Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Julie's Review: Don't Let Go

Author: Harlan Coben
Series: None
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 368
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Mystery
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Never, ever a let down from Mr. Coben
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Summary: Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn't been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he's been looking for. When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

Review: Honestly, every time I pick up a book from Mr. Coben I'm not disappointed and he's done it again with Don't Let Go. Nap is a character that you will like even if some of his actions are questionable but he's a great detective. This time the case is personal when the prints of his long-ago girlfriend show up at a crime scene where a cop is killed.

Nap has never gotten over the fact that his girlfriend from 15 years ago disappeared into thin air right after his brother died. He's never really bought the story that his brother and his girlfriend committed suicide together, something always nagged at him about it. So when cops from Philly show up to question him about why he put Maura's fingerprints into the national system, Nap is pulled back into the mystery that shrouded her disappearance years ago.

As Nap starts to ask questions and un-bury long harbored secrets, he begins to find out that things aren't always what they seem and some conspiracy's are not only true but sometimes wilder than the theory itself.

It's not that the outcome is shocking or that there are a bunch of "shoe dropping" moments but its the story telling by Mr. Coben that solidifies this novel as one of my favorite of 2017. He makes you care about the characters, what happens to them and the resolution of the mystery.

If you haven't read Harlan Coben, Don't Let Go is a great stand alone to start with and then work your way through his back list.


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Monday, December 11, 2017

Julie's Review: Hello, Sunshine

Author: Laura Dave
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 256
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A good read about being true to yourself
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Summary: Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light. Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. And then she gets hacked. When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life. In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

Review: Hello Sunshine is a story about falling from the pedestal of stardom into the abyss being ostracized. Sunshine is at the peak of her career, she's beloved by her millions of fans and is about ready to launch a Food Network show that she couldn't be more excited about. Her public persona is all about good, farm to table food but there's a secret; Sunshine can't even cook let alone put together a recipe. So when her carefully cultivated career comes tumbling down and everyone close to her bails, she has no where to go except back home where she's tried to escape from for years.

Except things at home have changed as well. Her older sister, isn't exactly happy to see her and in fact doesn't really want Sunshine around. Except within a short period of time Sunshine and her niece, Sammy have formed a pretty strong bond much to Rain's chagrin.

By the end of the novel, I'm not quite sure if Sunshine's learned her lesson but I think she's on the way based on some of her actions. For a while she keeps thinking that she can build herself up for fame again but maybe that should have never been her goal in the first place. I figured out the twist pretty quickly and was waiting for her to figure it out.

There were a few strings that weren't tied up in the story, which probably should have been but they weren't so important that they took away from the book. If you are looking for a quick read and a peek into foodie celebrity, Hello Sunshine is the book for you.


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Monday, December 4, 2017

Julie's Review: Perfectly Undone

Author: Jamie Raintree
Series: None
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A bit predictable at times but has a great message
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no? For too many years, Dylan's been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn't been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister's death—and the role no one knows she played in it. Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a future together. But when Cooper makes a startling confession of his own, can Dylan find the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone? Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.  

Review: Perfectly Undone shows us that appearances aren’t always what they seem and this is true for Dylan and Cooper. On the outside they seem to have it all; great careers, great house, great relationship but nothing is perfect. Obviously, they are picture perfect but there are cracks. Dylan throws herself into her work because she's dedicated, loves what she does but she's also obsessed. When she gets passed over for a grant,she starts to lose her grip and question her path in life. How can she make a difference if she's not given the means to do so?

Dylan holds herself responsible for her sister’s death and believes that she can fix this wrong by dedicating herself to her work to help women. Of course she starts to crack under the pressure she’s put on herself. It's how she starts to pull herself together that the real story emerges. It is how we respond in trying times that show us what we are made of.  Dylan has always relied on other people to push her or to be her reason, it's time for her to learn to trust herself.

There are a few cliches that are weaved throughout the novel but if you can get over them, then it's worth it to find Dylan coming into her own.

Perfectly Undone is about letting go and forgiveness on a few different levels.


