Friday, July 31, 2015

Julie's Review: The Royal We

Author: Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan
Series: None
Publication Date: April 7, 2015
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Pages: 464
Obtained: from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5.0
Bottom Line: Outstanding. The real side of a fairy tale romance.
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Summary: "I might be Cinderella today, but I dread who they'll think I am tomorrow. I guess it depends on what I do next." American Rebecca Porter was never one for fairy tales. Her twin sister, Lacey, has always been the romantic who fantasized about glamour and royalty, fame and fortune. Yet it's Bex who seeks adventure at Oxford and finds herself living down the hall from Prince Nicholas, Great Britain's future king. And when Bex can't resist falling for Nick, the person behind the prince, it propels her into a world she did not expect to inhabit, under a spotlight she is not prepared to face. Dating Nick immerses Bex in ritzy society, dazzling ski trips, and dinners at Kensington Palace with him and his charming, troublesome brother, Freddie. But the relationship also comes with unimaginable baggage: hysterical tabloids, Nick's sparkling and far more suitable ex-girlfriends, and a royal family whose private life is much thornier and more tragic than anyone on the outside knows. The pressures are almost too much to bear, as Bex struggles to reconcile the man she loves with the monarch he's fated to become. Which is how she gets into trouble. Now, on the eve of the wedding of the century, Bex is faced with whether everything she's sacrificed for love-her career, her home, her family, maybe even herself-will have been for nothing.

Review: There are few books I really do gush over but get ready for some serious love here for The Royal We. I'm not a "Royal Watcher" but I admit being curious about Kate and Wills. More so about Kate than Wills but I digress. This wonderful, funny, witty, heart-wrenching, joyful book is about Bex and Nick. We join Bex on the eve of her marriage to Nick or rather Prince Nicholas of Wales but she's not real sure if it'll go through.

The rest of the novel takes us back in time to when they first met, how they fell in love and the obstacles that were in their way. We know that it isn't smooth sailing for them because of what Bex tells us and also because what relationship is. Bex is instantly lovable and adorable. She's a fish out of water but she doesn't let it hold her back. She quickly befriends her roommate, Cilly and then the rest of the lot. This band of merry men and women are the inner circle for Nick. They have his back in all the ways you hope your friends do.

Cocks and Morgan have an excellent cast of secondary characters. It is easy to get caught up in their world. They are all privileged in one way or another. Bex isn't exactly a slouch but she's also not British or from a proper blood line. I knew from the start that Lacey, while trying to be excited and happy for Bex, was really jealous and/or envious of her life. It was never what Bex had dreamed of but it was always what Lacey had dreams about.

As you can guess things spiral out of control and for a while Bex and Nick go their separate ways. I can only imagine what it's like to be under the microscope and the spotlight simultaneously. It is not something that Bex and Nick handle very well. When thrust into the spotlight neither of them knows how to react or respond.

What I loved what how Bex tried desperately to remain her own person. We all lose a little of ourselves when in a relationship but it's the degrees that can make the difference. She realizes that there are ways to keep who she is but she realizes that she will also have to be the the Duchess the Palace needed too.

You can't help but feel sorry for Nick. He didn't ask for this life but it is his life. He doesn't have choices, his life has been planned from the day he was born. His relationship with his father is tense and his mother isn't in the picture much. He's close with his great-grandmother but it really comes down to is this is his job. Being the Prince of Britain is his destiny. Bex has a choice but do we really have a choice once we decide that we can't live without that person?

The Royal We is a book about relationships, love, friendship and what it takes to be in a relationship with the one(s) we love the most. There is humor and sorrow, joy and sadness in the book. I laughed out loud and I cried. It is probably one of my favorite books of 2015. I really can't gush enough about this one. Do yourself a favor and read this one! You really won't regret it, even if you aren't a "royal" watcher.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Julie's Review: The Mask

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Author: Taylor Stevens
Series: Vanessa Michael Monroe #5
Publication Date: June 30, 2015
Publisher: Crown
Pages: 352
Obtained: Amazon Vine
Genre:  Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Thrilling and exciting entry into one of my favorite thriller/mystery series
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Summary: Vanessa Michael Munroe, chameleon and information hunter, has a reputation for getting things done: dangerous and not quite legal things, in some of the world’s deadliest places. Still healing from a brutal attack that left her near death, Munroe joins her lover, Miles Bradford, in Japan where he’s working as a security consultant protecting high-value technology from industrial espionage. In the domesticity of their routine Munroe finds long sought-after peace—until Bradford is arrested for murder. She will soon discover how far she’ll go to save him from twenty years in locked-up isolation; how many laws she’ll break when the truth seems worse than his lies; and who to trust and who she’ll kill. Because she’s a strategist and hunter with a predator’s instincts, and the man she loves has just stabbed her in the back.  

