#BookReview : Pretty Things by Janelle Brown #PrettyThings #Mystery #Thriller @PRHGlobal #BooksTeacupnReviews

Pretty Things by Janelle Brown
Publication Date : April 21st 2020
Publisher : Random House
Genre : Mystery Thriller
Pages : 496
Stars : ★★★★☆ (4.25)

Two wildly different women – one a grifter, the other an heiress – are brought together by the scam of a lifetime in a page-turner from the New York Times bestselling author of Watch Me Disappear.

Nina once bought into the idea that her fancy liberal arts degree would lead to a fulfilling career. When that dream crashed, she turned to stealing from rich kids in L.A. alongside her wily Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina learned from the best: Her mother was the original con artist, hustling to give her daughter a decent childhood despite their wayward life. But when her mom gets sick, Nina puts everything on the line to help her, even if it means running her most audacious, dangerous scam yet.

Vanessa is a privileged young heiress who wanted to make her mark in the world. Instead she becomes an Instagram influencer—traveling the globe, receiving free clothes and products, and posing for pictures in exotic locales. But behind the covetable façade is a life marked by tragedy. After a broken engagement, Vanessa retreats to her family’s sprawling mountain estate, Stonehaven: a mansion of dark secrets not just from Vanessa’s past, but from that of a lost and troubled girl named Nina.

Nina’s, Vanessa’s, and Lachlan’s paths collide here, on the cold shores of Lake Tahoe, where their intertwined lives give way to a winter of aspiration and desire, duplicity and revenge.

This dazzling, twisty, mesmerizing novel showcases acclaimed author Janelle Brown at her best, as two brilliant, damaged women try to survive the greatest game of deceit and destruction they will ever play. 

*** Note: I received e-copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to PRHGlobal for free copy. ***

Pretty Things was slow-burn mystery thriller that revolved around two women from different background, one a con with plan of heist and other rich heiress spending her time in loneliness. It was about grift, con, gap between rich and poor and their mindset about it, social media and its illusion, pretty things and its not-so-pretty reality, dysfunctional family, friendship, love, deceit and betrayal.

Writing was beautiful, descriptive and often lyrical. I love it when there’s more than just story and characters. Deep, thought provoking and meaningful messages and quote worthy line are something I always appreciate it most in book and this had it in abundance.

Plot was interesting. Story was first person narrative from Nina and Vanessa’s perspective. They were given few chapters each sharing their view points on their present situation, telling their life story, how their path collided and what happened after that.

Pretty Things had intriguing beginning with Nina swindling a young rich Russian along with her Irish boyfriend, Lachlan. Nina conned rich people to pay her mother’s medical bill, but had set of rules- “Don’t take too much and only con those who deserve it and can afford to replace things they stole”. But when police came knocking at her door and sending her on run, they had to break the rules for one last big grift with more than enough cash that can help her mother’s treatment and give her new start. So, they decided to con Vanessa Liebling, young privileged heiress of Liebling estate, Stonehaven at Lake Tahoe. Now Nina has history with this place and she hated Lieblings. I was curious to find out what was the history, why she hated the rich and specially Lieblings so much, what they did to Nina?

This was character driven story. Most part of the book was character building and development. First 50% of the book told about present life of characters, their childhood, past, what happened in their lives that shaped their present and their mindset. This was slowest part and long chapters didn’t help in speeding the story.

All characters were flawed, complex and complicated. It was interesting to read their life stories, their mindset, insecurities and strength. The story was written in such way that my likeness scale kept tipping from left to right.

At first I didn’t like Nina. She was presumptuous, judgmental and selfish. She saw the world in only two shades, poor and rich and defined life based on that. Her judgement was fractured once she got involved with Vanessa in real life, living with her at Stonehaven with her.

The cold judgement she formed based on Vanessa’s Instagram v-life warmed eventually and she saw the reality of Vanessa’s life, her pain and emotions. I liked her development from this point onward. After major turning point she discovered many secrets that shattered the definition of world she created. I loved her for trying to do right thing at the end, taking decision that was hard for her. It steered her away from what she did whole life. At the end I loved her.

