Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy











The String DiariesFrom Goodreads: A family is hunted by a centuries-old monster: a man with a relentless obsession who can take on any identity.

The String Diaries opens with Hannah frantically driving through the night–her daughter asleep in the back, her husband bleeding out in the seat beside her. In the trunk of the car rests a cache of diaries dating back 200 years, tied and retied with strings through generations. The diaries carry the rules for survival that have been handed down from mother to daughter since the 19th century. But how can Hannah escape an enemy with the ability to look and sound like the people she loves?

Stephen Lloyd Jones’s debut novel is a sweeping thriller that extends from the present day, to Oxford in the 1970s, to Hungary at the turn of the 19th century, all tracing back to a man from an ancient royal family with a consuming passion–a boy who can change his shape, insert himself into the intimate lives of his victims, and destroy them.

If Hannah fails to end the chase now, her daughter is next in line. Only Hannah can decide how much she is willing to sacrifice to finally put a centuries-old curse to rest.

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Imagine being hunted by a shape shifter–you’d never know your enemy, they could silently become a loved one at any moment, getting close to you without sparking an inkling of suspicion until it’s too late. Imagine a life where you’re forced to constantly pay attention to every small detail and validate everyone who crosses your path, being on the run to stay ahead of a crazed killer intent on reuniting with his love from so long ago… so is the story of Jakab, a sociopathic shape shifter obsessed with the female lineage of one specific family. Of Hannah’s family.

This novel opens in a whirl as Hannah drives recklessly towards an abandoned farmhouse, her husband bleeding out in the passenger seat while her nine year old daughter sleeps in the back. Fraught with danger, this novel exemplifies the creep factor, and as I read it late at night, I was constantly on watch as Jakab sent fear coursing throughout my body as I turned the pages.

Told in alternating timelines, both present and past, the novel sucks readers in from the get go. The characters and events within the story are puzzle pieces waiting so patiently to be put together, and as the tale weaves in and out, readers learn of what hunts Hannah, how Jakab came to be, what lore resides behind shape shifters, and the faction that plans to finally finish wiping the seemingly immortal shifters from the world.

Intense and amazing, this is a must read novel that kept me on my toes as it unfolded. I loved putting the pieces together, learning about Hannah’s current story, that of her parent’s in the 1970s, and that of Jakab as he became the sinister, sociopathic enemy that he truly is. You wont be able to stop reading once you start, and I highly suggest you pick up this amazing read stat. Five stars.

5 stars

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher via Netgalley, prior to its republication, in exchange for an honest review.

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Strawberry WineFrom Goodreads: Ten years have passed since Tanya Smith’s last summer at Laurel Lake – the summer of Marie. Today Tanya is a confident, successful music promoter – a far cry from the naïve seventeen-year-old who showed up at the lake full of rosy notions of first love, lifelong friendships, and evenings spent sipping strawberry wine on the shore. That September changed everything, and as far as Tanya is concerned, there’s no going back. That is, until a mysterious phone call from Marie’s lawyer brings Tanya face to face with the past. Suddenly she finds herself returning to Laurel Lake and to everything she left behind there. Will the dark secret that haunts the lake break her heart all over again? Or will Marie’s legacy be the key that unlocks the future Tanya gave up on ten long years ago?

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Strawberry Wine is a NA/Adult novel with a splash of YA intermixed as the story focuses on both present day and the not-so-distant past. Revolving around Tanya, a 27ish, put together, self-made music promoter, readers are instantly drawn into her life as the novel opens with the death of her estranged friend Marie, a girl Tanya only knew for one summer during her high school years, a summer that for her is impossible to forget; a summer that changed everything. Almost instantly, the novel jumps from present to past, allowing readers to live through the events of that summer as Tanya begins to fall for Michael, explore the deeper recesses of love, and become friends with Marie, the quiet girl with abusive step-relatives. What starts off cute and carefree, turns jarring and sinister as the summer progresses, and everything abruptly comes to a halt when a few drunken decisions change everything for Tanya and Marie.

Here, the novel once again jumps back to the present, and it is also here that Adams sends readers a curveball, one I never saw coming, but in retrospect, should have. With the death of Marie, Tanya’s entire world is upended, altering the course of her world, should she so accept it, and in doing so, allowing her to go back to those carefree summer days and claim what she lost. It’s a beautiful tale, and I thoroughly enjoyed that present to past to present narration—it’s not back and forth, but steady, almost like a circular novel, but continuing on once it comes full circle to give readers deeper insight into current events.

From carefree to brokenhearted, from on top of the world to uncertain, from safe to vulnerable, this novel spans the gamut of emotions, and they’re a very tangible aspect of the novel. Although the story itself sometimes flows a bit clipped in terms of transitions, it’s well done just the same, and as surprise and fear edge their way into the story, so does the reliance on God—though not preachy. I wouldn’t say this is a religious novel by any means, but when faced with a bad situation, as Tanya finds herself in after the death of Marie, one does tend to rely more on God. For me, this was all a bit sudden, but understandable as the plot thickens, lives are threatened, and a sinister danger lurks on the horizon.

It is said that we write what we know, and Adams definitely does this in that Tanya is a music promoter, as is Lee, and a deadly kidney complication comes in to play—something Adams has also dealt with as a donor. Although fiction, Adams’ own personal experiences come through in the novel, adding validity and giving the novel extreme realism, which is an aspect I highly enjoy in my stories. Overall, this is a very well-done novel—and if you’re looking for an alluring summer read, I highly suggest adding Strawberry Wine to your reading pile. Four stars.

4 stars

I purchased this novel from the author at Martinsburg Chocolate Festival and Book Fair.

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