Monday, January 29, 2018

Julie's Review: The Girlfriend

Author: Michelle Frances
Series: None
Publication Date: January 30, 2018
Publisher: Kensington
Pages: 432
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Suspense,Thriller
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: Starts off a bit slow but definitely builds up
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Summary: Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but hasn’t led Laura’s golden life. And she wants it. When tragedy strikes, a decision is made and a lie is told. A lie so terrible it changes their lives forever…The Girlfriend is a taut and wickedly twisted debut psychological thriller—a novel of subtle sabotage, retaliation, jealousy and fear, which pivots on an unforgivable lie, and examines the mother–son–daughter-in-law relationship in a chilling new  

Review: Listen up sons: Your mother always know best even if we go about it in the wrong way. In The Girlfriend, Laura was determined to be friendly because it was obvious that her son, Daniel was a bit smitten with her. Yes, she was left with an unsettled feeling after their first meeting, but she cut Cherry some slack figuring that it was just initial nerves of meeting her boyfriend's parents. Given as close as her and Daniel are, she wants to make every effort to welcome Cherry in to the fold but she keeps holding Laura at arms length.
Cherry, on the hand, is all about seizing an opportunity that will help her and Daniel is that opportunity for her from the minute he walks into her realty office. She immediately notices that Daniel and his mom are close, which really won't work for her. She has to be the most important woman in his life. She quickly starts putting plans in motion to drive wedges between them even if they are small at first.

While I will say that there were some things that Laura did that I wholeheartedly didn't agree with, I understood why she did what she did. She needed and wanted to protect her family; although that ended up biting her in the buttocks. I also felt sorry for Laura because she didn't have the strength to fight back when Cherry "attacked" her. For as put together as Laura seemed, she really was falling apart. I knew she wouldn't really fight back because for the better part of her marriage, she let her husband walk all over her.

There were times when I wasn't sure who was off their rocker more, Laura or Cherry. Although in the end it seemed that Cherry really did have some issues that stemmed from her issues with how she grew up.

The Girlfriend took a bit for me to get into just because it's a lot of build up but it definitely pays off in the end. It would definitely be a great movie with the right director and actors. If you are looking for a novel that slowly builds up and lays a lot of crumbs, then this one is for you.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Julie's Review: As Bright As Heaven

Author: Susan Meissner
Series: None
Publication Date: February 6, 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 400
Obtained: Great Thoughts for Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Bottom Line: An eye opening novel about the tragedy of the Spanish Flu
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Summary: In 1918, Philadelphia was a city teeming with promise. Even as its young men went off to fight in the Great War, there were opportunities for a fresh start on its cobblestone streets. Into this bustling town, came Pauline Bright and her husband, filled with hope that they could now give their three daughters--Evelyn, Maggie, and Willa--a chance at a better life. But just months after they arrive, the Spanish Flu reaches the shores of America. As the pandemic claims more than twelve thousand victims in their adopted city, they find their lives left with a world that looks nothing like the one they knew. But even as they lose loved ones, they take in a baby orphaned by the disease who becomes their single source of hope. Amidst the tragedy and challenges, they learn what they cannot live without--and what they are willing to do about it. As Bright as Heaven is the compelling story of a mother and her daughters who find themselves in a harsh world not of their making, which will either crush their resolve to survive or purify it.  

Review: If you read my reviews at all you know that I am always astounded by the research that goes into a historical fiction novel; it is no different with Ms. Meissner’s  As Bright as Heaven.

The Bright family move from Quakertown, PA to Philadelphia for a better life just months before the outbreak and to heal from the death of their baby brother/son. We are told of family events and the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 through the eyes of the females in the family; Pauline, Evie, Maggie and Willa.

Each woman has her own voice and her own issues to deal with. Pauline and Maggie want to be involved in the family business which their Uncle acquiesces too.  Each of them struggle with their own heartache and tragedies. Their mother Pauline is devoted to her girls and wants them to have the world. Evie and Maggie, as the two oldest, noticed a change in their mother since they've been in Philadelphia but they can't figure out what it is. It's not that she's happy but it's that she's not as sad.

