Thursday, October 18, 2018

LIFE




Well as some of you have probably noticed the content here on Girls Just Reading has been a bit light and on/off since the summer. A few things happened to make this an occurrence:

1) Work
2) Kids
3) Work
4) Back to School

We've had a huge enterprise-wide project going on for 18 months and this summer was one of the biggest portions of it. So it meant no lunch time reading and limited reading at night. Plus juggling the kids' schedules with the crazy work priorities was tough.

I also decided to go back and finish my last class for my MBA in September so again that crept into my reading time. Plus our project is at the end (HALLELUJAH!!), so that means more time for reading.

I have a huge stack of great books to get to so I hope you'll stick around to see the blog come back to life.



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Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Julie's Review: Sold on a Monday

Sold on a Monday
by Kristina McMorris
Powells.com
Author: Kristina McMorris
Series: None
Publication Date: August 28, 2018
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Pages: 352
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking story but with hope
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Summary: 2 CHILDREN FOR SALE The sign is a last resort. It sits on a farmhouse porch in 1931, but could be found anywhere in an era of breadlines, bank runs and broken dreams. It could have been written by any mother facing impossible choices. For struggling reporter Ellis Reed, the gut-wrenching scene evokes memories of his family’s dark past. He snaps a photograph of the children, not meant for publication. But when it leads to his big break, the consequences are more devastating than he ever imagined. At the paper, Lillian Palmer is haunted by her role in all that happened. She is far too familiar with the heartbreak of children deemed unwanted. As the bonds of motherhood are tested, she and Ellis must decide how much they are willing to risk to mend a fractured family.Inspired by an actual newspaper photograph that stunned the nation, Sold on a Monday is a powerful novel of love, redemption, and the unexpected paths that bring us home. ~amazon.com  

Review: This story begins with a cub reporter, Ellis, taking a picture of 2 children in front of a sign that says CHILDREN FOR SALE. This picture will catapult his career but it also changes the trajectory of 3 lives: a mother, a son and a daughter. Lily is the Editor's secretary but she also has career aspirations of her own but she's also hiding a secret that no one at the newspaper knows about. She's afraid it would change how people view her. She's also the person who put Ellis' photo in front of the editor; so in some ways she's responsible for the change in paths of people's lives as well.

The picture being published and the story that Ellis wrote around it gets him a job in NY but not before he starts to wonder what happened to the kids in the picture. So being the investigative reporter he starts to ask a few questions. Lily also inserts herself into helping Ellis. Ellis and Lily make a formidable team with their inquisitive minds and the fact they won’t give up until they have their answers and feel that a wrong is righted. I loved how the mystery unfolded and how even the subplots were connected where they didn’t seem like they would be.

The story takes a few turns that I didn't expect with some of the players who were involved and how they ended up being a part of the story. Ellis and Lily were both interesting characters who's past shaped who they were and how they viewed the world. Lily helped guide Ellis to use his integrity to help resolve returning the children to their mother.

Ms. McMorris’s writing continues to be insightful, emotional and at times gritty. Sold on a Sunday is a story you won’t want to miss!

 
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Monday, July 30, 2018

Julie's Review: Those Other Women

Author: Nicola Moriarty
Series: None
Publication Date: June 26, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 3.75/5
Bottom Line: An interesting look at how women hurt each other by competing instead of supporting 
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Summary: The author of The Fifth Letter takes a laser look at the uneasy relationships between women and the real-world ramifications of online conflicts and social media hostilities in this stunning domestic drama. A story of privilege, unspoken rivalries, and small acts of vengeance with huge repercussions sure to please fans of Sarah Jio and Ruth Ware. Overwhelmed at the office and reeling from betrayals involving the people she loves, Poppy feels as if her world has tipped sideways. Maybe her colleague, Annalise, is right—Poppy needs to let loose and blow off some steam. What better way to vent than social media? With Annalise, she creates an invitation-only Facebook group that quickly takes off. Suddenly, Poppy feels like she’s back in control—until someone begins leaking the group’s private posts and stirring up a nasty backlash, shattering her confidence. Feeling judged by disapproving female colleagues and her own disappointed children, Frankie, too, is careening towards the breaking point. She also knows something shocking about her boss—sensitive knowledge that is tearing her apart. As things begin to slide disastrously, dangerously out of control, carefully concealed secrets and lies are exposed with devastating consequences—forcing these women to face painful truths about their lives and the things they do to survive. ~amazon.com  

Review: How would you react when finding out that your husband was sleeping with your best friend and was leaving you for her? Would you be more upset for losing him or losing her? What if the reasoning was because he decided he wanted children and knew you weren't open to it? Yet, he never gave you a chance to discuss it. This is the scenario that Poppy finds herself in and she reels from it.

She takes to social media to develop a Facebook page for women who are childless by choice. She meets a lot of women who have the same view as her but little does she know there are a couple lurkers there looking to start trouble. It is Poppy's go to when she's feeling low and needs to vent. Annalise is encouraging her all the way.

Both Annalise and Poppy grow and change through the book which is nice to see. As they change their friendship changes but for the better. Annalise had been closed off and only let Poppy see what she wanted. I was happy that Poppy didn't abandon Annalise with her reveal.

I really enjoyed this one but felt that at times it dragged on when it could have been resolved a bit quicker. I wanted a bit more on Annalise’s life and that seemed rushed with the explanation. I liked both Poppy and Annalise a lot. I wondered about their friendship at first but did grow into a genuine one by the end of the book. There were a lot of other interesting subplots as well. I liked the ending of the novel and the real “women should support women” theme.

This is a great book for a fans of Jennifer Weiner, Emily Giffin and Sarah Jio.


