2020 Book #38 – You Are Not Alone by Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks

Title: You Are Not Alone
Author: Sarah Pekkanen and Greer Hendricks
Date finished: 6/9/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Pages in book: 344
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The electrifying #1 New York Times bestselling authors of THE WIFE BETWEEN US and AN ANONYMOUS GIRL return with a brand new novel of psychological suspense, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

Shay Miller wants to find love, but it eludes her. She wants to be fulfilled, but her job is a dead end. She wants to belong, but her life is increasingly lonely.

Until Shay meets the Moore sisters. Cassandra and Jane live a life of glamorous perfection, and always get what they desire. When they invite Shay into their circle, everything seems to get better.

Shay would die for them to like her.
She may have to.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I have read other books by Sarah and Greer in the past and have really enjoyed them. And this book too was an interesting story but I couldn’t 100% get into it for some reason – I think mostly personal likes/dislikes reasons. The plot line itself was great and it has dome good plot twists at the end. But some parts of the story line were a little bit slow for me, and overall it was so sad. I felt so bad for Shay, she was so vulnerable and really just wanted to make friends. And she struggled so much with what to do. She was weirdly obsessed with the whole thing but I can understand that she identified with Amanda. Plus she saw her commit suicide, I can empathize with her wanting to understand why she had done it. Overall I liked the book but it wasn’t my favorite thriller I’ve read lately. I’d still recommend checking it out, it was a good read.

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #34 – Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

Title: Fake Like Me
Author: Barbara Bourland
Date finished: 6/7/20
Genre: Fiction, general fiction, suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: June 18, 2019
Pages in book: 355
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From critically acclaimed author Barbara Bourland, comes an “impressively intelligent thriller,” nominated for the Edgar Allan Poe Award, about a young painter who tracks the mysterious life and death of her role model, uncovering strange secrets that lead to the truth of her demise (Refinery29).

After a fire rips through her loft, destroying the seven billboard-size paintings meant for her first major exhibition, a young painter is left with an impossible task: recreate the lost artworks in just three months without getting caught — or ruin her fledgling career. Homeless and desperate, she begs her way into Pine City, an exclusive retreat in upstate New York notorious for three things: outrageous revelries, glamorous artists, and the sparkling black lake where brilliant prodigy Carey Logan drowned herself.

Taking up residence in Carey’s former studio, the painter works with obsessive, delirious focus. But when she begins to uncover strange secrets at Pine City and falls hard for Carey’s mysterious boyfriend, a single thought shadows her every move: What really happened to Carey Logan?

My rating:  2.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I honestly don’t remember requesting this book so I hadn’t been eager to read it yet. However it seemed like a great book to tackle on my Maine trip! And I was surprised at how much I ended up enjoying it. The mystery piece of the plot was very interesting and the plot twist at the end was pretty surprising. Overall the book really made me consider the intricacies of relationships and how complex they are. The whole artist and art creating process added another interesting facet to the story, but it’s not necessarily something that really captures me personally. There was a lot of detail about the artistry process and I’m glad I learned a little more about it but I still didn’t love it. Some parts of the book were a little slow for me and the ending also felt ill-fitting with the rest of the story for me, but I still enjoyed the book overall!

Link to author’s website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #21 – Outfox by Sandra Brown

Title: Outfox
Author: Sandra Brown
Date finished: 5/15/20
Genre: Romantic suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: August 6, 2019
Pages in book: 448
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from Grand Central Publishing in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the #1 NYT bestselling author: After a thirty-year search for a serial killer, FBI agent Drex Easton becomes a suspect’s next-door neighbor — but can he navigate a shocking series of twists and turns to track down the truth?
 
FBI agent Drex Easton is relentlessly driven by a single goal: to outmaneuver the conman once known as Weston Graham. Over the past thirty years, Weston has assumed many names and countless disguises, enabling him to lure eight wealthy women out of their fortunes before they disappeared without a trace, their families left without answers and the authorities without clues. The only common trait among the victims: a new man in their life who also vanished, leaving behind no evidence of his existence . . . except for one signature custom.
 
