December Book Reviews

THE SECRETS OF US by Lucinda Berry

RATING: 5 Stars!!!!

SYNOPSIS: Foster sisters Nichole and Krystal had been inseperable and had always been there for each other. One day, Nichole is committed to a psychiatric unit in a hospital after trying to kill her husband by lighting the house on fire. Krystal, a family lawyer, leaves Court midtrial to go be with her sister. When Krystal gets to the psychiatric ward, she finds out her sister is being restrained, she has attacked EMS workers and police officers, and is a danger to herself. Nichole believes that her husbad, Aiden, isn’t her husband and that he’s a murderer.

Krystle starts asking questions and the answers have her revist her and Nichole’s dark past. Has their past come back to haunt them? What has made Nichole go into psychosis? What is their secret and will it be revealed?

REVIEW: What a book!!! Told in the present though Krystal and in the past through Nichole, this book is truly a riveting page-turner. Never once was I bored in the book (which has been happening lately).

The characters are well developed, and provide as much detail necessary as to tell the story. There are no unnessary sections of description, as I have found in a lot of other books.

The best part was that I did NOT expect that ending. I started to have my suspicions closer to the reveal, but that was because there were more clues. Up until that point, I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen. It literally blew my mind.


RATING: 4 Stars

SYNOPSIS: Lisa fled Sweden to the United States as soon as she could after the tragic death of her sister’s friend. Lisa turned to food to fill her void and her guilt. Her life was in shambles. She was in a mound of credit card debt, she was being evicted from her apartment, she was so overweight that it was an effort to do anything, and she surpressed her memories and feelings about what occured that tragic day.

Lisa gets a phone call from her sister, Astrid. Their grandmother, Mormor, has passed away and Astrid wants her to come back to Sweden for the funeral. Lisa vowed never to return to Sweden, much less Mormor’s cottage where the tragic death occurred. Astrid was able to convice Lisa to go back to Sweden under the guise of being able to help her our financially.

Once Lisa gets to Mormor’s cottage, all her repressed memories start coming back. Lisa was only 5 when Ellen’s death occured. The police said it was an accident, but Lisa thought otherwise. Can she believe her memories? What happened to Ellen? Why did it happen?

REVIEW: There were absolutely parts that were riveting and page turnin. However, there were other parts that were just very slow and a bit repetitive. I think some of the middle could have been cut down to make the book better.

I related to Lisa on some level. Weight has always been something I strugged with in my life; I’ve comforted with food and ate my feelings. This is something that the author does very well – she has gotten into the head of a person who does this and Lisa’s character is a mirror image of a lot of those women. I don’t know if the author has ever dealth with the issue, and if not, then this was written perfectly. Because of this, I’ve never rooted for a character more than Lisa.

I also think that the tragic events that caused people to turn out a certain way, or die, were somehow brought back toward the end of the book and in a new light, a less dark way.


RATING: 1 Star

Synopsis: There is a murder in a suburban neighborhood where the witness and suspect lists are pages long. Dectective Griesel leads a small team to investigate the murder. During their investigation, they not only find out that the neighborhood feels that the victim is better dead, but that they all have secrets and there is a web of lies.

So who killed Trevor and why? What led up to the murder?

REVIEW: This has to be one of the worst books that I have EVER read.

First of all, the pacing was extremely slow. So slow that a 265 page book (which, if good, I could easily devour in a day or two) took me 5 days to read. Granted, I realized this is a whodunit, police procedural, but it was also REALLY boring. So the slowness of the book coupled with the boringness of the book, made it literal torture to get through.

Second, I have read SO many psychological thrillers and whodunit murder books. Never in my life have I been able to guess so easily the killer. I may not have known why, but I definitely knew from very early on who the killer was, and all the neighbors that looked “good” for the murder, to me, was pointless and terribly written.

Third, for a Dectective to have been on the force for SO many years not to consider someone a suspect is beyond me; the reason that the suspect isn’t considered is also laughable. Trevor was killed by three gunshot wounds. NOT EVERYONE REGISTERS GUNS! While that may be illegal, it also happens ALL the time. So for me, this part of the story line was so farfetched!!!!!

