Tag: #bookreview

Recipe Taste Test: Quarantine Edition

So I am late on March’s recipe taste test. This month I wanted dessert, but the stores didn’t have a lot on the shelves. This recipe for an Icebox Cake in the Pioneer Women’s new cookbook only had four ingredients. Three of the ingredients, heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla, I already had on hand. So I only had to buy Oreo thins. The recipe calls for mint Oreo thins, but the store only had originals. I replaced the peppermint extract with vanilla. It was a hit with my husband. He loves all things cookies and cream. It was so light and tasty. The Oreo’s softened the perfect amount. It is a great recipe for quarantine because it has so few ingredients. I have been really impressed with this new cookbook. Every recipe I have tried has been great. I highly recommend it.


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Come Shop with Me: Quarantine Addition

So I have a major book hangover from My Dark Vanessa. Usually to fix a book hangover I will go to a bookstore, grab a coffee, and just browse the shelves. Well obviously right now that is not an option. So I thought I would do a little online shopping today. Check out what I bought.


In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind YA fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history–because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

Purchase My Lady Jane


A journalist uncovers the dark secrets of an abandoned boarding school in this chilling suspense novel from the New York Times bestselling author of The Sun Down Motel.

Vermont, 1950. There’s a place for the girls whom no one wants–the troublemakers, the illegitimate, the ones too smart for their own good. It’s called Idlewild Hall, and local legend says the boarding school is haunted. Four roommates bond over their whispered fears, their friendship blossoming–until one of them mysteriously disappears….

Vermont, 2014. Twenty years ago, journalist Fiona Sheridan’s elder sister’s body was found in the overgrown fields near the ruins of Idlewild Hall. And although her sister’s boyfriend was tried and convicted of the murder, Fiona can’t stop revisiting the events, unable to shake the feeling that something was never right about the case.

When Fiona discovers that Idlewild Hall is being restored by an anonymous benefactor, she decides to write a story about it. But a shocking discovery during renovations links the loss of her sister to secrets that were meant to stay hidden in the past–and a voice that won’t be silenced….

Purchase The Broken Girls

I also decided to renew my Books a Million membership. If you join the membership you get free shipping on any order. I thought it would come in handy right now until the stores open back up.

Learn how to get Free Shipping at Booksamillion.com — with no minimum purchase!

Shopping online is still not the same as wandering through shelves of books, but I am thankful to have the option to shop from home. I have also decided to try Rakuten. It is formerly known as Ebates. You get cash back when you make a purchase online. I decided if I am going to be shopping online I might as well get cash back. If you are interested you can use this link and get $10 when you sign up. Right now Books a Million has 5% cash back, but there are other online retailers to choose from.

I hope you all are staying happy and healthy! Hopefully soon we can get back out and shop until our hearts are content.

Hanging out while staying in? Get these hibercation musts only at Booksamillion.com!

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My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell


Sometimes you just know a book is going to stick with you long after you read it. My Dark Vanessa is one of those stories that just gets stuck in your mind. I found myself thinking about it several days after reading it. I will be shocked if this doesn’t end up being my favorite book of the year. I have a lot of thoughts so grab a cup of coffee. This is going to be a long one.

2000. Fifteen year old Vanessa Wye longs for adulthood. She feels that she can’t relate to the kids her age. Vanessa finds herself attracting the attention of her charming forty-two year old English teacher, Jacob Strane.

2017. During the wave of sexual allegations brought on by the Me Too movement Strane is accused of sexual assault by another student. She also reaches out and wants Vanessa to share her story. Vanessa is faced with a hard choice. Should she confess or should she stay silent. She strongly believes that she was not sexually abused. She believes that Strane was her first love. Why would she rat out a man who transformed her life and worshiped her? Could the man that she loved be different from what she believed?

I am not sure where to begin, so lets jump in. We start out in 2017 right after the article about Strane is released. The thing the shocked me is that Vanessa is still in contact with Strane. That’s not a spoiler I promise. It is on the first page. They discuss how he is handling the allegations. He asks if she plans to tell and she says no.

The next chapter starts in 2000. We begin to see Vanessa on her first day at Browick Boarding School where she meets Strane for the first time. He is a Harvard graduate and an English teacher. He grabs the attention of Vanessa who loves to write.

The book continues to alternate between timelines. We see the aftermath first and then we get the story build up. Strane starts to flirt with Vanessa. He is subtle enough that she begins to wonder about his intentions. She begins to crave and seek out his attention. As time goes on and a relationship develops we see how manipulative Strane is. At one point he tells Vanessa he doesn’t want to ruin her. He said if they got caught she would be expelled and that Child Protective Services would take her from her parents.

His manipulation is disgusting. There were times I wanted to scream. From my perspective it was easy to see what he was doing, but Vanessa thought he worshiped her. He preyed on a lonely self-conscious girl. He told her so many times how he tried not to love her. He had her convinced that he was brave for loving her. She was honored he put his trust in her.

Eventually, the giddy excitement of the new relationship turns negative. Vanessa starts getting jealous of a female teacher. She is jealous to the point that she reads Strane’s e-mails. Even if you take away the underage aspect their relationship is still toxic and unhealthy. The manipulation and lying continues to show up even in 2017.