Review: The Mask is one of those books where I had to trust the author and it's a good thing I've read all the other books in this series to know I can trust her. I did seriously wonder what kind of ride she was going to take me on and how Michael was going to come out of this on the other side. I was worried that the only thing keeping Michael tethered was going to be ripped away from her. This trip to Japan to see Bradford was supposed to be a healing trip for her. Well, how much fun would that be to read about and write? Probably not very for this character. Michael needs action, she needs to feel purposeful. I doubt she's ever had a proper vacation.

Needless to say, Michael's skills are called into action quickly when Miles gets arrested for murder. She knows he didn't do it but he also wasn't fully honest with her. This is when she has to start putting together the puzzle pieces.

Michael is also operating in a culture that she doesn't quite understand but that she has to learn quickly to adapt to. She has to learn how to function and command respect from men in the office. She needs someone to help her adapt and to also figure out the pieces of the puzzle that she can't do on her own. She needs someone to team with this time. This time she can't do it on her own.

Ms. Stevens always does a great job of making two plot lines intersect and The Mask is no different. I never doubt the path or paths she's going to take us on. They are almost always a wild ride, which is what keeps this reader coming back. Plus I happen to think Vanessa Michael Munroe is one of the most interesting and complex characters I've ever read.

If you've never read any of Ms. Stevens books and you are a fan of thrillers plus excellent characters, then you need to pick up this series.


Monday, July 27, 2015

Julie's Review: War and Remembrance

Author: Herman Wouk
Series: Winds of War #2
Publication Date: December 6, 2011
Publisher: Audible Studios
Length: 56 Hours 8 Minutes
Narrator: Kevin Pariseau
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: History lesson wrapped up in a family saga
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Summary: Herman Wouk's sweeping epic of World War II, which begins with The Winds of War and continues here in War and Remembrance, stands as the crowning achievement of one of America's most celebrated storytellers. Like no other books about the war, Wouk's spellbinding narrative captures the tide of global events - and all the drama, romance, heroism, and tragedy of World War II - as it immerses us in the lives of a single American family drawn into the very center of the war's maelstrom.  

Review: I can't believe it's been a year since I listened to The Winds of War and have finally concluded War & Remembrance. This is the family saga to start and end all family sagas. It is hard to believe that one family can endure so much for so long during a war and yet so many families had every lasting scars from World War II.

The book spans from the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the surrender of the Japanese. It examines the horrors of the concentration camps through the eyes of Natalie Jastrow-Henry and her Uncle. To listen to the parts of this book it's hard to not cry or get sick. It is truly upsetting to know that other humans treated other humans with that amount of disgrace and repugnance. It is hard as someone who knows the outcome to reconcile with the fact that nothing was done sooner. I also understand that hindsight is 20/20. There were people who were calling out what was going on but no one was listening.

Mr. Wouk spends a good amount of time with the submarine battles in the Pacific. As a history lesson this is interesting and sometimes a bit long in the tooth. You can tell that it's passionate for him as an author.

As the war rages on, the Henry family experiences their own losses and changes as well. This is where Mr. Wouk succeeds wholeheartedly. He wraps the war up in their story and their story within the war.

Kevin Pariseau is the perfect narrator again. He does the voices of all the characters with perfection. He even nailed annoying Rhoda.

If you are a fan of historical fiction and haven't read The Winds of War and War & Remembrance, then you must. Yes, they are thick but they are so well worth it. I'm glad my step-dad and Jenn told me to read them!


