Review: THE BEST LIES by Sarah Lyu

Review:  THE BEST LIES by Sarah LyuThe Best Lies by Sarah Lyu
four-stars
Published by Simon Pulse on July 2, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Mystery, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE BEST LIES Review

 

Sarah Lyu’s exciting debut The Best Lies opens with a death and a police interrogation.  Remy Tsai’s boyfriend Jack has been shot dead, and the police are trying to get to the bottom of what happened.  All they know when the story opens is that the shooting took place at night in Remy’s best friend Elise’s home, Remy may or may not have been present, and it was Elise who pulled the trigger and ended Jack’s life.  Was it murder? Was it self-defense?

This is one of those books where I can’t say much at all without spoiling it, but I will say that I loved the opening.  The tension of the interrogation scene, coupled with finding out that such an awful thing had happened, immediately drew me in and had me wanting to know more.

I found Remy to be a tremendously sympathetic character.  She’s an emotional wreck when the story opens, trying to wrap her head around the fact that the boy she loves is gone and that her best friend is the one who took him away from her.  I can’t even imagine being in that kind of situation and the author does a wonderful job of showing us just how emotionally spent Remy is from the ordeal. Remy also comes from a home where her parents scream, fight, and threaten divorce constantly, so for Remy, it hurts all the more to have lost Jack, who was the one bright spot in her life.  Her emotional state makes her a somewhat unreliable narrator, which adds yet another layer to the story.  Can we trust anything she is saying about that night?

I didn’t like Elise as much as I liked Remy, but I still thought she was an interesting character. I had sympathy for her because she comes from an abusive home, but at the same time, I found some of the things she does to be somewhat juvenile and I sometimes wondered what Remy saw in her.  She does have what I’d consider to be a magnetic personality though so I’m thinking that was part of the allure.

The author also drew me in with the way she lets the story unfold.  The story is presented to us in two timelines, one in the present and one in the past.  In the present timeline, we are following Remy in the aftermath of the shooting as both she and the police try to make sense of what happened that night.  In the past timeline, we get to see how Remy meets both Elise and then Jack, and how their relationships evolve over time and how we end up where we are in the opening scene of the book. Lyu seamlessly weaves together these timelines into a complex and intricate story that is not just a crime thriller but that also explores what happens when friendships take a dark turn.

The Best Lies held my attention from start to finish as I waited with bated breath to find out the truth about what happened that night.  The story is both suspenseful and heartbreaking and I’d highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys mysteries and to anyone who gravitates to stories that deal with grief.  It’s a dark read but, at the same time, an emotional one.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Remy Tsai used to know how her story would turn out. But now, she doesn’t even know what tomorrow will look like.

She was happy once. Remy had her boyfriend Jack, and Elise, her best friend—her soulmate—who understood her better than anyone else in the world.

But now Jack is dead, shot through the chest—

And it was Elise who pulled the trigger.

Was it self-defense? Or something deeper, darker than anything Remy could have imagined? As the police investigate, Remy does the same, sifting through her own memories, looking for a scrap of truth that could save the friendship that means everything to her.

Told in alternating timelines, Thelma and Louise meets Gone Girl in this twisted psychological thriller about the dark side of obsessive friendship.

four-stars

About Sarah Lyu

Sarah Lyu grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama, with her husband and dogs. She loves a good hike but can often be found with a book on her lap and sweet tea in hand. The Best Lies is her first book. You can visit her at SarahLyu.com.

Review: WHEREVER SHE GOES by Kelley Armstrong

Review:  WHEREVER SHE GOES by Kelley ArmstrongWherever She Goes by Kelley Armstrong
three-half-stars
Published by Minotaur Books on June 25, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Pages: 292
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

WHEREVER SHE GOES Review

 

Kelley Armstrong’s newest book Wherever She Goes is a gripping psychological thriller that explores the lengths one woman will go to when she believes the police aren’t doing their jobs.

Single mom Aubrey Finch is in the neighborhood park one day and meets a young woman and her little boy.  After some brief small talk, they go their separate ways, but the next time, Aubrey is in the park, she sees the same little boy being pulled unwillingly in an SUV which then speeds away.  There’s no sign of his mother anywhere, so panicked and concerned for the boy’s safety, Aubrey phones the police.  When they arrive on the scene, the reaction Aubrey gets is not at all what she is expecting.  Because there’s no parent around reporting that their child has been abducted, the police refuse to believe Aubrey’s story and even go so far as to accuse her of being a mentally unstable attention seeker.  Aubrey knows what she saw, and so, frustrated by law enforcement’s lack of action, she decides to take matters into her own hands to bring the little boy home safely…

Wow, what a wild ride this was.  I had tremendous sympathy for Aubrey for so many reasons.  I can’t even imagine trying to report something as important as a child abduction to the police and having them blow me off.  I also honestly can’t imagine law enforcement behaving so irresponsibly, but it definitely serves as an effective device to move the story along and spur Aubrey into amateur sleuth mode.  Even more so than the way she was treated by the police, however, my sympathy for Aubrey lies in the fact that she is newly divorced and trying to make it on her own without help from anyone.  Her own child is living with her ex-husband full time now (Aubrey’s idea) because she’s living in a not-so-great neighborhood where the rent is cheap in hopes of saving up money for a better home that is more suitable for a child.  I commend her for her independence in this matter but also felt bad for her because not having custody of her child immediately opens her up to all kinds of judgment from strangers.  Everyone assumes she has done something terrible to not have her child living with her.

