Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Wherever Nina Lies

Book: Wherever Nina Lies
Author: Lynn Weingarten

Nina was beautiful, wild & adored by her younger sister, Ellie. But, one day, Nina disappeared. 2 years later, everyone has given up hope that Nina will return, but Ellie knows her sister is out there. If only Ellie had a clue where to look.Then she gets one, in the form of a mysterious drawing. Determined to find Nina, Ellie takes off on a crazy, sexy, cross-country road trip with the only person who believes she's got a chance - her hot, adventurous new crush. Along the way, Ellie finds a few things she wasn't planning on. Like love. Lies. And the most shocking thing of all: the truth.-Goodreads

Review: It's been two years since Nina's older sister disappeared without a trace. When Nina finds one of her sister's drawings in a donation box at her friend's workplace, she tries to track her sister down. After meeting a handsome stranger at a party, they embark on a road trip looking for answers. 

On one hand, this book was completely ridiculous. A teenage girl meets a guy and within 24 hours, they are on a road trip across the country. She doesn't know his last name and neither of their parents know where they are. The plot is far fetched and Nina's actions are mind-blowing. On the other hand, this was  page turner and while I suspected where the story was going, there were still a few surprises. 

Overall-if I had read this in high school, I probably would have loved it. The mother in me kept thinking "OMG if my daughter was doing this, I'd kill her." 

Grade: 3/5

The Good Girl

Book: The Good Girl
Author: Mary Kubica

One night, Mia Dennett enters a bar to meet her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when he doesn't show, she unwisely leaves with an enigmatic stranger. At first Colin Thatcher seems like a safe one-night stand. But following Colin home will turn out to be the worst mistake of Mia's life.

When Colin decides to hide Mia in a secluded cabin in rural Minnesota instead of delivering her to his employers, Mia's mother, Eve, and detective Gabe Hoffman will stop at nothing to find them. But no one could have predicted the emotional entanglements that eventually cause this family's world to shatter. -Goodreads

Review: Mia Dennett is a high school art teacher and the estranged daughter of a powerful judge in Chicago. When her boyfriend cancels on her, she meets a stranger at a bar and goes home with him. Instead of a one night stand, she finds herself kidnapped and trapped in a remote cabin in the woods with her abductor. Told in alternating narratives and timelines, we follow various characters right after Mia disappears and a few months later, when she is found but asking to be called Chloe with a seemingly new personality. What happened to Mia? 

A book about a kidnapped woman living in the woods with her kidnapper, her grieving mother and the detective working on the case should have been fast paced and exciting. Unfortunately, this fell completely flat. I'm willing to suspend disbelief to some extent but a kidnapper who decides not to hand her over to the people who hired him...for no real reason at the time, was just preposterous. Reading about two people trying to live in a freezing cabin for a few months wasn't thrilling to say the least. Mia's mother was a weak character and while her father was written as more of a villain, I wish he was....more evil than he turned out to be? If that makes sense. Mia's sister had potential to add some color and she was mostly forgotten. The detective didn't come across as particularly intelligent at any time. I did enjoy the final chapter although I think the motivation wasn't quite strong enough. 

Grade: 2/5

Watch Me Disappear

Book: Watch Me Disappear
Author: Janelle Brown

It’s been a year since Billie Flanagan—a beautiful, charismatic Berkeley mom with an enviable life—went on a solo hike in Desolation Wilderness and vanished from the trail. No body—only a hiking boot—has ever been found. Billie’s husband and teenage daughter cope with her death the best they can: Jonathan drinks, Olive grows remote.

But then Olive starts having waking dreams—or are they hallucinations?—that her mother is still alive. Jonathan worries about Olive’s emotional stability, until he starts unearthing secrets from Billie’s past that bring into question everything he thought he knew about his wife. Together, Olive and Jonathan embark on a quest for the truth—about Billie, their family, and the stories we tell ourselves about the people we love.-Goodreads

Review: Billie Flanagan goes on a hike and is never seen again. Her cell phone and boot are recovered, but they never find a body. One year later, her husband Jonathon finds himself struggling with her death and financial issues. Their teenage daughter, Olive, is having visions of her mother and is adamant that she is still alive. When Jonathon finds a locked file on Billie's laptop and realizes his seemingly loving, honest wife was lying to him about some things, he begins to question who his wife really was.

