Thursday, December 28, 2017

Julie's Review: Left to Chance

Author: Amy Sue Nathan
Series: None
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 288
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A sweet novel about coming home
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: No one knows why Teddi Lerner left her hometown, but everyone knows why she’s back. Twelve-year-old Shayna― talented, persistent, and adorable―persuaded "Aunt Tee" to return to Chance, Ohio, to photograph her father’s wedding. Even though it's been six years since Shay's mother, Celia, died, Teddi can hardly bear the thought of her best friend's husband marrying someone else. But Teddi’s bond with Shay is stronger than the hurt. Teddi knows it’s time to face the consequences of her hasty retreat from family, friends, and, her old flame, but when she looks through her viewfinder, nothing in her small town looks the same. That’s when she truly sees the hurt she's caused and―maybe―how to fix it. After the man she once loved accuses Teddi of forgetting Celia, Teddi finally admits why she ran away, and the guilt she’s carried with her. As Teddi relinquishes the distance that kept her safe, she’ll discover surprising truths about the people she left behind, and herself. And she'll finally see what she overlooked all along in Left to Chance by Amy Sue Nathan.  

Review: Left to Chance is a sweet novel about leaving home only to return home and find that you stayed away too long. Teddi left when her best friend died and she couldn't handle it. She fled to Chicago and ended up in San Francisco due to her job with the boutique hotel chain, Hester. Teddi is a well-known wedding photographer that is coming home to shoot her best friend's husband's second wedding. As hard as this will be for her, she's coming because Shay, Celia's daughter, has asked her to do it. She's not sure what she's in for coming home. She certainly didn't expect to see a thriving town with many things to offer. This Chance, OH is different than the Chance, OH she left 6 years prior.

Teddi left some baggage in her wake when she took off and now she's feeling the after effects. Most of the people she was the closest to have shut her out. To make matters worse, Shay is going through something but she won't open up to her Aunt Tee and no one is talking either. She's also getting the cold shoulder from her old-flame, who is Shay's Uncle and we slowly learn why. People are shutting Teddi out because they feel that she deserted them when they needed her most.

There were a couple of things that I wasn't expecting either, which was a nice surprise. I liked Teddi for the most part but there were a couple of times I wanted her to understand where other people were coming from a bit better. I know she didn't expect to just waltz back into their lives easily but she did think it would be somewhat easier to worm her way back in. Shay has been her only link to CeCe when she had other people she could have been remembering her with.

I enjoyed Left to Chance as a quick read during my holiday break. I found it to be a sweet story about friendships.


Friday, December 22, 2017

Julie's Review: The People We Hate at the Wedding

Author: Grant Ginder
Series: None
Publication Date: June 6, 2017
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 336
Obtained: bought it
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 1/5
Bottom Line: Avoid it even with the hype
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Remove
Summary: Relationships are awful. They'll kill you, right up to the point where they start saving your life. Paul and Alice’s half-sister Eloise is getting married! In London! There will be fancy hotels, dinners at “it” restaurants and a reception at a country estate complete with tea lights and embroidered cloth napkins. They couldn’t hate it more. The People We Hate at the Wedding is the story of a less than perfect family. Donna, the clan’s mother, is now a widow living in the Chicago suburbs with a penchant for the occasional joint and more than one glass of wine with her best friend while watching House Hunters International. Alice is in her thirties, single, smart, beautiful, stuck in a dead-end job where she is mired in a rather predictable, though enjoyable, affair with her married boss. Her brother Paul lives in Philadelphia with his older, handsomer, tenured track professor boyfriend who’s recently been saying things like “monogamy is an oppressive heteronormative construct,” while eyeing undergrads. And then there’s Eloise. Perfect, gorgeous, cultured Eloise. The product of Donna’s first marriage to a dashing Frenchman, Eloise has spent her school years at the best private boarding schools, her winter holidays in St. John and a post-college life cushioned by a fat, endless trust fund. To top it off, she’s infuriatingly kind and decent. As this estranged clan gathers together, and Eloise's walk down the aisle approaches, Grant Ginder brings to vivid, hilarious life the power of family, and the complicated ways we hate the ones we love the most in the most bitingly funny, slyly witty and surprisingly tender novel you’ll read this year.

Review: I want to say that it is rare for me to give a book a 1 star and still review it but I feel like with all the love/buzz this book is getting I wanted to give a different point of view. 

People We Hate at the Wedding is not funny in any way shape or form. Honestly, I found it super cringe-worthy. I typically don't like un-likable characters if there's a good story and I see them grow but with this family they are stuck in inertia and it really didn't seem like they would ever come out of it.

Alice is in a job that she doesn't like, sleeping with her married boss and still mourning over what happened in Mexico City 5 years ago. The mourning is the one thing I felt horrible for her on because what an awful thing to go through. Her way of dealing with it by snorting her Klonopin probably isn't the healthiest.

Paul is in a relationship that no matter what gender you are attracted to isn't healthy. He's doing a job that he isn't really passionate but took because it put him in Philly with his boyfriend Mark. Paul is super needy and lacks emotional maturity. So when Mark suggests that they spice things up in the bedroom, Paul is extremely hesitant. As you get to know Paul, you realize that he just wants to be loved and if this is what it takes to get Mark to love him, he'll end up doing it.

