On My Radar: July 2021

I may not be reading as much currently but I’m still very excited for the books that are coming out next month. Summer is the time of mysteries and thrillers which is my favorite genre. There are also books from a few other genres, mostly romance, that I have my eye on. This list is very large and I will not be purchasing most of these right away but I will be trying to get them from my library or just grabbing them when I see them on sale or when I’m out shopping. I love making lists of things that I love and I hope that you are able to find something good off this list, too.

July 1

From the bestselling author of One Small Sacrifice comes a suspenseful thriller about a dead woman who predicted her own murder—and the sister who won’t let the truth be buried.

When her beloved sister Caroline dies suddenly, Deirdre is heartbroken. However, her sorrow turns to bone-chilling confusion when she receives a message Caroline sent days earlier warning that her death would be no accident. Long used to being a pariah to her family, Deirdre covers her tattoos and heads to Manhattan for her sister’s funeral.

The message claimed Caroline’s husband, Theo, killed his first wife and got away with it. Reeling from the news, Deirdre confronts Theo on the way to the cemetery, and he reveals both his temper and his suspicion that Deirdre’s “perfect” sister was having an affair.

Paranoid and armed with just enough information to make her dangerous, Deirdre digs into the disturbing secrets buried with Caroline. But as she gets closer to the truth, she realizes that her own life may be at risk…and that there may be more than one killer in the family.

July 6

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?

As these two lives intersect, The Stranger in the Mirror hooks readers with riveting drama, told with Liv Constantine’s hallmark blend of glamour, tense psychological thrills, and jaw-dropping twists.

You just boarded a flight to New York.

There are one hundred and forty-three other passengers onboard.

What you don’t know is that thirty minutes before the flight your pilot’s family was kidnapped.

For his family to live, everyone on your plane must die.

The only way the family will survive is if the pilot follows his orders and crashes the plane.

Enjoy the flight.

The author of Recipe for Persuasion—“not only one of the best but one of the bravest romance novelists working today” (Shelf Awareness)—adds an Indian American twist to Jane Austen’s classic Sense and Sensibility in this delightful retelling that is a feast for the senses.

Yash Raje, California’s first serious Indian gubernatorial candidate, has always known exactly what he wants—and how to use his privileged background to get it. He attributes his success to a simple mantra: control your feelings and you can control the world.

But when a hate-fueled incident at a rally critically injures his friend, Yash’s easy life suddenly feels like a lie, his control an illusion. When he tries to get back on the campaign trail, he blacks out with panic.

Desperate to keep Yash’s condition from leaking to the media, his family turns to the one person they trust—his sister’s best friend, India Dashwood, California’s foremost stress management coach. Raised by a family of yoga teachers, India has helped San Francisco’s high strung overachievers for a decade without so much as altering her breath. But this man—with his boundless ambition, simmering intensity, and absolute faith in his political beliefs—is like no other. Yash has spent a lifetime repressing everything to succeed.

Including their one magical night ten years ago—a too brief, too bright passion that if rekindled threatens the life he’s crafted for himself. Exposing the secrets might be the only way to save him but it’s also guaranteed to destroy the dream he’s willingly shouldered for his family and community . . . until now.

A spine-tingling novel of revenge, betrayal, and sisterhood from the internationally celebrated author of The Golden Cage.

She’s had to fight for it every step of the way, but Faye finally has the life she believes she deserves: she is rich, the business she built has become a global brand, and she has carefully hidden away her small family in Italy, where Jack, her ex-husband, can no longer harm them. She even has the wherewithal to occasionally turn a business trip to Rome into a steamy tryst. But when several major investors–women Faye had trusted implicitly–suddenly sell off their shares in the company, and the police officer who helped search for her daughter discovers the dark secret of Faye’s childhood, and she learns that Jack is no longer locked behind bars, Faye has no choice but to return to Stockholm. Not only does she have to fight again to keep her family safe, but now, at long last, she is forced to face the truth about her past. In this bold, mesmerizing story of seduction, deceit, and female power, a woman’s secret cannot stay buried forever.

July 8

My name is Easton Donovan,
and I massively screwed up.

I should’ve given her the world.
Should’ve been everything she deserves.
Instead, I broke her like every promise I’ve ever made.

The darkness tells me to let her go.
Memories of my past keep me from letting her in.
Someone should tell her that loving me is a losing game.

Just being around her is a high I’ve never known.
If she knows what’s good for her, she’ll cut me off.
Given the chance, I’ll ruin her the way I’ve done to others.
But with the bomb she just dropped, she’s here to stay.

She’s flawless innocence.
I’m toxic destruction.
And the selfish part is, I need her.

Truth be told, Kennedy Lehigh could be the one to save me from myself.

From the bestselling author of The House Guest comes a chilling story set deep in the woods…

With his marriage over and his career in freefall, journalist Tom decides to reconnect with his fourteen-year-old daughter, Frankie. Desperate to spend precious time together now that they live an ocean apart, he brings her to Hollow Falls, a cabin resort deep in the woods of Maine.

From the outset there’s something a little eerie about the place—strange whispers in the trees, windchimes echoing through the forest—but when Tom meets true-crime podcasters David and Connie, he receives a chilling warning. Hollow Falls has a gruesome history: twenty years ago this week, a double slaying shut down the resort. The crime was never solved, and now the woods are overrun with murder-obsessed tourists looking to mark the grim anniversary.

It’s clear that there’s something deeply disturbing going on at Hollow Falls. And as Tom’s dream trip turns into a nightmare, he and Frankie are faced with a choice: uncover the truth, or get out while they still can.

July 13

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…

The multimillion-copy New York Times bestselling author B.A. Paris returns to her heartland of gripping psychological suspense in The Therapist–a powerful tale of a house that holds a shocking secret.

Tessa Bailey is back with a Schitt’s Creek-inspired rom-com about a Hollywood “It Girl” who is cut off from her wealthy family and exiled to a small Pacific Northwest beach town… where she butts heads with a surly, sexy local who thinks she doesn’t belong. 

Piper Bellinger is fashionable, influential, and her reputation as a wild child means the paparazzi are constantly on her heels. When too much champagne and an out-of-control rooftop party lands Piper in the slammer, her stepfather decides enough is enough. So he cuts her off, and sends Piper and her sister to learn some responsibility running their late father’s dive bar… in Washington.

Piper hasn’t even been in Westport for five minutes when she meets big, bearded sea captain Brendan, who thinks she won’t last a week outside of Beverly Hills. So what if Piper can’t do math, and the idea of sleeping in a shabby apartment with bunk beds gives her hives. How bad could it really be? She’s determined to show her stepfather—and the hot, grumpy local—that she’s more than a pretty face.

Except it’s a small town and everywhere she turns, she bumps into Brendan. The fun-loving socialite and the gruff fisherman are polar opposites, but there’s an undeniable attraction simmering between them. Piper doesn’t want any distractions, especially feelings for a man who sails off into the sunset for weeks at a time. Yet as she reconnects with her past and begins to feel at home in Westport, Piper starts to wonder if the cold, glamorous life she knew is what she truly wants. LA is calling her name, but Brendan—and this town full of memories—may have already caught her heart. 

I’ve already read this and I have my review scheduled to go up on July 13. I thought I would add it on this list though because I am excited about it and I hope to grab a physical copy.