Aubrey also has her fair share of secrets that she has been hiding for years.  I’ll admit that the fact she’s hiding something about herself, coupled with the way people kept questioning her sanity did give me pause as to whether or not Aubrey was a reliable narrator.  I liked her so much though that I wanted her to be right so I was glued to the book to see what, if anything, she would find when she started looking for proof that there really was an abduction.  The author does a fantastic job building up suspense here because when Aubrey starts trying to locate the woman she met in the park that day, she opens up a can of worms that is way more than she bargained for.

My only real complaint about Wherever She Goes is that I actually felt more invested in Aubrey’s personal dramas and in finding out about her past than I did in the abduction storyline.  Both were interesting, of course, but the witnessing of a crime and having no one believe your story just felt a little stale to me, like it has been done many times before (The Girl on the Train and The Woman in the Window immediately come to mind).  Aubrey’s personal story grabbed my attention and held it more since it was the more unique of the two.

Even with that one little quibble though, Wherever She Goes is still a very entertaining read.  There were plenty of plot twists to keep me guessing and I found the ending to be very satisfying.  I’d recommend this book to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and domestic dramas.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong comes a brand new psychological thriller about the lengths one woman will go to in order to save a child.

“Few crimes are reported as quickly as a snatched kid.”

That’s what the officer tells single mother Aubrey Finch after she reports a kidnapping. So why hasn’t anyone reported the little boy missing? Aubrey knows what she saw: a boy being taken against his will from the park. It doesn’t matter that the mother can’t be found. It doesn’t matter if no one reported it. Aubrey knows he’s missing.

Instead, people question her sanity. Aubrey hears the whispers. She’s a former stay-at-home mom who doesn’t have primary custody of her daughter, so there must be something wrong with her, right? Others may not understand her decision to walk away from her safe life at home, but years of hiding her past – even from the people she loves – were taking their toll, and Aubrey knows she can’t be the mother or wife she envisions until she learns to leave her secrets behind.

When the police refuse to believe her, she realizes that rescuing the boy is up to her alone. But after all the secrets, how far is she willing to go? Even to protect a child.

three-half-stars

About Kelley Armstrong

Kelley Armstrong has been telling stories since before she could write. Her earliest written efforts were disastrous. If asked for a story about girls and dolls, hers would invariably feature undead girls and evil dolls, much to her teachers’ dismay. All efforts to make her produce “normal” stories failed.

Today, she continues to spin tales of ghosts and demons and werewolves, while safely locked away in her basement writing dungeon. She’s the author of the NYT-bestselling “Women of the Otherworld” paranormal suspense series and “Darkest Powers” young adult urban fantasy trilogy, as well as the Nadia Stafford crime series. Armstrong lives in southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and far too many pets.

Review: WILDER GIRLS by Rory Power

Review:  WILDER GIRLS by Rory PowerWilder Girls by Rory Power
three-half-stars
Published by Delacorte Press on July 9, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Horror, Mystery
Pages: 368
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

WILDER GIRLS Review

Rory Power’s Wilder Girls is an atmospheric read that takes a hard and disturbing look at what happens when a mysterious plague-like disease called the Tox infects the entire population of an all-girls boarding school. When Wilder Girls opens, many are already dead, both teachers and students, and the entire island has been in quarantine for eighteen months.  Boats periodically come and drop off supplies for the quarantined survivors, but aside from that and the occasional promise that the CDC is doing everything they can to find a cure, there is no contact with the outside world.

The whole idea of the Tox drew me in right away.  Powers does a wonderful job of creating an eerie and terrifying atmosphere by plunging her readers right into the action and showing us what the Tox has done to the girls.  Even with our first glance around the school, we see a girl whose arm has suddenly grown reptilian-like scales on it, another girl whose eye has sealed shut and now appears to be growing something beneath the seal, and even a girl who appears to have grown a second spine that protrudes out of her back. And that’s just scratching the surface of ways this disease is manifesting itself.  The mood is dark and desperate, there aren’t nearly enough supplies being sent, and most social conventions have flown out the window as the name of the game is survival.  I read somewhere that this book is considered a feminist retelling of Lord of the Flies, and from those first moments, I definitely felt a similar vibe between the two books.

I also liked that the opening scenes really got my wheels turning with question after question and even got my inner conspiracy theorist humming.  What the heck is the Tox?  Why are everyone’s physical symptoms so different?  Why the total isolation, without even radio contact? Is the government responsible for the tox?  If not, is it something alien?   And on and on, you get the idea. This is a book that will definitely make you think and it’s also a quick read because you’ll find yourself just dying to get all of your questions answered.

In addition to being fascinated by the deadly Tox, I also really enjoyed the friendship of the three main characters, Hetty, Byatt, and Reese.  These three girls are very loyal to each other and do everything they can to make sure all three of them have the best chance of survival.  When Byatt unexpectedly disappears. Hetty and Reese make it their mission to find out what has happened to her.  What they find as they search for her is every bit as disturbing as the Tox itself and adds tremendous tension and suspense to what is already a book that you won’t want to put down.

*****

So why only 3.5 stars if this book has so many great things going for it?  Well, I did have a few issues with it.  The first is that I didn’t find the explanation for the Tox to be thorough enough for my liking.  As interesting as it was, I felt like it was explained in a very vague way.  Also, even though I liked the dynamic of their friendship, I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the three main characters.  I don’t want to say that I didn’t care about what happened to them because that’s not true, but I just felt like they were at arm’s length and would have preferred getting to know a little more about each of them.  One final issue I had was the ending, which was just way too open-ended for my liking.

