Book Reviews · Recommendations

Explosive Eighteen (Stephanie Plum 18) by Janet Evanovich

Explosive Eighteen
(Stephanie Plum, 18)
By: Janet Evanovich

Book Cover

Published: November 2011
Published by: Bantam
Format Read: Hardcover
Genre: Mystery, Contemporary, Series

Rating: 3/5

Synopsis

Bounty hunter Stephanie Plum’s life is set to blow sky high when international murder hits dangerously close to home, in this dynamite novel by Janet Evanovich.

Before Stephanie can even step foot off Flight 127 from Hawaii to Newark, she’s knee deep in trouble. Her dream vacation turned into a nightmare, she’s flying back to New Jersey solo, and someone who sounds like Sasquatch is snoring in row 22. Worse still, her seatmate never returned to the plane after the L.A. layover. Now he’s dead, in a garbage can, waiting for curbside pickup. His killer could be anyone. The FBI, the fake FBI, and guns-for-hire are all looking for a photograph the dead man was supposed to be carrying.
 
Only one other person has seen the missing photograph—Stephanie Plum. Now she’s the target, and she doesn’t intend to end up in a garbage can. With the help of an FBI sketch artist Stephanie re-creates the person in the photo. Unfortunately the first sketch turns out to look like Tom Cruise, and the second sketch like Ashton Kutcher. Until Stephanie can improve her descriptive skills, she’ll need to watch her back.
 
Over at the Bail Bonds Agency it’s business as usual—until the bonds bus serving as Vinnie’s temporary HQ goes up in smoke, Stephanie’s wheelman, Lula, falls in love with their “largest” FTA yet, lifetime arch nemesis Joyce Barnhardt moves into Stephanie’s apartment, and everyone wants to know what happened in Hawaii?!

Morelli, Trenton’s hottest cop, isn’t talking about Hawaii. Ranger, the man of mystery, isn’t talking about Hawaii.  And all Stephanie is willing to say about her Hawaiian vacation is . . . It’s complicated.

My Thoughts

After becoming tired with the Stephanie Plum series, I decided to take a break, so it has been a long time since I’ve picked up one of these novels. It was nice to be reunited with the dysfunctional bounty hunter and her quirky friends, family, collogues and skips.

As I always find these books to be exciting and entertaining. And while I will continue to read the series, once again there wasn’t much growth or advancement in the life of the main character, aside from a new hairstyle. Unfortunately this has become an ongoing issue I’ve had and I don’t foresee anything changing in book nineteen. Another small problem I had was in the title; Explosive Eighteen. I do understand the alliteration and how it fits into the theme of the series, I think that there were previous installments that had more memorable explosions.

Still, I would recommend Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series to fans of quick, fast paced contemporary fiction.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Wives by Tarryn Fisher

The Wives
By: Tarryn Fisher

Book Cover

Published: December 2019
Published by: Graydon House
Format Read: eBook, Libby App
Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

Rating: 5/5

Synopsis

New York Times bestselling author Tarryn Fisher delivers a pulse-pounding, fast-paced suspense novel that will leave you breathless. A thriller you won’t be able to put down!

Thursday’s husband, Seth, has two other wives. She’s never met them, and she doesn’t know anything about them. She agreed to this unusual arrangement because she’s so crazy about him.

But one day, she finds something. Something that tells a very different—and horrifying—story about the man she married.

What follows is one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.

You’ll have to grab a copy to find out why.

My Thoughts

In 2019 when Tarryn Fisher’s The Wives was released, I remember other bloggers and BookTubers mentioning it, but it didn’t really catch my attention at the time. If I hadn’t joined a local book club, I would have missed out on one of the most binge-worthy books I’ve read in a long time.

I couldn’t put this psychological suspense down! Tarryn Fisher had me captivated from the start. Although some readers felt unsatisfied with the ending, I thought it was still 5 star worthy. I highly recommend The Wives and can’t wait to read more from this author.

Articles · Recommendations · Worth a Watch

My Firefly Lane Playlist

Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane has been on my TBR for years, however in light of the release of the Netflix adaptation, I decided to bump it up my list. I finally read this book in April and enjoyed the coming of age story of two best friends.

For those who are not familiar with this book here is the synopsis:

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From the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Source: Goodreads

I loved all the cultural references to the time periods it covers. Kristin Hannah really transports her readers back in time. Another aspect I loved, was how much amazing music was incorporated into this book and how it played such a pivotal role in the different chapters of Tully and Kate’s lives.

Today I would like to share with you some (and I could add tons more ha) of my favourite songs that were mentioned in Kristin Hannah’s Firefly Lane.

