STANDALONE SUNDAY: PICK OF THE WEEK

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick this week is:

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Published June 2014 by Little Brown 

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

When fourteen-year-old Jace Wilson witnesses a brutal murder, he’s plunged into a new life, issued a false identity and hidden in a wilderness skills program for troubled teens. The plan is to get Jace off the grid while police find the two killers. The result is the start of a nightmare.

The killers, known as the Blackwell Brothers, are slaughtering anyone who gets in their way in a methodical quest to reach him. Now all that remains between them and the boy are Ethan and Allison Serbin, who run the wilderness survival program; Hannah Faber, who occupies a lonely fire lookout tower; and endless miles of desolate Montana mountains.

The clock is ticking, the mountains are burning, and those who wish Jace Wilson dead are no longer far behind. 

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If you’re looking for an unputdownable thriller, look no further than Those Who Wish Me Dead! From the engaging, dread -filled first pages until the heartstopping ending, you will most likely be holding your breath and flipping the pages at lightning speed. I know I was! Most of the story takes place in the remote Montana mountains and it’s the PERFECT setting for an enticing game of cat and mouse. You’ll be hard pressed not to become completely attached to Jace and Ethan as they fight to outwit and outpace the very creepy Blackwell Brothers. Add to that mix a forest fire and you’ve got yourself a first rate thriller.  Overall, I was so connected with the characters in this book that the ending literally brought me to tears…(read full on crying)…I can’t remember another THRILLER that’s been able to do that. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you’ve already read this one or feel compelled to increase your TBR by adding it. Happy Sunday Reading!!

THE RIVER AT NIGHT: AUTHOR Q&A WITH ERICA FERENCIK & REVIEW REPOST!

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Published by Simon & Schuster 

A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare

Welcome everyone to my very first author Q & A!! I’m beyond thrilled to have Erica Ferencik on my blog today to answer some of the most pressing questions regarding her writing process and the juicy details of how she came about creating one of the most thrilling books I’ve read in recent months!! I’m reposting my review after the Q&A in case you missed it the first time around.  The River at Night releases TODAY so after you finish reading this post head to your favorite book buying site or bookstore and grab yourself a copy. Happy Reading!

Q&A with Erica Ferencik

  • What intrigued you about writing about female friendship?

Everything intrigues me about female friendship. Its very intensity can turn things inside out very quickly.

I especially love stories of female friendship gone wrong, such as in the 1992 film, Single White Female.

The stakes in female friendship are just as high or higher than in romantic ones. We trust our women friends with so much intimate knowledge – why is that? Our hairdressers know for sure….isn’t that the truth. Why do I still share things with my women friends that I don’t with my husband of twenty-two years? (Sorry, honeyJ)

The stakes are even higher for long term friendships. It’s such a delicate balance to keep these relationships alive, as well as intensely difficult to determine when or whether it may be time to end them, or to come to grips with the fact that – since everything changes – these cherished friendships must change as well.

  • The ending of this book leaves readers feeling unsettled. How did you come up with the ending? Did it change as you went through the writing process?

I’m glad to hear it makes readers feel unsettled!

I had maybe three different endings over time. I didn’t want to sew it up too neatly, but there had to be some ominous things lurking, as well as some light at the end of the tunnel. Even though it’s a pretty wild tale, it’s plausible as well, which is one reason I think it’s so scary.

In terms of how I came up with the ending – without giving it away – I wanted to play with aspects of bringing the “wild” world back into so-called civilization.

One hard part about writing novels – and there are lots of hard parts! – is knowing when you are done. Where does a story really end? Why there and not someplace else? What is enough for the reader, leaving them satisfied but perhaps wondering a bit, keeping them in the spell of your story – but not in a frustrating way – and what is just too much sewing up or sweeping up for them? It can be a fine line, a really delicate balance.

  • What part was the most fun for you to write?

Let me say it this way: writing is like childbirth: in the end you fall so in love with your baby you forget all the pain that came before…

But honestly, I had a blast with the whole thing, from first word to last.

I especially loved writing about white water rafting. For me, it’s this combination of exhilarating and terrifying, like a roller coaster only worse because it’s nature, and (most of us) know better than to mess with that. For me, the moment-to-moment experience of white water rafting can tip from ecstatic joy to oh-my-God I’m going to die.

