Empty Vows by Mary Monroe


Empty Vows by Mary Monroe
The Wiggins Series, book 2
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Forty-something widow Jessie Tucker is beloved throughout Lexington, Alabama, for her kind heart and endless generosity. But she feels it’s past time she rewarded herself—especially when upstanding Hubert Wiggins tragically loses his wife and son. Making herself indispensable, yet discouraged by Hubert’s lack of romantic interest, Jessie cooks up a deception she knows will make pious Hubert do right by her…

Hoax or not, Hubert couldn’t be happier. The passionate self he’s long hidden from everyone has a new, much-riskier secret love. And the unsuspecting second Mrs. Wiggins will help him maintain his ever-so-devout image in the community…

But when Hubert is not the ardent lover Jessie always dreamed he was, she turns her desires to handsome younger man Conway. Suddenly the “good church wife” can’t resist temptation at all. And someone is watching: Conway’s new girlfriend—and Jessie’s longtime rival—Blondeen. Now Blondeen has the perfect opportunity to harass Jessie, destroy her reputation, drive her out of town—then become the real wife Hubert should have had all along…

In one shattering night, Jessie, Blondeen, and Hubert will each go too far. And when their web of deceit threatens to drag them under for good, they will have only one chance to erase the past and claim everything they’ve ever wanted. If their secrets don’t destroy them first…

What lengths would someone go to hide their secrets?

I was excited to return back to Lexington, Alabama! Empty Vows picks up where Mrs. Wiggins left off. You’ll need to read book one to get Maggie’s story. Book two is told from Jessie and Hubert’s view. True to her writing style the author includes colorful characters, an enthralling storyline and engaging dialogue.

Grief stricken Hubert Wiggins has lost his wife and son and soon finds himself an available widow in the small town of Lexington, Alabama. Jessie, Maggie’s best friend wasn’t interested in Hubert until her meddling sister Minnie put the thought in her head. In book two we get a different version of Jessie. In book one she was dominated by her now deceased husband and appeared helpless. Now readers see a calculating scheming side of Jessie.

If you’ve read book one you know Hubert has no interest in any of the women that are throwing themselves at him. He is only needing to find someone to cover suspicions of his secret lifestyle. With that premise I was drawn into the deceit and lies. But who is fooling who? As the saying goes be careful what you wish for and who you listen to. The characters make vows that were completely empty and based on selfish gain. Will the marriage turn out as they envisioned? This is the 1930’s and to cover a story with so many themes such as LGBTQ lifestyle, a strict religious family, segregation and the mention of a serial killer on the loose I couldn’t read fast enough. The author did an awesome job in pulling all this together to create an absolutely riveting drama.

I enjoyed the first book better, however this is a very entertaining read. In my opinion Jessie and Hubert are not on Maggie’s level. Maggie took action to help others and to defend herself while Jessie and Hubert are taking action for their own selfish reasons. Maggie’s upbringing wasn’t the best so that led me to have compassion for her and it made her actions more acceptable. For Jessie and Hubert, I don’t feel the same compassion.

I enjoy reading about the history during this era and learning about the culture in the Black community. I can picture the meddlesome neighbors and the humorous conversations. Living in the South the foods that are mentioned are staples in many households still today. I guess that’s why I enjoy the author’s stories so much, I can relate to living in a small town in the South and I can visualize people I know acting out the scenes in the book.

I am definitely looking forward to book three in this series to see how the author will conclude The Wiggins series. This is a good series that is sure to entertain many readers.

And There He Kept Her by Joshua Moehling


And There He Kept Her by Joshua Moehling
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

They thought he was a helpless old man. They were wrong.

When two teenagers break into a house on a remote lake in search of prescription drugs, what starts as a simple burglary turns into a nightmare for all involved. Emmett Burr has secrets he’s been keeping in his basement for more than two decades, and he’ll do anything to keep his past from being revealed. As he gets the upper hand on his tormentors, the lines blur between victim, abuser, and protector.

