REVIEW: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT By Kristan Higgins

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Published Dec, 26, 2017 by Harlequin Books

Short Summary: One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her.

 

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I have to say, Women’s Fiction/Romance is not my typical genre but I’d seen this book getting lots of love from other bloggers and on Goodreads so I decided to shake up my reading life a little and I’m SO glad I did because I really enjoyed this book. From the first few pages when I met Nora and got a feel for her life as a gastroenterologist (I love that this was her specialty!), I was hooked. There’s something about the way this author writes characters that enabled me to immediately connect with Nora and want to follow her and see what happened. When I connect with a character, I’m on board and can’t wait to see where the story leads and that’s exactly what happened within the first 20 pages of this one.

I really went into this story not knowing too much which I highly recommend doing and that’s why I just provided a very short part of the blurb. The story really takes off after Nora is hit by a car (no spoiler this is in blurb) and returns home to her small seaside community in Maine where her mother is as grouchy and standoffish as ever. Side note though…Nora’s mom really grew on me and I loved that she had a pet bird named Tweety who was the love of her life! Here’s where the story really shines and takes off because the setting is fantastic, I loved everything about this small Maine town. I could picture the shops, restaurants and water,  I do love a small town story that’s set on the water…any water.

For me, what made this such an excellent read (outside of Nora) were the secondary characters. There were so many characters that circled this story and all were clearly drawn and layered. That’s not to say all were likable because they weren’t and that’s what I loved. I’m not telling you too much about the plot but suffice it to say Nora’s return after 15 years stirs the pot in more ways than one. Not everyone is happy she’s back and that makes for good drama. It also made for well placed humor in many parts. That being said, this wasn’t a perfect book for me. I REALLY wanted to hear more from Nora’s sister!  Also, there were a few times in the middle I thought the story dragged and yes there might have been some predictability to some scenes but honestly, I didn’t care about any of this. I was enjoying the story and even stayed up super late to read which for me is always the sign of a must read book. In the end, I was sad to say goodbye to these characters so I highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a lighter read with substance and excellent characterization.

Many thanks to Harlequin Books via Netgalley for my copy 

 

 

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING ON THIS THROWBACK THURSDAY

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My regular Throwback Thursday will return next week but today I’d like to say Happy Thanksgiving to all those celebrating in the US. There are many things I’m thankful for but in the book world I’d like to really say thanks today to all the authors out there who’ve taken so much time, effort and creativity to create stories and worlds that I get to visit. I’ve traveled, literarily speaking, to so many wonderful places this year and laughed and cried over so many amazing characters who I’ll never forget and it’s all thanks to authors.  Life gets crazy sometimes and books are a refuge for so many of us and I’m so thankful for them.

Since this IS a book blog, with Thanksgiving thoughts and Throwback Thursday in mind I’d like to toss out 2 books that I’m thankful for that I read during trying times in my life and that I STILL think about today, years later…..

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I have no words for how much I loved this book yet also found it to be the saddest story I’ve ever read. For the 5 days it took me to read it, I was consumed with these characters and their stories took me out of my own life which at the time was very stressful…parents of teenagers you know there are those times that try you in every way!   This story still haunts me and this is easily one of my top 5 books EVER!

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I am seriously considering re-reading this book soon to see if it still holds up all these years later. I read this book about 7 years ago while on vacation in Mexico. Oh, not just any vacation mind you but one in which I was so sick with the Swine flu that I couldn’t leave the hotel bed to fly home. It was awful and I don’t think I’ve ever been that sick in my life but…while in bed coughing, coughing and more coughing I read this book and for a short time I forgot about being sick in another country. I loved the wittiness of the writing and the characters of Dex and Emma and to this day I still think about how the author shocked me in such an unexpected way that I loved him/hated him for quite awhile after I finished reading.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published months or years ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My Pick This week is….

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Published May 23, 2017 By Thomas Dunne Books

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

We live in a society obsessed with celebrity, but have you ever wondered who is on the inside gathering the best celebrity gossip and how do they get access? According to a Source: A Novel by Abby Stern dishes on this behind the scenes world in a way that only a Hollywood insider could.