I loved doing the research, both online and especially in person, interviewing rafting guides and all the off-the-gridders I was fortunate enough to interview.

  • Do you have a favorite character, or one that you identify with the most?

There is the old (writing) saw that every character we create comes from some aspect of ourselves, and I think there’s a lot to that.

I think I am one part Pia – because I’m quite physical and love adventure and used to be very idealistic and clueless like her – now I’m just clueless – and one part Wini, because I’m full of terror and shame. But then I like to think I have a tough Rachel side as well as a sweet Sandra side. Basically I’m nuts.

  • Any tips for people interested in white water rafting?

Don’t.

No, seriously, I would say just make sure the company is legit, the guides actually have some training and experience, and – this depends on your level of risk tolerance for sure – aim for nothing higher than Class 3 rapids, especially if it’s your first time out. Talk to someone who has gone out with the company you’re thinking of using, learn about the river you intend to raft.

As part of my research I had a look at all the accidents resulting in death since records were kept. Man, that will curl your hair. Who died, when, on what river. One out of 250,000 rafters, on average, die each year. In 2006, ten died on commercial rafting trips, but the number skews higher if you include people who go it alone.

  • What sort of research did you do for the book?

The farthest north in Maine I had ever been was Portland, so it was time to plan a trip up into the hinterlands – into the storied Allagash Wilderness, over 5,000 square miles of rivers, lakes, and forest.

My goal – one of them – was to interview people who live off the grid.

But I didn’t know a soul up there.

I called the chambers of commerce in towns from Orono to Fort Kent, as far north and west you can go until the road ends and the forest begins, which is just past a little town called Dickey.

Everyone I spoke to on the phone said: well, these folks don’t want to be contacted. That’s why they live off the grid…but I do know someone who knows someone…soon I was able to line up half a dozen interviews with people who had decided to disappear.

I left my house with a backpack filled with power bars, warm clothes and mace, with plans to interview five individuals and one family who had decided to cut themselves off from civilization. It wasn’t easy to convince my husband I was going to be okay, but in the end he let me go.

Even though I made hotel reservations for nine nights, I only needed them for the first and last, because everyone I met offered me a place to stay.

I crashed in two cabins, a teepee, a yurt, a rehabbed bus, and a boat (in a field, not on water.)

In November.

Sometimes a good mile from anything resembling a road.

  • What was one of the biggest challenges you had in writing your book?

Balancing backstory with the main action is always a challenge for

  1. How can you make the reader care about someone they don’t know without bogging them down with too much information?

Also, rewrites cause me physical agony, forcing me to eat a lot of sugar before I can really get down to the task at hand

  • – Were there any movies, books, or media stories that inspired River at Night?

Every scary book, movie or media story I’ve ever seen or heard about helps me with ideas, however, two events in the summer of 2012 were my inspiration for this book.

One:

I read and fell in love with James Dickey’s 1970 novel Deliverance. Most people have seen the movie – cue the banjos! – but I’m not sure the book has gotten the love it deserves.

Dickey was a poet, but he also wrote this fabulous, propulsive, first person novel about four male friends who go white-water rafting in the Georgia wilderness. The story was utterly terrifying to me; I was struck by this series of bad decisions that led to disaster.

Two:

The summer before I started the book I was hiking in the White Mountains with a few friends and we got lost. We had all depended on Lucy to map out the day; she was the one who had the most experience, the one we were convinced knew what she was doing. Turned out, Lucy had done some pretty shabby planning.

The idea was to get to the hut – maybe it was Carter Notch or Zealand – by around five to get cleaned up and grab a bunk before they serve dinner at 5:30. But we were still hiking at 7:30; thank God it was summer so it was still light, but we had some older people with us, specifically a very tall, teetery gentleman in his seventies lugging this ginormous pack, and I thought we are going to have to carry this guy…we ran out of water and food, and one of the women had such bad cramps in her legs we had to stop and massage her muscles just so she could unbend her legs. The wind had picked up and the temperature dropped like a stone, and we were up past the tree line scrambling over huge boulders, completely exhausted and scared…anyway we made it to the hut with just this shred of light left, barely able to see our hands in front of us to find that they had been organizing a search party there. They were all suited up. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces when we stumbled in the door…talk about food tasting good, talk about a cot feeling like the Four Seasons…we had been so close to spending the night on the mountain, alone.