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Julie's Review: Center of Gravity

Author: Laura McNeill
Series: None
Publication Date: July 14, 2015
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Pages: 455
Obtained: Author
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Psychological Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: So real it feels like it was happening to you
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Summary: The truth could cost her everything. Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is wonderful. Or is it? When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss. If only Ava could believe her own excuses. Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys. Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town, Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game? Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

Review: Center of Gravity is a novel about how well we know those we love and the lengths a mother will go to protect/save her kids. Ava and Mitchell seem to have the perfect marriage. Great house, great kids and they seem completely smitten with each other. That is until Mitchell seemingly turns on a dime on Ava. Ava has no clue who this man is that is being rude to her and just leaves the house with the boys. She thinks it's for a few nights while he "cools off". Ava soon finds out that its definitely not temporary.

What happens next is Ava fighting for her reputation, her kids and her life. Once Mitchell turns on her, there really is no going back. She has no time to figure out what went wrong because she's too busy trying to stand on her own two feet. She has no family to count on because from what we are told, she's the black sheep to her southern mother. She really is alone in her fight to prove that she's not what Mitchell says.

As a reader, I never once doubted Ava and her love for both Jack and Sam. I knew that whatever lay ahead of her, she would get through this. Perhaps the unsung hero of the novel is Jack. He is such a brave kid and they way he always protected Sam from his dad. It is also understandable that he did believe his dad at times when it came to Ava. He had been lied to by his dad when the only person he could believe was his dad.

Ms. McNeill has a great knack for pulling you into the story immediately. You want to know what Ava will do to fight back. You want to see her succeed and maybe more than that, you want to see Mitchell get his comeuppance. I loved how she also gave us a glimpse into the future so that we could close the book feeling good.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Jack's side of the story too. I think that might give us adults a bit of pause into how things really do affect the kids, even if we don't think so. It is a rare author who can get the voice of a child right and Ms. McNeill does is with aplomb. 

If you are looking for tautly written suspense novel to get you through the summer, then look no further than Center of Gravity.


Friday, July 17, 2015

Julie's Review: The Knockoff

Author: Lucy Sykes & Jo Piazza
Series: None
Publication Date: May 19, 2015
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 352
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Delicious and engaging
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Summary: An outrageously stylish, wickedly funny novel of fashion in the digital age, The Knockoff is the story of Imogen Tate, editor in chief of Glossy magazine, who finds her twentysomething former assistant Eve Morton plotting to knock Imogen off her pedestal, take over her job, and reduce the magazine, famous for its lavish 768-page September issue, into an app. When Imogen returns to work at Glossy after six months away, she can barely recognize her own magazine. Eve, fresh out of Harvard Business School, has fired “the gray hairs,” put the managing editor in a supply closet, stopped using the landlines, and hired a bevy of manicured and questionably attired underlings who text and tweet their way through meetings. Imogen, darling of the fashion world, may have Alexander Wang and Diane von Furstenberg on speed dial, but she can’t tell Facebook from Foursquare and once got her iPhone stuck in Japanese for two days. Under Eve’s reign, Glossy is rapidly becoming a digital sweatshop—hackathons rage all night, girls who sleep get fired, and “fun” means mandatory, company-wide coordinated dances to Beyonc√©. Wildly out of her depth, Imogen faces a choice—pack up her Smythson notebooks and quit, or channel her inner geek and take on Eve to save both the magazine and her career. A glittering, uproarious, sharply drawn story filled with thinly veiled fashion personalities, The Knockoff is an insider’s look at the ever-changing world of fashion and a fabulous romp for our Internet-addicted age.

Review: The Knockoff is a book that I loved every single word of and every single minute I spent reading it. Perhaps it's where I'm at in my career or my profession (HR) but the insight into millennial is priceless. The Knockoff is what might happen if Andi came back to bump Miranda from her perch in The Devil Wears Prada. Although Imogen is no Miranda and Andi was no Eve. While it might be similar to The Devil Wears Prada it really is in a league of it's own. It's smart, witty, engaging and insightful. I'm not into fashion, I'm more into comfortable then trendy and being a fashionista but maybe that's why I enjoy being in a world of which I'm not privy too and learning something.