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Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Julie's Review: Subway Girls

Author: Susan Orman Schnall
Series: None
Publication Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 320
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Historical Fiction
Bottom Line: Dual timelines make this story shine
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Summary: In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte's dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend―the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose―does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever. Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job―and her future. The Subway Girls is the charming story of two strong women, a generation apart, who find themselves up against the same eternal struggle to find an impossible balance between love, happiness, and ambition

Review: Reader beware once you start to read The Subway Girls you will want to google the history of this story because that's exactly what happened to me...rabbit hole city! I loved the dual time line with Olivia and Charlotte and it's really what makes the story pop. You see Charlotte struggling with trying to gain her independence from her father and their family story and then you see Olivia fighting for her place in the advertising world. Charlotte certainly was a force that couldn't be contained and she knew what she wanted; a job at a big advertising firm, even if she did need to start in the typing pool.

Olivia is working at a boutique advertising firm that might now survive if they don't land a big account. So when the opportunity to pitch a campaign to the MTA falls in her lap she's excited. She's less excited when her boss decides to let her and her misogynistic co-worker go against each other for the business. So Olivia throws herself into research and stumbles upon the Miss Subway Girls and inspiration takes hold. Little does she know how this research will effect her life long term.

I loved the way the stories intersected and were brought full circle. I am always a fan of the dual storyline but I don't know if this story would have worked with just one point of view. It's obvious that Ms. Schnall did her research for this book. 

Both of them were formidable in their own way and for their time. Women have always paved the way for each other and will continue to do so. I highly recommend this wonderful novel.  




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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Julie's Review: Girls' Night Out


Author: Liz Fenton, Lisa Steinke
Series: None
Publication Date: July 24, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 338
Obtained: Authors
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Friendship ain't easy
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Summary: For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together. Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies? As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit. ~amazon.com  

Review: We all have those friendships where one person seems to be the glue that holds all of you together right? Well it is the same with Ashley, Natalie and Lauren. Ash is the one that both brings them richer and in some ways separates them. After Ashley and Lauren have a fallout a year ago, Natalie lost contact with Lauren as well. In order to mend their friendships, Ashley invites both on a trip to Tulum saying it’ll help them heal. This is where is all goes haywire though.

Each woman has her share of secrets that they’ve been keeping from each other and in some ways themselves. When you admit something to another person it makes it real for you too; which none of them are truly ready to admit. Add in a handsome stranger who takes all of one of their attentions away and you have storm a brewing. What I loved about this book is that each friend was in the wrong in some way. None of them were better than the other. I also enjoyed how what occurred a year ago was revealed piece by piece by each of the friends. Female friendships are tricky and sometimes you have to evaluate whether or not you need to cut ties with a toxic one.

Ashley is completely self-absorbed and while I felt that at first she really did want to reconnect with Lauren and Natalie; as the time wore on I felt that she didn't. To defend her though, I don't think she knew how to approach the history. No one wants to dredge up the past when it doesn't put you in the best light.  She seems to want to move on to be a better mom but she's not willing to change her ways either.

Natalie perhaps had the biggest secret from her friends' but I didn't feel that she should have had to reveal it to Ashley to make her understand why she wanted out of their joint business. If Ashley wanted to keep it so badly, perhaps she needed to find away to buy Natalie out.  Natalie was trying to do what she could to save her family and her marriage and that included walking away from the business that she built from the ground up with Ashley. Also, doing business together was truly wreaking havoc on their friendship, which for Natalie was more important.

Lauren was the wild card for me. Yes she had issues with Ashley and perhaps Natalie to a degree but her life since letting them go a year ago has been a bit messy. Making up with Ashley was the least of her issues that she had to work out. I didn't feel that repairing her friendship with Ashley was her top priority, nor should it have been.

Sometimes in life you have to decide to let go of friendships. People come in and out of your life for reason and purpose. Some have expiration dates and some don't but we learn something from each of them about ourselves. 

Liz and Lisa have a knack for writing stories you want to read and women you want see yourself or people close to you in. Not only that but they aren't afraid of shying away from some subject matters that can't be easy to write. I have read each of their books and loved each of them for different reasons but Girls' Night Out is their best to date.


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Friday, July 6, 2018

Julie's Review: Dreams of Falling

Author: Karen White
Series: None
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 435
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Family secrets always have a way of coming out
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Summary: On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree's trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping--including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may. But life can waylay the best of intentions.... Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads--and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home. Ivy, Larkin's mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years--whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal--that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways. ~amazon.com

Review: Dreams of Falling is a multi-generational novel about how secrets tend to come out even if they’ve been hidden for decades. Each of these women has their own skeletons and issues to deal with but everything is done out of love. We have CeCe, Ivy, Bitty who are all holding something back from Larkin and have been for years. Not only are they holding back from her but they have been keeping things from each other for decades. Now with Ivy's accident, Larkin finds herself back in the place she didn't ever want to return to for a long period of time, home. Larkin was doused with love as a kid but because she wasn’t allowed to fail or to see herself as other did; reality comes crashing down on her and she isn't equipt to handle it.

Larkin also carries around tremendous guilt about an incident that happened which caused her to flee. She's not quite sure when her BFF from childhood, Mabry reenters her life. She sees how easy it would be to fall back into step with her. Not to mention Mabry's twin brother Bennett, who she really is not looking forward to seeing.

What Ms. White does well is tell the story in flashbacks and present day. You start to understand the choices each of them made and why they made the decision she made. You start to see Larkin come out of her shell and fully appreciate the person she is and reconcile herself with the kid who fled home 9 years ago. Of course she realizes that sometimes you can go home again. There were of course a few things I saw coming but it didn't lessen my enjoyment of it at all.