Thank you so much Erica for taking the time to answer and share those questions with us! Following is my review in case you missed it last month….

First things first..that is the perfect cover and title for this pulse pounding, can’t put it down thriller. I went into this read not knowing anything about this story except that it was an adventure thriller in which some friends decide to go white water rafting but things end up going very wrong. I didn’t read the Goodreads or Amazon blurbs and I urge you to do the same! I’ve only included about a third of the Goodreads blurb above just to give those of you who haven’t heard of this book an idea of what it’s about because, in my opinion ,the entire Goodread’s blurb gives away too much of the story. This book is a thriller! It’s about being surprised and not knowing what’s going to happen on the river or what lurks in the wilderness so you’re along for the ride with the ladies. And what a ride it will be.

Here’s a question to ask yourself…would you choose to go white water rafting in the remote Maine wilderness for your girls-getaway-trip, tackling a river that most people don’t even have access to? My answer was a very loud no, never, not in a million years could you pay me to go white water rafting anywhere , let alone on a remote stretch of river that’s not open to the public. And for this very reason, of being scared at just the thought of rafting down any river, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens to these four friends when they decide to brave the very adventure that sounds terrifying to me.

It all begins with the “leader”, Pia, talking her three good friends, Rachel, Sandra and Wini into going white water rafting for their annual girls trip. Apparently, Pia is into extreme living and she has, in the past, talked the ladies into other adventure type vacations. Wini, however, isn’t super keen on this one as they are all nearing forty and she’d rather hit a beach and relax on a chaise with some cocktails. I have to say I totally agreed with that vacation choice. She was basically strong-armed into going on the rafting trip and reluctantly headed to REI to stock up. You see, none of them except perhaps Pia had any idea what was involved, what to buy, etc. They’d never been white water rafting before! They did all have some things in common in that they were each slightly damaged from events in their lives and were looking to escape even if it was just for 5 days and even if that meant driving 9 hours, camping, being wet, and braving a raging river. And oh, by the way , NO cell signal for the whole 5 days. Can’t you just feel that something is bound to go wrong?

I thought the author did a wonderful job of setting the story up in the first few chapters. It is told from Wini’s perspective and we get important details about the struggles each of the friends have been dealing with in their own lives as well as a good indication of their friendship ties over the years. So, by the time they hit the river, I was very invested in each lady and I especially liked Rachel, Wini, and Sandra. I even liked Rory the guide. The characters became real which just points to brilliant writing. And I was extremely worried about them because you know what else became real…the river! I literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough once the action began and for the rest of the book I’d catch myself holding my breath. With her breathtaking, detailed writing Erica Ferencik put me right in the river as well as smack in the middle of the woods at night with them. And there are bad things looming in both places you can count on that! And the twists…I literally gasped out loud at one of them and had to re-read the section to be sure that what I had just read was true. Upon finishing this tension filled read my first thought was…now THAT’s how you write a thriller!!

5/5 Stars

 

STANDALONE SUNDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

standalone-sunday

Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads  where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick this week is:

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Published March 2007 by Delacorte Press

My Rating: 5 Stars

Life changes in an instant. On a foggy beach. In the seconds when Abby Mason—photographer, fiancée soon-to-be-stepmother—looks into her camera and commits her greatest error. Heartbreaking, uplifting, and beautifully told, here is the riveting tale of a family torn apart, of the search for the truth behind a child’s disappearance, and of one woman’s unwavering faith in the redemptive power of love—all made startlingly fresh through Michelle Richmond’s incandescent sensitivity and extraordinary insight.

Six-year-old Emma vanished into the thick San Francisco fog. Or into the heaving Pacific. Or somewhere just beyond: to a parking lot, a stranger’s van, or a road with traffic flashing by. Devastated by guilt, haunted by her fears about becoming a stepmother, Abby refuses to believe that Emma is dead. And so she searches for clues about what happened that morning—and cannot stop the flood of memories reaching from her own childhood to illuminate that irreversible moment on the beach.