I love the idea of peeling back the layers of a person. Do we really know 'everything' about a person? How do we present ourselves to others? Do we present our true self or the self we think they want to see? What types of secrets exist between husbands and wives? In that sense, I like the theme of this book and Jonathon's journey of sorts to figuring out his wife. While I initially felt some kinship to Billie as a fellow mom, I quickly changed my opinion of her as the book progressed. She was an awful person. As such, it was a challenge to push through to the end to officially find out what happened to her. The first chapter heavily foreshadowed what happened and I wish the author had left the ending more open ended. Instead, we were spoon fed exactly what happened on the hike in extreme detail. Some readers may love having everything tied up in a neat bow, I think some ambiguity would have been stronger. 

Overall, I liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

Monday, November 27, 2017

All the Secrets We Keep

Book: All the Secrets We Keep
Series: Quarry Road #2
Author: Megan Hart

Still stuck in his small Central Pennsylvania hometown, Ilya Stern is used to feeling like a disappointment. After his high school girlfriend, Jennilynn, drowned, he married her sister, Alicia, only to divorce a decade later. The business they started together is threatened by a luxury development—and Alicia has already sold her stake. Now that Babulya, Ilya’s gentle Russian grandmother, has died, there’s no one left who believes in him. Or so he thinks.

Theresa Malone was Ilya’s stepsister for only a year, until his mother threw her pill-popping father out of the house in the middle of the night, forcing teenage Theresa to follow. Now she’s returned for Babulya’s funeral—and to facilitate the quarry-development deal. As she tries to convince Ilya to sell, she realizes her feelings for him have ignited—from sisterly into something more.

Working together closely, Ilya and Theresa struggle to define their intense attraction. When the details of Jennilynn’s death surface, will Ilya and Theresa’s deep connection keep their hope for the future afloat—or submerge them once and forever in their tragic past?-Goodreads

Review: All the Secrets We Keep starts off after the first book ended. Ilya and Theresa take center stage in this installment and proved to be more interesting than Alicia and Niko. Ilya's teenage girlfriend died and he married her sister on the rebound. While the marriage did not work out, the two remained business partners until Alicia sold her stake in the company to a development company. Ilya feels betrayed and it trying to hold onto his business, which is the only thing he believes in. Theresa lived with Ilya and Niko for 6 months as a teenager before being kicked out in the middle of the night with her drug addict father. She's in a precarious financial situation and needs Ilya to sell desperately. 

I really liked Theresa as a character. I felt for her financial situation and how she was working to get out of it. I also completely understand her desire to keep things under wraps. Ilya was a frustrating, as he is someone who needs external feedback to boost his self esteem. I didn't initially buy into them as a couple, but as the book progressed Hart handled their relationship well. I could have done without the chapters from Alicia and Niko's perspectives, it didn't add anything to this book.

Overall, I Liked it. 

Grade: 3/5

The Silent Child

Book: The Silent Child
Author: Sarah A. Denzil

In the summer of 2006, Emma Price watched helplessly as her six-year-old son's red coat was fished out of the River Ouse. It was the tragic story of the year - a little boy, Aiden, wandered away from school during a terrible flood, fell into the river, and drowned.

His body was never recovered.

Ten years later, Emma has finally rediscovered the joy in life. She's married, pregnant, and in control again...

... until Aiden returns.

Too traumatized to speak, he raises endless questions and answers none. Only his body tells the story of his decade-long disappearance. The historic broken bones and injuries cast a mere glimpse into the horrors Aiden has experienced. Aiden never drowned. Aiden was taken.

As Emma attempts to reconnect with her now teenage son, she must unmask the monster who took him away from her. But who, in their tiny village, could be capable of such a crime?

It's Aiden who has the answers, but he cannot tell the unspeakable.-Goodreads

Review: Emma's six-year old son goes missing during a flood and is never found. He's  legally declared dead and Emma tries to move on with her life. It's ten years later and Emma is now married and pregnant. She is shocked when a teenage boy is found in the woods and his DNA matches her son. It's clear terrible things happened to him, but he cannot speak and tell anyone what happened. Emma struggles to integrate her son with her new family while trying to figure out what happened to her son all those years ago.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The plot was engaging and while I didn't agree with all of Emma's actions, I felt she came across like a real person reacting to a very bad situation. I think the biggest challenge with this book was that there were so few characters, it wasn't difficult to guess part of the mystery. I'll refrain from spoilers but one character was written so one-sided, I can't imagine anyone thinking this person was innocent. I will say that one person's actions were very shocking at the end...wowsa, 

Grade: 3/5

Last Breath

Book: Last Breath
Series: The Good Daughter 0.5
Author: Karin Slaughter

Protecting someone always comes at a cost.

