Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Julie's Review: In This Moment


Author: Karma Brown
Series: None
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: How split second decision can alter your life and those around you
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Summary:Meg Pepper has a fulfilling career and a happy family. Most days she’s able to keep it all together and glide through life. But then, in one unalterable moment, everything changes. After school pickup one day, she stops her car to wave a teenage boy across the street…just as another car comes hurtling down the road and slams into him. Meg can’t help but blame herself for her role in this horrific disaster. Full of remorse, she throws herself into helping the boy’s family as he rehabs from his injuries. But the more Meg tries to absolve herself, the more she alienates her own family—and the more she finds herself being drawn to the boy’s father. Soon Meg’s picture-perfect life is unraveling before her eyes. As the painful secrets she’s been burying bubble dangerously close to the surface, she will have to decide: Can she forgive herself, or will she risk losing everything she holds dear to her heart? ~amazon.com  

Review: In This Moment is a novel that allows you to wonder what you would do if you were in Meg's shoes. Would you have waved a kid across at an intersection that had no crosswalk? Or perhaps you have and it turned out just fine but unfortunately for two families, this isn't what happened.

The accident spawns Meg's downward spiral into guilt, shame and anxiety. It has her reliving the death of her best friend in high school, which she still carries guilt around. It causes her to pull away from her husband and daughter. She doesn't know how to tell them about her involvement with Paige's death. She's internalized it for so long that she feels she can't verbalize it. It's what haunts her sleep. I felt as if I was experiencing the slow downward spiral with Meg, which was a good thing. It put you in her shoes and living what she was at the same time. I felt horrible for Meg but also wish she would have leaned on her husband or family a bit more.

As Meg struggles with the guilt of being part of an accident, her daughter Audrey is also struggling with her own issues from the accident. She turns to reckless behavior which she wasn't prone to previously. She also pulls away from her parents and begins to lie to them about her whereabouts.

My frustration throughout the novel was Ryan, Meg's husband and Audrey's dad. He seemed so oblivious about what they were going through. He saw the signs in both of them that said they weren't dealing properly with the accident but chose to believe they were both fine. It wasn't until things came crashing down around them that he finally acknowledged they weren't "fine". Some of Meg's decisions weren't smart but she was also reeling. I felt that Ryan needed to acknowledge his role in their issues as well.

Ms. Brown always writes engaging characters, with real life situations that you end up asking yourself how you would react. I can't wait to read what she publishes next.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Julie's Review: I Found You


Author: Lisa Jewell
Series: None
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A page turner that will have you wondering how it all ties together
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Summary: In the windswept British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on a beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside. Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, newlywed Lily Monrose grows anxious when her husband fails to return home from work one night. Soon, she receives even worse news: according to the police, the man she married never even existed. Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty Ross are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. The annual trip to Ridinghouse Bay is uneventful, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just because he’s a protective older brother. Who is the man on the beach? Where is Lily’s missing husband? And what ever happened to the man who made such a lasting and disturbing impression on Gray? ~amazon.com  
Review: If you want a page turning suspense and mystery novel, then I Found You is for you. The story is told in 3 different parts: Alice/Frank, Lily, Gray. Alice happens upon "Frank" as he's sitting on the beach staring at the sea with no recollection of what is going on, how he got there or who he is. Alice, who still believes in the good of people even though she shouldn't, invites him back to her house to sleep in the shed she rents out. She promises her best friend that she won't get involved, but that's just not who she is or what she does. So she tries to help Frank regain his memory by giving him a safe place to say and an ear to listen.

Outside of London, Lily is freaking out because her husband doesn't come home after work and doesn't answer her phone. This is strange because he always takes the same train and gets home at the same time every night. Of course, the police tell her to give it time and he might come home. When evidence suggest that her husband doesn't exist, Lily decides to take things into her own hands. Then we get the flashback story of Gray and Kirsty on their family vacation in Ridinghouse Bay. This is where they meet Mark Tate, a young man who is a little off but clearly besotted by Kirsty. Gray feels that there is something off about him but can't quite put his thoughts around it. He wants to believe that his instincts are right and he's not just jealous that his kid sister might get her first kiss before he does.

While I figured out a few things earlier in the novel, it didn't stop me from wanting to finish the book. I figured that the author had something up her sleeve and it wasn't as straight-forward as I thought. I loved how Ms. Jewell sewed all the story lines together in the end. I loved how she showcased that each of us is capable of crossing a line when we feel that our lives are in danger or the lives of those we love are in danger.

I forget how much I love a true mystery and suspense novel because I get so caught up in the domestic suspense/psychological thriller arena. Ms. Jewell should still with the mystery genre because she's knows how to write a good one.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Julie's Review: Mrs. Saint and the Defectives


Author: Julie Lawson Timmer
Series: None
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: Publicist  via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A novel with depth that wasn't expected but enjoyed
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Summary: Markie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not. What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives”—one full of second chances and happiness. ~amazon.com

Review: Mrs. Saint and the Defectives is a novel where the heroine might just rub you the wrong way at first but then she grows on you and by the end of the novel you will rejoice in her growth. For some reason when I first saw this title I read it at "Detectives" but then realized it was "Defectives", which had me curious.

