Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Julie's Review: Regrets Only


Author: Erin Duffy
Series: None
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 416
Obtained: author
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Picking up the pieces of a life shattered isn't easy but you have to do it
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Summary: Claire thought she had everything a woman was supposed to want—a loving husband, a newborn son, a beautiful home in the suburbs. Then she walks in on her husband canoodling with their realtor in their newly renovated kitchen, and in an instant, her perfect life comes crashing down. With her marriage heading for divorce, Claire knows it’s time to stop feeling sorry for herself. But how can she move on when she’s still stuck in the orbit of her husband’s world? For starters, she can get rid of her soon-to-be ex’s possessions—including his prized, gigantic foosball table—by dumping them onto the curb…until complaints from the neighbors get the police involved. Now Claire is busy dodging the mean mommies at story hour and hiding from her ex-husband’s girlfriend in the grocery store. But as Claire soon learns, suburbia still has a few surprises in store for her—surprises that will make her question her choices from the past, send her down an unexpected road to self-discovery, and maybe even lead to new love. Desperate for a positive outlet to channel her frustrations, she turns to girlfriends Lissy and Antonia for help. Together they join forces to rebrand Lissy’s local stationery store and turn it into a thriving business. But as Claire soon learns, suburbia still has a few surprises in store for her—surprises that will make her question her choices from the past, send her down an unexpected road to self-discovery, and maybe even new love. Featuring a second coming-of-age story, Regrets Only deftly explores the subtle nuances of marriage, family, friendship, and what it means to be a woman today, while delighting readers as its unforgettable heroine acts on impulses we’ve all been guilty of having. ~amazon.com

Review: Regrets Only was a welcome break from the psychological thrillers I've been reading and plus have loved all of Ms. Duffy's previous books, so I was looking forward to this one.  I loved Claire and even loved her mood swings. Who wouldn’t go a little bad crazy walking in on their husband having an affair with his ex girlfriend? Not to mention having a young baby to take care oh and giving up everything to move to his hometown. So while yes it seemed like she might have been losing it, she was really just reclaiming herself because she was a little lost.

Claire loses it after walking in on her husband and their real estate agent having an affair. She only finds out because Owen offered her a day in the city at the spa but she forgot her wallet, so she had to go home for it. This completely unravels Claire. How is she going to be a single mom to an 8 month old boy? How is she going to support them? Not only that but she's new to town and knows no one. She moved back east to be with Owen; she gave up her life in Chicago for him. 

Luckily a few things happen around the same time, her best friend shows up on her doorstep to help her get back on her feet and she meets Lissy, who owns a stationery store that turns into a project for Claire. Let me tell you, if that store existed in my town, I would most certainly be in there for cards and notepaper I probably don't need. The name and theme they come up with for the store is awesome. I love how her and Lissy form an immediate bond and support each other. She starts to come up for air and then her sadness/anger engulf her again. I felt that this was realistic because no one is going to be ok after a few weeks.

I adored all the other characters Lissy, Antonia and Fred. They brought Claire back down when she’s gone a bit too far. She’s surrounded herself with people that have her best interest at heart. If you are looking to read a book about picking yourself up again when life doesn't turn out like you thought, you should grab Regrets Only.


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Monday, May 14, 2018

Julie's Review: Then She Was Gone


Author: Lisa Jewell
Series: None
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Can you ever fully recover from the loss of a child?
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Summary: Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her. And then she was gone. Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl? ~amazon.com

Review: Then She Was Gone is one of those psychological thrillers that as a parent will scare the crap out of you but as a fan of thrillers, will delight you and will keep you turning the pages. It is creepy in a this could really happen. It will make you hesitate about those you let into your lives and the lives of your children. 

Laurel is still reeling from her golden child, Ellie, going missing 7 years prior. She lost her marriage and her other 2 children over her inability to get over it. Now there's a new development in it and in some ways it brings all the pain back and in other ways it helps her find some closure. She's decided that she needs to move on with her life and that is what Ellie would want her to do. Pretty soon after deciding to move on she meets Floyd. Floyd seems a little too good to be true and then when she meets his youngest daughter, Poppy; her alerts go on high. You see Poppy looks like Ellie but not just her mannerisms are like Ellie's as well. She brushes it off given everything that has happened lately her brain is in overdrive. It's not like over the years other girls haven't looked like Ellie to her. 

We get flashbacks to what happened to Ellie and it's not pretty. In fact, it's every parents nightmare. We see her struggles and her fighting to defend herself. We see her cope with the situation she is in and how she focuses on her family. Is Ellie really linked to Poppy? If so, how? 

