Monday, May 23, 2016

Julie's Review: The After Party


Author: Anton DiSclafani
Series: None
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Captivating
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Summary: Joan Fortier is the epitome of Texas glamour and the center of the 1950s Houston social scene. Tall, blonde, beautiful, and strong, she dominates the room and the gossip columns. Every man who sees her seems to want her; every woman just wants to be her. But this is a highly ordered world of garden clubs and debutante balls. The money may flow as freely as the oil, but the freedom and power all belong to the men. What happens when a woman of indecorous appetites and desires like Joan wants more? What does it do to her best friend? Devoted to Joan since childhood, Cece Buchanan is either her chaperone or her partner in crime, depending on whom you ask. But as Joan’s radical behavior escalates, Cece’s perspective shifts—forcing one provocative choice to appear the only one there is. A thrilling glimpse into the sphere of the rich and beautiful at a memorable moment in history, The After Party unfurls a story of friendship as obsessive, euphoric, consuming, and complicated as any romance. ~amazon.com  

Review: After Party is the story of friendship and how far you would go to save a friend who you thought needed to be saved. It's about finding out how little you know about those closest to you. CeCe and Joan have been friends since they were little girls because they bonded not because their mother's were friends. Joan's mother didn't come from money, she married it and CeCe's mom had money, that's how things worked in Houston. Somehow, Joan and CeCe stayed close throughout childhood and young adulthood.

That is until Joan starts to act differently again. See Joan's erratic behavior isn't new to her circle of friends, this has happened before. It's the speed at which it's re-occurring that concerns CeCe. As a reader you question CeCe's motives at times. Is she too involved in wondering what Joan is doing? Is she stepping over boundaries of their friendship? And what about Joan? Does she even want CeCe around? Does she value their friendship?

I kept turning the pages because I wasn't quite sure where Ms. DiSclafani was going to take the novel. It definitely had a creepy/stalker vibe to it at times but then I also saw it through CeCe's eyes where she was just trying to help her friend. I loved the themes that she brought into the novel: friendship, motherhood and marriage. It also highlighted for me how as a society we have changed some aspects for women and yet some things remain the same.

I flew through this book because I wanted to know what the hell was up with Joan. Was she losing it? Was it an act to separate herself from the society women she wanted nothing to do with? Was she just trying to be different? Prove that she could break free from  her mother's ideals?

Ms. DiSclafani has such a gift for storytelling. I was hooked from the first line of the novel. She is subtle in the way she addresses issues and will keep you thinking long after you put the book down. Although I don't participate in a book club, this would be an excellent choice for one.

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Julie's Review: What Lies Between Us


Author: Nayomi Munaweera
Series: None
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5.0
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking and honest look at how experiences shape us
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Summary: In the idyllic hill country of Sri Lanka, a young girl grows up with her loving family; but even in the midst of this paradise, terror lurks in the shadows. When tragedy strikes, she and her mother must seek safety by immigrating to America. There the girl reinvents herself as an American teenager to survive, with the help of her cousin; but even as she assimilates and thrives, the secrets and scars of her past follow her into adulthood. In this new country of freedom, everything she has built begins to crumble around her, and her hold on reality becomes more and more tenuous. When the past and the present collide, she sees only one terrible choice. ~Amazon.com

Review: What Lies Between Us will break your heart from some of the very first pages of the novel and it really won't repair it. Ms. Munaweera will stitch it up a bit during the middle of the book but then she'll rip those open in the end. I'm not saying that you shouldn't read this book, I'm saying the contrary. You need to read this book. It is a powerful story about cultural differences and what it means to be a woman in those cultures. It is also about motherhood and how there's a stigma out there that being a mother means you need to be perfect. Ms. Munaweera stresses that there are no perfect mothers, that we all are at fault in one way or another but that we should support each other.

This beautifully written novel is told in the form of flashbacks to the woman's childhood in her country of Sri Lanka. She leads a fairly easy life with her mother, father and servants. Her mother can be moody and standoffish but she never was without love. She might have been starved for her mother's affections at times but she knew her mother loved her. She had friends and her life is full. Until her life suddenly falls apart; because of the culture and patriarchal society, her mother and her pick up and move to the United States.

We see the main character grow from a young girl to a young women to a young mother. We experience her heartbreak and her joy from her point of view. We only know her story through her eyes, through her experience. You empathize with her because of all she's been through. You know that she's done something horrible but it isn't until all the pieces start to be put together that you cringe and hope that it's not going to go down that path.