Drex is convinced that these women have been murdered, and that the man he knows as Weston Graham is the sociopath responsible. But each time Drex gets close to catching him, Weston trades one persona for another and disappears again. Now, for the first time in their long game of cat and mouse, Drex has a suspect in sight.
 
Attractive and charming, Jasper Ford is recently married to a successful businesswoman many years his junior, Talia Shafer. Drex insinuates himself into their lives, posing as a new neighbor and setting up surveillance on their house. The closer he gets to the couple, the more convinced he becomes that Jasper is the clever, merciless predator he’s sought–and that his own attraction to Talia threatens to compromise his purpose and integrity.
 

This is Drex’s one chance to outfox his cunning nemesis before he murders again and eludes justice forever. But first he must determine if the desirable Talia is a heartless accomplice . . . or the next victim.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of Bout of Books 28.

I have always really loved Sandra Brown’s books, though some I’ve liked more than others. This was a fairly solid suspense but I thought there would be more to the plot twists. I didn’t especially love the big plot twist at the end, I thought it was a little bit of a let down. I still overall liked the story though and, for most of the book, I didn’t want to put it down. There were a couple of parts where the pacing grew a bit slow but overall it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book. I read this book with a couple work girlfriends and we read and discussed the book. Overall I liked the book but I can’t say it was my favorite, definitely not my favorite of Brown’s (which is of course Deadline in case you didn’t already know). I think it’s still worth the read but if you’re going to only read one of Brown’s books in life, read Deadline.

Link to author’s website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

 

2020 Book #29 – The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson

Title: The Accidental Beauty Queen
Author: Teri Wilson
Date finished: 5/17/20
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Gallery Books
Publication Date: December 4, 2018
Pages in book: 305
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this charming romantic comedy perfect for fans of Meg Cabot and Sophie Kinsella, critically acclaimed author Teri Wilson shows us that sometimes being pushed out of your comfort zone leads you to the ultimate prize.

Charlotte Gorman loves her job as an elementary school librarian, and is content to experience life through the pages of her books. Which couldn’t be more opposite from her identical twin sister. Ginny, an Instagram-famous beauty pageant contestant, has been chasing a crown since she was old enough to enunciate the words world peace, and she’s not giving up until she gets the title of Miss American Treasure. And Ginny’s refusing to do it alone this time.

She drags Charlotte to the pageant as a good luck charm, but the winning plan quickly goes awry when Ginny has a terrible, face-altering allergic reaction the night before the pageant, and Charlotte suddenly finds herself in a switcheroo the twins haven’t successfully pulled off in decades.

Woefully unprepared for the glittery world of hair extensions, false eyelashes, and push-up bras, Charlotte is mortified at every unstable step in her sky-high stilettos. But as she discovers there’s more to her fellow contestants than just wanting a sparkly crown, Charlotte realizes she has a whole new motivation for winning.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this book as part of Bout of Books 28.

I hadn’t had a chance to read this when it came out back in 2018 but I had originally requested it because it sounded very interesting and the cover is so cute. I’ve never read anything by this author before but this book was great! This book was a perfect blend of Miss Congeniality, The Parent Trap, and Pride and Prejudice. There were so many great bookish references – lots of Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice references. This is a great read for a book lover! Overall it was a really sweet story and the plot line was well constructed and implemented. I thought that the ending all wrapped up a little quickly though. There was a lot of emotional growing that Charlotte went through during the book and I would’ve liked to witness more of the confrontation / result with Charlotte and her parents and also Ginny. This book was just so fun and entertaining, I really enjoyed it and I would recommend reading it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #28 – Strike Me Down by Mindy Mejia

Title: Strike Me Down
Author: Mindy Mejia
Date finished: 5/15/20
Genre: Thriller/suspense
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Publication Date: April 7, 2020
Pages in book: 348
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley / Publisher
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley / Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the critically acclaimed author of Leave No Trace, the “nail-biting page-turner that grabs you early and never lets go” (The Real Book Spy), comes a visceral thriller where a high stakes crime triggers a woman’s complicated and potentially deadly search for the truth.