Markie is a hard woman and one that is hard to like. You want to understand her and you want to empathize with her but at times she makes that so terribly impossible. Which is why I had mucho respect for Mrs. Saint who kept trying and trying to break down those wall. I get why Markie moved away from her posh neighborhood, school and life because what happened was embarrassing until the next scoop of gossip comes around and your situation is forgotten.  Markie spends a lot of time blaming her ex for being selfish as well as her parents, not realizing that in her own way she is as well. She up and moved her son, Jessie, to another town before asking him what he wanted and expected him to adapt. So he shuts himself down and hibernates to his room in the basement.

It is really Mrs. Saint and her group of "defectives" that help pull Jessie out of his shell and bond with others. Eventually, through persistence, faith she broke down those walls of Markie's. Enough so that maybe she could make peace with herself, bond with her son and forgive her ex-husband.

There is also an underlying mystery around Mrs. Saint  herself and her merry band of defectives. How are they bonded together? Why does she continue to help people who need help but don't know it? I loved how Ms. Timmer revealed her story at the end and really did feel like the missing pieces of the puzzle were coming together to make it whole.

I don't have to like a character in a book but I have to see them grow and change a bit, I'm not expecting a 180 because that's not realistic. Just some kind of revelation that makes them self-aware and Ms. Timmer accomplished that with Markie.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives to read; you won't regret it.



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Friday, July 28, 2017

Julie's Review: The Party


Author: Robyn Harding
Series: None
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: For all the hype I was disappointed
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Summary: In this stunning and provocative domestic drama about a sweet sixteen birthday party that goes horribly awry, a wealthy family in San Francisco finds their picture-perfect life unraveling, their darkest secrets revealed, and their friends turned to enemies. One invitation. A lifetime of regrets. Sweet sixteen. It’s an exciting coming of age, a milestone, and a rite of passage. Jeff and Kim Sanders plan on throwing a party for their daughter, Hannah—a sweet girl with good grades and nice friends. Rather than an extravagant, indulgent affair, they invite four girls over for pizza, cake, movies, and a sleepover. What could possibly go wrong? But things do go wrong, horrifically so. After a tragic accident occurs, Jeff and Kim’s flawless life in a wealthy San Francisco suburb suddenly begins to come apart. In the ugly aftermath, friends become enemies, dark secrets are revealed in the Sanders’ marriage, and the truth about their perfect daughter, Hannah, is exposed. If you loved Liane Moriarty’s and HBO's Big Little Lies, you’ll love The Party by Robyn Harding. This fast paced book exposes how even the most perfect of families can be shadowed by lies and betrayals. This is one page-turner you’re going to want to bring with you on vacation, to the beach, and add to your nightstand to be read. ~amazon.com  

Review: So much hype around The Party this summer but for this reader it fell short of it. I will say that it's a quick read. I will say that you need to be prepared for the shallowness that is in this book. It's not just from the teens either, it's the parental units as well. Honestly, there aren't a lot of likable characters in the book but hey that's life as well.

The story is told from various points of view and I think it could have been narrowed down because it muddied the story for me. Now I'm sure that if I had not gotten all those points of view, I would have wanted them to some degree. What shocked me wasn't that the kids broke the rules, it was how that impacted and changed them. Hannah was the most changed and not in the best way; she became what she despised. I never felt that the truth about Hannah was exposed other than she wanted to be every other teenager and fit in, be popular. I think they would be more shocked about how their daughter acted due to the aftermath of the party.

While this could have been an great expose on teens, family and parenting, it fell a little flat. It's about over parenting (i.e. helicopter parenting), teen behavior and taking ownership for your actions. No child is perfect and no parent is perfect either; trying to be perfect leads to disaster.



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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Julie's Review: Saints for All Occasions


Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Series: None
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 352
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful family-centric novel about the secrets we keep
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Summary: Nora and Theresa Flynn are twenty-one and seventeen when they leave their small village in Ireland and journey to America. Nora is the responsible sister; she's shy and serious and engaged to a man she isn't sure that she loves. Theresa is gregarious; she is thrilled by their new life in Boston and besotted with the fashionable dresses and dance halls on Dudley Street. But when Theresa ends up pregnant, Nora is forced to come up with a plan—a decision with repercussions they are both far too young to understand. Fifty years later, Nora is the matriarch of a big Catholic family with four grown children: John, a successful, if opportunistic, political consultant; Bridget, quietly preparing to have a baby with her girlfriend; Brian, at loose ends after a failed baseball career; and Patrick, Nora's favorite, the beautiful boy who gives her no end of heartache. Estranged from her sister, Theresa is a cloistered nun, living in an abbey in rural Vermont. Until, after decades of silence, a sudden death forces Nora and Theresa to confront the choices they made so long ago. A graceful, supremely moving novel from one of our most beloved writers, Saints for All Occasions explores the fascinating, funny, and sometimes achingly sad ways a secret at the heart of one family both breaks them and binds them together. ~amazon.com  

Review: Saints for All Occasions makes you realize that every family is dysfunctional to some degree and our parents always are a bit different than we think they are. Nora and Theresa are sisters but Nora acts more like a mother to her younger sister given the fact that their mother died when they were younger. So it's no surprise that when they arrive in Boston, Theresa rebels a bit which ends up having consequences for the entire family. Something of which neither of them fully understands until it is too late.

Theresa escapes into the convent before realizing it was where she was meant to be her entire life. That isn't to say that Theresa doesn't still have some rash behaviors in her but she's definitely mellowed. She comes into her own and is someone the younger nuns look up to for advice. She also has the benefit of having her best friend there along side her, which means it isn't so lonely for her.