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who’s left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she’s not alone. For more than a decade she’s been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette’s worst fears are realized–someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

Get Out meets Danielle Vega in this YA horror where survival is not a guarantee.

Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win.

*No synopsis since this is the second book in a series. You can click on the cover image if you are interested and it will take you to Goodreads.

An aircraft carrier adrift with a crew the size of a small town. A killer in their midst. And the disgraced Navy SEAL who must track him down . . . The high-octane debut thriller from New York Timesbestselling writing team Webb & Mann—combat-decorated Navy SEAL Brandon Webb and award-winning author John David Mann.

The moment Navy SEAL sniper Finn sets foot on the USS Abraham Lincoln to hitch a ride home from the Persian Gulf, it’s clear something is deeply wrong. Leadership is weak. Morale is low. And when crew members start disappearing one by one, what at first seems like a random string of suicides soon reveals something far more sinister: There’s a serial killer on board. Suspicion falls on Finn, the newcomer to the ship. After all, he’s being sent home in disgrace, recalled from the field under the dark cloud of a mission gone horribly wrong. He’s also a lone wolf, haunted by gaps in his memory and the elusive sense that something he missed may have contributed to civilian deaths on his last assignment. Finding the killer offers a chance at redemption . . . if he can stay alive long enough to prove it isn’t him.

He’s never met a rule he didn’t break… She’s followed the rules her whole life… When they meet, one golden rule is established: stay away. Sparks fly in this edgy own voices novel, perfect for fans of Sandhya Menon, S. K. Ali, and Kristina Forest.

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him into the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

In this series debut perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay and Miranda James, Rain Wilmont must discover the killer, before the book closes on her life.

Rain Wilmont has just returned to her family’s waterfront log cabin in Lofty Pines, Wisconsin after the untimely death of her husband. The cabin is peaceful compared to Rain’s corporate job and comes with an informal library that Rain’s mother, Willow, used to run. But as Rain prepares for the re-opening of the library, all hopes for a peaceful life are shattered when she discovers the body of Thornton Hughes, a real estate buyer, on the premise.
The community of Lofty Pines starts pointing fingers at Willow, since she has been unusually absent from the library this summer. A fishy rumor surfaces when Rain learns that Willow had been spending a lot of time with Thorton. The town even thought they were having an affair.
While theories swirl about the Thorton’s death, Rain takes it upon herself to solve the case to exonerate her mother. As more clues surface, Rain will have to piece together the mystery. But if she isn’t careful, she may be the next to end up dead in the water in Murder at Lakeside Library the first in Holly Danvers’ new Lakeside Library mysteries.

July 20

Teddy Crutcher has won Teacher of the Year at the esteemed Belmont Academy, home to the best and brightest.

He says his wife couldn’t be more proud—though no one has seen her in a while.

Teddy really can’t be bothered with the death of a school parent that’s looking more and more like murder or the student digging a little too deep into Teddy’s personal life. His main focus is on pushing these kids to their full academic potential.

All he wants is for his colleagues—and the endlessly meddlesome parents—to stay out of his way.

It’s really too bad that sometimes excellence can come at such a high cost.

USA Today bestselling author Samantha Downing is back with her latest sneaky thriller set at a prestigious private school—complete with interfering parents, overeager students, and one teacher who just wants to teach them all a lesson…

Six teens murdered. A suspect behind bars. A desperate father. In a case this shadowy, the truth is easy to hide.

Six teenagers dead. Finally, the killer behind bars. But are the games just beginning?

Psychiatrist Dr. Gwen Moore is an expert on killers. She’s spent a decade treating California’s most depraved predators and unlocking their motives—predators much like the notorious Bloody Heart serial killer, whose latest teenage victim escaped and then identified local high school teacher Randall Thompson as his captor. The case against Thompson as the Bloody Heart Killer is damning—and closed, as far as Gwen and the media are concerned. If not for one new development…

Defense attorney Robert Kavin is a still-traumatized father whose own son fell prey to the BH Killer. Convinced of Thompson’s innocence, he steps in to represent him. Now Robert wants Gwen to interview the accused, create a psych profile of the killer and his victims, and help clear his client’s name.

As Gwen and Robert grow closer and she dives deeper into the investigation, grave questions arise. So does Gwen’s suspicion that Robert is hiding something—and that he might not be the only one with a secret.

AN ORDINARY LIFE

Leigh Coulton has worked hard to build what looks like a normal life. She has a good job as a defence attorney, a daughter doing well in school, and even her divorce is relatively civilised – her life is just as unremarkable as she’d always hoped it would be.

HIDES A DEVASTATING PAST

But Leigh’s ordinary life masks a childhood which was far from average… a childhood tarnished by secrets, broken by betrayal, and finally torn apart by a devastating act of violence.

BUT NOW THE PAST IS CATCHING UP

Then a case lands on her desk – defending a wealthy man accused of rape. It’s the highest profile case she’s ever been given – a case which could transform her career, if she wins. But when she meets the accused, she realises that it’s no coincidence that he’s chosen her as his attorney. She knows him. And he knows her. More to the point, he knows what happened twenty years ago, and why Leigh has spent two decades running.

AND TIME IS RUNNING OUT

If she can’t get him acquitted, she’ll lose much more than the case. The only person who can help her is her younger, estranged sister Calli, the last person Leigh would ever want to ask for help. But suddenly she has no choice…

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.

A lost girl and a blind boy discover their greatest strength is their bond with each other in a beguiling fantasy by the New York Times bestselling author of The First Girl Child.

An insidious curse is weakening the Norse kingdom of Saylok, where no daughters have been born in years. Washing up on these plagued shores is Ghisla, an orphaned stowaway nursed back to health by a blind cave dweller. Named for a mysterious god, the boy, Hod, is surrounded by prophecy. To Ghisla, he’s a cherished new friend. To Hod, the girl is even more so. For when Ghisla sings, Hod can see.

Unable to offer safe shelter, Hod urges Ghisla onward to become a daughter of the temple, where all the kingdom’s girl children have been gathered. But because of a magical rune, the two cannot be separated, no matter the time or the distance.

Now, subject to a ruthless king, Ghisla enters a desperate world of warring clan chieftains and catastrophic power struggles. Who among them can be trusted is unknowable. So are the sacrifices Ghisla and Hod must make to defeat the cursed forces that could destroy a kingdom and the fated bond between two souls.

July 22

2017: 19 year old Tallulah is going out on a date, leaving her baby with her mother, Kim.

Kim watches her daughter leave and, as late evening turns into night, which turns into early morning, she waits for her return. And waits.

The next morning, Kim phones Tallulah’s friends who tell her that Tallulah was last seen heading to a party at a house in the nearby woods called Dark Place.

She never returns.

2019: Sophie is walking in the woods near the boarding school where her boyfriend has just started work as a head-teacher when she sees a note fixed to a tree.

‘DIG HERE’ . . .

A cold case, an abandoned mansion, family trauma and dark secrets lie at the heart of Lisa Jewell’s remarkable new novel.

July 27

*I’m not sharing a synopsis of this because it’s the last in a trilogy and I don’t want to spoil anything. If you are interested you can click the cover image and it will take you to Goodreads.

The new domestic suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Couple Next Door and Someone We Know who has sold more than 7 million copies of her books worldwide

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Mercer. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mercers are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you’d know.

Wouldn’t you?

