contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Liar’s Child by Carla Buckley

3.5/5 stars

This is the first ARC that I wrote away for and received!! Thank you, Ballantine Books – Random House!!

The first book I read by Carla Buckley was The Good Good-bye and I loved it so much that I ordered her other three books and read them all too! She writes about families in peril, families with ill children, parents who take their eyes off the road for a second and tragedy strikes, major flu epidemics and how that effects families. As a mom, I relate to her characters and their issues.

This is a powerful story of how mental illness effects families, how sometimes it may look like someone is not doing their job, but they are doing the best with what they have, the best they can in their situation. It’s about a father’s love, that doesn’t necessarily look the way we think it should. And, ultimately, it’s about how far we will go to protect the people we love.

The Liar’s Child is about a family where the mother is mentally ill and in addition to her mental illness, she has a shopping addiction which leaves the family with little money. They live in a crappy apartment building and the kids are often left to their own devices. The 12 year old daughter, Cassie, gets into a lot of trouble and the 6 year old son, Boon, is emotionally distraught. The father does the best he can, but must work long hours to pay the families’ bills, much of which the mother spends on online shopping.

Sara Lennox is in the witness protection program and the government puts her in the apartment next door to Cassie and Boon. She observes their family and how the kids are left to their own devices. When a hurricane is heading toward the Outer Banks and the kids are left alone, Sara takes her with her as she tries to escape the island and more.

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Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

3/5 stars

My Review:

Molly and Liza have been friends for a long time.  After Liza moves away, things are strained between the two women.  While Molly’s husband is away on business, the two women agree to Facetime each other one evening after Molly puts her kids to bed.  When Molly leaves the room to check on one of her kids, Liza sees a man in a mask enter the room where Molly is and then her screen goes black.  Liza drives all night to get to her friend to help her, but Molly is cold and unappreciative when Liza gets there.

This book explores a friendship that was close at one time, but has changed over time.  It also explores a marriage that has some issues.  This book explores the things that go unsaid in a relationship and how that can be isolating and effect what was once a close relationship.  I thought it was good, but it got weird in some parts in a way that I didn’t find believable, which is why I am giving it 3 stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

Molly and Liza have always been close in a way that people envy. Even after Molly married Daniel, both considered Liza an honorary member of their family. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit—in the friendship and the marriage.

When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat over wine after the kids are in bed. But when Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child, a man in a mask enters, throwing Liza into a panic—then her screen goes black.

When Liza finally reaches Molly, her reply is icy and terse, insisting everything is fine. Liza is still convinced something is wrong, that her friend is in danger. But after an all-night drive to help her ends in a brutal confrontation, Liza is sure their friendship is over—completely unaware that she’s about to have a near miss of her own. And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either.

But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this.

Forget You Know Me exposes the wounds of people who’ve grown apart, against their will. Best friends, separated by miles. Spouses, hardened by neglect. A mother, isolated by pain. The man in the mask will change things for them all.

But who was he?

And will he be back?

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

4/5 stars

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We know from the description that Olivia falls and is brain dead and pregnant and her mom wants to know what happened the night she fell and if she was pushed.  I stayed up way past my bedtime to find out what happened that night!

This book is fast-paced, with hooks at the end of chapters to make you want to read the next chapter.  I don’t like thrillers where you feel that these things could never happen in real life, this book was not like that.  Everything in this book seemed plausible, like it really could happen.  I also really liked that there were so many different possibilities and what happened was not revealed until the end.

This was Christina McDonald’s first novel, but it really does not read like a first novel.  It reads as though the writer has a lot of experience knowing what works and what doesn’t and how to hook readers.

As the mom of two teen daughters, the thing I did not like about this novel was that the mom didn’t really know her daughter as well as she thought she did.  That made me look hard at my girls and my relationship with them and whether or not I know them well.  They have both just started college and that is a big adjustment with the possibility of new friends and new situations and I just hope they make good choices.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Gallery Books for my copy of this arc in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

Description

5 star reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

No Exit by Taylor Adams

5/5 stars

College sophomore, Darby Thorne, planned to spend Christmas alone at UC-Boulder until she got a call from her sister that their mother was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. She tried to beat a blizzard home, but wound up having to stop at a rest stop for the night because the roads were impassable. There were two young men and an older couple already at the rest stop. Darby was trying to get a cell signal in the parking lot to tell her family where she was and that she would not make it home that night, when she saw something in the back of a van in the parking lot. A van that must belong to one of the people in the rest stop.

This book was INTENSE. This book set the new bar for thrillers.

I had actually thought I needed a break from thrillers because they were getting predictable and not holding my interest. I had heard great things about this one and had a few days before my next buddy read began when the box from Baker & Taylor came in at work, so I quickly cataloged it and brought it home. And stayed up until 2:30am reading it!!

If you like thrillers that are intense with a lot of action and reliable, strong, female leads, then read No Exit.