Eloise, is probably the most well-adjusted of the 3 siblings and that's not saying much. She's kept a lot of feelings repressed and of course with the pressure of the wedding, she's starting to crack a bit. She's the older sister that both Alice and Paul feel disconnected from since they really didn't grow up with since she was off at boarding school. For me it just seemed liked they were jealous that Eloise had a trust fund and grew up differently than them. It really inhibited their ability to form a meaningful relationship with her.

I also felt that all this build up to the wedding and we didn't even get the wedding in the book. If there ever was such a dysfunctional family then this one is it. Except sometimes you can find humor or at least identify with the dysfunction, but for me, not in this case.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Julie's Review: The Wife Between Us

Author: Sarah Pekkanen & Greer Hendricks
Series: None
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St. Martins Press
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Suspense
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Holy smokes!
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Summary: When you read this book, you will make many assumptions. You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife. You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love. You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle. Assume nothing. Twisted and deliciously chilling, The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage - and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love. Read between the lies.  

Review: Wife Between Us is one of those books that is impossible to review because to do it justice would be to give away its secrets. I will say that whenever a favorite author moves to a different genre, you always hope that it will be a smooth transition and for Ms. Pekkanen, she hit it out of the park. She partnered up with her long time editor, Greer Henricks to write this one. What I want to know is who wrote what character because they were so seemless.

Things are not what they appear in the novel. You will think you have it all figured out. Jealous wife who can't quite let her husband go. He's been patient, perhaps even kind but the harassment of his new fiance needs to stop. It can't though because Vanessa feels like she needs to save her. It's not quite clear in the beginning exactly what she's trying to save her from other than Vanessa. Vanessa is off-kilter. She's slowly losing it. She's focusing on what she's lost, instead of moving forward with her life.

 You kind of want to shake Vanessa, you want her to wake up and move on. Yet you don't know the full story quite yet. When the shoe drops and then the other shoe drops, it might leave your mouth dropped open.

So that's where I leave it because if I say much more I'll spill the beans. If you think this is a typical domestic thriller, then you'll need to read to the end because it's when it all comes together. Wife Between Us will be the suspense book of the Winter, so don't miss out. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Julie's Review: Reconstructing Amelia

Author: Kimberly McCreight
Series: None
Publication Date: December 3, 2013
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Pages: 400
Obtained: friend
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A cautionary tale for all parents
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Summary: In Reconstructing Amelia, the stunning debut novel from Kimberly McCreight, Kate's in the middle of the biggest meeting of her career when she gets the telephone call from Grace Hall, her daughter’s exclusive private school in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Amelia has been suspended, effective immediately, and Kate must come get her daughter—now. But Kate’s stress over leaving work quickly turns to panic when she arrives at the school and finds it surrounded by police officers, fire trucks, and an ambulance. By then it’s already too late for Amelia. And for Kate. An academic overachiever despondent over getting caught cheating has jumped to her death. At least that’s the story Grace Hall tells Kate. And clouded as she is by her guilt and grief, it is the one she forces herself to believe. Until she gets an anonymous text: She didn’t jump. Reconstructing Amelia is about secret first loves, old friendships, and an all-girls club steeped in tradition. But, most of all, it’s the story of how far a mother will go to vindicate the memory of a daughter whose life she couldn’t save. Fans of Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl will find Reconstructing Amelia just as gripping and surprising.  

Review: Reconstructing Amelia is one of those books that all parents and teens should read. It touches on many things including bullying, social media and the complexities of teenage relationships/friendships. It makes me happy that I grew up when I did when being a teen wasn't easy but it sure was a lot less complex.

Kate feels that her and Amelia have a strong relationship even if Kate works long hours as an attorney. She makes sure she carves out time on Fridays and Sundays for them to spend together. Still Kate isn't stupid, she knows that her daughter surely keeps secrets from her, what teenager doesn't. It isn't until she gets the call from the school that Kate wonders exactly what her daughter is keeping from her.  Except when Kate gets to the school, she's informed that her daughter has jumped from the roof of the school because she was caught cheating.

As Kate delves into her daughter's life, she wonders how well she knew her and what she could have done differently. Guilt eats at Kate.  As she starts to think that maybe Amelia didn't jump to her death, she starts to push for the truth. She uncovers various things that are going on in her daughters life and how her own choices affected Amelia.

Ms. McCreight does an excellent job of exploring how much of a teenagers life can a parent really know, especially these days with social media. What lengths would you go to for proof that your child didn't commit suicide? What if the truth was more complex and hurt more than you could ever imagine, would you still want to know?

Reconstructing Amelia examines all of these things in a way that will petrify you but also serve as a wake up call.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Julie's Review: Don't Let Go

Author: Harlan Coben
Series: None
Publication Date: September 26, 2017
Publisher: Dutton
Pages: 368
Obtained: Library
Genre:  Mystery
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Never, ever a let down from Mr. Coben
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn't been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother's death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he's been looking for. When Maura's fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

Review: Honestly, every time I pick up a book from Mr. Coben I'm not disappointed and he's done it again with Don't Let Go. Nap is a character that you will like even if some of his actions are questionable but he's a great detective. This time the case is personal when the prints of his long-ago girlfriend show up at a crime scene where a cop is killed.