This is another one that I have already read and reviewed. It will be going up on July 27. This was a five star read for me and I would love to get a physical copy of this one.

A young woman’s escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception. 

“I inhaled Just One Look. I was going to read one chapter, then one chapter became the whole thing. YUM.”–Caroline Kepnes, New York Times bestselling author of the You series

Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul. Emails are.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking–love, friends, stability–and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn’t read them. But it’s just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can’t look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest’s corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a “chance” meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she’s been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn’t simply admire Annabelle–she wants to take her place. And she’s armed with the tools to make that happen.

From rising star Jessica Goodman, author of They Wish They Were Us, comes a new fast-paced thriller about two sisters vying for the top spot on their cross-country team–the only way out of their stifling small town. But their dreams are suddenly thrown into peril when a new girl threatens to take away everything they’ve worked for… until she disappears.

Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and she keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life and she won’t let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course.

The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers’ lives are upended when Mila comes to town. Mila was the top runner on her team back home and at first, Ellie and Stella view her as a threat. But soon Ellie can’t help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie’s been looking for a friend. In a moment of weakness, she even shares her darkest secret with Mila. For her part, Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong–she’s someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she’d never be: distracted.

With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won’t let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.

A stunning new Regency from beloved author Olivia Drake, When a Duke Loves a Governess…!

Tessa James has worked and planned tirelessly to open her own millinery shop. All she needs now is a loan from the lord who sired and abandoned her. The only problem is, she doesn’t even know his name. What’s a woman to do to find him but enter the aristocratic world by becoming a governess?

Guy Whitby, the new Duke of Carlin, has returned to London after years abroad to discover that his young daughter Sophy has become a wild-child known for scaring away every governess who’s crossed his doorstep. When Tessa James applies for the job, he hires her in desperation despite his misgivings that she’s too bold and beautiful–and that she might be fibbing about her qualifications.

Their blooming attraction leads them on a completely unexpected path to love that neither wants to deny. But when an old enemy threatens Guy’s family, their forbidden romance goes up in flames. Can they still learn to love and trust each other as forces try to tear them apart?

~Cassie

20 Best Books of 2020

This post has been a difficult one for me. I read around 200 books last year and when I made my initial list of best books I came up with 45. That is way too many so I spent a fair amount of time cutting it down. I am pretty confident that these are the best of the best (that I read) but if you asked me tomorrow my answer might change. Also, these are in no particular order because I can’t even imagine how much time it would have taken me to rank them.

This whole series is a favorite and I’m counting it as one spot on this list.

Any book that I read in 2020 written by Tillie Cole is another favorite. I couldn’t pick just one so I decided to group all these books together in this spot.

~Cassie

2021 Blog and Reading Goals

Today I wanted to share what my goals are for next year. To be brief, my goals are almost to have no goals. I want to be way more laidback next year and not put any pressure on myself. Not that I really put any pressure on myself but I do feel guilty that I didn’t complete everything I set out to do this year. I will be going over how well I did on all my 2020 goals in an upcoming blog post. But I do have some things that I would like to accomplish reading and blog wise so let’s jump into it!

  1. It is no secret that I buy a lot of Kindle books and that is something that won’t be changing. However, I want to curate my bookshelves to be filled with books that I truly love and want to own. So when it comes to buying physical books I will not just be buying what looks good but instead trying to enhance my collection.
  2. The exception to the above is Book of the Month books. I will still be getting those books every month but I am aiming to read them sometime during the month that I receive them. This is for two reasons. One being that I am hoping it will help make me more intentional about what I am picking each month. The other reason is that I read Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell as soon as I received it and when I ended up really not liking it I went ahead and donated it. And I love the idea that someone at one of my Little Free Libraries got to read a brand new hardcover release.
  3. I have *unofficially*been doing blogmas and I have really been enjoying posting everyday and I hope next year to keep making blogging a daily priority.
  4. My reading goal for next year is 100 books. I read pretty much double that this year but a lot of that was due to my health issues which are, thankfully, slowly getting better. I’m praying I will have no relapses and can continue my recovery. I’m excited to see where I will be at the end of next year!
  5. My last blogging goal is to respond back to all comments!

~Cassie

Kindle Unlimited Holiday Recommendations

I thought it would be fun today to share the list of KU holiday books that I have on my phone. One of my goals for 2021 is to be more intentional with using Kindle Unlimited since it is a service that I pay for. What could be a better way of setting myself up for success then starting this month to get in the habit of using KU more. Also most, if not all, the books I read on KU are romances which are usually quick reads and help me keep my reading momentum up high. It also helps things that a lot of these are novellas which also makes them the perfect one sitting reads. I unfortunately will not be able to get to all of these but I do hope to read a few of them this month. Feel free to share any other books on KU that you highly recommend for this time of year! And I hope that you find something fun to read this month from this list 🙂

All covers will link to Amazon to make it easer for you to grab a copy. If you pay for Kindle Unlimited these books are free. If you do use my link to purchase any of the books I may make a small commission.

7 Reasons to Never Do a Favor for Your Best Friend:

1. It’s an ugly sweater party
2. The party is full of handsy executives
3. It’s an ugly sweater party
4. It’s an open bar and you need lots of alcohol to get through the party
5. It’s an ugly sweater party
6. Your friend leaves you to humiliate yourself in front of a sexy suit
7. It’s an ugly sweater party

Being a good friend means attending a corporate Christmas party with the ugliest sweater your friend could find. Cierra is a very good friend. However, coping with the party with the open bar lends her to humiliating herself with the sexiest guy there. 

Justin knows the girl who threw up on his shoes at his company’s Christmas party, if only he could remember where. Between her drunken slurs and unfiltered conversation, she was the most fascinating woman he’d ever met. 

Christmas is the season filled with love and cheer. Can a woman with no filter and a billionaire CEO find a way to survive the season, fall in love, and save an animal shelter in the process?

Heat up the holidays with this sizzling new novella from New York Times best-selling authors Vi Keeland and Penelope Ward! 

Riley Kennedy’s emails keep getting crossed with her colleague, Kennedy Riley. 

The infuriating man forwards them along with his annoying commentary and unsolicited advice. At least she never has to see him in person since they work in different locations…until they come face to face at the office holiday party. As luck would have it, Kennedy turns out to be gorgeous…though still a jerk. Yet somehow he’s able to charm her out on the dance floor—and convince her to participate in his crazy scheme: He’ll go home with Riley for a Christmas party and pretend to be her boyfriend if Riley agrees to be his date to a wedding. 

It sounds easy enough. But little by little, the act they’re putting on starts to feel like so much more than a Christmas pact—and Riley’s about to learn there’s more to Kennedy than she ever imagined.

Christmas at Carly’s Cupcakes is a cosy heartwarming tale of friendship, family, putting the past behind, and embracing the future. 

It’s Christmas in Whitsborough Bay. With fairy lights connecting the shops and cafés on either side of the cobbles, Castle Street seems magical. And in such a magical place, surely Christmas wishes can come true. 

Carly Travis, owner of Carly’s Cupcakes, has two Christmas wishes this year. Her first is for her younger sister, Bethany, to focus on the positives in her life, including her Christmas wedding, instead of writing herself off as a failure. Bethany’s attempts at cake-decorating aren’t going to win any awards, but she’s certainly great with customers. Carly’s second wish is for her best friend, Liam, to come home for Christmas. 