Instantly, this reader loved Imogen. She's ready to come back to work from a sabbatical and taken on the world of Glossy again but to her surprise it's no longer going to be a print magazine but an online app. Now Imogen knows what an app is but how the behind the scenes works, she's clueless. Enter, Eve Morton, who is what Imogen is not: young, tech savvy and a bitch. Yup, I said it, she's a bitch. And if he were a man, I would call him a douche-bag. She's too cutthroat and backstabbing to say she's just ambitious. You can be ambitious and successful without being any of those things.

While Imogen changes her feelings about technology and starts to understand how to work in this new world, she begins to cultivate her own ideas on how to integrate technology into her fashion world. It's not that she's against moving to a different platform, she just doesn't like Eve's approach to it.

As for Eve well she's so tunnel vision that she can't see anything else. She can't see that even in this tech-based world we live on, you do need to work on personal relationships. Although, that doesn't mean invading some one's personal space.

My good friend, Michelle said in her review that's it's an "us vs. them"  situation and that might be true but I'm not sure of any millennial who would be on Eve's side. She's just perfectly awful. There are some wonderful, hardworking, genuine people in this book. I love Ashley and think she was the perfect person to lend Imogen a hand into figure out the new world of and Eve. She was smart and savvy in ways I really didn't expect her to be.

I really can't say much else other than you need to read this no matter what "generation" you are in. Each of us will find something to identify with and scoff at. I will admit there was some social media references in there that I had no clue what they were and I'm OK with it, until my kids want to use it.

I'm so glad that The Knockoff lived up to and exceed the hype for me. Trust me, you won't want to put it down. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Julie's Review: Luckiest Girl Alive

Author: Jessica Knoll
Series: None
Publication Date: May 12, 2015
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 352
Obtained: on loan from a friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: Shocking reveal wasn't that shocking to me
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Summary: HER PERFECT LIFE IS A PERFECT LIE. As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fianc√©, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve. But Ani has a secret. There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything. With a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to “have it all” and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that's bigger than it first appears. The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

Review: Luckiest Girl Alive in an intriguing premise with that you really aren't suppose to like Ani; at least that's what I think. I didn't like her and I didn't despise her either. At times I felt sorry for her and other times I wanted to smack her. She's pretty blunt which I can appreciate but I never knew if I could trust her. I didn't know who the "real" Ani was/is for 98% of the book, which is the point because she doesn't know who she is. Ani certainly knows who she's pretending to be but you can really only pretend for so long. I enjoyed the flashback chapters much more than the present day ones because I could feel empathy for 14 year old TifAni but definitely not 29 year old Ani. I understand why she needed to create a new persona but the one she crafted wasn't easy to relate to. When the big reveal was revealed I wasn't shocked. Given all that TifAni had been through, I thought it was understandable for her to have the feelings she had. I actually was waiting for her to have slept with her teacher and perhaps the fact that she didn't was a bigger shock to me.

I never felt that Ani was a sociopath but ultimate social climber. She was engaged to Luke for all the right outward appearance reasons but not for the most important reasons. Luke did seem to love Ani but there were some flaws with him as well. Some that were critical given her past history and that would definitely give me pause in marrying him. I will say he looked great on paper though but then again so did Ani.

Ms. Knoll definitely knows how to craft an intriguing story and characters. I was happy that Ani finally figured out who she wanted to be. It was nice to see her grown up and truly come into her own. I thought that Ani's mom was a real piece of work and a lot of the reason Ani ended up being who she was as an adult. I would say her dad was an influence as well since his absence was very much noted.

What this book showed me is that you can never truly escape who you are and you should never let other people or what's happened to you truly define you. You can let it mold you into who you want to become but you should not let it make you hide.

If you are looking for a book with some twists and turns, then you will want to pick up  Luckiest Girl Alive

Side Note: Although I'm a big believer that everyone should quit comparing books to Gone Girl because let's face it, Amy is in a league of her own.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Jenn's Review: The Queen of the Tearling

Author: Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling, #1
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 448
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  NA Fantasy, Dystopian
Rating: 3.25
Bottom Line: A stumbling novel that could have been brilliant with more editing
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Blurb:  Her throne awaits . . . if she can live long enough to take it.

It was on her nineteenth birthday that the soldiers came for Kelsea Glynn. They’d come to escort her back to the place of her birth – and to ensure she survives long enough to be able to take possession of what is rightfully hers.