It’s easiest to judge from distance. That’s why the Internet has turned us all into armchair critics, experts at the cold dissection of gesture and syllable, sneering self-righteously from the safety of our screens. There, we can feel good about ourselves, validated that our flaws weren’t as bad as theirs, unchallenged in our superiority. Moral high ground is a pleasant place to preach, even if the view turns out to be rather limited in scope.

Vanessa was vulnerable, lonely woman desperate for love and appreciation. She was privileged and she knew she could get everything with money and looks. She used it to hide her flaws, her insecurities and lack of any talent. Circumstances lead her towards Instagram influencer life that gave her fame and illusion of world where people loved her and appreciated what she did, until it was shattered by one tragedy after other. She believed what her parents said and taught and one of those thing was Nina Ross ruined her brother- Benny’s life.

It was easy to like her and empathize with her. Her only flaw was she had low self-esteem and lot of self-doubt. She was naïve and stupid. Maybe not totally but I didn’t like how she turned blind eye to all the signs. But then again I liked her once the fog of naivety was cleared and she started using her brain.

Benny was diagnosed schizophrenic but he was most smart and sane person in the book. I felt for him. I wish he stood up against his dad all those years ago but at the same time I could see he was just boy whose parents didn’t understand him.  

I blame adults for everything wrong happened to Vanessa, Benny and Nina. Liebling family was typical rich dysfunctional family and had major impact on Benny’s mental condition and Vanessa’s self-esteem, while Nina’s mother was no better.

Perspective is, by nature, subjective. It’s impossible to climb inside someone else’s head, despite your best-or worst-intentions.

What I liked most was characters’ background and development and description of Lake Tahoe. It was both beautiful and atmospheric setting. Along with the luminous water of the lake, beautiful peaks of mountains, there lurked the darkness and coldness of Stonehaven. I liked the descriptions of Stonehaven and all the antiques there.

Another thing I loved was deep insights on social media and rich life, how people view it from outside and how the reality of pretty things are so different when you get close to it, and how actions of parents causes horrible consequences for their children.

Second half was brilliant, fast paced with surprises and twists that made me appreciate that slow first half. I liked character development and redemption arc in this part. The way Vanessa and Nina realized their mistakes and cleared misunderstanding was amazing. Turning points, surprises and twists were well written without giving away true intentions of characters and what they were going to plan next, and how they will come out of the mess they created.

Nothing is ever as pure as it seems at first glance; there is always something more complicated to be found when you peel back the unmarred surface of pretty things.

Climax was tense, surprising and brilliant. At this point I knew what they were going to do and what will be the end. End was good. I like it when characters get what they deserved. Epilogue was best, I liked how characters pulled their life together and tried to form a bridge over their differences.

Why 4.25 star-

First half was too slow. It took me more than 1 hour to read 10% of the book. I thought I would rate this book 3 or 3.5 at 50% of the book but then I loved second half and I could see how important the first half was, it helped in understanding characters and what was going on in their mind. I appreciated all those back stories. But then there was a little repetitiveness in first half which was, I think, because of narration style.

Overall, Pretty Things was impressive, deceitful, and twisted tale of two women with lots of secrets. I recommend this to fans of this genre, specifically those who don’t mind slow pace and descriptive, philosophical writing.

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#BookReview : A Woman to Blame by Vincent Panettiere


A Woman to Blame by Vincent Panettiere
Publication Date: October 14th 2019
Publisher: BookBaby
Pages: 400
Genre: Mystery / Suspense
Stars: ★★★★☆

Hours after a thoroughbred racehorse collapses and dies after finishing last in a race he was favored to win, his trainer—a young woman with a promising career—is found dead on a suburban Chicago beach. To the police, it’s a simple case of murder-suicide. But Mike Hegan, veteran police detective, refuses to believe the official story. Instead of retiring like they want him to, he embarks upon a search for the truth, and finds himself on a Caribbean island where scores are settled—and lives are lost.Fans of James Patterson and other crime fiction writers will find a new hero in Mike Hegan—a detective who defies convention to make sure that justice is served.