Now, as the days drag into weeks, as the police lose interest and fliers fade on telephone poles, Emma’s father finds solace in religion and scientific probability—but Abby can only wander the beaches and city streets, attempting to recover the past and the little girl she lost. 

******

When I decided to pick this book for the standalone feature, I went back to Goodreads to grab the blurb and I was really shocked to see the lower ratings average for this book. Although if you look closer, there’s thousands of ratings and reviews so it makes sense that there’s going to be people who rate this lower than others. Especially because of the subject matter. I would just encourage those of you who love mysteries and suspense to give this a try. I thought the writing was excellent and I literally couldn’t put this book down until I found out what happened to little Emma. So I’d definitely say this is a one sit read. Also, I cut out part of the Goodreads blurb as I felt it gave too much of the plot away. I suggest that you not read all of the blurb and just go into this knowing only the above. Happy Sunday Reading!!

REVIEW: THE MOUNTAIN IN MY SHOE By Louise Beech

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A missing boy. A missing book. A missing husband. A woman who must find them all to find herself. On the night Bernadette finally has the courage to tell her domineering husband that she’s leaving, he doesn’t come home. Neither does Conor, the little boy she’s befriended for the past five years. Also missing is his lifebook, the only thing that holds the answers. With the help of Conor’s foster mum, Bernadette must face her own past, her husband’s secrets and a future she never dared imagine in order to find them all. Exquisitely written and deeply touching, The Mountain in My Shoe is both a gripping psychological thriller and a powerful and emotive examination of the meaning of family … and just how far we’re willing to go for the people we love 

 

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I really didn’t know much about this book before opening it as I missed reading quite a lot of reviews during the Blog Tour since I had just started blogging and was still discovering all the great blogs to follow. I have to say the cover and title really drew me to this book and it has been on the top of my TBR for the past few weeks.

The story begins with a brief introduction from ‘The Book ‘followed by Bernadette, who coincidently can’t find said book. The Book is not only missing, but it’s also a main character in the novel which, along with Bernadette, play a significant part in a little boy’s life. I was immediately drawn to Bernadette’s character. I liked her within reading just the first few pages and that has to be because of Louise Beech’s fantastic writing.

Conor is a foster child living with foster mom Anne and to say he’s had a hard life is an understatement. This is where the book really hit home and touched me in a major way because many years ago I used to work as a foster care social worker with many kids on my caseload exactly like Conor. I just felt a connection to the whole story  but to Conor especially as Louise Beech so eloquently showed his resilience, desire to belong, and his ability to trust and love even though he had been let down by so many people in his life. Her writing struck a cord with me as it was elegant yet heartfelt. There wasn’t any complicated back and forth shifts in time or unreliable narrators (which I’ve grown very tired of);  this was a story that held drama, some mystery, suspense at the right times, and so much depth of emotions of caring people trying to make the best of their situations and hoping against hope there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

I’ve waited several days to write this review as I just wasn’t sure how to put into words how special and powerful I felt this book was. Conor’s story could be and has been so many children’s stories (sadly) and it just brought back so many memories for me. When a book can do that, I attribute that to a wonderful story and outstanding writing as is the case with this novel. I enjoyed reading this so much. The one (minor) critique I have is that the clinical assessment parts sprinkled throughout somewhat disrupted the pace for me. However, this could be because I already knew this information from doing the job. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be first in line for Louise Beech’s next book!

5/5 Stars

Many thanks to Karen Sullivan at Orenda Books for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review.

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 want to read 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 just link back to me I’d so appreciate it

My Pick this week is:

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Published July 2011 by Thomas Dunne Books

My Rating: 5 Stars

An old man is dying.
When the old man is dead they will come for him.
And they will come for her, to make him hurt.

He would go to Hell
At the Iron Mountain Home for Boys, there was nothing but time. Time to burn and time to kill, time for two young orphans to learn that life isn’t won without a fight. Julian survives only because his older brother, Michael, is fearless and fiercely protective. When tensions boil over and a boy is brutally killed, there is only one sacrifice left for Michael to make: He flees the orphanage and takes the blame with him.