Wilder Girls really is an entertaining read, especially for horror fans and if you don’t mind an open-ended read.  I wanted more from it since it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year, but it’s still a good read overall.  Be forewarned though that it is violent and gory, there are many deaths, as well as mentions of self-harm and suicide.  It’s not a read for the faint of heart.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.

It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.

But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.

three-half-stars

Book Review & Giveaway – THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi Waxman

Book Review & Giveaway – THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL by Abbi WaxmanThe Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
four-half-stars
Published by Berkley Books on July 9, 2019
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Fiction, Women's Fiction, Chick Lit, Romance
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

Today I am taking part in the blog tour to promote Abbi Waxman’s new novel The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.  Thanks so much to Lauren Horvoth at Berkley Publishing for the invitation.  I can’t wait to share my thoughts on this gem of a book with my visitors!

 

THE BOOKISH LIFE OF NINA HILL Review

 

Abbi Waxman’s The Bookish Life of Nina Hill was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 and I’m thrilled to tell you that it’s everything I hoped it would be and more!  As a booklover and an introvert, it’s by far one of the most relatable books I’ve ever read and the protagonist Nina Hill is a treasure.  I could easily fangirl about my love for this book all day, but instead let me just share some highlights.  If you like what you hear, be sure to scroll down and enter my giveaway for a finished copy of The Bookish Life of Nina Hill:

Nina Hill is of course my absolute favorite part of the book.  She’s a huge book lover as well as extremely introverted.  I mean, this girl is unapologetically books over people all day long and I love her for it.  Almost as strong as her love of books though is her love of organization and planning.  She likes to be in firm control of every aspect of her life and is the queen of planners.  She also freely admits that fellow control freak, Monica Gellar from the sitcom Friends, is one of her personal heroines.  She’s also incredibly socially awkward and is most comfortable with just a few treasured friends in her life.  Growing up an only child, it was very easy for Nina to keep her world small and cozy, with plenty of time to keep her nose happily stuck in books.

Waxman does a fantastic job creating the character of Nina, that so many book lovers and introverts will find immensely relatable.  I know I wanted to be friends with Nina from the opening pages of the story.  She’s adorably quirky and sounds like my kind of person.   I also felt tremendous sympathy for Nina when she learns that the father she never knew has died, not so much because of the death itself, but because he apparently had several ex-wives, a whole slew of children, grandchildren, etc. and all of them want a piece of Nina.  Couple her new extended family with a cute guy from trivia night who wants to ask her out, and it’s suddenly a very uncomfortable environment for Nina to find herself in.  After all, this is a girl who pencils in Nothing on her calendar and once Nothing is penciled in, that’s exactly what Nina wants to do.

In addition to Nina, Waxman has also filled The Bookish Life of Nina Hill with a fantastic cast of secondary characters.  Her coworkers at the bookstore where she works, her trivia teammates, her nephew Peter and her siblings Archie and Millie are all just so much fun to read about, especially as Nina awkwardly interacts with each of them.  The thoughts that go through her head sometimes are truly just laugh out loud, as are many of the things she actually says.  I also adored her budding relationship with rival trivia player, Tom.  They’re so cute and awkward together and every interaction just had me grinning from ear to ear, especially as their teammates try to not so subtly play matchmaker.  Oh and I can’t forget Phil, Nina’s cat.  I swear that cat has some of the best lines in the entire book (all in Nina’s head of course).

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill just really captured my heart on so many levels.  I loved that Nina was so easy to relate to and that I could see so much of myself in her, and I also loved that the book had so many layers to it.  It’s a book about the importance of family and friends, and it’s a book about finding love even when you don’t think you have room for it in your life.  If you’re looking for a book that will leave you with a smile on your face, I highly recommend The Bookish Life of Nina Hill.

 

SYNOPSIS:

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

  1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likesher hair.)
  2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
  3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.

 

GIVEAWAY!

 

U.S. only, no giveaway accounts, Giveaway ends on 7/15/2019, and I will contact the winner via email to get their mailing address to forward to the publisher.

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

four-half-stars

About Abbi Waxman

Abbi Waxman was born in England in 1970, the oldest child of two copywriters who never should have been together in the first place. Once her father ran off to buy cigarettes and never came back, her mother began a highly successful career writing crime fiction. She encouraged Abbi and her sister Emily to read anything and everything they could pull down from the shelves, and they did. Naturally lazy and disinclined to dress up, Abbi went into advertising, working as a copywriter and then a creative director at various advertising agencies in London and New York. Clients ranged from big and traditional, (AT&T, Chase Manhattan Bank, IBM, American Express, Unilever, Mercedes-Benz) to big and morally corrupt (R. J. Reynolds) to big and larcenous (Enron). Eventually she quit advertising, had three kids and started writing books, TV shows and screenplays, largely in order to get a moment’s peace.

Abbi lives in Los Angeles with her husband, three kids, three dogs, three cats, a gecko, two mice and six chickens. Every one of these additions made sense at the time, it’s only in retrospect that it seems foolhardy.