Nora Trier catches thieves. As a forensic accountant and partner in her downtown Minneapolis firm, she’s unearthed millions in every corner of the world. She prides herself on her independence, the most essential currency of accounting, until her firm is hired by Strike.

An anti-corporate, feminist athletic empire, Strike is owned by Logan Russo, a brash and legendary kickboxer, and her marketing genius husband, Gregg Abbott. They’re about to host a major kickboxing tournament with twenty million dollars in prize money, and the chance for the champion to become the new face of the company. Gregg suspects his wife already has a new face in mind—a young trainer named Aaden, for whom Logan feels an unexpected connection.

Days before the tournament begins, it’s discovered that the prize money is missing. Gregg hires Nora’s firm to find both the thief and the money but Nora has a secret connection to Strike that threatens her independence. Her partner pressures her into taking the case anyway, hinting he has information about Strike that could change the course of the investigation in a shocking and deadly way.

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My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I read this as part of Bout of Books 28.

I have read other books by this author in the past and have always enjoyed them. And I have to say – this book was pretty perfect for me since it’s about a CPA! And there are a couple funny anecdotes included that made me giggle (included below).  This was a solid mystery, it had me guessing pretty much right up to the end. I thought there was going to be more of a “reveal” so there was a small disappointment when the plot twist wasn’t quite as twisty as I’d expected. Overall though the whole plot was good and I thought it was well paced, I was interested throughout the book. I didn’t understand the vagueness on why her team was crying about Corbett, and it said they knew something she didn’t, but I can’t remember if we ever found out what that thing is. Also the ending was a little too vague for me. Was there something romantic going on between Nora and Logan? It was a little unclear to me and left it up a little to the reader but I wouldn’t liked it to be a little more definitive. Other than those couple things though it was a really good book and I really enjoyed it. Especially being an accountant myself (and being the dorky kind where I actually like accounting) it was exciting to see an accountant as the main character and topic of the story! And I didn’t even realize that the author is a CPA herself, how fun. I would definitely recommend!!

FUN Quotes from the book

“Among accountants, there was no judgment like spreadsheet judgment.” (This is 100% true)

(This is a long one but so funny) “A business owner was looking to hire a manager and he interviewed each candidate with a simple question: ‘How much is 2+2?’ The engineer pulled out his slide rule and shuffled it back and forth, finally announcing, ‘It lies between 3.98 and 4.02.’ The mathematician said, ‘In two hours I can demonstrate it equals 4 with the following short proof.’ The psychologist said, ‘It’s not for me to answer, but we should spend some time exploring the question.’ The attorney stated, ‘In the case of Swenson v. the State, 2+2 was declared to be 4.’ The accountant looked at the business owner, got out of his chair, and closed the office door. Then he leaned across the desk and said in a low voice, ‘How much would you like it to be?'”

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2020 Book #22 – Woman on the Edge by Samantha Bailey

Title: Woman on the Edge
Author: Samantha Bailey
Date finished: 5/3/20
Genre: Thriller, suspense
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publication Date: November 26, 2019
Pages in book: 271
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

A total stranger on the subway platform whispers, “Take my baby.”

She places her child in your arms. She says your name.

Then she jumps…

In a split second, Morgan Kincaid’s life changes forever. She’s on her way home from work when a mother begs her to take her baby, then places the infant in her arms. Before Morgan can stop her, the distraught mother jumps in front of an oncoming train.

Morgan has never seen this woman before, and she can’t understand what would cause a person to give away her child and take her own life. She also can’t understand how this woman knew her name.

The police take Morgan in for questioning. She soon learns that the woman who jumped was Nicole Markham, prominent CEO of the athletic brand Breathe. She also learns that no witness can corroborate her version of events, which means she’s just become a murder suspect.

To prove her innocence, Morgan frantically retraces the last days of Nicole’s life. Was Nicole a new mother struggling with paranoia or was she in danger? When strange things start happening to Morgan, she suddenly realizes she might be in danger, too.

Woman on the Edge is a pulse-pounding, propulsive thriller about the lengths to which a woman will go to protect her baby—even if that means sacrificing her own life.

