Saturday, October 1, 2022

Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Other Birds
by Sarah Addison Allen
Published  August 30th 2022 by St. Martin's Press

An enchanting tale filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go.

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment at the Dellawisp she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a young woman with a past, two estranged middle-aged sisters, and a lonely chef, and three ghosts. The sudden death of one of Zoey's new neighbors sets off a search that leads to the island's famous author and to a long-estranged relative of the sisters.

Each of them has a story, and each story has an ending which hasn't yet been written.

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5 Stars

Oh my sentimental little heart was going to love this book no matter what was in the pages, but wow I did not expect this beautiful, unconventional story. I love Sarah Addison Allen, I've been reading her books with my family since I was in high school, with my grandma giving me my first one, and then continuing to facilitate my love of her by sharing her books with my aunt and my cousins. We all love her books, they feel like home, especially with their lush locations and the realistic magic. The peaches that grow, the love that blooms, and in the case of Other Birds, the birds that carry the past in them. I literally tear up thinking about how much this book meant to me, especially with my Grandma now passed and my own unconventional family.

Unrelated to my own personal ties, Other Birds is a stunning release from Sarah Addison Allen, one that I have long awaited and one that is distinctly different than her previous releases. While we've read the love stories and the magic of that love, Other Birds follows the outcasts, the left behinds, the runners. It's not so much about the unloved, but rather, those who have yet to learn how to love and be themselves, who don't know how to accept that loneliness is part of life. It's a magical, woven story with unique characters, with equally unique journeys, who are all at the same place at the same time and there's a reason for it. The Dellawisp is unassuming, it's residents even more so, but the birds that live in its trees hold their stories and when Zoey arrives to take over her mother's condo, it's time for the birds to let those stories be told.

Other Birds feels like a story about the people who feel like misfits, but who truly fit in just as they are, it's a matter of them discovering those qualities in themselves are the very best parts of them. It's their unique stories, from wilting to blossoming, that make them special and it takes others who know that same experience to appreciate it. It's the small parts of their stories that are all connected, that truly is magical, even more so than the birds that keep causing messes. It's beautifully written, each character's voice is distinct, and it's the kind of story I don't think one can ever forget. It's a book I know I'll return it and I think others will too.

Friday, September 30, 2022

Coffee with Carlene: Hello from Canada!

Well, hello friends! It's been a long time, but I haven't stopped reading or bookstagramming, just had to take a little blogging break. I hope you've all been following along with me over at @carleneinspired, but if you haven't been here's the short of what you've missed: I received an offer to relocate to northwest Canada and after a visit with my partner, CeCe, we accepted. I go home to California once a month, but otherwise I'm making Canada home. I share the entire journey in stories on Instagram, where I admittedly have fallen behind on reading and reviewing!

Giovanni, Carlene, Christine, and Ghost
The move to Canada proved hard on my reading, even harder on my hobbies, and I've had to learn a
new way of being. It's been about 6 months now since I finally relocated and only 5 since I found a semi-furnished house to rent. It's still missing things, I might be the only tenant who wouldn't complain endlessly about not having a dining table, but it works for just me. Luckily, me being here alone is only a just for now arrangement and hopefully this time next year we'll be sorting out Christine's relocation, transferring the dogs up here, and selling our home in California. I'd be lying if I said taking our relationship long distance was easy, but we've learned in the last several months that we are happy when we just stay connected in little ways, sometimes even just listening to one another complete chores at home on the phone is enough. While I used to spend evenings after work reading for an hour, then making dinner and watching shows with Christine for a couple hours before bed (and more reading), now we get on the phone at the end of our workday and talk for a bit, either while watching a show together or playing a video game. We've not given up on that time together, it's just done a bit differently now, and in exchange I try to save reading for times when we aren't on the phone.

Settling in here was hard; I don't have my things or my books, I don't have the amount of friends I used to, and I don't have access to all the things I am used to. Somedays have been depressing, others have been downright sad, but as I get accustomed to small town, remote living and a lot of rain, hello Canadian's Pacific Northwest, I am finding that books have once again become my favorite way to relax and escape. I used to dream about a warm blanket and listening to the rain while I read, now that is truly my everyday. As I get back to my reading I want to get back to my blogging and interacting with all of my book friends, besides, I'm sure there's plenty of voracious readers like me in Canada and what better way to find them?

