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Adult Fiction

Surprise Me

Surprise Meby Sophie Kinsella

Hardcover, 432 pages
Published February 13th 2018 by Dial Press
4 Stars

 

My Review: I have read all of Sophie Kinsella’s books. I enjoy a light, fun chick-lit book and was expecting the same. It started out that way, but took a bit of a serious turn in the middle. This is a standalone book about Sylvie and Dan Winter. They are thirty-two and have to go for a physical for their health insurance. When they are told they will live to be over 100, they realize that means at least 68 more years together. This is a bit nerve wracking for them. How will they keep things interesting for that long. This is when Sylvie comes up with a great idea, Project Surprise Me. They both start planning surprises for one another and in typical Kinsella fashion, things go wrong. Sometimes it is humorous, sometimes embarrassing, but always surprising. That is, until things start to go wrong and Sylvie realizes Dan is keeping secrets that appear to be stressing him out. When she begins to snoop and eavesdrop, she comes to the conclusion that she does not know Dan as well as she thought. Is he having an affair? Is he gambling? Are they in debt? Is he borrowing money from her mother? What is the secret that seems to be pulling them apart.

Sylvie tells this story in first person so we never get to see what Dan is thinking or doing. As the story progresses, we see “Princess Sylvie” become responsible in her job and family life. She sees a side to Dan and her parents that she did not know was there. This was not the light and airy story I was expecting, but it was a satisfying read. If you are a Sophie Kinsella reader, you will see the somewhat scattered ditzy female you are used to, and in this case, she really grows and gets it right at the end. A good novel for a lover of chick-lit. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.

Continue reading “Surprise Me”

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The Weekenders

The Weekendersby Mary Kay Andrews

Hardcover, 464 pages
Published May 17th 2016 by St. Martin’s Press
3.5 Stars

 

My Review: I am not sure how to classify this book. I guess it is chick-lit, but it is also family drama as well as a murder mystery. Riley Griggs has her life turned upside down. In the past year her daughter was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes and she and her husband are getting a divorce. She has sold her house as she knows finances are tough, but she has no idea. When she and her daughter Maggy arrive at the Summer Home, it is locked up tight with a foreclosure notice on the door. That is just the tip of the iceburg. When her husband, Wendell, does not show up on Belle Isle as promised, she assumes he is ducking his responsibilities once again. When he does not answer Maggy’s calls or texts, they grow a bit concerned. When Wendell’s body is found in the marina and it is determined that he was murdered, the story gets interesting. Who killed him and why? What does Riley’s family have to do with everything? Who else was involved in the bad investments? Was Wendell having an affair?

We meet Riley’s family, her mother Evelyn, her Aunt Roo, and her brother Billy. Billy is married to Scott and has always been a bit of an outsider. He is a musician and an alcoholic. The family is basically living off trust funds that were left by Riley’s father and grandfather. When she finds out that she is broke, she is not sure what to do. Maggy is a bit much even with what she is going through. She says some terrible things to her mother that should not have been tolerated, I don’t care if her father just died. Thankfully, she changes by the end of the story. Billy is a typical alcoholic some of the time. He knows it, but doesn’t seem to have the willpower to end it. He is usually pretty good around his niece, but as the story progresses, he seems to not care anymore. He also has a huge secret. Nate Milas, an old friend of Riley’s seems to be a saint. He is patient and understanding and puts up with a lot of crap from Riley and Maggy. I don’t know how he does it, but seems to win the family over, even though he did not come from “old money”. This was one of the most dysfunctional families I have read about in a long time. I was glad to see the bright spots in their relationships. Riley’s friend Parrish is the bright light. She did not want to get involved in Riley’s schemes, but usually was convinced. She stuck by her side like a loyal friend should and pulled her butt out of the fire a few times.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. The beginning was a bit slow for me, but once I got into it, I flew through it, if only to find out who actually killed Wendell and why. If you enjoy family drama geared to women, this is a book for you.