Ella Warren works for celebrity news website, The Life, as a club reporter. She’s assigned to stake out Hollywood’s hottest clubs and spy on the celebrities inside. When Ella is pressured by her Devil Wears Prada-type boss to find an exclusive story to keep her job, she has to decide if being in Hollywood’s elite inner circle is worth jeopardizing her friendship with actress Holiday Hall, her budding romance with Holiday’s agent, and her family.

A juicy, big-hearted novel about a young woman who loses herself in a fast-paced, glamorous world where finding your authentic self isn’t easy.

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I grant you, this is a stretch for TBT since it’s only about 5 months past pub date but I’ve been in quite the reading and blogging slump this week and I’ve had this review waiting patiently for just the right time and looks like now’s the time! I hope to get back in the swing of things soon, I just think a little break has been needed.

I found so much to like about this debut audiobook that my blogging friend Susie from Novel Visits so graciously sent me via Audible. This is the absolute perfect book to listen to because the narrator, Therese Plummer, is fantastic and the story is downright addictive and fun.  I’ll be the first to admit that I love my People Magazine and Entertainment Weekly. They both pair very nicely with a cold glass of Pinot Grigio on a Friday evening. And I have ALWAYS wondered who those “sources” were whenever I’ve read something that says ” a source confirms or a source witnessed.” Until I read this, I kind of assumed they were made up. Well, now I know better thanks to Abby Stern.  There are , in fact, actual celebrity gossip “reporters” who’s jobs are to infiltrate the world of celebrities and report back to their bosses. They could give the FBI a run for their money! I know you’re probably thinking…but this is fiction…and yes, I listened to Abby’s interview at the end of the book and she was very clear that this is fiction but…this was her job and I for one wanted to believe while I was listening that she was inspired by true events.

What I really loved was trying to pair celebrities to their descriptions in the book. You see, no real names are used, rather, celebrities are referred to as “Former A list hot mess actress,” “Not so innocent over sexualized pop star,” “Sexy Indie Film actor, “Southern Girl Next Door movie star” and many more. This was just plain fun trying to figure out who they were. Add to that the behind the scenes juicy details of the inner workings of the Chateau Marmont and I couldn’t stop listening to this book. Alongside all this fun is the story of Ella Warren who is very good at getting the celebrity scoop. Her life is filled with parties, good friends, a great family and a yummy new love interest…what could possibly go wrong…right? Of course you know that SO MUCH can and does go wrong in Ella’s life, the question is…how will it all turn out for her and everyone her job has impacted? If you’re like me, you’ll love finding out. And if you can get ahold of the audio, Therese Plummer expertly brought all the characters to life…so much so that I was convinced there had to be more than 1 narrator…there’s not, she’s just that good! If you’re looking for a quick, entertaining read look no further than this fantastic debut.

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Amy at NovelGossip

Annie at The Misstery

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

 

 

 

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My Pick This week is….

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Published March 4th, 2014

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

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After reading (and loving) The Child Finder a couple weeks ago, I hightailed it to my library and grabbed The Enchanted, that’s how much I enjoyed Rene Denfeld’s writing! All I knew before starting this was that it involved death row and prison…two buzzwords that will always grab my attention…so I dived right in immediately. If I could only use one word to describe this book it would be haunting.

The story is narrated in the third person omniscient by one of the inmates on death row and this was the PERFECT way to tell this story. We also do get to hear from the lady, the warden and the priest but it’s all from an outside looking in perspective. The lady is there to investigate the case of York, an inmate scheduled for execution, but who may get off The Row if she finds enough evidence to convert his sentence.