When Liam calls to say he’s been granted leave from the army, Carly makes a third Christmas wish. It’s the one she’s made every year since she was a teenager and, if she’s really brave, could this be the year when it finally comes true? 

With Liam coming home, the shop having its best year yet, and a wedding to look forward to, it’s shaping up to be the best Christmas ever for Carly. But for Bethany, things are starting to unravel …

Amy Winstead is a twenty something video producer who loves Christmas more than anyone she’s ever known. This year, the holidays are gonna be a lot less happy because she can’t afford the plane ticket home to celebrate with her family, and her best and oldest friend Josh is moving halfway across the country for a new job that he couldn’t turn down.

When Josh asks her to accompany him on his road trip from Texas to Connecticut and offers to pay for her plane ticket back home, how could Amy say no? He’s promised some fun surprises on the trip, and more time with him could never be a bad thing.

One surprise Josh hasn’t planned on is the record-breaking blizzard heading their way. They decide to wait out the storm in the charming town of Holly Hill, where a little holiday magic and a lot of snow combine to help Josh and Amy realize that the something that’s always simmered between them could easily become something more…

From bestselling authors R. Holmes & Veronica Eden comes an all-new steamy new adult enemies-to-lovers holiday romcom standalone.

Two inns, one town, and there’s not enough room for the both of them.

Add in a reindeer-ish donkey, a Christmas competition, and a rivalry to end all rivalries and you’re bound to end up in disaster, right?

Finn Mayberry has enough on his plate trying to keep his Grandparents inn afloat. The last thing he needed was some California state of mind starlet bulldozing into his town and throwing up a five-star resort right next to his family’s inn.

But, now she’s here and he can’t get her out of his town or his head.

Freya Anderson took one look at the snowcapped mountains of Hollyridge and fell in love. She’s finally here and ready to take on the task of proving to her father that she can handle running Alpine.

She never expected to make enemies with the sinfully delicious lumberjack of a man who runs the inn next door. He’s moody, impossible and completely off limits.

There can only be one winner, but you know what they say. All is fair in love and… Jingle Wars?

Curl up with this completely enchanting winter romance! A stunning festive read about the joy of Christmas with family, second chances, and finding love under the falling snow. Get cozy and keep some tissues on hand. You’re in for a truly magical story…

White Oaks Inn has always been at the heart of Christmas celebrations for Scarlett Bailey and her family. Her adored gran has owned the rambling, old-fashioned hotel, filled with the scent of cinnamon and chocolate, since Scarlett was a little girl. But now her gran’s home is under threat. And it looks like it could be the Baileys’ last Christmas together there…

Over the holiday season, amidst much-loved festive traditions of baking cookies and decorating the tree, Scarlett throws herself into saving the hotel. When she hears that Charlie Bryant, a handsome, successful property developer, is spending December in Silver Falls, Scarlett is hopeful he might be the answer to their problems. 

When they meet, sparks fly between impulsive Scarlett and business-like Charlie – as they both have very different ideas for the future of White Oaks. Scarlett is determined to show him how much White Oaks Inn means to her family and the guests who return there every year and, as they spend more time together, she begins to realize there is more to Charlie than his serious appearance… 

But Charlie is struggling with a secret from his own past. Will he be able to face it, or will it stop him from truly opening up and getting close to anyone? And can Scarlett share the true meaning of Christmas with him and save her gran’s beloved hotel along the way? 

Embrace the wonder of Christmas in this gorgeous novel about living for the moment and finding love when you least expect it. Christmas at Silver Falls is the perfect festive indulgence for fans of Debbie Macomber, Susan Mallery and Sheila Roberts.

Sometimes you need to get away to find the place your heart calls home. 

Jolene Carter lives in Merrylark Lake, a quaint town where neighbors are like family and vacationers become fast friends. With her dream of opening a downtown storefront on hold, Jolene volunteers wherever she can, whether it be at Cat’s Coffee Cart or the town’s annual tree lighting. It is while she’s tending to her neighbor’s vacation rental that Jolene meets Luke, a cowboy with a mustang rescue and a past he’s hoping to leave back at the ranch. 

Luke Handley isn’t one to believe in holiday magic. That disappeared when his winter wedding was called off and his honeymoon was canceled. But the more time he spends in Merrylark, the more he’s convinced this magic exists. When Luke’s ex unexpectedly shows up as the other half to the lake house reservation, things get complicated. Luke knows all the magic in the world won’t clear up this misunderstanding. If he’s learned anything from Jolene, though, it’s that helping others is the most effective way to show love. With a surprise up his sleeve and a little help from his new Merrylark friends, Luke hopes he’s able to do just that.

Celebrate Christmas with Churchill and Pemberley! (and Oswald)

The event of Compton Poppleford’s festive season has arrived: the Vicarage Christmas Party. With sherry, mince pies and Christmas carols, the festivities are going well. But events take a turn when the choirmaster is found dead in the parlour. Which of the guests could possibly commit murder at Christmas time? 

With everyone detained at the vicarage, elderly sleuths Churchill and Pemberley find themselves in all the wrong places at all the wrong times. Inspector Mappin is certain they’re his suspects and the vicar is convinced too. How can the two old ladies prove their innocence? With the net closing in, the detective duo must find the culprit to avoid spending Christmas in Compton Poppleford’s police cells. 

Christmas Calamity at the Vicarage is a novella for fans of light-hearted mysteries and sharp-witted elderly sleuths.

Welcome to the charming seaside town of White Cliff Bay, where Christmas is magical and love is in the air…

Penny Meadows loves her home – a cosy cottage decorated with pretty twinkling fairy lights and stunning views over the town of White Cliff Bay. She also loves her job as an ice-carver, creating breathtaking sculptures. Yet her personal life seems frozen. 

When Henry and daughter Daisy arrive at the cottage to rent the annex, Penny is determined to make them feel welcome. But while Daisy is friendly, Henry seems guarded. 

As Penny gets to know Henry, she realises there is more to him than meets the eye. And the connection between them is too strong to ignore… 

While the spirit of the season sprinkles its magic over the seaside town and preparations for the ice sculpting competition and Christmas eve ball are in full swing, can Penny melt the ice and allow love in her heart? And will this finally be the perfect Christmas she’s been dreaming of? 

Like a creamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, you won’t want to put this deliciously heartwarming novel down. 

Spend the perfect Christmas in White Cliff Bay this year. Snowflakes on Silver Cove coming very soon.

“SEXY SCROOGE”

The Last thing I needed was to share and Uber with Scrooge – a cocky lawyer on a snowy Christmas Eve. It was bad enough I was on my way to court for the gift of eviction.

Although maybe today wouldn’t turn out so bad after all.

The Sexy Scrooge and I started to connect as we trudged our way through a storm. Our ride was about to end. But would I ever see him again?

“THE MERRY MISTAKE”

Note to self: Ask Santa for glasses this year. When I accidentally mistook a gorgeous man resting outside my building for a homeless person in need of a lunch, we got into it. I’d only been trying to do a good deed around the holidays, but he called me righteous. I called him something far worse. If only I didn’t have to see him again. But fate had other plans.

“KISSMAS IN NEW YORK”

It was just supposed to be a simple kiss with a stranger. I’d done it to prove a point – that I hadn’t lost my sense of adventure. But you know what they about the best laid plans. Maybe I’d get something in my stocking after all this holiday season. . .