Nora, on the other hand, runs a fairly large Catholic family but is truly lonely. She's not happy and doesn't know how to be. She's at her best when pulling together a family function that she can concentrate on. She's taken over the role of matriarch but is closed off to her emotions. I know the book summary said that Patrick was her favorite but I never really got that impression. I understood that she felt like she needed to protect him because of how his life started out but not the favorite. I'm not sure Nora knew how to have a favorite because that would require more energy than she was willing to give.

Ms. Sullivan does a great job of making the reader think about how decision can affect things decades later. Sometimes you can only make decisions with the information you had in front of you. How well do you know your family, especially your parents? You only see the people they have become after having kids, who were they before? Should we have some inkling of who they were before us?

Saints for All Occasions is a novel that gets the complexities of families and how they shape who we become.


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Monday, July 24, 2017

Julie's Review: All the Best People


Author: Sonja Yoerg
Series: None
Publication Date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A look into the history of mental illness as it effects 3 generations of women
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Summary: Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else. But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother. An exploration of the power of courage and love to overcome a damning legacy, All the Best People celebrates the search for identity and grace in the most ordinary lives. ~amazon.com  

Review: With mental illness at the forefront of a great many discussions in the last year, All the Best People, comes at a time when we need to be reminded how far we've come and yet how far we have to go. The story is told in alternating view points by 3 generations of women in the same family: Solange, Carole and Allison.

As we delve in to each of their stories and view points, it is interesting to see how much their lives have been effected by either being afflicted or watching those you love deteriorate because of a disease. My heart went out to Allison because she was at a point in her life where she really needed her mother and her mother was struggling with her own issues that she wasn't sure how to talk about. Her aunt was even less help because she was so caught up in her own life, she couldn't see or perhaps didn't care that her sister was suffering.

Unfortunately, Solange's story was probably fairly typical for back in the 20's and 30's. Where if a wife didn't conform to her husband's wishes or brought shame up the family, he could institutionalize her with no way of getting out. So she was put in a mental hospital for being strong willed and wanting out of her marriage, with no way out. The things they did to that woman in the name of science and treatment were outrageous! They most definitely did more damage then the "hysteria" she was admitted for having.

I adored how great Walt was with Carole when it all finally came to a head. He didn't berate her or scold her, he was loving and supportive. I don't think she was ever afraid that he wouldn't be but she didn't know how to talk about it. Even since the 70s, much has changed in how we treat mental illness, especially pharmacology. We still have a long way to go but progress isn't made overnight, either.

If you are looking for a book that addresses how mental illness can affect families, then look no further than All the Best People.


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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Julie's Review: Homegoing


Author: Yaa Gyasi
Series: None
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Knopf
Pages: 320
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Grab this book immediately. It is special.
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Summary: The unforgettable New York Times best seller begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. Written with tremendous sweep and power, Homegoing traces the generations of family who follow, as their destinies lead them through two continents and three hundred years of history, each life indeliably drawn, as the legacy of slavery is fully revealed in light of the present day. Effia and Esi are born into different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. Effia is married off to an Englishman and lives in comfort in the palatial rooms of Cape Coast Castle. Unbeknownst to Effia, her sister, Esi, is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeons, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s booming slave trade, and shipped off to America, where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. One thread of Homegoing follows Effia’s descendants through centuries of warfare in Ghana, as the Fante and Asante nations wrestle with the slave trade and British colonization. The other thread follows Esi and her children into America. From the plantations of the South to the Civil War and the Great Migration, from the coal mines of Pratt City, Alabama, to the jazz clubs and dope houses of twentieth-century Harlem, right up through the present day, Homegoing makes history visceral, and captures, with singular and stunning immediacy, how the memory of captivity came to be inscribed in the soul of a nation. ~amazon.com  

Review: You know how some books get a lot of hype, you read them and wonder what the hype is all about? Well, Homegoing is NOT one of these books. This book is so powerful and moving. The writing is striking and lyrical. It is a book that should not be missed.

We are first introduced to Effia and her life in her village and then in the Castle. How a family secret changes the course of her life and her descendants. Then we meet Esi who has a completely different fate in the Castle than Effia and how that affects her descendants. Which begs the question, do we have control over our own lives or is it already written? Do the choices of our ancestors affect our lives?

I loved and learned something different from each of these short stories. You never fully go back to the characters you are introduced to but you learn more about them from their offspring and their stories. You see history through different eyes and perhaps open your eyes to a different view.

Ms. Gyasi has a true gift. Her storytelling is wonderful. Her use of words evoke strong feelings towards the characters. I really can't wait to see what she has for us readers next. This is a book that you need to experience yourself and then recommend to everyone you see. So, go grab Homegoing now.

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Julie's Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo


Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Series: None
Publication Date: June 3,2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Not at all what I expected but it was wonderful
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Summary: Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a book about the choices we make and the consequences of those choice on our life and those we love the most. Evelyn Hugo is one of the most famous actresses from the 1950s and 1960s with her fair share of scandals. Now she's ready to tell her story without apologies. Although even at the beginning you have to wonder what is in it for her? What's her angle because Evelyn always has one.

Monique Grant is a journalist with Viviant magazine who Evelyn has requested to do a piece on her for the magazine, only that's not what she wants. Monique is to write her biography and to publish it after she dies. Which means that Monique will make millions off of it.  She just has to figure out how to handle it with her boss at Vivant.