I loved that we got to see the young sister's grow up over several years and have a peek into who they will be throughout their lives. I also loved how they had each of the girls pursued their passions given the time period. 

As Bright as Heaven is a story of insurmountable loss, love, hope and finding what makes you happy even as you are coming out of darkness. We see each of them struggle with their own heartbreak and loss and see who they grow up to be.


Monday, January 22, 2018

Julie's Review: The English Wife

Author: Lauren Willig
Series: None
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Historical Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 3.5/5
Bottom Line: Seemed a bit scattered to me
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Library
Summary: Annabelle and Bayard Van Duyvil live a charmed life in New York: he's the scion of an old Knickerbocker family, she grew up in a Tudor manor in England, they had a whirlwind romance in London, they have three year old twins on whom they dote, and he's recreated her family home on the banks of the Hudson and renamed it Illyria. Yes, there are rumors that she's having an affair with the architect, but rumors are rumors and people will gossip. But then Bayard is found dead with a knife in his chest on the night of their Twelfth Night Ball, Annabelle goes missing, presumed drowned, and the papers go mad. Bay's sister, Janie, forms an unlikely alliance with a reporter to uncover the truth, convinced that Bay would never have killed his wife, that it must be a third party, but the more she learns about her brother and his wife, the more everything she thought she knew about them starts to unravel. Who were her brother and his wife, really? And why did her brother die with the name George on his lips?

Review: English Wife starts off with a ball to open up the house that Annabelle (aka Georgie) and Bay Van Duyvilll have built on the outskirts of New York City to show to society. It is quickly diverted by the murders of the host and hostess who are found in the garden by Bay's sister, Janie and cousin, Anne. Everyone is quick to judge that either Annabelle is a murderess or that Bay is a murderer but Janie is convinced that it was a 3rd party. She decides to team up with a reporter, Mr. Burke, to figure out what the truth is, no matter what the outcome.

The story is told by going back into time when Bay first met Annabelle and then the aftermath of the murders. While I found the background of Bay and Annabelle's somewhat interesting, it was the piecing of all the players that could be involved in the murders that was perhaps the most intriguing. With Annabelle's background it opened the net a bit for suspects.

Ms. Willig definitely knows how to tell a story and this one is no different. There are a few different subplots but they eventually weave there way into the full story.

P.S. I love the colors in this cover it really captures the tone of the novel.


Friday, January 12, 2018

Julie's Review: Little Broken Things

Author: Nicole Baart
Series: None
Publication Date: November 21, 2017
Publisher: Atria
Pages: 368
Obtained: Great Thoughts, Great Readers Book Salon
Genre:  Suspense, Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: This will satisfy the readers of both suspense and contemporary fiction
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Summary: An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl. I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever. Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy. While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

 Review: Little Broken Things is a book that you will think you have it all figured out but you really don't until it all comes together at the end. You go along with the assumptions of both Liz, the matriarch, and Quinn, the baby of the family because it's all that you know.

Why would Nora drop off a stranger if she wasn't a niece or granddaughter. Why is Nora being all secretive? Why is Lucy so quiet and scared? The story alternates between the 3 Sanford women and we get to see the events unfold from Nora ,who knows why Lucy was dropped with Quinn, Liz who's external wall is starting to crumble as she faces some truths in her life and Quinn, who fell in love and got married quickly only to be hit with real life issues.

How will these women with the same blood mend the fences that seem to be up around them? Will they be able to confront the past in order to protect themselves and Lucy?

All of these women, including Lucy, are strong and brave. Nora, perhaps is the bravest because she puts the lives of others in front of hers. Her bond and friendship with Tiffany has put her in danger with a man that is known to abuse.

Liz is starting to deal with some truths about her husband, their marriage and her own actions over the years.

What I really enjoyed about the novel is that it is multi-layered storytelling. There is a lot of suspense going on throughout the novel but it also the story of a family finding their way back to each other.

