2018 Book #23 – Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

510QHlz22KLTitle: Not That I Could Tell
Author: Jessica Strawser
Date finished: 3/27/18
Genre: Fiction, suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Paperbacks
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Pages in book: 336
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley
NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn in Not That I Could Tell, the next page-turner from Jessica Strawser.

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review.

I had read Strawser’s debut novel, Almost Missed You, last year and really enjoyed it so I was excited to see her next book available for review. Strawser’s second book Not That I Could Tell is a great book with a lot to enjoy. The plot line had plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader engaged. I especially liked how the narrator / POV was continually changing, every time I felt myself growing a little restless with the story we’d switch the POV and I’d be back and engaged in the story. And I really loved how multi-faceted all the characters were, and how quirky and likable all the women were. There were a couple things in the book that happened that I found to be “unfair” (one example is the chastising speech Izzy gets from her Dad, while he may have been right it was painful still) but life is also unfair and it added to the drama and build up of the story line. I have to say I didn’t see the ending for this one coming, it took me completely by surprise. That being said I’m not sure that I ended up overall satisfied with how it ended. And I think as a reader I would’ve liked more details about Kristen’s back story (other than just the one event) to try and understand more of what she went through leading up to this. Overall though I really liked this book and I would recommend it, this would be a great vacation/beach read!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #75 – I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

51F48s-ByKLTitle: I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places
Author: Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella
Date finished: 8/15/16
Genre: Non-fiction
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: July 12, 2016
Pages in book: 324
Stand alone or series: It’s similar to 6 other books they’ve published I think but its not like a connected series
Where I got the book from: The Reading Room NOTE:I received this book for free from The Reading Room in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Lisa and Francesca are back with another collection of warm and witty stories that will strike a chord with every woman. This six book series is among the best reviewed humor books published today and has been compared to the late greats, Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron. Delia Ephron said of the fifth book in the series, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, “Lisa and Francesca, mother and daughter, bring you the laughter of their lives once again and better than ever. You will identify with these tales of guilt and fall in love with them and fierce (grand) Mother Mary.” This seventh volume will not disappoint as it hits the humorous and poignant note that fans have come to expect from the beloved mother-daughter duo.

My rating:  2.5 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book will count towards my ARC August 2016 Reading Challenge. Also, this book will count towards my Book Riot 2016 Read Harder reading challenge, marking off the “read a collection of essays” square since this book is made up of a number of non-fiction essays. The essays were written alternating between Lisa and Francesca. The essays were about their lives and their experiences. This is not the first book they’ve written in this style, I think that they mentioned this is around the 6th book in this similar style. While some of the stories were interesting, this isn’t something I would have normally chosen to read for myself. I’ve always had trouble with collections of poems or essays, I grow frustrated with the lack of plot/focus. There were some good points made in the book and a few topics I became engaged with, but each story was only about 2-6 pages. It was interesting to see in some cases how their stories interacted with each other but the compilation of so many short essays made it more difficult for me to stay engaged, There wasn’t really an overall “story line” which made it more difficult for me to read. And in many cases whoever was writing at the time would go off on a preamble completely unrelated to the story they were trying to present, which made it even harder to concentrate.

The bottom line: This just wasn’t really a style of book that I enjoy. I think that it would make a good beach read since it is a collection of shorter stories/essays and is therefore easy to put down and pick up again.

Link to author website: Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #36 – The Year We Turned Forty by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

51vl1T1gaGL._SX320_BO1,204,203,200_Title: The Year We Turned Forty
Author: Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke
Date finished: 4/19/16
Genre: Fiction, women’s fiction
Publisher: Washington Square Press
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Pages in book: 319
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: Author/publisher NOTE: I received this book for free from the author/publisher in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

