Monday, January 30, 2017

Julie's Review: Behind Her Eyes

Author: Sarah Pinborough
Series: None
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 320
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: HOLY $%#$!!!!!
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Summary: Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone. When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise. And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him? As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets. In Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough has written a novel that takes the modern day love triangle and not only turns it on its head, but completely reinvents it in a way that will leave readers reeling.  

Review: Behind Her Eyes is the epitome of the psychological thriller. Regardless if loved or hated the ending of the novel, it definitely flips it all on a dime. It's simply a WTF moment. Of all the twists and turns I thought it might be didn't come to fruition; instead it was better.

Louise is someone who is a bit lonely. She works part-time as a secretary at a psychologists office and is a full-time mom to Adam, who is sick. So when Adam goes away for a month on vacation with his father,  Louise finds herself with some time to spare.  Enter meeting Adele and striking up a friendship with her. Louise finally feels like a priority in some one else's life and becomes a bit enamored with Adele even though she knows exactly who she is. She also can't quite let go of David as well and it seems that he can't let go of her.

What happens a month where Louise becomes so wrapped up in their lives that she loses focus of her own. Adele helps her with her night terrors and well David invigorates her in other ways. She is completely in over her head but she doesn't quite know it. Louis is completely likable and relate-able. You can feel for her struggles over finding herself single and a mom with primary care for her son. It can't be easy feeling that you don't have many options and in some ways are stuck.

Behind Her Eyes is one of those books where the less that is said in my review the better off you will be simply because I don't want to ruin it. Trust me when I say you will want to read this quickly before someone does ruin it for you.


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Julie's Review: I Liked My Life

Author: Abby Fabiaschi
Series: None
Publication Date: January 31, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Not at all what I expected but in the best way possible
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Summary: A story from debut author Abby Fabiaschi that is "as absorbing as it is illuminating, and as witty as it is heartbreaking." Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths. Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

 Review: I Liked My Life is not all that it seems. The story is told from 3 different perspectives: Maddy, Eve and Brady; whom each bring their own voice to the story. Obviously the question at the heart of the novel is, why would Maddy, who seemingly had the "perfect" life, kill herself? What did her whole family miss? Was she unhappy and really good at hiding it? These are the things that Brady and Eve are left to figure out.

Brady is a class A asshole (pardon the French). He took his wife for granted, never thought what she did was worth asking about and pretty much worked all the time. Maddy even had to convince him to take time off every year for a vacation. It was always their biggest annual fight. So as Brady reads through Maddy's journals, he realizes that maybe things weren't as good as he thought they were. Maybe he was a bit neglectful.

Eve is left reeling and closing herself off to her friends. It's not that she's depressed it's that she can no longer relate to those people she thought knew her so well. How can any one talk about Prom and all those other things when there are much more important things in life? She can't relate to the mundane any more and no one knows who to treat her. What do you say to a teenager who's mom killed herself? Maddy leaving her causes Eve to grow up in a way that wouldn't have been possible before. She looks for ways out of the town that she feels suffocated in.

Maddy is looking down on her family from beyond life and interceding where she feels necessary. She enters their thoughts and repeats mantras to move them on the right paths. She wants to make sure that they are taken care of as she ascends up. For every good dead she does, her spirit elevates a bit higher. As a reader you are hoping to find out what it is that drove Maddy to take her life when, even through her journals, it didn't seem like she was depressed.

I enjoyed  Liked My Life immensely. It is witty and poignant. It is hopeful in spite of the sadness. There are so many great sayings/nuggets within this book that if you read a tree book, you will want your highlighter handy. There are lessons about life that we all should take away from the novel. I can't believe that this is Ms. Fabiaschi's first novel because there aren't any major hiccups. I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for her next book, even though this was just released.


Monday, January 23, 2017

Julie's Review: The Dollhouse

Author: Fiona Davis
Series: None
Publication Date: August 23, 2016
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A terrific read with history and mystery abounds
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Summary: When she arrives at the famed Barbizon Hotel in 1952, secretarial school enrollment in hand, Darby McLaughlin is everything her modeling agency hall mates aren't: plain, self-conscious, homesick, and utterly convinced she doesn't belong—a notion the models do nothing to disabuse. Yet when Darby befriends Esme, a Barbizon maid, she's introduced to an entirely new side of New York City: seedy downtown jazz clubs where the music is as addictive as the heroin that's used there, the startling sounds of bebop, and even the possibility of romance. Over half a century later, the Barbizon's gone condo and most of its long-ago guests are forgotten. But rumors of Darby's involvement in a deadly skirmish with a hotel maid back in 1952 haunt the halls of the building as surely as the melancholy music that floats from the elderly woman's rent-controlled apartment. It's a combination too intoxicating for journalist Rose Lewin, Darby's upstairs neighbor, to resist—not to mention the perfect distraction from her own imploding personal life. Yet as Rose's obsession deepens, the ethics of her investigation become increasingly murky, and neither woman will remain unchanged when the shocking truth is finally revealed.  

