Book Review: Thriller & Suspense

Book Review: Our Little Secret by Roz Nay

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Why This Book 
I was either approached by the publisher or received the book, Our Little Secret written by Roz Nay in 2018, through NetGalley. I liked the premise of the story and saw it was getting positive reviews, so I took it on. It was published this week, which meant I needed to read and review it to share my feedback with others. I would give the book 3.5 stars and encourage fans of thrillers and questionable narrators to give it a chance.
Fire

Approach & Style 
I read the Kindle Reader version on my iPad in about 3 hours over a few days. It has ~30 chapters split across ~225 pages or ~3k lines. It is told in 1st person POV with the perspective on Angela or LJ or Little John (she has many names) where she conveys what she knows about the disappearance of an Australian woman named Saskia.

Plot, Characters & Setting 
The book takes place in a small New England American town over a 24-hour period where the main character, Angela tells a story to Detective Novak after being brought in for questioning. We have no idea who Saskia, the missing woman, is or what her connection is to Angela. It’s obvious Angela has either got information she’s hiding (protecting someone?) or has killed Saskia. Novak wants answers and holds her without arrest for maximum time.

We learn of Angela’s relationship as teenager with HP whom she fell in love with. She traces the last decade of how they dated, fell apart, how she dated Freddy, etc. Then we learn how Saskia fits in. We see what happened between everyone. And in the end, we discover what likely happened to Saskia. Add in Angela’s parents, a few other friends, and a couple of trips to Australia and Europe, the plot thickens. The book ends with readers knowing how it happened, but the cop is still uncertain, yet he makes an arrest.

Key Thoughts 
There are many parts of this book which I enjoyed reading. The story draws you in. The plot builds in all the right places creating suspenseful moments where as a reader you think you’ve got the answers. Then it changes and you’re back to the drawing board. Nay’s writing style is very strong and clean. It makes you feel part of the action and tension. You want to keep turning the pages to know what’s going on.

At the same time, I struggled a little with character attraction. Each character had a voice, personality, and physical descriptions, but I couldn’t quite find myself supporting Angela or even HP. I liked their romance, wanted them to get together… as kids, they were adorable. As a witness, Angela was evasive in a very good way in the beginning. As the story unfolded, I felt a little less connected to her and couldn’t quite get behind the decisions being made.

When the book ends, you’re left with a few “hmmm… not sure I understand that” moments and sorta think “eh, okay, well, I guess it was obvious in the beginning.” I think with a little more suspense and depth to have a bigger climax scene, this would have been a solid 4 star read. But it was missing a little something for me that either made it stand out because of who the main character was and the secrets being kept, or to give us that jaw-dropping moment. All-in-all, it was a good read and has lots of promise for the author to build an audience.

Summary 
This is Nay’s debut, and her writing skills are strong. Her plot development is also impressive. I would chance another novel, but I’d like to see some stronger character development as noted above. Thank you to NetGalley, Roz Nay, Minotaur Books, and St. Martin’s Press for getting me an early copy (ARC) to review.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes

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When the newest book, Providence, by Caroline Kepnesbecame available, I excitedly requested and downloaded it on NetGalley. Her first book, You, is one of my favorites, and her second, Hidden Bodies, was very strong. I rushed through Providence this week turning the pages and watching a strange story unfold before my eyes. There are many parts I enjoyed, a few I thought were just okay, and in the end would give it about 3.5 stars.

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Let’s start out with a little bit about the story… two teenagers are best friends in love with one another but unwilling to tell the other. We see why they click and what is appealing in both. Then Jon goes missing. The book jumps several years later and Chloe is now dating the guy who picked on Jon when they were younger. We have no idea what happened to Jon. More time passes and we find out Jon was kidnapped by someone at their school, and when he wakes up, he’s been in a medically-induced coma for years. He’s physically matured and somehow developed a bit of a supernatural power. This is where I got worried… I’m not a fantasy or sci-fi reader, but I’m trying to branch out, so this was a really great opportunity to check out another genre.

I wasn’t disappointed. It was exactly what I thought it would be. I love how the ‘other worldly’ talents integrate into the story, but I had tons of questions like a two year old: why, how, when, where, what… yet I believe it’s important as a reader to hold your own questions at bay and read with an open mind. I never got the answers, but then again, you don’t always get them in sci-fi or fantasy (from what I understand). It just happens and you go with the fun aspects of something new or different. That said, I found ways to enjoy the book for what it is. A coming-of-age story where the main character is a bit older than normal because of everything he’s gone through. And you end up questioning what is right and wrong. Is one bad or evil action able to be redeemed, or should someone suffer / die because of it.