Throughout the story we get an up close and personal look at life inside a prison and it’s not pretty people. I have a background in criminology and psychology and this book put both those concepts to the test. The author took so many themes…death row, putting children in adult prisons, compassion, vengeance, retribution, imagination…mixed it up and weaved a story that had me thinking and challenging my own views. This is by no means an easy read, on the contrary, it’s quite dark and difficult and at times I wanted to jump ahead because the images were too painful to read about…the white haired boy will forever haunt me…but this is how our criminal justice system operates and I wanted to challenge myself to really think about parts of this book. I absolutely loved the author’s use of books and their ability to transport an inmate to magical places outside of his physical cell as well as the mental cell he lived in. Now, whether he deserved the escape and temporary peace that reading and books brought him…that’s one of the morally gray questions readers are presented with. That and the ending…I was very much left surprised and wondering…”what would I do?”

Rene Denfeld’s writing is so magical and lyrical that I will be first in line for whatever she writes next!

**Sensitivity warning…there are what I call periphery scenes of rape, violence, and execution…meaning the scenes aren’t in your face overly graphic but you know exactly what’s happening**

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Nicki atThe Secret Library Site

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Bill at Especially Books

Ann Marie at Lit Wit Wine Dine

Amy at NovelGossip

Annie at The Misstery

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: DON’T LET GO By Harlan Coben

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Publish Date Sept. 26, 2017 By Dutton Books

Suburban New Jersey Detective Napoleon “Nap” Dumas hasn’t been the same since senior year of high school, when his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana were found dead on the railroad tracks—and Maura, the girl Nap considered the love of his life, broke up with him and disappeared without explanation. For fifteen years, Nap has been searching, both for Maura and for the real reason behind his brother’s death. And now, it looks as though he may finally find what he’s been looking for.

When Maura’s fingerprints turn up in the rental car of a suspected murderer, Nap embarks on a quest for answers that only leads to more questions—about the woman he loved, about the childhood friends he thought he knew, about the abandoned military base near where he grew up, and mostly about Leo and Diana—whose deaths are darker and far more sinister than Nap ever dared imagine.

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In many ways, this might be one of the harder reviews I’ve had to write. I don’t know about everyone else but I often have so much to say when I want to completely gush about a book like I’ve done with several of my recent reads. This one, however, will not bring gushing which is really hard for me to say because I’ve loved almost all of Coben’s standalones in the years past. I’ve thought for a few days about why one of my most anticipated Fall reads fell flat for me, while many others are loving this so much.   As my friend Chelsea recently discussed on her blog  The Suspense is Thrilling Me, that’s the wonder of the book world…we can all read the same book and have vastly different opinions.

Moving on with my actual review…Napoleon “Nap” Dumas is a detective on a serious mission. He’s been unable to make peace with the death of his twin brother Leo and Leo’s girlfriend Diana and the subsequent disappearance of his first love Maura. To say he’s been obsessed for 15 years is an understatement as the man has basically put his entire life on hold trying to figure out what happened to his brother and why Maura disappeared. What he slowly starts to discover is a web of tragedies, conspiracies, betrayals and lies that may or may not lead Nap to getting the answers he seeks.

So, that’s a taste of the plot and here’s a breakdown of what worked and didn’t work for me….

What Worked…

  • Lightning fast dialogue. Harlan Coben can seriously write realistic dialogue and there’s a ton of it in this story which I really enjoyed
  • Fast paced plot. With lots of dialogue and a continuously moving plot, this was a super fast read.
  • A fairly difficult mystery to unravel. I wasn’t able to figure out what happened or why which is always a plus for me
  • Nap’s character. I liked that Nap was a flawed character who’s heart was always in the right place even when he was taking justice into his own hands. He was a good guy which made it easy to root for him

What Didn’t Work…

  • An over the top feel to the writing. The writing (example being the first line of the book) often came across as “cheesy” and trying too hard to be funny, witty, sarcastic, etc
  • Most everything about the military base plot line. I found myself uninterested in this plotline which was very central to the story. The author gave quite a bit of background detail about the abandoned military base and I found myself skimming quite a bit when this came up
  • Nap’s 15 year obsession with Maura whom he hadn’t really dated that long…in high school. I just had a hard time buying his complete obsession and inability to move on for so many years as an adult
  • An overall lack of connection. While I liked Nap, I wasn’t overly connected with him or the outcome of the story to consider myself fully invested and have that ‘I can’t stop reading’ feeling

It’s quite possible that I just wasn’t in the mood for this story at this time or maybe my reading tastes for this type of story are changing because five years ago I think I would’ve liked this more. That being said, I encourage you to try this for yourself, especially if you like mysteries with dynamic dialogue. I still highly recommend trying some Coben’s early books as well!

