Reviews

Book Review: When We Were Worthy

When We Were Worthy,

by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Publication: Lake Union Publishing; September 12, 2017

worthyAbout the book: 

A win brought them together, but loss may tear them apart.

When the sound of sirens cuts through a cool fall night, the small town of Worthy, Georgia, hurdles from triumph to tragedy. Just hours before, they’d watched the Wildcats score a winning touchdown. Now, they’re faced with the deaths of three cheerleaders—their promising lives cut short in a fatal crash. And the boy in the other car—the only one to survive—is believed to be at fault. As rumors begin to fly and accusations spin, allegiances form and long-kept secrets emerge.

At the center of the whirlwind are four women, each grappling with loss, regret, shame, and lies: Marglyn, a grieving mother; Darcy, whose son had been behind the wheel; Ava, a substitute teacher with a scandalous secret; and Leah, a cheerleader who should have been in the car with her friends, but wasn’t. If the truth comes out, will it bring redemption—or will it be their downfall?

My Review:

Who, What, When, etc.

When We Were Worthy is the upcoming novel from author Marybeth Mayhew Whalen, and it is a page-turner. In a tiny town named Worthy, it’s Friday night and time for high school football. After the win and when it’s time for the after-parties, three of the star cheerleaders – Brynne, Keary, and Mary Claire – are killed in a car accident. Another student, Graham, was driving the other car involved and is in the hospital. Surprisingly, the girls’ other best friend, Leah, was not with them.

Several other characters are involved but the novel is told from the points of view of the three cheerleaders in the accident, Mary Claire’s mother, Marglyn, Graham’s mother Darcy, Ava, a substitute teacher, and Leah, the friend left behind. 

As the town begins to mourn and try to move forward after this tragedy, secrets begin to reveal themselves involving guilt, lies, betrayals, and unimaginable crimes. 

Thoughts & Reactions

Warning to parents of teenagers – this novel is a nightmare! This town and the families went through complete hell with the loss of the three girls, Graham’s injuries and accusations regarding the accident, plus all of the other drama and anger being tossed around. The novel is tricky because it starts out intriguing, then slows a bit, then the drama and suspense increase until the end. I did find myself somewhat bored in the middle, but by the end, I realized the reasoning behind a lot of the details and everything tied together. 

Initially, I struggled with so many different points of view, but again, this ended up feeling right in the end despite all of the different stories going on at once. Marglyn, Mary Claire’s mother, was feeling guilty over missing her daughter’s game, in addition to, frequent mother-daughter spats they had been having – both due to Marglyn helping a young girl named Ginny. Darcy was not only concerned about her son Graham healing from the accident and the backlash of supposedly “causing the accident,” but was also still healing from her husband leaving her for another woman. Ava was a mysterious character and a substitute at the high school since moving back to Worthy so her husband Clay could run his parents’ restaurant. Then there was Leah that was basically just a walking secret and had an odd relationship with her mother and her friend/boyfriend Talmedge. 

If this novel sounds somewhat “busy” it is, but all of the varying subplots made this an incredible and suspenseful read. The author slowly revealed secrets and details making this a novel that I couldn’t wait to finish so that I could know what exactly happened and why. This is by no means a feel-good novel, but one of drama and suspense that eventually embodies justice and peace. If you are a fan of thrillers that slowly unravel secrets, then this should be the next novel on your TBR. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest review!

Pre-Order When We Were Worthy on Amazon.

Learn more about Marybeth Mayhew Whalen.

 

Reviews

Book Review: The Art of Hiding

The Art of Hiding, by Amanda Prowse

Publication: Lake Union Publishing; July 18, 2017

art of hidingAbout the book: 

What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the run-down Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

My Review:

Who, What, When, Etc. 

Nina is a wealthy wife living in her beautiful home with her husband Finn and her two sons, Connor and Declan. She has always kept to herself and shied away from socializing with the other parents at her sons’ upscale school, preferring to take her sons to school each day, take care of their home, do the grocery shopping, pick the boys up, and cool dinner. 

One day when Nina is at Connor’s rugby game, she gets a call from the hospital informing her that her husband has been in an accident. After Finn’s death, Nina learns from their accountant and attorney that they have nothing. No home, car, or money.