For What It’s Worth by Buffalo Springfield

Daydream Believer by The Monkees

Takin’ Care of Business by Bachman Turner Overdrive

Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Firefly Lane
By: Kristin Hannah

Book Cover

Published: February 2008
Published by: St. Martin’s Griffin
Format Read: Paperback
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary Fiction, Dual Timeline, Historical Fiction

Rating: 4/5

Synopsis

From the New York Times bestselling author Kristin Hannah comes a powerful novel of love, loss, and the magic of friendship. . . .

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all—beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship—jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.

Firefly Lane is for anyone who ever drank Boone’s Farm apple wine while listening to Abba or Fleetwood Mac. More than a coming-of-age novel, it’s the story of a generation of women who were both blessed and cursed by choices. It’s about promises and secrets and betrayals. And ultimately, about the one person who really, truly knows you—and knows what has the power to hurt you . . . and heal you. Firefly Lane is a story you’ll never forget . . . one you’ll want to pass on to your best friend.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

Firefly Lane is a coming of age novel about two friends who meet as teenagers in the 1970s. Readers follow Tully and Kate as they mature and follow their dreams through the 80s, 90s and early 2000’s. I admit that I moved this title up to the top of my book pile at the release of the Netflix show. Although I did find Kristin Hannah’s Winter Garden to be more engrossing, Firefly Lane will definitely be included on my list for the best reads of the year.

I think that both Tully and Kate have characteristics that readers will be able to relate to. Although they are polar opposites, I appreciate how the author explored their flaws as much as their strengths. My favourite aspect of Firefly Lane was how each decade felt authentic in its portrayal. From the world events to the fashion and popular culture references, Kristin Hannah does an excellent job of transporting her readers back in time.

I highly recommend Firefly Lane to fans of this author and those who enjoy stories of lifelong friendships.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Anna’s Crossing (Amish Beginnings, 1) by Suzanne Woods Fisher

Anna’s Crossing
(Amish Beginnings, 1)
By: Suzanne Woods Fisher

Book Cover

Published: February 2015
Published by: Revell
Format Read: eBook, Kindle
Genre: Historical Fiction, Christian Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

Synopsis

When Anna König first meets Bairn, the Scottish ship carpenter of the Charming Nancy, their encounter is anything but pleasant. Anna is on the ship only to ensure the safe arrival of her loved ones to the New World. Hardened by years of living at sea, Bairn resents toting these naïve farmers–dubbed “Peculiars” by deckhands–across the ocean. As delays, storms, illness, and diminishing provisions afflict crew and passengers alike, Bairn finds himself drawn to Anna’s serene nature. For her part, Anna can’t seem to stay below deck and far away from the aloof ship’s carpenter, despite warnings.

When an act of sacrifice leaves Anna in a perilous situation, Bairn discovers he may not have left his faith as firmly in the past as he thought. But has the revelation come too late?

Amish fiction favorite Suzanne Woods Fisher brings her fans back to the beginning of Amish life in America with this fascinating glimpse into the first ocean crossing as seen through the eyes of a devout young woman and an irreverent man. Blending the worlds of Amish and historical fiction, Fisher is sure to delight her longtime fans even as she attracts new ones with her superb and always surprise-filled writing.

Source: Goodreads

My Thoughts

In this series, Suzanne Woods Fisher chronicles the journey early Amish settlers took to the New World in the 1730’s. Readers follow a young woman named Anna, who travels with members of her community aboard a ship called “Charming Nancy” bound for Pennsylvania. As the only person in their group who spoke English, Anna acts as translator finding herself often dealing with Bairn, the ships carpenter and third in command.

Suzanne Woods Fisher is one of my favourite Amish fiction writers; a genre I have cherished reading in recent years. While I have read many historical fiction books in the Christian genre, this is the first I’ve read that follows this particular group.

I was interested in learning how the Amish faith differed in this time period, compared to other more commonly practiced religions. Along with their fellow Mennonite passengers they were known as “the peculiars”. The Amish of the 1700’s stood out in appearance, much like they do today sporting different beards and prayer caps. Although the author wrote of their peaceful and giving nature, I didn’t feel that their was much of a comparison told.

I have come to realize that most fiction in this genre centers around faith being tested. Usually one character is a strong believer, while the other struggles with it. Anna’s Crossing is no different, so I did find the story to be predictable, but I am happy to say that I still appreciated the message it tells.

I highly recommend Suzanne Woods Fisher’s Anna’s Crossing. I am looking forward to reading more about the early Amish settlers and how they began to plant their roots in the New World.

Challenges · Currently Reading · Memes · Recommendations · Wrap-ups

Monthly Wrap-up: June 2021

Total Books Read in June: 5
Total Books Read in 2021: 28

I am officially over half way to my goal of reading 52 books in 2021! If I can keep up with the pace I am reading, I believe I will meet my goal, which is so exciting. Did you set any reading goals this year? How are they going?