Personal tragedy has sent former police officer Ben Packard back to the small Minnesota town of Sandy Lake in search of a fresh start. Now a sheriff’s deputy, Packard is leading the investigation into the missing teens, motivated by a family connection. As clues dry up and time runs out to save them, Packard is forced to reveal his own secrets and dig deep to uncover the dark past of the place he now calls home.

Unrelentingly suspenseful and written with a piercing gaze into the dark depths of the human soul, And There He Kept Her is a thrilling page-turner that introduces readers to a complicated new hero and forces us to consider the true nature of evil.

I was 70% into the book and had already given it 5 stars in my mind even though I didn’t know how the book would end. I enjoyed the author’s writing style. The characters have distinct and believable personalities and I wanted to do nothing but continue on reading their story. Readers will be introduced to Ben Packard, the acting deputy sheriff of Sandy Lake. Ben has a history in Sandy Lake, but we also find out what heartbreaking events brought him back. My favorite character is Ann Crawford. She is cutthroat and funny even though I don’t think that’s how her character is meant to be. Emmett, yes he’s the bad guy but I still had a soft spot for him. How clever of the author to make me feel sympathy for the villain of the story. The author reveals the inner souls of the characters. The backstory helps the reader to see the perspective as it moves the narrative forward.

The storyline is easy to follow. Although some parts are dark and wicked, they are necessary for the intense development of a story that’s keeps the reader on edge. It’s obvious as to who is who so there’s not much suspense there, however my interest was piqued as I rushed to see how the author wrapped it all up. The twists and peaks came in appropriate intervals. I enjoyed Sheriff Packard’s determination to find the two missing teens. I enjoyed following the investigation as clues were enthrallingly revealed. The book isn’t overly violent and instead is on the tamer side, so that readers are made aware of gory actions that did take place but doesn’t necessarily observe them firsthand.

The author did not disappoint with the explosive ending that played out with superb closure. I hope to read future novels that will include such lively characters such as Ben Packard, Gary Bushwright and Cora Shaker.

The Final Hunt by Audrey J. Cole


The Final Hunt by Audrey J. Cole
Publisher: Rainier Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Alone in a hunting cabin, off-grid in an untamed wilderness. How does a marriage come to this?
After John disappeared while hunting—presumed dead from a bear attack—Cameron found the crime photos. His role in the recent Seattle serial murders was discovered. The media destroyed her reputation. She lost her dental practice, is on the brink of losing her home.

Everyone has a secret. But if her husband could hide the unimaginable from her, who’s to say he’s truly dead?

“What brings you so far from home?” the Alaska State Trooper had asked. The truth.

For three months she’s been a grieving widow and then one day Cameron Prescott finds her husband’s serial killer trophy photos. Was her husband John the “Teacher Killer”? And could he still be alive?

For me this was a simple and easily readable in two sittings. There’s no shock value or big reveal at the end. I pretty much saw where the story was going but I still enjoyed the journey. Quality writing that gives vivid scenic description of the wilderness of Alaska that added tension to the story. Details about bears and wolfs and how they devour their prey was interesting to know. It’s likely I wouldn’t be finding this out. So, it’s good to live through words and experience the wildlife from the safety of my sofa.

On one hand I did like the main character, Cameron, but on the other hand I found that I didn’t really get to know her. I like that she is tough, intelligent and spontaneous. She’s flying planes, she’s a dentist, she’s hiking and camping in the cold wilderness of Alaska and she outran an avalanche on a snowmobile. I mean what’s not to admire? She’s turned from grieving widow to Detective Nancy Drew. I would have liked to have known more about the characters, as well as their marriage. John is being labeled a serial killer, but Cameron had no clue. What was he like? What was their marriage like? John was an attorney, who worked on a pro bono case that nearly bankrupted the firm. Doesn’t sound like a profile for a serial killer to me. May be that was the author’s intent; unsuspecting married male with a secret. Speaking of secrets, there’s a saying that like attracts like. My guess is John saw something in Cameron that he saw in himself.