If you enjoy books about family with a southern setting, then you won't want to miss Ms. White's latest novel.


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Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Julie's Review: The Lost Family

Author: Jenna Blum
Series: None
Publication Date: June 5, 2018
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Heartbreaking, poignant and hopeful
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Summary: The New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us creates a vivid portrait of marriage, family, and the haunting grief of World War II in this emotionally charged, beautifully rendered story that spans a generation, from the 1960s to the 1980s. In 1965 Manhattan, patrons flock to Masha’s to savor its brisket bourguignon and impeccable service and to admire its dashing owner and head chef Peter Rashkin. With his movie-star good looks and tragic past, Peter, a survivor of Auschwitz, is the most eligible bachelor in town. But Peter does not care for the parade of eligible women who come to the restaurant hoping to catch his eye. He has resigned himself to a solitary life. Running Masha’s consumes him, as does his terrible guilt over surviving the horrors of the Nazi death camp while his wife, Masha—the restaurant’s namesake—and two young daughters perished. Then exquisitely beautiful June Bouquet, an up-and-coming young model, appears at the restaurant, piercing Peter’s guard. Though she is twenty years his junior, the two begin a passionate, whirlwind courtship. When June unexpectedly becomes pregnant, Peter proposes, believing that beginning a new family with the woman he loves will allow him to let go of the horror of the past. But over the next twenty years, the indelible sadness of those memories will overshadow Peter, June, and their daughter Elsbeth, transforming them in shocking, heartbreaking, and unexpected ways. ~amazon.com  
Review: The Lost Family is a fabulous story that is told from 3 different view points: Peter, the husband and father; June, the wife and mother; and Elsbeth, the daughter. What adds to the story though is that Ms. Blum tells it in chronological order.

I thoroughly enjoyed all points of view but the one that will stick with me is Peter’s. His is a story of survival and hope. I’m not sure if it’s because it was first but it was certainly had the most impact. It is his history and his experiences that shape his present and his future. He never fully opens up to June and keep his past to himself. It is his extended family that tells June and then Elsbeth about his previous family and

I understood how June felt the way she did about her life (haven’t we all felt stuck at one point) but she didn’t know how to handle it.

Then there was Elsbeth that felt she wasn’t good enough for either parent for various reasons but they were all internalized. I felt sorry for Elsbeth because she was stuck in the middle between her parents and their issues. Her mother always wanted her to lose weight but her father was always plying her with food.

Ultimately this novel is about family and how the past influences the present and the future. It’s about letting go and moving on but not forgetting. For fans of WWII novels, this is one that you will want to read.


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Thursday, June 21, 2018

Julie's Review: The Banker's Wife

Author: Cristina Alger
Series: None
Publication Date: July 3, 2018
Publisher: G.P. Putnam
Pages: 352
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: 3 strong heroines in one book
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Summary: On an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar, and its wreckage is later uncovered in the Alps. Among the disappeared is Matthew Werner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind, including an encrypted laptop and a shady client list. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew's death was no accident, and that she is now in the crosshairs of his powerful enemies. Meanwhile, ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau has finally landed at the top. Now that she's engaged to Grant Ellis, she will stop writing about powerful families and finally be a part of one. Her entry into the upper echelons of New York's social scene is more appealing than any article could ever be, but, after the death of her mentor, she agrees to dig into one more story. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including a few who are too close to home. The story could also be the answer to Annabel's heartbreaking search--if Marina chooses to publish it. ~amazon.com  

Review: Wow! Ms. Alger wrote a fantastic novel about what it takes to survive when you are being hunted for something your husband might have done. We all know that off-shore accounts are a bit suspect but she really brings the seedy underside to life in her novel. We meet Annabel and Marina both who will be sucked into this web of deceit but in very different ways. As the book kept picking up speed, I was hoping our multiple heroines would be able to come out on the other side of this with their lives intact. Each of them had so much tragedy and sorrow in such a short period of time that I wanted them to be o.k.

There are definitely some twists and turn throughout the book but none that seemed unrealistic or non-plausible. Especially given the fact that you are dealing with a business that exists on dirty or not completely legal money.

What I loved is we had three strong but different heroines in Annabel, Marina and Zoe. I loved that this story weaved their lives together probably in ways they would have preferred not to have happen in some ways. Each of them brought a different aspect to the story and definitely added unique perspectives. I wasn't expecting Zoe's to be so interesting and intricate to everything.

The Banker's Wife  truly sucked me in from the first line and didn't let go. It is definitely a book to take to the beach or pool with you this summer but I read it anywhere I could just to see what was going to happen next.


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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Julie's Review: Three Days Missing


Author: Kimberly Belle
Series: None
Publication Date: August 26, 2018
Publisher: Park Row
Pages: 352
Obtained: author
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: A mother's view of when her child goes missing and the frantic search for him
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Summary: It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest. Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most. ~amazon.com  

Review: What would you do if your son went missing on a school camp out? How would you feel if it turned out that your kid wasn’t the target? This is what single mom, Kat is dealing with. Her son, Ethan is a seriously smart kid, probably bordering on genius but he's not so good with social interaction. So when she drops him off to go on an overnight trip, she's apprehensive but she's got to let him do it. When the loud knocking interrupts her sleep she thinks it's her ex-husband but when she opens the door and it's the police, she knows her whole world is about to turn upside down.

Stephanie is devastated when she hears that another boy from her son's class is missing. She's frantic to get in touch with someone from the school to see what is going on but can't get a hold of anyone. It's not quite evident why she's so frantic and involved in this situation. Other than the fact that she's the mayor's wife, she already knows that her son is fine.