“Killed by a Candy Cane” 

That’s the scariest headline ever written in the Pine Grove Gazette. But this holiday season, it’s all too true… 

This killer had a sweet tooth. So the December air is crisp and just a bit creepy this year.  

Red-faced children throw snowballs. Elderly couples drink hot chocolate in the cold. Chelsea and Miss May speed through town in their VW Bus, hunting yet another killer. 

Miss May is a sharp former lawyer, determined to make candy canes sweet again. Chelsea, Miss May’s Watson, just wants to solve the mystery without changing out of her fuzzy red Santa slippers.  

Toss in Christmas tree drama, a missing Santa Claus, and buttery holiday cookies?  

That’s the recipe for a holiday cozy you’ll want to read twice.  

You’ll love this cozy because everyone loves a holiday mystery with smart, funny sleuths and a conniving killer.  

Rashad Cole and Zia Ralph weren’t just friends. They were friends plus. Friends, plus fondness. Friends, plus undeniable chemistry. Friends, plus passion. Zia cuts off their friendship unexpectedly and six years fly by. After an unexpected meeting, Rashad wants a chance to convince Zia that although they had been good as friends, they would make better lovers. Can these twelve dates throughout Christmas convince Zia to give their love a chance? Or will Rashad spend another Christmas without her by his side?

Despite sharing a birthday with the holiday, Christmas just wasn’t Noelle’s thing. As a kid she had been in love with the holiday, but adult Noelle just saw it as another day to get through. 

Jay has moved back home after a breakup and is looking to reconnect with his childhood bestie. Cooking up a scheme to get her in the holiday spirit with her sisters, he’s determined to bring back to the old Noelle. 

With a combination of nostalgia, Christmas magic and a little bit of mistletoe, Noelle the First is a tale of old friends finding their way back to each other and more. 

Christmas Kisses is a collection of holiday novellas originally published by Harlequin Kimani Romance.* 

Tuscan Nights 

The splendor of Italy during the holidays is breathtaking, but that isn’t what brings Aiden Williams to a remote town in Tuscany days before Christmas. Gorgeous pastry chef Nyla Thompson fled to the rustic village three years ago, after her wedding to Aiden’s older brother was abruptly called off. As the two reconnect during an enchanting Roman holiday, Aiden is determined to show Nyla that he is the Williams brother she should have been with all along. 

Second-Chance Christmas 

Ayana Taylor arrives at a luxury ski resort in Vail for her brother’s Colorado Christmas nuptials, itching to show best man Jackson Richards that she’s fully recovered from the broken heart she suffered at his hands. But when her brother gets cold feet and goes missing before the wedding, Ayana must team up with Jackson to find him. And when a freak snowstorm strands her with Jackson in a secluded mountain cabin, Ayana must do all she can to protect her heart from falling once again under his spell. 

Suffering from the Christmas blues, Noel was doing all she could to avoid the holiday season. When her best friend, Chris, returned to town unannounced, her world was turned upside down and made better all at once. 

Chris was determined to shower Noel with holiday cheer by showing her the true meaning of Christmas 

And the true meaning of love.

~Cassie

New Release: Mistletoe Kisses by S.B. Alexander

If you know me you know that I have a deep love of holiday books and I was so excited when Ardent Rose PR emailed me letting me know about this new release. This anthology also has me excited to tell everyone about it because the proceeds of this book go to a non profit for foster kids. I give to charity a lot throughout the year but the holidays are a time where I get my boys involved and we not only donate money to kids in foster care but also things they need and fun stuff they may want. So if you love romance and the holidays as much as me, I would really love it if you thought about purchasing this book. It is only $2.99 and it would help to make this time of year more special for the kids who need it the most.

𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐞𝐬𝐭𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐮𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐡𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐣𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐫𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐌𝐈𝐒𝐓𝐋𝐄𝐓𝐎𝐄 𝐊𝐈𝐒𝐒𝐄𝐒, 𝐚 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐝𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐧𝐞𝐰 𝐚𝐝𝐮𝐥𝐭 𝐜𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐲 𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐨𝐥𝐨𝐠𝐲.

One-click on sale for $2.99!

➜ books2read.com/mistletoekissescollection

Amazon: https://bit.ly/MistletoeAz

Nook: https://bit.ly/MistletoeBN

Kobo: https://bit.ly/MistletoeKB

Apple: https://bit.ly/MistletoeItunes

Add to TBR: https://bit.ly/MistleToeKisses

Vote most anticipated November romance: https://bit.ly/33PU8lF

Blurb:

Are you ready to fall in love under the mistletoe?

Join fourteen bestselling authors as they take you back to some of their favourite worlds, with this collection of all-new young and new adult short stories.

‘Tis the season for friendship, family, first love, and FEELS.

One-click this charity anthology and help raise funds for One October, a non-profit helping the lives of children in foster care.

Participating Authors:

Ali Dean

Alley Ciz

Amie Knight

Anna B. Doe

Cambria Hebert

Ginger Scott

L A Cotton

Len Webster

Mackenzie Lane

Micalea Smeltzer

Monica Murphy

Piper Lawson

S.B. Alexander

Tracy Lorraine

To celebrate the release of Mistletoe Kisses authors are bringing you this amazing giveaway! Enter to win a $140 Amazon Gift Card and 14 signed paperbacks – open internationally!

Rafflecopter

About the author 

Bestselling author S.B. Alexander writes young adult and new adult romances that span the sub-categories of coming of age, sports, paranormal, suspense, and military fiction. Her writing is emotional, angsty, and character driven. She’s best known for The Maxwell and The Maxwell Family Saga series.

S.B. or Susan as she likes to be called is a navy veteran, former high school teacher, and former corporate sales executive. She’s a lover of sports, especially baseball, although nowadays you can find her glued to the TV during football season.

When she’s not writing, she’s a full-time caregiver to her soul mate of twenty-one years who got a bad deal in life when he was diagnosed with ALS. Her motto: “Life is too short to waste. So live every moment like it’s your last.”

You can connect with S.B. Alexander in the following ways:

Reader Group: http://sbalexander.com/sbareaderroom

Author Website: http://sbalexander.com

Newsletter: http://sbalexander.com/newsletter

Email: susan@sbalexander.com

Facebook Fan Page: http://www.facebook.com/sbalexander.authorpage

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/sbalexanderauthor/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/sbalex_author

NEVER MISS A NEW RELEASE:

Follow S.B. Alexander on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/S.B.-Alexander/e/B00AW0KZPI 

Follow S.B. Alexander on BookBub: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/s-b-alexander

~Cassie

Teaser! Bespoken by Rebecca Sharp

Bespoken_Ebook Cover

Bespoken by Dr. Rebecca Sharp is coming September 10th! Don’t miss a captivating and emotional romance where sparks fly from opposite sides of the track and ignite a love that can’t be denied…. #Pre-order today!

💙Amazon: mybook.to/ReadBespoken

💙Apple Books / Nook / Kobo: https://books2read.com/ReadBespoken

𝘑𝘶𝘭𝘦𝘴 𝘝𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘦𝘯 𝘯𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘸𝘢𝘯𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 – 𝘦𝘹𝘤𝘦𝘱𝘵 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘮𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘺 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥𝘯’𝘵 𝘣𝘶𝘺.

As the heiress to the Rock Beach Resort, her glamorous world was perfectly tailored to further her parent’s empire.