Don’t waste your time reading this book; I’m sorry I wasted mine.


RATING: 3 Stars

SYNOPSIS: It all starts with a piece of paper that Hannah receives via a little girl from her husband, Owen: Protect Her. Instantly, Hannah knew that he was talking about his daughter, Bailey. Hannah tries to call Owen to no avail. The FBI has arrested Owen’s boss, there is a U.S. Marshall and federal agents at Hannah’s door, and it soon becomes clear that Owen is not who he says he is.

Bailey is the key to figuring out Owen’s past, and Bailey’s past as well. Hannah and Bailey set out to find the truth. As they find the answers, they realize that they are not only finding out about the past, but they are also chaging their future. Where is Owen? Why has he disappeared? What is his past hiding?

Review: I clearly did not love this book as much as everyone else. The mixing of the past and the present was weird to me, and I’ve read a lot of books that mix the past and the present. I also thought that the the character development was lacking, and that it was very repetitive.

Trying to figure out why Owen disappeared was interesting, and I like the investigative work done by Hannah and Bailey, but the U.S. Marshall already knew the reason and just didn’t tell them. I also really didn’t care for the ending.

It’s an easy read, where not much thought is needed.

THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah

RATING: 4 Stars

SYNOPSIS: The Four Winds follows the story of Elsa Martinelli nee Wolcot. Elsa Wolcot was deemed too old to marry, not pretty, and having medical conditions. Her family wanted to lock her away. Until she met Rafe Martinelli. She gets pregnant and has to make the respectable choice – marry a man she barely knows.

Elsa lives with Rafe and his parents, with their child. In 1921, things were in abundance. The farm was thriving. But then the great depression and the drought hit, and the dust bowl comes. Farmers in the Great Plains are now trying to save their lands, save their livelihoods and save their families. Elsa has an important decision to make, to stay in the Great Plains with her in-laws and fight for the land, or head out west to California.

REVIEW: I liked this book more than I thought that I would. However, I felt it was drawn out just for the sake of having a long book. I think the author does a great job of describing what is going on in such detail that you can visualize it just how she wanted you to. However, I think that an editor should have cut out some of the repetitive parts. I feel as though the author specifically wrote the book so that it could be made into a movie, instead of writing the book for a reader.

The other downfall for me, was that sometimes within the same chapter, the character perspectives changed. I would have preferred a different chapter for that as it can get confusing.

I did love the history of the story, it made me want to look up more information about this time in America’s history. It included FDR’s New Deal, the drought, and the Great Depression. While I learned about these things in high school, my young, teenage brain didn’t care and didn’t process it. Now that I am older, it is much more interesting.


SYNOPSIS: In this third installment by Makenna Holiday, we find ourselves back in Stardust Falls. Odessa Stewart, sister to Piper, is very distracted while she is trying to come up with ideas for window displays for the upcoming Valentine’s holiday season. Odessa and her college friend, Harrison, have started OH! Winning Windows in Stardust Falls. They have always had friendly banter with each other; Harrison gets her in a way that no one else ever has.

RATING: 4.5 Stars!!!!

However, the banter stopped right after New Years, after they kissed when the clock turned midnight. After that, Odessa was short with Harrison, their quips back and forth with each other were no longer, and it seemed like Odessa was constantly mad at Harrison. She wasn’t sure of her feelings for him, but she listed all of the reasons that they couldn’t and shouldn’t be together. When she thought she was finally ready to talk to Harrison about the New Years kiss, he left town, with a simple note that he would be back at some point. She tried calling him, and was sent to voicemail. Texts were unanswered. Odessa was so distracted it effected her work. She kept pushing back clients, not completing what needed to be done. Between her feelings and Harrison leaving, Odessa was a wreck. Where was Harrison? How long would he be gone? Would he be back in time to help Odessa with the work? What were Harrison’s feelings?