Nap has never gotten over the fact that his girlfriend from 15 years ago disappeared into thin air right after his brother died. He's never really bought the story that his brother and his girlfriend committed suicide together, something always nagged at him about it. So when cops from Philly show up to question him about why he put Maura's fingerprints into the national system, Nap is pulled back into the mystery that shrouded her disappearance years ago.

As Nap starts to ask questions and un-bury long harbored secrets, he begins to find out that things aren't always what they seem and some conspiracy's are not only true but sometimes wilder than the theory itself.

It's not that the outcome is shocking or that there are a bunch of "shoe dropping" moments but its the story telling by Mr. Coben that solidifies this novel as one of my favorite of 2017. He makes you care about the characters, what happens to them and the resolution of the mystery.

If you haven't read Harlan Coben, Don't Let Go is a great stand alone to start with and then work your way through his back list.


Monday, December 11, 2017

Julie's Review: Hello, Sunshine

Author: Laura Dave
Series: None
Publication Date: July 11, 2017
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 256
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: A good read about being true to yourself
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Sunshine Mackenzie has it all…until her secrets come to light. Sunshine Mackenzie is living the dream—she’s a culinary star with millions of fans, a line of #1 bestselling cookbooks, and a devoted husband happy to support her every endeavor. And then she gets hacked. When Sunshine’s secrets are revealed, her fall from grace is catastrophic. She loses the husband, her show, the fans, and her apartment. She’s forced to return to the childhood home—and the estranged sister—she’s tried hard to forget. But what Sunshine does amid the ashes of her own destruction may well save her life. In a world where celebrity is a careful construct, Hello, Sunshine is a compelling, funny, and evocative novel about what it means to live an authentic life in an inauthentic age.

Review: Hello Sunshine is a story about falling from the pedestal of stardom into the abyss being ostracized. Sunshine is at the peak of her career, she's beloved by her millions of fans and is about ready to launch a Food Network show that she couldn't be more excited about. Her public persona is all about good, farm to table food but there's a secret; Sunshine can't even cook let alone put together a recipe. So when her carefully cultivated career comes tumbling down and everyone close to her bails, she has no where to go except back home where she's tried to escape from for years.

Except things at home have changed as well. Her older sister, isn't exactly happy to see her and in fact doesn't really want Sunshine around. Except within a short period of time Sunshine and her niece, Sammy have formed a pretty strong bond much to Rain's chagrin.

By the end of the novel, I'm not quite sure if Sunshine's learned her lesson but I think she's on the way based on some of her actions. For a while she keeps thinking that she can build herself up for fame again but maybe that should have never been her goal in the first place. I figured out the twist pretty quickly and was waiting for her to figure it out.

There were a few strings that weren't tied up in the story, which probably should have been but they weren't so important that they took away from the book. If you are looking for a quick read and a peek into foodie celebrity, Hello Sunshine is the book for you.


Monday, December 4, 2017

Julie's Review: Perfectly Undone

Author: Jamie Raintree
Series: None
Publication Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Graydon House
Pages: 304
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: A bit predictable at times but has a great message
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Dr. Dylan Michels has worked hard for a perfect life, so when her longtime boyfriend, Cooper, gets down on one knee, it should be the most perfect moment of all. Then why does she say no? For too many years, Dylan's been living for her sister, who never got the chance to grow up. But her attempt to be the perfect daughter, perfect partner and perfect doctor hasn't been enough to silence the haunting guilt Dylan feels over her sister's death—and the role no one knows she played in it. Now Dylan must face her past if she and Cooper stand a chance at a future together. But when Cooper makes a startling confession of his own, can Dylan find the courage to define her own happiness before her life becomes perfectly undone? Set among the breezy days of a sultry Portland summer, Perfectly Undone is a deeply moving novel of family secrets, forgiveness and finding yourself in the most surprising of places.  

Review: Perfectly Undone shows us that appearances aren’t always what they seem and this is true for Dylan and Cooper. On the outside they seem to have it all; great careers, great house, great relationship but nothing is perfect. Obviously, they are picture perfect but there are cracks. Dylan throws herself into her work because she's dedicated, loves what she does but she's also obsessed. When she gets passed over for a grant,she starts to lose her grip and question her path in life. How can she make a difference if she's not given the means to do so?

Dylan holds herself responsible for her sister’s death and believes that she can fix this wrong by dedicating herself to her work to help women. Of course she starts to crack under the pressure she’s put on herself. It's how she starts to pull herself together that the real story emerges. It is how we respond in trying times that show us what we are made of.  Dylan has always relied on other people to push her or to be her reason, it's time for her to learn to trust herself.

There are a few cliches that are weaved throughout the novel but if you can get over them, then it's worth it to find Dylan coming into her own.

Perfectly Undone is about letting go and forgiveness on a few different levels.