As Stephanie and Kat's worlds collide, you realize that they have more in common than you thought before. It takes them by surprise as they didn't really know each other other than because of their boys being in the same class.

Ms. Belle has a knack for writing engaging characters and plot. You feel for Kat and wonder how much Stephanie has turned a blind eye too. As you finish the end of the book, she turns it on its head yet again. So much so that I had to make sure that I read it a few times.

If you haven't read any of her books, then Three Days Missing is a great one to start with.



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Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Julie's Review: The Summer I Met Jack

Author: Michelle Gable
Series: None
Publication Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 528
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Before the Kennedy's were considered Camelot, JFK was in love with someone else
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Summary: Based on a real story - in 1950, a young, beautiful Polish refugee arrives in Hyannisport, Massachusetts to work as a maid for one of the wealthiest families in America. Alicia is at once dazzled by the large and charismatic family, in particular the oldest son, a rising politician named Jack. Alicia and Jack are soon engaged, but his domineering father forbids the marriage. And so, Alicia trades Hyannisport for Hollywood, and eventually Rome. She dates famous actors and athletes and royalty, including Gary Cooper, Kirk Douglas, and Katharine Hepburn, all the while staying close with Jack. A decade after they meet, on the eve of Jack’s inauguration as the thirty-fifth President of the United States, the two must confront what they mean to each other. The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable is based on the fascinating real life of Alicia Corning Clark, a woman who J. Edgar Hoover insisted was paid by the Kennedy's to keep quiet, not only about her romance with Jack Kennedy, but also a baby they may have had together. ~amazon.com  

Review: I’m not obsessed with the Kennedy’s by any means but this book about JFK’s romantic involvement with Alicia Darr was interesting.  I’m of the opinion that JFK was an ass and Alicia saw what he could do for her and she took it. I have no doubt they were in lust with each other but while she let him in a little, she never opened completely up. There was something she always held back about herself.

For me it wasn’t their romance that intrigued me it was the setting of the story. I loved the old school movie theater that Alicia work in and her friendship with George. For me he was her confidante and true friend. He always told her how he saw it, even if at times she didn't want to here it.

I do enjoy books that make me use google and The Summer I Met Jack made me do that. If you are looking for another view into the Kennedy clan, then this book is for you.

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Monday, June 11, 2018

Julie's Review: Another Side of Paradise

Author: Sally Koslow
Series: None
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A look into one of F Scott Fitzgerald's many loves
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Summary: In 1937 Hollywood, gossip columnist Sheilah Graham’s star is on the rise, while literary wonder boy F. Scott Fitzgerald’s career is slowly drowning in booze. But the once-famous author, desperate to make money penning scripts for the silver screen, is charismatic enough to attract the gorgeous Miss Graham, a woman who exposes the secrets of others while carefully guarding her own. Like Fitzgerald’s hero Jay Gatsby, Graham has meticulously constructed a life far removed from the poverty of her childhood in London’s slums. And like Gatsby, the onetime guttersnipe learned early how to use her charms to become a hardworking success; she is feted and feared by both the movie studios and their luminaries. A notorious drunk famously married to the doomed Zelda, Fitzgerald fell hard for his “Shielah” (he never learned to spell her name), a shrewd yet softhearted woman—both a fool for love and nobody’s fool—who would stay with him and help revive his career until his tragic death three years later. Working from Sheilah’s memoirs, interviews, and letters, Sally Koslow revisits their scandalous love affair and Graham’s dramatic transformation in London, bringing Graham and Fitzgerald gloriously to life with the color, glitter, magic, and passion of 1930s Hollywood. ~amazon.com

Review:  While this novel is about the love affair between Sheilah and F. Scott, for me Sheilah's backstory is the most interesting part of the novel. At this time, F. Scott was a washed up writer trying to become a screenwriter in Hollywood but even that isn't going well for him. By the end of this book I took pity on F. Scott Fitzgerald because he really wasn't going to make a huge comeback.

As I said, this story was really about Ms. Graham. It was about how her past shaped her and how her relationship with Scott might have been the first time she was truly in love. He also taught her to believe in herself and with his guidance she educated herself by reading books she had never experienced previously.

I really enjoyed Sheilah and her story. She has reinvented herself for gain and because she had to get out of where she grew up. Ms. Koslow did right by Sheilah by telling her side of the story and giving her a voice.
 

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Julie's Review: Regrets Only


Author: Erin Duffy
Series: None
Publication Date: May 8, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 416
Obtained: author
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: Picking up the pieces of a life shattered isn't easy but you have to do it
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Summary: Claire thought she had everything a woman was supposed to want—a loving husband, a newborn son, a beautiful home in the suburbs. Then she walks in on her husband canoodling with their realtor in their newly renovated kitchen, and in an instant, her perfect life comes crashing down. With her marriage heading for divorce, Claire knows it’s time to stop feeling sorry for herself. But how can she move on when she’s still stuck in the orbit of her husband’s world? For starters, she can get rid of her soon-to-be ex’s possessions—including his prized, gigantic foosball table—by dumping them onto the curb…until complaints from the neighbors get the police involved. Now Claire is busy dodging the mean mommies at story hour and hiding from her ex-husband’s girlfriend in the grocery store. But as Claire soon learns, suburbia still has a few surprises in store for her—surprises that will make her question her choices from the past, send her down an unexpected road to self-discovery, and maybe even lead to new love. Desperate for a positive outlet to channel her frustrations, she turns to girlfriends Lissy and Antonia for help. Together they join forces to rebrand Lissy’s local stationery store and turn it into a thriving business. But as Claire soon learns, suburbia still has a few surprises in store for her—surprises that will make her question her choices from the past, send her down an unexpected road to self-discovery, and maybe even new love. Featuring a second coming-of-age story, Regrets Only deftly explores the subtle nuances of marriage, family, friendship, and what it means to be a woman today, while delighting readers as its unforgettable heroine acts on impulses we’ve all been guilty of having. ~amazon.com

Review: Regrets Only was a welcome break from the psychological thrillers I've been reading and plus have loved all of Ms. Duffy's previous books, so I was looking forward to this one.  I loved Claire and even loved her mood swings. Who wouldn’t go a little bad crazy walking in on their husband having an affair with his ex girlfriend? Not to mention having a young baby to take care oh and giving up everything to move to his hometown. So while yes it seemed like she might have been losing it, she was really just reclaiming herself because she was a little lost.