Review: LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley Sager

Review:  LOCK EVERY DOOR by Riley SagerLock Every Door by Riley Sager
Also by this author: Final Girls
five-stars
Published by Dutton on July 2, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

LOCK EVERY DOOR Review

 

Set in New York City, Riley Sager’s latest thriller Lock Every Door follows Jules Larsen, a young woman who has had a major run of bad luck. She recently lost her job, discovered her live-in boyfriend was cheating on her, and has subsequently ended up sleeping on her best friend’s couch.  Jules desperately needs her luck to change so that she can get back on her feet financially, and when she sees an ad on Craigslist seeking apartment sitters at the iconic Bartholomew building near Central Park, she applies immediately and can’t believe her good luck when she is hired. The rules are a little intense:  Jules is not allowed to have visitors, she must sleep in the apartment every night, and she is only allowed to speak to other residents if they speak to her first, but the $1,000 a week paycheck makes it well worth it for Jules.

Jules almost immediately befriends another apartment sitter named Ingrid.  Ingrid confides in Jules that strange things happen in the Bartholomew and that she doesn’t feel safe there.  Soon after this conversation, Ingrid goes missing.  Jules is told that Ingrid abruptly quit in the middle of the night and moved out, but Jules is suspicious and starts digging, trying to figure out what really happened. When Jules learns that Ingrid isn’t the first apartment sitter to go missing, she starts to think that her dream job might actually be more of a nightmare.

I really liked Jules right away and so was constantly torn between wanting her to stick around and figure out what’s going on at the Bartholomew and wanting her to hurry up and get the heck out of there before something happened to her.

The creepy atmosphere Sager creates was also a huge draw for me. The Bartholomew itself has a dark, almost Gothic feel to it, with its gargoyles on the exterior and its wallpaper that appears to change from flowers to watchful eyes if stared at too long.  Its physical appearance combined with its mysterious and rumored dark past truly made it feel like something out of a horror story and had my skin crawling as I read.

Another big draw for me was the way Sager weaves together his story through the use of a combination of flashbacks and chapters set in the present to show where Jules is and then to backtrack and show how she got to that point.  That technique created so much tension and suspense. That coupled with numerous plot twists, had me just flying through the pages. The plot twists were a wild ride too, culminating in a reveal that was even more disturbing than I could have possibly anticipated.

Riley Sager is quickly becoming my go-to author whenever I’m in the mood for a thriller that will keep me on the edge of my seat.  As much as I enjoyed both Final Girls and The Last Time I Lied though, Sager’s latest, Lock Every Door, is by far, my favorite of his books yet.  It has everything I love in a thriller – a protagonist that is likeable and easy to root for, lots of tension and suspense, plenty of plot twists to keep me guessing, and an atmosphere that draws me in and creeps me out all at the same time. If you’re into thrillers, I highly recommend giving Sager’s books a try.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

No visitors. No nights spent away from the apartment. No disturbing the other residents, all of whom are rich or famous or both. These are the only rules for Jules Larsen’s new job as an apartment sitter at the Bartholomew, one of Manhattan’s most high-profile and mysterious buildings. Recently heartbroken and just plain broke, Jules is taken in by the splendor of her surroundings and accepts the terms, ready to leave her past life behind.

As she gets to know the residents and staff of the Bartholomew, Jules finds herself drawn to fellow apartment sitter Ingrid, who comfortingly, disturbingly reminds her of the sister she lost eight years ago. When Ingrid confides that the Bartholomew is not what it seems and the dark history hidden beneath its gleaming facade is starting to frighten her, Jules brushes it off as a harmless ghost story … until the next day, when Ingrid disappears.

Searching for the truth about Ingrid’s disappearance, Jules digs deeper into the Bartholomew’s dark past and into the secrets kept within its walls. Her discovery that Ingrid is not the first apartment sitter to go missing at the Bartholomew pits Jules against the clock as she races to unmask a killer, expose the building’s hidden past, and escape the Bartholomew before her temporary status becomes permanent.

five-stars

About Riley Sager

Riley Sager is the award-winning pseudonym of a former journalist, editor and graphic designer who previously published mysteries under his real name.

Now a full-time author, Riley’s first thriller, FINAL GIRLS, became a national and international bestseller and was called “the first great thriller of 2017” by Stephen King. Translation rights have been sold in more than two dozen countries and a film version is being developed by Universal Pictures.

Riley’s second book, THE LAST TIME I LIED, was published in 2018 and became an instant New York Times bestseller. It was inspired by the classic novel and film “Picnic at Hanging Rock” and one horrible week Riley spent at summer camp when he was ten. A television adaptation is being developed by Amazon Studios.

His next book, LOCK EVERY DOOR, inspired by a lifelong fascination with the grand apartment buildings on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, will be published in July.

A native of Pennsylvania, Riley now lives in Princeton, New Jersey. When he’s not writing, he enjoys reading, cooking and going to the movies as much as possible. His favorite film is “Rear Window.” Or maybe “Jaws.” But probably, if he’s being honest, “Mary Poppins.”

Review: THE LAST COLLECTION by Jeanne Mackin

Review:  THE LAST COLLECTION by Jeanne MackinThe Last Collection: A Novel of Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel by Jeanne Mackin
four-stars
Published by Berkley Books on June 25, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 352
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 

 

Today I am taking part in Berkley’s blog tour to promote Jeanne Mackin’s latest novel, The Last Collection.  I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to share my thoughts on this wonderful book. Thanks so much to Lauren Horvath from Berkley for the invitation!

THE LAST COLLECTION Review

Jeanne Mackin’s The Last Collection is a fascinating historical fiction novel that explores the fierce rivalry between iconic fashion designers Elsa Schiaparelli and Coco Chanel.  Set in Paris in the years leading up to World War II, The Last Collection drew me in right away with its lush descriptions of Paris and of the glamorous haute couture designs that Paris’ most well known ladies were wearing.  I’m not even that big into fashion but the author so vividly describes the fashion scene in 1930s Paris that I felt like I had truly been transported there.