The book doesn’t give a lot of details about Simon Castelli, John’s friend and co-attorney. I’m wondering what kind of friendship they really had. I didn’t care for the microwave romance that was thrown in. I would have preferred that it was noted Dane was interested after his brief encounter and then in the epilogue details that they decided to pursue a relationship. (Purposely being vague to keep from spoiling it for future readers).

Overall, I enjoyed the book. It’s well paced, has a strong female character, but it doesn’t fit my personal definition of a thriller. Suggested reading for those that enjoy books that aren’t too heavy and that, even though it speaks about heinous crimes and acts, the content isn’t tremendously disturbing.

A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa


A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
Publisher: Amistad
Genre: Historical, Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

A Woman of Endurance, set in nineteenth-century Puerto Rican plantation society, follows Pola, a deeply spiritual African woman who is captured and later sold for the purpose of breeding future slaves. The resulting babies are taken from her as soon as they are born. Pola loses the faith that has guided her and becomes embittered and defensive. The dehumanizing violence of her life almost destroys her. But this is not a novel of defeat but rather one of survival, regeneration, and reclamation of common humanity.

Readers are invited to join Pola in her journey to healing. From the sadistic barbarity of her first experiences, she moves on to receive compassion and support from a revitalizing new community. Along the way, she learns to recognize and embrace the many faces of love—a mother’s love, a daughter’s love, a sister’s love, a love of community, and the self-love that she must recover before she can offer herself to another. It is ultimately, a novel of the triumph of the human spirit even under the most brutal of conditions.

“When are you going to see that the only way we can carry our burdens is to share them?”

Pola, the woman once called Keera, has many reasons to be closed off emotionally, and definitely reason to be bitter and angry at everyone. In the beginning the author disclosed Lola’s broken spirit. The reader gets to see Lola at a point where she had given up and commits herself to the sea. The hurt and damage due to inhumane conditions and treatment, along with the deplorable brutality in the cold hearts of many men that surely can break a person physically, mentally and emotionally. I am glad that I kept reading and now understand that the details were important to knowing her full journey.

The author’s writing is impeccable. The content matter is one that can be hard to read but the author’s words were full of grace and shared so poetically. The untranslated Spanish phrases and words made me feel closer to the story. The purposeful word choice painted a picture that fit and flowed very well. Reading Pola’s story I felt an emotional pull. Reading about the social structure within slavery acknowledged that there’s some freedom only our mind can give us.

I loved seeing Pola’s strength and how the events became clearer and everything fell into place for her.

It has been a long journey, a journey that has taught Pola the greatest lesson of all, how to endure. What a treat for readers to see the damaged and broken Pola evolve to find security, to being loved and mostly she come to terms with those she lost or that were taken from her while on her journey.

Being enslaved it’s often that families are formed outside of blood ties. So this story is not only about Pola but those that accepted Pola, those that were patience while she healed. Those that offered her a family, and support , and that helped fill the emptiness that use to consume her. Pola has dwelt in the darkness for long enough and now she only needs to make a little space for others to enter and grow.

My takeaway from this book is we can get stuck in grief and loss, we have to face and address our hurts and we need the community of others to survive. This story is well worth reading.

Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde


Dreaming of Flight by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult (8 – older)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Never knowing his parents, eleven-year-old Stewie Little and his brother have been raised on a farm by their older sister. Stewie steadfastly tends the chickens left by his beloved late grandmother. And every day Stewie goes door to door selling fresh eggs from his wagon—a routine with a surprise just around the corner. It’s his new customer, Marilyn. She’s prickly and guarded, yet comfortably familiar—she reminds the grieving Stewie so much of the grandmother he misses more than he can express.