Throughout the course of the ~400 pages, Jon struggles to balance his love for Chloe and his inability to control the powers when he gets emotional. It’s a love story, a suspenseful drama, a mystery chase, and a bit of a reflection on life. Kepnes is fond of (and strong at, too) developing characters with obsessions, social media-frenzied anxiety, and over-indulgence in human emotional needs. I mean this in a positive way, too. She gets right to the core of what makes some people tick or focus on the little details that sit within a person’s mind all day long. It helps pull you in to the story and the characters.

Many readers will compare this to You, and if they aren’t sci-fi or fantasy genre buffs, they may struggle a little. I am not familiar with HP Lovecraft’s books, which are a central theme in this one. Although Kepnes does a good job and explaining what you need to know, it would be better if you had read Lovecraft. I hope readers will see this as something similar yet purposely different to both books, as it stands out as an interesting and quick read where you see a different slice of humanity and psychological rhythm. Character development is spot on. Plots are woven well. Settings are very clear. And there’s a subtle page-turning push you feel trying to understand where it’s all going.

For me, it’s a good book. I’m glad I read it. I’d recommend it only to folks I think would be willing to cross all the different genres and go for a peculiar and crafty ride. Thanks to NetGalley, Kepnes and her publisher for getting me an early copy.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

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I read a Lisa Jewell novel last year and connected immediately with her writing style, tone, and voice. When Then She Was Gone showed up on NetGalley last month, I immediately requested it and added it to my reading queue for April. I really find myself enamored with Jewell’s characters, plots, and settings, so much that I’ve added ten of her other books to my TBR and hope to read a few more later this year.

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Domestic drama is the best sub-genre to describe this book. A 15-year-old girl goes missing, resulting in her family falling apart. Ten years later, her mother finds new love (divorced her ex-husband though they still remain friends) and slowly learns of connections to her missing child who was feared dead. The description in the Goodreads or Amazon summary says it all, so I don’t need to add to it here. The book alternates between “Then” and “Now” to tell the story of what happened to Ellie, who kidnapped and hurt her, what the new love interest for Ellie’s mother, Laurel, has to say transpired over all the years, and where things really fell apart.

This book read itself. I intended to spend 90 minutes reading on a weekend afternoon to have a relaxing break from some outside chores. Three (3) hours later, I’d finished it. The book was so good that I lost track of time and read so quickly, everything just disappeared, but I was absolutely connected and attached to every part of the story and characters. Jewell clearly knows how to lead readers on a path where investment is deep and shock is wide. I’m sure a few readers will sideways glance at a couple of plot twists, and I can understand it. You have to suspend a tiny bit of your disbelief or questions as to how the kidnapping was truly pulled off. But it’s fiction and it’s part of a story and that’s why it worked — the writing supports it and carries you off into a world you cannot leave.

I normally figure out what’s really going on. But Jewell uses some clever disguises regarding timing that make it complicated, and when you do figure it out about 2/3 of the way thru, you have to stop for a few minutes and think about all the repercussions, Then, it all adds up. How did I miss it??? But for me, that’s what makes an incredibly gifted writer. One who transports you into the story that you forget to try to solve it because you’re just so stunned by its beauty. I can’t wait to pick up another Jewell book this summer. So many to choose from! But this one gets at least 4.5 stars.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: What Happened in Vienna, Jack? by Daniel Kemp

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Why This Book

I’m beginning to read more from a few publishers that publish other books I’ve enjoyed, and this author is under contract with one of those companies, Creativia. What Happened in Vienna, Jack? by Daniel Kemp fell into my lap while it was on sale via Amazon last month, so I allotted it to February and made it a current read this week. I always look forward to clever and complex thriller and suspense fiction, and this one hit the spot. Kudos to the author!

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Approach & Style

I read this ~350 page book via Kindle Reader on my iPad over four days and six hours. It is a British period piece focusing on a few decades in the mid-twentieth century involving a spy, military, police, murder, intrigue and war. And that’s just the beginning! The language is very intricate and detailed. The story hops through the past and the present. It focuses on a few different critical characters you get to know little by little — or all at once! But my favorite part is how it offers up a true British nostalgia and ambiance.

Key Thoughts

Espionage and murder… could it get any better when it comes to solving a mystery? Author Kemp provides all the suspense and thrills in this very descriptive story. Main detective Patrick is very charismatic in an offbeat way, but he will also stand out as a highly intelligent and trustworthy confidante you enjoy sharing the read with. He’s not quite the narrator, but you get that feel from how the book is written.

I appreciate the skills necessary to weave together this type of tale. When you have multiple decades and secrets to track, it could be easily confusing. But it’s not. There are many twists and turns, surprising reveals, and eye-squinting characters who make you wonder… ‘what’s going on here?’ — but soon enough you start pulling the past together. Then the ending portion kicks in… and you’re back to guessing all over again!