𝗙𝗿𝗼𝗺 𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗶𝗴𝗻𝗲𝗿 𝗰𝗹𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗼 𝗽𝗿𝗶𝘃𝗮𝘁𝗲 𝘀𝗰𝗵𝗼𝗼𝗹𝘀, 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆 𝗽𝗶𝗲𝗰𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗯𝗲𝘀𝗽𝗼𝗸𝗲𝗻.

After her grandfather’s death, one fateful night forces Jules to see her palace for what it really is—a pretty prison. Risking her family’s wrath, she’s decided to forge a new path—one that leads straight to the man she can’t stop thinking about… the same chivalrous carpenter who knows more about that night than he’ll admit; Mick Madison.

A Texan transplant with a giant heart, Mick knows he should keep his distance. After all, dusty jeans and scuffed work-boots might as well scream ‘commoner’ rather than carpenter. Yet Mick can’t convince himself to stay away… 𝘰𝘳 𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘱 𝘧𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘢 𝘸𝘰𝘮𝘢𝘯 𝘴𝘰 𝘧𝘢𝘳 𝘰𝘶𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘭𝘦𝘢𝘨𝘶𝘦.

But when Jules’ prestigious family is linked to crimes happening in Carmel Cove, the road to her future splits, and she’ll have to decide between a life she was groomed to live and a life she was made to love.

𝘈𝘯𝘥 𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘢𝘯𝘴 𝘴𝘩𝘦 𝘤𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘔𝘪𝘤𝘬 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳.

**Bespoken is the second book in the Carmel Cove series and can be read as a 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗮𝗹𝗼𝗻𝗲.

Add to your Goodreads TBR: https://bit.ly/Bespoken_GR

*Thank you to Wildfire Marketing for providing me with all graphics and info for this post.

~Cassie

Double Sale Alert! Harlequin Christmas in July and Buy 3 Get 3

I woke up this morning to an email from my contact at Harlequin, Lisa, letting me know about two sales that they have going on. The Christmas sale starts today and the Buy 3 Get 3 starts tomorrow. I am equally excited for both sales and I can’t wait to not only have some fun Christmas romances for when the holidays roll around, but also to keep growing my Harlequin collection. Keep reading for more detailed info of each sale!

Christmas in July

Image_1.99 Harlequin sale promotion

WHEN: The sale is happening July 22-28

ELIGEABLE TITLES: 130 Christmas-themed ebooks

URL: Visit Harlequin’s North Pole Library to view the titles on-sale, https://books.harlequin.com/pages/North-Pole-Library?view=grid&cnt=24

PRICE: All 130 ebooks are each listed at the price point of $1.99

SAVINGS: 70-40% off!

PARTICIPATING E-RETAILERS:

Barnes & Noble NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/b/christmas-in-july-holiday-romance-sale/_/N-2gmg

Image_select cover images_$1.99 on select books June 24-June 30!(1)

*I may or may not have already purchased some books from this sale hehe

Buy 3 Get 3 Free

Image_Buy 3 get 3 free image

WHEN: The sale is happening July 24-25.

ELIGEABLE TITLES: All titles on Harlequin.com are eligible for the sale.

URL: Visit Harlequin.com to discover the latest new releases and backlist favorites.

PRICE: When purchasing 6 titles, the 3 lowest-priced books will be discounted to free.

PARTICIPATING E-RETAILERS: This is an exclusive Harlequin.com sale.

DISCOUNT CODE: Use code #XMASJULY at checkout.

~Cassie

2020 Five Star Predictions Update

One of my goals for this year was to read 20 of my backlist books that I thought I was going to absolutely love this year. Today, I’m going to share how many I’ve actually read and what I thought about the ones that I did read. Obviously, by this point in the year I should have read 10 but

unfortunately, I have only read 7. I would love to be able to finish this year having accomplished reading all these books so I’m really going to try to prioritize the other 13 books these next six months.

First, let’s talk about the books that I did read. Out of the 7 that I read I ended up only giving 2 books five stars. Which doesn’t bode well for the remaining books on the list and I’m seriously starting to doubt how well I even know myself! I will be sharing my rating for each book and one sentence that sums up my feelings about the book.

36039837Rating: 4.5/5

This was a pretty predictable thriller filled with unlikeable characters but I really enjoyed the journey the author’s took me on.

27877138

Rating: 5/5

Having seen the movies, this was so much more twisted and darker than I thought it would be and Stephen King’s mind is as magnificent as it is terrifying.

9691607

Rating: 3/5

I did not connect to the characters and the pacing was off but the story as a whole wasn’t terrible.

36206591._SY475_

Rating: DNF @ pg 133

The longer I read this book the more and more I started despising it and when I looked up the ending I was happy I didn’t invest anymore time with it. I will link my Goodreads review here if you want to see my spoiler review of what exactly rubbed me so wrong.

38739562

Rating: 4/5

I adore Elizabeth Acevedo and while I do think this story is so important and much needed I think it suffered from pacing issues and I think the romance took away from the story instead of adding to it.

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Rating: 4/5

This was super action packed and suspenseful but I saw every twist coming and I was expecting more based on the hype this book has.

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Rating: 5/5

This is fantastic and one of the best thrillers I have ever read.

Now onto the remaining 13 books that I have yet to read. I’m going to leave the link to my original post here so you can read the synopsis of each book if you want. I sincerely hope that the majority of these books are five stars since I have such high hopes for all of them!

~Cassie

 

Blog Tour: Mayhem by Estelle Laure

Mayhem_FC

*Thank you to the publisher for providing me with an ARC and all info in this post in exchange for my honest review.

MAYHEM by Estelle Laure; On-sale: July 14th, 2020

It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always known there was something off about her and her mother, Roxy. Maybe it has to do with Roxy’s constant physical pain, or maybe with Mayhem’s own irresistible pull to water. Either way, she knows they aren’t like everyone else. 

But when May’s stepfather finally goes too far, Roxy and Mayhem flee to Santa Maria, California, the coastal beach town that holds the answers to all of Mayhem’s questions about who her mother is, her estranged family, and the mysteries of her own self. There she meets the kids who live with her aunt, and it opens the door to the magic that runs through the female lineage in her family, the very magic Mayhem is next in line to inherit and which will change her life for good. 

But when she gets wrapped up in the search for the man who has been kidnapping girls from the beach, her life takes another dangerous turn and she is forced to face the price of vigilante justice and to ask herself whether revenge is worth the cost. 

From the acclaimed author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back, Estelle Laure offers a riveting and complex story with magical elements about a family of women contending with what appears to be an irreversible destiny, taking control and saying when enough is enough.

Review

This is a powerful feminist novel that is very similar to Summer of Salt and Sawkill Girls. I love Laure’s writing and the imagery it invokes is stunning. Make no mistake though, this book is violent and at times difficult to read. Estelle Laure actually wrote a letter to the reader, to not only give some trigger warnings but also to explain her reasoning behind them. That letter can be found in the book and she has kindly given the participants of the blog tour a copy and you will find it below her author bio. I would also like to piggyback off that letter and say that there is drug use in this story so please also be aware of that.

This book is marketed as The Lost Boys meets The Craft and I definitely agree with that. I happened to grow up very close the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk (where The Lost Boys and I’m assuming this book, used as inspiration) and this whole book brought that place back to life for me. That background coupled with Laure’s magnetic writing made this whole story so vivid for me. I was captivated by The Craft angle, but I don’t want talk anymore about it, because I think it is best for the readers to find that out for themselves.