Marilyn has a reason for keeping her distance: a secret no one knows about. Her survival tactic is to draw a line between herself and other people—one that Stewie is determined to cross. As their visits become more frequent, a complicated but deeply rooted relationship grows. That’s when Stewie discovers how much more there is to Marilyn, to her past, and to challenges that become more pressing each day. But whatever difficult times lie ahead, Stewie learns that although he can’t fix everything for Marilyn or himself, at least he’s no longer alone.

I don’t know where to start on my review about this book. I enjoyed it tremendously! The writing style, the characters, the realness of the story and the teachable moments – all of it. I enjoyed it all.

This conversation between Stewie and Marilyn’s daughter, Betty will stay with me.: “You’re just upset because she doesn’t say the same things she would have said before. Instead of being so sure about exactly how you want her to be, why can’t you just be glad because she’s there?”

In a world where I’ve found myself drawn to watching more television shows and movies than I read, this book made me want to read. I enjoyed the time spent following the story of eleven-year-old Stewie Little. A young boy who has lost several loved ones at a very early age. He lives with his older sister, Stacey and brother Theo.

Stewie continues to take care of his deceased grandmother’s chicken. One day on his egg delivery route he meets a new customer, Marilyn. Marilyn seems to be a tough character to deal with, but Stewie took a liking to her, as her spry ways and mannerism reminds him of his grandmother.

This starts the beginning of a relationship that Marilyn didn’t want to happen. Neither did Stacey, Stewie’s older sister. Stacey’s concern for Stewie is touching to read. She recognized the many losses that Stewie has faced but she didn’t know what to do. Though their family was small I felt the closeness that the three must have needed to cope. At times it seemed they walked on eggshells for Stewie, but I like that Stewie is a strong and courageous young boy. I liked that if he didn’t understand something he spoke up. This was humorous in how he stated he didn’t know what words or phrases meant. Marilyn always took the time to explain it to him. Marilyn came into Stewie’s life at a time when Stewie really needed her. And Stewie in turn was there for Marilyn. I enjoyed and took to heart the words of wisdom from Marilyn to Stewie, in fact I’ve highlighted them on my Kindle; they are just that impacting. Towards the end of the book Stewie starts to give Marilyn and others, words of wisdom. (Hence the quote at the start of this review)

The relationship between the two is beautiful and heartwarming. I found joy that Stewie had someone he could be close to, that didn’t take advantage of him and also able to sense what he needed. Marilyn uplifted him up, educated him and filled a void that Stewie had. Stewie didn’t have biological parents or grandparents, but he had a village. Dr. Briggs helped Stewie through his complicated emotions by giving him thought provoking questions. It was a little concerning that Stewie didn’t have friends his age, but I could see that Stewie was mature for his age and didn’t seem to fit in with others of his age.

The ending felt true to life, but also hurt. The author touched on a lot in this book. Loss, and grief, from both Stewie’s view and also Marilyn’s view. Overcoming what life throws at you and having someone or people to help you along the way. That family or people that love you aren’t always blood related. That we should pay attention to those we love in case they do need help. Getting help is okay. Doing something good for someone else also helps you in return. It also gives some insight of those that are of age who feel like they have lost their freedom, their choice, and maybe even their personal rights once they’ve been moved into an assisted living facility.

I can go on and on about how much I enjoyed this book. So instead of reading my review I suggest you go ahead and get a copy of the book and enjoy it for yourself.

Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez


Blood Will Tell by Heather Chavez
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Schoolteacher and single mom Frankie Barrera has always been fiercely protective of her younger sister Izzy—whether Izzy wants her to be or not. But over the years, Izzy’s risky choices have tested Frankie’s loyalty. Never so much as on a night five years ago, when a frantic phone call led Frankie to the scene of a car accident—and a drunk and disoriented Izzy who couldn’t remember a thing.

Though six friends partied on the outskirts of town that night, one girl was never seen again . . .

Now, an AMBER alert puts Frankie in the sights of the local police. Her truck has been described as the one used in the abduction of a girl from a neighboring town. And the only other person with access to Frankie’s truck is Izzy.

