2

Beartown Book Cover Beartown
Fredrik Backman
Fiction
Atria Books
May 2, 2017
E-book
336
NetGalley

From the New York Times bestselling author of A Man Called Ove, My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, and Britt-Marie Was Here, comes a poignant, charming novel about a forgotten town fractured by scandal, and the amateur hockey team that might just change everything. Winning a junior ice hockey championship might not mean a lot to the average person, but it means everything to the residents of Beartown, a community slowly being eaten alive by unemployment and the surrounding wilderness. A victory like this would draw national attention to the ailing town: it could attract government funding and an influx of talented athletes who would choose Beartown over the big nearby cities. A victory like this would certainly mean everything to Amat, a short, scrawny teenager who is treated like an outcast everywhere but on the ice; to Kevin, a star player just on the cusp of securing his golden future in the NHL; and to Peter, their dedicated general manager whose own professional hockey career ended in tragedy. At first, it seems like the team might have a shot at fulfilling the dreams of their entire town. But one night at a drunken celebration following a key win, something happens between Kevin and the general manager’s daughter—and the next day everything seems to have changed. Accusations are made and, like ripples on a pond, they travel through all of Beartown, leaving no resident unaffected. With so much riding on the success of the team, the line between loyalty and betrayal becomes difficult to discern. At last, it falls to one young man to find the courage to speak the truth that it seems no one else wants to hear. Fredrik Backman knows that we are forever shaped by the places we call home, and in this emotionally powerful, sweetly insightful story, he explores what can happen when we carry the heavy weight of other people's dreams on our shoulders.

My review:

I've been a big fan of Mr. Backman since reading his novel A Man Called Ove. This is my fourth of his novels that I've read, and it was fantastic! I don't know if anything will ever top Ove (there's just something about that curmudgeon that I'll never forget), but this came pretty darn close. I loved reading about the various characters in this small town, where the only thing that exists is the love of hockey. While I don't think you have to be a sports fan to enjoy this book, it certainly adds that extra element of "love for the game" that we sports fans can relate to. While the second half of the book deals mostly with a pretty heavy subject, it was the characters that drove this story for me (I loved Benji to the moon and back!). I found myself completely engrossed in their lives, and rooting for them right along with the hockey team. Backman has such a wonderful way of creating scenes and drawing you in, that you feel like you are there in the story. I appreciate the fact that his resolutions to each character's story were not all rainbows and roses, this is a much more realistic look at life with its ups and downs.

An absolutely marvelous look at small town life with wonderfully crafted characters. I just loved it!

I Found You Book Cover I Found You
Lisa Jewell
Fiction
Atria Books
April 25, 2017
Advanced Reader Copy
352
Publisher via BookReporter.com

A young bride, a lonely single mother, and an amnesiac man of dubious origin lie at the heart of New York Times bestselling author Lisa Jewell’s next suspenseful drama that will appeal to fans of Liane Moriarty and Paula Hawkins.

In a windswept British seaside town, single mom Alice Lake finds a man sitting on the beach outside her house. He has no name, no jacket, and no idea how he got there. Against her better judgment, she invites him inside.

Meanwhile, in a suburb of London, twenty-one-year-old Lily Monrose has only been married for three weeks. When her new husband fails to come home from work one night she is left stranded in a new country where she knows no one. Then the police tell her that her husband never existed.

Twenty-three years earlier, Gray and Kirsty are teenagers on a summer holiday with their parents. Their annual trip to the quaint seaside town is passing by uneventfully, until an enigmatic young man starts paying extra attention to Kirsty. Something about him makes Gray uncomfortable—and it’s not just that he’s playing the role of protective older brother.