To keep her safe…
For two decades, Michael has been an enforcer in New York’s world of organized crime, a prince of the streets so widely feared he rarely has to kill anymore. But the life he’s fought to build unravels when he meets Elena, a beautiful innocent who teaches him the meaning and power of love. He wants a fresh start with her, the chance to start a family like the one he and Julian never had. But someone else is holding the strings. And escape is not that easy. . . .

Go to Hell, and come back burning….
The mob boss who gave Michael his blessing to begin anew is dying, and his son is intent on making Michael pay for his betrayal. Determined to protect the ones he loves, Michael spirits Elena—who knows nothing of his past crimes, or the peril he’s laid at her door— back to North Carolina, to the place he was born and the brother he lost so long ago. There, he will encounter a whole new level of danger, a thicket of deceit and violence that leads inexorably to the one place he’s been running from his whole life: Iron House.

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If you’re looking for a thriller that checks all the boxes…well-written, perfect pacing, engaging and often downright scary characters,  a plot you’ll get lost in, and just all around unputdownable…Iron House is your book. If you’ve read my blog in the past you know I love John Hart’s The Last Child, but this is also fantastic in a totally different way. This book actually made me late for a wedding on the summer day in July I was reading it because I just couldn’t put it down until I reached the end. From the opening pages, which will undoubtedly grab you, to the showdown of an ending, I remember it very much read like a movie. Do yourself a favor and add this to your probably already bursting 2017 TBR:)!

REVIEW: THE DRY By Jane Harper

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Luke Hadler turns a gun on his wife and child, then himself. The farming community of Kiewarra is facing life and death choices daily. If one of their own broke under the strain, well…

When Federal Police investigator Aaron Falk returns to Kiewarra for the funerals, he is loath to confront the people who rejected him twenty years earlier. But when his investigative skills are called on, the facts of the Hadler case start to make him doubt this murder-suicide charge.

And as Falk probes deeper into the killings, old wounds start bleeding into fresh ones. For Falk and his childhood friend Luke shared a secret… A secret Falk thought long-buried… A secret which Luke’s death starts to bring to the surface…

******

Sometimes a book comes along (not too often) and I just know from the first sentences that I’m going to like it! This was the case with The Dry, Jane Harper’s debut novel. Try this for yourself and see if you’re not eager to keep reading….

                  It wasn’t as though the farm hadn’t seen death before, and the blowflies didn’t discriminate. To them there was little difference between a carcass and a corpse.

The words are pitch perfect, the writing evocative and the tone just menacing enough that I had to read on to find out about that corpse. Read on I did and I was rewarded with one of the best prologues I’ve read in recent memory! Don’t you love when that happens?

The deaths of the Hadler family were tragic, heartbreaking, and once law enforcement delved deeper past the initial scene, they became suspicious. There were aspects of the crime scene that just didn’t make sense to local police sergeant Greg Raco. Federal investigator Aaron Falk, who was childhood friends with Luke Hadler was also left questioning aspects of the crime scene and at the request of Luke’s parents decides to stay in town a little longer to delve into the deaths with Raco. I really enjoyed these two characters. I thought they were intelligent, insightful and well-written.  I especially found Aaron’s backstory compelling as we discover very early on that he has a long history with the town and with Luke Hadler.

Of the many things I loved about this book, the main mystery surrounding the deaths of the Hadlers was just one part. There was a second mystery which I won’t spoil for you but I will say the author did a fantastic job of incorporating both mysteries into the narrative without flipping perspectives or jumping back and forth between time periods. This was such a refreshing surprise to read a linear narrative structure that allowed you to stay present with the mysteries but still provided just the right amount of backstory at the perfect times in the story. In fact, about halfway through the book, I was enjoying it so much I headed to Goodreads to find out what else Jane Harper had written so I could see check with my library and request the books. Imagine my shock when I discovered this is her DEBUT! All I can say is WOW! I wish every debut was as strong and well-written as this one. That being said, the only critique I have and it’s a small one, is that I felt a slight disconnect with the ending and the resolution of the Hadler’s deaths. I won’t say more but when others read this I’d love to discuss! Hats off to Jane Harper for writing such a wonderful story to kick off 2017! One thing is for sure, I’ll be auto- buying whatever she writes next.

4.5/5 Stars

This book will be published January 10th, 2017 so hit your preorder buttons now or get on your library website and request this!