While reading this book I did wonder if Ellie was truly the golden child or if she was hiding something from everyone. It turns out that she really was a good kid who happened across an unstable person who became obsessed with her. 

The ending of the book will leave you hopeful and yet a bit shattered. Ms. Jewell certainly has a way of writing an engaging psychological thriller.
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Julie's Review: Not That I Could Tell


Author: Jessica Strawser
Series: None
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 338
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5

Bottom Line: Another book that asks: "How well do you know your neighbors?"
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Summary: When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal. By Monday morning, one of them is gone. Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce―and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her―and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions―especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own. As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors―and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else. ~amazon.com

 Review: Not That I Could Tell is another novel that makes us question how well we know our neighbors and our friends. Appearances aren't always what they seem and people can keep things they don't want out hidden.

Izzy, the new neighbor, doesn't want her new friends to know just how lonely she really is. She's been through a lot and trying to figure out how to move on. Clara, is the person that everyone wants to be friends with because she's the stay at home mom who tries to have it all together but you know she doesn't. It makes her endearing. Then there is Kristin that we don't get to know but learn about her through her friends. She remains a mystery right up until the end.

Each of them have a little something to hide. Although I didn't think any of them had major issues to keep to themselves except for Paul. Paul was creepy. Paul was off kilter and frankly a bit weird. He didn't seem too upset about his missing wife and kids which of course is always the case in a book like this; the husband is the suspect. Except the case fizzles out pretty quickly and the police have no reason to keep him in their sights. Especially since Kristin took the money and ran.


What got me was the ending of this book. It completely took me by surprise and made the whole journey worth it to me. I would definitely recommend this one for fans of suspense.



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Friday, April 27, 2018

Julie's Review: The Secret to Southern Charm


Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: Peachtree Bluff #2
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: I love this family and these sisters
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Summary: Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family. After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve. Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light. But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Secret to Southern Charm was like slipping back into a comfy pair of sweatpants and hunkering down. I love these sisters. I love that Ms. Harvey shows complex sister relationships without having them estranged or hating each other. Now don't get me wrong, they do fight but they resolve it. Although, they always have each other's backs. Which is what this second novel focuses on, them rallying around Sloane when her husband, Adam, goes MIA. Why Sloane can't get herself out of bed, Caroline and Emerson plus their mom, Ansley, take over to take care of her two small boys. 

Emerson and Caroline have their own things going as well. Caroline is still trying to decide if she should forgive her husband, James for cheating on her while she was pregnant. Emerson is still deciding if she wants to pursue acting or pursue a relationship with Mark. Not to mention Ansley dealing with her feelings for James and the fact that she pushed him off . It really doesn't help when he moves next door.

A lot of this book revolves around the importance of family, faith and love. I think it is always good to be reminded that these things are what really makes us who we are. They never doubt their love for each other even if they sometimes question their decisions.

I love these women in this series. They are strong and yet vulnerable. They have issues that are real. You want to be their friends and sit on the porch of the house in Peachtree Bluff and tell stories.

If you haven't read Ms. Harvey then you should. Ms. Harvey can hurry up and publish the next one in the series.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Julie's Review: The Flight Attendant


Author: Chris Bohjalian
Series: None
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Another fantastic novel by one of my favorites
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Summary: Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police - she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home - Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did? Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home. ~amazon.com  

Review: Prior to reading the book I saw a lot of people commenting on how they didn’t like Cassie. I’m a believer that you don’t have to like the main character to enjoy a novel. I didn’t have such strong feelings for Cassie. I'm not saying she wasn't a hot mess because she was that and a while lot more but I felt sorry for her because she didn’t have any strong relationship and didn’t really care about herself. She was an alcoholic, which is a disease but she was self-destructive.

Waking up beside a man she barely knows isn't really new for Cassie but him being dead in the morning is. Since she's pretty much a blackout drunk, she can't say for sure if she murdered him or not but she does feel like she is capable of that even at her drunkest. What happens next has you guessing who to believe and who to not believe. Did Cassie kill him? Was it in self-defense? Or has she stepped into something much more sinister than she could ever imagine. Will she keep lying to herself and those around her or will she realize that this is perhaps the best time to tell the truth.

Mr. Bohjalian really does keep the reader engaged and on their "toes". There are many twists and turns that I truly didn't see coming but looking back I feel like there were probably hints. I also wonder if Cassie was targeted from the beginning because of her drinking and blackouts.