*** Note: I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to author. ***

Books I read by the same author:

A woman To Blame was first in Mike Hegan mystery series. This book was packed with murder, drama, horse race gambling, mafia feud, exploitation and swindling along with grief, loss, guilt, and romance.

As I read the second book in this series I was familiar with the writing style. Like second book in this too, it was third person narrative from multiple perspective. The plot was interesting and suspenseful.

It started with wedding bell ringing over Hegan’s head, he was trying to take leap of faith and marry Lucy in 6 months. 6 months later, he was returning back to Chicago from Caribbean with dead bodies, one of it was of woman’s for which he would feel guilty forever. Timeline was not mentioned and so it was confusing in the beginning but I could make connection later. It made me curious to know what happened to marriage and how and why he went to Caribbean. It peddles back taking readers to present and to the case mentioned in the synopsis and how it all started with a burnt fish. Yes, you heard it right and it was quite funny. That burnt fish and huge misunderstanding leads to mafia feud, a dead body of loan shark, vendetta and to the death of thoroughbred race horse and its trainer.

Lots of things happened with many turns and some shocking twist that involved long list of characters and many suspects. All characters were introduced one by one- some with their story and what was going on in their life and some indirectly related to them- and how they all, directly or indirectly, were connected to the death of a young woman with promising carrier as horse trainer. It was clear very early how that woman died. The story was about who killed her and why and how it leads Hegan to Caribbean. As I read more, new questions were added to the mystery and it made me doubt to my theory and my guesses.

Along with this complicated but really interesting mystery there were glimpse of Hegan’s life, his girlfriend, his family drama and tragedy in his life (which was so very movie like, that made me shake my head in disbelief). His emotions, frustration and anger was palpable. It was really unfair the way his department was treating him, I’m sure there could be alternative to the situation Hegan was into, but I guess a departmental politics was involved here or more like keeping control of unruly officer and I could later case was more predominant. As the story developed, Hegan also developed, he learned to accept his situation eventually. His drive to get justice for dead woman was admirable and at the same time crazy. But his this madness unrevealed the complicated mystery and also helped him to move on in his life. I loved his sense of responsibility and protectiveness towards his loved ones.

All the secondary characters were great, even villain or villains. My favorite character was Clay and Portia. Clay was Hegan’s florist friend. I liked this big guy who made this tense story light. Portia was fierce, kickass artist, determined to find out who killed her sister. It was horrible to read what she and her sister gone through and after reading it, I felt they deserved happiness. I could understand Portia’s mistrust towards men and her extreme reactions.

Suspense was great that kept me guessing who real culprit was until climax. So much happened in last few ages. Climax was shocking, tense and tragic. Even after so much loss in short time, I liked how Hegan kept moving in life at the end.

Why 4 stars-

Though story was interesting and engaging, it moved slowly, maybe because of length. I didn’t like that dramatic turn at his sister’s house. Couldn’t Hegan shoot in defense, why being such hero and doing all that! And that scene around climax at cliff with Hegan’s taxi driver. It was eye roll moment. Both these scenes felt so Bollywood like.

Overall, it was interesting, cleverly written, complicated mystery with many characters and twist and turns.

Book Links: Goodreads
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#Review: Clear My Name by Paula Daly

Clear My Name

Clear My Name by Paula Daly
Publication Date: August 8th 2019
Publisher: Bantam Press
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Pages: 304
Stars: ★★★★★

When Carrie was accused of brutally murdering her husband’s lover, she denied it. She denied it when they arrested her, when they put her in front of a jury, and when they sent her to prison.

Now she’s three years into a fifteen-year sentence, away from the daughter she loves and the life she had built. And she is still denying that she is to blame.

Tess Gilroy has devoted her life to righting wrongs. Through her job for Innocence UK, a charity which takes on alleged miscarriages of justice, she works tirelessly to uncover the truth.

But when she is asked to take Carrie’s case, Tess realises that if she is to help this woman, she must risk uncovering the secrets she has struggled a lifetime to hide . . .

