Survival Mode

The Violence by Delilah S. Dawson is my third read from this past week. It combines elements of the previous two reads: female empowerment and murder, but in a completely different way.

The Violence is the name given to a post-Covid virus from mosquito bites. Those infected go completely blank while violently attacking whoever is unlucky enough to be nearby. Chelsea is an abused wife and mother who decides to use her husband’s next attack to her advantage. She reports him to the infected help line which gets him taken away long enough for her to plan an escape.

Escape seems impossible once she realizes that she actually does have the Violence. Chelsea reaches out to her rich, dismissive mother for help with her daughters, sixteen-year-old Ella and five-year-old Brooklyn. At this point their paths all diverge as they go through individual hardships.

Ella and Chelsea are on their own when Chelsea’s mom shuts them out, and her mom is left to take over parenting Brooklyn. Everyone is in survival mode and trying to figure out how to safely reunite.

This book did have some disturbing moments (it is called the violence after all!), but I found it to be very well written. Beyond the topic of violence is the strength of family, the will to overcome challenges and the ability to change. Great read!

Strength in Numbers

Smile and Look Pretty by Amanda Pellegrino is a female empowerment novel.

Four best friends regularly meet up to discuss their horrible work situations. They deal with harassment, empty promises of advancement, and demeaning errands. They decide to make their complaints public while maintaining anonymity in a blog named twentysomething. They take turns writing about some of their nightmare experiences, while inviting readers to share their own too.

The blog gains more popularity which causes plenty of drama. The four friends must battle issues amongst each other, boyfriends, and the effects of their growing confidence with their employers.

Events reach a head when enough women come forward to speak out against a famous tv news host. Will the friends risk losing everything in order to to take down a known harasser?

A Case of Murder

The Judge’s List by John Graham is a page turning murder mystery.

A woman named Jeri has been secretly investigating her father’s murder for years. Her digging has revealed that her father is one of many victims of a powerful, patient serial killer. He has killed in numerous states out of revenge, and has sometimes waited more than ten years to enact his kill. The killer is intelligent and seemingly untouchable because he is a Florida judge with no clear evidence to connect all his kills.

Jeri finally reveals her years of research to judicial board investigator, Lacy. It’s now up to Lacy and her team to follow through, unless the judge is able to outsmart them all once again.

This was a great read to kick off my summer break!

Fresh Start

Reminders of Him by Colleen Hoover is Kenna’s redemption story.

Five years earlier, she was charged with her boyfriend Scotty’s death in a car wreck. Now she is out of prison trying to rebuild her life, and meet the daughter she was forced to give up while serving her sentence. Her daughter, Diem, is living with Scotty’s parents, and they make it very clear that they do not want Kenna entering their lives. Kenna works through her feelings by writing letters to Scotty.

Meanwhile, Kenna manages to make a strong connection to Ledger, one of Scotty’s best friends and childhood neighbor. The author alternates between Ledger and Kenna’s points of view, all the while building the sexual tension between them, and revealing back story. Everything leads to the critical moment in which Ledger must choose between his relationship with Diem and Scotty’s parents or Kenna.

Online Match

Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger is a fictional work exploring the potential dangers of online dating sites. You never know who someone truly is…

Wren makes a match using the Torch dating site, which her friend pushed her to try. After several quick flings, she makes a meaningful connection to Adam. They spend several wonderful weeks together before he suddenly ghosts her. All traces of him lead to a dead end. She may have eventually moved on, except a private detective approaches her about him. It seems that this behavior is a repeat offense for Adam, and the girl before Wren is still missing.

Wren can’t help but get involved in trying to locate Adam and the missing girl. In doing so, we discover that there are plenty of secrets in Wren’s past.

Adam finally reaches out to lure Wren back. Will she go to him and will doing so give her the same fate as the girls before her? This is a decent read for some drama and suspense.

Drive Away

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-first Century by Jessica Bruder is the author’s account of years experiencing life on the road.

Bruder expertly weaves informational background to better understand how today’s economy has impacted many to make the brave choice to simplify and reduce their possessions down to what they can fit in a vehicle. One subject in particular is Linda May, although there are many others given page time. This is not about living in a fully equipped RV, but about converting a larger vehicle such as a van into livable space. It is about living as a workamper, which means following good weather and seasonal work opportunities. These opportunities include working for Amazon during the holiday season, and as a camp host(ess) for parks during camping season.

While this lifestyle doesn’t appeal to me personally, I can’t help but understand the desire to leave all the pressures of “regular” life behind and the appeal of bonding with like-minded people. It is incredibly well-written with countless conversation starters.