Claire loses it after walking in on her husband and their real estate agent having an affair. She only finds out because Owen offered her a day in the city at the spa but she forgot her wallet, so she had to go home for it. This completely unravels Claire. How is she going to be a single mom to an 8 month old boy? How is she going to support them? Not only that but she's new to town and knows no one. She moved back east to be with Owen; she gave up her life in Chicago for him. 

Luckily a few things happen around the same time, her best friend shows up on her doorstep to help her get back on her feet and she meets Lissy, who owns a stationery store that turns into a project for Claire. Let me tell you, if that store existed in my town, I would most certainly be in there for cards and notepaper I probably don't need. The name and theme they come up with for the store is awesome. I love how her and Lissy form an immediate bond and support each other. She starts to come up for air and then her sadness/anger engulf her again. I felt that this was realistic because no one is going to be ok after a few weeks.

I adored all the other characters Lissy, Antonia and Fred. They brought Claire back down when she’s gone a bit too far. She’s surrounded herself with people that have her best interest at heart. If you are looking to read a book about picking yourself up again when life doesn't turn out like you thought, you should grab Regrets Only.


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Monday, May 14, 2018

Julie's Review: Then She Was Gone


Author: Lisa Jewell
Series: None
Publication Date: April 17, 2018
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Can you ever fully recover from the loss of a child?
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Summary: Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her. And then she was gone. Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl? ~amazon.com

Review: Then She Was Gone is one of those psychological thrillers that as a parent will scare the crap out of you but as a fan of thrillers, will delight you and will keep you turning the pages. It is creepy in a this could really happen. It will make you hesitate about those you let into your lives and the lives of your children. 

Laurel is still reeling from her golden child, Ellie, going missing 7 years prior. She lost her marriage and her other 2 children over her inability to get over it. Now there's a new development in it and in some ways it brings all the pain back and in other ways it helps her find some closure. She's decided that she needs to move on with her life and that is what Ellie would want her to do. Pretty soon after deciding to move on she meets Floyd. Floyd seems a little too good to be true and then when she meets his youngest daughter, Poppy; her alerts go on high. You see Poppy looks like Ellie but not just her mannerisms are like Ellie's as well. She brushes it off given everything that has happened lately her brain is in overdrive. It's not like over the years other girls haven't looked like Ellie to her. 

We get flashbacks to what happened to Ellie and it's not pretty. In fact, it's every parents nightmare. We see her struggles and her fighting to defend herself. We see her cope with the situation she is in and how she focuses on her family. Is Ellie really linked to Poppy? If so, how? 

While reading this book I did wonder if Ellie was truly the golden child or if she was hiding something from everyone. It turns out that she really was a good kid who happened across an unstable person who became obsessed with her. 

The ending of the book will leave you hopeful and yet a bit shattered. Ms. Jewell certainly has a way of writing an engaging psychological thriller.
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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Julie's Review: Not That I Could Tell


Author: Jessica Strawser
Series: None
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 338
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Mystery, Suspense
Rating: 4/5

Bottom Line: Another book that asks: "How well do you know your neighbors?"
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Summary: When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal. By Monday morning, one of them is gone. Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce―and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her―and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions―especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own. As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors―and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else. ~amazon.com

 Review: Not That I Could Tell is another novel that makes us question how well we know our neighbors and our friends. Appearances aren't always what they seem and people can keep things they don't want out hidden.

Izzy, the new neighbor, doesn't want her new friends to know just how lonely she really is. She's been through a lot and trying to figure out how to move on. Clara, is the person that everyone wants to be friends with because she's the stay at home mom who tries to have it all together but you know she doesn't. It makes her endearing. Then there is Kristin that we don't get to know but learn about her through her friends. She remains a mystery right up until the end.

Each of them have a little something to hide. Although I didn't think any of them had major issues to keep to themselves except for Paul. Paul was creepy. Paul was off kilter and frankly a bit weird. He didn't seem too upset about his missing wife and kids which of course is always the case in a book like this; the husband is the suspect. Except the case fizzles out pretty quickly and the police have no reason to keep him in their sights. Especially since Kristin took the money and ran.


What got me was the ending of this book. It completely took me by surprise and made the whole journey worth it to me. I would definitely recommend this one for fans of suspense.