At the age of thirteen, Charlie Quinn’s childhood came to an abrupt and devastating end. Two men, with a grudge against her lawyer father, broke into her home – and after that shocking night, Charlie's world was never the same.

Now a lawyer herself, Charlie has made it her mission to defend those with no one else to turn to. So when Flora Faulkner, a motherless teen, begs for help, Charlie is reminded of her own past, and is powerless to say no.

But honour-student Flora is in far deeper trouble than Charlie could ever have anticipated. Soon she must ask herself: How far should she go to protect her client? And can she truly believe everything she is being told?-Goodreads

Review: The Good Daughter is one of my favorite reads this year so I was excited to see Slaughter published a short prequel. In Last Breath, Charlie is a 28 year old attorney who takes on an emancipation case for 15-year old Flora. Charlie feels a kinship to Flora, who also lost her mother at a young age. But Charlie quickly realizes that there may be more to Flora than she originally thought. 

I'm not usually a fan of shorter stories but this was well executed. I enjoyed the mystery and didn't see the end coming. Very good read!

Grade: 4/5

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Royally Matched

Book: Royally Matched
Series: Royally #2
Author: Emma Chase

Some men are born responsible, some men have responsibility thrust upon them. Henry John Edgar Thomas Pembrook, Prince of Wessco, just got the motherlode of all responsibility dumped in his regal lap.

He’s not handling it well.

Hoping to force her grandson to rise to the occasion, Queen Lenora goes on a much-needed safari holiday—and when the Queen’s away, the Prince will play. After a chance meeting with an American television producer, Henry finally makes a decision all on his own:

Welcome to Matched: Royal Edition.

A reality TV dating game show featuring twenty of the world's most beautiful blue bloods gathered in the same castle. Only one will win the diamond tiara, only one will capture the handsome prince’s heart.

While Henry revels in the sexy, raunchy antics of the contestants as they fight, literally, for his affection, it’s the quiet, bespectacled girl in the corner—with the voice of an angel and a body that would tempt a saint—who catches his eye.

The more Henry gets to know Sarah Mirabelle Zinnia Von Titebottum, the more enamored he becomes of her simple beauty, her strength, her kind spirit... and her naughty sense of humor.

But Rome wasn’t built in a day—and irresponsible royals aren’t reformed overnight.

As he endeavors to right his wrongs, old words take on whole new meanings for the dashing Prince. Words like, Duty, Honor and most of all—Love. -Goodreads

Review: I didn't love the first book in this series but I am so glad I gave this one a chance. I loved it! After Henry's brother abdicates the throne, Henry quickly goes from his grandmother's favorite to her least favorite. He cannot do anything right, nor does he seem to care to. When an opportunity arises to be the star of a Bachelor type show, he jumps at the chance. Of course, things behind the scenes aren't what the appear and he finds himself spending more and more time with Lady Sarah, whose sister is a contestant on the show. Can they find true love? 

This was sweet and most importantly-funny. I chuckled numerous times throughout the story.  I loved Henry and Sarah together and can't wait for the next in the series. 

Grade: 4.5/5


Book: Unloved
Author: Katy Regnery

My name is Cassidy Porter...

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware - every day of my life - that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It's a promise I would have kept...if Brynn Cadogan hadn't stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain...


Review: Brynn Cadogan's fiance was killed in a mass shooting 2 years ago and she is still struggling to cope with her grief. She decides to climb his favorite mountain in Maine to say goodbye and try move on. Meanwhile, Cassidy Porter, the only son of a serial killer, has lived in almost complete isolation in Maine for years. The two meet unexpectedly after Brynn's trek to say goodbye to her fiance does not go as planned. 

Please don't let my 2/5 rating deter you. The book starts strong and Regnery's writing is very readable. My challenge with this was that I was expecting a dark, gritty, read ('son of a serial killer' definitely drew me into this one) and this was more butterflies and rainbows. **spoiler alert** Still here? Okay, Cassidy saves Brynn after she is attacked by a madman on the mountain. For someone who has lived in isolation for so long, I didn't find him awkward enough. And I'm not sure how anyone in Brynn's situation would not be completely freaked out that some random person took them to their isolated cabin the woods and provided medical care. Her reactions to the situation didn't ring true to me. 

If you are looking for a sweet, sappy love story, you might love this book.  

