Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Julie's Review: The Widow


Author: Fiona Barton
Series: None
Publication Date: February 16, 2016
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A disturbing look at a child abduction and all the people it affects
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Summary: There’s a lot Jean hasn’t said over the years about the crime her husband was suspected of committing. She was too busy being the perfect wife, standing by her man while living with the accusing glares and the anonymous harassment. Now her husband is dead, and there’s no reason to stay quiet. There are people who want to hear her story. They want to know what it was like living with that man. She can tell them that there were secrets. There always are in a marriage. The truth—that’s all anyone wants. But the one lesson Jean has learned in the last few years is that she can make people believe anything...~amazon.com  

Review: Widow is one of those novels that will make you wonder which side is up and what's the angle but when it comes down to it, it's a suspense novel that doesn't rely on a huge twist at the end. This was definitely refreshing for me. Not that I don't love a great twist, but that seems to be the go to plot device lately.

Jean is finally on her own after years of marriage to Glen who really controlled every aspect. She finally be who she wants to be and tell her story. Although when approached by reporters she doesn't seem to know if she wants to tell her side because there are always 2 sides. What it really boils down to is that she hasn't had her own voice ever. She went straight from her parent's house to Glen's. He controlled everything and she didn't mind, until she did.

Jean isn't an easy character to understand, she a waffler and very unsure of herself. There were times when I thought she had a mental illness because of how she would refer to herself. There were definitely times that I felt sorry for her but also those times where I felt she could have had the upper hand with Glen in their marriage and turned the tables on him.

While the book is really about Jean, you can't know her without knowing what Glen did and how he controlled her. It is about her complacency in her own life that drove me bonkers. While Glen was a sick SOB, Jean had her own issues and secrets but none as heinous as his.

I enjoyed the book a great deal but felt that at times it lagged and some of it could have been edited down to get to the climax a bit quicker. So if you are looking for a fast paced suspense, this may not be for you but if you prefer the slow reveal, you should pick up Widow.

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Julie's Review: Fitness Junkie


Author: Jo Piazza & Lucy Sykes
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Humor
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A delightful, funny book about the fitness industry fads
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Summary: When Janey Sweet, CEO of a couture wedding dress company, is photographed in the front row of a fashion show eating a bruffin—the delicious lovechild of a brioche and a muffin—her best friend and business partner, Beau, gives her an ultimatum: Lose thirty pounds or lose your job. Sure, Janey has gained some weight since her divorce, and no, her beautifully cut trousers don't fit like they used to, so Janey throws herself headlong into the world of the fitness revolution, signing up for a shockingly expensive workout pass, baring it all for Free the Nipple yoga, sweating through boot camp classes run by Sri Lankan militants and spinning to the screams of a Lycra-clad instructor with rage issues. At a juice shop she meets Jacob, a cute young guy who takes her dumpster-diving outside Whole Foods on their first date. At a shaman's tea ceremony she meets Hugh, a silver fox who holds her hand through an ayahuasca hallucination And at a secret exercise studio Janey meets Sara Strong, the wildly popular workout guru whose special dance routine has starlets and wealthy women flocking to her for results that seem too good to be true. As Janey eschews delicious carbs, pays thousands of dollars to charlatans, and is harassed by her very own fitness bracelet, she can't help but wonder: Did she really need to lose weight in the first place? A hilarious send-up of the health and wellness industry, Fitness Junkie is a glorious romp through the absurd landscape of our weight-obsessed culture. ~Amazon.com

Review:  I'm not a fitness fanatic, okay I don't even really like working out because it feels like a chore, so the women in Fitness Junkie, who are obsessed with every trend, I don't get them. Seriously. I get the need to be healthy and well (I need to be better at it) but these women view it as their lives and in some ways a competition. Who's into the newest trend? Have you been invited to the super secret workout location? What about this diet and that, etc? To me, it seems like they are bored and trying to find ways of filling a void.