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Friday, April 27, 2018

Julie's Review: The Secret to Southern Charm


Author: Kristy Woodson Harvey
Series: Peachtree Bluff #2
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: I love this family and these sisters
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Summary: Leaving fans “practically [begging] for a sequel” (Bookpage), critically acclaimed author Kristy Woodson Harvey returns with the second novel in her beloved Peachtree Bluff series, featuring a trio of sisters and their mother who discover a truth that will change not only the way they see themselves, but also how they fit together as a family. After finding out her military husband is missing in action, middle sister Sloane’s world crumbles as her worst nightmare comes true. She can barely climb out of bed, much less summon the strength to be the parent her children deserve. Her mother, Ansley, provides a much-needed respite as she puts her personal life on hold to help Sloane and her grandchildren wade through their new grief-stricken lives. But between caring for her own aging mother, her daughters, and her grandchildren, Ansley’s private worry is that secrets from her past will come to light. But when Sloane’s sisters, Caroline and Emerson, remind Sloane that no matter what, she promised her husband she would carry on for their young sons, Sloane finds the support and courage she needs to chase her biggest dreams—and face her deepest fears. Taking a cue from her middle daughter, Ansley takes her own leap of faith and realizes that, after all this time, she might finally be able to have it all. ~amazon.com  

Review: The Secret to Southern Charm was like slipping back into a comfy pair of sweatpants and hunkering down. I love these sisters. I love that Ms. Harvey shows complex sister relationships without having them estranged or hating each other. Now don't get me wrong, they do fight but they resolve it. Although, they always have each other's backs. Which is what this second novel focuses on, them rallying around Sloane when her husband, Adam, goes MIA. Why Sloane can't get herself out of bed, Caroline and Emerson plus their mom, Ansley, take over to take care of her two small boys. 

Emerson and Caroline have their own things going as well. Caroline is still trying to decide if she should forgive her husband, James for cheating on her while she was pregnant. Emerson is still deciding if she wants to pursue acting or pursue a relationship with Mark. Not to mention Ansley dealing with her feelings for James and the fact that she pushed him off . It really doesn't help when he moves next door.

A lot of this book revolves around the importance of family, faith and love. I think it is always good to be reminded that these things are what really makes us who we are. They never doubt their love for each other even if they sometimes question their decisions.

I love these women in this series. They are strong and yet vulnerable. They have issues that are real. You want to be their friends and sit on the porch of the house in Peachtree Bluff and tell stories.

If you haven't read Ms. Harvey then you should. Ms. Harvey can hurry up and publish the next one in the series.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Julie's Review: The Flight Attendant


Author: Chris Bohjalian
Series: None
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Doubleday
Pages: 368
Obtained: publisher via NetGalley
Genre:  Suspense, Thriller
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Another fantastic novel by one of my favorites
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Summary: Cassandra Bowden is no stranger to hungover mornings. She's a binge drinker, her job with the airline making it easy to find adventure, and the occasional blackouts seem to be inevitable. She lives with them, and the accompanying self-loathing. When she awakes in a Dubai hotel room, she tries to piece the previous night back together, counting the minutes until she has to catch her crew shuttle to the airport. She quietly slides out of bed, careful not to aggravate her already pounding head, and looks at the man she spent the night with. She sees his dark hair. His utter stillness. And blood, a slick, still wet pool on the crisp white sheets. Afraid to call the police - she's a single woman alone in a hotel room far from home - Cassie begins to lie. She lies as she joins the other flight attendants and pilots in the van. She lies on the way to Paris as she works the first class cabin. She lies to the FBI agents in New York who meet her at the gate. Soon it's too late to come clean-or face the truth about what really happened back in Dubai. Could she have killed him? If not, who did? Set amid the captivating world of those whose lives unfold at forty thousand feet, The Flight Attendant unveils a spellbinding story of memory, of the giddy pleasures of alcohol and the devastating consequences of addiction, and of murder far from home. ~amazon.com  

Review: Prior to reading the book I saw a lot of people commenting on how they didn’t like Cassie. I’m a believer that you don’t have to like the main character to enjoy a novel. I didn’t have such strong feelings for Cassie. I'm not saying she wasn't a hot mess because she was that and a while lot more but I felt sorry for her because she didn’t have any strong relationship and didn’t really care about herself. She was an alcoholic, which is a disease but she was self-destructive.

Waking up beside a man she barely knows isn't really new for Cassie but him being dead in the morning is. Since she's pretty much a blackout drunk, she can't say for sure if she murdered him or not but she does feel like she is capable of that even at her drunkest. What happens next has you guessing who to believe and who to not believe. Did Cassie kill him? Was it in self-defense? Or has she stepped into something much more sinister than she could ever imagine. Will she keep lying to herself and those around her or will she realize that this is perhaps the best time to tell the truth.

Mr. Bohjalian really does keep the reader engaged and on their "toes". There are many twists and turns that I truly didn't see coming but looking back I feel like there were probably hints. I also wonder if Cassie was targeted from the beginning because of her drinking and blackouts.

I love spy movies and books so I was thrilled when this book had that edge to it. It is a fast paced thriller that will have you wondering what the hell is going on until it all comes together in the end.
The Flight Attendant is another fantastic character study novel by Mr. Bohjalian. I can only imagine the research that went into this one!


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Thursday, April 12, 2018

Julie's Review: The Good Liar


Author: Catherine McKenzie
Series: None
Publication Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: Lake Union
Pages: 338
Obtained: Great Thoughts, Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Suspense, Psychological Thriller
Rating: 4.25/5
Bottom Line: If you keep secrets does that make you a liar?
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Summary: When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered. A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building. Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them? ~amazon.com

Review: The Good Liar was my first Catherine McKenzie book but it won’t be my last. She has written a novel where everyone has secrets but that doesn't necessarily mean they are a liar. How can one moment can change the lives of 3 women inexplicably? This what she examines and peels back the layers on.

Cecily is the poster child/woman for the family’s of the accident. Except she’s hiding something from they world but most of all her family. In the end though, I felt that she was just racked with guilt and trying to protect her family. Kate, well she’s got a couple screws loose. She ran away when the opportunity presented itself and then came back when it suited her needs as well. I wouldn’t call her selfish but broken. Her intentions might mean well but were executed poorly. Then there is Franny;  coo-coo for cocoa puffs but I’ll let you read about her but I’m just going to say is that she needs some serious help.