While I get back into the swing of things here, I'd love to know if you want me to share more than just books, or if reviews are still what you're interested in seeing. I haven't formed any new Canadian based relationships with Publishers yet, but as long as I can maintain my double residences I will still bring you books from American based Publishers. It'll be a journey, one I'll bring you along for.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

An Honest Lie by Tarryn Fisher

An Honest Lie
by Tarryn Fisher
Published April 26th 2022 by Graydon House

“I’m going to kill her. You’d better come if you want to save her.”

Lorraine—“Rainy”—lives at the top of Tiger Mountain. Remote, moody, cloistered in pine trees and fog, it’s a sanctuary, a new life. She can hide from the disturbing past she wants to forget.


If she’s allowed to.

When Rainy reluctantly agrees to a girls’ weekend in Vegas, she’s prepared for an exhausting parade of shots and slot machines. But after a wild night, her friend Braithe doesn’t come back to the hotel room.

And then Rainy gets the text message, sent from Braithe’s phone: someone has her. But Rainy is who they really want, and Rainy knows why.

What follows is a twisted, shocking journey on the knife-edge of life and death. If she wants to save Braithe—and herself—the only way is to step back into the past.

This seething, gut-punch of a thriller can only have sprung from the fiendish brain of Tarryn Fisher, one of the most cunning writers of our time.

Add to Goodreads | Amazon | Author Website

5 Stars

Oh Tarryn, thank you so much for finally giving us the cult read we've been begging for. You know, now I'm just going to want more, because there are not enough cult fiction reads out there for me, especially those that capture the truth about cults. That's right, An Honest Lie follows a woman who was once in a cult, a woman who made a brave escape in her youth, but lives her life in fear of the repercussions of leaving. Of course, that's not what her new life is about, at least it wasn't until a fated trip to Las Vegas.

Rainy, an artist by trade, has recently moved to the mountains of Washington for her boyfriend, Grant, exchanging the blur of Manhattan for the quiet life. She wants to give him everything, so she goes along with making friends with the wives' of his friends, even accepting a trip to Las Vegas, a place she never wanted to go back to. The trip, though laced with jealous feelings and the one-upping nature of women, feels almost normal. There's clubs, shots, dancing, and pool time. She feels closer to Braithe, she thinks she might have a break through with Tara, and the other girls begin to show their true personality. There's drunken behavior and bonding moments. There's also a tension there underneath the surface, one that Rainy believes is connected to her past, but it isn't until she receives a text from Braithe's phone that she knows her past has come for her. What follows isn't the Las Vegas trip she planned for, but the terrifying escape from her past that she has spent avoiding.

I love a good feminist thriller and this one has all the makings of one. The girls are naturally catty, I love that Tarryn doesn't lie about the nature of women in a time where we form these opinions so young, she lets the women be, it is their strength when the time comes. There's no faking that friendships are perfect, that there isn't always an undertone of competition and fear laced in it. That the insecurity isn't there. It just so happens that Rainy's insecurity is much larger than anyone else's and it has nothing to do with her looks or her personality. Rainy is insecure about her past and when it comes for her, she cannot allow herself to be the young follower she once was, instead she must step up, for herself and for the women she has befriended and unwillingly put in this position. It's a haunted tail of love, loss, and the things we let slide by using religion as a reason.

I always love Tarryn Fisher's work, I am a true fangirl who believes she can do no wrong, but I will say this is the best release from her out of the past three novels. This one is unique, standout, and emotionally riveting. I couldn't put it down and I hope you won't be able to either.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Boy Fallen by Chris Gill

Boy Fallen
by Chris Gill
Published March 22, 2022 by PRNTD Publishing

When the body of wealthy teen and aspiring photographer Evan Wiley is found faceup at the base of Taonga Falls, one thing is immediately clear: he didn’t jump.

Detective Brooke Palmer races down to the struggling New Zealand town she once called home to comfort her oldest friend – Evan’s mother.