This time around, Frankie will have to decide what lengths she’s willing to go to in order to protect Izzy—what lies she’s willing to tell, and what secrets she’s willing to keep—because the dangerous game that six friends once played on a warm summer night isn’t over yet . . .

I liked this book, I really did.

The short chapters are mainly told from Frankie (Francisca) Barrera’s point of view. There’s suspense and secrets. When drugs and alcohol are involved, it’s bound to impair one’s memory, right? There’s a very strong family support system. I enjoyed the author’s writing style which made for an easy read. There were several plot twists that I didn’t see coming. The dual timeline that explained just enough of what happened the night Rachel went missing to keep me interested. The story had a good ending that explained everything.

I can say that Frankie is a compassionate, and unselfish woman with more than expected mechanical skills. I’d say she’s also courageous, but I don’t necessarily see her as a strong woman that I can relate to. Frankie and her younger sister Izzy come from a two-parent home that seemingly had a happy environment, conducive to a favorable upbringing. I truly understand the need for Frankie to help her younger sister and the desire to protect her. However, Frankie’s overbearing investigative sister skills overshadow Izzy and enables her.

An AMBER alert puts Frankie in a questionable position with the local police. Her truck has been described as the one used in the abduction of Marina Wagner, and the only other person with access to Frankie’s truck is her sister, Izzy. Frankie is a middle school teacher, and since it’s summer I guess she has time to clear her and her sister’s name. As Frankie investigates Marina’s kidnapping, she also gets closer to finding out what happened five years ago when Rachel disappeared. Parts of the story were bogged down and almost made it difficult to stick with. Izzy seemed to be a spoiled woman child who was confident in her sister’s loyalty to her. Maybe I overlooked it, but I don’t recall what Izzy did for a living.

There are several things that I didn’t like about the story–things that I noticed and tried to tune out so that I could focus on the main parts. Marina went to grief camp at the age of 12, when her sister went missing. Her sister was recently found, Marina is now 17. I found the relationship between Marina and her mother strange, and to send her daughter to grief camp when there was no proof her older daughter was deceased. Lastly, the local police or FBI did little investigating into Marina’s kidnapping, but Frankie found two people and solved the case in a week.

Three hundred pages in Izzy finds her voice and tells Frankie that she’s been taking responsibility by volunteering, getting a job, her own place and she even went to talk to the police and yet Frankie still treats her as a child. In my opinion, this sister duo definitely is dysfunctional and should seek counseling. Frankie needs to get a life and apply with the local police force as a detective. As the saying goes, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, I think after the heart pounding action scene and big reveal at the end, the sisters may have stumbled their way towards an evolving adult relationship.

Even though I had some minor issues with the story, overall it was a good and entertaining read for me. I would definitely read more from this author because I do like her talent for telling a story and not only that, this was a creative plot with many unforeseen twists.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth


The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses
in all of them?

Still married to his current wife, heart surgeon Stephen Aston falls for his younger interior designer, Heather. This is definitely a required ingredient if you are looking for a recipe for disaster or maybe even death.

It took me a brief moment to get use to the author’s rhythm with the varying timeline, and each being told from Tully, Rachel or Heather’s point of view.

It’s a quick and entertaining read that tackles several real issues. Some being difficult subject matter such as domestic violence, sexual assault, kleptomania, binge eating and Alzheimer’s disease.

The author is skilled at building tension which lead me to take in each short chapter in a haste. The family drama led the two sisters, Tully and Rachel, to become close, sharing their own personal and somewhat embarrassing secrets. Since both women seemed to have helpless moments where they would lose control both sisters made me question what could cause such dramatic personal traits. I liked both ladies and I easily empathized with them. I enjoyed seeing their growth as individuals and I guess family drama can either cause family to bond or grow apart. I’m glad to say that Tully and Rachel’s bond grew stronger.

