Thursday, October 29, 2015

Julie's Review: Stay Close

 photo Stay Close_zpsmuh4v4ti.jpg
Author: Harlan Coben
Series: None
Publication Date: February 12, 2013
Publisher: Signet
Pages: 448
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Thriller
Rating: 3/5.0
Bottom Line: If only the secret Megan was keeping was interesting
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Megan is a suburban soccer mom who once upon a time walked on the wild side. Ray used to be a talented documentary photographer, but now he finds himself in a dead-end job posing as paparazzo. Broome is a detective who can’t let go of a cold case. Three people living lives they never wanted are hiding secrets that even those closest to them would never suspect. And as each confronts the dark side of the American dream—the boredom of a nice suburban life, the excitement of temptation, the desperation and hunger that can lurk behind even the prettiest facades—they will discover the hard truth that the line between one kind of life and another can be as whisper thin as a heartbeat.  

Review: I love Harlan Coben's books. They are usually a quick and surefire read for me but not with Stay Close. While at first I was pretty engaged in the mystery of who was killing the men or why were they disappearing, after a while I just stopped caring. Frankly all of the men had it coming one way of another, but not that murder is the way to go.

Megan is a classic soccer mom with a hidden secret but in my opinion it's really not that horrible. It's something that could have been forgiven easily if she would have just been honest with Dave from the beginning but then again there would be no backstory. Detective Broome has never given up on the case of Stewart Green. He gets a break in it when Megan comes waltzing back into town because she's restless and has some things to resolve.

From my perspective, there are no great characters in this novel. They are all selfish and just trying to clear their conscience. The characters never really move forward or grow, which is disappointing. While I might not have liked this one very much, it won't deter me from reading more of his books.


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Julie's Review: After You

Author: JoJo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #2
Publication Date: September 29, 2015
Publisher: Pam Dorman Books
Pages: 386
Obtained: purchased
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.75/5.0
Bottom Line: A wonderful sequel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: You’re going to feel uncomfortable in your new world for a bit. But I hope you feel a bit exhilarated too. Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just live. Love, Will.” How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living? Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started. Her body heals, but Lou herself knows that she needs to be kick-started back to life. Which is how she ends up in a church basement with the members of the Moving On support group, who share insights, laughter, frustrations, and terrible cookies. They will also lead her to the strong, capable Sam Fielding—the paramedic, whose business is life and death, and the one man who might be able to understand her. Then a figure from Will’s past appears and hijacks all her plans, propelling her into a very different future. . . . For Lou Clark, life after Will Traynor means learning to fall in love again, with all the risks that brings. But here Jojo Moyes gives us two families, as real as our own, whose joys and sorrows will touch you deeply, and where both changes and surprises

 Review: After You is a wonderful sequel that let's readers catch up with Lou after Will's death. It isn't easy to see where Lou's at. She's lost. She's out of touch with her parents since her part in Will's death. She's working at an airport bar and then laying awake wondering what she's doing with her life. It isn't until she has an accident that sends her life on the right path. It wakes her up a little bit but it's the people she meets that end up pulling her up from the abyss.

 Lou is trying to get her life back together but Will was such a powerful force in her life, that she's not sure how to go on without him. He wanted her to live her life to the fullest and ensured that she could do that but that's not really Lou. She didn't live an adventurous life before W and she's not sure how to do it now. Sure, she traveled but doing that by yourself can get weary as well. To satisfy her father, Louisa joins a group called Moving On that helps people cope with the death of a loved one.

While I do think that it helped her in some ways, it really was the entrance of Lily and Sam that brought her to the surface again. Sam showed her that she could love again and Lily showed her that it's possible to truly care about someone even if they don't have any true ties to you.

I didn't bawl like I did with Me Before You but I did tear up a few separate times. I laughed a lot though because life is absurd, funny, and painful. Lou still has her wicked sense of humor and her parents crack me up for some reason. Her sister Treen is the one who keeps Lou honest or tries to keep her honest.