Many thanks to Dutton Books via Netgalley for my copy

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I’m FINALLY getting around to reading that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere.

If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d like to link back to me that’d be great as I really try my best to include everyone who’s participating week by week at the bottom of my post so all my readers can enjoy all the awesome Throwback picks!

My Pick This week is….

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Published Oct 2016 By Riverhead

It is the last season of high school life for Nadia Turner, a rebellious, grief-stricken, seventeen-year-old beauty. Mourning her own mother’s recent suicide, she takes up with the local pastor’s son. Luke Sheppard is twenty-one, a former football star whose injury has reduced him to waiting tables at a diner. They are young; it’s not serious. But the pregnancy that results from this teen romance–and the subsequent cover-up–will have an impact that goes far beyond their youth. As Nadia hides her secret from everyone, including Aubrey, her God-fearing best friend, the years move quickly. Soon, Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey are full-fledged adults and still living in debt to the choices they made that one seaside summer, caught in a love triangle they must carefully maneuver, and dogged by the constant, nagging question: What if they had chosen differently? The possibilities of the road not taken are a relentless haunt.

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This is one of the best blurbs I’ve read, it really highlights the book well without giving away the story. I finished this a couple weeks ago and I was blown away by the exquitsite writing of Brit Bennett. How is this a debut?? This was one of those books that I had seen around but resisted reading…why?…I have no idea. I need to do a post someday on all the books I’ve resisted reading that I end up loving!

The story begins with The Mothers narrating as all knowing voices from a time in the future. We meet Nadia who’s finishing up high school and living with her father in a small seaside community in California. I was immediately taken with the setting as well as Nadia’s character. Her heartbreak over her mother’s suicide pierced the pages and made me empathize with how painful that must’ve been. She had been close with her mom and she would never have answers as to why. Her sorrow leads her to make some impulsive decisions with consequences that will follow her for years to come.

The narrative flows beautifully through the years which I loved. I enjoyed seeing where Nadia’s ambition led her and whether she would achieve peace with herself, her father, the church and her community. We’re also privy to Luke and Aubrey’s life through the years and I really liked both of them, flaws and all. The story, however, belonged to Nadia and I was hoping against hope she was able to be happy in the end. Was she? Well, you’ll have to read to find out! If you’re in the mood for wonderful literary fiction with a roads not taken theme, I highly recommend giving this debut a try. As for me, I’ll be waiting impatiently for Brit Bennett’s next novel.

HAPPY READING! 

 

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere…

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Cathy at Between the Lines

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Cathy at What Cathy Read Next

Lynne at Fictionophile

Nicki atThe Secret Library Site

Mischenko at Read Rant Rock and Roll

Sam at Clues and Reviews

Bill at Especially Books

Ann Marie at Lit Wit Wine Dine

 

REVIEW: THE CHILD FINDER By Rene Denfeld

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Published Sept 5th by Harper

Three years ago, Madison Culver disappeared when her family was choosing a Christmas tree in Oregon’s Skookum National Forest. She would be eight years old now—if she has survived. Desperate to find their beloved daughter, certain someone took her, the Culvers turn to Naomi, a private investigator with an uncanny talent for locating the lost and missing. Known to the police and a select group of parents as The Child Finder, Naomi is their last hope.

Naomi’s methodical search takes her deep into the icy, mysterious forest in the Pacific Northwest, and into her own fragmented past. She understands children like Madison because once upon a time, she was a lost girl too.

As Naomi relentlessly pursues and slowly uncovers the truth behind Madison’s disappearance, shards of a dark dream pierce the defenses that have protected her, reminding her of a terrible loss she feels but cannot remember. If she finds Madison, will Naomi ultimately unlock the secrets of her own life?