My Dark Vanessa is a dark read. It is not an easy read. It deals with topics that are hard to talk about. It could be triggering to certain people so please read triggering warnings before picking it up. It is such a haunting, thought-provoking book. I have never been more impressed by a debut novel. Kate Elizabeth Russell’s talent is astounding. I can’t wait to watch her career grow.

My Rating: 5/5

Purchase My Dark Vanessa

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The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James Review

The Sun Down Motel

I have been loving thrillers lately. When I read the synopsis of this beauty I knew it was perfect for me. I took it to Savannah and devoured it when we were on the beach.

1982. Viv Delaney is headed to New York City to pursue an acting career. When she makes an unexpected stop at The Sun Down Motel she decides to take a job as the night clerk to help finance her dreams. Quickly, she find out that there are some horrible secrets lurking at the motel.

2017. Carly Kirk wants to solve the mystery of her Aunt Viv’s disappearance. When she visits The Sun Down Motel she learns things have not changed since 1982. She ends up in wrapped up in the same secrets and mysteries that captivated her aunt so many years earlier.

For the most part, I loved this story. The dual timelines were interesting. There were a few times where Viv would be researching something and the answer would be revealed in Carly’s timeline. Then we would see Viv live the results out. The research/reveal aspects were handled in a unique way.

Toward the middle of the book I did feel like there was a lull in the action. There were less pieces of the puzzle that fit together. I felt myself losing interest until a major plot twist happened and all the puzzle pieces began to make sense again.

I also loved the paranormal elements that were included. I love a good haunted motel story. This one gave me the creeps.

The Sun Down Motel was a well executed mystery told in an interesting way. I want to talk about the ending, but I don’t want to spoil it. I will just say that the ending was satisfying. It took a different direction than I expected.

My Rating: 4/5

I hope everyone is staying well!

Purchase The Sun Down Motel

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The Familiar Dark by Amy Engel


I think I am beginning to burn out on fantasy. My mind is begging for something new. So when Dutton Books gave me the chance to review and arc of this thriller I jumped on the chance.

Eve Taggert’s daughter is found murdered and she need to find who did it. Sometimes it is better not to know the answers. Sometimes you have to face horrible truths. Set in the poorest part of the Missouri Ozarks, justice is rough cut. It isn’t always left to the justice system. Eve learned that from her crude, cunning mother. Eve tried to find a life for herself outside of her mother’s trailer, but sometimes, in the face of tragedy, you return to your roots.

A thing I noticed that I found different than most thrillers is that it actually deeply discussed grief. Grief will completely change your life and this does a great job depicting that. We watch Eve spiral into her grief. She lost everything that she had worked hard for and she wants to make the person responsible pay for it.

Eve digs up the town’s dirty little secrets, but the truth shatters what is left of her world. I did guess the person behind the murders, but I did not guess how it would end. It left me speechless. I read this in a day. If you love thrillers you need to read this!

My Rating: 5/5

Thanks again to Dutton Books for a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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The Conference of the Birds Review by Ransom Riggs


I have waited on this one for a while. It was satisfying to finally get it. It was great to be back in this world.

Jacob Portman has just saved the peculiar world but his troubles are not over. When he goes on a mission to save Noor, an uncontacted peculiar, his life gets even more complicated. We follow the peculiar children into the frontier of American Peculiars to keep a prophecy from coming to pass.

This series is fun. It is a great mix of fantasy with time travel thrown in. In the past books, the pictures were included to enhance the story. This time there were fewer pictures and they were scattered out. They didn’t feel as connected to the story.

The introduction of Noor changed the entire plot line. It introduced a prophecy into the story that I did not expect. I really liked Noor as a character though. I like the route the books are taking, but this novel felt like it was a building block for the next book. It moved the story along but did include some action. I am interested to see where the story goes next.

My Rating: 4/5

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The Summer of Guinevere by John Madormo

The Summer of Guinevere

Since this is marketed as romance I was not sure that I would enjoy it. Being set in the past is the only thing that hooked me into reading this.When I jumped into it I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it. I devoured it in one day.

The Summer of Guinevere follows Paulie Passero in the last weeks of summer before his Junior year. When his father finds out that his mother, who disowned him twenty years earlier, is dying they set out on a road trip. Paulie doesn’t understand why he has to go. The prospect of driving from Chicago to the small town his father grew up in is the only thing that interests him. At first, Paulie is bored by small town life until he meets Guinevere Thompson. He wants to get to know her despite the warning that her father and brothers are dangerous. Paulie gets wrapped up in her life and wants to help her escape her abusive father.

This is a great coming of age story. Paulie gains confidence in himself through events of the story. He learns to speak to girls and handle tough situations through Guinevere. Another important character is Uncle Buddy. He helps Paulie gain interest in reading and current events. He motivates him to do his best in school. I think Buddy played more of an important role than Guinevere. He helped Paulie learn to stand on his own two feet. I will say I did not like Paulie’s father. He was less than helpful with the Guinevere situation and he didn’t really encourage Paulie in anyway.

The romance was cute and I enjoyed it, but this is a hard hitting story. It is raw and brutal. However, it does show you can grow and change your situation. I highly recommend checking this one out!

*Disclaimer- I was provided with a copy in exchange for my honest review.

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