Double the Deceit (Two to Review)

First, I have been slacking a bit by forgetting to put in a finished book from a while back, and reading my most recent book very slowly (unusual for me!). This will be a bit choppy, but here goes…

First and most recent is The Club by Ellery Lloyd. This book is about the exclusive, world-wide celebrity clubs named Home with a large cast of characters to follow. First, there are the primary owners and brothers Ned and Adam Groom, their right-hand woman and publicist Annie Stark, and Nikki is the young woman who was taken under Ned’s wing starting as a coat check girl and moving her way up to his first assistant. Then there is Jess, new head of housekeeping with an ulterior motive for wanting to work among this exclusive set of celebrity clientele, one couple in particular. There are several fictional celebrities involved in the plot as well.

The story centers around the grand opening of the newest addition to the club, Island Home. Guests are secluded on the island for a weekend, and all sorts of craziness unfolds. The chapters transition between different character perspectives, revealing back story and drama for each while also jumping to the aftermath of opening weekend. Spoiler ahead…

We discover that Ned has been blackmailing his top clients for years in order to finance his clubs, and readers find out just how he is able to uncover their darkest secrets. There are multiple murders, motives and deceit taking place from all angles throughout this book, making it tricky to follow at parts, but definitely entertaining.

Second, and going further back, is The Girl From Widow Hills by Megan Miranda. The story’s main character received national attention as a child, when she was discovered in a drain pipe days after going missing during the night. Now many years later, she feels that she escaped her highly publicized childhood by changing her name and moving several times. Her mother has passed away as well, severing all connections to her past… or so she thought.

Suddenly, strange events begin taking place. First she finds a dead man in her yard, and then one of her friends/coworkers goes missing. Once the identity of the dead man is revealed to be her childhood rescuer, she knows that she can no longer deny her past. The story continues with discovering the real story behind her disappearance and the crazy aftermath it created for both her and for all those involved.

Enjoy the Ride

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is an outlier from my normal reading list. It was recommended by a trainer during one of my Beachbody workout sessions. I consider myself a MConaughey fan, so I decided to give it a go.

The recommendation did not disappoint. McConaughey tells his life story through a series of anecdotes, photos and inspirational notes and musings. There are countless interesting moments in this book, such as his year abroad in Australia, his career switch into acting and his travels both domestic and international (to name a few). His incredible acting legacy seems a fortunate outcome to being in the right place, at the right time with the right people (and of course, having the necessary talent/state of mind in these situations).

I found myself living vicariously (and a bit jealously) through his courage to follow his truest self (living in a camper and grabbing the right opportunity as it comes along), while feeling intimidated by the uncertainty of this lifestyle.

Listening to and following your heart/gut leads to hitting those greenlights in life. This book helps readers give pause and reflect on these times in our own lives, while going along for the ride in Matthew’s.

Trick or Truth

Lucky by Marissa Stapley tracks Luciana “Lucky’s” life from the time she is picked up as a baby from a church doorstep to her adulthood. I waited a while after reading this one to type up my post, so names/details are a bit fuzzy!

The man who claimed Lucky is a professional swindler, and she is brought up to join him in this lifestyle from an early age. As much as she wants normalcy, she can’t seem to get away from a life of lies and trickery. Especially when she falls for the son of a powerful, mob-connected female. This woman’s dealings end up landing Lucky’s dad in prison for years.

In the meantime, Lucky and her boyfriend follow a similar path, resulting in them both being wanted criminals. Lucky’s boyfriend ditches her, prompting her to find out more about her past. Lucky takes on several identities in her quest to stay hidden, as she heads back east to finally confront the mother she never met. Through her travels, she protects a winning lottery ticket that she is unable to cash in while questioning if there is anyone that she can trust.

Cursed

This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno is a creepy story. It begins with Thiago at his wife Vera’s funeral before flashing back to the events leading up to her death.

Strange events started happening shortly after they moved into their apartment. Itza is the equivalent of an Alexa, and it is one source of some odd occurrences. It makes random comments, song choices and delivery of odd items that nobody ordered. In addition to this are the strange scratching noises and Thiago’s odd nighttime wake ups in which he sees a glowing door. Vera’s death is blamed on an illegal immigrant who ran by and knocked her down a flight of stairs (of course, there’s more revealed about this moment as the story progresses).

Thiago decides to leave all of the attention behind, and moves far away from neighbors and concerned “friends.” Unfortunately, strange events keep happening, and they seem to be increasing their intensity. With moments reminiscent of “Pet Sematary” and other classic horror films, Thiago must face an otherworldly entity which seems intent on driving him to his own death. There are several uncertainties in the story, such as the origin of this entity (my daughter and I had different understandings), but it all contributes to a chilling read.