While there were a few things I figured out before they were revealed, it didn't ruin the book at all for me. In fact even though I figured them out how the characters reacted was not what I expected, so that was refreshing. I also wanted to see how she would end it and I definitely didn't expect the ending.

If you are looking for a great suspense novel, pick up The Good Liar.


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Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Julie's Review: The Husband Hour


Author: Jamie Brenner
Series: None
Publication Date: April 24, 2018
Publisher: Little Brown & Company
Pages: 338
Obtained: Great Thoughts,Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: How do you heal when you are stunted by tragedy and guilt?
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Summary: Lauren Adelman and her high school sweetheart, Rory Kincaid, are a golden couple. They marry just out of college as Rory, a star hockey player, earns a spot in the NHL. Their future could not look brighter when Rory shocks everyone-Lauren most of all-by enlisting in the U.S. Army. When Rory dies in combat, Lauren is left devastated, alone, and under unbearable public scrutiny. Seeking peace and solitude, Lauren retreats to her family's old beach house on the Jersey Shore. But this summer she's forced to share the house with her overbearing mother and competitive sister. Worse, a stranger making a documentary about Rory tracks her down and persuades her to give him just an hour of her time. One hour with filmmaker Matt Brio turns into a summer of revelations, surprises, and upheaval. As the days grow shorter and her grief changes shape, Lauren begins to understand the past-and to welcome the future. ~amazon.com

Review:  Husband Hour is about Rory and Lauren but for me it was really about family. How you can love someone in your family but dislike them at the same time. To say that Lauren and her sister Stephanie are at odds would be putting it lightly. They haven’t truly spoken in years and when Rory died, Stephanie didn’t attend his funeral.Talk about some issues, right?

So the idea of spending the summer in their family home on the Jersey Shore with her sister, is completely unappealing; especially when Lauren has the house mainly to herself most of the year. Their mother, Beth, thinks this summer will just the thing to fix her family. She doesn't understand why her girls just can't get along.

As a reader, you really feel for Lauren and everything she's gone through, especially as you learn the backstory. You also want her to forgive herself and move on. She can't stay stunted forever, even though that's exactly what she's choosing to do by hiding on the shore all year. As much as I found Stephanie annoying, I wanted her and Lauren to find their way back to each other. After all a sister can be your best friend.

My favorite part of the novel might have been the subplot about their parents but more specifically about their mother's rebirth/renewal. I loved how after years of doing something that needed to be done she reignited her passion. I think it made her husband see her in a new light.

What Ms. Brenner does an excellent in this novel is showing how someone’s death can stunt you in ways you didn’t even know and how life can pass you by. She also shows the different family dynamics and how kids can have no clue what is going with their parents. It's a study in love, loss, forgiveness and re-birth.

I would highly suggest you get Husband Hour as one of your Spring reads. You won't be disappointed by it at all.

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Monday, March 26, 2018

Julie's Reviews: The Great Alone



Author: Kristin Hannah
Series: None
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 448
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Wow!
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Summary: Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves. In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska―a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature. ~amazon.com

Review: Great Alone is one of those books that will grabs you by the heart and never lets go. I wouldn't have thought that a book about living in the remote Alaskan wilderness would be so utterly engaging.

Alaska itself is its own character and drive the story as much as the Allbright family. It is also the coming of age story of Leni and the power of love. She shows the possibilities of it and the impossibilities of it. It is about being able to survive all of the things you think you couldn't and being stronger for it. Leni is a strong teenager and it a lot of ways she's the only adult in her house. Her mom's happiness is tied to the stability of her father and that is something that is sporadic.

She learns that love is both light and dark. Her mom and her try to stick together throughout her dad's highs and lows. She protects her mom as much as she can until her dad's rage is turned towards her.
Ms. Hannah highlights how war affects people and can change who they are. How sometimes not even love can heal them no matter how hard you try. They also have to want to help themselves.

Great Alone is one of those books that you will want to keep turning the pages on until late into the night. Ms. Hannah is one of the premier storytellers of our time. In this novel she made Alaska come alive.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Julie's Review: Sometimes I Lie

 

Author: Alice Feeney
Series: None
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Pages: 272
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Psychological Thriller
Rating: 3/5
Bottom Line: Not jumping aboard this buzz train
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Summary: My name is Amber Reynolds. There are three things you should know about me: 1. I’m in a coma. 2. My husband doesn’t love me anymore. 3. Sometimes I lie. Amber wakes up in a hospital. She can’t move. She can’t speak. She can’t open her eyes. She can hear everyone around her, but they have no idea. Amber doesn’t remember what happened, but she has a suspicion her husband had something to do with it. Alternating between her paralyzed present, the week before her accident, and a series of childhood diaries from twenty years ago, this brilliant psychological thriller asks: Is something really a lie if you believe it's the truth? ~amazon.com
 
 Review: Sometimes I Lie is one of those books that has been getting a lot of buzz about the twists and turns. I know a few people who devoured this book. This book should have been a quicker read than it was for me. I love psychological thrillers and I even enjoy the unreliable narrator.

For me I found it very scattered and at times hard to follow. I felt like it was twisted to the point of distortion. I did like the coma aspect of the narrative and how she was aware of what was going on around her but was unable to communicate with those around her. Amber and Claire's relationship was very strange and doesn't make sense until it does. I did figure out who Amber's tormentor was pretty easily and was just waiting for the those in the book to catch on.

The ending did take everything you had learned and thought throughout the first 75% of the book and turns it on a dime. Still in the end though I wasn't sure who to believe and who was whom.