Nina packs up her boys and the few belongings they have left and returns to a less than ideal flat in her old neighborhood. From there, Nina struggles to help her boys acclimate to their new school and new life, as well as, rediscover herself as an adult woman apart from her husband. 

Thoughts and Reactions

Over the years I’ve heard countless divorcees say they never handled the finances in their homes and were shocked after the divorce about various financial issues. Imagine losing your husband and then discovering that you are about to lose every material possession that you own. Whether we want to face it or not, this is a very realistic possibility for any number of us that aren’t in charge or involved in the financial affairs in our relationships, therefore, note to self and to everyone – get informed!

This story poses several issues about the overwhelming guilt and weight of debt, as well as, the absurdity of a spouse thinking they are being protective when they keep these issues from their loved ones. More importantly, this novel is about survival, growth, and reinventing one’s idea of happiness. 

Nina struggled with such burdens helping her sons through their father’s death, then the loss of everything, then adjusting to a new town, new school, and new peers. All the while she was struggling on her own trying to find a job and her only support system being her older sister that, until Finn’s death, they had not been very close. 

Nina’s strength and determination were incredible throughout this novel and I love that the author did not feel the need to include a love interest, but rather focus on Nina’s own personal growth. But the most outstanding and compelling character was her teenage son, Connor. His character was so wonderfully developed as he went from being angry to sad to helpful to caring. As time passed, his insight into his father’s death and their situation was so moving and so impressive, that he absolutely stole the show in this novel. 

Let me say that this novel leaves you with a wonderful and optimistic feeling about life, but only after taking you down to the lows of losing everything and having to put everything back together all alone. The Art of Hiding is intelligent, relatable, emotional, and inspiring. It was such a pleasure to read and review this book by an author that I already admired. There is no unnecessary drama or exaggeration in this novel, but it is real life with real people that will shake you to your core, but eventually, inspire you. 

*Many thanks to NetGalley for providing this novel in exchange for my honest review!

Purchase The Art of Hiding on Amazon!

Learn more about Amanda Prowse.

 

Reviews

Book Review: To Say Goodbye

To Say Goodbye, by Lindsay Detwiler

Publication: Hot Tree Publishing; September 24, 2016

to say goodbyeAbout the book: 

Feisty Sophia never shies away from life. Playful, romantic, connected—her marriage was the thing of fairy tales. But when tragedy strikes, Sophia is left to pick up the pieces of her life.

After leaving the army, Jackson is ready to start afresh. But when he returns home, his life spirals out of control.As Sophia and Jackson find themselves in each other, they start to see redemption is possible. 

Trying to piece together a new life, they must answer the question: Should they forge a life together and say goodbye to their pasts completely, or should they loyally go their separate ways to avoid heartache?

My Review:

I came across To Say Goodbye on NetGalley a few weeks ago and for some reason, this one just called to me. This was my first time reading Lindsay Detwiler and it was an amazing love story.

Sophia is a beautiful, vibrant woman that has experienced the tremendous loss of her husband Tim. She has a wonderful family and is part-owner of a salon with her best friend Stella. Jackson has returned from the Army and experiencing his own difficult losses in addition to losing Tim who was his best friend when they were growing up.

Sophia and Jackson’s losses are similar and different at the same time, however, they instantly seem to be drawn to and relate to each other because of their grief. As Jackson and Sophia get to know one another, the reader learns more and more about Sophia and Tim’s past, Jackson and Tim’s past, as well as, Jackson and his ex’s past. The characters are so well-developed and relatable, and the author’s descriptions make it easy to picture the characters and settings in your mind while you read. 

The main theme of this novel is grieving and overcoming loss, however, it strongly depicts moving on and being open to happiness again after tragedy. Grief looks different to everyone and feels different to everyone. There is no set time table for grieving, but it is important to continue living and finding joy where possible. This was so incredibly sad at times, yet so moving and uplifting also. The love, care, and respect portrayed in To Say Goodbye was incredible, as were all of the various characters. It was a raw and honest fast-paced story that I could not put down. To Say Goodbye is an exceptional piece of women’s fiction that everyone should read. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase To Say Goodbye on Amazon!

Learn more about Lindsay Detwiler by visiting her web page!

