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The List by Kiersten Modglin

This book has been on my “to be read” list for a while now. As I continued adding titles to my TBR list, this novel moved further down. Until last night (October 26).

Kiersten Modglin is a fantastic author who has penned over 20 novels so far in her career. She is a wife and a momma, and a genuinely kind soul. Her talent and passion for writing are evident in all of her work. And she can tell a story that will make your heart race, make your blood run cold, and make you question whether you locked your front door.

Persistence. Forgiveness. Determination. Revenge.

This twisted tale introduces us to Jordyn and Connor, a young married couple preparing to move because Connor has been transferred. Seems innocent enough, right? They find the perfect house for their growing family and settle in. Very quickly, things take a turn for the mysterious. As newcomers to a small town, Jordyn witnesses an emotional scene in the grocery store that leaves her with questions. Questions no one will answer and questions with answers no one wants Jordyn to discover.

The twists in The List are intense! Classic Modglin, this twisted tale, is filled with secrets, suspense, and a powerhouse of strong female characters. The women in this novel are genuinely badass; there is no more straightforward way to say it. These women are strong, smart, brave, determined, and unstoppable. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Jordyn, our main narrator, and her persistence in getting to the bottom of the mysterious deaths that have haunted Bates for the past ten years.

There are so many themes within this novel that just hit you in the heart. The biggest one for me is Jordyn making an impossible choice despite her initial gut instinct. Being a good person and doing the right thing is a shade of gray, but it becomes a shining white light within these pages.

This book is so well written, the story is scary and suspenseful, and it is filled with characters you can’t help but like. Unlike Santa’s list, you do not want to find your name on The List. I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Find The List by Kiersten Modglin on Amazon.

Follow Kiersten Modglin on Instagram here.

Taken to the Grave by M. M. Chouinard

I enjoy M.M. Chouinard’s writing style. She can tell a story most compellingly. I loved this continuation featuring Jo; I am a big Josette Fournier fan.

Chouinard writes her female characters with such depth and sincerely. Jo is such a dynamic character. She is easy to relate to. She is smart, brave, and has incredible integrity.

This storyline was really great and posed some ethical dilemmas that I’ll dive into later. I enjoyed the references to The Dancing Girls (if you haven’t read that book, seriously do it!), letting us know that that story isn’t finished yet. Which I am pumped about because the ending of that novel completely blew my mind.

We get to know more of the characters within this novel, and that was great. I enjoyed the dynamic and obvious respect they all have for each other. We get to know Jo quite a bit more, seeing more intimate glimpses into who she is, which added another layer to who Jo is and gives me another reason to like her.

This is a fast-paced storyline, and the way the story is woven and how the crumb trail is dangled leaves you thinking you’ve solved the case at least five times before the lightbulb comes on. Chouinard executes her twists brilliantly. It’s like she knows just how to dangle the truth in front of our faces without letting us actually figure anything out.

The amount of research Chouinard obviously does is incredible. She writes such detailed, well-formulated plots. The majority of this storyline danced around science and academia, and the details were immaculate.

I really enjoy that you can see each character’s vulnerability, strength, and compassion. MINOR SPOILER if you have not read this book, STOP READING THIS REVIEW NOW.

In the scene where Jo and Bob are interrogating Terry and Jo can completely empathize with why Terry did the things he did… the compassion she showed, even if she was putting it on to get his partner, was brilliant. And the way Terry empathized with Jo’s emotional baggage… the flip flop of good vs. bad was so well played. After Terry tells Jo why he did what he did and how he justified his reasoning, poetic justice, and Jo tells him that personally she agrees with what he did poses such an excellent discussion point… is vigilante justice ever truly justified? While this isn’t answered for you in the book, it is left to the reader to decide if these crimes were justified. I thoroughly appreciate how the themes were presented and how poetically the concept of vigilante justice was written. Poetic justice, the ultimate of irony.

I recommend this book. It is a fast read, an intense story and the ethical questions posed really make you think. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Find Taken to the Grave by M. M. Chouinard on Amazon.

You can also follow M. M. Chouinard on Instagram here.

Neighborly by Ellie Monago

Severe TRIGGER WARNING for this book. This book contains sexual trauma involving minors and “swinging” among semi-consenting adults. If you are sensitive to things containing trauma or sexual exploitation, please do not read this book or my review.

Love thy neighbor…

Kat and Doug are over-the-moon when they move into their dream neighborhood. It has all of the bells and whistles they think they want and need to provide their young daughter with everything she needs to succeed in life. We quickly meet the neighbors and get to know their quirks… and their secrets.

Neighborly was written by practicing therapist Ellie Monago. She has authored two novels and is a busy wife and mother. You can read more about Ellie Monago here.

This book is filled with quite interesting characters, and we are quickly introduced to them as the novel takes off. Our main character and narrator, Kat, starts off seeming very insecure and standoffish. Her husband, Doug, seems extremely delightful and charming and quite the doting husband and father. They have a four-month-old daughter, Sadie, and have just bought their first home. This neighborhood is like a character all its own, holding secrets, twists, turns, and a deadly revelation.