Many thanks to Netgalley, Flatiron Books, and Jane Harper for my advanced copy. I’m  happy to provide an honest review

MY TOP READS OF 2016

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This year I’ve read some truly outstanding books! For my top choices, I chose many of my 5 star reads with the exception of one 4 1/2 star read which I just had to include. Also, these are books I’ve read in 2016, and that were published this year or before. Since I just started blogging Oct 1 of this year, most of these reads are books I read before I started reviewing.

In no particular order…..

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…I don’t think Sharon Bolton can write a bad book! I loved the premise of a possible wrongly convicted killer, I loved the characters and as always with her books, I loved that I couldn’t figure out the puzzle! I can’t ask for more from a book. You can read my review here

 

 

 

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I may have been late to the Joe Goldberg party but all I can say is better late than never that I finally got around to reading/listening to this brilliant book! This is my absolute favorite audiobook of all time thanks to the perfect narration of Santino Fontana who made sociopath Joe come alive. I can’t begin to praise the writing of Caroline Kepnes enough as I was completely addicted to this book! You can read my review here 

 

 

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I had this book sitting on my kindle for over a year and believe me, I could’ve kicked myself after I read it for having let this gem sit unread for that long. This was my first Beatriz William’s book and I loved everything about it. The historical timeframe, the shifting perspectives, the coastal setting and the memorable characters all combined to make this unputdownable! You can read my review here

 

 

 

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You’ll notice this book on many best of lists and for good reason. I don’t read a lot of nonfiction but I was so intrigued by this topic and author. His story is heartbreaking yet inspiring. His writing is outstanding. I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

 

 

 

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The cover of this book does not do it justice! This is one of the most beautifully written stories I’ve read in years. There’s a little bit of everything in this book…mystery, drama, tragedy, resilience , hope…I could go on. This is a story that will haunt you. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out the mystery surrounding the disaster and how the many characters involved were connected. A must read. 

 

 

 

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This book might stand out a little on my list of top reads! However, I love a good romantic comedy/chick-lit every now and then but I haven’t rated many of them 5 stars. Except Bet Me. This was the perfect vacation beach read for me this summer. I loved the characters, they felt real and engaging. The dialogue in this book was fantastic…realistic, witty, sarcastic, laugh out loud funny…it had everything. Such a fun read!

 

 

 

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I loved the atmospheric setting, the dialogue, the web-like puzzle that was the mystery of this latest topnotch Tana French novel. You just know you’re in the hands of a master storyteller when you open one of her books. To top it off, her books can be read as standalones, so don’t feel you have to start at book one in the series! You can read my review here

 

 

 

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The title of this book had caused me to pass it by in the past, but I’m so glad I finally picked it up. This is a true book lover’s book. The story, the characters, the bookstore setting all drew me in and I read this charming, heartfelt novel in one sitting. I read this in March last year and I still think about the bittersweet ending. 

 

 

 

 

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Once I got past that cover (which is awful) this book became my obsession for 3 full days and nights last New Years. In my defense, it’s 720 pages! It’s the story of four male friends who’s friendship began in college and continued on several decades. I can honestly say I’ve never read a book so devastating and tragic, yet also filled with the healing power of love and friendship. This book gets the award for causing my longest book hangover, lasting 6 weeks! Get your box of tissues ready for this one.

 

 

 

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Another cover that doesn’t at all do this book justice! A novel about the impact of war, immigration, infidelity, family, and ultimately love and hope this book weaves seemingly unconnected storylines into a beautifully told story. You won’t be able to stop reading until you find out how they all connect and what becomes of one special little boy

 

 

 

 

So those are my top 5 star reads of the year but my top reads list wouldn’t be complete without adding one very worthy 4.5 Star read that had one of my very favorite characters I read all year and still think about…..

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This book was such a pleasant surprise as I had never heard of this author or title. The plot lived up to it’s blurb…everyone really did have secrets and the ending was a shocker! What put this on my top reads list was the outstanding character of Manny. If you’ve read this you know what I’m talking about and if not, you just have to read this for yourself to experience the memorable Manny:)

 

 

 

Each of these books were so fantastic because they all, in one way or another, made me FEEL something be it good, bad or sad! That’s ultimately what I look for when I pick up a book:) I would love to hear your thoughts if you’ve read any of these or would like to, so feel free to drop me a line. I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! I’m looking forward to everyone’s 2017 reads.