While the Paris setting is a huge draw, what really makes this such a captivating read is the rivalry between Schiaparelli and Chanel.  Mackin does a wonderful job of portraying just how fierce this legendary rivalry really was, especially their attitude that Paris wasn’t big enough for both of them.  Rather than be happy for each other’s success, Schiaparelli and Chanel truly hated one another and they each went out of their way to try to tear the other down.  Just reading about the little things they would do to get under each other’s skin made this such an engrossing and entertaining read.  Whether it was sending spies over to each other’s studios or throwing around downright catty insults about each other’s designs, both Schiaparelli and Chanel took great delight in keeping each other riled up.

In The Last Collection, this rivalry extends to Lily Sutter, a young American woman staying in Paris, who both designers end up befriending.  The story is actually told from Lily’s perspective and it’s so fascinating to watch this rivalry play out through her eyes as she basically becomes a pawn in their game.  Each designer wants to dress her in their garments but then send her over to the rival studio just to rub it in that she’s not wearing their clothing, etc.

Schiaparelli and Chanel were both strong, talented and successful business women, but that’s pretty much where the resemblance between them ended.  They were polar opposites in many ways.  When it came to fashion, Schiaparelli favors bright colors and whimsical designs, while Chanel favored classic and elegant designs.  And when it came to politics, Schiaparelli was known to sympathize with Communists, while Chanel was known to associate with Nazis.

The politics were also a huge area of interest for me while I was reading The Last Collection. Mackin does a beautiful job weaving the politics of the day, including the rise of Hitler and the start of WWII, into her story and showing how these things impacted Paris, the fashion industry, as well as Schiaparelli and Chanel personally.  I loved the added depth the politics lent to the story.

The Last Collection is an engaging read that I’d highly recommend to those who love couture and to readers who enjoy WWII historical fiction.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

An American woman becomes entangled in the intense rivalry between iconic fashion designers Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli in this captivating novel from the acclaimed author of The Beautiful American.

Paris, 1938. Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli are fighting for recognition as the most successful and influential fashion designer in France, and their rivalry is already legendary. They oppose each other at every turn, in both their politics and their designs: Chanel’s are classic, elegant, and practical; Schiaparelli’s bold, experimental, and surreal.

When Lily Sutter, a recently widowed young American teacher, visits her brother, Charlie, in Paris, he insists on buying her a couture dress–a Chanel. Lily, however, prefers a Schiaparelli. Charlie’s beautiful and socially prominent girlfriend soon begins wearing Schiaparelli’s designs as well, and much of Paris follows in her footsteps.

Schiaparelli offers budding artist Lily a job at her store, and Lily finds herself increasingly involved with Schiaparelli and Chanel’s personal war. Their fierce competition reaches new and dangerous heights as the Nazis and the looming threat of World War II bear down on Paris.

four-stars

About Jeanne Mackin

Jeanne Mackin is the author of The Beautiful American and A Lady of Good Family. In addition to several other novels as well as short fiction and creative nonfiction, she is the author of the Cornell Book of Herbs and Edible Flowers and co-editor of The Norton Book of Love. She lives with her husband in upstate New York.

Review: CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid Kemmerer

Review:  CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT by Brigid KemmererCall It What You Want by Brigid Kemmerer
Also by this author: More Than We Can Tell
four-half-stars
Published by Bloomsbury YA on June 25, 2019
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary Fiction
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

CALL IT WHAT YOU WANT Review

Call It What You Want is officially my new favorite novel from Brigid Kemmerer.  Kemmerer is a master of creating engaging stories filled with wonderful characters that will tug at your heartstrings, and she really captured my heart with this one.

Call It What You Want follows Rob and Maegan, two teens who have been ostracized by their classmates.  Rob’s father got caught embezzling funds from half the town, including the parents of many of his classmates.  Many people have wrongly assumed Rob knew exactly what his father was up to and so he has gone from being a popular star athlete at the top of the social food chain down to the bottom rung.  Maegan is an academic overachiever but we learn in the opening pages that she has cracked under the pressure of trying to be the best and cheated on her SATs.  Not only has Maegan potentially tanked her own chances at college, but she also caused the scores for dozens of her classmates to be invalidated as well.  Maegan is no one’s favorite person right now.

When the story opens, Rob and Maegan are both just in survival mode, each trying to lay low and get through the school year drawing as little attention to themselves as possible.  When Rob and Maegan get paired up on a project in Calculus class, however, everything changes.

The friendship that blossoms between Rob and Maegan is one of my favorite things about Call It What You Want.   I love the way Kemmerer writes unlikely friendships like theirs.  She portrays that initial awkwardness of the relationship and then the slow opening up to one another so authentically and so beautifully.  I could read books like this from Kemmerer all day every day and never get tired of them.

Another gem of a friendship that appears in the book is between Rob and Owen.  Owen is a loner and he’s also poor, so poor that he can’t even afford to buy lunch at school.  Owen’s struggles are, in part, due to what Rob’s father did, so a friendship between Owen and Rob seems nearly impossible and yet Kemmerer works her magic and creates yet another amazing friendship for me to smile about.  I actually adored Owen’s character so much that I’d love to see him with a book of his own at some point.

