Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Julie's Review: The Summer I Met Jack

Author: Michelle Gable
Series: None
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 528
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Before the Kennedy's were considered Camelot, JFK was in love with someone else
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Summary: Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack. Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other. The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedy's to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together. ~amazon.com  

Review: I’m not obsessed with the Kennedy’s by any means but this book about JFK’s romantic involvement with Alicia Darr was interesting.  I’m of the opinion that JFK was an ass and Alicia saw what he could do for her and she took it. I have no doubt they were in lust with each other but while she let him in a little, she never opened completely up. There was something she always held back about herself.

For me it wasn’t their romance that intrigued me it was the setting of the story. I loved the old school movie theater that Alicia work in and her friendship with George. For me he was her confidante and true friend. He always told her how he saw it, even if at times she didn't want to here it.

I do enjoy books that make me use google and The Summer I Met Jack made me do that. If you are looking for another view into the Kennedy clan, then this book is for you.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Julie's Review: Another Side of Paradise

Author: Sally Koslow
Series: None
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A look into one of F Scott Fitzgerald's many loves
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Summary: In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze. But the once-famous author, desperate to make money penning scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Like Fitzgerald’s hero Jay Gatsby, Graham has meticulously constructed a life far removed from the poverty of her childhood in London’s slums. And like Gatsby, the onetime guttersnipe learned early how to use her charms to become a hardworking success; she is feted and feared by both the movie studios and their luminaries. A notorious drunk famously married to the doomed Zelda, Fitzgerald fell hard for his “Shielah” (he never learned to spell her name), a shrewd yet softhearted woman—both a fool for love and nobody’s fool—who would stay with him and help revive his career until his tragic death three years later. Working from Sheilah’s memoirs, interviews, and letters, Sally Koslow revisits their scandalous love affair and Graham’s dramatic transformation in London, bringing Graham and Fitzgerald gloriously to life with the color, glitter, magic, and passion of 1930s Hollywood. ~amazon.com

Review:  While this novel is about the love affair between Sheilah and F. Scott, for me Sheilah's backstory is the most interesting part of the novel. At this time, F. Scott was a washed up writer trying to become a screenwriter in Hollywood but even that isn't going well for him. By the end of this book I took pity on F. Scott Fitzgerald because he really wasn't going to make a huge comeback.

As I said, this story was really about Ms. Graham. It was about how her past shaped her and how her relationship with Scott might have been the first time she was truly in love. He also taught her to believe in herself and with his guidance she educated herself by reading books she had never experienced previously.

I really enjoyed Sheilah and her story. She has reinvented herself for gain and because she had to get out of where she grew up. Ms. Koslow did right by Sheilah by telling her side of the story and giving her a voice.
 

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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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