I won't go into the details of all seven marriage of Evelyn's but each one took a piece of her and also helped her accomplish a goal. Evelyn wasn't anything if not resourceful and strategic. Evelyn very rarely felt remorse for the things that she had done. It is this and the fact that she states, several times, that she would do it all again even if it had the same outcomes and hurt the same people. How honest is that? It is what made me admire her just like Monique did.

This book might have been a stray from what Ms. Reid usually writes about but it still has her humor and eloquence. While the novel has several themes running throughout it, the main one is love. It always comes down to the ones we love the most and what we will do for them.

I highly recommend The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for any one who wants a wonderful book that is character driven and centered around a strong female.

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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Julie's Review: Final Girls


Author: Riley Sager
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Edelweiss
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A fast-paced thriller that will keep you turning the pages until the end
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Summary: Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them, and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet. Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancé, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past. That is, until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit, and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished. ~amazon.com  

Review: Let's get this out of the way first, Final Girls would be a fantastic film. It's part psychological thriller, suspense and slasher film. Thank goodness for most of the book that last part is alluded to and not described in detail. Quincy has been a survivor of a massacre for 10 years. She's powered through the aftermath and built a life for herself in NYC. She's got a popular food blog and a live-in boyfriend who she thinks is going to propose.

Then her life begins to slowly unravel as Lisa is found dead and Sam, who has been off the grid for years, shows up at her house. The life that Quincy has so carefully crafted is starting to fray at the seams as Sam pokes at the very things that she has tried to bury. Sam wants to make Quincy remember what happened at Pine Cottage but why? Why is it so important to her that Quinn remember? What's in it for Sam? It certainly isn't Quinn's mental health. As Sam causes Quinn to unleash her rage, it will have consequences for both of them and set in motion things that can't be stopped.

There are a few twists and turns throughout the book with puzzle pieces coming together. Honestly I felt that Ms. Sager was moving us in one direction with the story while waiting for the other shoe to drop. Throughout the whole book I kept thinking that I should really be figuring it out a lot quicker than I did. The ending to me though, wasn't the biggest reveal and twist; that came earlier for me. 

Quincy is a complex character. At times you truly feel sorry for her and want her to be ok and then other times you wonder if you even know her. You want her to be able to be her true-self but you also begin to doubt her and what she's forgotten. Has she really forgotten or is she just protecting herself? It's understandable that she doesn't let people in very easily. So it irked me that she so willingly opened her house and emotions up to Sam. The only thing they shared was a similar experience but other than that, their lives were vastly different.

You will turn the pages very quickly during this novel and you won't want to put it down until it's over. I highly suggest you start it when you have several hours to devour it. Final Girls is the epitome of a summer read because it sucks you in and doesn't let you go. I can't wait to see what Ms. Sager writes next.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy 4th of July!!

 photo happy-4th-of-july-usa_zpseymg4efr.jpg

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Julie's Review: The Book of Summer


Author: Michelle Gable
Series: None
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 416
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A story about the importance of memories and family
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Summary: The ocean, the wild roses on the dunes and the stunning Cliff House, perched atop a bluff in Sconset, Nantucket. Inside the faded pages of the Cliff House guest book live the spellbinding stories of its female inhabitants: from Ruby, a bright-eyed newlywed on the eve of World War II to her granddaughter Bess, who returns to the beautiful summer estate. For the first time in four years, physician Bess Codman visits the compound her great-grandparents built almost a century before, but due to erosion, the once-grand home will soon fall into the sea. Bess must now put aside her complicated memories in order to pack up the house and deal with her mother, a notorious town rabble-rouser, who refuses to leave. It’s not just memories of her family home Bess must face though, but also an old love that might hold new possibilities. In the midst of packing Bess rediscovers the forgotten family guest book. Bess’s grandmother and primary keeper of the book, Ruby, always said Cliff House was a house of women, and by the very last day of the very last summer at Cliff House, Bess will understand the truth of her grandmother’s words in ways she never imagined. ~amazon.com  
Review: Book of Summer is a wonderful story about family history and the stories that can get lost from generation to generation. Bess Codman comes home to help her mom, Cissy Codman, move out of the family house that is about to fall into the sea. Cissy Codman doesn't go down without a fight and a fight is what she's going to give them. Of course Bess thinks she's going to help pack but she pretty much does everything but that, including run into old flame, Evan. Bess is also using this time to adjust to the fact that the person she married wasn't anywhere near who she thought and how to rebuild her life after a divorce. Luckily, she's got a great career to go back to and a new apartment. Bess hasn't told her family all the details surrounding the demise of her marriage. Somehow she feels just fine unloading it all to Evan.

Through the Book of Summer, we get to know her grandmother Ruby and her formative years in Cliff House. We learn about her romance with Sam, her playful younger brother Topper and her budding friendship with Hattie. We also see the change of the US's part in World War II through the eyes of Ruby who just wants her husband and brothers safe. She does her part by joining various women's organizations. I enjoyed reading about Ruby and Hattie's escapades together.

Not only does Ruby's past come to light but Cissy's been holding back her own secrets as well. Bess is a bit thrown by all the family drama, including her own. As Bess struggles with her own predicament, she realizes how good it feels to be back home and how much she missed Cliff House.