This book left me gutted and it will stay with me a long time. Ms. Munaweera tackles many issues in the novel that are not easy to read about. I closed the book bawling because the main character didn't have to end up where she was if perhaps she was more open about what she had been through but here is where the cultural differences come into play big time. It is a book about being a woman and what that means.

I can't wait to see what Ms. Munaweera writes next because her writing is some of the most powerful that I've ever read. Her books will stay with me forever.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Julie's Review: Don't You Cry


Author: Mary Kubica
Series: None
Publication Date: May 17, 2016
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Pages: 320
Obtained: Edelweiss via publisher
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4.75/5.0
Bottom Line: A slow build until the very end
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Summary: In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she's the person Quinn thought she knew. Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected. As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger's spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end. ~amazon.com

Review: Don't You Cry is a suspense/psychological thriller where the author builds and builds the two story lines until they both collide and explode. I don't mind a slow build up as long as the pay-off in the end is good and this end is worth that wait.

We start off the novel with Quinn waking up on a typical Sunday with a hangover and waiting for her roommate, Esther to return from church with her usual coffee and bagel but Esther doesn't return and as Quinn starts looking around her room, she starts to notice things that are out of place.  She's not quite sure if she should panic yet or not. So in order to find clue to where Esther might have gone to, she starts to look through her things for clues. Of course, what she finds isn't really helping to calm her nerves. She starts to panic wondering if Esther is even the person she thought she was and if she knew her at all.

Quinn is a bit insecure and that doesn't help when things start getting strange. Quinn becomes needy and paranoid. Not only does she doubt who Esther was, she starts to question her own ability to be a good roommate and friend. Even that being said, I liked Quinn. There was a normalcy to her. The fact that she didn't really know what she wanted to do with her life/job, how she was always just a little short on rent but found money to go out and how she really did like living with Esther.

We our introduced to 18 year old Alex as he works his job washing dishes in a small cafe, in a small town in Michigan. He is mesmerized when a young woman, who he's never seen, walks in while he's on his shift. It's all he can do to concentrate on his job. He even makes up a name for her since he's too shy to actually ask her for her name.  He eventually does befriend her and by then he's in so deep, he can't see the warning signs.

I wasn't really sure which direction Ms. Kubica was going to go with this one. I couldn't wait to see how she linked the two stories together. It truly wasn't what I expected when she brought them together and by then you just wanted to flip the pages to see what the heck was going to happen.

Ms. Kubic's narrative and writing gets better with each novel she writes with her ability to master the suspense genre. If you like novels that keep you guessing and then make you turn the pages as fast as you can, then Don't You Cry is definitely for you.



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Monday, May 9, 2016

Julie's Review: I Let You Go


Author: Clare Mackintosh
Series: None
Publication Date: May 3, 2016
Publisher: Berkley/NAL
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Worthy of the hype
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Summary: On a rainy afternoon, a mother's life is shattered as her son slips from her grip and runs into the street . . . I Let You Go follows Jenna Gray as she moves to a ramshackle cottage on the remote Welsh coast, trying to escape the memory of the car accident that plays again and again in her mind and desperate to heal from the loss of her child and the rest of her painful past. At the same time, the novel tracks the pair of Bristol police investigators trying to get to the bottom of this hit-and-run. As they chase down one hopeless lead after another, they find themselves as drawn to each other as they are to the frustrating, twist-filled case before them. ~amazon.com

 Review: I Let You Go is a novel that starts slowly but builds to the twist that literally turns the whole novel and the meaning of the title on a dime. Jenna is someone your heart immediately goes out to. She's lost everything that was precious to her in one quick second and leaves that life behind. She ends up in a small town on the coast where she hopes to fade into anonymity but quickly realizes in a a small town that its hard to do. She has to make a living so she uses the beach as creative influence. Of course, just when her life seems to be getting back into a groove, it is all thrown off kilter again.

We are also put into the lives of the detectives involved in the case, Ray and Kate. They will go to great lengths to work the case even when they've been told to shut it down. Kate has such a passion for finding out what happened to Jacob, that she's willing to work on it off the clock. There's a bit of subplot of tension between Ray and Kate and it's the only party of the book that I didn't really feel was necessary. It didn't add anything to the overall story for me.