Review: The Dollhouse is a novel that will transport you to the late 1950s New York during a time when women were truly starting to find their place in the workforce. It also is about modern New York and the struggles that the modern woman has keeping it all up. It transported me to the smokey room of an underground club where bebop was played and drugs were ingested. It showcased how far women have come but how we still struggle to balance it all. I love the mystery that was intertwined with the history.

Both Darby and Rose are forces to be reckoned with but in distinctly different ways. Darby comes into her own the short time she is in New York at the Barbizon. She finds it within herself to stay strong in the face of life when it gets tough. Darby is anything but tough when she comes to the Barbizon. She's lived a sheltered life in her hometown and New York is anything but sheltered. So when the models chew her up and spit her out, she's despondent and Esme befriends her. Some how Esme gets her to break curfew and go to a seedy underground club. Reflecting back on the book, I wonder if Esme befriended Darby because she wanted to mold her into something or that she knew she'd need her at some point. Was she preying on Darby's naivete?

Rose is tenacious. Once she smells the story in the women who live on the fourth floor, she won't give up until she has all of their stories. Darby is the key to her story but she's only had one run in with her and Darby didn't seem all that friendly. She's also looking for something to distract her from the fact that her boyfriend left her to return to his ex-wife. The story and Darby's mystery begins to consume her and she made some questionable choices.

I loved how both of the story lines ended up coming together in the end. I did feel that the ending of the story was a tad rushed and that there was a red herring that really wasn't necessary because Darby's story was fascinating enough without it. I loved learning about the history of another building in New York. It got me thinking about single women today and if something like the Barbizon would work especially when you are just beginning your career? Maybe you don't have the chaperone but it would provide an interesting social study.

For fans of mysteries and historical fiction, you won't want to miss The Dollhouse. Plus, don't you just love the cover?!!


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Julie's Review: The Sleepwalker

Author: Chris Bohjalian
Series: None
Publication Date: January 10, 2017
Publisher: DoubleDay Books
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Mystery, Psychological Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A gripping novel about how there are ripple effects to tragedy that aren't known at the time
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Summary: When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing, her children fear the worst. Annalee is a sleepwalker whose affliction manifests in ways both bizarre and devastating. Once, she merely destroyed the hydrangeas in front of her Vermont home. More terrifying was the night her older daughter, Lianna, pulled her back from the precipice of the Gale River bridge. The morning of Annalee's disappearance, a search party combs the nearby woods. Annalee's husband, Warren, flies home from a business trip. Lianna is questioned by a young, hazel-eyed detective. And her little sister, Paige, takes to swimming the Gale to look for clues. When the police discover a small swatch of fabric, a nightshirt, ripped and hanging from a tree branch, it seems certain Annalee is dead, but Gavin Rikert, the hazel-eyed detective, continues to call, continues to stop by the Ahlbergs' Victorian home. As Lianna peels back the layers of mystery surrounding Annalee's disappearance, she finds herself drawn to Gavin, but she must ask herself: Why does the detective know so much about her mother? Why did Annalee leave her bed only when her father was away? And if she really died while sleepwalking, where was the body? Conjuring the strange and mysterious world of parasomnia, a place somewhere between dreaming and wakefulness, The Sleepwalker is a masterful novel from one of our most treasured storytellers.

Review: The Sleepwalker is frankly another masterful novel by Chris Bohjalian. If you haven't read him, then you need to start. If you have read him, then you will want to add this one to the list of books you've read by him. We are introduced to the Ahlberg's when their mother has gone missing and the hopes of finding her alive dwindle with each passing day. It doesn't help that a piece of fabric from her nightshirt has been found near the river.

The story is told from the eldest daughter, Lianna's point of view and her account of the aftermath of her mom's disappearance. She decides to stay at home during the fall term of her last year of college to help care for her father and sister. I believe it is also because she can't handle going back to academia, which is also understandable. At times she does use her father and sister as a crutch though for not being able to return to real life.

What I loved about Lianna was that she kept digging for answers even when she should have probably left well enough alone. She wanted to have the puzzle of her mother's death completed before she could really move on with her life. I think it's one of the reasons Detective Gavin Rickert interested her at first. I think she wanted to get close to him to 1) understand her mother and 2) to bounce ideas/theories about her mom off of him for his professional experience.

What I love about Mr. Bohjalian's novels is that I always learn something new and often dig in a little bit more via google to get to understand the subject matter a bit better. I had no clue about all the different types of sleepwalking and how it affects people. I can't imagine dealing with these issues as an adult and knowing there is no cure for the affliction.