I really enjoyed  Book of Summer even if some of the parts were predictable. I enjoyed how family history is held in houses we occupy but most importantly the memories we create in the house rest in our hearts not in an object. If you are a fan of family drama, secrets and old houses you will want to pick up this book.


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Thursday, June 22, 2017

Julie's Review: The Night the Lights Went Out


Author: Karen White
Series: None
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 416
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line:A wonderful story about friendships that are cemented by similar experiences not age
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Summary: Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail. Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past. Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world. In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women....~amazon.com

Review: The Night the Lights Went Out is about rebuilding your life, learning to trust those around you and letting go of the past. When Sugar Prescott rents her cottage to a recently divorced Merilee Dunlap she doesn't expect to be drawn to her and her children. She doesn't plan to infiltrate their lives but it happens.

Merilee Dunlap is looking to start over after she gets a divorce husband and the cottage seems like the perfect place for her and her two kids to move. They also will start a new school due to their father's affair with a teacher. Merilee quickly finds herself ensconced with Heather Blackford and the other mom's that run the school. As Merilee struggles to learn how to balance it all without having a husband there to help, she is easy to identify with and cheer for.

Merilee and Sugar have more in common than they even know until some of Merilee's past begins to come to light. Sugar finds herself wanting to protect and defend Merilee even though she thought she had closed off her heart.

There is much mystery in The Night the Lights Went Out as well. Both Merilee and Sugar have secrets and pain in their past. What secrets they are holding onto are slowly revealed in bread crumbs laid out for the reader. I loved both Sugar and Merilee but I think I found Sugar's past more fascinating than Merilee's but probably because I put Merilee's story together fairly early on.

If you are a fan of mysteries and of Karen White's novels, then you definitely won't want to miss out on this one.


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Friday, June 16, 2017

Julie's Review: The Confusion of Languages


Author: Siobhan Fallon
Series: None
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via First to Read
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: How well do we know the people who we call friends?
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Summary: Both Cassie Hugo and Margaret Brickshaw dutifully followed their soldier husbands to the U.S. embassy in Jordan, but that’s about all the women have in common. After two years, Cassie’s become an expert on the rules, but newly arrived Margaret sees only her chance to explore. So when a fender-bender sends Margaret to the local police station, Cassie reluctantly agrees to watch Margaret’s toddler son. But as the hours pass, Cassie’s boredom and frustration turn to fear: Why isn’t Margaret answering her phone, and why is it taking so long to sort out a routine accident? Snooping around Margaret’s apartment, Cassie begins to question not only her friend’s whereabouts but also her own role in Margaret’s disappearance. With achingly honest prose and riveting characters, The Confusion of Languages plunges readers into a shattering collision between two women and two worlds, affirming Siobhan Fallon as a powerful voice in American fiction and a storyteller not to be missed. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Confusion of Languages is the story of a friendship that is rooted in a mystery. Cassie and Margaret couldn't be more different. Cassie is a rule follow and Margaret ignores them but in Jordan not following the rules can cause issues. Truly the only thing that the women have in common is that they are there because their husbands are military. When their husbands are sent to Italy to help the Jordanian forces navigate NATO, the women have only each other to rely on. Cassie and Dan even throw Margaret and Crick a welcome party to make sure that they feel like they are part of a group.

Cassie and Margaret's friendship is tenuous at best. Cassie doesn't have a lot of patience for what she perceives to be flippancy on Margaret's part of the rules they need to abide by to honor the Jordanian culture. Margaret sees Cassie as being a bit of a stick in the mud. Yet somehow they enjoy each other's company. Although I'm pretty sure that had they met under different circumstances, neither of them would have befriended the other. I think they became friends because they were both lonely and they could relate to each other through that loneliness.

How well does Cassie really know Margaret? She seemed like such an open book but what was she hiding? Did she find herself in trouble in Jordan in such a short amount of time? Is there any way for Cassie to help her?

Both women are complex characters and each aren't what they seem. Cassie is bitter in a way that someone who is dealing with her circumstances can be. Margaret is dealing with a lot of pain from taking care of her mom and then her mom's death. This shaped Margaret's need for Crick and her son. Mather is an integral part of the story because if not for him Cassie wouldn't have stuck around when Margaret had to go deal with the accident report.

As the hours bleed into each other, we find out through Cassie snooping in Margaret's journal what she's been keeping from her friend and her husband but not all at once. It really is layered and you have to peel it back to get the heart of what happened. Who is at fault? Is there really any one to lay fault with?

Ms. Fallon has written an exquisite story about how well we know or don't know the people we call our friends. It is layered and multi-faceted that will keep you guessing the outcome until the end. It isn't a thriller but a story about how we keep some secrets close to us, not letting people know our inner most selves.

I highly recommend The Confusion of Languages.