I swear I didn't think that another book would live up to the hype of a "twist that changes everything" but this one really did. I kept trying to guess what it could be and failed miserably. I'm glad I did because it really changes the feel of the whole book for me. The story took on a different tone and a different direction. For me, it became creepier and darker but that made it that much more interesting.

If you are a fan of psychological thrillers, then I have to say you should definitely read this one and the author Clare Mackintosh will definitely go on my "to be read" author list.



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Monday, April 25, 2016

Julie's Review: Lilac Girls


Author: Martha Hall Kelly
Series: None
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Ballatine Books
Pages: 496
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: One person can make a difference
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Summary: New York socialite Caroline Ferriday has her hands full with her post at the French consulate and a new love on the horizon. But Caroline’s world is forever changed when Hitler’s army invades Poland in September 1939—and then sets its sights on France. An ocean away from Caroline, Kasia Kuzmerick, a Polish teenager, senses her carefree youth disappearing as she is drawn deeper into her role as courier for the underground resistance movement. In a tense atmosphere of watchful eyes and suspecting neighbors, one false move can have dire consequences. For the ambitious young German doctor, Herta Oberheuser, an ad for a government medical position seems her ticket out of a desolate life. Once hired, though, she finds herself trapped in a male-dominated realm of Nazi secrets and power. The lives of these three women are set on a collision course when the unthinkable happens and Kasia is sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi concentration camp for women. Their stories cross continents—from New York to Paris, Germany, and Poland—as Caroline and Kasia strive to bring justice to those whom history has forgotten. In Lilac Girls, Martha Hall Kelly has crafted a remarkable novel of unsung women and their quest for love, freedom, and second chances. It is a story that will keep readers bonded with the characters, searching for the truth, until the final pages. ~amazon.com  


Review: Lilac Girls is a novel that will keep you thinking throughout the novel. Just when you think you've read a lot of historical fiction about World War II, along comes a book that exposes you to something you hadn't known. Oh the atrocities that were done on humans by other humans is truly mystifying to me. I was intrigued and horrified about how Ms. Kelly was going to make these stories intersect. I was hoping that there would be justice for Kasia and the other women from the Ravensbruck camp.

I found Caroline Ferriday to be a modern day heroine; a person who is to be admired and revered. She is a woman who has a huge heart and sees her life as a way to help those who need it the most. When we first meet Caroline she works for the French Consolate in New York working to help families that are looking to escape the war in Europe and relocate to the US. She also puts together care packages for a variety of orphanages in France.

It is perhaps Kasia's story that is the most horrific, brave and hopeful. Her story is the one that will rock you to your core. She carries around her guilt until it weighs so heavily on her that she doesn't know how to enjoy the life that she has been given. She closes herself off to those the closest to her, even her sister Zuzanna who she went through everything with in the camp. She doesn't know how to move on. She might be free of the camp but she's not free of the darkness it instilled in her.

We are also told the story of Herta Oberhauser who is a young doctor looking for a job and ends up at Ravensbruck. She is a dedicated Reich doctor who doesn't question the orders that she is given. She doesn't question the inhumane surgeries that she performs on young women. Even years later, after she is released from her prison sentence, she has little to no remorse. She said she was just doing her job.

It is easy to see how Herta and Kasia's story are going to intersect but I was curious how Caroline was going to fit in.  I loved how she fit into Kasia's life and how she helped Kasia get closure.

When you read  Lilac Girls , you need to read the Author's Note at the end, it is amazing the amount of work and sheer love that went into this novel. It was a labor of love for her and one that took years to come together. I have a great amount of respect for authors in general but historical authors have to be one of most extraordinary ones because they bring historical figures to life by imagining some of the conversations that took place in their lives.