Two decades of secrets, a missing husband, and a man with no memory are at the heart of this brilliant new novel, filled with the “beautiful writing, believable characters, pacey narrative, and dark secrets” (London Daily Mail) that make Lisa Jewell so beloved by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

My review:

One of my favorite books is The House We Grew Up In by this author. While this book is very different from that one, I still got the same feeling from Jewell's writing. Her words seem to flow across the page (not too many, not too few), and her characters are always well developed. This book is a mystery/thriller, and had me from the first chapter trying to figure out the identity of the man with amnesia. Was he the same man that never came home to his new wife one night? What relationship did he have with the alternating story set over a dozen years earlier? There are lots of twists and turns along the way, but the main focus for me was on the characters, and how they developed and grew along the way. Each was looking for something other than the obvious, and in the end I felt that they found it, and themselves. The only niggling point I could make was that I found some of the actions of the mothers in the book to be a bit unsettling, although that doesn't mean that it's not what others would do or think. I'm fairly certain that this author can write a winner in many different genre's, and I'm excited to continue exploring her works.

A riveting page-turner that will have you trying to figure things out, while at the same time getting a wonderful array of characters to watch grow into themselves.

 

6

Slightly South of Simple Book Cover Slightly South of Simple
Peachtree Bluff
Kristy Woodson Harvey
Fiction
Gallery Books
April 25, 2017
Advanced Reader Copy
400
Author

Caroline Murphy swore she’d never set foot back in the small Southern town of Peachtree Bluff; she was a New York girl born and bred and the worst day of her life was when, in the wake of her father’s death, her mother selfishly forced her to move—during her senior year of high school, no less—back to that hick-infested rat trap where she'd spent her childhood summers. But now that her marriage to a New York high society heir has fallen apart in a very public, very embarrassing fashion, a pregnant Caroline decides to escape the gossipmongers with her nine-year-old daughter and head home to her mother, Ansley.

Ansley has always put her three daughters first, especially when she found out that her late husband, despite what he had always promised, left her with next to nothing. Now the proud owner of a charming waterfront design business and finally standing on her own two feet, Ansley welcomes Caroline and her brood back with open arms. But when her second daughter Sloane, whose military husband is overseas, and youngest daughter and successful actress Emerson join the fray, Ansley begins to feel like the piece of herself she had finally found might be slipping from her grasp. Even more discomfiting, when someone from her past reappears in Ansley's life, the secret she’s harbored from her daughters their entire lives might finally be forced into the open.

Exploring the powerful bonds between sisters and mothers and daughters, this engaging novel is filled with Southern charm, emotional drama, and plenty of heart.

My review:

4.5 stars

Before I even begin to review the content, take a look at this gorgeous cover. Ms. Harvey has the most beautiful summer beach read covers of any author I know! As a side note, I saw the cover of her debut novel Dear Carolina and fell so in love with it that I researched the book. I was thrilled to find out that Kristy is from my state, and the rest is history. I have read and reviewed all of her works, this being the third novel she has written, and the first in a trilogy (Peachtree Bluff). Now on to my review.........

I loved this book!! It has all the southern charm and quick wittiness that make it a treasure. Even though the humor was one of my favorite parts of the book, this was in no way the main focus. Ms. Harvey was brilliant at exploring serious topics while interjecting banter at just the right moments to diffuse the situation. While the book is about a mother and her three daughters, who all come home to visit at the same time, this book focuses primarily on daughter Caroline. I cannot say enough about how much I adored this character! To sum her up in a nutshell, she may be a bit *itchy, but she knows it and she OWNS it. During the course of the book, she does undergo an attitude adjustment with regards to many aspects of her life, but I felt that it was not so dramatic as to be unbelievable. I can only hope that she will stay true to herself in the final two installments of the trilogy, because I adored her pluckiness. Along with Caroline, this book focuses a lot on the mother Ansley, who was also very well crafted. While I figured out her secret fairly early on, I felt it didn't spoil the way the story played out. There is also a solid introduction to the two remaining daughters, who I'm certain we will probably be hearing more from in the books to come (selfishly I'm just hoping there is more Caroline!).

The perfect summer beach read! What a charming  family story, with just the right amount of wit and candor. I can't wait to see what happens next!