It’s not all good for Rachel and Tully though. They are dealing with mixed emotions and feeling betrayed by what they thought was a perfect family. In addition to their feelings of guilt for their mom who has Alzheimer’s. The stress of this dysfunctional family is bringing about more kleptomania and binge eating episodes.

Their mother Pamela has plenty to say against her soon to be ex-husband. Heather, the future young bride is dealing with her own memories of a childhood growing up with an abusive father and keeping a secret from her future husband that her dad is serving life in prison for murder. Stephen has questioned Heather about if she has a problem with alcohol. As I mentioned earlier a recipe for disaster which makes for a suspenseful and entertaining read.

The ending caught me by surprise. It was a clever ending that spoke volumes and gave light to the bonds that were built and where loyalties lie. I was left wondering whether any of their viewpoints were reliable? Could one single voice cause this chain of events?

I rated the book 4 stars because it kept my attention, I couldn’t read it fast enough and the book also made me think. Our memory can be tricky. It can fail us, betray us even. Various influences can affect our perceptions, beliefs and memory.  We see this after Rachel went through her mother’s things, and memories became vague and were questioned.

I can’t complete the review without saying there were several odd parts that stuck out for me, but it didn’t take away from the story, in fact it made the story what it is.  Overall I enjoyed the book. It’s entertaining and one I would recommend.

One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner


One Step Too Far by Lisa Gardner
A Frankie Elkin novel, book 2
Publisher: Dutton
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Action/Adventure
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Timothy O’Day knew the woods. Yet when he disappeared on the first night of a bachelor party camping trip with his best friends in the world, he didn’t leave a trace. What he did leave behind were two heartbroken parents, a crew of guilt-ridden groomsmen, and a pile of clues that don’t add up.

Frankie Elkin doesn’t know the woods, but she knows how to find people. So when she reads that Timothy’s father is organizing one last search, she heads to Wyoming. Despite the rescue team’s reluctance, she joins them. But as they hike into the mountains, it becomes clear that there’s something dangerous at work in the woods…or someone who is willing to do anything to stop them from going any further.

Running out of time and up against the worst man and nature have to offer, Frankie and the search party will discover what evil awaits those who go one step too far…

“Why do I do what I do? Because at the end of the day, the people left behind matter as much as the ones who are missing. We mourn the ones we’ve lost, but we agonize over the pieces of ourselves they took with them.”

Though the book is a bit long at 395 pages, and slow to get to the heart of the story, it still is a memorable read. At first, I wondered what I’d gotten myself into because the book seemed to be just words spoken from Frankie’s point of view about hiking to find a missing man in the Ramsey, Wyoming mountains. However, author Lisa Gardner’s fantastic writing style and her main character drew me in.

Yes this is a book about a guy going missing in the mountains, but as I read more and more the story of Timothy missing in the Wyoming woods became the back story. Frankie Elkin is a recovering alcoholic, a drifter that has a knack for finding missing people. Frankie’s character is so developed I feel like I knew her, and I felt as if I was losing touch with a friend once the book ended.

The author’s talent for creating character development really shows in this second book of the Frankie Elkin’s series. The deep conversations Frankie had with each of Timothy’s friends revealed a lot. The first hundred or so pages some readers may find slow, drawn out or even boring but I was in awe reading the details and conversations between Frankie and the other hikers. The conversations weren’t boring but informative. It gave me the feel that Frankie was getting to know them but also investigating to get more details not only about what happened to Timothy, but she also got to know Timothy though the words of those who loved him.

Frankie is a lady with her own demons. She lives for what she does. It makes it very admirable because other people would do it for the recognition, but to Frankie every single person matters and it’s not about the recognition or monetary gain, or lack thereof. Readers will get to know her struggles, and see that she is outside of her comfort zone, but she perseveres and doesn’t give in.