There are some heavy topics within this book. And I would have greatly appreciated Ellie Monago placing a trigger warning disclaimer in the book’s introduction. The story is actually really good, and I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. The twists were well placed, and the overall writing is very smart. Monago is a practicing therapist, as she can describe emotions and feelings extremely well. She makes you really feel uncomfortable with certain instances, which work within the writing but leave you shocked as a reader. Be prepared to have your breath taken away, several times, not necessarily in a good way.

Please read this book with caution; as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this book contains several trigger warnings.

Overall, I did enjoy the book. I was taken back by how certain plot points were just dropped in my lap, but I think the “shock” factor was intentional. I would be willing to read a novel by Ellie Monago again, but this time I will go into it with a more prepared frame of mind. I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

You can find Neighborly by Ellie Monago on Amazon.

Swing and a Mishap by Tara Sivec

How Tara Sivec manages to write books that are funny, real, sexy, and romantic is beyond me. But oh my goodness… this book is the total package.
I absolutely adore Wren, and getting to know her throughout the book. She is such a strong, spunky, brave character. I absolutely cheered for her growth throughout the book, and the final chapters did not disappoint. She found her voice in such an empowering way.
Shepard was sarcastic and fun. His love of glitter and crafting was a pretty adorable characteristic. And the fact that he loves Wren and Owen so completely and is not afraid of making that known, is incredible.
I very much enjoyed the sassy banter and charming wit within these pages. Who knew being a baseball player could be so much fun? Middle field is one hell of a position.
The writing is great, the internal dialogue is funny, and the storyline is simply sexy Disney. I loved the way the journey was splayed out, and I really appreciate that Tara doesn’t shy away from the grittiness and complications that arise within a relationship. Her characters all have such big, dynamic personalities, and they are all so well rounded, but also such hot messes, it is very relatable. I really enjoyed this one. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Final thoughts: who knew vanilla ice cream was sexy?

Find Swing and a Mishap by Tara Sivec on Amazon

Kiss my Putt by Tara Sivec

This is the first book from Tara Sivec I’ve read, and it will not be the last. She is damn talented. Not only is this love story epic… she is freaking hilarious. I don’t think I have ever cackled so much reading a book in my life.
I loved the characters. Birdie is seriously the belle of the ball and she is so well written. Her inner dialogue is almost funnier than her actual dialogue. And Tess… oh my GOD. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted a book character as a friend more. Palmer is fun and exciting, and charismatic as all get out. I love how this story unfolded. Love is messy, it’s complicated… and it’s hard. You definitely go through all the feelings with this book.

This is a delightfully charming, fast paced book. You will absolutely fall in love with Summersweet Island, and the characters who live there. The writing is so clever, there is so much wit and sass and charm. And the female characters are so damn delightful. This was an excellent choice.
There are some killer one liners in this book. Oh man. I had to take screen shots of some of my favs to post to my Instagram story because Tara is such a sassy, witty, clever writer. This was such a fun read. It was so refreshing to read such a positive, upbeat book. Even in tense, dramatic moments there were beautiful twists that just worked. If you are looking for a quick, easy to read book- this is it. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Find Kiss my Putt by Tara Sivec on Amazon. Available for free with Kindle Unlimited!

The Weight on Skin by Beena Khan

Thank you, Beena, for sending me a copy of this novel. I appreciate your kindness, and generosity and your belief in my review. It has been a pleasure reading for you.

This book was really good. Much faster paced than the first book in the series. The character development was very well done. We get to see an entirely different side to Kabir, and he becomes so much more realistic in the construction of this novel.
I have to admit, I enjoyed the writing in this book over the last book. As much as I enjoyed Red… in this book she was so much more dynamic, and such a bold, empowered and functional character.
Beena writes the emotions associated with grief beautifully… and accurately. The things Kabir thinks and feels, and does, as he works through his feelings is pretty intense. It was really lovely, albeit sad, to go back and get more detail about Kabir’s past, and have him actually share the stories of his high school bullying. Beena brought such pain, and such a depth to the subject of bullying and the effects it can leave on a person. Even years later.
This book didn’t delve into drinking, but the emphasis on addiction was still there. This time it was primarily on sex and closure. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Red’s persona in this book- no spoilers- but I actually loved what she brought to this story. She completed the arc of Kabir’s past, and the things holding him back. Now that he has his closure on all levels of his life, he is able to move forward. To a brighter, happier, new life.
I loved the cultural influences throughout this story, the wedding details were my favorite. I also love the strong women Beena writes. The fact that (minor spoiler) a strong female ends up being the attending surgeon for Kabir was pleasantly refreshing. The growth the character take in this book is pretty fantastic. Their journey is so much bolder and more realistic this time. And I very much enjoyed Kabir’s story.
The writing, continuity, formatting and editing were so much better in this novel. You can definitely see the improvement Beena has made. She is clearly getting more comfortable with herself as a writer, and that is really showing through. I am really proud of her growth as a writer in this book. I have no doubts she will only get better as she continues creating.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Find The Weight on Skin by Beena Khan on Amazon

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