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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Julie's Review: Camino Island

Author: John Grisham
Series: None
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304
Obtained: Local Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: An ode to book lovers with some mystery
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Summary: A gang of thieves stage a daring heist from a secure vault deep below Princeton University’s Firestone Library. Their loot is priceless, but Princeton has insured it for twenty-five million dollars. Bruce Cable owns a popular bookstore in the sleepy resort town of Santa Rosa on Camino Island in Florida. He makes his real money, though, as a prominent dealer in rare books. Very few people know that he occasionally dabbles in the black market of stolen books and manuscripts. Mercer Mann is a young novelist with a severe case of writer’s block who has recently been laid off from her teaching position. She is approached by an elegant, mysterious woman working for an even more mysterious company. A generous offer of money convinces Mercer to go undercover and infiltrate Bruce Cable’s circle of literary friends, ideally getting close enough to him to learn his secrets. But eventually Mercer learns far too much, and there’s trouble in paradise as only John Grisham can deliver it.  

Review: Camino Island is a great novel for those of us who love books and a shout out to independent book stores. If you are expecting a fast-paced, thriller for this Grisham novel, you won't get it. Now, that doesn't mean there isn't action, there is, but it's more of a slow burn and a mystery more than a thriller. It's a case of "is he guilty, or is he not".  At times, I also wasn't sure who was fully trustworthy.

Mercer is young, out of work and in extreme debt due to her college tuition. She's got no prospective employers and is at the end of her time on campus with no next move. So when she gets a mysterious call with a very unique proposition, she really has no choice but to take the opportunity. Plus it takes her back to the place where the her fondest memories are of her childhood.

It doesn't take long for Mercer to endear herself to the locals since she's pretty much a local herself having spent most of her summers there as a kid. She starts to learn the personalities of the local writers and even gets advice even if it isn't necessarily requested. As she starts to get invited to book signings and dinners, things start to heat up for her. It's the fact that she's genuine that doesn't truly make anyone suspicious but it's not like she's really good at the spy trade. She's also a bit naive as to whom to trust and who to fall in bed with. I mean Elaine even clues her in about Bruce and she still falls for the charm. So whom is using whom?

I haven't read a Grisham book in a while but I was happy to get back to him with Camino Island. It was like putting on a pair of your most comfy pants and settling in for what you know will be a satisfying evening. While this isn't his typical legal thriller it is definitely still engaging and intriguing. I'm happy to know that I can return to his books and know I'm getting a great read.
 Plus he really does give props to the independent and rare book stores out there. So a little bit of an insiders look into the business side of books.

If you haven't read Grisham in a while,  Camino Island is a great way to spend some hours with one of our iconic authors.


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Friday, November 24, 2017

Julie's Review: UnSub

Author: Meg Gardiner
Series: UnSub #1
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4.75/5
Bottom Line: Not for the faint of heart
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Summary: Caitlin Hendrix has been a Narcotics detective for six months when the killer at the heart of all her childhood nightmares reemerges: the Prophet. An UNSUB—what the FBI calls an unknown subject—the Prophet terrorized the Bay Area in the 1990s and nearly destroyed her father, the lead investigator on the case. The Prophet’s cryptic messages and mind games drove Detective Mack Hendrix to the brink of madness, and Mack’s failure to solve the series of ritualized murders—eleven seemingly unconnected victims left with the ancient sign for Mercury etched into their flesh—was the final nail in the coffin for a once promising career. Twenty years later, two bodies are found bearing the haunting signature of the Prophet. Caitlin Hendrix has never escaped the shadow of her father’s failure to protect their city. But now the ruthless madman is killing again and has set his sights on her, threatening to undermine the fragile barrier she rigidly maintains for her own protection, between relentless pursuit and dangerous obsession. Determined to decipher his twisted messages and stop the carnage, Caitlin ignores her father’s warnings as she draws closer to the killer with each new gruesome murder. Is it a copycat, or can this really be the same Prophet who haunted her childhood? Will Caitlin avoid repeating her father’s mistakes and redeem her family name, or will chasing the Prophet drag her and everyone she loves into the depths of the abyss?  

Review: Meg Gardiner, is one of my favorite thriller writers and she doesn't disappoint with her latest, Unsub. Meg writes the most kick-ass, strong female leads that you'll read and yet they are so relatable.

It is no different with Caitlin, Cat. She's a fantastic Narcotics cop but she's always been haunted by the case that destroyed her father, the murders by a serial killer called the Prophet. Now, he's back and his murders are getting more frequent and more violent. Since her father was the lead detective 20 years ago, the current team is hoping that she'll be the conduit to getting him to open up about the case.

Caitlin allows herself to be consumed by the case and is close to losing herself. As she starts to piece together the previous murders, she begins to see a pattern but will she crack the code in time? Why has the Prophet zoned in on her? Why have the murders escalated and how they stop him?