I enjoyed this read. It’s partially in my typical reading choices, but it’s more of a spy novel that I’m used to… think a bit James Bond like. I am more a horror thrillers chasing serial killers or historical fiction type of reader. But this bring some elements from both and offers a good tale with a what feels like a realistic setting. I’m sure the author’s career helped played a big role in developing this story. Add in the various facts / stories we all know about World War II and how the ‘underground network’ works, then you’ve got a strong read.

Summary

I’m impressed with the author’s ability to weave a highly complex plot over multiple time periods and characters, in particular how well written the language in the story is. I recently learned it’s part of a book series, where two are already written and a third is on the way in the future. Very exciting for any true British crime fan!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Origin by Dan Brown

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When Origin, the fifth in the Robert Langdon series by Dan Brown, was published last Fall, I couldn’t wait to read it. Unfortunately, I had several ARCS, giveaways, and commitments that forced me to hold off until just this week to read it – nearly 5 months of misery. I cried when my fellow readers published reviews and I couldn’t look at them. I kicked things when the book mocked me on the shelf. Then my wonderful blogger friends voted for this as the book they wanted me to read in February on my Book Bucket List! So I survived and made it my priority this week… in the end, it was a good read and I will always enjoy Brown’s style, plots and characters. I’m giving this one 3.5 out of 5 stars and will rate either a 3 or 4 on each of the book sites depending on their ratings meanings.

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The story is quite intriguing, as always. A man holds a press conference to reveal that he has found the answers we’ve all been searching for: (1) Where did we come from, and (2) Where are we going? It kicks off a series of events including his murder, the ire of many established world religions and the envy of historians and cultural icons. Langdon pairs up with the future Queen of Spain who runs the museum where the murder occurs, then they travel the country to discover all the answers.

The scenery, setting, and backgrounds are marvelous. Brown is highly adept at giving readers exactly as much as they need to picture the story without coloring it in too much… a few blurry edges for personal imagination. The sheer intensity of the research he must have done in the worlds of science, religious, museums, Spain and art is admirable. The volume of characters, the who is good versus who is evil balance, the red herrings, the small and large steps during the chases… all of these facts and the enveloped tone completely make this a 5 star read from those perspectives.

But then I started comparing it to his previous novels, to other works in this sub-genre and to his overall approach in telling the story. It fell short for me. There weren’t enough side stories. The characters were flatter than usual. I would love to have seen a bigger story about the Spanish royalty’s influence and history (other than Franco) in regard to science, evolution and romance. There were no scenes except a memory between the prince and his future consort, so I didn’t root for them. Langdon almost felt like a secondary character in the book. And the various sects of religious and military groups involved in the story seemed too fluid and/or disorganized in terms of the bigger picture. It made the story less interesting as I couldn’t really latch onto any specific character. Even Langdon had a minimal connection to the man who was murdered… despite being professor and student, we saw very little memories of a bond between them. Throw in a few conversations at a pub bonding over a theory, or an argument over the church, something to connect them for us in the present.

That said, I do enjoy these types of novels and there was enough to keep my interest. It just wasn’t a consistent page-turner throughout the whole book. I’ll still read the next one. And I’ll always be in awe of the author’s intelligence, world knowledge and style.

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Devil’s Claw by Lara Dearman

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Why This Book 
I’ve built a good relationship with the publisher, Crooked Lane, who offered Lara Dearman‘s book, The Devil’s Claw, the first in her Jennifer Dorey mystery series, as a thank you for all the other books I’ve chosen, read, and reviewed from them. I’m closing out all my commitments this month to publishers before I tackle some open ARCs, hence why this book wound up as my first choice in February.

Devil

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Jennifer Dorey, a 30ish news reporter in contemporary times, returned from London to her hometown in Guernsey, a large island near France in the English Channel, after an attack over an article she had been writing on a scam over human trafficking services. When she arrives, she has memories of another attack when she was younger and the mysterious death of her father; however, that’s nothing compared to when she discovers a body on a beach near a cliff. Working with the local detective, Michael, they discover a series of murders that occurred throughout the last 50 years all with the markings of the Devil’s Claw. Jen and Michael investigate the past crimes, learning about improper police work, Nazi supporters, and a penchant for young blonde girls who hurt themselves. Everything collides when she stumbles upon the killer and is trapped in his/her menacing grip.

Approach & Style 
I read a hardback version of this ~325 page novel in five hours over three days. It is broken into 45 chapters, each relatively short around 8 pages, and told in third person POV. Chapters alternate perspective from the killer, Michael, Jen and a few other supporting characters. The characters revisit history multiple times, so you have to focus on what’s current and what’s historical, but it’s fairly easy to stay aware. It’s written from a UK style with some details specific to police procedures and news reporting local to the area. It read well, but at times felt a bit too formal and stiff. It wasn’t enough to cause any issues, but it could have been relaxed a tad more so build a better reader / story connection. I’m not sure if it was the writing or the personality of Jen; time will tell when we see book two.