Reviews

Review: Everything We Left Behind

Everything We Left Behind, by Kerry Lonsdale

Publication: Lake Union Publishing; July 4, 2017

everything we left behindAbout the book:

Two months before his wedding, financial executive James Donato chased his trade-laundering brother Phil to Mexico, only to be lost at sea and presumed dead. Six and a half years later, he emerges from a dissociative fugue state to find he’s been living in Oaxaca as artist Carlos Dominguez, widower, and father of two sons, with his sister-in-law Natalya Hayes, a retired professional surfer, helping to keep his life afloat. But his fiancée, Aimee Tierney, the love of his life, has moved on. She’s married and has a child of her own.

Devastated, James and his sons return to California. But Phil is scheduled for release from prison, and he’s determined to find James, who witnessed something in Mexico that could land Phil back in confinement. Under mounting family pressure, James flees with his sons to Kauai, seeking refuge with Natalya. As James begins to unravel the mystery of his fractured identity, danger is never far behind, and Natalya may be the only person he can trust.

My Review:

Those of you that caught my review the other day of Everything We Keep, probably noticed that I wasn’t crazy about it. Yes, reviews have been mixed, but I think the majority of readers loved. I did not. However, I had already received the ARC of Everything We Left Behind and was curious…

Everything We Left Behind did not hold the suspense and twists that were a part of Everything We Keep, but I found that I enjoyed the follow-up much better than the first book. 

At the end of the first book, James was emerging from his fugue state (as Carlos), wondering what in the world had happened and where he was. With no memories of his six years living as Carlos, James doesn’t recognize his children or Natalya, and he still considers Aimee the love of his life. Everything We Left Behind flashes back and forth between Carlos and James, and although there isn’t as much suspense, there is much deeper characterization. The author provides a closer look into James/Carlos, as well as, his children, Thomas, Claire, and Natalya. I must say that I felt that Ian was portrayed in a mostly negative light in this book, but I’ve also tried to remind myself that he is defensive over Aimee and the life they have built together. 

Again, trying to avoid spoilers, Phil is presented in a more positive way in this book, based on his apparent efforts to save James from the trauma that prompted the fugue in the first place, however, I still don’t trust him. After losing myself in this second novel, I’m excited about the third novel due out next year and insanely curious as to where Kerry Lonsdale will take this story next. If you loved book 1, then you will love book 2. If you are like me and just didn’t understand all of the hoopla over book 1, give book 2 a shot. It is much more grounded and more of a study of human personalities than the the first one. 

*Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Learn more about Kerry Lonsdale by visiting her web page!

Pre-Order Everything We left Behind on Amazon!

Reviews

Book Review: Twenty-One Trees

TWENTY-ONE TREES, BY LINDA COUSINE

PUBLICATION: MAY 19, 2016

21 treesAbout the book: 

Sometimes, secrets are the ties that bind two people together for life—especially the painful ones. Savannah May Holladay and her best friend from childhood, James “Birdy” Johnson, harbor many dark secrets.

Birdy also has an undying love for Savannah that spans over two decades. Unfortunately for him, Savannah is a wealthy debutante engaged to the town’s most eligible bachelor—and Birdy is a truck driver.

But after a nasty incident, Savannah wakes up in a hospital bed and can’t remember one thing about the past seven years—not her marriage to Birdy instead of her boyfriend, and especially not the birth of their four children. In what feels like an instant, she’s lost her perfect life and become an impoverished housewife.

Savannah must struggle through her memory loss to recover some kind of love for her husband and children. Will Birdy’s unwavering devotion be enough to carry her through and bring back her lost years? Or could Birdy’s own secrets make matters even worse?

Wealth, poverty, love, loss, and amnesia create a challenging road for Savannah May Holladay. Find out how she traverses these obstacles and unearths the hidden bonds with her childhood friend in Twenty-One Trees.

My Review:

Twenty-One Trees is a sweet but, at times, very sad story by Linda Cousine about Savannah and Birdy. Savannah wakes up in a hospital with disassociative amnesia after falling from a ladder, unable to remember the last seven years – including marrying her best friend Birdy or the birth of their four children. Savannah thinks that she is still twenty-years-old, living with her wealthy family, dating Bobby Lee, and the recent winner of a pageant. After Birdy brings Savannah home, things quickly begin to unravel, but Savannah fights to put everything back together again. 