Continue reading “The Weekenders”

Try Not to Breathe

Try Not to Breatheby Holly Seddon

Hardcover, 368 pages
Published February 23rd 2016 by Ballantine Books
4.5 Stars

My Review: This was a good psychological suspense novel that drew me in from the start. The story is narrated by Amy, Alex and Jake. Amy and Jake were boyfriend and girlfriend in highschool. Amy was assaulted and left for dead at the age of 15. It is 15 years later and she is in a coma living in a long-term care facility. A doctor has been studying brain waves when questions are asked and is positive that some of the patients labelled as “vegetables” are actually aware and trying to communicate. Welcome Alex Dale, a freelance reporter who interviews the doctor for an article she is writing. When she sees Amy, she remembers the event and connects to it. She is from the same town where Amy lived and was around the same age. She shifts her story somewhat to investigate what happened to Amy. Jake is now married and he and Fiona are expecting their first child. He still feels a closeness to Amy and visits with her often, unfortunately, he keeps this secret from Fiona which causes a rift in his marriage. Alex, is divorced, an alcoholic and basically unemployed. She sees this as the opportunity to redeem herself.

Amy’s chapters are told as either flashbacks or what she hears around her. The internal dialogue of a patient in a coma was heartbreaking. I found the confusion and internal dialogue of someone trapped but still able to hear what is going on around her quite interesting. Of course this is a novel, so we are not absolutely sure, but it felt like I was inside her head with her. Alex was an interesting combination of character traits. You could see the drive she probably had as an up and coming reporter, using any source she could track down, but her fight with alcoholism and her depression when thinking about her marriage that she destroyed show her weaknesses. Jake was another mixture. He seemed to love Fiona and was excited about having a child, but he could not stop going to see Amy and talking to her. It was almost like he felt guilty for what happened to her 15 years earlier. I had no problem following this story with the three narrators and the shifting time frames, in fact that made it quite interesting. I rushed through the book once I got about half way through it. If you enjoy a psychological thriller, I don’t think you will be disappointed with this book.

Continue reading “Try Not to Breathe”

Look For Me (Detective D.D. Warren #9)

Look For Me (Detective D.D. Warren, #9)by Lisa Gardner

Hardcover, 400 pages
Expected publication: February 6th 2018 by Dutton
4 Stars

My Review: Although this is the ninth book in the D.D. Warren series, she almost takes a backseat in this book to Flora Dane, the survivor from previous stories. The story begins with a family annihilation of mother, father, and two siblings. One family member, 16 year old Roxanna is missing as well as the two dogs. D.D. gets the call, all hands on deck and has to leave her husband and son to pick out the family dog at the rescue centre. The whole story takes place within a couple of days, but there is a lot of background given during the story which makes it seem to be a lot longer. Roxy, her sister Lola and brother Manny were taken away from their mother five years earlier and went into foster care. The flashbacks from Roxy and Lola’s points of view were bad. They were placed in a foster home with older children who bullied them terribly. As the story progresses, we learn about their time at Mother Del’s. Even when their mother got them back, their time in foster care left scars that would impact their later life.

The foster care system was examined and left wanting in most situations. Although Manny lived in a nice loving home, the homes with several children living together were often worse than the home the children had been taken from, at least in this story. With not enough funding and not enough foster parents, the program set up to protect children did not always succeed in doing just that. The workers themselves, are often overworked and do not have the time to oversee everything the way they should. The series of reports written by Roxy about The Perfect Family, also give us insight into her thoughts and what happened to the family. It also gave D.D. and Flora clues to find her. The characters, even though often talked about in flashbacks, were well written and came alive to me in the story. The feelings of the children in the foster home were often sad to read about. The pacing in this story was good. I found myself having a hard time putting this book down. The ending was sad, but there was not much else the author could do with this character. I did not know who had done the killing. I thought I knew, but of course was wrong. This was another good addition to the series by Lisa Gardner. Even though the drama and turmoil of Roxy told more of the story than the actual mystery itself, I still very much enjoyed this book. I recommend it to lovers of suspense stories with some human drama involved. If you like Lisa Gardner books, you should enjoy this one. The publisher generously provided me with an ARC via Edelweiss.