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I thought the premise behind this book sounded really good and I thought it was originally supposed to come out in March 2020 but it looks like it came out in November 2019! This is a debut thriller and I thought it was really well done for a first novel. I could feel the paranoia overtaking me right along with Nicole and Morgan, I felt like I should be looking over my shoulder for the killer! I mean overall the book was sad but I thought the plot line was great and really interesting. The book was kind of short but I liked that things weren’t drawn out too much. The book was really well paced and I stayed interested throughout the book. I liked the ending a lot too – I felt so bad for Morgan and what she went though so I was happy to see her with Ben at the end (**spoiler alert**). The plot was a little predictable towards the end but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book at all – I still really liked the book overall. This book was a thrilling adventure and I’d definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #102 – Forever My Duke by Olivia Drake

51200dkZwOLTitle: Forever My Duke
Author: Olivia Drake
Date finished: 12/31/19
Genre: Historical romance
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 384
Stand alone or series: #2 in the Unlikely Duchesses series
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Hadrian Ames, the Duke of Clayton, needs a bride. He even has the perfect one picked out. That is, until he meets the lovely, free-spirited Natalie Fanshawe. She’s the opposite of what a man of his high rank should desire in a wife—an outspoken American who has never even set foot in a London ballroom.

But Natalie doesn’t have time to be swept off her feet by a handsome duke who must be a spoiled scoundrel like every other British lord. And she couldn’t care less about Hadrian’s title. After all, it’s not as if he actually worked to attain his wealth and status. He surely can’t understand what it’s like to be a busy woman, planning to open a school while trying to reunite a six-year-old orphan with his English relatives. Nevertheless, Hadrian launches his campaign to win her heart. Can the utterly delightful American beauty ever find a way to love him…despite his being a duke?

My rating:  3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had also read the first book in this series, The Duke I Once Knew, and I wanted to read the next one in the series. I liked this book ok – it was a good romance read but it wasn’t my favorite. I got pretty frustrated with Natalie and how much stock she was putting in Hadrian saying he loved her. The words can be important but she was going to go all the way back to America just because he didn’t say the words, while it was pretty obvious from his actions that he did love her. Some of the conversations / interactions I thought were a little stilted / awkward. It was a sweet story though. I loved Leo’s character and his connection to Hadrian and his childhood. I really enjoyed the side characters in this novel too, they were especially entertaining. I’d still say that I’d recommend this one, though it wasn’t my favorite.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #99 – The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

51dpRyRbquL (1)Title: The Bromance Book Club
Author: Lyssa Kay Adams
Date finished: 12/27/19
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: November 5, 2019
Pages in book: 352
Stand alone or series: First in a planned series (Bromance Book Club series)
Where I got the book from: Edelweiss
NOTE: I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

My rating:  3.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read a sample of this book in the recent Buzz Books sampler and enjoyed it, though I didn’t originally request it to review because I didn’t love how closed off Thea was in the first couple chapters in the book. And while reading the whole book was consistent with that initial impression I had, I’m still glad I read it. I liked a lot of things about this book. I thought it was really interesting that there were chapters from the book club book they were reading interspersed in the novel – I thought that added an interesting parallel to the story. And I loved Gavin’s devotion to his wife and his twin girls – it was so endearing and he was so consistently loyal. I also loved the banter between Gavin and the rest of the guys in the book club – their antics were hilarious and I can’t wait to read more about them in the next book(s). All of that being said, there were also parts of this book that I found very frustrating. I hated how quick Thea and Liz were to vilify Gavin. I understand that he had done (likely many) things wrong but at the same time, it takes two people to be in an argument but it also takes two people to solve it. I just felt like Gavin was consistently trying so hard and Thea just did everything she could to push him away. It frustrated me so much that Thea didn’t want to fight or try to fix her marriage when really the main issue was just them being able to communicate appropriately. Overall I still enjoyed the novel and I’m glad that I read it but there were definitely parts that frustrated me.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2019 Book #98 – Love Lettering by Kate Clayborn

51Roxy5neELTitle: Love Lettering
Author: Kate Clayborn
Date finished: 12/26/19
Genre: Contemporary romance
Publisher: Kensington Books
Publication Date: December 31, 2019
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

In this warm and witty romance from acclaimed author Kate Clayborn, one little word puts a woman’s business—and her heart—in jeopardy . . .
 