The unique and interesting theme in this novel was not only that Savannah didn’t remember her life with Birdy and their children, but she slowly realizes that it wasn’t a happy marriage. Instead, Savannah was plagued by depression and the reasons that she and Birdy married in the first place. Savannah impressed me in how quickly she grew fond of tried to care for her children despite having no memory of who they were. Unfortunately, she was unable to come to terms with the life her and Birdy lived. The plain house, the old beat-up truck, old and often homemade clothing. Savannah was stuck in her twenty-year-old mind and wanted that lifestyle back. 

I truly felt sorry for Birdy who was busting his butt trying to keep his family together and take care of his children, until some secrets of his own came out. I was frustrated with the secrets but also frustrated with his unwillingness to live a better lifestyle – thanks to Savannah’s trust fund. His association of money with pain drove a huge wedge between them, just as Savannah’s unwillingness to let the money go also drove a wedge between them. Luckily since Savannah still considered Birdy her best friend from childhood, she managed to keep the lines of communication open between them being direct and honest. 

Twenty-One Trees was really a fantastic novel and once you realize the significance of the title, I promise that your heart will melt. Although there are numerous tissue-worthy moments, this novel left me with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Birdy and Savannah renewed my faith in love and commitment between two people and their’s is a story I won’t soon forget!

Purchase Twenty-One Trees on Amazon!

Learn more about Linda Cousine by visiting her web page.

 

Reviews

Book Review: Windfall

WINDFALL, BY JENNIFER E. SMITH

PUBLICATION: DELACORTE PRESS MAY 2, 2017

windfallAbout the book: Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined . . . and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect. 

My Review:

So I decided to review a YA novel by an author that I’ve never read, and I must say I enjoyed it quite a bit. Alice, Teddy, and Leo have been best friends for nine years since Alice’s parents died and she went to live with her aunt, uncle, and cousin Leo. On the night of Teddy’s 18th birthday party, Alice decides – on a whim – to buy Teddy a Powerball ticket. The next day they realize that Teddy, along with two other people, has one over $140 million. Everything quickly changes for these high school seniors after Teddy becomes a multimillionaire. 

My overall impression as previously stated is that I really enjoyed this novel. It’s very long at over 400 pages but I knocked it out in a few hours, eager to find out what would happen. There were multiple subplots regarding Teddy and his mostly-absent, gambling father, Alice and her grief over losing her parents at such a young age, and Leo and his struggles with choosing a college because of his boyfriend and his true dreams for education and a career. 

As much as I found this a pleasant read, I wasn’t blown away by any of the characters or the storyline. Perhaps because I’m over 40 and this is a YA novel??  I found each character unique and interesting in their own ways but didn’t feel as if any one character was well-developed enough to make me really love them. Teddy’s behavior after winning the lottery was also not surprising, but I liked seeing the changes he made by the end of the novel. I guess my point is, I felt as if Alice could have been developed into an absolutely incredible character, but so much of her time was spent thing about or stressing about Teddy’s new-found wealth and attitude, that the spotlight wasn’t on her as much as it could have been. I feel as if I got to know her aunt and uncle better than her or Teddy. Again, could be my age, lol??? 

I think there are several lessons that YA readers can learn from this novel regarding friendship, losses, and gains, although this just wasn’t my favorite read of the year. 

*Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Purchase Windfall on Amazon! 

Learn more about Jennifer E. Smith by visiting her web page!

 

 

Reviews

Book Review: June

JUNE: A NOVEL,

BY MIRANDA BEVERLY-WHITTEMORE

PUBLICATION: BROADWAY BOOKS (REPRINT) FEBRUARY 14, 2017

juneAbout this book: 

Cassie Danvers is holed up in her family’s crumbling mansion in small-town Ohio, mourning the loss of her grandmother, June. But the noise of the rusted doorbell forces her out of isolation. Cassie has been named the sole heir to legendary movie star Jack Montgomery’s fortune.

Soon Jack’s famous daughters arrive, entourage in tow, determined to wrestle Cassie away from an inheritance they feel is theirs. Together, they come to discover the true reason for June’s silence about the summer she was eighteen when Hollywood came to town, and June and Jack’s lives were forever altered. Shifting deftly between the past and present, Cassie and her guests will be forced to reexamine their legacies, their definition of family, and what it truly means to love someone, steadfastly, across the ages.