Aside from making me smile at the wonderful relationships being forged throughout the story, Kemmerer also puts them into situations that tugged at my heartstrings so hard.  I felt tremendous sympathy for Maegan and the mess she has gotten herself into.  It felt like one of those situations that any one of us could have found ourselves in back in school.  Even more heart-wrenching than Maegan’s situation though is Rob’s.  Not only did he not have any idea what his father was up to, but Rob and his mother are stuck dealing with all of the fallout, including taking care of his father, who botched a suicide attempt and is now brain damaged and mostly paralyzed.  Rob is also being bullied by his former best friend, so every day is pretty much a living hell for him.

Finally, what makes Call It What You Want my new favorite book from Kemmerer is the fact that she really had me thinking about some tough topics, especially as they pertain to Rob. Rob is desperate to try to fix what his father did and contemplates crossing into morally gray territory to make it happen.  It really got me thinking about right and wrong.  Can you ever really make something right by committing a wrong?  I love a book that can engage me with such important and thought-provoking topics.

Wow, I actually had no intention of writing so much, but the book is just that good! Call It What You Want is a heartfelt and beautifully written story about friendship, overcoming adversity, and making amends.  I know Kemmerer’s fans are going to love it, but I’d highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a moving read.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

When his dad is caught embezzling funds from half the town, Rob goes from popular lacrosse player to social pariah. Even worse, his father’s failed suicide attempt leaves Rob and his mother responsible for his care.

Everyone thinks of Maegan as a typical overachiever, but she has a secret of her own after the pressure got to her last year. And when her sister comes home from college pregnant, keeping it from her parents might be more than she can handle.

When Rob and Maegan are paired together for a calculus project, they’re both reluctant to let anyone through the walls they’ve built. But when Maegan learns of Rob’s plan to fix the damage caused by his father, it could ruin more than their fragile new friendship…

This captivating, heartfelt novel asks the question: Is it okay to do something wrong for the right reasons?

four-half-stars

About Brigid Kemmerer

BRIGID KEMMERER is the author of LETTERS TO THE LOST (Bloomsbury; April 4, 2017), a dark, contemporary Young Adult romance; THICKER THAN WATER (Kensington, December 29, 2015), a New Adult paranormal mystery with elements of romance; and the YALSA-nominated Elemental series of five Young Adult novels and three e-novellas which Kirkus Reviews calls “refreshingly human paranormal romance” and School Library Journal describes as “a new take on the supernatural genre.” She lives in the Baltimore area with her husband and four sons.

Book Review & Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY by Amber Smith

Book Review & Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY by Amber SmithSomething Like Gravity by Amber Smith
four-stars
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on June 18, 2019
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Young Adult Fiction
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Thanks so much to Fantastic Flying Book Club for including me in the blog tour for Amber Smith’s Something Like Gravity.  I’m thrilled to be able to share my thoughts on this beautifully written and moving story that explores how people deal with grief and loss and how they process traumatic events, as well as what it feels like to fall in love for the first time. The story follows Chris, a teenage boy who has just come out as transgender, and Maia, who is trying to come to terms with the unexpected death of her older sister.  Both Chris and Maia are having a hard time – Chris because his mother is struggling to accept him as transgender and because he was violently attacked at school by some of his classmates, and Maia because she has basically lost her own identity and sense of self.  To all of her classmates, she’s now just the little sister of the girl who died. When Chris leaves town and moves in with his Aunt Isobel for the summer, who is coincidentally Maia’s neighbor, Chris and Maia meet.  Maia doesn’t know Chris is transgender or that he was attacked, and Chris doesn’t know about Maia’s sister, so as they become acquainted, they see each other as a chance for a fresh start. Can a relationship survive though, friendship or otherwise, if it begins based on secrets and lies?

 

* * * * *

5 REASONS WHY SOMETHING LIKE GRAVITY SHOULD BE ON YOUR SUMMER READING LIST

 

I really enjoyed reading Something Like Gravity.  I love how Smith crafted this story in a way that tackles very serious and meaningful topics, but also has a light side that focuses on summer vacation and falling in love.  It has everything I love in a contemporary read.  I could go on for days, but instead, I’m just going to share a few highlights as to why I think Something Like Gravity should be on your summer reading list.

 

  1. Authentic characters experiencing realistic and relatable struggles.  Both Chris and Maia are characters that I felt tremendous sympathy for.  I think the author does a wonderful job of authentically conveying the emotions they each must be feeling as they deal with their own internal conflicts.  Chris is dealing with not only what happened to him at school, but also his mother’s reaction to him coming out as transgender, not to mention everything that’s going through his own head about the fact that he is transgender.  Maia is grieving for her sister and struggling to figure out how to move forward. Her parents have pretty much shut down as well, so Maia is just in an all around unhealthy environment.  Both Chris and Maia are having to rediscover who they are and that journey of self-discovery is one I think we can all relate to.
  1. Complicated family dynamics.  I have a thing for books that focus on families, especially if those families come across as real.  And for me, real is messy and complicated.   Both Chris and Maia’s families score high marks in the messy and complicated department.  Chris is caught between a father who is supportive of him and a mother who isn’t, and because both of them have become so overprotective ever since his attack, he is practically suffocating at home.  His way out is cool Aunt Isobel who supports him no matter what, even if it causes friction between her and Chris’ mother.  Watching the intricacies of those relationships play out was fascinating, as was Maia’s situation, where not only is everyone in her home grieving over the death of her sister, but apparently her parents are actually divorced but still living under the same roof, so it’s tension city all the way around, with Maia trapped in the middle.
  1. Meaningful themes. We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” This quote from Anais Nin is a running theme throughout the book and it just really resonated with me because it’s true on so many levels.  It means that for better or worse, our experiences color and shape everything we see.  And it also means that no two people see things exactly the same.  I think it’s an important message for everyone, to help them understand themselves and to understand others.
  1. Transgender representation.  I think this is actually the first book I’ve read that has transgender representation in it.  I enjoy diverse reads so I was pleased to see a transgender teen as a main character in the story.  Not being transgender myself, I can’t speak as to how accurate the representation is, but it felt like the author handled it in a respectful and sensitive way.
  1. Romance/First Love. I’m not really a romantic at heart, but I did really like the romance in this book.  There’s just something about falling in love for the first time, especially a summer romance, that makes me smile and I liked the chemistry between Maia and Chris.  They were sweet together and I was really rooting for them to be able to open up to one another about what they’re hiding so that they had a chance for a long-term relationship.