Meg Mackworth’s hand-lettering skill has made her famous as the Planner of Park Slope, designing custom journals for her New York City clientele. She has another skill too: reading signs that other people miss. Knowing the upcoming marriage of Reid Sutherland and his polished fiancée was doomed to fail is one thing, but weaving a secret word of warning into their wedding program is another. Meg may have thought no one would spot it, but she hadn’t counted on sharp-eyed, pattern-obsessed Reid.
 
A year later, Reid has tracked Meg down to find out how she knew that his meticulously planned future was about to implode. But with a looming deadline and a bad case of creative block, Meg doesn’t have time for Reid’s questions—unless he can help her find her missing inspiration. As they gradually open up to each other, both try to ignore a deepening connection between them. But the signs are there—irresistible, indisputable, urging Meg to heed the messages Reid is sending her, before it’s too late . . .

My rating:  4.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I haven’t read anything by this author but I’ve heard so many wonderful things about her novels from the podcasts I listen to. And I’m very glad I was able to read this one first specifically. This book was a love letter to journaling, art, and calligraphy all tied into one wonderful love story about a mathematician and an artist. Meg was so wonderfully endearing and charismatic. Her journey to self-empowerment in this novel was wonderful to see first hand. And Reid was so vulnerable and heart-wrenchingly perfect as a hero, his devotion and love for Meg was evident in the novel as it progressed and their relationship and chemistry really leaped off the page. Their love story and how it developed by walking the streets of New York and looking at hand-painted signs was a great idea. The writing is so beautifully done, it’s almost lyrical in how the characters and their stories are written. And decorative journaling is very on trend right now so the book is very well timed. Some pieces of the book weren’t an exact right fit for me. Overall though I really enjoyed this book a lot, it was extremely swoon-worthy and a wonderful read. I would definitely recommend it!

Link to author website

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2019 Book #96 – The Sun Down Motel by Simone St. James

513hfhxyrMLTitle: The Sun Down Motel
Author: Simone St. James
Date finished: 12/21/19
Genre: Fiction, thriller, suspense
Publisher: Berkley
Publication Date: February 18, 2020
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: BookBrowse
NOTE: I received this book for free from BookBrowse in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Something hasn’t been right at the roadside Sun Down Motel for a very long time, and Carly Kirk is about to find out why in this chilling new novel from the USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate New York, 1982. Viv Delaney wants to move to New York City, and to help pay for it she takes a job as the night clerk at the Sun Down Motel in Fell, New York. But something isnʼt right at the motel, something haunting and scary.

Upstate New York, 2017. Carly Kirk has never been able to let go of the story of her aunt Viv, who mysteriously disappeared from the Sun Down before she was born. She decides to move to Fell and visit the motel, where she quickly learns that nothing has changed since 1982. And she soon finds herself ensnared in the same mysteries that claimed her aunt.

My rating:  3.75 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I’ve heard so much buzz about this author with their recent books so I was excited to see their new release come up on BookBrowse. I don’t know if it was just timing but this book was really hard for me to get started with. There’s always so much to do get ready for Christmas and between that and my work schedule I was having a lot of trouble carving out time to read. Once I got into the story though, I really enjoyed the plot line. The parallel between the two different time periods was really interesting and added to the overall story plot. I really liked Carly’s character and her little menagerie of friends she collected upon her arrival into Fell. I thought the author did a great job of really dragging the reader down into that spiral of obsession that happens when you become completely enveloped in a mystery. Vivian’s spiral into obsession was really well written and really jumped off the page. Comparatively, some of the other emotions of the story fell a little flat to me. I’m not sure if it’s because I had to keep jumping in and out of the story but some of the emotions weren’t as lively as I thought they could have been. Overall the creepy/horror factor was definitely there though and I ended up really enjoying the story. I would recommend reading this one, it was an exciting read and really interesting story.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page