Thursday, September 28, 2017

Julie's Review: The Other Girl

Author: Erica Spindler
Series: None
Publication Date: August 22, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 256
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Suspense, Crime
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A great crime/suspense novel that doesn't rely on the unreliable narrator
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Summary: Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis―but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community. When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist. Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop―the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common―except Miranda.  

Review: The Other Girl is story that spins how our past can come back to haunt us and how it can effect our present lives. We are told the story of a recent murder through Detective Miranda Rader and how she's been tapped to lead the investigation. Miranda is the top detective in the force but when she see the clipping from an article about a crime that happened years ago, she starts to make some stupid mistakes.

Miranda starts to question how the pieces of this murder fit into the traumatic events in her past. Why has she been pulled into this? What is she going to do about it? Before she can learn any more, she's pulled off the case. Which lends itself to even more suspicion? If she's a strong detective, why pull her off?

Ms. Spindler weaves a quick moving suspense novel that will have you quickly turning the pages. You root for Miranda (and her with Jake). You want her to figure out why this is all coming down on her 15 years later. What ties her to the victim? As a woman you want her to stuff it to the old boys network and prove that the victim, while yes was murdered, that maybe he wasn't the person he wanted people to believe.

Fans of a crime/suspense novel won't want to miss this one. I will be checking out some of her other suspense novels.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Julie's Review: Best Day Ever

Author: Kaira Rouda
Series: None
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 368
Obtained: GetRedPR
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A fantastic novel in the domestic thriller genre
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Summary: Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever. But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really? Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion.  

Review:If you aren't keen on unreliable narrators, then you might want to skip Best Day Ever
BUT you'll be making a huge mistake. HUGE. Paul Strom is successful, he's got a great career, wife, kids, the whole American dream. He's is literally living the dream. As Paul begins to tell us the story of how this is going to be the "Best Day Ever" you start to understand that maybe he's not telling you everything you need to know. He's keeping his cards close to his chest. He's only going to tell us what he wants us to know and when.

We see his wife and his boys through his eyes. How perfect his boys are and how his wife is so beautiful but something is amiss. Something doesn't feel right very early in the novel with Paul. He's off. He doesn't seem to have a grip on reality. It's clear that while he might think that this will be the "Best Day Ever" it's for a very different reason than what his wife thinks.

As the book unravels, so does Paul. His shiny demeanor begins to show kinks and dents. He frankly, starts to lose his shit. Mia isn't as complacent as you first think she is. She's not as meek as the reader thinks or certainly as Paul thinks. You keep hoping that something is going to happen where Paul realizes he isn't so smart but he's a narcissistic psychopath, so really that's not going to happen.

At a certain point in the novel you will give up everything you are doing or need to do to finish the book and you will know when that happens.

I've read a lot of books in this domestic suspense recently and Ms. Rouda's entry in it is superb. It reminds me a lot of Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris but definitely not the same. If you are into this sub-genre of psychological thrillers then you should pick this one up post haste.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Julie's Review: Caroline: Little House, Revisited

Author: Sarah Miller
Series: None
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Edelweiss+
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A fascinating look at Ma from Little House on the Prairie fame
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Summary: In this novel authorized by the Little House estate, Sarah Miller vividly recreates the beauty, hardship, and joys of the frontier in a dazzling work of historical fiction, a captivating story that illuminates one courageous, resilient, and loving pioneer woman as never before—Caroline Ingalls, "Ma" in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s beloved Little House books. In the frigid days of February, 1870, Caroline Ingalls and her family leave the familiar comforts of the Big Woods of Wisconsin and the warm bosom of her family, for a new life in Kansas Indian Territory. Packing what they can carry in their wagon, Caroline, her husband Charles, and their little girls, Mary and Laura, head west to settle in a beautiful, unpredictable land full of promise and peril. The pioneer life is a hard one, especially for a pregnant woman with no friends or kin to turn to for comfort or help. The burden of work must be shouldered alone, sickness tended without the aid of doctors, and babies birthed without the accustomed hands of mothers or sisters. But Caroline’s new world is also full of tender joys. In adapting to this strange new place and transforming a rough log house built by Charles’ hands into a home, Caroline must draw on untapped wells of strength she does not know she possesses. For more than eighty years, generations of readers have been enchanted by the adventures of the American frontier’s most famous child, Laura Ingalls Wilder, in the Little House books. Now, that familiar story is retold in this captivating tale of family, fidelity, hardship, love, and survival that vividly reimagines our past.  