I love spy movies and books so I was thrilled when this book had that edge to it. It is a fast paced thriller that will have you wondering what the hell is going on until it all comes together in the end.
The Flight Attendant is another fantastic character study novel by Mr. Bohjalian. I can only imagine the research that went into this one!


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Julie's Review: The Good Liar


Author: Catherine McKenzie
Series: None
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 338
Obtained: Great Thoughts, Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.25/5
Bottom Line: If you keep secrets does that make you a liar?
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Summary: When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered. A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building. Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them? ~amazon.com

Review: The Good Liar was my first Catherine McKenzie book but it won’t be my last. She has written a novel where everyone has secrets but that doesn't necessarily mean they are a liar. How can one moment can change the lives of 3 women inexplicably? This what she examines and peels back the layers on.

Cecily is the poster child/woman for the family’s of the accident. Except she’s hiding something from they world but most of all her family. In the end though, I felt that she was just racked with guilt and trying to protect her family. Kate, well she’s got a couple screws loose. She ran away when the opportunity presented itself and then came back when it suited her needs as well. I wouldn’t call her selfish but broken. Her intentions might mean well but were executed poorly. Then there is Franny;  coo-coo for cocoa puffs but I’ll let you read about her but I’m just going to say is that she needs some serious help.

While there were a few things I figured out before they were revealed, it didn't ruin the book at all for me. In fact even though I figured them out how the characters reacted was not what I expected, so that was refreshing. I also wanted to see how she would end it and I definitely didn't expect the ending.

If you are looking for a great suspense novel, pick up The Good Liar.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Julie's Review: The Husband Hour


Author: Jamie Brenner
Series: None
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Pages: 338
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: How do you heal when you are stunted by tragedy and guilt?
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Summary: Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny. Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family's old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she's forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time. One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future. ~amazon.com

Review:  Husband Hour is about Rory and Lauren but for me it was really about family. How you can love someone in your family but dislike them at the same time. To say that Lauren and her sister Stephanie are at odds would be putting it lightly. They haven’t truly spoken in years and when Rory died, Stephanie didn’t attend his funeral.Talk about some issues, right?

So the idea of spending the summer in their family home on the Jersey Shore with her sister, is completely unappealing; especially when Lauren has the house mainly to herself most of the year. Their mother, Beth, thinks this summer will just the thing to fix her family. She doesn't understand why her girls just can't get along.

As a reader, you really feel for Lauren and everything she's gone through, especially as you learn the backstory. You also want her to forgive herself and move on. She can't stay stunted forever, even though that's exactly what she's choosing to do by hiding on the shore all year. As much as I found Stephanie annoying, I wanted her and Lauren to find their way back to each other. After all a sister can be your best friend.

My favorite part of the novel might have been the subplot about their parents but more specifically about their mother's rebirth/renewal. I loved how after years of doing something that needed to be done she reignited her passion. I think it made her husband see her in a new light.

What Ms. Brenner does an excellent in this novel is showing how someone’s death can stunt you in ways you didn’t even know and how life can pass you by. She also shows the different family dynamics and how kids can have no clue what is going with their parents. It's a study in love, loss, forgiveness and re-birth.

I would highly suggest you get Husband Hour as one of your Spring reads. You won't be disappointed by it at all.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Julie's Reviews: The Great Alone



Author: Kristin Hannah
Series: None
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 448
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Wow!
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Summary: Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves. In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature. ~amazon.com

Review: Great Alone is one of those books that will grabs you by the heart and never lets go. I wouldn't have thought that a book about living in the remote Alaskan wilderness would be so utterly engaging.

Alaska itself is its own character and drive the story as much as the Allbright family. It is also the coming of age story of Leni and the power of love. She shows the possibilities of it and the impossibilities of it. It is about being able to survive all of the things you think you couldn't and being stronger for it. Leni is a strong teenager and it a lot of ways she's the only adult in her house. Her mom's happiness is tied to the stability of her father and that is something that is sporadic.

She learns that love is both light and dark. Her mom and her try to stick together throughout her dad's highs and lows. She protects her mom as much as she can until her dad's rage is turned towards her.
Ms. Hannah highlights how war affects people and can change who they are. How sometimes not even love can heal them no matter how hard you try. They also have to want to help themselves.

Great Alone is one of those books that you will want to keep turning the pages on until late into the night. Ms. Hannah is one of the premier storytellers of our time. In this novel she made Alaska come alive.

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