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Thursday, April 21, 2016

Julie's Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest


Author: J. Ryan Stradal
Series: None
Publication Date: July 28, 2015
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: on loan from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Food-Lit
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: An interesting look at food, culture and family
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Summary: Kitchens of the Great Midwest, about a young woman with a once-in-a-generation palate who becomes the iconic chef behind the country's most coveted dinner reservation, is the summer's most hotly-anticipated debut and already a New York Times bestseller. When Lars Thorvald's wife, Cynthia, falls in love with wine--and a dashing sommelier--he's left to raise their baby, Eva, on his own. He's determined to pass on his love of food to his daughter--starting with puréed pork shoulder. As Eva grows, she finds her solace and salvation in the flavors of her native Minnesota. From Scandinavian lutefisk to hydroponic chocolate habaneros, each ingredient represents one part of Eva's journey as she becomes the star chef behind a legendary and secretive pop-up supper club, culminating in an opulent and emotional feast that's a testament to her spirit and resilience. Each chapter in J. Ryan Stradal's startlingly original debut tells the story of a single dish and character, at once capturing the zeitgeist of the Midwest, the rise of foodie culture, and delving into the ways food creates community and a sense of identity. By turns quirky, hilarious, and vividly sensory, Kitchens of the Great Midwest is an unexpected mother-daughter story about the bittersweet nature of life--its missed opportunities and its joyful surprises. It marks the entry of a brilliant new talent. ~amazon.com  

Review: Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the type of novel not to read when you are hungry, especially towards the end. It is also the story of how our culture revolves around food and the evolution of "foodies". How people will pay for an experience just to say that they have experienced the trendy new idea or concept. It is also about how some people find great joy in the creation of a meal and of creating that experience for others. It is about finding your passion and creating your life around that passion.

Eva Thorvald hasn't had the easiest life but she's always had a passion for food, starting when she was 11 and growing habaneros in her closet. Her gift and passion continues to grow until  She has a true love for food and for giving people a once in a lifetime experience. She might not have known where she belonged with her peers but she always felt comfortable in the kitchen.

Eva's story is told by various people that she encounters throughout her life, starting with her father Lars and ending with her mother, Cynthia. In that way, the novel comes full circle. Which is great because for a moment I thought I had lost Eva's story in the beginning of the novel because it is her whom the reader becomes instantly invested in.

By seeing Eva through different people's eyes you get a more well-rounded version of who she is, although without her full perspective, it is truly hard to really know her. We get her view of her life sprinkled throughout the novel but never get her adult story through her eyes.

It is told in a variety of short stories but they are all tied together. Just when you think that Mr. Stradal is going to leave you hanging with a character, he brings them in later. I felt the ending of the book was the only one that could happen, otherwise it would have just been wrapped up too neat.

For anyone who loves food, who loves food when it's tied to a certain region and wine, then you won't want to miss Kitchens of the Great Midwest.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Julie's Review: The Year We Turned Forty

 photo Year We Turned 40_zpsrju0931i.jpg

Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Series: None
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 336
Obtained: author(s)
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Poignant, Funny and Endearing
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Summary: If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future. Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he's getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time. Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires. Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she's recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love. But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all… ~amazon.com  

Review: The Year We Turned Forty is about having the opportunity to go back and fix the mistakes you made but do you fix the old ones only to create the new ones? Who's life ever fully goes as they "plan" it? If it does, then did they ever take risks? For Gabriela, Jessie and Claire life hasn't really been what they thought it would be in the 10 years since turning 40. As they approach 50, they wonder where their lives would be if they had done some thing(s) differently. They get the chance to go back to that year but there are some condition: one being at the end of the year they either all have to agree to stay on that path or come back to the point in time when they went back. That could be the real tricky part of this whole second chance.

What I loved about this book is that you can see yourself in each of these characters even if you don't necessarily identify with their problems. Each of the friends' gains something in the year they go back but I also think they lose something as well. This was most evident for me with Gabriela. She went from this kick-ass, take no prisoners, best selling author to a woman who was laser-focused on the one thing she thought she wanted, thought she was missing out on. She was sacrificing her health, mentally and physically, and her marriage. Before she went back, her and Colin had a solid marriage that was built on love and respect. Not so much this time around.

Jessie lost herself when she had an affair and lost her marriage. In the 10 years she's been divorced, she's never gotten over it, forgiven herself and moved on from her mistakes. This is her chance to undo all of that.  While I didn't agree with how she approached the situation by not being honest again. We all know the truth comes out eventually and she spent her year full of worry about when it would happen. I did like how in the end she did learn to fight for herself and her family. Perhaps that was what her year was about.

Now Claire, she thought her life going into 50 was pretty great. She has a man, she loves and is finally getting on good footing with her adult daughter, Emily. She has her regrets but I would say hers aren't as dire as perhaps her best friends. She would have liked a better relationship with her mom before she passed, been a bit tougher on Emily instead of giving in all the time and maybe she would have tried a bit harder with her former boyfriend. I liked Claire, a lot. She seemed to be the most leveled headed one of the group of girls. She knew what she had to do to repair her relationship with Emily and started doing it even though it was hard. She knew what 10 years in the future would look like if she didn't. She worked on her relationship with her mom, even if the ending was the same. She strove to make things different this time, although I think one of threw her for a loop, she ended up accepting it because she knew the alternative was selfish.