Review: First of all, I would have never made it as a Pioneer woman. So I have much respect for everything they had to do to keep their families alive and well as documented in Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

Caroline Ingalls is a marvel but even more so is her marriage to Charles. He treated her like an equal when I'm pretty sure men in the time didn't always share that view. He was head over heels for her and she with him. He respected her opinion and valued it. She knew what was expected of her but it didn't stop her from wanting a bit more than what was in front of her.

While Caroline knew that leaving her comfort zone with her family to lean on and help. Not to mention when it come to working the farm, she knew it would be more difficult for them to manage on their own. She would need to help more while also tending to the 2 girls and the new baby on the way.

There are subject matters that aren't easy to read about in the book but are typical of that time period. Caroline has a huge distrust and bigotry towards Native Americans. I can see why she was scared at certain points but really they were being pushed off their land. I'm not sure if she understood the magnitude of that decision.

It is obvious that Ms. Miller did her research on Caroline and the time period. It shows in the writing of the details. At times it feels that you are in the wagon or on the plains with them. Ms. Miller chose to focus on the period of time in the Ingalls' lives that moved them from Wisconsin to Kansas instead of her entire life.

If you are a fan of the Little House House series, then you won't want to miss Caroline: Little House, Revisited. It made me want to go pull out my daughter's books again.


Monday, September 11, 2017

Julie's Review: The Light We Lost

Author: Jill Santopolo
Series: None
Publication Date: May 9, 2017
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 336
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Epic
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: He was the first person to inspire her, to move her, to truly understand her. Was he meant to be the last? Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning. Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts. This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.  

Review: Drop everything and go pick up Light We Lost. You will cry, you will laugh, your heart will rejoice and your heart will break. This is one of those books that will make you fall in love with love. The story of Gabe and Lucy is epic. Their love is hot but never fades away. Somehow, someway they keep coming back to each other throughout various stages of their lives. Both of them are young when they meet each other on 9/11/2001 and it is a date that will forever keep them connected. Lucy and Gabe are have a connection from the first time they meet but certain circumstances exist that don't allow them to be together until fate brings them together a couple years later. Both of them are passionate people which helps to ignite their love for each other. Sometimes being passionate can mean restlessness as you try to figure out your life's path. Decisions always change the path of your life but sometimes it changes someone else's path as well. Gabe and Lucy share everything and are always encouraging each other with their careers. He never belittles her career or minds that she is career focused. It isn't until Gabe's decision about his career will ultimately be the demise of their relationship.

Neither Lucy or Gabe are perfect, they are both far from it but together they really are yin and yang. They compliment each other like good couples should. As with life, it moves on and both of them do in their own ways but yet they still orbit around each other, maintaining contact via email/text and occasionally seeing each other. We see the story from Lucy's view point and I do kind of wonder what Gabe's point of view would be if she had chosen to tell the story from both perspectives. Lucy doesn't excuse her behavior in some ways and she doesn't ask us to forgive her choices; after all who are we to judge her? What would we do if given the same choices. I think it is possible to love and be in love with 2 vastly different people at the same time. Lucy learns things from Darren that she would have never learned by being with Gabe. Gabe though was her star and her center; how do you compete with that? I think it's a good thing that Darren never knew there was a competition going on in Lucy's mind.

I loved what Lucy's mom said to her on her wedding day, something to the effect of a relationship ebbs and flows, sometimes you will be the one who loves your significant other more and sometimes you will be the one who gets more love. This is so true and it's how you make it through these different times that define you as a couple.