4 star reviews, contemporary fiction, Women's Fiction

The Garden of Small Beginnings by Abbi Waxman

4/5 stars

I was almost done with this book and I thought: I am so grateful that Abbi Waxman has another book coming out in July (and I actually have that book in my Netgalley queue right now!!).

I absolutely love Abbi Waxman’s unique, quirky voice. She is witty and funny and sarcastic and with that she tackles difficult topics. She shows how we have to keep breathing and walking and moving forward and laughing even when life is hard and messy.

The Garden of Small Beginnings is the story of Lillian, whose husband died in a car accident in front of their house almost four years previous. She had an infant and a toddler at the time. She fell apart. She had to be hospitalized. Thank God for her sister who swept in and took care of everything. She and her sister are super close (as I was reading the book, I kept hoping that my girls will have a relationship like Lillian and her sister Rachel do when they are adults).

Lillian is an illustrator and even though the textbook publisher she works for is going under, she manages to land a job illustrating an encyclopedia of flowers and vegetables for a seed company. She agrees to take a gardening class taught by one of the seed company’s owners. She can bring her daughters and her sister wants to tag along, too. At the class they meet an assortment of people: a retired banker, a surfer, two retired teachers and a single mom from the projects. The teacher takes a liking a Lillian and she realizes that she is attracted to him as well, but she is not sure if she is ready to date yet. Together with their teacher, they form a bond, helping each other plant gardens at each of their homes, and being there for each other through big life events. It made me long to take a gardening class and hope I would become friends with all of the other participants.

If you have a sense of humor, you will like this book. If you are a mother, you will like this book. If you like books about messy life stuff, you will like this book. I really enjoyed it and I would not mind being friends with Abbi Waxman — I bet she is a blast to hang out with!!

4.5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

4.5/5 stars

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I heard so many good things about this book from book bloggers and on Bookstagram, that I decided to give it a shot and I am so glad I did because I LOVED it!!

Stella has high-functioning autism. She is super smart, from a wealthy family and makes a lot of money, but she doesn’t like people touching her and her mom would like her to get married and have babies. She realizes that she has to get over her aversion to being touched, so she hires a male escort.

Stella hires Michael Phan. Michael is an escort, he’s half Vietnamese and half Swedish, he works out a lot and has a dragon tattoo wrapped around his body. He’s hot and he knows what he is doing in the bedroom. He is also very kind and patient with Stella and he takes time to figure her out and really help her.

Michael’s dad abandoned their large Vietnamese family and Michael has a lot of issues because of it and a lot to work through. But he is such a great hero!

Here is why I LOVED this book:

Excellent, well developed characters

A great story

I learned A LOT about high-functioning autism. I have several friends that have autistic children and I have heard that when you know one autistic person, you know one autistic person; everyone is different, there is no way of saying that all autistic people are the same or have similar traits and characteristics. I loved learning about Stella and at times, I saw myself in her. I think we are all on the spectrum, some just more on the autism side than others.

Also, I LOVED The Author’s Note. I loved learning the story behind the book and why Helen Hoang wrote it. I loved learning more about Helen Hoang and how she she made herself vulnerable and got personal with her readers.

I can’t wait for The Bride Test, Helen Hoang’s new book out in May 2019!

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction

My Favorite Half-Night Night Stand by Christina Lauren

4/5 stars

After reading Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth, I wanted to read something light and fun and easy. This book was just the ticket!

Millie is a college professor and she has a group of male college professor friends, one of whom, Reid, she find attractive, but she won’t admit that even to herself. When a college event is announced, the group of friends decides they all need a “plus one” and they all join a dating website. At first, Millie gets all the creepy weirdos, then she makes another profile using her middle name and is matched with the friend she is attracted to, she tries to give him hints that it is her using her typical joking fashion, but as smart as these PhDs are, they are socially inept and it’s a funny, cute story.

There is quite a bit of sexual situations in this book, so it’s not for people who don’t like that kind of thing in their books. But if you are looking for a light, fun read…this is a great pick!

4 star reviews, 4.5 star reviews, 5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller, Women's Fiction

My Top Ten Books of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

I saw a lot of book bloggers and bookstagrammers doing this and I thought it would be fun. I learned a lot about what I like to read during the process. I like books that stretch me and challenge my views and make me think.

