An October Potpourri of Book Reviews

I’ve been a little MIA from the book blog world for the past month, but not for lack of reading! In fact, I’ve been on a major book binge and enjoying every second of it! For the past few months, I’ve spent a majority of my reading time focusing on advanced reader copies, but I was amassing quite a list of new releases and decided to focus most of October on these. Wow…and these NEW RELEASES were great! 2018 has certainly been a great year for books, so for this post, I’d like to give y’all a potpourri of mini-reviews!

the president

The President is Missing by James Patterson and Bill Clinton- All politics aside, I REALLY enjoyed this #1 New York Times Bestseller! For me, James Patterson is hit or miss, and his most recent books over the past couple of years have been disappointing, but this one was a real winner! Politics, international crime, a conspiracy to topple the U.S., Russian meddling (did they? did they not?), a foreign hacker, a female assassin…I’m telling ya, this book had it all- suspense, thriller, patriotism, and a President who puts his country before himself. *Sigh* At just over 520 pages, this book is a long one but a quick read. I loved the short chapter format and the different looks at the jobs we often overlook- Chief of Staff, FBI director, as well as the international politicians whose positive alliances are critical to the well-being of everyone. The ending was very satisfying, and I couldn’t help but appreciate all of the honest details and depictions of what it’s like to be the President when something catastrophic is about to hit the fan. 5 out of 5 stars.

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All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin- I’ve been a fan of Emily Giffin’s for several years and even got the wonderful opportunity of meeting her once at a book signing event for one of her previous books. She is delightful! I really, really wanted to love this book, but I just really didn’t, which makes me disappointed. The book follows two families, the Brownings, a wealthy family whose son Finch is a popular high school athlete with his sights set on Princeton, as well as the Volpe family, which includes Lyla and her single father Tom who works hard to support his daughter. Lyla and Finch attend the same prestigious prep school, which Lyla attends on a scholarship and wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Anyway, after a party one night, Finch texts a compromising photo of Lyla along with a racist caption to his friends, which ends up making the rounds at school. This extremely devastating  and stupid act threatens to ruin not only Finch’s life, but affects Lyla and her father tremendously, along with many others. I really liked the premise of this book because this is such an issue in our society today, but I didn’t love the execution. I felt like Giffin tried too hard to make Nina Browning, the rich wife and mother of Finch, the heroine and biggest victim. I just couldn’t feel sorry for her. There was also too much focusing on “poor” Finch, whose character I just detested and not enough depth to Lyla or her father. This book was a really quick read, but I just didn’t think it was nearly as substantive as it could’ve been. 3 out of 5 stars.

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Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan- Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve definitely heard a ton of buzz about this book, especially after the movie was released this summer and became a MASSIVE hit! I had this book placed on hold for my Kindle at the library for months, so when it became available, I read it right away. This was such a fun, fast read and I was surprised I loved it so much! The characters, all filthy rich Chinese expats living in Singapore, were interesting, full of depth, and the story line was extremely entertaining from beginning to end. The gist of this one is that Rachel Chu, a normal Economics professor (and American) gets invited to a wedding in Singapore by her handsome boyfriend, Nicholas Young. Rachel has NO IDEA that Nick is one of those crazy rich Asians, so when she accompanies him to Singapore, things get absolutely wild and crazy! This is a super juicy, soap opera type book, but I loved it! I’m also so happy to see the success of this book and movie, as representation is SO important in literature and film! If you’re looking for a light, fun, totally not serious read, this one is definitely for you. 4 out of 5 stars.