 

One Perfect Lie Book Cover One Perfect Lie
Lisa Scottoline
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
April 11, 2017
Hardcover
384
Publisher

One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will keep you guessing until you turn the very last page. On the surface, it tells the tale of the struggling single mother of a high-school pitcher, a shy kid so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But the mother fears that she’s losing her grip on her son because he’s being lured down a darker path by one of his teammates, a secretly disturbed young man from an affluent family, whose excellent grades and fun-loving manner conceal his violent criminal plans. Add a handsome stranger who comes to town and infiltrates the high school, posing as a teacher but with a hidden agenda all his own. The mix becomes combustible when a beloved faculty member turns up dead as a suicide, in circumstances equally consistent with murder. Only then is the true identity of the fake teacher revealed, and the single mother finds herself engaged in a battle for the future, the soul, and the very life of her only son. One Perfect Lie is a riveting and suspenseful family drama, and by the time you close the book, you will realize that nothing was as it seemed at the beginning.

My review:

3.5 stars

You can always count on Ms. Scottoline to craft an unputdownable novel, and she doesn't disappoint with this new one. The pacing was perfect, with a great cast of characters, and a plot that keeps you guessing. What you think you're seeing at the beginning, is definitely not what you'll get by the end! I loved the sports team aspect of this one, and I really immersed myself into the lives of all these families. You will find yourself changing loyalties as the story goes on, which made for an interesting plot twist. I was a bit disappointed with the ending, which I felt was a bit over the top in the rescue department. I also thought that the reasons why certain people were involved in the horrific plan were not as fleshed out as they could have been. I still really enjoyed this one, it just left me scratching my head a bit more than I might have liked.

Another great addition to the novels of Lisa Scottline. Pick this one up if you want something that will pique your interest until the very last page. This one is a great read, especially if you like a little baseball on the side.

 

2

Almost Missed You Book Cover Almost Missed You
Jessica Strawser
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
March 28, 2017
Hardcover
320
Publisher

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good. So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all. Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice. Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser's Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My review:

This book was an absolute 5 star review for me up until the very last chapter when I wanted to fling it across the room! I haven't had this visceral of a reaction to a book since I read Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult (that one was problematic for me all the way through, whereas this one was only the last chapter). This book had everything going for it, a fast paced plot, engaging characters, secrets and lies, friendships put to the test, a kidnapping, and a recurring theme of missed connections. You name it, it was all here to pull you in and keep you glued to the pages (I read this book in 24 hours!). The writing was engaging, and the style with the back and forth from the three main characters worked really well. Everything was hunky-dory for me until I reached the end, and my "oh good, this is all going to end the way I hoped" didn't happen. Of course I can't go into the details of why I HATED (yes, I'm yelling!) the end so much without ruining the story, but suffice it to say there was more than just one reason, not just what you think was the obvious one. Why oh why was she such a wuss in the end? I better leave it at that!

A fantastic book, but make up your own end and skip the last chapter if you have any sense! I'm kidding, but if you've read this and want to discuss, message me on social media. I can't wait to see what this author comes up with next, I will definitely be reading it. I know I'm in the minority with how I reacted to the end, so I'm excited to see what 's next for Ms. Strawser.

This book was chosen by the SheReads blog network as one of its spring picks. Click on this link to learn more about them.

The Night the Lights Went Out Book Cover The Night the Lights Went Out
Karen White
Fiction
Berkley
April 11, 2017
E-book
416
Publisher via Penguin First to Read

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren't helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.

Sugar's stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother's seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world.

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee's house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women.

My review:

Karen White is one of those authors that you can pretty much count on to tell a great tale. She has a way of writing that just moves the plot along, with not too much or too little detail. This was one of my favorites that I've read, although I think The Sound of Glass still retains top honor.  There is something about a little old lady with chutzpah that gets me, and Sugar Prescott was worth the weight of this book in gold! The character of Merilee was superbly crafted. At times I wanted to shake her and tell her to wake up, but then I realized that her situation at this time in her life completely warranted her behavior. There are secrets revealed bit by bit within the novel, that serve to validate why the characters are who they are. While I did figure out what, and who, done it before the reveal, I was engrossed enough in the characters lives that I didn't feel at all cheated out of a big aha moment. Extra kudos to the blog inserts in the novel, complete with southern sayings and the meaning behind them. A great addition to the plot.

