separated by only a silvery stretch of trees, the two parents are emotionally stranded, isolated by their great losses–until an unfamiliar sixteen-year-old girl shows up, bridges the gap, and changes everything.

Evangeline’s arrival at first feels like a blessing, but she is also clearly hiding something. When Isaac, who has retreated into his Quaker faith, isn’t equipped to handle her alone, Lorrie forges her own relationship with the girl. Soon all three characters are forced to examine what really happened in their overlapping pasts, and what it all possibly means for a shared future.

Thoughts

This is a very heavy book with regards to subject matter. It contains multiple trigger warnings such as suicide, rape, and domestic violence. I liked that the story is told from multiple viewpoints. Even with the heavy subject matter throughout, it did keep my interest from start to end.

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Tell Me No Secret

Tell Me No Secret by Brandon Ellrich / Genre: Thriller

Synopsis

Can you keep a secret? High school student Joe wishes he’d never been asked that question. In the small town of New Haven, Missouri, murder is not a common occurrence, so when Joe kills his “best bud” Brad, a tidal wave of shock washes over the community. It makes no sense that Joe killed Brad. However, among teens, you never know what evil lurks beneath the surface.

Take a journey inside Joe’s mind as he reveals the details, planning, and tumultuous emotions that went into murdering his best friend. It’s no mystery that Joe is guilty; he admits that on page one. The question is why? What causes a nice young man to commit a murder? The answer isn’t as clear as it initially seems.

Details slowly float to the surface as time moves from the present into the past. Joe might admit guilt, but who is truly to blame for Brad’s murder? Will those responsible for heinous acts be brought to justice? Keeping a secret can be risky, but in Tell Me No Secret, a group of teen friends discovers just how dangerous it can be. 

Thoughts

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was provided a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

I enjoyed this book! It was a super quick read and I enjoyed how the story started in the present day and then went backwards to tie all of the events together so the reader would know how everything related.

I’d definitely recommend this book!

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Thoughts

I had heard this book was being compared to Daisy Jones & The Six. In my opinion, the only similarity was that this book is done in an interview format.

I liked this story and the characters. The only problem I had was that there were parts of the story that were slow for me (mainly in the first half). Other than that, this was a good debut novel!

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Death In The Family

Death In The Family by Tessa Wegert / Genre: Mystery

Synopsis

A storm-struck island. A blood-soaked bed. A missing man. Senior Investigator Shana Merchant believes it all adds up to a killer in their midst—and that murder is a family affair.

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she’s taken a job in her fiancé’s sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor’easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses. They arrive to find blood on the scene and a house full of Sinclair family and friends on edge.

While Tim guesses they’re dealing with a runaway case, Shana is convinced that they have a murder on their hands. As the gale intensifies outside, she starts conducting interviews and discovers the Sinclairs and their guests are crawling with dark and dangerous secrets.

Trapped on the island by the raging storm with only Tim whose reliability is thrown into question, the increasingly restless suspects, and her own trauma-fueled flashbacks for company, Shana will have to trust the one person her abduction destroyed her faith in—herself. But time is ticking down, because if Shana’s right, a killer is in their midst and as the pressure mounts, so do the odds that they’ll strike again.

Thoughts

This book was so good!

While I had suspicious of who was guilty I didn’t have the complete picture until it was revealed at the end. Speaking of the ending . . . what a cliffhanger!

I’m so glad that this is a series because there is definitely more to learn about Shana!

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Their Eyes Were Watching God

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate, Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person — no mean feat for a black woman in the ’30s. Janie’s quest for identity takes her through three marriages and into a journey back to her roots.

Thoughts

An extremely heavy story following a woman’s journey through life and love and loss.

I did not realize that this book was written in the 1930’s. I won’t lie, I ended up downloading the audio version because the dialect was hard for me to follow. I’m glad I did that because Ruby Dee did an outstanding job narrating. I would definitely recommend listening to the audio version!

A powerful story that will stay with me for awhile.

I gave this book a 4 star rating.

Book Review – Pachinko

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee / Genre: Historical Fiction

Synopsis

In the early 1900s, teenaged Sunja, the adored daughter of a crippled fisherman, falls for a wealthy stranger at the seashore near her home in Korea. He promises her the world, but when she discovers she is pregnant — and that her lover is married — she refuses to be bought. Instead, she accepts an offer of marriage from a gentle, sickly minister passing through on his way to Japan. But her decision to abandon her home, and to reject her son’s powerful father, sets off a dramatic saga that will echo down through the generations.

Richly told and profoundly moving, Pachinko is a story of love, sacrifice, ambition, and loyalty. From bustling street markets to the halls of Japan’s finest universities to the pachinko parlors of the criminal underworld, Lee’s complex and passionate characters — strong, stubborn women, devoted sisters and sons, fathers shaken by moral crisis — survive and thrive against the indifferent arc of history.

Thoughts

This book was long, but it moved at a very steady pace for me and I loved it! It gives the reader a glimpse into 20th century Korean history and the multigenerational storyline is filled with love and sacrifice. There’s a part of me that felt like the book ended abruptly; however, that just could be I didn’t want it to end!

A beautifully written book that earned 4.5 stars from me!