This is a book that is fast-paced but it has a depth to it as well. If you are uncomfortable with getting into the mind of a killer, then you will want to stay away. I loved how Caitlin started coming into her own and then came out of her father's shadow. How she put all the pieces of the puzzle together to stop the killer. I'm very excited to see how Caitlin develops in the next book which is out in January!

I can't recommend Unsub enough. I can't do a detailed review because that would ruin the book. 😊😊😊


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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Julie's Review: Seven Days of Us

Author: Francesca Hornak
Series: None
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A family drama that lacks real drama
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family. For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down. In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive.

Review: Seven Days of Us is a novel that most will find comfort in reading because it hits all the right buttons especially coming up on the holidays. I found that I expected much more than what I got but I still enjoyed it. I was looking for something a little more than typical family strife. The Birch family is an interesting clan and they all have their little quirks.

Emma, the matriarch, is hiding something from her family that will impact them all and it only adds to her typical frenetic personality. Andrew, the patriarch, has been living with secret for years and now he's going to have to own up to it in a big way. Olivia, the eldest, is the person to cause this quarantine because of her work in Liberia treating people with a deadly disease. Then there's Phoebe, she's the youngest and none to pleased about this quarantine. She just got engaged and she has a wedding to plan.

Each of them are self-absorbed in their own way and can't really see other's points of view. At times it's infuriating how disconnected all of them are to each other but then I'm sure that's how some families are with grown children.

For a family drama novel, I didn't feel that there was real drama. There were opportunities for there to be more of it but I felt it was all brushed under the rug or resolved too quickly. There weren't any real twists or turns and while yes it's not a suspense or thriller, sometimes you want something out of left field to happen in a family drama that isn't so cookie cutter.

I had high expectations for this one going in and while overall I did enjoy it, I felt there could have been a bit more depth to it. If you are in the mood for novels about family this season, then Seven Days of Us will fill that need.


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Monday, November 13, 2017

Julie's Review: The Bear and The Nightingale

Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: Del Rey
Pages: 336
Obtained: friend
Genre:  Fairy Tale, Fantasy
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A gorgeously written novel that evokes a world of Russian Fairy Tales
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Winter lasts most of the year at the edge of the Russian wilderness, and in the long nights, Vasilisa and her siblings love to gather by the fire to listen to their nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, Vasya loves the story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon. Wise Russians fear him, for he claims unwary souls, and they honor the spirits that protect their homes from evil. Then Vasya’s widowed father brings home a new wife from Moscow. Fiercely devout, Vasya’s stepmother forbids her family from honoring their household spirits, but Vasya fears what this may bring. And indeed, misfortune begins to stalk the village. But Vasya’s stepmother only grows harsher, determined to remake the village to her liking and to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for marriage or a convent. As the village’s defenses weaken and evil from the forest creeps nearer, Vasilisa must call upon dangerous gifts she has long concealed—to protect her family from a threat sprung to life from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale isn't really my usual book because it really does fall into the fantasy category even though in essence it's a Russian Fairy Tale. Having said that I'm glad my friend recommended it and sent it to me.

It is the story of family, love, history and of finding your own way. Vasya has been different from her siblings since day one but her mother told her father she would. Unfortunately, her mother isn't around to teach Vasya the ways of her ancestors. So, Vasya through her younger years and as she becomes older has to rely on herself.  Obviously because of this factor she has limited understanding and doesn't understand her place in the current struggle between the old ways and the church. It doesn't help that her step-mother has forbidden practicing the old ways which honored the spirits and protected the village.

Vasya needs to learn to trust herself and her instincts very early. She needs to learn that she is different and that she needs to be the one to protect her family. She will need to rebel against her father, step-father and the local priest. Vasya is a strong, independent heroine that will need to learn how to harness her powers because not everyone will understand.

Ms. Arden has done a fantastic job of creating a unique world that enraptures you from the very beginning. It is one that gets your imagination going and you can vividly see the forest that they live in.

While I did feel that some of the middle of the novel could have been edited down, I loved the climax and very much look forward to the next book, The Girl in the Tower, which is released in December.
If you are a fan of Harry Potter and/or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, you will want to check out this series.


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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Poll Results: Next Read

Thanks to those who voted last Friday!  The result is:

I've been looking forward to this one! Stay tuned for a review and the next poll!


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