Any fans of Big Little Lies will love this take on the haves and have-nots in a private school arena (complete with a murder), with an awesome little old lady thrown in. Another winner by Ms. White.

4

The Sisters of Blue Mountain Book Cover The Sisters of Blue Mountain
Karen Katchur
Fiction
Thomas Dunne Books
April 4, 2017
Hardcover
320
Publisher

For Linnet, owner of a Bed and Breakfast in Mountain Springs, Pennsylvania, life has been a bit complicated lately. Hundreds of snow geese have died overnight in the dam near the B&B, sparking a media frenzy, threatening the tourist season, and bringing her estranged sister, Myna, to town. If that isn't enough, the women's father has been charged with investigating the incident. But when a younger expert is brought in to replace him on the case and then turns up dead on Linnet's B&B’s property, their father becomes the primary suspect. As the investigation unfolds, the sisters will have to confront each other, their hidden past, and a side of Mountain Springs not seen before. Karen Katchur has written a thrilling novel of sisters and the secrets that bind them that is sure to appeal to readers of her acclaimed first novel, The Secrets of Lake Road.

My review:

When I was sent this book for review, I wasn't sure about it. I get tired of the "sisters who are feuding, but then get back together" type books (you know the ones). I decided to start reading the first few pages to confirm my suspicion, and fifty pages later, I was still glued to my seat. There is still that element in the book, which frankly I could have done without, but the mystery surrounding what happened to the snow geese propelled me to gobble this up in two days. The scientific theories, the setting, the father in the mid stages of Alzeimers, and the mystery surrounding the reporter, all had me hooked. I'm not going to say that there was any real depth to the writing or the characters, but there was just something about the plot that sucked me in until the very last page. There are several stories going on within this one that keep the book moving along at a good pace, and I never got bogged down with a boring section. This book made me want to go visit this area in real life to watch the migration of the geese. I bet it's breathtaking, just as the book describes.

While I could have lived without the estranged sister part, this was a surprisingly engaging book with some intertwined mysterious goings on. A quick and satisfying read.

2

Tell Me How This Ends Well Book Cover Tell Me How This Ends Well
David Samuel Levinson
Fiction
Hogarth
April 4, 2017
E-book
464
Publisher via Penguin First to Read

In 2022, American Jews face an increasingly unsafe and anti-Semitic landscape at home. Against this backdrop, the Jacobson family gathers for Passover in Los Angeles. But their immediate problems are more personal than political, with the three adult children, Mo, Edith, and Jacob, in various states of crisis, the result, each claims, of a lifetime of mistreatment by their father, Julian. The siblings have begun to suspect that Julian is hastening their mother Roz's demise, and years of resentment boil over as they debate whether to go through with the real reason for their reunion: an ill-considered plot to end their father's iron rule for good. That is, if they can put their bickering, grudges, festering relationships, and distrust of one another aside long enough to act.
And God help them if their mother finds out . . .
Tell Me How This Ends Well presents a blistering and prescient vision of the near future, turning the exploits of one very funny, very troubled family into a rare and compelling exploration of the state of America, and what it could become.