The characters were all damaged by pasts that they didn’t choose and I really felt for all of them. I think the way the book starts out helps to solidify the connection between our main character and reader because it is a heartbreaking life that Mayhem is living. Neve gave me very strong Nancy Down vibes (The Craft) and Kidd reminded me a little of Eleven from Stranger Things. I could go down the list and tell you who every character was in my head but the point is, that they were all distinct and fleshed out characters.

I know that so many people will enjoy this book for the strong writing, the setting, the themes and the magical aspect. There were so many amazing quotes that I wrote down from this book and I will be sharing just a few down below. I will also be seeking out other books from Estelle Laure to read in the future. She has a book about Disney villains coming out next year that I think could be really interesting, (my kids have me hooked on The Descendant movies!) as well as a short backlist. If you are wanting to try a bit of this book out for yourself then keep scrolling after the author’s letter and read the excerpt from Chapter 3.

“Well behaved women seldom make history.” -The author mentions that this is a famous quote but I think it is especially poignant in the current social climate we live in.

“When I dare to be powerful…it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” Audre Lorde *This is the quote that starts the book off

“The way you carry your manliness like it’s a permission slip from God to act like you rule everything and everyone in you path, like you can do whatever you want.”

AP Estelle Laure_Credit Zoe Zimmerman

Short author bio:
Estelle Laure, the author of This Raging Light and But Then I Came Back believes in love, magic, and the power of facing hard truths. She has a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults, and she lives in Taos, New Mexico, with her family. Her work is translated widely around the world.

Author’s social handles

Twitter: @starlaure

Instagram: @estellelaurebooks

Author Letter

Dear Reader,

Like Mayhem, I experienced a period of time when my life was extremely unstable. I can still remember what it was like to be shaken so hard I thought my head would come off, to watch the room vibrate, to feel unsafe in my own home, to never know what was coming around the next corner. I wanted to run. I always wanted to run.

I ran to friends, but also movies and books, and although girls were more passively portrayed in movies like The Lost Boys back then, that feeling of teenagers prowling the night, taking out bad people, being unbeatable . . . that got me through it.

I guess that’s what I tried to do here. I wanted girls who feel powerless to be able to imagine themselves invincible. And yes, I used a rape as the seed for that fierce lineage, not without thought. For me, there is nothing worse, and I like to think great power can rise up as a result of a devastating trespass.

Please know I took none of this lightly. Writing this now, my heart is beating hard and my throat is dry. This is the first time I not only really looked at my own past, the pain of loss, the pain of the loss of trust that comes when someone puts hands on you without permission, the pain of people dying, the shock of suicide, and put all of it to paper in a way that made me feel victorious, strong, and warrior-like. It is also terrifying. I know I’m not the only one who had a scary childhood, and

I know I’m not the only one who clings to stories as salve to smooth over burnt skin. I am so sick of girls and women being hurt. This was my way of taking my own vengeance and trying to access forgiveness.

Thank you for reading and for those of you who can relate, I see you and you are not alone.

Estelle Laure

Excerpt

three

Santa Maria

“Trouble,” Roxy says. She arches a brow at the kids by the van through the bug-spattered windshield, the ghost of a half-smile rippling across her face.

“You would know,” I shoot. “So would you,” she snaps.

Maybe we’re a little on edge. We’ve been in the car so long the pattern on the vinyl seats is tattooed on the back of my thighs.

The kids my mother is talking about, the ones sitting on the white picket fence, look like they slithered up the hill out of the ocean, covered in seaweed, like the carnival music we heard coming from the boardwalk as we were driving into town plays in the air around them at all times. Two crows are on the posts beside them like they’re standing guard, and they caw at each other loudly as we come to a stop. I love every- thing about this place immediately and I think, ridiculously, that I am no longer alone.

The older girl, white but tan, curvaceous, and lean, has her arms around the boy and is lovely with her smudged eye makeup and her ripped clothes. The younger one pops some- thing made of bright colors into her mouth and watches us come up the drive. She is in a military-style jacket with a ton of buttons, her frizzy blond hair reaching in all directions, freckles slapped across her cheeks. And the boy? Thin, brown,

hungry-looking. Not hungry in his stomach. Hungry with his eyes. He has a green bandana tied across his forehead and holes in the knees of his jeans. There’s an A in a circle drawn in marker across the front of his T-shirt.

Anarchy.

“Look!” Roxy points to the gas gauge. It’s just above the E. “You owe me five bucks, Cookie. I told you to trust we would make it, and see what happened? You should listen to your mama every once in a while.”

“Yeah, well, can I borrow the five bucks to pay you for the bet? I’m fresh out of cash at the moment.”

“Very funny.”

Roxy cranes out the window and wipes the sweat off her upper lip, careful not to smudge her red lipstick. She’s been having real bad aches the last two days, even aside from her bruises, and her appetite’s been worse than ever. The only thing she ever wants is sugar. After having been in the car for so long, you’d think we’d be falling all over each other to get out, but we’re still sitting in the car. In here we’re still us.

She sighs for the thousandth time and clutches at her belly. “I don’t know about this, May.”

California can’t be that different from West Texas.

I watch TV. I know how to say gag me with a spoon and

grody to the max.

I fling open the door.

Roxy gathers her cigarettes and lighter, and drops them in- side her purse with a snap.

“Goddammit, Elle,” she mutters to herself, eyes flickering toward the kids again. Roxy looks at me over the rims of her sunglasses before shoving them back on her nose. “Mayhem, I’m counting on you to keep your head together here. Those kids are not the usual—”

“I know! You told me they’re foster kids.”

“No, not that,” she says, but doesn’t clarify. “Okay, I guess.”

“I mean it. No more of that wild-child business.”

“I will keep my head together!” I’m so tired of her saying this. I never had any friends, never a boyfriend—all I have is what Grandmother calls my nasty mouth and the hair Lyle always said was ugly and whorish. And once or twice I might’ve got drunk on the roof, but it’s not like I ever did anything. Besides, no kid my age has ever liked me even once. I’m not the wild child in the family.

“Well, all right then.” Roxy messes with her hair in the rear- view mirror, then sprays herself with a cloud of Chanel No. 5 and runs her fingers over her gold necklace. It’s of a bird, not unlike the ones making a fuss by the house. She’s had it as long as I can remember, and over time it’s been worn smooth by her worrying fingers. It’s like she uses it to calm herself when she’s upset about something, and she’s been upset the whole way here, practically. Usually, she’d be good and buzzed by this time of day, but since she’s had to drive some, she’s only nipped from the tiny bottle of wine in her purse a few times and only taken a couple pills since we left Taylor. The with- drawal has turned her into a bit of a she-demon.

I try to look through her eyes, to see what she sees. Roxy hasn’t been back here since I was three years old, and in that time, her mother has died, her father has died, and like she said when she got the card with the picture enclosed that her twin sister, Elle, sent last Christmas, Everybody got old. After that, she spent a lot of time staring in the mirror, pinching at her neck skin. When I was younger, she passed long nights telling me about Santa Maria and the Brayburn Farm, about how it was good and evil in equal measure, about how it had desires that had to be satisfied.

Brayburns, she would say. In my town, we were the legends.

