Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Survivors by Jane Harper

Kieran Elliott's life changed forever on the day a reckless mistake led to devastating consequences.


The guilt that still haunts him resurfaces during a visit with his young family to the small coastal community he once called home.


Kieran's parents are struggling in a town where fortunes are forged by the sea. Between them all is his absent brother, Finn.


When a body is discovered on the beach, long-held secrets threaten to emerge. A sunken wreck, a missing girl, and questions that have never washed away...


 Publisher: Flatiron Books | Genre: Thriller | Pages: 372 | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3 Cups

Atmospheric and thrilling, The Survivors took me to the heart of a small coastal community in Australia and left me sorting through the debris of a storm that happened twelve years ago as well as collecting clues regarding a present day murder.


Here’s what’s going on. Twelve years ago a storm blew in and shattered the tiny community of Evelyn Bay leaving two young men dead and a girl missing. It also shattered the Elliot family and left Kieran with a guilt no one should have to carry. Now back in his hometown—along with his girlfriend—to help his parents move, Kieran feels the old wounds as freshly as when the storm first happened. As though those griefs weren’t enough, the death of a young waitress has everyone on edge and memories of the storm resurfacing. As friends are questioned, old secrets begin to emerge, and things are revealed that change the course of their history.


This was another of my most anticipated releases of 2021 and I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had never read a novel by Jane Harper. I had heard a lot of people refer to her writing as atmospheric and it was that—if ever a novel left me feeling cold and needing to cover up with a warm, comforting blanket, it was The Survivors. While the writing was very vivid and descriptive, it was also a bit slow, which was a bit of a letdown.


This book is told in present day as well as in flashbacks to the day of the storm twelve years ago and, sadly, there was a lot of stuff going on but I don’t feel as though either part really added much until we moved into the middle of the book. There things kicked up a bit but not a lot and I still felt that this book was a lot of talk with little happening. While there was a lot of talk about what happened to Bronte, the waitress that was murdered, and a lot of questions being raised there’s not much of the actual investigation shown. We were however thrown a lot of suspects—who seemed to have motivation and/or was painted to look guilty. There were also a lot of things going on trying to try to throw you off. When everything was revealed, it didn’t shock me but rather seemed a bit lazy in the outcome almost as though the word count limit was creeping up and the author needed to come up with a killer and a reason.


While this book centers around Kieran, there’s a lot of characters in this book and not only do we get to see them in the present we get to see them during the storm and the days after. Sadly, none of the characters are likable or reliable. Then we have Kieran and Mia’s three-month-old daughter who was treated rather like an accessory—something for the characters to tote around and let me tell you this baby went everywhere and was left alone sleeping on the beach on numerous occasions while Kieran swam. I didn’t understand why the author chose to include a baby.


There’s also a lot of questions this book had me asking, like why were certain things not questioned, or even brought up, after the storm. Why was Gabby’s disappearance during the storm put on the backburner? The explanation in the book just didn’t fly with me. There’s also a lot of backstory regarding Finn, Kieran’s brother who drowned, that was brought up momentarily and never explained—which, again, goes into what I was saying about a lot of things happening in this book without the book going anywhere.


This does have thriller aspects to it but, to me, it bordered more on redemption, healing, forgiveness than a full on thriller and, I think, that’s why this book dragged a bit.


Overall, this was an okay read. Yes, it was easy for me to become sucked into this story but it was a bit boring in the fact it took forever for something to start happening. I also wish the ending would have had a bit more so the story would have had a bit more closure.


I think this book is going to be one that has a lot of mixed reviews. If you like thrillers/mysteries that are more character focused yet not character driven, I think you’d really enjoy this book if you don’t mind a slower-paced read.


I thought it was just meh because I wanted a bit more. There was a lot of buildup to certain events that just ended up being lackluster reveals. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates––a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.


But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie––not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.


Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past––or his––catches up to her?

Publisher: St. Martin's Press | Genre: Domestic Thriller  | Pages: 290 | Source: Publisher | Rating: 3 Cups

It was the modern Jane Eyre aspect of this book that had my curiosity piqued. It’s very rare that we get a modern Jane Eyre so, when I was offered this book for review, I jumped at the chance and I have some thoughts.


Did I like the book? Yes. Did I like it as a Jane Eyre re-telling? No.