 

Amber Smith’s Something Like Gravity is a heartfelt story about love, loss, and finding oneself.  I thought it was a beautiful story and would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances, coming of age stories, and diverse reads.  If you enjoyed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited, I think you would enjoy Something Like Gravity as well.

 

 

 

Purchase Links:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book DepositoryiTunes | Google Books

 

 SYNOPSIS:

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway?

 

GIVEAWAY

Win a copy of Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith (U.S. only). Giveaway ends July 2, 2019.

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Moonlight Rendezvous – Review + Favourite Quotes
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The YA Obsessed – Review
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The Bookish Libra – Review
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four-stars

About Amber Smith

Amber Smith is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult novels The Way I Used to Be, The Last to Let Go, and Something Like Gravity. An advocate for increased awareness of gendered violence, as well as LGBTQ equality, she writes in the hope that her books can help to foster change and spark dialogue surrounding these issues. She grew up in Buffalo, New York, and now lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her partner and their ever-growing family of rescued dogs and cats. You can find her online at AmberSmithAuthor.com.

Review: THE GIRL IN RED by Christina Henry

Review:  THE GIRL IN RED by Christina HenryThe Girl in Red by Christina Henry
Also by this author: The Mermaid
four-stars
Published by BERKLEY on June 18, 2019
Genres: Fantasy, Retelling
Pages: 304
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

THE GIRL IN RED Review

 

Christina Henry’s latest novel, The Girl in Red, is everything I didn’t know I needed in a fairytale retelling.  The Girl in Red is not just a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood; it’s also a postapocalyptic survival story that features a deadly virus that has wiped out thousands of people, and an ax-wielding, modern day Little Red Riding Hood character.  The world doesn’t resemble the world Red grew up in. Survivors are desperate and the rule of law has pretty much been thrown out the window, but Red is determined to survive and make it to the safety of her grandmother’s house, no matter who or what stands in her way.

Red was of course my absolute favorite part of the story.  I just truly loved everything about her.  She’s smart, sassy, resourceful, and incredibly determined to survive no matter what.  She also has an extensive knowledge of post-apocalyptic survival skills, much of which she has acquired from the many books and horror movies she has watched.  Her family actually mocks her for her obsession with being ultra-prepared to survive an apocalypse, but I have to say after reading just a few pages, I was convinced Red was just the person I’d want in my corner if the unthinkable were to ever happen.  I loved that she was so practical and that she managed to stay calm no matter what was going on around her.

I also loved the way that Henry unfolds this riveting tale.  She uses a dual timeline format where we are presented with “Before” and “After” chapters. Each “After” chapter is presented first and illustrates that something major has happened, and then that chapter is followed by a “Before” chapter that shows the lead up to the event from the “After” chapter.  When the story first opens, for example, we see that Red is traveling on her own but we learn soon afterwards that she and her brother were initially traveling together.  We then follow along and learn what has happened to separate Red from her brother.  I loved this technique because it creates so much tension and suspense.  As soon as I realized Red’s brother had been with her but wasn’t anymore, I just had to know what had happened to him.

I don’t want to give away any major plot points so that’s all I’m going to say, but if you enjoy retellings, gripping post-apocalyptic survival tales, or just really want to read a truly unique story, I highly recommend Christina Henry’s The Girl in Red.

 

 

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a post-apocalyptic take on the perennial classic “Little Red Riding Hood”…about a woman who isn’t as defenseless as she seems.

It’s not safe for anyone alone in the woods. There are predators that come out at night: critters and coyotes, snakes and wolves. But the woman in the red jacket has no choice. Not since the Crisis came, decimated the population, and sent those who survived fleeing into quarantine camps that serve as breeding grounds for death, destruction, and disease. She is just a woman trying not to get killed in a world that doesn’t look anything like the one she grew up in, the one that was perfectly sane and normal and boring until three months ago.

There are worse threats in the woods than the things that stalk their prey at night. Sometimes, there are men. Men with dark desires, weak wills, and evil intents. Men in uniform with classified information, deadly secrets, and unforgiving orders. And sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something worse than all of the horrible people and vicious beasts combined.

Red doesn’t like to think of herself as a killer, but she isn’t about to let herself get eaten up just because she is a woman alone in the woods….

four-stars

About Christina Henry

CHRISTINA HENRY is the author of the CHRONICLES OF ALICE duology, ALICE and RED QUEEN, a dark and twisted take on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, as well as LOST BOY: THE TRUE STORY OF CAPTAIN HOOK, an origin story of Captain Hook from Peter Pan.