But like many nineteen-year-olds, Kelsea is unruly, has high principles and believes she knows better than her elders. Unlike many nineteen-year-olds, she is about to inherit a kingdom that is on its knees – corrupt, debauched and dangerous.

Kelsea will either become the most fearsome ruler the kingdom has ever known . . . or be dead within the week.

Combining thrilling adventure and action, dark magic, mystery and romance, The Queen of the Tearling is the debut of a born storyteller blessed with a startling imagination.

Review:  Most reviewers either loved or hated this book and I am on the fence.  I don't read many dystopian novels because they usually fail to capture my interest in the premise.  Although this caught my eye, establishing the world took so many chapters my interest began to wain.  In fact, I attempted to read this book several times and failed miserably... however listening to it worked wonders, so welcome to my first audio book review.

The first few chapters are very detailed in the setup (I remember a particularly long passage about a door)   and also switched points of view several times which disrupted the continuity. Once I got beyond the first third of the book, I found it was intriguing.  The story is modernistic Arthurian with a compelling though somewhat familiar in premise.  However for all of the plot exposition I felt that there wasn't a clear definition of the time period the book is set in.  Had you not read the blurb you would never have known it was set in the future until midway through the book.

This is definitely and Adult or New Adult Fantasy -which I rarely read because I find the adult themes distracting to the magic of the fantasy.  There are lots of mature themes in the book, rape, sex, murder, child slavery... and while I will be the first to admit some of it helped with the world building and were necessary to the plot, a lot of it felt gratuitous and existed only for shock value.  None of it was overly graphic but I was particularly bothered by the fleeting treatment of the victims and the glossing over of the aftermath.  If you are going to deal with these topics, take them on in their entirety or just edit them out.  

Kelsea's naivetee leads to some cringeworthy moments.  I still have no idea who or what the Red Queen is besides a sex-crazed sorceress.  However, there are plenty of interesting characters, perhaps a few too many to keep track of at first but they all sort themselves out eventually. I want to know more about all of them and in the murk of this novel, that is Erika Johansen's shining success.  By the time I was two thirds of the way through, I found myself involved in the story.  Things start to get rolling and the novel comes to a close.

Will I read the second one?  Yes, at least I'll try (I may have to listen to it).  I can't help feeling that somewhere underneath it all is a decent series -- with different editing, it may even have been a fantastic series.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Julie's Review: Things You Won't Say

Author: Sarah Pekkanen
Series: None
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5.0
Bottom Line: Timely novel about how split second decisions alter our lives
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: How far would you go to save your family? Every morning, as her husband Mike straps on his SIG Sauer and pulls on his heavy Magnum boots, Jamie Anderson tenses up. Then comes the call she has always dreaded: There’s been a shooting at police headquarters. Mike isn’t hurt, but his long-time partner is grievously injured. As weeks pass and her husband’s insomnia and disconnectedness mount, Jamie realizes he is an invisible casualty of the attack. Then the phone rings again. Another shooting—but this time Mike has pulled the trigger. But the shooting does more than just alter Jamie’s world. It’s about to change everything for two other women. Christie Simmons, Mike’s flamboyant ex, sees the tragedy as an opportunity for a second chance with Mike. And Jamie’s younger sister, Lou, must face her own losses to help the big sister who raised her. As the press descends and public cries of police brutality swell, Jamie tries desperately to hold together her family, no matter what it takes.  

Review: Things You Won't Say is a book about how choices we make an instant can alter not only our lives but those of strangers and of our family. Jamie and Mike seem to have the best marriage. Sure he risks his life but he carves out time to spend with his family as he can. They've created a loving environment for their three kids and Mike's son, Henry, from a previous relationship. Mike has been in a depression since his partner got shot outside headquarters and is working his way back from a severe injury. Some might say that Mike shouldn't be on the job yet, that his head isn't in the right place.

Jamie and Mike don't really handle the situation well. Mike shuts down and Jamie lets him. He feels she doesn't believe him and therefore he can't count on her. Jamie feels that he won't talk to her and is worried that their marriage is crumbling. Enter Jamie's sister Lou who needs to prop up her big sister during this time of need. In my opinion Lou is the best character in the book. She's a little lost except when she with her beloved elephant, Tabby. She does show up when her sister, Mike and the kids need her.