Let’s get into the plot of the book. Jane’s a dog-walker in a gated community—think a Southern version of Desperate Housewives—she’s a bit of a klepto who is hiding from her past in a place where no one will think about asking. Eddie is the mysterious man who lives in Jane’s ‘favorite’ house on the lane and there’s a lot of suspicion surrounding him concerning the boating accident that claimed the lives of Bea, his wife, and Blanche, her best friend. When a chance encounter brings them together, Jane’s found the perfect guy to offer her what she’s never had—money and protection from her past—and Eddie’s found a fresh start with a woman who, while plain, intrigues him. While it’s not easy sailing, things get a whole lot choppier after Blanche’s body is found. Suspicions are aroused, neighbors are looking closer, the police are asking questions, and things are starting to go bump in the night. Now it’s a race to see who’s past will catch up to them first.


The plot alone was brilliant and intriguing. There’s mystery, intrigue, danger, and an odd romance of sorts. This had the makings of a riveting Southern Thriller, if the names would have been changed and the association to Jane Eyre would have been vague rather than thrown in your face. Those who have read Jane Eyre would have been able to pick up on the connection.


Looking at this as a modern version of Jane Eyre, it fell flat and I found parts of it, especially the oddly placed Jane Eyre quotes, a bit cringe worthy.  While it’s revealed in the synopsis that Jane isn’t Jane—and I did like that twist—the other characters were unlikable versions of the lovable characters from the book. Even if you haven’t read Jane Eyre, you probably know how it ended and, while The Wife Upstairs stays close there’s a bit of a twist—which, again, I did enjoy.


The book was an easy read and, while not exactly flowing, I found I had read half the book without realizing it.


I’m a little disappointed with this book. This was one of my most anticipated 2021 releases and it didn’t live up to what I thought it was going to be. Reading the acknowledgements at the end of the book where the author states, ‘And lastly, thanks to every woman who ever got to the end of Jane Eyre and thought, “Honestly, Jane? You could do better.” You are my people.”  It made me think that, in same way, she wanted to ruin some of the original characters (Rochester) that most of us love from Jane Eyre.


Jane Eyre is one of my favorite books and I love the characters dearly. Not only was it a very modern book for its time, it’s a book that was very empowering. It was one of the first books where the character (Jane) was very self-aware and striving to be an independent “individual.” Charlotte Bronte created Jane to be determined, to not back down, and to be able to make her own choices. I’ve always thought that Charlotte created Jane to be the person (and make the choices) she wanted to be and to make. Jane didn’t have to choose Rochester but did so because she truly loved him and he loved her in return.


Overall, while I’m apparently not one of the author’s ‘people’ I found that I both liked (if I removed all immediate Jane Eyre connections) and disliked (if I viewed this as a modern retelling) this book.


If you’ve not read Jane Eyre, I think you’ll appreciate this book as a Southern Thriller. For me, this didn’t work as a retelling. I would have loved this book had the author not named the characters straight from J.E. (even the dog Eddie owns was named Adale) or included the oddly placed quotes but rather alluded to the story.  Those who have read Jane Eyre, would have been able to pick up on the references and I, personally, would have enjoyed the book better.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Only A Cowboy Will Do by A.J. Pine

Forty candles, and one for luck. Jenna Owens wants one thing for her birthday this year: a fairy-tale ending of her own and a little relaxation at a quaint California ranch. What she didn’t want was to get caught in a storm on her way to Meadow Valley. Or to get stuck with a ridiculously hot, too-charming-for-his-own-good cowboy—one who makes Jenna reconsider her “I don't date younger guys” rule. But a little vacation flirtation might be just what she needs.

Colt Morgan isn’t interested in long-term relationships. Not since his last one crashed and burned after his fiancĂ©e found out he wanted a big family. So when he learns that Jenna has a list of items to accomplish on her trip—including having fling—Colt is all too happy to oblige. Yet the more he and Jenna get to know each other, the more Colt starts to wonder if maybe they have a chance at a real future. But when Jenna’s past upends everything Colt thought he wanted, are all bets off? Or will they find a way to make both their dreams come true?

 Series: Meadow Valley #3 | Publisher: Forever |Genre: Contemporary Romance | Source: Publisher | Rating: 4 Cups

Two strangers (one who happens to be a charming cowboy) having a little vacation fling that has the potential to be more? Yes, please!

When the nephews that she raised sends her off to relax at a California ranch, Jenna makes a list of things she’s always wanted to do and, while having a vacation fling was on the list falling for the cowboy escorting her to the ranch wasn’t. Colt Morgan’s not up for relationships, especially after his last one, but he’s more than eager to please when he finds out Jenna wants to have a vacation fling. Relationships were supposed to be off the table, but there’s something special between the two of them if they can get past a secret Jenna’s carrying.

I was hooked from the start and could not put this book down.