thefix

The Fix by David Baldacci- This is the #3 book in the Amos Decker series by Mr. Baldacci, and it did not disappoint. In this one, Amos Decker, who’s working with his same FBI group in Washington D.C., witnesses a seemingly random murder one day just outside FBI headquarters. Even with Decker’s amazing abilities, this killing is baffling to everyone. The killer seemed like a normal, successful family man and businessperson, and the victim is a woman with no record and no details other than being a substitute teacher and hospice volunteer. Decker teams up with Harper Brown, a tough veteran who works with the Defense Intelligence Agency to try and crack this case. As they investigate, Decker and his team are in more danger than ever before, and the case weaves into a story crazier and more complex than anyone could’ve ever guessed. I read this one in just a couple of days, staying up WAY past my bedtime, because as Baldacci is such a master of this, I didn’t know WHAT THE HECK WAS GOING ON until the very end. Definitely thrilling, suspenseful, and full of crime elements like spying, the CIA, defense contracting, and international criminals. For fans of the Amos Decker series, there are also appearances from Melvin Mars, a popular character from the previous book. Loved this one! 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan- This has to be one of the most wonderfully charming books I’ve read this year. Taken from the book jacket, this is the description of this one:

“Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidently left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.”

This was such a fantastic book about tragedy, heartbreak, losing yourself, and then finding purpose and the ability to put yourself back together and become whole again. The characters were wonderful, the writing was beautiful and descriptive, and the mini stories of the lost things were equally heartbreaking and lovely. This book felt like a warm quilt of love and attachment, and I recommend it to EVERYONE! 5 out of 5 stars.

 

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Watching You by Lisa Jewell

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There are a ton of great books coming out in the next few months- so many thrillers and mysteries- and my newest read is definitely one of them! First off, if you aren’t familiar with Lisa Jewell, you are MISSING OUT! She is such a fantastic storyteller, so whenever I sit down with one of her books, I know I won’t be doing anything else for the next few hours.

This book takes place in Melville Heights, a posh neighborhood in Bristol, England, where Joey Mullins and her husband Alfie are living with her ultra-successful doctor brother Jack and his pregnant wife Rebecca. Two doors down is Tom Fitzwilliam, a famously successful teaching administrator beloved by communities everywhere for turning cruddy schools to success stories, who lives with his exercise-obsessive wife and their eccentric son Freddie, a voyeur who likes to keep tabs on everyone in the neighborhood.

One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, lives down the street with her mother, a mentally-ill former model and actress who thinks people are watching her and that Tom is a stalker and lunatic with secrets. It’s not long before all of the characters become intertwined, and Joey develops a crush on Tom, which becomes obsessive and threatens to ruin her marriage.

Meanwhile, secrets are starting to be uncovered about a dead girl from the past, who left behind a mysterious diary. She makes explosive allegations about her school and her teacher and this leads people to wonder, “So who really are these people of Melville Heights?” On top of it all, the book begins with a death in the neighborhood. so you spend the whole book wondering who/what/how/why. Is Tom just an amazingly devoted family man and successful teacher, or are things not quite as they seem?? Is Joey off her rocker, or just trying to cope with a marriage and her husband’s wanting to start a family? The ending was fabulous and I did not see it coming…..I always love that!

4 our of 5 stars for Watching You by Lisa Jewell, which comes out December 26th, 2018.

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and Atria Books , who provided me an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

So Far, This is My Favorite Book of 2018!

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I am SO excited to talk about Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield, which is one of the best books I’ve read in a LONG time. I paced myself with this one, which runs nearly 500 pages, because I loved everything about this story and didn’t want it to end. Do you ever get that feeling, after finishing a magical book, that you’ve just lost a friend? That’s how I felt when this one was over.

Once Upon A River takes place in a small English town that rests along the Thames River. One winter night, as villagers and and travelers mingle at the local tavern, famous for its storytelling and ale, a mysterious and severely-injured stranger bursts through the door, carrying what looks like a battered rag doll. However, it’s actually a little girl with the injured man, and she appears dead but is alive and seemingly back from the dead. Who is this little girl?  Is she the missing daughter of a local wealthy gentleman and his grieving wife? The sister of a parson’s housekeeper? The granddaughter of a exceptionally loving father whose only care in the world is his family?

We meet several characters, from nefarious crooks and thieves, to the caring and gentle villagers, who are just as desperate as anyone to figure out who the little girl is and where she belongs. Diane Setterfield weaves magical, lyrical storytelling with science and dark folktales to set the stage for a BEAUTIFUL, curious mystery that isn’t solved until the very end.