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Just when I think there’s no possible way to tell a missing child story in an original, creative way…in my opinion, the market is kind of saturated with this concept… along comes this luminously written book by Rene Denfeld and just like that I’m a believer again. I don’t typically toss out words like luminous when talking about a mystery, in fact, I don’t think I’ve used that adjective to describe any book I’ve read this year but that word absolutely describes how I felt about this story and Denfeld’s writing. There’s something magical at work here and I’m hardly likely to do this book justice with this review.

From the opening page I was drawn into the world of Naomi, a dedicated, bordering on obsessed child finder, who’s come back to her home state of Oregon to search for Madison, a little girl who’s been missing for three years. Madison and her parents had drove to the mountains to cut down a Christmas tree and in the blink of an eye a blizzard was upon them and Madison had vanished. Naomi is the last resort for Madison’s parents as she has been for so many others and she combines her skills as an investigator with her own life experience of knowing what it feels like to be found. You see, Naomi has a past very similar to those of the children she tries to find, only her memories of the early years of her life are very limited.

The plot flows and evolves brilliantly with the use of alternating POVs of Naomi and “The Snow Child” as well as thankfully short ones from Mr. B…you’ll have to read to find out who he is! It’s very hard for me to put into concise words everything I loved about this story and the writing. The way Denfeld paints a picture with words… of the forest and snow,  the fascinating use of imagination to survive, the intense feelings of hope and despair, the longing to belong and experience love when pain and fear have been so prominent…it all weaved together to create images that were seared in my mind. She created an almost dreamlike quality with her writing that enabled me to get through what I will say were some tough aspects of this story as far as abuse, neglect, and child trauma goes. At no time, however, was any aspect “in your face” or gratuitous;  rather, it was an element of the story that couldn’t be avoided.

All this being said, this is a wonderful and unique part mystery, part thriller, character driven novel that I couldn’t put down. I loved how the author handled the ending and I have to say, my fingers are tightly crossed that we haven’t seen the last of Naomi! In the meantime, I’ll be grabbing a copy of Denfeld’s first book, Enchanted, as fast as I can.

MINI-REVIEWS: CASTLE OF WATER By Dane Huckelbridge & LIE TO ME By J.T Ellison

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Published April 4, 2017 By Thomas Dunne Books

Two very different people, one very small island. When their small plane is downed in the middle of the South Pacific, the sole survivors of the wreck are left with one common goal: to survive. Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, on an island the size of a large city block, the two castaways must reconcile their differences and learn to draw on one another’s strengths if they are to have any hope of making it home.

Told in mesmerizing prose, with charm and rhythm entirely its own, Castle of Water is more than just a reimagining of the classic castaway story. It is a stirring reflection on love’s restorative potential, as well as a poignant reminder that home—be it a flat in Paris, a New York apartment, or a desolate atoll a world away—is where the heart is.

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I don’t know what it is about this book but I finished it almost 2 weeks ago and I’m still thinking about it. First, that cover is just gorgeous isn’t it? And I love the title which is so reminiscent of the story. I want to keep this review very simple because I went into this story knowing only that it was a unique castaway story and for me that made for perfect reading. What’s most important to know is this…there’s a plane crash, two survivors, and a tiny island in the middle of nowhere because the pilot flew off course. The survivors are opposites in every sense and yet they must find a way to come together to not only survive physically but emotionally as well.

It’s not often that I re-read sentences because the words seem to have been put together to create a magic spell on the reader but I did many, many times while reading Dane Huckelbridge’s captivating prose. It was storytelling at it’s finest and I literally couldn’t put this book down. There’s a little bit of everything in this story: drama, heartbreak, suspense, action, humor, sadness, and so much love and resilience. Oh…and there’s a twist that left me stunned!  Seriously, I know my jaw dropped. I love it when an author manages to surprise me like that. If you’re looking for something different I highly recommend giving this a try….just make sure to have tissues handy.