As the story progressed, I was still at a loss as to what happened to Timothy. The search wasn’t going as planned. Someone didn’t want the crew searching and they made it very clear. The action picks up midway through the book when the searchers become the hunted. The question changes from will they find Timothy to will they survive? The mystery of what happened to Timothy is revealed. The denouement is a short reveal and I’m not sure if the motive behind it all really made sense. The author didn’t give much or elaborate.

The book is well written with great characters, suspenseful and a good feel to it. Everything isn’t perfect, nor does it end perfectly, but to know there is someone who is touching lives, willing to help people with no ulterior motive and is making a difference as she passes through makes this a book worth reading.

The Baby Shower by S. E. Lynes


The Baby Shower by S. E. Lynes
Publisher: Bookouture
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

She doesn’t know I’m there, watching her in the mirror. She slides her hand under her blouse. And then I see something impossible. She isn’t pregnant…

She bursts into my life like a storm, and nothing is the same again. She seems so perfect, with her lilting laugh and her beautiful face. One by one, I watch as my friends fall under her spell.

Only I seem to suspect something. Only I see that her smiles don’t reach her cold, furious eyes. And when I’m accused of things I didn’t do, when my home is vandalized, I know she’s behind it. But she only lets her mask slip when no one is looking, so if I say anything, I’ll look crazy.

So when the baby shower comes around I’m there, sitting on a velvet sofa in a posh hotel room, surrounded by balloons. We share gifts, we pour small glasses of champagne, and she beams, her bump just visible under her bright red shirt.

But that afternoon, I finally learn the unbelievable truth.

There is no baby…

This was a quick and very entertaining read.

Jane Preston-Reece is happily married to Frankie Reece and owns A Roasted Development, coffee bar. I enjoy the loving marriage and closeness that the two share. Life for Jane seems to be ideal, except the fact that she hasn’t been able to conceive.

Jane has only shared this personal detail with one of her closest friends in her Runner Beans circle, Sophie.

When Sophie introduces Lexie Lane to the group their friendship takes a downward spiral. The story is fast paced, and I can’t necessarily say predictable. It’s clear the villain is Lexie Lane but what does she have against Jane? Or is Jane just jealous of Sophie and her newfound friendship? Or could Jane have underlying jealousy that Sophie is pregnant again?

I didn’t like Sophie. She was so naïve and gullible to let a stranger come between the closeness that she had with Jane. Sophie did not handle things in an adult manner. And I can very well understand Jane if she didn’t want that type of friend in her life. Jane is a likable and relatable character. I like how the author brought out the value of friendship. Who can we trust with our secrets if not our closest friend?

Frankie is also dealing with his own issues. Owner of Frank Reece Plumbing, Frankie sees his friends’ material wealth so when he wins three thousand pounds on a scratch card, he decides to purchase a Breitling Superocean Automatic 44 watch. A watch that makes him feel like a man of class, he feels invincible. While readers may think the start of Frankie’s trouble is because of a watch, readers find out it’s so much more.

The book has so many twists, all of which left me satisfied. But this book was so much more than a suspenseful read. I appreciate the author for bringing to light several issues that people shy away from. Jane dealt with early menopause. The book shows its impact on her and her relationships. I was hoping Jane would share her story with the other ladies, to be of help and a spokesperson for others that may be dealing with the same issue. But that would have taken away Lexie’s power to be the villain that she was. The author touched on sexual assault that happen to men. In addition to pointing out that not addressing childhood trauma which, in this case lead to lack of self-confidence and coveting material things that don’t matter, and that don’t belong to you eventually hurting others. And finally giving social media followers a false perspective of reality when in fact the person posting is sad and broken.

Well written and well plotted out – for those that enjoy a good suspense you may want to go ahead and add this to your reading list.

Wahala by Nikki May


Wahala by Nikki May
Publisher: Custom House
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Ginger

An incisive and exhilarating debut novel following three Anglo-Nigerian best friends and the lethally glamorous fourth woman who infiltrates their group—the most unforgettable girls since Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha.