My Review:

Today I’m happy to bring my review of June: A Novel, by Miranda Beverley-Whittemore. This was an interesting story about a young woman named Cassie, living in her deceased grandmother’s old (and falling down) mansion in Ohio. Cassie is in a very depressed state and not interacting with the world at all until the day Nick comes to visit. Nick is an assistant to the famous Tate Montgomery, whose father has recently passed away. The surprise, however, is that the famous actor Jack Montgomery left his entire fortune to his granddaughter Cassie – and nothing to Tate or her sister Elda. Tate shows up soon after with another assistant in tow, as they all try to figure out Cassie’s connection to Jack and if she is really his granddaughter. 

This novel weaves back and forth between 1955 and the present. Most of the flashbacks are related to 18-year-old June and her 14-year-old friend Lindie. Lindie and her father lived in one of the side houses of the estate, whereas, June and her mother lived in the main house with June’s uncle Lemon. June was beautiful and ready to marry Artie, although not in love with him, as soon as Artie returned to town from wherever he was. Lindie, on the other hand, had no desire to be beautiful or graceful, dressing like a boy most of the time, and secretly harboring romantic feelings for June. Everything changes when a Hollywood studio group shows up in their small town to film a movie and June meets Jack Montgomery, along with his fiance Diane. 

During the scenes in the present, the reader gets a lot of glimpses into Cassie’s life which quite honestly, was pathetic. I understand that she had lost her parents at a young age and recently lost her grandmother, however, the woman was literally letting the house fall apart around her, not bathing regularly, and being swept into her dreams and fantasies about the house and those that used to be in it. I was confused several times trying to determine if the house was haunted, she was hallucinating, or if they were really just dreams. Regardless, I’m not sure the value it added to the overall story. 

Once Tate, Nick, Hank, and eventually Elda arrive to help solve the mystery surrounding Jack and June’s connection, Cassie starts coming out of her shell a bit. However, she still never became a relatable or very likable character for me. June and Lindie’s stories were fascinating though, saving this novel for me and urging me to push forward to find out the truth. The conclusions regarding paternity and DNA tests were both obvious and surprising at the same time along with the rest of their stories, however, the author’s beautiful writing and imagery of these days gone by still won me over. There was also a touching and almost magical love story interwoven in the novel, but so many other events whether happy or sad seemed to overshadow the love story. If I seem somewhat ambiguous, I am, but I did really enjoy this novel. It didn’t complete knock me off my feet with the romance, mystery or suspense, but all of those elements combined made it a different and unique read. Although heart-breaking at times, June demonstrated the power of friendship and selflessness that unfortunately, not many people seem capable of. 

*Thanks to Blogging for Books for providing a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review!

Purchase June on Amazon!

Learn more about Miranda Beverley-Whittemore by visiting her web page!

 

Reviews

Book Review: Crossing the Street

CROSSING THE STREET,

BY MOLLY B. CAMPBELL

PUBLICATION: FICTION STUDIO BOOKS; MAY 9, 2017

crossingAbout the book: 

This wasn’t the way Beck Throckmorton had planned it. She wasn’t expecting to find herself in her thirties writing erotica and making flat whites for a living while she stewed over that fact that her ex had wound up with her sister. She never saw herself living in a small suburban Ohio town with an octogenarian neighbor best friend. And she definitely wouldn’t have imagined the eight-year-old great-granddaughter of that friend turning her world upside down.

As summer comes around, Beck’s life is unsettled in every way. And that’s before the crazy stuff starts: the sister taunting her with her pregnancy, the infuriatingly perfect boyfriend, the multiple trips to the emergency room. The needy, wise-beyond-her-years little girl finding places in her heart that Beck didn’t even know existed.

Beck has found herself at an emotional intersection she never anticipated. And now it’s time to cross the street.

My Review:

I am so excited to bring you my review of the upcoming must-read novel Crossing the Street, by Molly D. Campbell. This is such a wonderful story about a young woman, Beck, and her friends and family. Beck is best friends with Gail (who she grew up with) and Ella (her neighbor that is in her 80’s). Beck doesn’t get along with her sister Diana because of Diana marrying Beck’s ex-boyfriend Bryan. Things get even worse once Beck finds out that Diana is pregnant and their mother is pushing Beck to forgive and move on. Suddenly Ella finds out that her great-granddaughter Bob (Roberta) is coming to live with her due to her mother being a drug addict and her Dad (Ella’s grandson) at war in the Middle East. Beck – who doesn’t like or want children – suddenly finds herself helping Ella with Bob, and then helping her sister with her new nephew Alex. All while working at Starbucks, writing erotica novels, and trying to become attracted to a really nice guy that is smitten with her. 