We’ve all done things we’re not proud of.

‘Compelling concept, kick-ass characterisation and a gut punch of a sting in the tale.’ LV Hay

***Note: I received digital copy from the publisher via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. ***

Clear my Name was Crime Thriller, a suspenseful novel that revolved around Tess and Carrie. Carrie spending her 4th year in prison convicted of murder and Tess trying to clear her name. It was about mother-daughter relationship, betrayal, imperfections of human beings, guilt, lies, mistakes made in life, and suffering and turmoil of being alone, away from loved ones.


Tess was as permanent employee of Innocence UK who investigated cases, looked into matters where police failed to and tried to save her client. She had many sides. She was honest, upright, no-nonsense kind, but her personal life was messed up. She had everything job she was good at, money, success but she lived lonely life, afraid to commit to anyone, she felt she didn’t deserve to be in someone life, but why? That why, created a mysterious picture of her. She was flawed, made mistakes in life, and had secrets. But her style was impressive.

Avril was cute. She too was flawed, she was shy in the beginning but turned out clever and strong eventually. Duo of Avril and Tess was perfect. They brought out best in each other.

Carrie was clever woman, filled with emotions, feelings and lots of love for her daughter that made her to live unhappy married life, remain under one roof with a philandering husband and after being accused of murder tried to clear her name by contacting Innocence UK so that she can be with her daughter who needed her. She was unreliable but at the same time it was hard to decide if she was innocent or not. She was amazing character and I liked to read her life story.

All characters were developed, flawed and so very interesting.

What I liked-

Writing was gripping and flawless. The description of murder, characters, evidence, police procedure, and investigation was well presented. Story was third person narrative told in present and past. Present scenario was about the case investigation, Tess’s life and her story and how characters related to case felt or were going through while the past told Carrie’s story, her relation with her husband and daughter, her daughter’s mental health issues and what she did in life to make her feel safe, day of her arrest and what happened then on.

The plot was clever. I liked the theme miscarriage of justice how Innocence UK saves innocents from life long suffering of these miscarriages by overturning wrongful convictions. I was surprised to read how many factors affected the cases- lousy police work, missing evidence, lab blunders, and forensic screw ups -and decided the life of a person weather person is culprit or victim or someone totally innocent.

Book started with introduction of Tess, Innocence UK, and its advisory panel, why they were considering Carrie’s case, the case details and how Tess will work on case with her trainee Averi on Carrie’s case. It was all so interesting hooked me instantly to the book.

Whole book was around one question, was Carrie innocent? Can Tess clear her name with no other suspect and with all evidences against her? And then there were other mysteries, a car following Tess, her past life catching up as soon as she set foot in Morecambe to investigate Carrie’s case, what happened in Tess ‘s life, from what she was running away and why she never allowed anyone to love her back.

It was not usual thriller. Story progressed slow and steady. From the very beginning you get this feeling, something is amiss in this case, things were not adding up. Carrie felt unreliable, the feeling of either she was lying or holding something back was always there. What baffled me most was, Carrie was living with her husband even though she knew he was unfaithful. Mia also felt unreliable. I still couldn’t figure out if she really was anxious person.

Events took interesting turn when Tess got a letter from her solicitor. I thought all kind of scenario, made many theories, why she was staying away from her hometown but that letter was out-of-box. Investigation was interesting, some evidences going in favor of Carrie while others against her and then there were dead end.  

Suspense was wonderful. Author did awesome job with characters and mystery. It kept me flipping the pages until last chapter, until I knew who the murderer was, until I knew what Tess’ story was. It was shocking to read the revelation. I kept thinking what would I do if I was in Tess’ place, would I have done the same, wouldn’t anybody come forward and help, and more shocking was to read why killer murdered Ella and what happened in the end. It was all so well thought and well written.

Overall, it was gripping, suspenseful, thought-provoking mystery thriller with realistic characters and clever plot. I would love to read other books by author.