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Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Julie's Review: The Sunshine Sisters


Author: Jane Green
Series: None
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Berkeley
Pages: 384
Obtained: Publisher via First to Read
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: No one does family drama like Jane Green
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Summary: Ronni Sunshine left London for Hollywood to become a beautiful, charismatic star of the silver screen. But at home, she was a narcissistic, disinterested mother who alienated her three daughters. As soon as possible, tomboy Nell fled her mother’s overbearing presence to work on a farm and find her own way in the world as a single mother. The target of her mother’s criticism, Meredith never felt good enough, thin enough, pretty enough. Her life took her to London—and into the arms of a man whom she may not even love. And Lizzy, the youngest, more like Ronni than any of them, seemed to have it easy, using her drive and ambition to build a culinary career to rival her mother’s fame, while her marriage crumbled around her. But now the Sunshine sisters are together again, called home by Ronni, who has learned that she has a serious disease and needs her daughters to fulfill her final wishes. And though Nell, Meredith, and Lizzy have never been close, their mother’s illness draws them together to confront the old jealousies and secret fears that have threatened to tear these sisters apart. As they face the loss of their mother, they will discover if blood might be thicker than water after all. ~amazon.com  

Review: I haven't missed a Jane Green book since she started publishing them and The Sunshine Sisters  is what I expect from her; perfect blend of drama and humor. Ronni Sunshine isn't very likable and was a horrible mother. She was/is self-absorbed and rude. She, at least on her deathbed, recognizes what an ass she was to her girls. All of them have been effected in different ways but mostly they have moved on, until she summons them all home. The novel isn't so much about Ronni Sunshine as it is about the destruction she leaves in her wake.

Nell, the oldest, took the brunt of the moods while trying to shield Meredith and Lizzy from them. You can only shield them so much. Meredith was the sensitive one and didn't know how to back away from her mother when she was in her moods. Lizzy is the baby and pretty much got away with whatever she wanted. What Ronni did was not only alienate them from her but she alienated them from each other.
 
For years they lived separate lives, only calling when necessary. They were never there for each other and drifted apart. Meredith is getting married and none of her family is invited. Nell lives 20 minutes away from her mom running a farm and never sees her. Meredith took off for London and hasn't looked back. Lizzy has crafted a successful business of her own in NYC. 

I enjoyed learning about all the sisters and their lives as adults. I found Meredith's story to be the one that I thought was probably the most real. She's the one that struggles from all the emotional abuse that her mother dosed out. She's the one that questions her decisions and then settles for a career and man who aren't worthy of her. Nell is the one who built a wall up around herself but I'm not so sure it has so much to do with Ronni as it does with having a child young and having the father walk out on you. Lizzy, well she's the entertaining one in the family. She's always needed to be the center of attention and now she has all the attention she wants from her career. She's not happy though and her priorities are messed up. Maybe being around her sisters can bring her back to reality. 

Jane always crafts a great story that is accessible and grounded in great characters. The Sunshine Sisters joins that history. The Sunshine Sisters  is about finding your way home and accepting who you are all the good bad and ugly of it.


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Monday, June 5, 2017

Julie's Review: The Arrangement


Author: Sarah Dunn
Series: None
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown & Company
Pages: 368
Obtained: Local Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: Fell flat
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Summary: Lucy and Owen, ambitious, thoroughly-therapized New Yorkers, have taken the plunge, trading in their crazy life in a cramped apartment for Beekman, a bucolic Hudson Valley exurb. They've got a two hundred year-old house, an autistic son obsessed with the Titanic, and 17 chickens, at last count. It's the kind of paradise where stay-at-home moms team up to cook the school's "hot lunch," dads grill grass-fed burgers, and, as Lucy observes, "chopping kale has become a certain kind of American housewife's version of chopping wood." When friends at a wine-soaked dinner party reveal they've made their marriage open, sensible Lucy balks. There's a part of her, though-the part that worries she's become too comfortable being invisible-that's intrigued. Why not try a short marital experiment? Six months, clear ground rules, zero questions asked. When an affair with a man in the city begins to seem more enticing than the happily-ever-after she's known for the past nine years, Lucy must decide what truly makes her happy-"real life," or the "experiment?" ~amazon.com  

Review: I had huge hopes for The Arrangement based on the buzz and recommendation of some people I respect but it fell short for me. I was expecting the same kind of humor that I find in Ms. Dunn's show American Housewife but it wasn't there for me.

Lucy and Owen are yuppies to the nth degree. They moved to Beekman to have quality of life and to raise their son Wyatt. Wyatt is on the autism spectrum and is most definitely a handful. Lucy has lost herself to raising him and getting him the therapy he needs.  So she could careless that her hair is greasy, always in sweats and barely getting dinner on the table. Owen is helpful with Wyatt, as he should be, but he does get to leave and go socialize. One night while drinking a lot, they have a discussion with friends about an "open marriage".  What starts off as a joke quickly becomes something that they both agree to do but only for 6 months. 6 months is a long enough time for things to go very wrong.

There is no doubt in my mind that both Lucy and Owen are fantastic parents and I really do believe they loved each other but this 6 month experiment was the very wrong way to go about it. There are other ways to light the spark in your marriage to find yourself again. What pissed me off the most was how Owen assumed that Lucy would never partake in it, even if it was her idea. I mean, why not? Why do you have to be the only one to have all the fun? I think it's what insulted Lucy the most as well.

Trust me I have a sense of humor and I could even laugh at the concept of an open marriage if it was written a bit differently. I was actually expecting a more humorous look at it but didn't get it. There were parts of the novel that had me chuckling (Hello, Sunny Bang) but most of the time I just felt that Lucy and Owen were completely selfish. Not once did one of them say no, let's not do this.

How do you go from having a monogamous relationship to an open one? To me, that's something you go into a relationship knowing/doing and not change during the course. So this experiment was doomed from the start. Real life and marriage isn't dating. It's learning to live with some one faults and all through the peaks and valleys. Sometimes the valleys last longer than you hope but you climb your way out.