I have read Liz and Lisa's other two books and I enjoyed them immensely but there is something different about their writing and the soul of The Year We Turned Forty. It feels like they left it all out there for their readers. They created characters you cheered for, cried with and yes at times wanted to shake but that's friendship. While there is magic in the book, the words on the pages were magic. This book was just what I needed, even if I didn't know it.

If you haven't read these two authors you need to pick up their other two books: Your Perfect Life and The Status of All Things, you can come back and thank me later.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Julie's Review: The Dinner Party


Author: Brenda Janowitz
Series: None
Publication Date: April 12, 2016
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 304
Obtained: Author/Publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Will make you appreciate your crazy family that much more
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Summary: This Passover Seder is not just any Passover Seder. Yes, there will be a quick service and then a festive meal afterwards, but this night is different from all other nights. This will be the night the Golds of Greenwich meet the Rothschilds of New York City. The Rothschilds are the stuff of legends. They control banks, own vineyards in Napa, diamond mines in Africa, and even an organic farm somewhere in the Midwest that produces the most popular Romaine lettuce consumed in this country. And now, Sylvia Gold's daughter is dating one of them. When Sylvia finds out that her youngest of three is going to bring her new boyfriend to the Seder, she's giddy. When she finds out that his parents are coming, too, she darn near faints. Making a good impression is all she thinks about. Well, almost. She still has to consider her other daughter, Sarah, who'll be coming with her less than appropriate beau and his overly dramatic Italian mother. But the drama won't stop there. Because despite the food and the wine, despite the new linen and the fresh flowers, the holidays are about family. In Brenda Janowitz's The Dinner Party, long forgotten memories come to the surface. Old grievances play out. And Sylvia Gold has to learn how to let her family go. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Dinner Party is a hoot. I laughed out loud throughout the whole book and there were poignant moments but the message is about family, love and forgiveness. Syliva Gold is all a twitter because her youngest daughter Becca is bring a Rothschild home for Seder. For Seder! Plus his parents are coming as well so that means her house has to be up to their standard. You see the Rothschild's are old money; old banking money. It's not like the Gold's don't have a very nice house and live a great lifestyle but their money isn't old. She's bending over backwards for people she doesn't know.

You pretty much know from the get go that this Seder isn't going to turn out exactly how Sylvia hopes and that's what makes it a great book. Sylvia is so uptight and high strung that she even gets a chef to cook dinner for them and again you know that doesn't turn out well.

Sarah was my favorite character. She knows who she is except when she steps foot in her mother's house. There she feels like the awkward teenager all over again. Plus she's a little irritated at her mom for inviting these stranger when she won't invite her boyfriend's parents to join them. It's pretty evident that Sarah and Sylvia are a lot alike; therefore they butt heads a lot of the time.

Each family member and guest has their own secret to hide. Of course, they all come out at this dinner and there are of course consequences.  It's how these come out at the dinner that I found intriguing. What a better place to air all your dirty laundry than at a formal family dinner.

If you are looking for a great novel that will have you laughing out loud and appreciating your own crazy family. The Dinner Party isn't a book you will want to miss this summer.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Julie's Review: Sister Dear


Author: Laura McNeill
Series: None
Publication Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Books
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: One twisted sibling realtionship
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Summary: All Allie Marshall wants is a fresh start.  But when dark secrets refuse to stay buried, will her chance at a new life be shattered forever? Convicted of a crime she didn’t commit, Allie watched a decade of her life vanish – time that can never be recovered. Now, out on parole, Allie is determined to clear her name, rebuild her life, and reconnect with the daughter she barely knows. But Allie’s return home shatters the quaint, coastal community of Brunswick, Georgia. Even her own daughter Caroline, now a teenager, bristles at Allie’s claims of innocence. Refusing defeat, a stronger, smarter Allie launches a battle for the truth, digging deeply into the past even if it threatens her parole status, personal safety, and the already-fragile bond with family.As her commitment to finding the truth intensifies, what Allie ultimately uncovers is far worse than she imagined. Her own sister has been hiding a dark secret—one that holds the key to Allie’s freedom. ~amazon.com

 Review: Sister Dear kept me turning the pages and wondering how it was all going to come together. Were the deeply buried secrets going to surface? Would Allie finally prove her innocence without sacrificing her freedom? Allie is set free from prison for serving time for a crime she didn't commit. It isn't one of those novels where you wonder if she's innocent or not because it's pretty clear from the get go she is. Although it isn't reveled quickly exactly what she was in prison for but you know you don't get locked up for 10 years for something minor.