My review:

When I explain what this book is about, I don't know if anyone will think this is going to be a satisfying read. A group of siblings want to kill off their father so their ailing mother can have a few good months of her life left to live. Trouble is, on the surface, the mother doesn't appear to really dislike the life she's led. Sounds morbid right? Except that even with the synopsis, I requested an advance copy. I kind of knew that I was going to like it.......and I did! The book focuses on each of the three siblings, and then their mother, with each one narrating a section of the book. It all takes place over a Passover weekend, with occasional flashbacks from each narrator showing the atrocities of their respective lives with this intolerable man. Even though there is abuse (emotional and mental, nothing physical), it's told in a way that while causing you to detest the father, is still a farcical look at deciding to kill him off. The characters, and their significant others, are all so well conceived by the author, and despite what seems to be a heady premise, there are several laugh out loud moments. The ending is quite the surprise, but totally satisfying in its resolution. This one is just quirky enough to totally satisfy my penchant for dysfunctional family stories.

Well written characters, and a completely original plot, this one should garner your attention if you are looking for something a bit off the beaten path in fiction.

3

The Hope Chest Book Cover The Hope Chest
Viola Shipman
Fiction
Thomas Dunne Books
March 21, 2017
Hardcover
320
Publisher

The Hope Chest is a deeply emotional novel about three people who have seemingly lost all hope until one woman’s heirloom hope chest is rediscovered in the attic, along with its contents and secrets. Mattie is a fiercely independent woman battling ALS; Don, her deeply devoted husband is facing a future without his one true love; and Rose, their struggling caregiver, is a young, single mother who feels trapped in her life. With each item that is discovered—including a beloved doll, family dishes, an embroidered apron, and an antique Christmas ornament—the hope chest connects Mattie, Don and Rose to each other and not only helps them find hope again in the face of overwhelming life challenges but also brings new meaning to family.

My review:

3.5 stars

Such a sweet and lovely story about an elderly couple, one of whom is in the last stages of their life. The characters were depicted in such a real fashion that I felt like they were my neighbors. If only we could all have a man like Don in our life when we get old (I'm chuckling as I write this since my husband's name just happens to be Don)! I loved the way the sections were divided to be about the various items within the hope chest, and the corresponding stories surrounding them from the past. Good writing, although not as thought provoking as the characters, who were the main focus of this novel. I did think it got a bit schmaltzy in places, particularly with the caretaker "turned family member" Rose, but who doesn't need a bit of that in a book once in a while? This is a vivid picture into the lives of a couple who have loved each other through the ages, and I lapped it up.

A sweet character driven story about the end of a woman's life, and the treasures she holds dear that she wishes to pass on in her memory. Grab the tissue box for the ending. And let's all strive to be a man like Don, or find one like him.

2

The Devil and Webster Book Cover The Devil and Webster
Jean Hanff Korelitz
Fiction
Grand Central Publishing
March 21, 2017
Hardcover
368
Publisher

Naomi Roth is the first female president of Webster College, a once conservative school now known for producing fired-up, progressive graduates. A former student radical herself, Naomi isn't alarmed when Webster students, including her own daughter, begin an outdoor encampment to protest a popular professor's denial of tenure.

But when Omar Khayal, a charismatic Palestinian student with a devastating personal history, emerges as the group's leader, shocking acts of vandalism begin to destabilize the campus. As the crisis slips beyond her control, Naomi struggles to protect her friends, colleagues, and family from an unknowable adversary. A riveting novel about who we think we are, and what we think we believe.

My review:

I have mixed feelings about this book. The plot was super interesting to me. I was never one to engage in any kind of protests when I was in school, but with what's going on in our country today, I can definitely relate to the concept now. I loved the satirical aspects of this novel, it was slyly (or not) poking fun at elite colleges, and what draws people to them. There was some neat college history thrown in. The rules which prevented the administration from explaining tenure and student admission decisions were as fascinating as they were frustrating, within the novel's framework.  I even really liked Naomi Roth, the main character.

Sounds great right? It was great, to a point, but what I felt this book severely lacked was good editing! There was way too much information thrown out there that I think wasn't entirely necessary for this novel to work. There were run on sentences, even run on paragraphs that made me bleary eyed. I think most of the information could have been edited down so that the reader still got it, but didn't want to yell "let's just get back to the story".

Overall a great story about college life, mostly from an administration perspective, but beware that there is lots of extraneous writing that I wish could have been edited out.