If your curious what all the hype is about with The Arrangement, read it, it won't take you long. If you decide to skip it though, you won't miss too much either.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Julie's Review: Same Beach, Next Year



Author: Dorthea Benton Frank
Series: None
Publication Date: May 16, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384
Obtained: TLC Book Tours
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A intriguing look at marriage and how friendship can change that relationship
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Summary:One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives. A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own. Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach. Bursting with the intoxicating richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and starry velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a dazzling celebration of the infrangible power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love. ~amazon.com    

Review: Seeing how I have never read Ms. Frank before I wasn't really sure what to expect from Same Beach, Next Year. I will admit, I was pleasantly surprised, it had more depth than I thought it would. We live two decades in the lives of two couples; Eliza and Adam, Carl and Eve but the story is mainly told through the eyes of Eliza with Adam chiming in here and there. I liked Eliza but I thought she was too good for Adam. Adam is a bit self-involved and cocky. It's even more evident when they befriend Eve and Carl. Eve is a bit caught up in the superficial and Carl is consumed by his work as a pediatrician.

It is clear from the beginning that Eliza and Adam are in love and happy in their life that they share together. They have twin boys that keep them busy and have a construction company both of them are a part of. So when they happen upon Eve and Carl at the beach, they strike up a friendship. Little known to Eliza, although she can sense there's more to the story, Adam and Eve (yes, it's funny) have a history together. And this of course is where Adam completely messes up. He should have told his wife the truth in the beginning instead of burying it deep so that only he and Eve know the truth. So it festers over 20 years with it coming to a head one night.

For me it was amazing that Eliza let the sexual tension between Adam and Eve go on for so long. I know we get absorbed in our lives but seriously? I would have put that to bed early and called him out on his shit.

What I did like is that Eliza came into her own. Instead of living her life for her boys and Adam, she finally takes it into her own hands. I loved reading about her escapades in Greece and her love of cooking. I also appreciated that Ms. Frank didn't take the plot cliche way out in a couple instances during the novel. She shows how hard marriage is and what it takes to get through some tough times. I pretty much also want to live at the beach in the Lowcountry but sadly that's probably not going to happen, so I'll think about a vacation there some day!

If you are looking for a read while you are at the beach or pool this summer, then  Same Beach, Next Year would keep you entertained.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Julie's Review: The Good Widow


Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Series: None
Publication Date: June 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 368
Obtained: via Great Thoughts
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Suspense
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: A great domestic suspense with a twists and turns
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Summary: Elementary school teacher Jacqueline “Jacks” Morales’s marriage was far from perfect, but even in its ups and downs it was predictable, familiar. Or at least she thought it was…until two police officers showed up at her door with devastating news. Her husband of eight years, the one who should have been on a business trip to Kansas, had suffered a fatal car accident in Hawaii. And he wasn’t alone. For Jacks, laying her husband to rest was hard. But it was even harder to think that his final moments belonged to another woman—one who had left behind her own grieving and bewildered fiancé. Nick, just as blindsided by the affair, wants answers. So he suggests that he and Jacks search for the truth together, retracing the doomed lovers’ last days in paradise. Now, following the twisting path of that fateful road, Jacks is learning that nothing is ever as it seems. Not her marriage. Not her husband. And most certainly not his death… ~amazon.com  

Review: Lightning strikes twice for Jacks when she learns that her husband was killed in a car accident in Hawaii and that he had another woman with him. This is how the beginning of The Good Widow kicks off and never really lets off the accelerator. Jacks is thrown into a deep, dark hole when she learns the fate of her husband, James. She has to wrestle with the fact that their last words before he left weren't of love but were of something else, because we aren't told for a while what transpired. She's determined to find out what happened and what went wrong but she's unsure how to make that happen. This is where, James' lover's fiance steps in, Nick.

Nick and Jacks journey to Hawaii to retrace the last steps of James and Dylan. They do everything they did and inquire about the deceased pair whenever they can. Like any journey, Jacks uncovers things she didn't know and maybe would have been better not knowing but it leads to other revelations.

Jacks wasn't a perfect wife but honestly, who is? No marriage is perfect and neither are the two parties in it. Did Jacks keep something important from her husband that might have changed the course of their relationship? Absolutely. I would like to think that if he had lived that they could have worked through both betrayals but not without a ton of therapy. Most importantly Jacks finds out that she is strong and can move on with her life.

I will admit that I saw a couple of the twists coming but I still wanted to see how Jacks would respond to these events. There was one that I didn't see coming but made total sense after the reveal. Liz and Lisa have done a fantastic job in their first suspense novel and I can't wait to see where their writing takes them next.

If you are looking for a book to kick off June with, look no further than The Good Widow.






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Friday, May 26, 2017

Julie's Review: One Perfect Lie


Author: Lisa Scottoline
Series: None
Publication Date: April 11, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: A quick read that will having you saying "What?" a few dozen times
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Summary: On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He's applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he's ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable. But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie. Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he's being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil. Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan's baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans. Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon's wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them. At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it? Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget. ~amazon.com


Review: One Perfect Lie is perhaps Lisa Scottoline's best novel today. Is there such a thing a perfect lie? If so, can you live it, breathe it and be it? Is a secret a lie? If so, everyone in this book is living a lie and I'm guessing most of us have a secret(s) we keep.