Ronke wants happily ever after and 2.2. kids. She’s dating Kayode and wants him to be “the one” (perfect, like her dead father). Her friends think he’s just another in a long line of dodgy Nigerian boyfriends.

Boo has everything Ronke wants—a kind husband, gorgeous child. But she’s frustrated, unfulfilled, plagued by guilt, and desperate to remember who she used to be.

Simi is the golden one with the perfect lifestyle. No one knows she’s crippled by impostor syndrome and tempted to pack it all in each time her boss mentions her “urban vibe.” Her husband thinks they’re trying for a baby. She’s not.

When the high-flying, charismatic Isobel explodes into the group, it seems at first she’s bringing out the best in each woman. (She gets Simi an interview in Shanghai! Goes jogging with Boo!) But the more Isobel intervenes, the more chaos she sows, and Ronke, Simi, and Boo’s close friendship begins to crack.

A sharp, modern take on friendship, ambition, culture, and betrayal, Wahala (trouble) is an unforgettable novel from a brilliant new voice.

The author presents a modern storytelling about three Anglo-Nigerian best friends Ronke, Boo and Simi. The characters are well developed with realistic personalities. The author gives the readers a glimpse into each of the character’s perspectives, their imperfections, their fears and their secrets. I enjoyed their friendship and the closeness the ladies shared. Will their friendship still remain when (Wahala) trouble comes?

Ronke is a dentist and the cook of the group who has a boyfriend she can’t depend on, and a client turned stalker. She wants the happy ever after but is her boyfriend Kayode actually the one? I wanted Kayode to act right or leave Ronke alone. He didn’t appear to be the strong man that she needed, so I agreed with her friends about him.

Boo made a statement “She made me hate my life.” when in fact that’s what she displayed to others. Boo seems to have the life that any woman would dream of. A husband, nicknamed Tubby Hubby by Isobel, willing to work and take care of things around the house, and a bratty 5-year-old daughter. But to her, her life is boring and unfulfilled. At times I didn’t like Boo, but then other times I could understand why she felt the way she did. She wanted someone else’s life, to be someone else but didn’t see that what she had a lot of women pray for.

Simi is her own woman with a doting husband who desperately wants to have children, but Simi isn’t ready to have children or to share this fact with her soon to be 40-year-old husband, Martin. I enjoyed the way Simi and her husband took time to talk to each other often despite the different in time zones. I wanted her to come clean with her husband on not wanting a child right now.

Even though the women were warned that the Babangari family was rotten, Isobel still made her glamorous appearance befriending the ladies and in her subtle and sly way wanting to know more about them. She starts out with friendly advice, working her way to gain their trust making everyone believe she’s an asset to the group. Even though I was suspicious of her to begin with, Isobel had a way about her that draws people to her. As the reader, I knew what was happening and I kept reading hoping one of the ladies would figure it out. I didn’t care for Isobel, but her character was well thought out and written. Isobel was able to find the ladies weak points and use it against them.

I enjoyed reading this book. It gave such insight on various cultures, languages and recipes. Their friendship circle does remind me of the reality housewives shows. The author created characters with personal issues that many women face. She revealed to readers the characters true self, their secrets and thoughts that for some reason they haven’t shared with others in their clique. At one point the ladies seem to have it all and then another they appear fragile and vulnerable.

The pace of the book flowed well. The author gave enough of their daily happenings, so it didn’t drown out the storyline. A few times, I wanted to rush the storyline, but I understood once I got to the end that it was part of the development for the ending. It’s an overall good read. It made me appreciate what I have and not take others for granted but to be open and not harbor secrets that could very well hurt others. There’s a saying ‘hindsight is 20-20’. Once the ladies’ world was shaken up, they each wanted to go back to what they had or it revealed a different way that they could have handled things.

An impressive read layered with culture and populated by characters that are so real readers may find it hard to forget them. This isn’t a housewife’s tale but a story of friendship, jealousy, betrayal and hopefully a tool so that you’ll see trouble when it comes.