What Ms. Piazza and Ms. Sykes do well is satire of an industry that seems to be a bit full of itself. No one in the fitness/lifestyle world is without reproach. Their heroine, Janey, even begins to drink the kool-aid for a while until she drank too much of it. Janey's best friend, Beau, tells her that she needs to take a 3 month break from their successful business so that she can lose 30 lbs she's put on. She's the face of the business and well she can't be seen as she is currently. So she turns to her best gal pal, CJ, who is always on the up and up on the lastest fitness routine and dietary restrictions.

Of course, the novel isn't just about fitness, but it's about Janey's journey into figuring out what it is that she wants to do for the rest of her life and if some friendships really do have an expiration date. I loved Janey and wanted her to go after Beau in the worst way but in the end I think she got him where it really counted and when it counted.

For those that love a book with a sense of humor and purpose, then Fitness Junkie is for you.





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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Julie's Review: In This Moment


Author: Karma Brown
Series: None
Publication Date: May 30, 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: How split second decision can alter your life and those around you
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Summary:Meg Pepper has a fulfilling career and a happy family. Most days she’s able to keep it all together and glide through life. But then, in one unalterable moment, everything changes. After school pickup one day, she stops her car to wave a teenage boy across the street…just as another car comes hurtling down the road and slams into him. Meg can’t help but blame herself for her role in this horrific disaster. Full of remorse, she throws herself into helping the boy’s family as he rehabs from his injuries. But the more Meg tries to absolve herself, the more she alienates her own family—and the more she finds herself being drawn to the boy’s father. Soon Meg’s picture-perfect life is unraveling before her eyes. As the painful secrets she’s been burying bubble dangerously close to the surface, she will have to decide: Can she forgive herself, or will she risk losing everything she holds dear to her heart? ~amazon.com  

Review: In This Moment is a novel that allows you to wonder what you would do if you were in Meg's shoes. Would you have waved a kid across at an intersection that had no crosswalk? Or perhaps you have and it turned out just fine but unfortunately for two families, this isn't what happened.

The accident spawns Meg's downward spiral into guilt, shame and anxiety. It has her reliving the death of her best friend in high school, which she still carries guilt around. It causes her to pull away from her husband and daughter. She doesn't know how to tell them about her involvement with Paige's death. She's internalized it for so long that she feels she can't verbalize it. It's what haunts her sleep. I felt as if I was experiencing the slow downward spiral with Meg, which was a good thing. It put you in her shoes and living what she was at the same time. I felt horrible for Meg but also wish she would have leaned on her husband or family a bit more.

As Meg struggles with the guilt of being part of an accident, her daughter Audrey is also struggling with her own issues from the accident. She turns to reckless behavior which she wasn't prone to previously. She also pulls away from her parents and begins to lie to them about her whereabouts.

My frustration throughout the novel was Ryan, Meg's husband and Audrey's dad. He seemed so oblivious about what they were going through. He saw the signs in both of them that said they weren't dealing properly with the accident but chose to believe they were both fine. It wasn't until things came crashing down around them that he finally acknowledged they weren't "fine". Some of Meg's decisions weren't smart but she was also reeling. I felt that Ryan needed to acknowledge his role in their issues as well.

Ms. Brown always writes engaging characters, with real life situations that you end up asking yourself how you would react. I can't wait to read what she publishes next.

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Friday, August 4, 2017

Julie's Review: I Found You


Author: Lisa Jewell
Series: None
Publication Date: April 25, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A page turner that will have you wondering how it all ties together
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Summary: In the windswept British seaside town of Ridinghouse Bay, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on a beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside. Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, newlywed Lily Monrose grows anxious when her husband fails to return home from work one night. Soon, she receives even worse news: according to the police, the man she married never even existed. Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty Ross are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. The annual trip to Ridinghouse Bay is uneventful, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just because he’s a protective older brother. Who is the man on the beach? Where is Lily’s missing husband? And what ever happened to the man who made such a lasting and disturbing impression on Gray? ~amazon.com  
Review: If you want a page turning suspense and mystery novel, then I Found You is for you. The story is told in 3 different parts: Alice/Frank, Lily, Gray. Alice happens upon "Frank" as he's sitting on the beach staring at the sea with no recollection of what is going on, how he got there or who he is. Alice, who still believes in the good of people even though she shouldn't, invites him back to her house to sleep in the shed she rents out. She promises her best friend that she won't get involved, but that's just not who she is or what she does. So she tries to help Frank regain his memory by giving him a safe place to say and an ear to listen.