I wasn't sure how Ms. Moyes would do a sequel without Will but his spirit lived on in this one. Lou is a great character and it was great to see her grow and find her legs again. I would say more but I don't want to ruin it for you.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

Julie's Review: The Art of Crash Landing

Author: Melissa DeCarlo
Series: None
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5.0
Bottom Line: Witty novel about a 30 year old still struggling to find herself and figure out who her mother was
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: From a bright new talent comes this debut novel about a young woman who travels for the first time to her mother’s hometown, and gets sucked into the mystery that changed her family forever. Mattie Wallace has really screwed up this time. Broke and knocked up, she’s got all her worldly possessions crammed into six giant trash bags, and nowhere to go. Try as she might, Mattie can no longer deny that she really is turning into her mother, a broken alcoholic who never met a bad choice she didn’t make. When Mattie gets news of a possible inheritance left by a grandmother she’s never met, she jumps at this one last chance to turn things around. Leaving the Florida Panhandle, she drives eight hundred miles to her mother’s birthplace—the tiny town of Gandy, Oklahoma. There, she soon learns that her mother remains a local mystery—a happy, talented teenager who inexplicably skipped town thirty-five years ago with nothing but the clothes on her back. But the girl they describe bears little resemblance to the damaged woman Mattie knew, and before long it becomes clear that something terrible happened to her mother, and it happened here. The harder Mattie digs for answers, the more obstacles she encounters. Giving up, however, isn’t an option. Uncovering what started her mother’s downward spiral might be the only way to stop her own. Hilarious, gripping, and unexpectedly wise, The Art of Crash Landing is a poignant novel from an assured new voice.

Review: Art of Crash Landing is a witty and touching novel about learning to let go of your past or your parent's past so that you can live your life: present and future. Mattie is seriously messed up. At 30 years old she's got no direction, no job, no money and she's pregnant. She's not exactly in the best position to have a child and become a mom. I'm not saying couldn't or shouldn't, but she needs to get her "house" in order quickly.

 Mattie can't let go of the guilt over her mother's death and we aren't entirely sure why. Did she play a role in it or is just survivor's guilt. She clings to her step-dad, Queeg, for some sense of normalcy in her life. He loves Mattie but wants her pull herself together and figure out what to do with her life. He hasn't given up on her but he's exasperated with her. Mattie is impulsive so when she finds out that she's inherited her grandmother's house in OK, she sets off in the Malibu. Of course it isn't as easy as showing up and getting the estate, Mattie has to wait for the law to do its thing.

Like most characters who are screw-ups, you really just want Mattie pull her $@% together and get on with it. Being in her mom's hometown makes Mattie wonder who her mom was when she was younger and why she split town and never came back. This leads her to do some digging and it really ends up in a place that I didn't expect.

While the books has its moments or getting me a little teary-eyed, more than anything I found it witty and hopeful. We all have struggles but it's how we persevere and walk through them is how we find out how strong we are. It isn't until Maddie discovers her mother's past and path, that she can separate herself from them and become her own person. Her mother's life had haunted her until she came to terms with the fact that her mother's decisions weren't hers.

The Art of Crash Landing is filled with some great supporting characters as well, whom provide a good many chuckles. Ms. DeCarlo has a gift for writing witty characters, that have struggles we can relate to as well. Her characters and plot are well written and crisp. I even liked the fact that the ending of the novel wasn't "clean" and wrapped up in a bow. Life is never a nice, neat bow

I look forward to reading Ms. DeCarlo's next book and I encourage you all to pick up The Art of Crash Landing to read.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Julie's Review: The Lake House

Author: Kate Morton
Series: None
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 598
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A mystery that shows what secrets can do to families
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure… One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined. Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever. A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.  

Review: I'm pretty sure that I've had this on pre-order for about 9 months; so you could easily say that she is one of my favorite authors.  The Lake House is another great mystery that spans over 70 years with a lot of family heartache and secrets. It isn't as goth as The Distant Hours but the setting is just as gorgeous and a bit mysterious.

Sadie Sparrow is a Detective who's on a leave of absence because a case got under her skin. She hasn't exactly told her grandfather the whole truth about why she's visiting him in Cornwall. She happens upon Loeanneth while out on a run. She's intrigued because it's crumbling and looks like time is standing still. The detective in her decides to start digging into the history. Along with the case that Sadie is licking her wounds for, there's something else going on with her too.

Alice Edevane is a successful author but lately the past has been creeping up on her. It doesn't help as her sister, Deborah is bringing up the past as well. Both harbor feelings of guilt but for very different reasons. Both think that they each have a part in their brother's disappearance. As we all know, things are never what they seem and it turns out that their parents were keeping a huge secret from them as well.