  Little Broken Things is a book that you won't want to miss.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Julie's Review: The Immortalists

Author: Chloe Benjamin
Series: None
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
Publisher: Putnam
Pages: 352
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Contemporary Fiction
Rating: 5/5
Bottom Line: What a great novel to start out a new year!
Grab, Just get it at the library, or Remove from your TBR list? Grab
Summary: If you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? It's 1969 in New York City's Lower East Side, and word has spread of the arrival of a mystical woman, a traveling psychic who claims to be able to tell anyone the day they will die. The Gold children—four adolescents on the cusp of self-awareness—sneak out to hear their fortunes. The prophecies inform their next five decades. Golden-boy Simon escapes to the West Coast, searching for love in '80s San Francisco; dreamy Klara becomes a Las Vegas magician, obsessed with blurring reality and fantasy; eldest son Daniel seeks security as an army doctor post-9/11; and bookish Varya throws herself into longevity research, where she tests the boundary between science and immortality. A sweeping novel of remarkable ambition and depth, The Immortalists probes the line between destiny and choice, reality and illusion, this world and the next. It is a deeply moving testament to the power of story, the nature of belief, and the unrelenting pull of familial bonds.  

Review: Immortalists is a novel that will make you think about your own mortality and of those you are closest too. If you knew the date of your death would you run your way to it or would you live your life in a way to avoid it? What about the morality of telling kids when they would die?

Each of the Gold children deal with their date in different ways. Simon embraces who he is, lives and loves with reckless abandon. Klara is perhaps the most susceptible to the information give by the gypsy and she’s the one that I feel took her date into her own hands. Daniel led a life he was proud of until he got information that made him spin out of control. Varya, the oldest and seemingly the most stable is anything but what she seems.

I loved how Ms. Benjamin chose to tell the story. When one story ends, another sibling picks up their story from there so you get to see how their stories are interwoven and how society changes over the decades. Each sibling has their own voice but they all have the one thing that binds them together besides their family ties and that's their experience with the fortune teller. She also handles mental illness extremely well in a few of the cases with the siblings.

Family ties us together good or bad and it is the thing that we hold onto the most. I can see why this novel got all the hype that it has before publication. The storytelling is wonderful as are each of the characters.

There is so much to discuss with this Immortalists and it would make a tremendous book club choice. I don't think you'll want to miss this one in 2018. 


Friday, January 5, 2018

Julie's Review: The Breakdown

Author: B.A. Paris
Series: None
Publication Date: July 18, 2017
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Pages: 336
Obtained: publisher
Genre:  Psychological Thriller, Suspense
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A quick,page-turning read
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Summary: If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust? Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped. But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby. The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

Review: Breakdown is the sophomore book by B.A. Paris after her huge hit, Behind Closed Doors. I can say that I wasn't let down by this one; I'm only disappointed I left it on my nightstand for so long. Cass is out with her friends for an end of term celebration when it starts to storm. Before she leaves, her husband Matt tells her not to take the rural road even though it would shave time off of her commute home. She decides to take the road anyway and happens upon a car on the side of the road but when she stops no one comes out of it so she decides to go on home.

When the news breaks that a young woman was murdered on that road, Cass freaks out but she can't really tell Matthew that she took that road. She starts to feel extremely guilty about not actually checking to see if the person in the car needed help. She also starts to seemingly forget things at first it's just little things but because of her mom's medical history, she starts to worry that she's got dementia. Especially because the stress of thinking that there's a killer out there is making her even more forgetful.

Cass is an easy character to feel sorry for and to understand how she might be freaking out a bit. She starts to second guess herself like we all would in this situation. Is she just under a lot stress? Is she really dealing with some sort of memory issue?

As you read the book a lot of different scenarios will run through your head. All of them are plausible especially in this genre.The title of this well crafted novel has a double meaning as you will see throughout it. You do wonder if Cass is losing her mind or if there is something wrong with her. While I wouldn't say there are any shoe dropping moment, there are a couple good twists along the way. I didn't feel like it suffered from sophomore slump because I enjoyed it a lot.

If you are looking for a quick, page turning read, then pick up Breakdown.