Lou was my favorite character in the book. Whether it's her animal family or her human family she is there when they need her the most.  She doesn't get in the middle of Jamie and Mike's issues but is there for both of them when they need her. She's the fun Aunt who takes them to the zoo and shows them the behind the scenes with the animals.

For me, Christie should have been mentioned in passing. She was Mike's ex but they never had a life together, they are only linked by their son, Henry. She didn't add a dimension for me except that she was always a little resentful of Jamie and her place in Mike's life even though that's not what Christie wanted. She was a woman who didn't want to take care of herself but wanted a man to take care of her but she was always choosing the wrong kind. She tries to take advantage of the situation between Mike and Jamie but it doesn't really go as planned. I didn't hate her, I felt sorry for her.

Ms. Pekkanen always picks a timely subject matter with her novels. I would have liked to here from Mike. For me, in this novel, he was the missing voice.


Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Brittney's Review: Everything I Never Told You

Author: Celeste Ng
Series: None
Publication Date: May 31, 2015
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: Purchased
Genre: Literature
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Emotional & tender – a glimpse into a family coping with grief
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!

“Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet.” So begins this exquisite novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue. But when Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos. A profoundly moving story of family, secrets, and longing, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping page-turner and a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another. –


There is a reason this title was selected as a New York Times Notable Book of 2014.

After the death of their daughter, the Lee family goes through absolute hell in dealing with their loss. And as both police and family try to piece together details of Lydia's passing, the reader is left with many questions: How did she die? Who was at fault? Did Lydia want to die, and had she given up?

Celeste Ng weaves a story complete with flashbacks of James & Marilyn's first meeting, their marriage, their successes and failures. And over time, pieces of the puzzle slowly take shape. At first glance, you might think that Marilyn is living her life through her daughter, and pushing her too hard to fulfill her own dreams. By the end of the novel, the picture is clear: you'll never expect the ending.

A tale of heartache, overcoming grief, and how to move on, this book gets one of my few 5/5 scores. Don't skip Everything I Never Told You. Grab a copy and a comfortable chair and clear out your afternoon. You won't be able to stop after the page one.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Julie's Review: A Week at the Lake

Author: Wendy Wax
Series: None
Publication Date: June 23, 2015
Publisher: Berkley Books
Pages: 455
Obtained: publicist
Genre:  Women's Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful story about what true friendship means
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Twenty years ago, Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton bonded over their New York City dreams. Then, each summer, they solidified their friendship by spending one week at the lake together, solving their problems over bottles of wine and gallons of ice cream. They kept the tradition for years, until jealousy, lies, and life and it's disappointments made them drift apart. It's been five years since Emma has seen her friends, an absence designed to keep them from discovering a long-ago betrayal. Now she's in desperate need of their support. The time has come to reveal her secrets;and hopefully rekindle their connection. But when a terrible accident keeps Emma from saying her piece, Serena and Mackenzie begin to learn about the past on their own. Now, to heal their friendship and their broken lives, the three women will have to return to the lake that once united them, and discover which relationships are worth holding on to.

Review: A Week at the Lake is the type of novel that makes you want to gather up your closest girlfriends, hug them and then go spend a week with them somewhere relaxing. These girls have been friends for 20 years but something separated them 5 years ago until now when they are all returning to Lake George to reunite. Of course, the reunion doesn't go as planned when something happens before they even get there. Like true friends, they rally together and come through in the end.

Each woman is so different from each other and each has their role to play. Each is floundering in her own life, questioning the path that they chose. They bring out the good and the bad in each other, like all friends. I'm really not sure who I liked more because they had all their good qualities and bad. I think I probably identified with Mackenzie more because of the marriage aspect and the Midwest. I loved Serena's spunk but she was probably the one with the least amount of self-esteem. Emma is still a bit of an enigma to me even after finishing the novel.

Ms. Wax does a excellent job of showing that friendships are perfect but they are perfect for us even in the worst of times. For me it wasn't hard to figure out Emma's secret but the reveal was still intriguing because of how the other characters are going to react. I also wanted to see if their friendship would survive.

There is much to love about this book. I will be passing it along to my friends and perhaps suggest we find a lake house to spend a week at sometime in the future.