Continue reading “Look For Me (Detective D.D. Warren #9)”

The Fifth Letter

The Fifth Letterby Nicola Moriarty

Hardcover, 288 pages
Published January 24th 2017 by William Morrow
4 Stars

My Review: Joni, Deb, Trina & Eden have all been friends since the first day of high school. Joni brought the group together when the teacher made a comment about them all being born under the same sign. Joni actively sought each girl out and their group began. While growing up they were pretty much inseparable and shared everything as well as helping each other deal with things. In the book which is narrated by Joni, they are 30 and she is worried about them drifting apart. She has planned a girl’s weekend in a beach house. Because they have not shared their lives as much, with marriage and children happening, Joni suggests they each write a letter, not signed, sharing a secret. They will read the letters and offer solutions to the anonymous writer. This, Joni hopes, will rekindle the closeness they once felt. The letter sharing doesn’t go according to plan and when Joni finds a fifth letter that one of them wrote and tried to destroy, she embarks on a journey to determine who wrote the letter and would the person who wrote it follow through on what they put in it.

I enjoyed this book. The story flowed well and I rushed through it once I got about half way. It did start a bit slow, but got better as it went on. The story is told though flash backs and stories from their youth as well as what is going on in the present. The flashbacks help the reader to understand the friendship and personalities of the women. Of course, does anyone really know everyone’s secrets? I really wanted these women to work everything out as their friendship seemed so important to who they were, but as Joni says in the book, “Maybe you’re not suppose to stay friends with people from high school for so long after school. Maybe it just doesn’t work.” There were times that I really liked each character, and times where I didn’t. Joni seemed to be rather bullying and bossy at times, then you could see that this was a role foisted upon her by the others. Parts of this book were humorous, parts serious, and parts sad, which is exactly how life works. Throughout the story, I was constantly trying to figure out, who wrote that fifth letter. I recommend this book to anyone who likes women’s fiction, human drama with a bit of mystery to it.

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Free Spirits: The Story of Jack Ruffin and the Underground Railroad

Free Spirits: The Story of Jack Ruffin and the Underground Railroadby Grant Simpson

Kindle Edition, 308 pages
Published June 25th 2017 by Vicksburg Press
4 Stars

My Review: This is a great story about the Underground Railroad. Over the years I have read many books dealing with this subject, some very vividly descriptive of the horror and others geared for a much younger audience. This book would be a good one for anyone over the age of 15 or 16. The characters working for the Underground Railroad vary from escaped slaves and freemen, to doctors, teachers, lawyers and simple farmers. The idea that even if the slaves were treated well, they were still prisoners emanates from this story. Of course the risks that both the slaves and those helping them escape took were immense and it could cost them both their lives. The fact that the females were okay to have relations with, but the children resulting from this were not only their offspring but still their property to sell or do what they wanted with. The main character of Jack Ruffin was an interesting character and of course this could actually have happened. He was actually 1/8 negro so could pass easily for white, especially with his adoptive parents being white and very respected in the community. He wasn’t as strong physically as some of those he rescued, but he certainly was determined and loyal to the cause. Tracker, a freed black man was also integral to the story as well as Grace. You will see some famous names in this story as they also believed in the Underground Railroad. Overall, a very good story with a lot of details that were well researched. This would make a wonderful book to be read in a junior high classroom studying this period in time. A book that everyone should read to learn about this terrible time in history. I received a copy of this book via Netgalley to read. The comments are my own honest review.

Continue reading “Free Spirits: The Story of Jack Ruffin and the Underground Railroad”

The Woolly Hat Knitting Club

The Woolly Hat Knitting Clubby Poppy Dolan

Published September 25th 2017 by Canelo
Kindle Edition, 264 pages
4 Stars

 

My Review: I saw the title of this book and wanted to read it. I am not a knitter, but my mother and grandmother were and several friends are as well. The story started very promising and engaging. When Dee gets a text message from her brother JP saying “come” she panics, leaves the meeting she is presenting at and heads home, not knowing what to expect. She finds her brother with two broken wrists and in casts that pretty much prevent him from doing anything related to his job of running the haberdashery (knitting store). Shortly after this, she very suddenly gets fired from her beloved job and heads home to help JP. At this point, the story slowed down and I kept waiting for it to pick up. Well it did and I am glad I kept reading. The story is really about Dee and how she remakes herself after this disaster. She never gives less than 100% in anything she does and that included helping with the store. JP is not only a knitter and store owner, but he runs a blog and does vlogs. She also runs into Becky, her BFF from school, who has just delivered a preemie and they rekindle their friendship. This is the second theme in this book where JP jumps on the idea of kitting hats for preemies and a fundraiser begins. When Ben, a co-worker searches out Dee, she finds out that her suspicions that he sabotaged her are unfounded. He jumps in to help with the fundraiser and the vlogs.