Chris Brennan isn't who he says he is but we aren't really sure who he is we just know he's telling some big lies that have a major end game in play. He weasels his way into a high school and as an assistant coach for the baseball team all so he can find a young impressionable boy to do his biding for him. He assesses the students and see which one that he can bring to his side.  He's got a limited amount of time to do this in because his deadline is less than a week. What is his deadline? What are his plans? As you are reading this, you just know that he is up to a nefarious act.

We also get to know a bit about each of the boys that Chris is targeting and their family. Raz has recently lost his dad to cancel and the family finds itself reeling in more ways than one in dealing with his death. His mother is at a loss on what to do because Neil was the glue that kept their family together.

Jordan has worked hard for his place on the varsity baseball team and his mom, Heather, couldn't be more proud. Will his hard work cost him his friendship with Raz? Heather is also dealing with her own issues since she walked out of her job. What will she do to support them?

Evan Kostis is the golden child. He's the one that has the charisma, the looks and the money. His mom though is hiding the fact that she drinks to hide the fact that her marriage isn't happy. The fact that her husband is never at home. She's not sure what is going on but she's determined to find out.

Ms. Scottoline covers a lot of ground with One Perfect Lie but she doesn't overreach, in my opinion. What I came away with though is that family always comes first, especially for us momma bears. If something is going wrong with our kids, we will be there to help them. There are twists and turns that I didn't see coming and caused me to go "whoa".

If you want a great suspense/thriller novel, then you will definitely want to pick up One Perfect Lie.


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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Julie's Review: The Dry


Author: Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #1
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Mystery
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: An almost perfect mystery that really is a whodunit
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Summary: After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead. Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Dry is one of those novels that ropes you in and then slowly and tightly unravels the story. It is the key to a superb mystery novel and Ms. Harper nails it.

In Aaron Falk, we have a flawed and human protagonist. He has locked his past away for the last 20 years until it comes barely back at him with the murder of his childhood best friend. As he comes in at the request of Luke's father, he's take back to when he lost another friend during high school. Aaron isn't exactly welcomed back with open arms especially since they were run out of town costing him and his dad everything. Aaron feels that he owes it to Luke to figure out what really happened that day. As Aaron develops an alliance with the detective, they delve into what could have happened on that fateful day. Is it tied to what happened to Ellie Deacon in the past? Or was Luke deep in financial debt due to the drought? Could he have really been that far gone to do such a horrible thing?

There are many suspects in The Dry and Ms. Harper does a great job of making each a viable option. Each character is richly drawn and you feel that you really know what makes them tick. What drives them to be the way they are? How much has the drought affected the small farming town? Is it what is making people edgy and more suspicious? Is it because Aaron used to be one of them but left under suspicious circumstances?

Ms. Harper basically lets you know the true suspect when she wants to and when she does, it makes a lot of sense. I like it when I can go back and follow the bread crumbs dropped by an author. I also appreciate when both plots come together in a way that makes sense. Aaron needed closure on Ellie's death and he got that by returning home to help the Hadley's.

If you are looking for a mystery that is taut but has an underlying keg of powder that might blow at any point, then pick up The Dry.  I can't wait to see what Ms. Harper writes next.


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Friday, May 19, 2017

Julie's Review: Girl in Disguise


Author: Greer Macallister
Series: None
Publication Date: March 21, 2017
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful historical fiction novel with a kick-butt female protagonist
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Summary: Inspired by the real story of investigator Kate Warne, this spirited novel follows the detective's rise during one of the nation's times of crisis, bringing to life a fiercely independent woman whose forgotten triumphs helped sway the fate of the country. With no money and no husband, Kate Warne finds herself with few choices. The streets of 1856 Chicago offer a desperate widow mostly trouble and ruin―unless that widow has a knack for manipulation and an unusually quick mind. In a bold move that no other woman has tried, Kate convinces the legendary Allan Pinkerton to hire her as a detective. Battling criminals and coworkers alike, Kate immerses herself in the dangerous life of an operative, winning the right to tackle some of the agency's toughest investigations. But is the woman she's becoming―capable of any and all lies, swapping identities like dresses―the true Kate? Or has the real disguise been the good girl she always thought she was? ~amazon.com

Review: I seem to be on a Chicago history kick lately because that's the main setting for Greer Macallister's wonderful Girl in Disguise. Kate Warne is a force to be reckoned with and to behold. She doesn't shy away from challenges and one of her first hurdles is to just get hired on by Pinkerton. Of course, being the first female detective isn't going to be easy and she has her battles including the one where all her male co-workers think she's sleeping with the boss. Kate is damn good at her job and can slip into different persona's easily.

I loved the cases that Kate was put on because they showcased her skills and her keen ability to read people. This has to do with how she was brought up by her parents. She also hones her skills by watching how her partners do their job as well.  Was Kate lonely? Absolutely and she wrestled with this all the time. She was married to her job and a man wouldn't understand that kind of dedication by a woman.

It's never easy to be a pioneer in anything but Ms. Macallister shows just what battle that was for Kate. She never stopped trying to be the best even when a lot was riding on her case, including the welfare of the country. She knew what needed to be done and got it done, even with great personal sacrifice.

I love knowing something that my husband doesn't know especially since he likes all the typical spy, subterfuge movies and he had no clue about the Pinkerton Detective Agency let alone the first female P.I. I have to say I was a bit smug about it. Plus then I had to use Google to find out if they are still around and they are but the focus is Risk Management.

Girl in Disguise is a wonderful historical fiction novel with a strong, kick-butt female as the protagonist. I can't recommend this book enough!


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