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Julie's Review: The Girl in the Tower

Author: Katherine Arden
Series: Winternight Trilogy #2
Publication Date: December 5, 2017
Publisher:Del Rey
Pages: 384
Obtained: publisher via Netgalley
Genre:  Fantasy
Rating: 4/5
Bottom Line: A wonderful 2nd book in a magical series
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Summary: Katherine Arden’s enchanting first novel introduced readers to an irresistible heroine. Vasilisa has grown up at the edge of a Russian wilderness, where snowdrifts reach the eaves of her family’s wooden house and there is truth in the fairy tales told around the fire. Vasilisa’s gift for seeing what others do not won her the attention of Morozko—Frost, the winter demon from the stories—and together they saved her people from destruction. But Frost’s aid comes at a cost, and her people have condemned her as a witch. Now Vasilisa faces an impossible choice. Driven from her home by frightened villagers, the only options left for her are marriage or the convent. She cannot bring herself to accept either fate and instead chooses adventure, dressing herself as a boy and setting off astride her magnificent stallion Solovey. But after Vasilisa prevails in a skirmish with bandits, everything changes. The Grand Prince of Moscow anoints her a hero for her exploits, and she is reunited with her beloved sister and brother, who are now part of the Grand Prince’s inner circle. She dares not reveal to the court that she is a girl, for if her deception were discovered it would have terrible consequences for herself and her family. Before she can untangle herself from Moscow’s intrigues—and as Frost provides counsel that may or may not be trustworthy—she will also confront an even graver threat lying in wait for all of Moscow itself.  

Review: The Girl in the Tower is an excellent 2nd novel in the Winternight Trilogy. We see Vasya come into her own, even if she must mask herself as a boy. It is because of her bravery that she is reunited with her brother, Sasha and her sister, Olga. They don't yet know that their father is dead and it is up to Vasya to inform them. 

It is because of her bravery that she garnishes the Grand Prince's attention and causes her brother to lie by saying she's a boy. She goes out to fight the bandits with the Prince with success, which gives her more attention and the nickname Vasilli the Brave. Of course, Vasya is still young and doesn't realize the amount of harm that she can cause her family by saying this one lie.

Since outside of Moscow, Vasya isn't wise to the politics that need to be played and how to watch her back even though Morozko warns her several times. For someone who doesn't have many people to trust, she seems to trust a bit easily.

She doesn’t fit the mold of maiden or nun, so her brother and sister are unsure of what to do with her since she is perceived to be a boy. As the Prince’s thrown is challenged, Vasya fights to save them all.

I can’t wait to see how Ms. Arden finishes the trilogy, which will be published in August 2018!


Monday, January 1, 2018

Julie's Year in Review - 2017

It's everyone's favorite time of the year! You know, where everyone comes out with their favorite books of the year and why break the tradition, so here is my list:

My Goodreads Challenge Goal: 85 Books
Books Read: 88!! (Through 12/31/2017)

2017 was yet another year where I had more than a handful of 5/5 books! So, here is the break down by category for my favorites (not in a specific order).  

Contemporary Fiction:
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
Setting Free the Kites by Alex George
Close Enough to Touch by Colleen Oakley
Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Light We Lost by Jill Santapolo

Historical Fiction:
Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark T. Sullivan
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Historical Fiction/Contemporary Fiction:
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle
Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian
Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
The Good Widowby Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke
The Wife Between Us by Sarah Pekkannen and Greer Hendricks
Dont Let Go by Harlan Coben
Unsub by Meg Gardiner
Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda
Women's Fiction:
Versions of Us by Laura Barnett
Light We Lost by Jill Santapolo
Slightly South of Simple by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner
Everything We Left Behind by Kerry Lonsdale

Fantasy/Magical Realism:
The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
The Girl in the Tower: Winternight Trilogy #2 by Katherine Arden

Killers of the Flower Moon The Osage Murders & the Birth of the FBI by David Grann
Sisters First Stories from Our Wild & Wonderful Life by Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush

I am hoping that 2018 is as wonderful of a reading year as 2017! Happy Reading!