But when Brooke learns Evan had been hanging out with a boy who used to bully him, she quickly gets drawn into the case. She fears this dangerous new friendship may have cost Evan his life – or at the very least, his heart.

And as Brooke confronts her own past, she is reminded that in Taonga, even those who have it all can hit rock bottom.

A gripping whodunnit through a fresh lens, Boy Fallen will keep you guessing until the very end.

4 Stars

Evan Wiley is found dead and the talk of the town is that it's a copy cat of young Jack's death nearly twenty years ago. Brooke, older sister of Jack and best friend to Lana, Evan's mother, return to town to pay her respects, but is soon swept up in the case. Alongside the assigned inspector, Brooke and Collins take a walk in Evan's shoes in the prior months leading to his death. He was coming to terms with his identity and finding his footing after years of bullying. Brooke sees herself in Evan and uses her previous experiences of bullying and the loss of her brother to fuel her to find Evan's killer.

While it's easy to classify Boy Fallen as an LGBTQ+ mystery, it's more of a police procedural with a coming of age story within. Evan Wiley is gone, but the real story is the journey he was on leading up to his death. He had friends and he was discovering his identity, something the small town of Taonga always seemed to want to keep from him. Brooke, both a friend and a detective assisting on the case, fears the worst, that the bullying caught up to him too, but instead she discovers that Evan was coming into his own. Evan was happy, all signs point to it, so what happened? As Brooke dives into solving the homicide readers are gifted with glimpses into the past from Evan's perspective. We see the aftermath of the loss of Evan and the impact it has across family, friends, and the entire town. We also see the grip that adolescent insecurity can have on you, even well into adulthood.

Boy Fallen is a stunning sophomore novel from Chris Gill that new fans and prior fans of The Nowhere will love. There's so much heart in this book that I almost forgot I was reading a mystery and seeking out a killer.

Monday, February 28, 2022

The Golden Couple by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

The Golden Couple
by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
Expected publication: March 8, 2022 by St. Martin's Press

If Avery Chambers can’t fix you in 10 sessions, she won’t take you on as a client. Her successes are phenomenal--she helps people overcome everything from domineering parents to assault--and almost absorb the emptiness she sometimes feels since her husband’s death.

Marissa and Mathew Bishop seem like the golden couple--until Marissa cheats. She wants to repair things, both because she loves her husband and for the sake of their 8-year-old son. After a friend forwards an article about Avery, Marissa takes a chance on this maverick therapist, who lost her license due to controversial methods.

When the Bishops glide through Avery’s door and Marissa reveals her infidelity, all three are set on a collision course. Because the biggest secrets in the room are still hidden, and it’s no longer simply a marriage that’s in danger.

The Golden Couple is the next electrifying novel from Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, the #1 New York Times bestselling author duo behind You Are Not Alone, An Anonymous Girl, and The Wife Between Us.

4 Stars

Avery has the freedom to run her ten-step consulting program now that she's no longer a licensed therapist. With unconventional methods and significant involvement in her patient's lives, Avery can help her therapists through anything. When Marissa brings her husband, Matthew, in for help after infidelity, trust issues, and quality time issues, Avery thinks it might be the easiest work in her life. Only, this golden couple has a lot tarnishing their walls. Avery is presented with one secret, but as she walks the couple down the path of healing more secrets begin to be uncovered and these secrets are a threat to all three of them.

I loved Avery, I tolerated Marissa, and I could not put this book down for anything. I had both printed and audio ARCs of The Golden Couple and while I don't usually believe in switching between the two, I had to for this book. I wanted to be reading or listening at all times, unable to focus on anything when in-between the words. While it's a classic suburban drama and thriller, I found myself entertained and intrigued, happy to find twists and reveals that were unexpected amidst the predictable parts. There was a lot to unravel in this book, which made me enjoy it all the more. I like a good mixture of both, it wasn't something totally unfathomable, but I couldn't guess everything. This is another success for Hendricks and Pekkanen, in my opinion, a winner for all suburban thriller fans.

The audio is fantastic, as usual for Hendricks and Pekkanen books. It did suffer a bit when sped up to my usual listening speed, taking on a robotic quality, but at 1-1.3x it was perfect. Easy to follow with unique voices for each perspective and the right amount of emotion put into the words.

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