These were the mumbled stories of my childhood, and they made everything about this place loom large. Now that we’re here, I realize I expected the house to have a gaping maw filled with spitty, frothy teeth, as much as I figured there would be fairies flitting around with wands granting wishes. I don’t want to take her vision away from her, but this place looks pretty normal to me, if run-down compared to our new house in Taylor, where there’s no dust anywhere, ever, and Lyle prac- tically keeps the cans of soup in alphabetical order. Maybe what’s not so normal is that this place was built by Brayburns, and here Brayburns matter. I know because the whole road is named after us and because flowers and ribbons and baskets of fruit sat at the entrance, gifts from the people in town, Roxy said. They leave offerings. She said it like it’s normal to be treated like some kind of low-rent goddess.

Other than the van and the kids, there are trees here, rose- bushes, an old black Mercedes, and some bikes leaning against the porch that’s attached to the house. It’s splashed with fresh white paint that doesn’t quite cover up its wrinkles and scars. It’s three stories, so it cuts the sunset when I look up, and plants drape down to touch the dirt.

The front door swings open and a woman in bare feet races past the rosebushes toward us. It is those feet and the reckless way they pound against the earth that tells me this is my aunt Elle before her face does. My stomach gallops and there are bumps all over my arms, and I am more awake than I’ve been since.

I thought Roxy might do a lot of things when she saw her twin sister. Like she might get super quiet or chain-smoke, or maybe even get biting like she can when she’s feeling wrong about something. The last thing I would have ever imagined was them running toward each other and colliding in the driveway, Roxy wrapping her legs around Elle’s waist, and them twirling like that.

This seems like something I shouldn’t be seeing, some- thing wounded and private that fills up my throat. I flip my- self around in my seat and start picking through the things we brought and chide myself yet again for the miserable packing job I did. Since I was basically out of my mind trying to get out of the house, I took a whole package of toothbrushes, an armful of books, my River Phoenix poster, plus I emptied out my underwear drawer, but totally forgot to pack any shoes, so all I have are some flip-flops I bought at the truck stop outside of Las Cruces after that man came to the window, slurring, You got nice legs. Tap, tap tap. You got such nice legs.

My flip-flops are covered in Cheeto dust from a bag that got upended. I slip them on anyway, watching Roxy take her sunglasses off and prop them on her head.

“Son of a bitch!” my aunt says, her voice tinny as she catches sight of Roxy’s eye. “Oh my God, that’s really bad, Rox. You made it sound like nothing. That’s not nothing.”

“Ellie,” Roxy says, trying to put laughter in her voice. “I’m here now. We’re here now.”

There’s a pause.

“You look the same,” Elle says. “Except the hair. You went full Marilyn Monroe.”

“What about you?” Roxy says, fussing at her platinum waves with her palm. “You go full granola warrior? When’s the last time you ate a burger?”

“You know I don’t do that. It’s no good for us. Definitely no good for the poor cows.”

“It’s fine for me.” Roxy lifts Elle’s arm and puckers her nose. “What’s going on with your armpits? May not eat meat but you got animals under there, looks like.”

“Shaving is subjugation.”

“Shaving is a mercy for all mankind.”

They erupt into laughter and hug each other again.

“Well, where is she, my little baby niece?” Elle swings the car door open. “Oh, Mayhem.” She scoops me out with two strong arms. Right then I realize just how truly tired I am. She seems to know, squeezes extra hard for a second before letting me go. She smells like the sandalwood soap Roxy buys sometimes. “My baby girl,” Elle says, “you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to see you. How much I’ve missed you.”

Roxy circles her ear with a finger where Elle can’t see her.

Crazy, she mouths. I almost giggle.

Link to a buy-this-book page:
https://wednesdaybooks.com/galaxies-and-kingdom/mayhem/

~Cassie

#ClassicsCommunity Mid Year Update + Book Subscription

This year long reading challenge was put together by LucytheReader on Youtube. The goal is to promote reading classics and to read as many as possible. My personal goal for this challenge is to read one a month. I also made a list of  a few books that I want to read as part of that challenge in my original post back in December 2019. Today, I’m going over all the classics I have read so far this year plus a check in on how many I have actually read on that list I made.

In February of this year I decided to subscribe to the Coffee and a Classic book subscription box. They curate fun boxes with beautiful editions of classics. You can choose between getting coffee, hot chocolate, or tea or just choose for them to randomize the choice (which is what I do). The box also comes with a treat and gorgeous mugs and goodies that are made specifically for the book. I will be sharing the boxes that I have received because I have gotten some of my most beautiful books from them. This is a PRICEY subscription box but if you are a huge lover of classics and you are able to subscribe I do recommend them. On the other hand, if you can’t commit to the box but you are interested in some of the goodies then they do have an Etsy shop where you can buy past boxes, mugs or some of their other curated goodies.

Update

I am pleased that I have managed to read 8 classics already this year, but only one of these books is on the list that I made. I also put a couple of classics on my 20 five star predictions for 2020 and I haven’t read either of those yet. Next Thursday, I will have an update on how I have being doing with those five star predictions so that was a bit of a spoiler! Anyways, here are the books I still want/need to read this last half of the year:

*All three of these I read in high school but I want to reread them as an adult.

*These two I have never read but I have been wanting to read these authors for forever.

Book Box

March

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  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott *Purple is my favorite color so I was so thrilled when I saw the book. It also feels incredible. This is my fifth edition of this book!
  • “I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now” mug
  • Loose Leaf tea (chai) *this was SO good
  • Potpourri
  • Little Women print
  • Cake *I added water and cooked it in the microwave. It was the most delicious fudgy cake and the serving size was perfect
  • metal fan bookmark *very heavy and nice quality

April

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  • The Awakening and other stories by Kate Chopin
  • “The artist must possess the courageous soul that dares and defies” art easel print *amazing quality
  • Wood bookmark *stunning artwork and quality
  • “The voice of the sea speaks to the soul” mug
  • Loose leaf tea (not pictured) *great tasting but weak
  • Treat (not pictured) *I honestly can’t remember what it was but my kids and I devoured it once I received the box so it must have been delicious!
  • Wax melts (not pictured)

May

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  • In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • Black out blend dark roast coffee (it’s in the “evidence” bag- so fun!)
  • Black Chalkboard mug
  • “Last Meal” (ha!) chocolate covered strawberry popcorn *This is good but also a little weird. I could only eat a few at a time.
  • In Cold Blood ice/heat bag
  • Life magazine Truman Capote bookmark *As a true crime person I think this is really cool
  • Magnet (not pictured)

June

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  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo *This edition is so stunning! This picture does it no justice and it feels amazing.
  • French Roast Coffee
  • Madeline cookies *These were very tasty.
  • Incense burner set (you can see part of the sticks on the side of the picture) *I haven’t lit one yet but it still smells so fragrant just in the bag. It also comes with a matchbook that says Hunchback of Notre Dame on them which I think is so beautiful.
  • Metal pendant bookmark *This is also wonderfully crafted and lovely to look at.
  • Cathedral of Notre Dame mug (not pictured)
  • Hunchback of Notre Dame luminary *This came with a tea light so you can tape the paper in a circle and place the light inside. The paper is so stunning that I think I might just frame it and hang it up somewhere in my house.

*My July box is currently on its way to me so I will share that in a separate post whenever I receive it.

~Cassie