Beck is one of my favorite female characters ever. Actually, both Beck and Bob are my favorite female characters ever! Beck is the type of person that you want as your friend. She’s hilarious, sarcastic, a mess – but with the biggest heart ever. When Ella falls and gets hurt, Beck steps in taking care of Bob and Ella’s house along with making post-hospital arrangements for Ella. She has a cat Simpson, that she is crazy over, but Bob continuously keeps moving further and further into Beck’s heart. Bob is one of the coolest, most unique characters I have ever encountered while reading. Tough yet tender, smart, witty, intelligent – yet borderline broken because of her mother’s abuse and neglect. Adding to that is her constant worry about her father Charles, a Marine stationed in the Middle East. But despite the horror this young girl has lived through, she is the sweetest thing ever and wise beyond her years. 

A huge transformation occurred throughout the novel regarding Diana. Well actually, there was a huge transformation overall among the sisters and their mother. But Diana starts out appearing so selfish and self-absorbed, but after having endless issues with her newborn baby, she starts to soften and show a different side. I hated her in the beginning but absolutely loved Diana by the end of the novel. 

Overall, Beck and Bob stole the show with this one. Beck experiences so many urgencies and challenges, yet she keeps on rolling with taking care of Bob, Ella, Diana, and Alex. And Bob demonstrated an incredible resiliency that I think we would all hope for our children to possess when faced with trauma and crisis. Crossing the Street focuses on the importance of family – whether family by blood or by choice – and how helping others is not only beneficial to the one(s) needing help but is also gratifying for the one pitching in. This novel reminds the reader of the importance of the people that we can trust, as well as, the overwhelming power and freedom that comes with forgiveness. 

Molly D. Campbell has completed a masterpiece that will make you laugh, cry, get angry, feel regret, and everything in between. This is a must-read novel that will stick with you long after finishing the last, beautifully crafted sentence. The author has created something that will move each reader in a different way, and absolutely created something to be proud of. Crossing my fingers that Beck and Bob’s story will be continued…. 

*Thanks to NetGalley for a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Pre-Order Crossing the Street on Amazon!

Learn more about Molly D. Campbell by visiting her web page!

Reviews

Book Review: Woman No. 17

WOMAN NO. 17: A NOVEL,

BY EDAN LEPUCKI

PUBLICATION: HOGARTH; MAY 9, 2017

woman 17About the book: High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.

But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear. 

My Review:

Woman No. 17 is the upcoming novel from author Edan Lepucki, described as “noir,” although I don’t see the connection. I loved this novel, I just wouldn’t put it in the category of noir. Lady is separated from her sweet, loving husband Karl, so decides to hire a nanny for her toddler-age son, Devin, to allow more time for writing a novel/memoir about life with her 18-year-old son Seth, a selective mute. Here is where we meet S, the new nanny. Actually named Esther Shapiro, S has reinvented herself several times for the sake of art projects or experiments, this time going by S and mimicking her mother regarding clothing, hair, lack of make-up, etc. 

The protagonist or main character was equally both Lady and S but in different ways. Lady is dealing with separating from Karl (her choice), raising young Devin, writing a book, and nurturing her relationship with Seth. Much more drama comes into her life, but no spoilers here. S is a complex and complicated character, taking on the persona of her mother, yet still allowing real versions of her shine through from time to time. Despite Seth’s refusal and/or inability to speak, S takes a “liking” to him and finds herself consumed in thoughts about him. She also obsesses about Lady and her sister-in-law Kit (a famous photographer), including a potentially awkward masturbation scene to a picture of Lady, taken by Kit.

There are so many themes and subplots to this novel I’m not sure where to begin. Honestly, I think I need to do bullet points….