REVIEW: “At any moment, I could stop feeling like a volcano about to erupt and actually spew my emotional lava.”

This third book had to be my favorite yet. I stayed up reading it because I wanted to know what was going to happen; I wanted to know what was going on with these characters! I really enjoyed the Odessa’s internal dialogue; it brought me back to my dating days of overthinking things, reliving things in my head, and just genuinely becoming obsessed with a particular boy. I feel as though most readers will find this relatable; it really feels like the author could be talking about you, especially the part about not wanting to ruin a friendship when you start to have feelings for someone who has always been your friend.

Another must read, must be turned into a movie by Makenna Holiday!


RATING: 3 Stars

SYNOPSIS: Addison Hope is about to get married, but she is hesitant. This is because she honestly has no idea who she really is. Two years ago, Addison was found bleeding on a NJ highway by Ed, a truck driver. He brings her home to Pennsylvania, where his wife, Gigi, a nurse, takes care of her. While Gigi was about to help get Addison’s physical wounds healed, her memory never came back. It was Ed and Gigi who gave her the name Addison. Ed and Gigi became like parents to Addison, so she stayed with them.

While working one day, Gabriel enters the store where she works, and the two began dating. She told him about her memory loss, but he didn’t seem to care. Addison always worried about what would happen if and/or when her memory did come back. After a while, the two become engaged and are planning a wedding.

Meanwhile, Julian Henry had been looking for his wife, Cassandra. He is a doctor and has to leave Boston to go to Pennsylvania for a speaking engagement. While in Pennsylvania, he sees Addison and realizes it his wife, Cassandra. After proving that she was his wife, Addison/Cassandra goes with Julian back to Boston, to live with him and their daughter, Valentina. While things are pleasant at first, nothing is quite what they seem. Cassandra seems to be losing her mind very quickly, but why? What secrets are hiding? And who is the stranger in the mirror?

REVIEW: Overall, this was a good read. Very easy to get into, and a very quick read. I enjoyed the author’s writing style, and the back and forth between the past and the present later on in the book was a nice touch, especially since it did not start off that way.

However, I really felt like the author rushed Addison/Cassandra going home with Julian. He saw here in Pennsylvania, went to the gallery where she pictures were being displayed, and then with Ed, Gigi, Gabriel and Gabriel’s family around, Julian tells Addison that she is really Cassandra. They tell him to come back with proof, and he comes back a few days later with some paperwork evidence. She then just leaves with him. I don’t feel like this is what would happen in real life. I feel like maybe someone would seek help first, do blood tests as anyone can look exactly like someone, and just not rush into it. I also found one part of it to be very predictable.

Additionally, and I won’t give the ending away, there is a small legal aspect to this book that was gotten wrong. I am a lawyer, but anyone that can do math and read could have spotted this mistake.

THE OLD BOYS by Mark Gillespie

RATING: 4 Stars!!!!

SYNOPSIS: Jay, Davie, and Iain were known at The Lads when they were in high school. They were bullies, and people only laughed at what they did in fear of being their target next. After high school, the three grew apart. Jay pulled himself out of drug dealing and use to become a professional, with a fiancé and a baby on the way. Davie is married and has a child; he also is in a wheelchair due to an accident. Iain works in an airport store and is not married, but has his eyes set on Allison.

It’s years later, and their high school reunion is coming up. The three individually decide that they aren’t going to go because they knew they were jerks in high school and no one liked them. On the eve of the reunion, all three are drugged, kidnapped, and brought to a cabin in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by snow in the Scottish Highlands.

When they wake up, they find some food, water and whiskey, and a note. The note says one of them is a killer, and that person must confess before sunset, or they are all going to die.

The three of them work through their connection to each other and their past. But who are the kidnappers? What do they really want? Who is the killer? Can they figure it out before sunset?

REVIEW: This is a must read book. As I was reading, I had my suspicions about what was happening, but I had it wrong. Mark Gillespie takes psychological thriller and mystery to a whole new level that I haven’t read before. This book will have you on the edge of your seat, rapidly reading through the pages so you can know how this is going to end.