In a previous post, I shared my current TBR, which was to my backlist books that I have been sent. Below is the progress I made this month:

Backlist Catch-up TBR: 2/7

Backlist Catch-up TBR Books Read in June:

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Inheriting Edith
By: Zoe Fishman

Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Note: I won a copy of Inheriting Edith from Goodreads and plan to share my honest review in a future post.

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Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
By: Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Rating: 4/5
NOTE: I won a copy of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite from Goodreads and plan to share my honest review in a future post.

Additional Books Read:

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Lumberjanes, Vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy
By: Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Shannon Watters, Brooklyn Allen

Genre: Graphic Novel, Young Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy
Rating: 4/5

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For the Love of Friends
By: Sara Goodman Confino

Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Rating: 3/5
Note: I was sent a copy of For the Love of Friends by Sara Goodman Confino, from the publisher, via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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The Vanishing Half
By: Britt Bennett

Genre: Historical Fiction, Audiobook
Rating: 4/5

DNF

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Cut and Run
By: Ben Acker & Ben Blacker

Narrated by: Meg Ryan, et. Al.
Genre: Audiobook, Comedy
Reason for DNF: The concept of a comedic presentation about organ harvesters, was interesting, however I found it rushed and wasn’t invested enough to keep track of the characters.

The Stats

Total Number of Books Read: 5
Total Number of Fiction: 5
Total Number of Non-Fiction: 0
Total Books Sent for Review: 3
Total Books Read from My Shelves: 4
Total Library Books Read: 1

Formats Read

Physical Books: 2
eBooks:
 2
Audio Books: 
1

Currently Reading

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Book Reviews · Recommendations

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev
By: Dawnie Walton

Book Cover

Published: March 2021
Published By: Simon & Schuster
Format Read: eBook, Kindle, ARC, NetGalley
Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 3.5/5

NOTE: I was sent a copy of The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton, from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis

A poignant fictional oral history of the beloved rock ‘n’ roll duo who shot to fame in the 1970s New York, and the dark, fraught secret that lies at the peak of their stardom.

Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction.

My Thoughts

Like many other readers, I was intrigued to read The Final Revival of Opal and Nev, after seeing it being compared to Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Like that book, Dawnie Walton tells this story in an interview format. However where Daisy Jones and the Six focuses on emotional lyrics, Opal and Nev explores more of a social justice point of view.

While I don’t think that the music this unlikely pair would have released would have been my cup of tea, I could definitely appreciate how they would have made an impression with their originality. Opal especially was a strong character, although she wasn’t perfect. I liked how she became a leader for those who were seen as different and not accepted by society.

Author Dawnie Walton did not shy away from tackling difficult topics including; feminism and racial injustices. I would recommend it to readers who are looking for an impactful book that explores those topics.

Book Reviews · Recommendations

Quick Thoughts on Recent Short Listens

Today I am going to share some quick thoughts on two of my most recent short stories that I listened to in audiobook format.

Tinaca Jones
By: Matt Boren
Narrated by: Retta

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Published: January 2020
Published by: Audible Audio
Format Read: Audio book, Audible
Genre: Contemporary Fiction, Audio Book, Humor

Rating: 2/5

Quick Thoughts: Told in interview format, cashier and entrepreneur-to-be Tinaca Jones discovers that her identity has been stolen by a women seeking fame. This short Audible Original chronicles Tinaca’s humorous testimony. Although it had some laugh out loud moments, and I enjoyed the pop culture references, I did find it to be quite long winded. Still, I think that there is an audience for this audiobook, and I would recommend listening to it.

100 Ways to Motivate Yourself
By: Steve Chandler

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Published: January 2006
Published by: HighBridge Company
Format Read: Audiobook, Libby App
Genre: Self-help, Non-fiction

Rating: 3/5

Quick Thoughts: We can all use some extra motivation from time to time. This is especially true for me as I can be quite the procrastinator. Steve Chandler, offers 100 ways to motivate yourself .Several tips I found to be of interest and I enjoyed the quotes that were included, especially the story about Arnold Schwarzenegger and the importance of creating a vision of yourself and then living your life accordingly. One specific tip that has helped me to be more productive was, aside from writing a to-do list, also make a list of your accomplishments. Although I found this book to be helpful, I found the narration to be less than captivating and would therefore recommend reading a physical copy.

Challenges · Currently Reading · TBR

TBR: Backlist Catch-up

Note: I have been trying to use my Instagram more for book posts, so the following is one I shared a couple of weeks ago. If you aren’t following me on Instagram, you can find me at this link: Melissa Lee Spurrell (@melissaleesredhousereviews) • Instagram photos and videos

Additional Note: I can never tell if I’m correctly inserting IG photos onto my blog posts. If you are seeing this, could you comment below if you are able to see the image. Thank you! Happy reading.