Key Thoughts 
I enjoyed the debut book in this series. It has a slow build, keeps you guessing and offers multiple suspects. There are several side stories that eventually interweave in the plot, and it includes a few supporting characters who will likely continue into future books in the series. No one stood out other than the primary two, but with focus, I’m sure the depth will provide characters we crave reading about in the future. I love the connection between the private citizens and the owner of the newspaper. I was glad to see the partnership between the police and the news outlet. It felt real in both senses of what they did and they didn’t allow.

The plot was strong in terms of execution, red herrings, guesswork and inter-dependencies between all the characters and time periods. The ultimate reason for the murders isn’t as clear as I would have liked it to be; that said, it is good and keeps you turning the pages. You may just have some open questions in the end as I did, in terms of the Nazi connections, the reason the killer chose the victims (s)he chose, and how much the Devil’s Claw really had to do with it all. Nothing that threw me off, but I wanted it tied together more tightly.

Summary 
Dearman weaves an eerie story with a fantastic background setting. Guernsey was a new locale for me, but one that peaks a lot of interest. I’m curious to find out how much of what was in the book is truth versus fiction. Kudos to her for creating a new series with lots of possibilities.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Prayer for the Dead by James Oswald

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Why This Book 
About 6 months ago, I won a Goodreads giveaway from the publisher, Crooked Lane. They accidentally shipped this book instead of the one I had won. Rather than pull it back, they let me keep the book, but I hadn’t gotten to read it. On my quest to close out all ARCs, giveaways and books on my shelves before I download or buy anything new, Prayer for the Dead, the fifth book in the Inspector McLean thriller and mystery series, published in 2015, and written by James Oswald, was the oldest in my queue, as I work why way through the TBR I actually have copies of. I rarely read in the middle of a book series, but with 4 books prior to this one, it was too much to go back to the beginning, so I’ll start here…

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Plot, Characters & Setting 
Set in current times in Edinburgh, UK, Inspector Tony McLean battles politics within his local police precinct and journalists with whom he has a very unsteady relationship. He’s also protecting a few local neighbors who are being vandalized and trying to re-build his former tenement after some accident that occurred in the previous novels. One of the journalists approaches McLean to ask for help with a missing colleague. Readers already know the colleague was sadistically killed in the opening chapter by someone with pseudo-religious or Masonic beliefs. A few bodies build up, and the cases all begin to collide. McLean learns he may actually be connected with the killer from many years earlier, and sets off to stop the serial murders with very little information. Includes some graphic violence, medical lingo, and police procedural language. No romance or side-stories, other than what he’s doing with his old tenement. A few minor things that might be good to know from prior books, but it can be read stand-alone.

Approach & Style 
I read the 340-page hardcover over 2 days in about 5 hours. Through ~75 chapters, the novel includes both 1st person and 3rd person POV. The killer appears in several chapters, disguised and talking to readers in 1st person POV, but the rest is mostly from McLean’s 3rd person POV. Perspective follows both around as crimes are committed and investigated.

Given it’s a police procedural, about some very religious and historical beliefs, and set partially in a medical environment, it’s not a run-of-the-mill thriller — there are many levels of technical details to weed through, particularly when it comes to UK police departments. I had no idea which type of investigator was more senior than the others, and they often refer to each other as Sir or Ma’am, so I was a tad lost. Not enough to stop me from reading, but enough that I wouldn’t say it was totally easy to adapt to for an American. Put a little chart in the back, please!

Strengths 
It’s complex, full of mystery and has lots of page-turning moments. There are enough characters to keep you guessing. The interweaving POV and perspective is handled adeptly. I liked the story and the way in which the murders occurred and how the investigations took place. Very detailed-oriented, and this makes me a happy reader! I also like the author’s writing style and feel connected to the development of the chapters and overall way things were described.

Concerns 
For one, the ending was way too quick. You don’t discover who the killer is or what his/her connection is to McLean until the last 15 pages. If that were the only concern, I’d probably have given this 4-stars; however, it was confusing and didn’t wrap up all the plot lines. I still don’t truly understand who was murdered years ago, whether the killer came back from the dead, or why one of the victims even died. Or even how the religious components truly fit in with all the other characters. I unfortunately must say this did not get fleshed out as well as it needed to be. Even if it’s a mystery thriller series, and more will be revealed later, as a whole book, it lacked a cohesive story that clearly set out the who/what/when/where/why of the crime.

Final Thoughts 
If this were the first book in the series, I’d have definitely passed on any future reads. Knowing it’s made it’s way to 5 books, through a traditional publisher, I’m certain I must be missing something, or that perhaps the earlier books were better. I probably won’t pick up another one, given my long TBR list, but I’d be curious to hear from anyone who has read the author before… what did I miss?

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.