Wednesday, January 20, 2021

REVIEW: The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous



The Perfect Guests was not perfect but it was a nice break from what I normally read. The alternating perspectives between characters and time periods nicely built into a culminating reveal in which all the answers to the mysteries of Beth and Sadie and their relationship to Raven Hall and the Averells were explained. And while nothing was SHOCKING! I did find the way all of the pieces fit together very interesting. I think what was lacking for me was a true exploration of why this place was *the thing* that motivated some decisions--I just didn't feel that connection between house and person as a deep and abiding reason for many actions and therefore while I thought it was an interesting idea, it just didn't hit me like the slap in the face that I like when I'm reading psychological fiction. Instead, I found myself feeling sorrow for some characters and head-tilting, I don't get it, with others. Overall, though, it was something different for me and I'm always up for that.


The USA Today bestselling author of The Au Pair returns with another delicious, twisty novel—about a grand estate with many secrets, an orphan caught in a web of lies, and a young woman playing a sinister game.

1988. Beth Soames is fourteen years old when her aunt takes her to stay at Raven Hall, a rambling manor in the isolated East Anglian fens. The Averells, the family who lives there, are warm and welcoming, and Beth becomes fast friends with their daughter, Nina. At times, Beth even feels like she's truly part of the family...until they ask her to help them with a harmless game—and nothing is ever the same.

2019. Sadie Langton is an actress struggling to make ends meet when she lands a well-paying gig to pretend to be a guest at a weekend party. She is sent a suitcase of clothing, a dossier outlining the role she is to play, and instructions. It's strange, but she needs the money, and when she sees the stunning manor she'll be staying at, she figures she’s got nothing to lose. 

In person, Raven Hall is even grander than she'd imagined—even with damage from a fire decades before—but the walls seem to have eyes. As day turns to night, Sadie starts to feel that there’s something off about the glamorous guests who arrive, and as the party begins, it becomes chillingly apparent their unseen host is playing games with everyone...including her.

Monday, January 18, 2021

REVIEW: Sorrow by Tiffanie DeBartolo


To be honest, trying to write a review for Sorrow seems like such an injustice to the experience of reading it. But it would be an even bigger injustice if I didn't let the world know that I read it and loved it. The people who happen across this blog or review have to know that this is a MUST READ. 

Ever since Tiffanie DeBartolo posted the first hint, the first suggestion, that she was writing this novel, I knew I'd have to have it. Everything she's written I've felt a connection to. Her characters and their journeys just burrow under my skin, race through my bloodstream, and find a home in my heart. 

Sorrow is...
a love story
a grief story
a story of hope cloaked in melancholy

Sorrow may...
make you frustrated or annoyed with Joe
even when you understand why he's so quick to run away 
and so slow to embrace who he is, or could be

Sorrow will
remind you of what you may forget
about time
and action
and inaction
and loss

Sorrow should
nudge you
prod you
inspire you
invigorate you

And Sorrow will most definitely make you hope and wish that Tiffanie DeBartolo is finding her next inspiration because we all need more of her words in our heads, on our shelves, and in our hearts. I know that this novel will be absolutely perfect for so many of my former students and even some of my current ones. 

The story of October and Joe and Cal is one that I won't forget. Between October and her quirky art installations (which WOW, the time and imagination to come up with those!) and her sage wisdom on relationships and humanity, and Joe and his stubborn resistance to truly live for himself, and Cal's heart and inability to let Joe sink into nothingness, I didn't stand a chance--I was destined to love them all, and love them I did. 

Thank you, Tiffanie DeBartolo, for giving me new words, new characters to love, and a reminder to not give up before I've even started.


From Tiffanie DeBartolo, author of God Shaped HoleHow to Kill a Rock Star, and Grace: The Jeff Buckley Story, comes Sorrow, a poignant story about friendship and love, art and music, and how these pursuits can save us from ourselves.

Joe Harper has backpedaled throughout his life. A once-promising guitar prodigy, he's been living without direction since abandoning his musical dreams. Now into his thirties, having retreated from every opportunity he's had to level up, he has lost his family, his best friend, and his own self-respect.