He's also splendid at the red herrings throughout the novel. There were a few times that I thought we were going to go down a particular path but then that turned out to be a dead end and he'd take us on another path. I am always amazed at how he pulls it all together in the end without you thinking that the ending was from left field.

The Sleepwalker is my 2nd favorite novel of his next to The Double Bind. This one clearly knocked my socks off but as I stated before, you can't go wrong with any of his books.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Julie's Review: The Wicked City

Author: Beatriz Williams
Series: Yes
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 364
Obtained: TLC Book Tours
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful adventure during the 1920s that ties to modern times
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Summary: When she discovers her banker husband has been harboring a secret life, Ella Gilbert escapes their sleek SoHo loft for a studio in a quaint building in Greenwich Village. But her new refuge isn't quite what it seems. Her charismatic musician neighbor, Hector, warns her to stay out of the basement after midnight, when a symphony of mysterious noise strikes up—laughter, clinking glasses, jazz piano, the occasional bloodcurdling scream—even though it's stood empty for decades. Back in the Roaring Twenties, the building hosted one of the city’s most notorious speakeasies. In 1924, Geneva "Gin" Kelly, a quick-witted flapper from the hills of western Maryland, is a regular at this Village hideaway known as the Christopher Club. Caught up in a raid, Gin lands in the office of Prohibition enforcement agent Oliver Anson, who persuades her to help him catch her stepfather, Duke Kelly, one of Appalachia’s most notorious bootleggers. Sired by a wealthy New York scion who abandoned her showgirl mother, Gin is nobody’s fool. She strikes a risky bargain with the taciturn, straight-arrow Revenue agent, even though her on-again, off-again Princeton beau, Billy Marshall, wants to make an honest woman of her and heal the legacy of her hardscrabble childhood. Gin's alliance with Anson rattles Manhattan society, exposing sins that shock even this free-spirited redhead—sins that echo from the canyons of Wall Street to the mountain hollers of her hometown. As Ella unravels the strange history of the building—and the family thread that connects her to Geneva Kelly—she senses the Jazz Age spirit of her incandescent predecessor invading her own shy nature, in ways that will transform her life in the wicked city.

Review: The Wicked City is another wonderful adventure that spans two different eras in New York City. We meet Gin who is a flapper by night, typing girl by day until she gets caught in the middle of a prohibition case that involves her step-daddy, Duke Kelly. Gin doesn't like being played by either Agent Anson or her step-dad. Her step-dad is the lowest scum of them all but his illegal business is doing a lot of good for the small town of River Junction but does that excuse how he goes about doing his business? How can she justify drinking it, when she knows that it's illegal?

Gin is a fabulous story. She loves working at a wall street firm in the typing pool and visiting Christopher's at night with her boy-toy, Billy. She's head-strong, smart and independent. So when she's called back to River Junction because her mother is dying, she decides that she will help Agent Anson. Of course it doesn't take long for things to come to a head with her helping out Agent Anson. Although there is a great twist that occurs, that I can say was out of left field but made perfect sense as well.

Meanwhile, fast-forward to the last 1990s, when Ella Hawthorne moves into the famed village building, something draws her to the history of the building. It doesn't hurt that the first person she meets is the handsome Hector who is most helpful in telling her about the speakeasy that used to occupy the building and to ignore the music that she'll hear coming from the basement.

Ms Williams seamlessly weaves the 2 stories together while also bringing some characters in from some of her past books, which you don't need their backstory, but it makes it more fun if you do. I loved how the dots got connected in the end. I loved how Gin figured out what was important to her and how Ella figured out how to be strong and stand on her own. She really knows how to write smart, sassy, independent women.

If you haven't read Ms. Williams' novels yet, then The Wicked City is a great place to start but I highly recommend going back and reading her backlist. You won't regret it and it won't take you long.

Find out more about Beatriz at her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  

Tour schedule:
Tuesday, January 17th: Girls Just Reading
Wednesday, January 18th: bookchickdi
Thursday, January 19th: West Metro Mommy
Friday, January 20th: A Chick Who Reads
Monday, January 23rd: Books and Bindings
Tuesday, January 24th: Kritters Ramblings
Thursday, January 26th: 5 Minutes For Books
Friday, January 27th: BookNAround
Monday, January 30th: I Wish I Lived in a Library
Tuesday, January 31st: Thoughts On This 'n That
Wednesday, February 1st: Literary Lindsey
Thursday, February 2nd: The Book Date
Thursday, February 2nd: Reading Reality
Friday, February 3rd: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, February 6th: StephTheBookworm
Tuesday, February 7th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 8th: Reading to Distraction
Thursday, February 9th: A Bookish Affair
Friday, February 10th: Life By Kristen
Friday, February 10th: Library of Clean Reads