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Published Sept 5th By Mira 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. The couple seems made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

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I love it when I prove myself wrong because when I read the blurb about this book I assumed I wouldn’t like it because my track record with psychological thrillers has been dismal this year. But when a very trusted reading friend emailed me to say I HAD to read this, my ears perked up and just like that I was tempted. I have to say, from the very first page I was hooked! Ellison began the story with just the right level of creepiness by using an obviously disturbed narrator to start the story and of course I was consumed with finding out who it was and how he/she figured into the picture perfect marriage of Sutton and Ethan…or was it actually one of them? The puzzle had begun and I was on board to solve it.

As questions swirled and we are given slivers of information and detail into the marriage of Ethan and Sutton, I found myself completely and totally entertained by the level of intrigue and shadiness the author was creating. We first hear from Ethan and there were times I thought ‘Oh I like him, I trust what he’s saying about his wife ‘ and then on the next page I would think ‘No, he’s lying.’ J. T. Ellison was messing with my head and I was loving it! About halfway through we get to hear from Sutton and then things really get twisted. What I loved was that this isn’t just your typical he said/she said, this is also a puzzle of the best jigsaw kind and I was addicted to sifting through the tiny pieces the author scattered until I could establish my theory surrounding the who, what and why regarding the crimes in this story. An extra treat for me were the scenes set in Paris…the bars, the streets, the people…I could see it all thanks to the vivid prose of the author. So,  thank you  J. T. Ellison for showing me there are still psychological thrillers out there that can leave me so thoroughly entertained!

Many thanks to Mira books via Netgalley for my copy

 

 

REVIEW: BEARTOWN By Fredrik Backman

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Published April 25th By Simon & Schuster

People say Beartown is finished. A tiny community nestled deep in the forest, it is slowly losing ground to the ever encroaching trees. It is a town that has lost everything except it’s love of hockey the junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semi-finals;  they actually have a chance to win.  All the hopes and dreams of this place now rest on the shoulders of a handful of teenage boys.

Being responsible for the hopes of an entire town is a heavy burden, and the semi-final match is the catalyst for a violent act that will leave a young teenager traumatized and a town in turmoil. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected.

Beartown explores the hopes that bring a small community together, the secrets that tear it apart, and the courage it takes for an individual to go against the grain. 

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When several of my fellow bloggers and one very good non-blogging reading friend, all whose opinions I very much trust, have raved about this book then I just had no choice but to see what all the fuss was about! I say fuss because I have very much resisted reading this book. You see, I’ve tried two of Backman’s other books…A Man Called Ove went into my Did Not Finish pile and My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, which was a book club read, didn’t work on any level for me. Beartown, however, was like reading a book by a completely different author and I mean that as the highest compliment…this book was unputdownable and completely addictive!

What starts out, on the surface, as a book about a small town obsessed with hockey will, I promise you, turn into so much more. I’m going to be honest, the first half of the book is what you might call a character/setting set up and what I mean by that is the author takes you to Beartown…you are there in the frigid outdoors of a small isolated town in the forest as kids exhaust themselves playing hockey in an effort to not only make something of themselves and their future but also to save the town. These kids are aware of what a victory in the semi-finals means for Beartown and they will literally use their blood, sweat and tears to try to make it happen. As a result, we get to know some remarkable characters and their parents…Amat, Benji, Bobo, Maya, Ramona (seriously the love I have for this lady!) and others who infiltrated my heart and mind, and that’s just what Backman wants to happen because by the time the second half of the book rolls around, I was so obsessed with these characters, this town, and this story that…you guessed it…I was up until at least 2:00am reading!

I won’t tell you anything else about the plot except to say that of course there’s a pivotal, life altering, tragic event that happens that not everyone you’ve grown to love will recover from and the way Backman has this play out in the second half of the book is brilliant. I was so captivated by the writing and the story I didn’t care that I lost significant amounts of sleep for 2 nights…it’s just that good! And if you’ve read other reviews and/or blurbs about this book you might know that it’s often compared to Friday Night Lights which, in my humble opinion, is one of the greatest tv shows EVER, and it most definitely reminded me of that small Texas football obsessed town. Now, David (hockey coach) was no Coach Taylor but there were other characters who reminded me of Tim Riggins, Tami, Buddy and Landry no doubt about it and I loved it all the more for these similarities.  “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose…” Ah, miss you Coach Taylor:)

If you’re at all on the fence about this book I say give it a try, you might be like me and end up pulling a couple late nighters and making space for this one on your top reads of 2017 list!