Grade: 2/5

Before We Were Yours

Book: Before We Were Yours
Author: Lisa Wingate

An engrossing novel inspired by shocking real events—the kidnappings and illegal adoptions of children conducted by the notorious Tennessee Children’s Home Society—Before We Were Yours is a poignant, uplifting tale for readers of Orphan Train and The Nightingale.-Goodreads

Review: Told in alternating narratives, we follow Avery in present day and Rill in the 1939. Avery's father is a state senator and she's an attorney who is being groomed to take over for him. When she encounters a woman at a nursing home who is adamant that Avery's grandmother's bracelet is her own, Avery begins to research her grandmother's history. Rill is the eldest of 5 siblings living along the river with their carefree, gypsy parents. When her parents head to the hospital for the birth of her new sibling, Rill and her siblings are picked up by the police and placed in the Tennessee Children's Home Society. 

This book has been compared to Orphan Train and while both books follow similar narratives, I found this a much more compelling and well-written. While Avery's storyline was the weaker of the two, I still enjoyed her narrative and how she didn't let anything deter her from her research. The 'romance' part of the book wasn't completely necessary but didn't bother me. Rill's storyline was the highlight of this book. Inspired by true events, we learn how Georgia Tann, the head of the organization, tricked poor parents into signing away their parental rights and sometimes even stole children that were later adopted out for exorbitant fees. In many cases, she blackmailed the families who adopted children. The conditions at the TCHS were beyond horrific, rampant with physical, emotional and sexual abuse and even murder. 

Overall, this was heartbreaking but uplifting at the end. Very good read about a part of history I didn't' know about. 

Some favorite quotes:

Do we carry the guilt from the sins of past generations? If so, can we bear the weight of that burden?

Life is not unlike cinema. Each scene has its own music, and the music is created for the scene, woven to it in ways we do not understand. No matter how much we may love the melody of a bygone day or imagine the song of a future one, we must dance within the music of today, or we will always be out of step, stumbling around in something that doesn’t suit the moment. I let go of the river’s song and found the music of that big house. I found room for a new life, a new mother who cared for me, and a new father who patiently taught me not only how to play music, but how to trust.

A woman’s past need not predict her future. She can dance to new music if she chooses. Her own music. To hear the tune, she must only stop talking. To herself, I mean. We’re always trying to persuade ourselves of things

Grade: 4/5

Monday, November 6, 2017

Firefly Lane

Book: Firefly Lane
Series: Firefly Lane #1
Author: Kristin Hannah

In the turbulent summer of 1974, Kate Mularkey has accepted her place at the bottom of the eighth-grade social food chain. Then, to her amazement, the “coolest girl in the world” moves in across the street and wants to be her friend. Tully Hart seems to have it all---beauty, brains, ambition. On the surface they are as opposite as two people can be: Kate, doomed to be forever uncool, with a loving family who mortifies her at every turn. Tully, steeped in glamour and mystery, but with a secret that is destroying her. They make a pact to be best friends forever; by summer’s end they’ve become TullyandKate. Inseparable.

So begins Kristin Hannah’s magnificent new novel. Spanning more than three decades and playing out across the ever-changing face of the Pacific Northwest, Firefly Lane is the poignant, powerful story of two women and the friendship that becomes the bulkhead of their lives.

From the beginning, Tully is desperate to prove her worth to the world. Abandoned by her mother at an early age, she longs to be loved unconditionally. In the glittering, big-hair era of the eighties, she looks to men to fill the void in her soul. But in the buttoned-down nineties, it is television news that captivates her. She will follow her own blind ambition to New York and around the globe, finding fame and success . . . and loneliness.

Kate knows early on that her life will be nothing special. Throughout college, she pretends to be driven by a need for success, but all she really wants is to fall in love and have children and live an ordinary life. In her own quiet way, Kate is as driven as Tully. What she doesn’t know is how being a wife and mother will change her . . . how she’ll lose sight of who she once was, and what she once wanted. And how much she’ll envy her famous best friend. . . .

For thirty years, Tully and Kate buoy each other through life, weathering the storms of friendship---jealousy, anger, hurt, resentment. They think they’ve survived it all until a single act of betrayal tears them apart . . . and puts their courage and friendship to the ultimate test.-Goodreads

Review: Kate and Tully meet in 1974 when they are neighbors and 14 years old. Tully, who is beautiful and popular, does not have a stable home environment while Kate, quiet and studious, comes from a loving family. The two form a friendship that spans several decades. Told in alternating narratives, we follow Kate and Tully from their teens through their mid-40s.