Friday, July 3, 2015

Alice's Review: The Secret Place

Author: Tana French
Series: Dublin Murder Squad
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Publisher: Viking
Pages: 464
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Mystery, Crime
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A taut mystery that has other great elements
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, in the grounds of a girls boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM. Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublins Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-yearold Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St Kildas School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why. But everything they find leads them back to Hollys group of close-knit friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephens links to the Mackey family. St Kildas will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Hollys father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points towards his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined. The Secret Place is a powerful, haunting exploration of friendship and loyalty, and a gripping addition to the Dublin Murder Squad series.

Review:  Tana French is back with another intriguing installment of Dublin’s Murder Squad. Although I am not a huge fan of Mystery/Crime novels, I completely soak these in. I really enjoyed how different this novel was from her earlier work. This novel had a clear resolution whereas her others left something unanswered. The best part of this novel is the resurrection of one of my favorite literary characters, Frank Mackey.

I will seriously read anything, ANYTHING, that features Frank Mackey even in the smallest capacity. I love me some Frank. Give me an entire novel focused on him and I am in reading heaven. He can be so rough and crass and well, sometimes a jerk. I loved seeing him in what is probably his favorite role, Father.

Enough about my fictional husband, the meat and bones of this novel is about friendship. Any woman who had girlfriends understands the power that holds, especially when you are 16 and your life centers around these relationships. Tana French captured that beautifully. Each girl was so different, yet it was easy to see how they fit together. My favorite of the four was Julia. She had moxie, tough as nails, but probably the most sensitive of the bunch. She was the leader, the one who would go to bat for the others.

I enjoyed the mystery in The Secret Place. Tana French is a sorceress. She writes strong character driven mysteries where you are invested in their lives and situations. You open one of her novel and begin to read it, the next thing you know it is 4 hours later and you are elbows deep in a story you can’t tear yourself away from. There is a mystery you must get to the bottom of. Thankfully, there are one or two detectives asking all the right questions unraveling the mystery layer by layer. You don’t know who you can trust, you don’t know who is lying or who is telling you the truth. The only thing you do know is you are on one hell of a ride.

This isn’t the strongest of her work, but it’s still fantastic. I hope we have another go at the reluctant villain of this novel, Detective Stephen Moran. I didn’t envy his task and I can’t wait to see what comes next for him.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Julie's Review: In The Unlikely Event

Author: Judy Blume
Series: None
Publication Date: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Alfred Knopf
Pages: 416
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Judy Blume at her best
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on. In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.

Review: In the Unlikely Event is pretty much everything you want in a Judy Blume novel. She's written fantastic characters that will stay with you the rest of your life and a near perfect storyline. I loved that it was based on actual events that happened in New Jersey during the 1950s and something that I had no prior knowledge about.

The story is told beginning in 1987 when Miri Ammerman is about to go back to "celebrate" one of the worst years of her life but we don't really know what happened yet. Why was it the worst? How has it shaped her? Most of the novel is spent from 1952 onward and this is where we get to know Miri, Rusty, Harry and Irene, et all. There are a whole host of characters in this one but you know pretty darn quickly who the focus is on..the Ammerman's. I adored Miri; I felt for her and I wanted to hug her. She was coming into the hardest years of her life and then to have two traumatic situations happen in her backyard, made being 15 even worse.

Everyone around her is affected in different ways. Her best friend, Natalie, starts to act strangely and Miri wonders what she can do to get her old friend back. She really does just want things they way they were before the accidents.

Miri is a wonderful character. She's everything that I love in a heroine. She's bright, spunky and endearing. Actually I really loved her whole family; from her mother, Rusty to her Uncle Henry. They are a tight family unit but Miri has questions about her father. This is where the family clams up but sometimes you can't stop things from happening no matter what you want.

I also loved the time period that Ms. Blume chose because it is such a significant time of change for the country. This mirrors the time of change that Miri is going through as well. While this is marketed as an adult novel, I view it as a coming of age story. Sure it's a flashback from Miri's POV but it's really about her being 15 and experiencing a range of emotions. It is about finding what love and heartbreak is all about while dealing with a phenomenon you don't quite understand.

There's really not more I can say except it's a wonderful book and it's JUDY BLUME! So, do yourself a favor and read it.