I really loved the characters in this story. From Dee, JP and Ben to the minor characters and others in the town, they are all honest, real and easy to like. There is a major plot twist that involves Dee and her friends that seals the story. I loved how Dee is able to drop everything to take care of her brother and make sure he is going to be okay in the future. I also love that she realizes that she needs to back off some times and let others follow their own path. There are a few budding romances and the added storylines about preemies and the value of keeping those friendships real and close make this a wonderful story. It was light-hearted and various parts were pretty funny. I recommend this book to lovers of chick-lit, whether you knit or not. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley. Continue reading “The Woolly Hat Knitting Club”

Hellbent (Orphan X #3)

Hellbent (Orphan X, #3)by Gregg Hurwitz

Hardcover, 416 pages
Expected publication: January 30th 2018 by Minotaur Books
4 Stars

My Review: Evan Smoak has gone through many transitions in his life. He was an orphan in a boys’ home, he was taken from there at the age of 12 and trained to become a government assassin known as Orphan X. When he left the program, he became, The Nowhere Man, helping people who have nowhere else to turn. But now Smoak is out for revenge. When the last book ended, Evan gets a call from his mentor, Jack Johns, who he thought was dead. He was very much alive, but before the call ended, he was captured and ended up dead. The man responsible was Charles Van Sciver or Orphan Y. It is all a plot to get Evan and kill Orphan X once and for all.

The same characters once again make an appearance, Mia and her son Peter, the locals in the apartment building, Tommy his go to guy for firearms and equipment as well as the addition of Joey, a sixteen year old girl who ran away from Van Scriver when he was training her to become an orphan operative. She is now on his radar and Evan has to protect her as well. The story grabbed me right from the beginning. The suspense and excitement keeps building throughout the story until you know Van Sciver and Evan Smoak will meet face to face. The story’s plot is detailed and the characters are extremely interesting. I thought this was the end of the trilogy, but the ending leaves it open for another possible book in the series. Only time will tell. Once again there is a lot of violence in the story, so if that bothers you, then this book is not for you. The addition of Joey to this story makes it a little softer and we get to see another side of Evan. I recommend it to thriller/action/suspense lovers. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley. Continue reading “Hellbent (Orphan X #3)”

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane

The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Laneby Lisa See

Hardcover, 371 pages
Published March 21st 2017 by Scribner
4.5 Stars

 

My Review: Lisa See centers her story around Li-yan, an extremely bright young girl from the Akha minority in China. The Akha people of the remote mountainous tea regions live in almost pure isolation. At the very center of their existence is a deep-seated respect for family and tradition, including ancient customs passed on to each generation and rituals performed by the Nima and Ruma. The very thought of becoming an outcast because of disrespecting those customs is unspeakable, however it is done by some. Li-Yan is a very intelligent girl and is given the opportunity to receive an education beyond normal. Unfortunately for her, she not only gets drawn into a tea making enterprise, but she becomes pregnant and the boy is nowhere to be found. Instead of following the customs, she abandons her child at an orphanage and returns to her village to assist in the tea picking and fermenting of tea. Circumstances arise for Li-Yan to make a better life for herself and her family back in the village and she proceeds. Unfortunately, when she tries to claim her daughter from the orphanage, she finds out that she has been adopted and is now in the United States.

Lisa See presents a storyline that focuses on families, customs, and unfortunately money. When Li-yan wraps an ancient tea cake among her baby’s clothes before abandoning her, she is passing on the very tea that provided work, tradition, respect, and the family ties that bind. As I read this story I experienced happiness and profound sadness. The discussions that the adopted Chinese girls in the US have are quite eye opening. What Li-Yan goes through in her life is so hard to picture, yet easy to believe. There were parts of the story that were a bit slow moving, which is why I only gave it 4 Stars (actually 4.5), but it is an incredible story about a culture that I knew nothing about. I also learned a lot about tea. I drink tea, but never really thought about it. Some people might find some of the facts and the history a bit tedious, but you can easily skim that part and the story still moves nicely. I love her writing, it is almost poetic. I could quote many sections that moved me, but I will leave that to the next reader. Continue reading “The Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane”

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