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REVIEW: SALT TO THE SEA By Ruta Sepetys & MERRY CHRISTMAS

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Winter, 1945. Four teenagers. Four secrets.

Each one born of a different homeland; each one hunted, and haunted, by tragedy, lies…and war.

As thousands of desperate refugees flock to the coast in the midst of a Soviet advance, four paths converge, vying for passage aboard the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that promises safety and freedom.

Yet not all promises can be kept.

Inspired by the single greatest tragedy in maritime history, bestselling and award-winning author Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray) lifts the veil on a shockingly little-known casualty of World War II. An illuminating and life-affirming tale of heart and hope.

******

This story is based on a maritime tragedy of epic proportions. While reading, I felt in awe of the fact that I had never heard of the Wilhelm Gustloff.  I’m not sure how that’s possible. What initially drew me to this book was the cover; that has to be one of the most  ‘indicative of the story’ covers I’ve come across! It’s haunting , yet intriguing at the same time because I wanted to find out what led to that picture.

I really don’t want to give anything away plot wise; you already know there’s a maritime tragedy involved so the beauty of this story is finding out what led to it and who are the characters involved that we are inevitably going to get attached to, worry about, and hope for their survival.

The story is told from four alternating viewpoints with very short chapters which led me to quickly keep turning the pages . There’s Joana, a fleeing Lithuanian who’s guilt over her past threatens to engulf her; Florian, a handsome wounded Prussian who’s carrying many secrets; Emilia, a young Polish girl who’s seen and experienced great tragedy but sadly feels the heaviness of shame and grief; and Alfred, a very odd German sailor who seems to live in an alternate reality most of the time. Somehow, their paths will collide and each will have to decide how much of their secrets they are willing to expose to the others. Along the way, we meet several other characters who will pull at your heartstrings…the wandering boy, the shoe poet and Eva were my favorite. I think the author’s writing shines with her ability to bring all these characters to life with their unique quirks, knowledge and personalities. They became real people who’s plights I felt and worried about; there was an underlying tension and dread I experienced while reading as I wondered if everyone I had grown to care about would live and if not who would die? That’s suspenseful reading don’t you think?

If you’ve already read and enjoyed The Book Thief and/or All the Light We Cannot See as I have, I think you’ll also enjoy this story. Not only did I find this to be a riveting, fast-paced page turner, it taught me about a little known tragedy in our history.

5/5 Stars

I want to thank everyone for taking the time to stop by and read my posts these last couple months, I so appreciate it and as this is my last post until after Christmas, I’d like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and if you don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays to you! I’ll be back next week with my first Blog Tour for Amy Poeppel’s Small Admissions as well as my top 10 (or so) reads of 2016!! 

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STANDALONE SUNDAY: THIS IS WHERE I LEAVE YOU By Jonathan Tropper

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Standalone Sunday is a fun feature created by Megan at Bookslayerreads where each Sunday you feature a standalone book (not part of a series) that you loved or would recommend. There’s so much focus on books that are part of a series… she thought it’d be nice to focus on some standalone novels, too!

Feel free to join in on this weekly feature by creating your own Standalone Sunday post! And be sure to check out Megan’s very creative blog and leave a link in her Standalone Sunday comments section so she can add your blog to the list

My Standalone Pick is:

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Published August 2009 by Orion

My Rating: 5 Stars

The death of Judd Foxman’s father marks the first time that the entire Foxman family—including Judd’s mother, brothers, and sister—have been together in years. Conspicuously absent: Judd’s wife, Jen, whose fourteen-month affair with Judd’s radio-shock-jock boss has recently become painfully public.

Simultaneously mourning the death of his father and the demise of his marriage, Judd joins the rest of the Foxmans as they reluctantly submit to their patriarch’s dying request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together. In the same house. Like a family.

As the week quickly spins out of control, longstanding grudges resurface, secrets are revealed, and old passions reawakened. For Judd, it’s a weeklong attempt to make sense of the mess his life has become while trying in vain not to get sucked into the regressive battles of his madly dysfunctional family. All of which would be hard enough without the bomb Jen dropped the day Judd’s father died: She’s pregnant.