Jenna and Colt were so much fun. They both have things in their past that they’re working through and things in their past that have shaped them and their idea of what their futures should be. Neither are the type to have a fling without getting attached and I enjoyed watching them grow and sort things out. I also enjoyed the maturity they both had.

I love romances with family and close-knitted friendships/communities and that’s one of the things I loved about this book. The friends at the ranch who were like family, it really helped to round out the book.

The only thing that kept this from being a 5-cup read was the fact there were some things that Jenna should have told Colt, especially knowing how he felt, from the start so they could figure out things together rather than it just being thrust upon him at an odd time.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I missed the previous books in the series and I’m going to have to remedy that soon as I fell in love with the people of Meadow Valley Ranch. 

Meadow Valley Series

0.5 Cowboy to the Rescue

1 My One and Only Cowboy

2 Make Mine a Cowboy

3 Only a Cowboy Will Do


Friday, April 2, 2021

Walmart Beauty Box: Spring Edition 2021

Hey Lovelies, today I’m going to be sharing with you my Spring Walmart Beauty Box.

Let me tell you a little about this box. It’s a quarterly beauty box containing 5 beauty items from beauty brands sold at Walmart. These boxes are $5 (plus tax) $6.98 (plus tax)

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you’ll know that I’m not the biggest fan of this box. I keep saying I’m going to cancel but I was intrigued when I received an email letting subscribers know they’ve revamped the boxes and they would be better than ever.

Walmart Beauty Box Website

Let’s see if these boxes are ‘New and Improved’…

Theme: A Breath of Fresh Air For Your Routine

This is the third season of the supposedly ‘New & Improved’ boxes and Brand Share, the company that curates the box, has made some changes. The major change that they made is the PRICE INCREASE it is now $6.98 (plus tax) every quarter (with tax, mine came to $7.48). They also decided to keep with the extra product, so now you’ll receive 6 products instead of 5.

There is a product card and it does contain a bit of information along with the full size MSRP. Unfortunately, there’s no price listed for the sample/travel sizes.

Here’s what was in my Spring Walmart Beauty Box

Hello Activated Charcoal Toothpaste (sample/travel size)—this is a product that I have received before and it’s one that I can’t use because it contains stevia. I’ll pass this on to a friend.

7th Heaven Charcoal Peel-Off Mask Cleansing + Detoxifying (Full Size, $1.37)—again, this is a product that I can’t use because it’s for oily skin. I’ll probably throw this into a giveaway.

Dashing Diva Gloss Nail Strips in Cheetah-licious (sample size of 20 strips, full is 32)—these are not something that I would purchase for myself but I don’t mind if they come in sub boxes. While there was enough to do my nails, these are a sample size and, while they did include the nail file, they didn’t include the prep wipe which is needed to help the strips apply flawlessly to the nail. I did give these a go and they were okay. They lasted longer than standard polish but not 14 days, which they claimed.

Tanologist Face + Body Drops (foil packet)—again, we have a foil packet. It’s not something I would use anyway so I don’t feel bad tossing this in the bin.

Wild Primerose by Scunci Hair Clips (Full Size, price unknown)—these look like someone gather up a bit of shag carpet then stuck some rhinestones on top. They’re not something I would wear out but I might use them to keep my hair out of my face when I do my makeup.  I would have much rather had the hair ties or claw clips that they were sending out.

Humphrey’s Witch Hazel Toner with Lavender (deluxe mini)—this is the only thing in the box that I am excited about. I do use this brand and this is the perfect size to keep on my dresser.


My thoughts: Okay, so this box was a bit of a disaster. Foil packets, cheap-looking products, repeats, and items that don’t fit the skin-type/issue profile I had to fill out isn’t worth paying nearly $8 for. Yes, I did use the nail strips to try out and I will use the toner but for $8 I could have purchased a full size bottle of the toner.

I don’t see anything ‘new and improved’ about the products in the box. We’re still getting repeats, we’re still getting foil packets—both of which these ‘new and improved’ boxes weren’t supposed to have. They’re not following my profile, which again, is something that was supposed to occur with the ‘new and improved’ boxes. A few weeks after you receive your box, you receive an invitation to ‘review’ your box to ensure each box will be curated to you. This started with the Fall 2020 box and I have completed the review form each time it arrived and I still haven’t seen any improvements. The tracking, which was supposed to be better and easier to use, is worse than before—my tracking information arrived about a week after the box was delivered.

Overall, I’m going to see what’s in the Summer box—that way I will have received an entire year of the ‘new and improved’ boxes—then I will probably cancel. Before I could write these boxes off by saying they’re just $5 a quarter and someone I know will get use out of the products but now the price is creeping closer to $10 and the products haven’t improved (they seem to have gotten worse). 