I loved Kristin Hannah's 'The Nightingale' and I thought 'Night Road' was very thought provoking. I was so excited to read this (first selection of a new book club) and this was such a huge disappointment. This was essentially 500+ pages of an extended Lifetime movie remake of Beaches (the 1980s movie with Barbara Hershey and Bette Midler). Tully is extremely driven and wants to be a successful reporter. She is willing to sacrifice everything to achieve her goal. She is narcissistic and known to never apologize for anything. She eventually finds herself wealthy and successful but alone. Kate is a complete doormat with no backbone (she may be one of the most frustrating characters I've ever read). She is unable to tell her (supposed) best friend that she doesn't want to go into the news industry for YEARS. She marries a man she knows was in love with her best friend. She is a stay-at-home mom with 3 children who clearly has depression issues but never seeks help. She and her husband are millionaires but she refuses to ask for help or even allow her children to take the school bus. We are constantly told how busy and tired she is (I have 3 children, it isn't that bad). 

It was inconceivable to me that these two would stay friends throughout the years. I could understand it as teens and the beginning of college, but their paths were so different I didn't find the relationship realistic. They also bizarrely had no other female friends other than each other. The surprising "event" that tore them apart was just one of many slights against each other. Tully was always a bitch and Kate was always a doormat. That literally never changed the entire book. I found the end predictable and I was so annoyed with both characters, there were no tears. 

This book did have an important message about a rare type of breast cancer that I found informative. 

Grade: 2/5

A Man Called Ove

Book: A Man Called Ove
Author: Fredrik Backman

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He's a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn't walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove's mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents' association to their very foundations. -Goodreads

Review: I love when a book catches me by surprise. My friend received two copies for Mother's Day and graciously gave one of them to me. I started the book and initially found myself very annoyed by Ove and his 'grumpy old man' attitude (side note, he wasn't even that old). However, as the book continued I found I loved his non-nonsense approach to things and I began to love him. And then I shockingly cried at the end!!

Overall-very good read. 

Grade: 4/5

The Party

Book: The Party
Author: Elizabeth Day

Ben, who hails from old money, and Martin, who grew up poor but is slowly carving out a successful career as an art critic, have been inseparable since childhood. Ben's wife Serena likes to jokingly refer to Martin as Ben's dutiful Little Shadow.

Lucy is a devoted wife to Martin, even as she knows she'll always be second best to his sacred friendship. When Ben throws a lavish 40th birthday party as his new palatial country home, Martin and Lucy attend, mixing with the very upper echelons of London society.

But why, the next morning, is Martin in a police station being interviewed about the events of last night? Why is Lucy being forced to answer questions about his husband and his past? What exactly happened at the party? And what has bound these two very different men together for so many years?

A cleverly built tour of intrigue, THE PARTY reads like a novelistic board game of Clue, taking us through the various half-truths and lies its characters weave, as the past and present collide in a way that its protagonists could never have anticipated. -Goodreads

Review: Told in alternating narratives and timelines, we follow Martin as a young man in school and college, Martin as he is interviewed by the police, his wife Lucy who is speaking to a therapist and both of them as they attend a 'party' that occurred several weeks ago. 

Martin is an only child who has never fit in. When he's sent to boarding school, he's enamored with Ben, who is rich and popular. Martin befriends Ben and weasels his way into his life as the boys get older. He eventually ingrains himself into Ben's wealthy family. Martin is not a character anyone will particularly like. He reminded me of the Matt Damon character from The Talented Mr. Ripley (it was inconceivable to me that Ben would have ever taken him home for the holidays). Martin's big "secret" was not shocking in the least and the events tying the boys together was not difficult to figure out. The event at the party leading to the police investigation was rather anticlimactic. I did enjoy Lucy's sections which explained how and why she married Martin and how she was much more observant than he thought. 

Overall-while I despised Martin and the 'twists and turns' were not shocking, I liked how the book was constructed and I really enjoyed Lucy's narrative. 

Grade: 3/5

The Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Antoinette

Book: A Wardrobe Mistress: A Novel of Marie Anoinette
Author: Meghan Masterson

It's Giselle Aubry's first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette's newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it's a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen's wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger.

From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her.

But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything...maybe even her head.-Goodreads

Review: This is the story of Giselle, a sixteen year-old undertirewoman for Marie Antoinette. We see the French Revolution through her eyes, as well as how the royal family handled everything going on around them. Although Giselle ends up working as a spy for her uncle, she is sympathetic to the queen and her family.  Giselle was not the most dynamic narrator and her love interest was uninspiring, but the historical piece of this book was very interesting. This book starts approx. 5 years before Marie Antoinette's execution and it was fascinating to see how the French people hated her and blamed her personally for many of the countries problems. 

Overall, I liked this.

Grade: 3/5