Outside of London, Lily is freaking out because her husband doesn't come home after work and doesn't answer her phone. This is strange because he always takes the same train and gets home at the same time every night. Of course, the police tell her to give it time and he might come home. When evidence suggest that her husband doesn't exist, Lily decides to take things into her own hands. Then we get the flashback story of Gray and Kirsty on their family vacation in Ridinghouse Bay. This is where they meet Mark Tate, a young man who is a little off but clearly besotted by Kirsty. Gray feels that there is something off about him but can't quite put his thoughts around it. He wants to believe that his instincts are right and he's not just jealous that his kid sister might get her first kiss before he does.

While I figured out a few things earlier in the novel, it didn't stop me from wanting to finish the book. I figured that the author had something up her sleeve and it wasn't as straight-forward as I thought. I loved how Ms. Jewell sewed all the story lines together in the end. I loved how she showcased that each of us is capable of crossing a line when we feel that our lives are in danger or the lives of those we love are in danger.

I forget how much I love a true mystery and suspense novel because I get so caught up in the domestic suspense/psychological thriller arena. Ms. Jewell should still with the mystery genre because she's knows how to write a good one.

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Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Julie's Review: Mrs. Saint and the Defectives


Author: Julie Lawson Timmer
Series: None
Publication Date: August 1, 2017
Publisher: Lake Union Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: Publicist  via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A novel with depth that wasn't expected but enjoyed
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Summary: Markie, a fortysomething divorcée who has suffered a humiliating and very public fall from marital, financial, and professional grace, moves, along with her teenage son, Jesse, to a new town, hoping to lick her wounds in private. But Markie and Jesse are unable to escape the attention of their new neighbor Mrs. Saint, an irascible, elderly New European woman who takes it upon herself, along with her ragtag group of “defectives,” to identify and fix the flaws in those around her, whether they want her to or not. What Markie doesn’t realize is that Mrs. Saint has big plans for the divorcée’s broken spirit. Soon, the quirky yet endearing woman recruits Markie to join her eccentric community, a world where both hidden truths and hope unite them. But when Mrs. Saint’s own secrets threaten to unravel their fragile web of healing, it’s up to Markie to mend these wounds and usher in a new era for the “defectives”—one full of second chances and happiness. ~amazon.com

Review: Mrs. Saint and the Defectives is a novel where the heroine might just rub you the wrong way at first but then she grows on you and by the end of the novel you will rejoice in her growth. For some reason when I first saw this title I read it at "Detectives" but then realized it was "Defectives", which had me curious.

Markie is a hard woman and one that is hard to like. You want to understand her and you want to empathize with her but at times she makes that so terribly impossible. Which is why I had mucho respect for Mrs. Saint who kept trying and trying to break down those wall. I get why Markie moved away from her posh neighborhood, school and life because what happened was embarrassing until the next scoop of gossip comes around and your situation is forgotten.  Markie spends a lot of time blaming her ex for being selfish as well as her parents, not realizing that in her own way she is as well. She up and moved her son, Jessie, to another town before asking him what he wanted and expected him to adapt. So he shuts himself down and hibernates to his room in the basement.

It is really Mrs. Saint and her group of "defectives" that help pull Jessie out of his shell and bond with others. Eventually, through persistence, faith she broke down those walls of Markie's. Enough so that maybe she could make peace with herself, bond with her son and forgive her ex-husband.

There is also an underlying mystery around Mrs. Saint  herself and her merry band of defectives. How are they bonded together? Why does she continue to help people who need help but don't know it? I loved how Ms. Timmer revealed her story at the end and really did feel like the missing pieces of the puzzle were coming together to make it whole.

I don't have to like a character in a book but I have to see them grow and change a bit, I'm not expecting a 180 because that's not realistic. Just some kind of revelation that makes them self-aware and Ms. Timmer accomplished that with Markie.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of Mrs. Saint and the Defectives to read; you won't regret it.



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