She is also the author of the national bestselling BLACK WINGS series (BLACK WINGS, BLACK NIGHT, BLACK HOWL, BLACK LAMENT, BLACK CITY, BLACK HEART and BLACK SPRING) featuring Agent of Death Madeline Black and her popcorn-loving gargoyle Beezle.

ALICE was chosen as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Year in Science Fiction and Fantasy for 2015. It was also a Goodreads Choice Award nominee in Horror and one of Barnes & Noble’s Bestselling Science Fiction and Fantasy novels of 2015.

She enjoys running long distances, reading anything she can get her hands on and watching movies with samurai, zombies and/or subtitles in her spare time. She lives in Chicago with her husband and son.

Review: RECURSION by Blake Crouch

Review:  RECURSION by Blake CrouchRecursion by Blake Crouch
Also by this author: Dark Matter
four-half-stars
Published by Crown Publishing Group (NY) on June 11, 2019
Genres: Science Fiction, Thriller
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

 

 

 

 
 

RECURSION Review

 

Wow, Blake Crouch has done it again! I didn’t think there was any way he could top the mind blowing reading experience of Dark Matter, but man, was I wrong…He really outdoes himself with his latest novel, Recursion, a gripping sci-fi read that explores what happens when memory storing technology designed to potentially help Alzheimer’s patients retain some of their memories ends up in the wrong hands.

The story follows Barry Sutton, a NYC police detective, and Helena Smith, a gifted neuroscientist.  Barry is sent to an address in New York where a woman is threatening to kill herself.  She has False Memory Syndrome, or FMS, a somewhat new phenomenon that keeps popping up more and more frequently. People who contract FMS suddenly develop a complete set of memories of a life that they haven’t actually lived.  The false memories are so vivid and detailed that they seem real, which causes those who have the condition to become completely confused about what is real and what isn’t.  The woman Barry has been sent to talk down from the roof suddenly started believing that she was happily married to a man that she really wasn’t.  The memories were so convincing that she sought out the man and discovered that he was happily married to someone else and had a family of his own.  Devastated by this discovery and armed with the knowledge that she’s really all alone in the world, she decides she doesn’t want to live.  Barry gets a taste of just how closely our memories dictate our reality and how it can all fall apart if we can’t trust those memories.

Eleven years prior to our meeting Barry, Helena Smith is hard at work trying to develop a technology that she hopes will help Alzheimer’s patients, including her own mother, retain some of their memories.  When a wealthy benefactor offers her nearly unlimited funding to fast track her research, Helena can’t resist.  All goes fantastically until she and her benefactor start testing the technology on live subjects and see all of its possibilities, both good and bad.  Fast forward eleven years and we can see firsthand the bad that can come of it and we see Helena’s and Barry’s journeys intertwine as they come together to try to stop what Helena has inadvertently set into motion.

What made Recursion such a phenomenal read for me was how Crouch manages to take this fictional memory storing technology, which, at first, sounds outrageous and completely impossible, and he transforms it into a scenario that seems completely plausible.  And because it actually does seem plausible, it starts to feel a little less like science fiction and a little more like a glimpse into our future.  The fact that there are potentially catastrophic consequences lends the story a real sense of urgency and ratchets up the tension and suspense.  The emotional and sometimes desperate reactions of those who are impacted by all of this mucking around with memories felt completely authentic too.  I sympathized with them so much and found myself wondering how I would react if I was in their shoes.  I loved that added emotional layer.

Crouch had me so caught up in this story that I was up until nearly 2a.m.one night because I just couldn’t go to sleep until I knew how the story was going to end.  I kind of hated myself the next day, but it was so worth it.  Plus, the writing is so crisp and smooth that it just naturally lends itself to binge-reading it.

Recursion is a powerful and mind blowing read that I just know I’ll be thinking about for a long time to come.  Aside from being a riveting page turner, it’s also a book that left me with some pretty major food for thought, namely the question of whether technology that has the potential to do an incredible amount of good is worth having if it also has the potential to do a devastating amount of bad if placed in the wrong hands.  If you enjoyed Dark Matter, you’re going to love Recursion.  And if you’re a science fiction fan, I highly recommend both novels.  They made Blake Crouch an auto-buy author for me.

GOODREADS SYNOPSIS:

Memory makes reality. That’s what New York City cop Barry Sutton is learning as he investigates the devastating phenomenon the media has dubbed False Memory Syndrome—a mysterious affliction that drives its victims mad with memories of a life they never lived.

Neuroscientist Helena Smith already understands the power of memory. It’s why she’s dedicated her life to creating a technology that will let us preserve our most precious moments of our pasts. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent.

As Barry searches for the truth, he comes face-to-face with an opponent more terrifying than any disease—a force that attacks not just our minds but the very fabric of the past. And as its effects begin to unmake the world as we know it, only he and Helena, working together, will stand a chance at defeating it.

But how can they make a stand when reality itself is shifting and crumbling all around them?

four-half-stars

About Blake Crouch

Blake Crouch is a bestselling novelist and screenwriter. He is the author of the novel, Dark Matter, for which he is writing the screenplay for Sony Pictures. His international-bestselling Wayward Pines trilogy was adapted into a television series for FOX, executive produced by M. Night Shyamalan, that was Summer 2015’s #1 show. With Chad Hodge, Crouch also created Good Behavior, the TNT television show starring Michelle Dockery based on his Letty Dobesh novellas. He has written more than a dozen novels that have been translated into over thirty languages and his short fiction has appeared in numerous publications including Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Crouch lives in Colorado.

The best way to stay apprised of new releases is to follow him on Facebook and Twitter.