But Joe finds an unlikely path to redemption when he starts working as a carpenter for the bohemian conceptual artist October Danko. The job returns him to his hometown, loaded with bittersweet reminders of his former life, in the shadows of his beloved redwood trees. As Joe's relationship with October develops, he yearns to take a daring step toward a bold future, but struggles to escape the craven decisions of his past.


Sorrow is a stunning, moving novel that explores masculinity and suspended adolescence, all the while begging the questions: Can courage be learned? And is it ever too late to follow your heart?

Monday, January 11, 2021

REVIEW: All Scot and Bothered by Kerrigan Byrne


OHMYGOD. I love this series. Admittedly, I'm fairly new to all things Kerrigan Byrne but I have read a few of her novels and short stories and I want to read all of her work because it's just so dang engaging. 

In the case of All Scot and Bothered and Cecelia and Lord Ramsay, I absolutely adored their push and pull and especially loved how independent Cecilia was. Even knowing the Red Rogues and their desire to be independent women, I found Cecelia's brand of strong woman to be so appealing (while thinking about how far we've come and how glad I'll hopefully never have to fight for my right to be who I want). I also enjoyed how Cecelia and Ramsay were on a collision course of wills and love and we could all see it and knew it was coming and yet there was no way to dream up how much fun it was to read them struggling against each other and for each other. The intrigue of who was behind the misdeeds going on behind the scenes, the involvement of Cecelia and Ramsay and their friends and family, and resolution of that subplot were interesting and well done. 

I'm absolutely thrilled that there's at least one more book coming out in this series and I have an idea of who will be coupled up and I CANNOT WAIT. It's going to be so much fun. 



All Scot and Bothered is the second book in the stunning Devil You Know series by USA Today bestselling author Kerrigan Byrne!

They are a dangerous duke, a fierce lord, and an infamous earl—dark, bold, brave men who know exactly what they want. And there is only one woman who can bring them to their knees...

He is first and foremost—at everything. A man who’s made his own way through ruthless cunning and sheer force of will. A strong and imposing Scot who can turn on the charm but does not suffer fools. His title: Lord Chief Justice of the High Court. His name: Cassius Gerard Ramsay. His mission: To investigate the goings-on at London's most notorious gaming hell, owned and operated by one of the most intriguing and desirable women he’s ever met.


Cecelia Teague was an orphan facing a rather dire future—until a secret benefactor from her mother’s scandalous past swept into her life. Sent to a prestigious boarding school and later to university, Cecelia believed high society was at her fingertips...Then, from out of nowhere, she became the inheritor of a gambling establishment. Now Cecelia must live two lives: one as a proper lady who finds herself undeniably drawn to Lord Ramsay and the other as a savvy gaming hell owner trying to save her business from the very same man. He has no idea she is both women...and Cecelia would like to keep it that way. But what happens when consuming passion and escalating danger threaten to reveal the truth?

"With the Devil You Know series, Byrne once again delivers the beautifully nuanced characters and seductive storytelling her readers have come to expect."—Booklist

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

REVIEW: Courting Trouble by Kerrigan Byrne


 As a new reader of Kerrigan Bryne’s historical romances, Courting Trouble stood out as something a little different than what I’ve come across before. Usually I expect to read about two head strong characters who have to find a way to use that fire for them rather than to burn everything down. It always works for me—delights me, even. In the case of Courting Trouble, the heroine was a little more meek, although surprisingly bold in her adulthood, and I liked how unexpected she was. The hero, Titus, was dreamy and wonderful and while he had more of the typical strong traits I anticipated, he also was a more gentle soul. 

I think I’ve read so many alpha characters lately that I’ve forgotten how lovely it is to read a novel featuring two characters who are genuinely good humans. The hurt-ache and angsty bits were there but not too heavy handed and the storyline has me anxious to go back to any of the previous books I’ve missed in this series and also anticipating the two books I think are coming.

Courting Trouble was a fun, quick read. Perfect for the next free weekend you have to read.


A brand-new deliciously wicked romance series from USA Today Bestselling Author Kerrigan Byrne. The Goode Girls aren't simply good, they're stunning.

