4 star

Review: Not a Happy Family by Shari Lapena

In this family, everyone is keeping secrets–especially the dead. Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there. And they don’t come much richer than Fred and Sheila Merton. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered the night after an Easter Dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.

Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their capricious father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of them is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did one of them snap after that dreadful evening? Or was it someone else that night who crept in with the worst of intentions? It must be. After all, if one of your siblings was a psychopath, you’d know.



Another Shari Lapena review! Although the previous books I’ve read by her weren’t my all-time favourites, she always delivered when it came to the suspense, and this book was no different. Of her novels that I’ve read so far, this one was so far my favourite. The elements of mystery and psychological suspense were well executed and I was wondering until the very very end what happened.

Not a Happy Family revolves around a very familiar plot. Two high status rich parents are murdered in cold blood, with three children who stand to gain a substantial inheritance. Was it a mere robbery gone wrong? Or is there something much more sinister at play? With a whole melange of suspicious characters without alibis, just who is telling the truth? Told through the POVs of almost all the characters (and even the detectives), Lapena takes us through a riveting whodunnit with twists and turns galore, all the way to its exciting finish.

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2 star, YA

Review: Last Chance Books by Kelsey Rodkey

Don’t you just love the smell of old books in the morning?

Madeline Moore does. Books & Moore, the musty bookstore her family has owned for generations, is where she feels most herself. Nothing is going to stop her from coming back after college to take over the store from her beloved aunt.

Nothing, that is—until a chain bookstore called Prologue opens across the street and threatens to shut them down.

Madeline sets out to demolish the competition, but Jasper, the guy who works over at Prologue, seems intent on ruining her life. Not only is he taking her customers, he has the unbelievable audacity to be… extremely cute.

But that doesn’t matter. Jasper is the enemy and he will be destroyed. After all—all’s fair in love and (book) wars.



I’m a sucker for books about bookstores, and this definitely drew me into Last Chance Books. And as the title suggests, this story is all about saving an indie bookstore from closing when a larger chain store moves across the street from them.

Okay, full disclosure, while I absolutely ADORE indie stores (I get all the best secondhand books from such wonderful places where I literally can spend a whole afternoon among its stacks), I have also been an employee of such large chain bookstores. I can see the place for both types of stores, so this won’t be a review that bashes large chain bookstores (sorry).

With this premise, it automatically sets up an enemies to lovers story when indie store employee, Madeline, does everything to keep her beloved family store Books & Moore afloat. Jasper Tanaka, aka the absolute enemy, had to be terminated at any cost.

And I do mean literally at ANY cost.

It’s one of the things I felt the book took too far. Her pranks weren’t always harmless. Whether that meant almost physical harm to a Prologue employee or slightly shady dealings to keep profit from going their way, Madeline’s obsessive behaviour wasn’t endearing in any way. I understand her want to keep the store going when it seemed like everyone else, even her boss and aunt, were willing to give it up and throw in the towel. It just wasn’t a lovely thing to read about constantly.

I know typically people love enemies to lovers, but I’m a lot pickier when it comes to this trope and not just any book with it will win over my heart. However, I will say this romance didn’t really have anything special in it to make them memorable even for those of you who love anything with this trope. Jasper was definitely the nicer of the two, but that’s not hard when the other one was constantly thinking of ways to sabotage the rival business.

What I will say I did like, even in a minor way, was the character growth and family focus. As Books & Moore is a family business, we spent a lot of time with Madeline’s family which consisted of her aunt, half-brother, half-brother’s dad, and her estranged mother now coming back into all of their lives. First thing, I really enjoyed seeing such a unique family dynamic. I loved the portrayal of a good single father figure who also ended up adopting Madeline into his love and care even though she wasn’t his by blood.

But the focus was on their relationship with Madeline’s mom. She was always given the impression of being flighty and selfish, dropping her kids with her sister to take care of all these years so she could pursue her own acting career across the country. Having to deal with her rare and temporary presence in their lives was an interesting root issue to dig into and explore.

At the heart of this, Last Chance Books was still about saving an indie store and sharing the love of books with people. As a former bookseller (and even as a reviewer), that is something I stand by and I love to see in stories. How it was executed wasn’t the best, but I wouldn’t write off this book completely just because I wasn’t excited by it at all. I read half of this as an ebook and the other half as an audiobook. I definitely feel the audiobook helped make it come more alive for me (and probably why I finished through some of Madeline’s less-than-stellar inner monologue). It has potential, and I will still be checking out more from Kelsey Rodkey in the future.

Overall Recommendation:

Last Chance Books delivered on the family dysfunction piece as the Moore family (or rather, mainly Madeline) fought to keep the family bookstore afloat. But where the plot was supposed to be interesting when a rival large chain bookstore is fighting them on profits, it fell flat. Madeline was too intense in her rivalry against rival bookstore employee, Jasper, and regularly took things a bit far for just a rivalry. While there was character development, most strongly in Madeline, it made getting through the middle parts rather difficult. Overall, I always love a book that talks about bookstores and the beauty of reading (and its loyal communities), and this definitely has that in spades but its execution could’ve been better. With a lackluster enemies to lovers romance and a slow pace throughout the middle, the parts I liked couldn’t quite carry it through for my expectations.

3 star, Uncategorized

Review: They’ll Never Catch Us by Jessica Goodman

A thriller about two sisters vying for the top spot on their cross-country team–the only way out of their stifling small town. But their dreams are suddenly thrown into peril when a new girl threatens to take away everything they’ve worked for… until she disappears.

Stella and Ellie Steckler are only a year apart, but their different personalities make their relationship complicated. Stella is single-minded, driven, and keeps to herself. Cross-country running is her life, and she won’t let anything get in the way of being the best. Her sister Ellie is a talented runner too, but she also lets herself have fun. She has friends. She goes to parties. She has a life off the course.

The sisters do have one thing in common, though: the new girl, Mila Keene. Both Stecklers’ lives are upended when Mila comes to town. Mila was the top runner on her team back home and at first, Ellie and Stella view her as a threat. But soon Ellie can’t help but be drawn to her warm, charming personality. After her best friend moved away and her first boyfriend betrayed her, Ellie’s been looking for a friend. In a moment of weakness, she even shares her darkest secret with Mila. For her part, Stella finds herself noticing the ways she and Mila are similar. Mila is smart and strong–she’s someone Stella can finally connect with. As the two get closer, Stella becomes something she vowed she’d never be: distracted.

With regionals approaching and college scouts taking notice, the pressure is on. Each girl has their future on the line and they won’t let friendships get in their way. But then, suddenly, Mila goes out on a training run and never returns. No one knows what happened, but all eyes are on the Steckler sisters.



I love a good story about family, and They’ll Never Catch Us definitely hits this one home. With (mostly) alternating POV chapters between the two Steckler sisters, the groundwork of the story is laid out as we learn about their passion for cross country running and the infamous history of their town: murdered female runners all killed in the same fashion.

As the plot summary shows, someone new in town comes in and threatens the girls’ chances of impressing the scouts at their meets. And they must impress them, for a scholarship is their only way out of this town and its history still hanging over them occasionally like a rain cloud forming at any moment.

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