Her dedicated younger sister, Emma, comes to get her as she's released and all Allie wants to do is see her 15 year old daughter. Unfortunately, Caroline isn't quite ready to deal with the fact that her mom is back. She's been raised for the last 10 year by her Aunt and has built up a good life for her including a busy social life. All of that comes crumbling down quickly when word spreads that Allie is out. The local Sheriff isn't too pleased with the release of Allie Marshall either. He thoroughly believes she's guilty because he couldn't see another way out because of the blood on her hands. He refused to entertain anything other possibility. He even pays a visit to Allie's parole office to make sure that she's not allowed to investigate to prove her innocence.

The book literally unravels, in the best way, with each page you turn. While the book is about Allie and her innocence it is much more about Emma's story and her issues with her sister. Emma is probably the most interesting character in the novel. She isn't what she seems to anyone, least of all herself. It is quite interesting the amount of rage she has carried around since she was 10 years old. Always feeling 2nd best to her sister, she was out to prove everyone wrong.

Caroline is confused, hurt and scared. She didn't visit her mom in prison but tried to carry on a normal life with her aunt, friends and grandparents. She doesn't want her mom messing up the delicate balance she's created for herself. Caroline starts to isolate herself from her aunt, her grandparent, her friends and she refuses to reconnect with her mom. She doesn't trust her. She was too young to remember how much her mom loved her. The only thing she remembers is feeling abandoned and lost. It's not that she doesn't love her Aunt and appreciate all that she's done for her but she doesn't know what normal is or what it feels like.

Ms. McNeill does a fantastic job of pulling you in and making you turn the pages. She writes characters that are flawed and intriguing. She tells a story that will keep you up and thinking about it long after you've closed the covers. This is my 2nd novel by Ms. McNeill and let me tell you, I can't wait to see what she writes next.

 Do yourself a favor and pick up Sister Dear. 


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Monday, April 11, 2016

Julie's Review: The Forgotten Room


Author: Karen White, Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig
Series: None
Publication Date: January 19, 2016
Publisher: NAL
Pages: 384
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Loved how the stories ended up linking in the end
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: 1945: When the critically wounded Captain Cooper Ravenal is brought to a private hospital on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, young Dr. Kate Schuyler is drawn into a complex mystery that connects three generations of women in her family to a single extraordinary room in a Gilded Age mansion. Who is the woman in Captain Ravenel's portrait miniature who looks so much like Kate? And why is she wearing the ruby pendant handed down to Kate by her mother? In their pursuit of answers, they find themselves drawn into the turbulent stories of Gilded Age Olive Van Alen, driven from riches to rags, who hired out as a servant in the very house her father designed, and Jazz Age Lucy Young, who came from Brooklyn to Manhattan in pursuit of the father she had never known. But are Kate and Cooper ready for the secrets that will be revealed in the Forgotten Room? The Forgotten Room, set in alternating time periods, is a sumptuous feast of a novel brought to vivid life by three brilliant storytellers. ~amazon.com

Review:  The Forgotten Room is a sweeping family saga that spans decades and is woven together by one room in a former Manhattan mansion. These stories are also linked by love stories that span lives and decades, love lost and love found. There is tragedy and misunderstandings; love and loss; passion and dedication.

I'm actually not sure which story line I loved the most because I think I loved all 3 equally. I loved the moxie that Olive, Lucy and Kate had. I loved that they were forging their way before their time. Each went against their family in their own way. For Olive it was putting herself in a house where she was seeking revenge; Lucy was the first woman to go to work outside the family business and Kate was forging her own path as a female doctor.

Each has their own story to tell and each woman has a distinctive voice but there is a thread that ties them. Is it the men they love, is it the room or something else?

I loved that 3 authors wrote this book but I couldn't tell where one's voice started and another ended. I loved each of the time periods that the book ventured into and explored.

If you are a fan of historical fiction then you won't to miss The Forgotten Room.

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