 

 

REVIEW: THE HEART’S INVISIBLE FURIES By John Boyne

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Published Aug 22, 2017 by Hogarth Press

Cyril Avery is not a real Avery — or at least, that’s what his adoptive parents tell him. And he never will be. But if he isn’t a real Avery, then who is he?

Born out of wedlock to a teenage girl cast out from her rural Irish community and adopted by a well-to-do if eccentric Dublin couple via the intervention of a hunchbacked Redemptorist nun, Cyril is adrift in the world, anchored only tenuously by his heartfelt friendship with the infinitely more glamourous and dangerous Julian Woodbead. At the mercy of fortune and coincidence, he will spend a lifetime coming to know himself and where he came from and over his many years will struggle to discover an identity, a home, a country, and much more.

In this, Boyne’s most transcendent work to date, we are shown the story of Ireland from the 1940s to today through the eyes of one ordinary man. The Heart’s Invisible Furies is a novel to make you laugh and cry while reminding us all of the redemptive power of the human spirit.

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ALL. THE. LOVE. I finished this book almost a week ago and I’m still at a loss for words on how best to review it. The blurb is actually one of the best I’ve read because it captures the idea of the story without giving away any of the magic of what you’ll truly encounter when you open the pages and become an accomplice in the journey of Cyril Avery’s life. I say accomplice when what I really mean is friend. Every once in awhile a book comes along and allows me to connect with a character on such a deep level, being privy to their thoughts, heartbreak and happiness, that when I turn the last page it’s like saying goodbye to a dear friend. THIS is that kind of book and Cyril is that kind of character.

When I started reading this gem all I knew was that it was a heartfelt saga…that’s it…and I’m so glad I went in not knowing anything and having read no reviews because everything was a surprise and believe me, there are twists and surprises throughout the seven decades that this book takes place. What I will tell you is that we first get to meet Cyril when he’s about age 7 and he’s living with his adoptive parents Maude and Charles. Now, believe me when I say these are some of the most eccentric characters I’ve come across in quite a long time! As a parent myself, I was shocked at some of the things they said to little Cyril…how many times can a kid hear “you’re not a real Avery” before it seeps into their whole being? Cyril, however, took everything in stride and while he grew up wondering who he was if he wasn’t a real Avery, he also knew that he was luckier than some as he had a warm house, clothes and an education. Here’s the weird thing about the family dynamics of Maude, Charles, and Cyril…oftentimes it was quite funny and I laughed out loud on several occasions at the wittiness of Cyril and the cluelessness of Maude.

The story is narrated by Cyril throughout and it’s broken up into seven year intervals spanning 70 years so we have a long time to get to know Cyril as well as his friends, loves, coworkers and acquaintances, and what I especially loved about this was that people we may have known in passing, often return again to Cyril’s life, whether attributed to fate or coincidence…who knows. Cyril’s journey also takes us not only to Ireland, but also Amsterdam and New York City which I for one love when I get to travel to various locations in my stories!

I’m going to finish by saying, how John Boyne handled the ending was just brilliant. I  loved everything about it as I cried my eyes out. In fact, I loved every single thing about this story and I can’t remember the last time I finished a book and felt the need to start over again right away. This book has EVERYTHING…drama, happiness, sadness, hope, and humor. It is epic and unforgettable. I’ve already ordered a hardcover copy for my favorites bookshelf where it will sit (until its first re-read) so I can pass by it daily and smile. Oh and if you’re a regular reader of my blog you may remember me saying that I thought The Force would be my favorite read of 2017 unless something else came along to blow me away…well, The Heart’s Invisible Furies has come along…consider me blown away!

Many thanks to Hogarth Press for my copy