I really feel that Light We Lost is a book that you need to read for yourself. My review will not do it justice. Ms. Santopolo did an excellent job of capturing first love,y young love, marriage and the fact that sometimes there's someone your history is always linked to no matter how hard you try to disconnect yourself from them.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Julie's Review: Every Last Lie

Author: Mary Kubica
Series: None
Publication Date: June 27, 2017
Publisher: Park Row Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A quick paced novel about losing grip on reality and finding the way back
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Clara Solberg's world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick's death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara's investigation and Nick's last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.  

Review: Every Last Lie is a novel that will keep you turning the pages to find out what exactly happened to Nick. Was the accident really his fault? Did someone run him off the road? Who is this bad man that their 4 year old, Maisie, keeps having nightmares about?

Honestly, I put myself in Clara's shoes for the entire book and I felt horrible for her. She's had no sleep since 6 months on due to the size of the baby and how he was sitting, so that's enough to make someone go a bit crazy plus she's days home with the baby and her husband died in a horrific accident. She's pretty much barely functioning, although sometimes I didn't think she was functioning at all.

As Maisie starts to have nightmares about the "bad man", Clara clings to this as evidence of foul play and that her husband wasn't truly responsible for his own death. Some one was after her husband, but who? Why? Her husband was a likable guy. We are also told the events leading up to the accident from Nick's POV.

It is evident that he loves and adores his wife, daughter and unborn child but other than that, he's not really a stand up guy. He's one of those people who have trouble living in reality and living beyond his means. He took on too much with the house that needed renovating and then opening his own practice. He wanted to keep up with the Jones' without being able to do so. He makes poor decisions that ultimately lead to more poor decisions. He never lets Clara in on it, so he takes all his problems to the grave.

It isn't until the end of the novel that you feel that Clara is finally starting to understand things clearly and yet you wonder if she'll ever fully recover from the issues that Nick's death dealt her.

I really enjoyed Every Last Lie especially with a good twist at the end. If you are looking for a new thriller/suspense author and you haven't read Ms. Kubica, then her back-list is ready for you to read.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Julie's Review: Little Fires Everywhere

Author: Celeste Ng
Series: None
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Penguin Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Edelweiss+
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: A must read
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned – from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. Enter Mia Warren – an enigmatic artist and single mother – who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs. Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of secrets, the nature of art and identity, and the ferocious pull of motherhood – and the danger of believing that following the rules can avert disaster.

Review: Little Fires Everywhere should be the book that everyone is talking about this fall. It is such a well-written and crafted story. There are a few different story lines but they all converge together in the end and they each add an element to the overarching themes. Each of the characters have flaws but they also have redeeming qualities that perhaps, in time, will outweigh the flaws.

The book starts with the Richardson house being on fire and goes back to the events that lead up to this event. From there we are introduced to the tenants, Mia and her daughter Pearl plus the entire Richardson clan headed by the matriarch Mrs. Eleana Richardson. It's easy to look at their life and to think they have it all, great jobs, great kids (for the most part), great house = great life. As we know things aren't always what they seem but they aren't that bad. It would be easy to dislike the Richardson family but I found them likable. They worked for where they got to and prided themselves on building their lives. None of their kids are perfect as we find out but the one that is considered the "black sheep" of the family is the youngest daughter, Izzy. Izzy and her mom are alike and therefore they butt-heads. 

Mia and Pearl are travelers/vagabonds and when they end up in Shaker Heights, Mia promises Pearl that this is it, they are staying put. So Pearl starts to make friends and make an effort at school. Her best friend is Moody Richardson and soon she is at their house after school hanging out and getting to know his siblings, Lexie and Trip. It's not hard to see the writing on the wall when it comes to Trip and Pearl. What I liked is that the Richardson kids are pretty much typical teenagers who find themselves in situations that occur on a regular basis and deal with them as teenagers would.
Pearl is wise beyond her years and as things start to unravel, she's the one who can see the situation the clearest.

There were times when I vacillated between liking Mia and wanting to throttle her. As her back story is uncovered, I spent most of my time wanting to throttle her because of the choices she made. It also made me understand as a reader, why she was always on the move. She did have an uncanny way of reading people and demonstrating that in her art.

I truly enjoyed reading each story-line and then having them all converge in a way that was realistic. If you read one book this fall, I highly recommend Little Fires Everywhere.