I’m certain this book, which comes out in December of 2018, will be on all of the “Best Books of 2018” lists, and I am grateful to have been able to read and love this book before it becomes a massive bestseller.

5 out of 5 stars for Once Upon A River by Diane Setterfield, which is available for pre-order now and will be released on December 4th, 2018. Definitely add this one to your reading list!

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

Guess Who by Chris McGeorge

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I just finished Guess Who by Chris McGeorge, and I have to say it was the craziest book I’ve read in quite awhile! We’re introduced to Morgan Sheppard, an 11 year-old child who solves the murder of his beloved teacher, who everyone previously died by suicide. This event makes Morgan famous and leads him down a new path in life.

Flash-forward, Morgan has made quite a name for himself over the last several years and has become a famous TV detective. He spends his days working out frivolous mysteries such as cheating celebrities and pop culture scandals, which interestingly, hasn’t fulfilled his soul as Morgan’s also become a drug and alcohol addict.

After a crazy night of partying in Paris with a mysterious and beautiful blonde, Morgan wakes up literally handcuffed to a pole in a locked and soundproofed Downtown London hotel room. Five strangers wake up alongside him, disoriented and wondering what the hell is going on. If that wasn’t crazy enough, there’s a corpse in the bathroom, and a scary costumed man talking to the group through the television. A game is announced- there’s been a murder (the guy in the bathtub), the 5 other people in the room are the suspects, one of whom is the murderer of the corpse, and Morgan must solve the whodunit in 3 hours….or else everyone else dies. The phones have been cut off and Morgan has nothing to go off of other than his fleeting memory of the night before and his questionable detective skills. Whattt??!

The story jumps back and forth between Morgan’s childhood and his present predicament, and is filled with dark clues, suspenseful moments, and an intense countdown to figuring out what really happened…both all those years ago…and last night. This book was reminiscent of a smarter version of Saw, the scary horror movie series, although Guess Who reads more like a smart thriller than simply scaring the wits out of you!

If you are a fan of suspenseful page-turners, definitely be on the lookout for this book, which comes out really soon, September 18th, and has been generating a lot of buzz!

4 out of 5 stars for Guess Who by Chris McGeorge.

Thank you to NetGalley and Harlequin/Hanover Square Press for the opportunity to read and provide my honest review for this book.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward

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I just finished a crazy, complicated mystery/thriller, Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward, and it was a good one! I’d say this book fits nicely in the Gone Girl literary lane. This book was full of twists and surprises and cringe-worthy moments, and I appreciated the background of the characters. The book begins as a police officer is called to the scene of a potential domestic incident. Deciding not to waste time waiting for backup, she enters the house and witnesses the aftermath of an obviously brutal crime. To make matters worse, a child was heard in the background of the 911 call, but she doesn’t see anyone….is the child okay? THERE IS BLOOD EVERYWHERE.

Then we’re transported almost two decades earlier, where Maddie and Ian meet in 2001 in the Balkans while she is working as a writer and he is a member of the British Army on a dangerous tour mission. Times are tough, the entire area is on the brink of war, yet they are immediately attracted to each other. Ian’s keeping secrets, however, and is clearly troubled by his dangerous job and past experiences.

Masterfully weaving past and present, I thought the lead up to what actually happened in the house was great. In addition to the captivating mystery in the story, I appreciated the descriptive background of the Balkans, as well as the lives of humanitarians and the military who work in the most dangerous parts of the world. War affects people differently, and the PTSD and paranoia that the characters deal with was difficult to face and read about but also felt very authentic.

I had NO CLUE what actually happened until the very end of the book, and my guesses kept changing at every chapter. I loved that! The ending was tough for me, but also satisfying. I finished the book thinking “Is anyone really who we think they are??”

Sooo good.

4 out of 5 stars for Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward, which comes out March 2019.

Thank you to NetGalley, Harlequin- Park Row for the wonderful opportunity to read and review this book.

Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates. Also, When You Only Want to Read but You Have A Life.