Book Links: Goodreads | Amazon
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The Scopas Factor by Vincent Panettiere

The Scopas Factor by Vincent Panettiere
Publication Date :
November 5th 2018
Publisher : BookBaby
Read Date : May 10th 2018
Genre : Mystery / Thriller
Pages : 326
Stars :  ★ ★ ★1/2 / 5

A Hmong “story cloth,” a Revolutionary War battle flag, forged Picassos and a Russian drug dealer—finding the link between these disparate elements is the challenge Mike Hegan faces in The Scopas Factor, the latest mystery from Vincent Panettiere.

After his last investigation ends tragically, Detective Mike Hegan returns to Chicago from St. Kitts, hoping to put everything behind him. But his girlfriend, Diana, has other plans, and although he has no interest in the job opportunity she presents him—in a small northern California town, no less—he wants to please her. Upon his arrival in Weedley, he’s caught up in a kidnapping and two murders. A visit to Diana’s family in San Francisco only serves to deepen the mystery, as her father might be the link to a gang of antiquities thieves that might have something to do with the crimes in Weedley. And when Diana’s father disappears, Hegan takes off for Antibes in southern France, where he discovers that the mystery has only just begun.

The Scopas Factor was a second book in Mike Hegan mystery series. Book was revolved around primitive art, forgery, Laosian history, and drug smuggling that tangled main character – detective Mike Hegan in complex case. Book was filled with twist and turns, some tense scene and little bit romance.

I haven’t read first book so I can tell there wasn’t much I was missing from first book and can be read as standalone. Writing was okay at first but as I read more I could see it improving by the end of the book. It was third person narrative from multiple character’s perspective. The narration style, setting and plot was different and interesting.

It started in 1990 with Hmong woman running from communist insurgents terrorizing village. They were assisted by the Americans during Vietnam War. While staying at refugee camp she recreated horrors of war by sewing a cloth depicting the events she witnessed. She hid it in secret compartment of her lean-to. The cloth that took old woman’s life and put her daughter Mos and her family in danger even after 25 years.

Why cloth was so important, why the Skaggs was after it, why Tom and some other people had ‘Don’t Trade On Me’ flag and why they had letters from Ambassadors of America signed by Rene Sabotka, who was Sabotka, how he was related to cloth and why he wanted it? All these questions made the book interesting and I was curious to find out how Hegan was going to solve the mystery of story cloth.

First few chapters gave overview of history of story cloth, Tom Fritzgerald and Hegan’s life as detective of Chicago Police Department, how he was now on sabbatical after returning previous mission and on the case of two murders and a missing story cloth.

Hegan was clever, his deductive skill was great and I liked how he cared for people around him. Initially he was suspicious of Thornie but once it was cleared their team was remarkable. I enjoyed conversations between them. Thornie was my most favorite character in the book. He was hilarious British that made the book lively and eased the tension of the mystery.

Side characters David, Alexis, LeNoir and Thornie were eventually introduced. I liked to read their part in the mystery that helped to gather the pieces of puzzle. Yvette’s life story and her relation to LeNoir was intriguing and I liked how she reconnected with her lost family. All characters were flawed and realistic.

Drama, murder, kidnapping, smuggling with many twist and turns made me read till the end of the chapter. A statue by Scopas and Hegan’s skill was the turning point in the book. Climax was good. Last 30% of the book fast paced, real interesting and tense filled with action, little surprises and better writing. I liked the way mystery was concluded.

Now there were few things that kept me distracted and from fully enjoying the story. I enjoyed first chapter but from second to seventh chapter (first 100 pages), it didn’t held the same interest and pace, maybe because of narration style which was little confusing.

I couldn’t feel the characters. There was more focus on plot than characters. I didn’t care for any of them. Though Hegan was main character, I feel like I don’t know much about him and his romance with Yvette was also superficial. The way they met and their love at first sight felt unrealistic.

I couldn’t feel the thrill of mystery until last 30% of the book.

Overall, it was interesting and unique plot and mystery with twist and turns. I would have loved the book if it had depth in characters and more gripping narration.