Do you get the Walmart Box? If so, are you keeping it with the price increase? What products did you receive? 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Coloring and Classics Subscription Box Review (February & March 2021)

Hello Lovelies,


I’m back again with the Coloring and Classics Box.  Adult coloring books and activity books are great stress relievers as well as great items to use while carving out a little ‘me time’. Because I’m such a fan of adult coloring books and activity books, I was eager to give this box a go.


Before I tell you what I received in my Coloring and Classics Boxes for February and March, let me tell you more about the box. 

What is Coloring and Classics? It’s a monthly subscription box that contains one hardcover book in your chosen genre, an adult coloring book, and an adult activity book.

There are two options: a Coffee option, which will contain 12oz of premium hand roasted coffee in your choice of ground or whole bean and a No Coffee option.

There are seven genres to choose from: Acclaimed Fiction, Acclaimed Nonfiction, Fantasy, Horror, Mystery, Romance, or Sci-Fi.

Your first box will contain a pack of colored pencils. Each box is 2 to 3 times the value of what you pay.

Cost: No Coffee Option: $18.99 (shipping included) Coffee Option: $30.99 (shipping included)

How it is packaged: The box is a sturdy cardboard (there’s no outer packaging) and on the inside. The items were wrapped in lime green tissue paper.

Is a product card included? There was no product card included but most of the items did have prices listed on them. 

Website: Coloring and Classics or Amazon (not affiliate links)

February’s Coloring and Classics Box

 (I selected the No Coffee option and Romance Genre)

1-All The Rivers by Dorit Rabinyan (hardback, $27) this is a 2017 release and one that I’ve not heard of although this does look like it’s going to be a solid read.

2-Hidden Word Sudoku ($6.95)—I do like Sudoku and this one looks fun because it’s words rather than the standard numbers although this one is slightly disappointing because the book is 113 pages but there’s only 33 puzzles (the rest is solutions and a long introduction). Because this is pocketsize, I will probably toss this in my handbag to have something to work on when I waiting.

3-A Touch of Asia Coloring Book ($9.95) normally I wouldn’t gravitate towards these smaller rectangular coloring books because they’re a little awkward to store but this is such a gorgeous book. I love that the motifs are taken from artwork (each piece is referenced in the back of the coloring book) and the patterns look very calming. The paper is a heavy, crisp white but it is rather slick feeling so I’m not sure there’s much tooth to this paper although it is one-sided, which will be great for certain markers.


And we have yet another Chupa Chup lollipop that’s cherry flavored.


Total MSRP of February’s Coloring & Classics Box: $43.90


My Thoughts on the February Box: this was an okay box. Nothing really strikes my fancy and screams ‘this is amazing, I can’t live without it’ but it was still a nice little mix of things I wouldn’t have normally picked up myself.


March’s Coloring & Classics Box

1-If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim (hardback, $26.99)—this is such a gorgeous cover but, sadly, the book just doesn’t appeal to me so I’ll be passing this along to a friend or adding it to the little free library in town.

2-Color Me Masks ($8.99)—this contains 16 masks to color and, while it’s a cute idea, this is something that would be more appealing to kids.

3-Fresh Freestyle Crossword by Todd McClary ($8.95)—I do like a good crossword puzzle and this one is filled with modern-themed puzzles so it looks like it will be a fun one to work over a cup of tea in the morning.

Of course, there’s yet another Chupa Chups lollipop, this time the flavor is strawberry.


Total MSRP of March’s Coloring & Classics Box: $44.93


My Thoughts on the March Box: this isn’t my favorite box. I’m only keeping one item (the crossword book) out of the three. This box was supposed to be a book, an activity book, and a coloring book for adults and I don’t really count a kid-type masks to color book as a coloring book for adults. While the book’s not something that would appeal to me, I’m not overly bothered by that because it’s something that’s a bit of a grab bag type.

Overall both the February and the March Boxes were a bit of a bummer and I’m hoping that something changes with the type of content. I know that this is a bit of mixed bag because, other than choosing the genre, there’s no way to specify what you’d like to see in the box, but I’d like for the content to be something that’s geared for adults. I’ve noticed that the quality of coloring books and the activity books have been slipping lately. I’m going to change the genre I selected and see if that changes the quality of items I receive. 

What I would like to see in future boxes:

-I would like to see a tea option for us non-coffee drinkers.

-It would be nice to have a subgenre offer

-I would like to see additional coloring implements included in each box (such as sharpeners, pencil cases/pouches, blenders, burnishers, and such)