This Is Where I Leave You is Jonathan Tropper’s most accomplished work to date, a riotously funny, emotionally raw novel about love, marriage, divorce, family, and the ties that bind—whether we like it or not.

******

This book gets the award for the only book I’ve ever read that made me laugh so hard I cried! There’s lots of hysterical movies out there that have made me laugh that hard but for a BOOK to do that, that’s some outstanding writing in my opinion. I’ve already re-read this book once and probably will again in the future when I need a good pick me up. In regards to the movie based on this book, while I loved Jason Bateman as Judd, I don’t think the movie came close to being as good as the book. Isn’t that usually the case though? If you’re in the mood to laugh but also be touched by this crazy family, give this book a try.

Has anyone else read this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts as well as any books you’ve all read that made you laugh 

REVIEW: THE RIVER AT NIGHT By Erica Ferencik

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From Goodreads

A high stakes drama set against the harsh beauty of the Maine wilderness, charting the journey of four friends as they fight to survive the aftermath of a white water rafting accident, The River at Night is a nonstop and unforgettable thriller by a stunning new voice in fiction.

Winifred Allen needs a vacation.

Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.

What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare

******

 First things first..that is the perfect cover and title for this pulse pounding, can’t put it down thriller.  I went into this read not knowing anything about this story except that it was an adventure thriller in which some friends decide to go white water rafting but things end up going very wrong. I didn’t read the Goodreads or Amazon blurbs and I urge you to do the same! I’ve only included about a third of the Goodreads blurb above just to give those of you who haven’t heard of this book an idea of what it’s about because, in my opinion ,the entire Goodread’s blurb gives away too much of the story. This book is a thriller! It’s about being surprised and not knowing what’s going to happen on the river or what lurks in the wilderness so you’re along for the ride with the ladies. And what a ride it will be.

Here’s a question to ask yourself…would you choose to go white water rafting in the remote Maine wilderness for  your girls-getaway-trip, tackling a river that most people don’t even have access to? My answer was a very loud no, never, not in a million years could you pay me to go white water rafting anywhere , let alone on a remote stretch of river that’s not open to the public.  And for this very reason, of being scared at just the thought of rafting down any river, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens to these four friends when they decide to brave the very adventure that sounds terrifying to me.

It all begins with the “leader”, Pia, talking her three good friends, Rachel, Sandra and Wini into going white water rafting for their annual girls trip. Apparently, Pia is into extreme living and she has, in the past, talked the ladies into other adventure type vacations. Wini,  however, isn’t super keen on this one as they are all nearing forty and she’d rather hit a beach and relax on a chaise with some cocktails. I have to say I totally agreed with that vacation choice. She was basically strong-armed into going on the rafting trip and reluctantly headed to REI to stock up. You see, none of them except perhaps Pia had any idea what was involved, what to buy, etc. They’d never been white water rafting before! They did all have some things in common in that they were each slightly damaged from events in their lives and were looking to escape even if it was just for 5 days and even if that meant driving 9 hours, camping, being wet, and braving a raging river.  And oh, by the way , NO cell signal for the whole 5 days. Can’t you just feel that something is bound to go wrong?

I thought the author did a wonderful job of setting the story up in the first few chapters. It is told from Wini’s perspective and we get important details about the struggles each of the friends have been dealing with in their own lives as well as a good indication of their friendship ties over the years. So, by the time they hit the river, I was very invested in each lady and I especially liked Rachel, Wini, and Sandra. I even liked Rory the guide. The characters became real which just points to brilliant writing. And I was extremely worried about them because you know what else became real…the river! I literally couldn’t turn the pages fast enough once the action began and for the rest of the book I’d catch myself holding my breath. With her breathtaking, detailed writing Erica Ferencik put me right in the river as well as smack in the middle of the woods at night with them. And there are bad things looming in both places you can count on that! And the twists…I literally gasped out loud at one of them and had to re-read the section to be sure that what I had just read was true.  Upon finishing this tension filled read my first thought was…now THAT’s how you write a thriller!!

5/5 Stars

**Releasing Jan 10, 2017

**Thanks to Simon & Schuster, Jellybooks, and Erica Ferencik for providing my copy of this highly enjoyable novel