RATING: 4 Stars!!!!

SYNOPSIS: 26 year old Piper Stewart has never made it past a third date, and has never had a first kiss. Stardust Falls has a new restaurant in town, The Pumpkin Patch. With this restaurant comes a new owner, Liam Perry.

Piper has been going to The Pumpkin Patch for months, secretly crushing on Liam. He has a table just for her, but has never asked her out, or, according to Piper, showed any interest in her. Piper truly believes even if he was interested, he’d be disinterested by the third date.

New Years Eve is quickly approaching. And just like every other holiday in Stardust Falls, New Years Eve is big, with beautiful lights – it’s a fairytale. Piper Stewart has spent many a New Year Eves on the couch, reading, cuddling with her dog. Will the same be true for this year?

REVIEW: Makenna Holiday has done it again. She brings romance a new breath of fresh air. The second in the series, but can be read as a stand alone, Stardust Falls is a forever magical place.

Once again, Makenna Holiday makes her characters leap off the page with the amount of personality that they have. Two of the things that I particularly loved about this book is the fact that the beginning of it simultaneously takes place at the end of the last book and that there is a twist at the end here that I didn’t see coming. For those that know me, know that I read most psychological thrillers and love twists and turns. Twists can also occur in romance novels, and Makenna seamlessly added one into this book.

Another one for the Hallmark Christmas movies!


RATING: 4 Stars

SYNOPSIS: Melinda Cole, from Stardust Falls, grew up on Sugarplum Lane. Now, living away from her parents, she is barely 30 years old and a COO of a major corporation. However, she’s worn down and needs a break. More than anything, she needs a hug from her mom.

After about 8 years away from Stardust Falls, she decided to surprise her parents and visit them for Christmas. When Melinda shows up, her parents aren’t there, but Jay Austin is. Jay Austin, once her best friend. Jay Austin, a best friend with whom she at once decided to be more with; Jay Austin, the man that broke her heart. Jay Austin, a big reason that Melinda hasn’t been back n Stardust in 8 years.

Jay Austin is questionably living at her parents house, claiming to be renting the apartment above the garage, but it has no heat, and so he’s been staying in a room in the house. Melinda starts to question why Jay is in her house and why he broke her heart all those years ago; could she ever trust him again?

But he is here with her now, when she needs someone to talk to and lean on the most. Is there a chance for a second chance with Jay Austin?

REVIEW: One of the best aspects of this book is that Makenna Holiday gave her characters such great personalities they feel like they are your friends. This book definitely has Hallmark Christmas movie written all over it. Stardust sounds like such a magical place, I want to visit there!!!

The pace of the book was perfect, there was just enough background information so that the reader can understand the characters, and my favorite aspect of it – it is dialogue driven!!! (Those who have read my reviews know that I do not like too much description and being told what is going on with the characters, rather than experiencing it with the character).

For those who love the Christmas Hallmark movies, this is a must read!


RATING: 3 Stars

SYNOPSIS: Detective Walker and his wife Annie move back to Annie’s hometown after an alleged killer walks from from prison; Detective Walker was responsible for putting him there. One day in December, Detective Walker receives a box with a message. There will be 12 murders in 12days, and those who are going to die, deserve to die. Now Detective Walker is on the case. How many people will die? Will Detective Walker be able to solve the case before all 12 die? Who are the 12? And what did they do to deserve to die?

REVIEW: This book has everything it needs to live up to its potential. But it fails in that it is unnecessarily long. The point of the book, the investigations, everything, could have been done without the need for 400 pages. I don’t need to be told that the character ‘In order to go across the road, he turned left, and then proceeded to cross the road.’ (This is not a word for word example from the book, but something like what was happening in the book).

I will say that the author did a great job of keeping me guessing as to who the killer was; I couldn’t figure it out. I had a lot of suspicions about some of the characters in the book, and others that I thought the author harped on to much, but none of my suspicions were correct.