If this sounds right up your alley, then go and grab it. Unfortunately, it didn't strike a cord with me.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Julie's Review: Speak No Evil


Author: Uzodinma Iweala
Series: None
Publication Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Harper
Pages: 224
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: Emotionally intense
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Summary: On the surface, Niru leads a charmed life. Raised by two attentive parents in Washington, D.C., he’s a top student and a track star at his prestigious private high school. Bound for Harvard in the fall, his prospects are bright. But Niru has a painful secret: he is queer—an abominable sin to his conservative Nigerian parents. No one knows except Meredith, his best friend, the daughter of prominent Washington insiders—and the one person who seems not to judge him. When his father accidentally discovers Niru is gay, the fallout is brutal and swift. Coping with troubles of her own, however, Meredith finds that she has little left emotionally to offer him. As the two friends struggle to reconcile their desires against the expectations and institutions that seek to define them, they find themselves speeding toward a future more violent and senseless than they can imagine. Neither will escape unscathed.  ~amazon.com

Review: Speak No Evil is a book told from two view points but not in tandem. Niru is a young man fighting his sexuality but when he finally admits it to his best friend, Meredith, she pushes him to just embrace it. She even takes liberties with his phone and adds dating apps. Which, of course she can't possibly know will change the trajectory of his life and hers. Niru comes from a strict Nigerian household, because of their culture and religion being gay is not acceptable. It is something that they believe needs to be exorcised from Niru's personality. This being the case, Niru's father takes him home to Nigeria to get the spiritual attention he needs. Except Niru isn't sure it's he who has to change but he's not sure how to do get his parents to accept who he is when he's still struggling to accept it himself.

Niru and Meredith's stories converge as Niru runs to her when he's at his most desperate. This is when Meredith's story takes over.  It is her story that will rip your heart out. You will read parts of her story a couple times to realize what just happened.

Both Niru and Meredith are empathetic characters but in very different ways. Your heart goes out to Niru for the way he is shunned by both of his parents but in very different ways. His father only accepts him being gay when it helps his narrative. His mother, trying to keep the peace shuts Niru out in her own way by not defending him to his father. Meredith will carry guilt with her for the rest of her life.


While Niru’s sexuality is the catalyst for the novel, it is truly about how to accept yourself when those closest to you can’t handle your truth. How do you make others accept you when you are just beginning to accept yourself? It is about understanding how different cultures view various subject matters even if we don't agree with their views. Mr. Iweala doesn't give us the answers to these issues but lets us in to understand how different we all are and how we all struggle.

Mr. Iweala packs a powerful punch in less than 250 pages. His writing is succinct but never lacking in description and depth. He writes characters that you have empathy for and realize that these kids could be someone you know. Speak No Evil should be read by everyone. 



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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Julie's Review: She Regrets Nothing


Author: Andrea Dunlop
Series: None
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Pages: 400
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: More Money More Problems
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Summary: When Laila Lawrence becomes an orphan at twenty-three, the sudden loss unexpectedly introduces her to three glamorous cousins from New York who show up unannounced at her mother’s funeral. The three siblings are scions of the wealthy family from which Laila’s father had been estranged long before his own untimely demise ten years before. Two years later, Laila has left behind her quiet life in Grosse Point, Michigan to move to New York City, landing her smack in the middle of her cousins’ decadent world. As the truth about why Laila’s parents became estranged from the family patriarch becomes clear, Laila grows ever more resolved to claim what’s rightfully hers. Caught between longing for the love of her family and her relentless pursuit of the lifestyle she feels she was unfairly denied, Laila finds herself reawakening a long dead family scandal—not to mention setting off several new ones—as she becomes further enmeshed in the lives and love affairs of her cousins. But will Laila ever, truly, belong in their world? Sly and sexy, She Regrets Nothing is a sharply observed and utterly seductive tale about family, fortune, and fate—and the dark side of wealth. ~amazon.com  

Review: She Regrets Nothing is the kind of book that you want to read after you've read a lot of heavily themed novels. It definitely has a soap opera-y feel to it with all the drama and deceit. You know from the minute Laila moves to NYC she's going to get herself into heaps of trouble. She's a fish out of water who wants to grow legs and belong. She's definitely not as naive as you think in the beginning and as the book goes on you realize that she seized the opportunity with gusto. Unfortunately, her new cousins see her as a naive Midwesterner and for a while she feeds into that stereotype. Laila acts like she's there for the relationships with Liberty, Leo and Nora but really she's all about the benjamins.

Liberty is the most grounded of the 3 cousins. She's got a job that she loves and doesn't take her family's money for granted. She's got a best friend who really is like her sister, Reece and is pretty satisfied with her life overall. Nora and Leo are the self-absorbed twins. They are all about how super rich they can still be without having to work for any of it. They are all about parties (charity or otherwise), clubs and shopping. Nora is attention seeker and Leo can't decide what he wants.

Here's the thing about the super wealthy (I've learned it all from books and tv) is they are suspicious of newbies. It won't matter that Laila is a "Lawrence" it will matter that she didn't grow up with the rest of them. Money, or lack there of it, does funny things to people. It can bring out the worst in people or it can bring out the best. Laila was an example of the worst, while her cousin Liberty was the best. Ms. Dunlop does an excellent job of ensuring these characters aren't too cartoonish while also showing that in some ways they are exactly that.

The novel starts off a bit slow but it builds and builds and builds until everything happens at once. Laila's carefully constructs mirage evaporates. She can never imagine the harm that her lies and deceit will do but she doesn't really care.

I definitely enjoyed She Regrets Nothing and would recommend it. It would be a great read for Spring Break (or any other time).

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