  • parenting
  • spousal and ex-spousal relationships
  • art – limitations and boundaries
  • friendship
  • mother-daughter issues
  • drinking
  • art
  • drinking
  • art

Yes, I repeated a few and did so on purpose. Throughout S’s project/experiment trying to become her mother, there is a lot of drinking and a lot of art or attempts at art. But don’t be put-off by that comment because there is so much more to this novel. When is a mother too clingy or pushy? How does not having the natural father in their life affect a child? What kind of guilt is carried with long-term arguments? 

Woman No. 17 takes the reader on a journey about obsessions, secrets, and how revelations about those can cause a family to explode. The complexity of Lady and S’s relationship with one another is amazing, as well as, the relationships that develop throughout the novel. There isn’t one huge, climactic event in this novel, but rather, a continuous string of surprises and actions that build wonderful tension and suspense about what will happen next. This is definitely a novel that will inspire a lot of thinking and reflection about the characters, their relationships, and boundaries. I highly, highly recommend grabbing this one and be prepared to be rendered useless to the outside world once you start reading, because you will not put it down. 

*Thanks to NetGalley for providing a copy of this ARC in exchange for an honest review. 

Pre-order Woman No. 17 on Amazon. 

Learn more about Edan Lepucki by visiting her web page!

Reviews

Book Review: The Light We Lost

THE LIGHT WE LOST,

BY JILL SANTOPOLO

PUBLICATION: G.P. PUTNAM’S SONS; MAY 9, 2017

light we lostAbout the book: Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it a choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

Me Before You meets One Day in this devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending. A Love Story for a new generation.

My Review:

So, I was not expecting The Light We Lost to be such a tear-jerker, but here I am still thinking about the novel and the tears that fell upon my Kindle. Why?? No seriously, what an amazing, real and emotional story author Jill Santopolo brings the world. For anyone has “that one that got away” or maybe even the one that “it just wasn’t meant to be,” brace yourself for this story. Lucy meets Gabe while in college but a year later they meet again and fall hard for one another. However, their dreams are going in different directions, so Gabe eventually takes off across the world to pursue his dream of photojournalism while Lucy stays in New York to pursue her dream producing children’s television. During his time away, everything changes including new significant others, children, and years – but does it really change how they feel?

This novel poses several questions about this brief life that we are given. How many great loves will we have in our lives? What if the spark with one love was better than another? What if you want with all of your body and soul to love the “perfect guy” but still can’t let go of the one that got away?I loved Lucy and loved her character. She was smart, funny, beautiful, grounded – but she was still a girl. She still wanted the fireworks and passion above everything else. I liked Gabe but didn’t love him. Initially, he seemed different and artistic in a fabulous, passionate way. However, I found myself for resenting his leaving for the Middle East, regardless if he was following his dream career. Don’t ask why I just did. I thought Darren was a fantastic and honest character, despite the “paper doll” reference and I completely rooted for him and Lucy from the time they met. Was he perfect? Absolutely not, but damned if he didn’t put forth a lot of effort to be so. 

Trying my best not to give spoilers, there is a turning point in the novel, towards the end, where everything changes. I found myself sad and crying for what might have been, but then I caught myself thinking that more than likely, Gabe had not changed and there would not be a HEA regardless. Perhaps I am wrong, but I felt like the ending of the novel was his easy way out, because otherwise he would have been faced with grown-up life and responsibilities, which he would have hated. If you have read this you will know to what I am referring but if you haven’t, let’s just say that Gabe was a dreamer and never struck me as the “family man” type. 

Lastly, I have to admit that for the first 50 pages or so, I was a little bored. I didn’t know what was going on regarding the narration from Lucy. Was this a letter? A conversation? But I soon found myself entranced by their story and could literally feel the weight on Lucy’s shoulders. Jill Santopolo’s writing is captivating and her characterization of Lucy is outstanding. It made me sad for Lucy in ways, feeling as if she would never find true happiness because of holding on to the past, but I hope the end provided her the closure that she needed. 

If you love literary and women’s fiction – and aren’t too upset by a somewhat ambiguous ending, then this should be your next read. However, if you need definites and absolution then steer clear of this one. I think I know what happened after the ending of the novel but, of course, one can never be sure. Regardless, I am so incredibly impressed with the author’s writing and the development of the story. 

*Thanks to NetGalley for providing this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Pre-Order The Light We Lost on Amazon.

Learn more about Jill Santapolo by visiting her web page.