My favorite books this year:
🥂
The Wife by Alafair Burke– This was my first book by Alafair Burke and I look forward to reading more. This book kept me guessing and I never could have predicted that ending!
🥂
Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering – reminded me of what it was like to be in college and willing to do anything to be liked. I also had an eating disorder and was prone to self-destructive behavior at that time in my life.
🥂
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia – I fell in love with the outside-the-box thinkers and the rebel heroine and the Boundary Waters. I loved this story that kept me literally on the edge of me seat.
🥂
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – This book was like Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls – the factory in town is poisoning people, the main character is assigned to check it out and encounters all the popular people from high school who are still acting like its high school. There is also a sweet romance.
🥂
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala – this book blew my mind and made me rage and cry and understand life for a smart, successful African immigrant who is gay and from a conservative family. This book challenged me in all the best ways.
🥂
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin – the aftermath of a school shooting and how it effects one family. This felt real to me because we are not perfect in our life or our grief.
🥂
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy– this book reminded me of what it was like to be a new mother; it reminded me of the solid group of mom friends that I had when my girls were little. The ending was a surprise.
🥂
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jenny Worth – I LOVE this show and the book gets into more details about the people and what the East End of London was like in the 1950s. 🥂
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – this book showed me what racial profiling FEELS like.
🥂
How to Walk Away by Katharine Center– all the feels and inspiration. There is so much about the human experience in this book. She is left by her fiance when she is in the hospital after becoming paralyzed in an accident that was her fiance’s fault, her fiance’s mother-in-law needs some throat-punching, there is a whole thing with her sister and a lot of sexual tension with her physical therapist.

I had a REALLY hard time narrowing it down to just TEN BOOKS, here are a few more that I REALLY enjoyed:

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult – this book made me think, it made me see things from perspectives other than my own (as most of Jodi Picoult’s books do) and I love to understand different points of view and challenge my own.
🥂
One Day in December  by Jodi Silver – Love is all around us. I loved this book. It felt real to me. Just seeing someone on the bus and falling in love and having it be easy wouldn’t seem real, but the way this story unfolded felt real and beautiful and at times it ripped my heart out.
🥂
Winter in Paradise by Elin Hildebrand- after four glorious Christmases with the Quinn family, I didn’t think I could get as into a new family, but Irene is my mom-if-adult-kids role model, I love Huck and Ayres and I am Team Cash all the way. This book had me feeling all the feels and immersing myself in another family’s woes.
🥂
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – As a child of the 70s who grew up watching Mountain Family Robinson and Grizzly Adams, I’ve always had a part of me that wanted to live off-the-grid and this book gave me a taste of what that might be like. Along with a beautiful love story.
🥂
Watching You by Lisa Jewell – I know this has not been popular, but I loved it. I loved the characters and I found the ending unpredictable. 🥂
Did you read any of these? What did you think?

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

4/5 stars

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From the publisher:

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She’s the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.

My Review:

When Lori from GetRedPR emailed me about this book, I instantly knew that I wanted to read it.  First of all, I love David Bell’s writing.  Secondly, the premise of the story had me intrigued – was it the same woman?  Two different women?  Why do they look alike?  Why did she have Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket?
This book really kept me going.  There are a lot of twists and turns and things I did not see coming.
The story is told from Nick’s point of view and really lets the reader into the mind of this very normal, relatable, real-seeming, recently divorced man with a stepson.  Nick himself has had issues with the police with regard to the stepson.  Now that this woman he saw in the grocery store is dead, he becomes a suspect for the police.  Nick knows he did not kill her and feels a connection to her since she looks like his college girlfriend who he never got over and he wants to find out why she was looking for him.
David Bell’s writing is so simple and easy to read.  There is not a lot of fluff and it doesn’t get bogged down in long descriptions or explanations, the writing just flows and makes it easy to keep reading and stay up well past a reasonable hour to find out what the heck is going on and you will do that with this book!
5 star reviews, Christmas, contemporary fiction, romance, Women's Fiction

One Day in December by Josie Silver

5/5 stars

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I do not normally give romances or women’s fiction 5 stars, but this book deserves 5 stars. This book is EVERYTHING I have ever wanted a romance to be.

One Day in December 2008, Laurie is on the bus on her way home from a grueling day at a job that is not in the field she wants to be in, when she spots Jack through the bus window. He is sitting in a bus stop and he sees her as well. Their eyes meet and although neither believes in love at first sight, they feel something. Jack goes to get on the bus but he is too late and the bus takes off.

Laurie and her best friend and roommate spend the next year looking in bars and clubs for the man she saw through the bus window, but to no avail.

Sarah begins dating someone new and tells Laurie that he may be “the one”. She goes on and on about how wonderful he is and how she wants he and Laurie to be best friends.

When Laurie meets him…she knows instantly… it is the man she saw from the bus window.

Over the next ten years, Sarah, Jack and Laurie are caught in a love triangle that ripped my heart out at times. I was expecting a sweet little romance and this was not that…this was powerful and gripping and beautiful and it felt real. I felt like this could happen and if it did, it would happen like this because nothing is perfect.

This book had every aspect of my favorite romances: undeniable chemistry, loyalty to friends and family, reunion. This book was everything I have ever wanted a romance to be!

This book is recommended to anyone who loves the movie “Love Actually” which may well be my favorite Christmas movie, so it is not surprising that I adored this book and didn’t want it to end!!