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We’ve reached that pivotal point in the season when sports, dance, after-school clubs, and homework are in full swing and require my full attention. I love being fully present in my kids’ lives and nothing brings me greater joy than being a mother, but MAN, I WISH I HAD MORE TIME TO READ! I’m waking up at 5:30 to get an hour of reading in before the kids wake up and am reading for a solid 2 hours before bed, but goodness if that isn’t enough reading love for me!

Oh well…it just means it’s high time to be selective in my book choices ( while still whittling down my list of dozens of advance copies). I just finished Grist Mill Road by Christopher J. Yates, a British author with a cult-like following who specializes in writing dark, gritty psychological masterpieces.

grist mill

Like many contemporary thrillers, this book alternates between past and present, and Yates successfully welds the two periods together. We meet Hannah, Matthew, and Patch (Patrick), kids in the 80’s who become part of a horrific crime in which Hannah’s shot nearly 40 times with a BB gun, her eye destroyed and all three permanently scarred forever. In present time, Patrick and Hannah are married, but they are keeping secrets from each other and it’s only a matter of time before something explodes. Also, Patrick has just lost his job, the country is in the thick of 2008’s economic collapse, and then Matthew shows up out of nowhere. Basically a recipe for disaster.

I wish I could give this book two separate ratings. One for the writing, and one for the story. Well hell, it’s my review…that’s exactly what I’ll do. Yates’ writing is masterful.  5 out of 5 stars, easy. He’s obviously a genius. Dark, almost supernatural, I feel like he walks (writes?) a strangely thin line between madness and mundane; Grist Mill Road is a slow burn of dark detail and Patrick’s obsessive grasp on trying to be okay though his life has pretty much made that impossible.

The story itself gets a 3 out of 5 and just because there was a weird switch between almost historical information (Care to know about the cement business, anyone? Conservation in New York?) and the craziness of the three characters’ lives and emotional thought processes. It just felt disjointed, though I’ll reiterate, the writing is SO GOOD.

The ending was crazy and satisfying and the only way I imagined would realistically work, given all that we find out about what really happened in the woods all those years ago. When I finished the last page and closed the book, I felt like I’d just spent the last few hours binge drinking. Not a book for the faint of heart, I promise you, but if you want to read some mind-bogglingly good prose, Christopher Yates is your man.

4 out of 5 stars for Grist Mill Road by Chrisopher J. Yates which is available at booksellers everywhere.

The Line Between by Tosca Lee

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I was intrigued when I first read the premise for this book- a young woman leaves a cult around the same time a mysterious virus begins taking hold across America, causing people to literally lose their minds. Interesting, right? Well I am very glad I took a chance with this book because The Line Between by Tosca Lee was an amazingly good read!

Wynter Roth first enters New Earth, a doomsday cult, as a child along with her older sister and mother in an attempt to flee the girls’ abusive father. All three members of the Roth family become enamored with the charismatic (aren’t they all?) cult-leader, Magnus, a millionaire former CEO. However, we initially meet Wynter as she is being forcefully expelled from the cult, thrown out for some unknown misdeed.

Meanwhile, a pig farmer in Alaska is faced with the shocking and gruesome death of his prized pigs. Additionally, people throughout the country are coming down with rapid-onset dementia and officials have no idea what is causing this sudden hysteria.

If it seems a bit weird to have two completely different plots going on, yes. I felt that too in the beginning. But it works, I promise. The two story lines come together brilliantly. Wynter is such a great character too- strong, traumatized from her years being brainwashed, full of love for her sister and her niece.  She is willing to do anything to keep them safe.

A thriller through and through, this book had me guessing and second-guessing at every turn. I know apocalyptic thrillers are still quite the rage, and some are just terrible, but this one is so original and exciting. Tosca Lee does an amazing job exploring Wynter’s transition from cult to normal life to panic outbreak, and I was fully captivated until the last page!

4.5 stars out of 5 for The Line Between by Tosca Lee, which comes out January 29th, 2019.

As always, thank you to NetGalley and Howard Books for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.