*** Note : I received this book from the author, in exchange for an honest review. ***

Author: Vincent Panettiere

Purchase Link: Amazon

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Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

Sunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews
Expected Publication Date
: May 7th 2019
Publisher : St. Martin’s Press
Read Date : May 6th 2019
Genre : Women’s Fiction / Mystery
Stars : ★ ★★ ★ ★ / 5

Pull up a lounge chair and have a cocktail at Sunset Beach – it comes with a twist. 

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried – to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance – her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may – or may not – involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

Sunset Beach is a compelling ride, full of Mary Kay Andrews’ signature wit, heart, and charm.

Sunset Beach was women’s fiction filled that revolved around Drue’s life and two suspenseful mysteries she got invested on arriving at the Sunset Beach. A wonderful summer novel about cold-blooded murder, suffering of women in the male dominated fields, hotel management and their low ethics, domestic violence and some family drama and suspense. 

Drue was fabulous in whole book. She was 36 but I felt she was younger than that. At first she was complaining with life, because of her father, job, boyfriend and her injury that held her on the grounds away from her kite-boarding passion but as I read more she developed gradually and took grip of new life quite nicely. I liked the way she accepted Brice and Wendy’s marriage eventually, bonded with Jonah and Aliyah. She was natural in communication and investigation and I’m happy how she solved both cases.

All side characters were great. The team at Campbell firm, detective working on case, Jazmin’s family all made the book interesting.

First few chapters were character and plot building. We got to know about Drue’s childhood filled with hurt feeling because of abandonment by her father-Brice, now a rich lawyer running a law firm. When she met him after a long time at her mother’s funeral he offered her a job and a key to her grandparent’s cottage she inherited at Sunset Beach. Looking at her jobless, homeless and relationship-less situation, she took up her father’s offer and joined his firm where she received a unsavory surprise. She met her father’s third wife, Wendy, her ex-best friend when she was 15. Another surprise came pretty soon. Once she moved back to cottage, she found two intriguing cases that she instantly hooked to – 1) a missing case of local beauty, a forty years old unsolved case and 2) the case of woman brutally murdered at the Gulf Vista hotel, the case for which victim’s mother hired Drue’s dad’s firm 2 years back but she got penny as a result. As soon as Drue started nosing around to solve the case story took many interesting turns.

It was third person narrative with wonderful picturesque beach town, ideal cottage, perfect sunsets and detailed case descriptions. Writing was easy to follow with interesting pieces of puzzle that I could easily follow but hardly could guess the conclusion. It was wonderful to read the way Drue turned her damaged uninhabitable cottage into beautiful dream house.

Some chapters were written in past, 1976, that told the life story of Colleen, how she was connected to Brice and Jimmy, how she went missing, what actually happened to her, and how the police file of the case ended up in the attic of Drue’s cottage. I could guess some points in Collen case but the way chapters were represented made me question my own theory. All chapters related to this case were tense and made me nervous. The conclusion was totally unpredictable. I didn’t like the way things settled for Colleen and all characters related to her.

In Jazmin’s case, I couldn’t pinpoint anything. Whole thing at that Gulf Vista was fishy. I could feel why Drue was so invested in this case. Aliyah was such adorable girl and as a mother I could imagine how devastating Jazmin’s mother might be. I was shocked how hotel management remained impassive and obstructive from the very beginning. And when mystery finally unraveled, I felt outrageous.

Both case’s file records were narrated with minute details. In both the cases things would have not taken nasty turns only of characters decided to act differently. Elements of sleuthing, mysteries, family drama, little bit of romance along with the theme of domestic violence and mistreatment of female employees was perfectly balanced.

Oh and those events after climax were mind boggling. This part shocked me more than all that happened previously. End was satisfactory. I loved author’s dream beach house note and recipes that you could enjoy during your summer vacation at beach.

Overall, it was suspenseful, engrossing, women’s fiction with cozy mystery, a perfect beach novel with great characterization and plot. I definitely recommend this book to read on you summer vacation.

Author : Mary Kay Andrews

Purchase Link : St. Martin’s Press

*** Note: Many thanks to publisher for providing e-copy via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. ***


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