Both Sadie and Alice are interesting characters and career driven women. Both of them are haunted by something in their past and hold onto their guilt. They are both honest and this suits each of them well when they first meet.

I kind of figured out one of the plot twists early on but it was still interesting the way that Ms. Morton pulled it all together. She does do a great job of really leaning you towards one answer and then slowly reveals that it couldn't have gone the way that you initially thought.

Besides the mystery and her intricate way of weaving different story lines together, Ms. Morton always has a way of  making me want to book a trip to the countryside of England. I want to take a walk and come upon a deserted house with a history and a mystery. She makes even the simplest things seem magical.

If you've never read a Kate Morton book, you better get going because they are some of the best dual time-period books I've ever read and she's got a decent backlog going now.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Julie's Review: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

Author: Matthew Dicks
Series: None
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 224
Obtained: publisher via
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A gem of a novel
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab!
Summary: Caroline Jacobs is a wimp, someone who specializes in the suffering of tiny indignities in silence. And the big ones, too. But when the twinset wearing president of the local Parent Teacher Organization steps out of line one too many times, Caroline musters the courage to assert herself. With a four-letter word, no less. Caroline's outburst has awakened something in her. Not just gumption, but a realization that the roots of her tirade can be traced back to something that happened to her as a teenager, when her best friend very publicly betrayed her. So, with a little bit of bravery, Caroline decides to go back to her home town and tell off her childhood friend. She busts her daughter out of school, and the two set off to deliver the perfect comeback . . . some twenty-five years later. But nothing goes as planned. Long buried secrets rise to the surface, and Caroline finds she has to face much more than one old, bad best friend. THE PERFECT COMEBACK OF CAROLINE JACOBS is an enchanting novel about the ways in which our childhood experiences reverberate through our lives. It's the story of a woman looking to fix her life through an act of bravery, and of a mother and daughter learning to understand one another. Deceptively simple and highly engaging, this latest novel by Matthew Dicks is perfect for those of us who were last to be picked at sports, and for everyone who is thrilled not to be in high school any more.  

Review: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs is one heck of a small book. Everyone has that one person that they would love to give a piece of her mind or exact revenge on. If someone comes to your mind immediately, then you really need to pick up this novel. You really will breeze through it. As a woman of a certain age, I definitely identified with Caroline. We might have different personalities but I can see how life might have worn her down. She was betrayed by her best friend in high school and never fully got over it. It hasn't effected her day to day life but a bit of her broke that day in the cafeteria.

We all have a moment that we wish our reaction could have been different. Something snapped when Caroline had to go to school to pick up her daughter, Polly, for decking a girl in class. She decides to go on an impromptu road trip back with her teen daughter in town. It is probably one of the most honest conversations they've had in a long time. Caroline decides to tell Polly what happened to her as a teen and by opening up to her, Polly tells her about her own struggles.

As parents, we can often forget what kids/teens struggle with because we are wrapped up in being a parent. Kids never want to believe their parents went through similar struggles because "it's different". Plans never go as planned though right? So while Caroline has it all scripted in her head, her confrontation with Emily isn't exactly what she expected but maybe it's what she needed. Maybe just the idea of confrontation was all the therapy that Caroline needed.

There's also another thing that has been bothering Caroline for all these years, her sister Lucy's death. She has to reconcile what happened that day with her guilt. She also needs to repair her relationship with her mom but I think that might need a book of it's own. It is intriguing that her seeking revenge on Emily, her former BFF, has her also dealing with a time when she didn't exactly act the correct way either. It's a yin and yang she's got going on. I loved this novel. It's not very long but it's a gem. It is so powerful in an unassuming way.

I love the way Caroline and Polly are on two different ends of the earth when the book starts but end up being a lot closer. Is their relationship all the way healed? Of course not, but it's a lot better than it was and will continue to get better. We leave them where they have a better understanding of each other and themselves.

Do yourself a favor and pick up The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs, you will have it read in less than 24 hours.


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Julie's Book Challenge: 15 in 31

 photo 15in31_zps6xk61pc5.jpg So, while I don't know if I really will get to 15 books this month, I'm certainly going to try. It seems like lately I've been cruising through books lately, so I'm hoping that will keep up for this challenge.

Thanks Andi for being inspired to do this and that I saw her tweet. So far, these are the books that I've pulled off my shelves plus also the ones that are still on my nightstand. Maybe I can even read a few more if I get through these.