Thursday, January 12, 2017

Julie's Review: Pretty Little World

Author: Melissa DePino, Elizabeth LaBan
Series: None
Publication Date: January 17, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 320
Obtained: Little Bird Publicity
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Can friends really be your family when you all live under one roof?
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Summary: On a cozy street in Philadelphia, three neighboring families have become the best of friends. They can’t imagine life without one another—until one family outgrows their tiny row house. In a bid to stay together, a crazy idea is born: What if they tear down the walls between their homes and live together under one roof? And so an experiment begins. Celia and Mark now have the space they need. But is this really what Celia’s increasingly distant husband wants? Stephanie embraces the idea of one big, happy family, but has she considered how it may exacerbate the stark differences between her and her husband, Chris? While Hope always wanted a larger family with Leo, will caring for all the children really satisfy that need? Behind closed doors, they strive to preserve the closeness they treasure. But when boundaries are blurred, they are forced to question their choices…and reimagine the true meaning of family.  

Review: Pretty Little World had much more depth to it than I thought it would, if I'm being honest. I thought it was going to be a little superficial and hippie-ish for me but I found myself very intrigued to see how it would turn out. The 6 couples all live on a dead end street in a desirable area of Philadelphia and pretty much spend all their time together. Their kids are the best of friends.  So when a leak springs between 2 of the houses, they seize the opportunity to combine their 3 house into one huge living space.

Celia wants to have set rules because that's who she is, where as Stephanie wants to see where the natural boundaries get set. Hope is more about ensuring that everyone is getting what they need and taking care of the kids. The men are happy to have their needs taken care of by a bevy of women. The novel is interesting and intriguing and definitely not something I would ever venture to do. You expose your private life like never before. You have too many relationships to satisfy and really not enough time.

Also, if you are going to allow someone to essentially raise your kids with theirs, you have to be ok with how they are doing that. You have to be ok when your kids want her over you. You have to be fine with the fact that your closest friends will know what's going on in your marriage or what's not going on.

There were definitely characters who were in the background compared to those who had a full story line and the authors had to do it that way otherwise there would have been too much going on. As it was, things were a bit confusing at first while I got the characters straight in my head.

Ms. DePino and Ms. LaBan do a great job of making you curious about what goes on behind closed doors and how these families are going to make it work while keeping their marriages and friendships intact. Will it be the blissful commune they think or will it be a complete disaster? The truth is that it is somewhere in between.

Pretty Little World is an intriguing read that will make you think about what you do once your door closes to your house.


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Julie's Review: The Marriage Lie

Author: Kimberly Belle
Series: None
Publication Date: December 27, 2016
Publisher: MIRA
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Wow!
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Summary: Iris and Will have been married for seven years, and life is as close to perfect as it can be. But on the morning Will flies out for a business trip to Florida, Iris's happy world comes to an abrupt halt: another plane headed for Seattle has crashed into a field, killing everyone on board and, according to the airline, Will was one of the passengers. Grief stricken and confused, Iris is convinced it all must be a huge misunderstanding. Why did Will lie about where he was going? And what else has he lied about? As Iris sets off on a desperate quest to uncover what her husband was keeping from her, the answers she finds shock her to her very core.

Review: The Marriage Lie is one hell of a ride; seriously. It starts with the opening of the novel and continues until the end of the novel. You want to believe that Will and Iris have the perfect marriage but just from the summary you know that things aren't always what they seem. When Iris is at work she's alerted that a plane went down on it's way to Seattle but Iris' is relieved because Will wasn't going to Seattle, he was on his way to Orlando. That is until she can't get a hold of him and finds out that he was on the plane's manifest. Naturally, she starts to unravel but it's not only finding out that her husband died but that he wasn't going where he told her. It's then that Iris wants to figure out why Will lied and what it is exactly he was hiding.

This book moves fast as Iris peels pack the layers of Will's lies and his life. Just when she thinks that she's figured it all out, something or someone else comes up giving her new information she needs to process. She's also trying to deal with 2 different griefs: the grief that her husband is dead and that her husband wasn't who she thought he was. She begins to doubt herself even more than doubting him.

I have to admit that there were times when I wanted to smack Iris during the book. I mean her husband lied to her and had some serious problems but she still pledged her undying love for him. Going as far as wanting to keep the ring he bought her before he left. It was then that I would have wanted to give her some serious counsel. I really enjoyed her brother Dave and Evan. I thought that pairing Evan and Iris together to deal with their grief and for him to help her maneuver her way through the legal issues that have surfaced.

If you are looking for a quick and thrilling read, then you definitely don't need to look any further than Kimberly Belle's  The Marriage Lie.