Doctor Titus Conleith emerged from his time as a battlefield surgeon with a mysterious fortune, a lethal secret, and a demon on his back. Ruthlessly intelligent, he was able to lift himself from his beginnings as coal-stained bastard through merciless discipline and inexhaustible skill. Alone by choice, he swore never to open his heart to another. Not after Honoria Goode. The heiress who shattered his hopes and then tread upon the shards of his heart with her bejeweled slippers. The beauty with whom he shared his first taste of passion, before she gave her hand to another.

The woman whose life he just saved from bleeding out on his table...

Honoria’s life as a Viscountess has been nothing but a misery she’d brought upon herself with her own cowardice. Trapped for years in a loveless marriage to a cruel rake, she has been widowed by the consequences of his villainy.  Now, she must face the man with the blazing golden eyes of the boy she once worshiped, and the dark past they both share.

As their passion reignites with the same fervor of their youth, Honoria can’t help but begin to wonder…

Will he allow her the second chance she doesn’t deserve?

Sunday, January 3, 2021

REVIEW: Every Last Secret by A.R. Torre


Shel: When telling my cousin about Every Last Secret, I likened it to Single White Female or Fatal Attraction--though I'm realizing that I'm dating myself with those references. If those references mean nothing to you, here's what you need to know--this novel is really hard to put down once you start it. It's categorized as "psychological fiction" --and that's probably the best way to put it. Torre's ability to capture the nuances of all types of relationships and what makes them work or fracture is one of the many things that really shine in this novel. Her powers of observation--of our human nature, our needs, our manipulations, and what we do to create the lives we want or we want to project--were spot on.
Court: Dang, could not have said it better. This one was so good and I couldn't put it down either. I have always loved Torre's writing, but she definitely keeps getting better and upping her ability to craft a story that is nuanced, and enthralling and just keeps me hooked right to the last page. These people are all so flawed, but the insight we get into their thinking is spectacular. The execution of the story is so good, and I had to stay up wayyyy too late to see how it ended.

Shel: Alessandra Torre did a fantastic job of pulling me into the novel and making me completely invested in not what was happening but how it was happening. Torre seemingly removed the mystery of 'who done it' in the prologue so it appeared to be less about the end result and more about how Cat, Neena, William, and Matt got to there. I found myself strongly HATING characters and hate reading parts of chapters. Alternatively, I also found myself actually liking things at the end that I don't know that I should have--does that make me a psychopath?! Perhaps. I blame Torre for it all--the strong feelings, the inability to do an ounce of work, the one more chapter-ing until all hours of the night--because she once again wrote a novel that I couldn't get enough of. Court: YAS! I know who I am a fan of in the end, and while that probalby also makes me seriously messed up in the head these people are so very human and it is what makes this book exciting. They are down to their base instincts here, and how they navigate the game of being a big fish in a little pond. A.R. Torre has a beautiful gift to be able to keep us guessing where the story was going and ultimately surprised me by what I found out. 

Shel: While I didn't have to get to the end to figure some things out, I truly enjoyed the entire journey to the end. And I liked the end--the sense of completion and yet the unexpected sense of melancholy that colored the last pages and left me with the most interesting sense of satisfaction and longing. Court: I felt the same way. It is a stand alone book, for sure, but I loved how satisfied I feel having read it. I was afraid to keep reading because I wanted it to last, but also very happy with the entire book front to back, and that is kind of a rare thing to get sometimes. I realllly enjoyed this book, and you must check it out! 


Welcome to the neighborhood. Watch your husband, watch your friends, and watch your back.

Cat Winthorpe has worked hard to get what she has: a gorgeous home; social standing; and William, her successful, handsome husband. Then a friendly new couple moves into the estate next door. While cautious, a good neighbor like Cat greets them with open arms and warm hospitality.

Neena Ryder isn’t a fellow lady of leisure. A life coach with off-the-rack dresses, personal issues, and a husband who hasn’t delivered, she’s anxious to move up in the world. This beautiful new town is a step in the right direction. It’s also making Neena aware of what she doesn’t have. Namely, William. When Neena’s infatuation escalates into obsession, it’s just a matter of eliminating a few obstacles to get the life she wants. The life next door.

As Neena’s secret fixation grows, so does her friendship with Cat. But beneath their cordial interactions is a wealth of temptations, secrets, and toxic jealousy. For both women, the desire for a perfect life can turn perfectly dangerous.

© Must Read Books or Die. Made with love by The Dutch Lady Designs.