If you could repeat one year of your life, what would you do differently? This heartwarming and hilarious novel from the authors of The Status of All Things and Your Perfect Life features three best friends who get the chance to return to the year they turned forty—the year that altered all of their lives, in ways big and small—and also get the opportunity to change their future.
Jessie loves her son Lucas more than anything, but it tears her up inside that he was conceived in an affair that ended her marriage to a man she still loves, a man who just told her he’s getting remarried. This time around, she’s determined to bury the secret of Lucas’ paternity, and to repair the fissures that sent her wandering the first time.
Gabriela regrets that she wasted her most fertile years in hot pursuit of a publishing career. Yes, she’s one of the biggest authors in the world, but maybe what she really wanted to create was a family. With a chance to do it again, she’s focused on convincing her husband, Colin, to give her the baby she desires.
Claire is the only one who has made peace with her past: her twenty-two year old daughter, Emily, is finally on track after the turmoil of adolescence, and she’s recently gotten engaged, with the two carat diamond on her finger to prove it. But if she’s being honest, Claire still fantasizes about her own missed opportunities: a chance to bond with her mother before it was too late, and the possibility of preventing her daughter from years of anguish. Plus, there’s the man who got away—the man who may have been her one true love.
But it doesn’t take long for all three women to learn that re-living a life and making different decisions only leads to new problems and consequences—and that the mistakes they made may, in fact, have been the best choices of all…

My rating: 4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I actually won a free copy of the ARC by entering a contest on their Facebook site and was so excited to read it! Also, this book will count towards my “PopSugar 2016 Checklist” reading challenge, marking off the “a book with a blue cover” since this book has a blue cover. This book was about three best friends: Gabriela, Claire, and Jessie. In some way or another their lives all change on their fortieth birthday that affects them for the next ten years. We next meet them in Las Vegas on their fiftieth birthday when they are offered the chance to travel back in time and relive their fortieth year, thereby possibly changing things for the better by doing things differently this time around.
Things don’t go quite as they expected though. Gabriela, who always wished she had a baby, has trouble conceiving. Claire repairs her relationship with her daughter but comes close to losing her again. And Jessie has managed to hold onto her husband Grant but only by keeping a huge secret from him, and how long can she really expect to keep him in the dark? The three friends journey through their fortieth year (for the second time) hoping that the mistakes their making this time somehow turn out better for them than the mistakes they made the first time. It almost reminds me (very loosely) of when you’re taking a multiple choice test and you have the option of a, b, c, or d and you have no idea which one it is. So the first time you guess a and get it wrong so the next time you guess b and hope its right but have no way of knowing. Gabriela, Claire, and Jessie had no way of knowing how their actions would affect not only themselves this time but all the loved ones that surrounded them as well.
Overall I really enjoyed this book a lot. I thought the plot line was immensely creative. It was heart-wrenching to see the characters struggle through the challenges in their relived lives but at the same time it allows the reader to connect more with the characters and their emotions. The ending was heart-warming and moving and I didn’t want to put the book down until I found out what happened. I also thought that this book dealt well with a variety of relationship issues, including husband and wife and parent and child in many different forms. I loved one of Jessie’s “lessons” from her relived life, that you should learn to love and appreciate what you have instead of always looking for the next thing that will help you be happy. I think that is an important thought since many people are continually trying to buy the next released phone or the next gaming system or the next whatever to gain some sort of happiness. But happiness is something that comes from being content in who you are and what you have and who is in your life. An important concept for people to think on nowadays.

The bottom line: I really liked this book, this one was definitely a tear-jerker and hit me hard in the feels. Definitely have a couple tissues handy. This was such a moving book though and was such a creative plot idea. Great book and a definite must read for summer!!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2016 Book #2 – Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis

518p6FZfawLTitle: Too Close to Home
Author: Susan Lewis
Date finished: 1/5/16
Genre: Fiction, thriller, women’s fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: December 15, 2015
Pages in book: 512
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

Jenna Moore finally feels that she and her family are exactly where they should be. Leaving busy London behind, they’ve moved to the beautiful, serene Welsh coast. There Jenna, her husband, Jack, and the couple’s four children have found a little slice of heaven. In the house of their dreams, Jenna and Jack are ramping up for the launch of their new publishing business, and the kids are happier than they’ve ever been, wandering the wild, grassy moors that meet white sand beaches and wide ocean.

But a fissure cracks open. The once open and honest Jack suddenly seems to be keeping secrets, spinning intricate lies. And fifteen-year-old Paige has become withdrawn, isolating herself from her family and her new friends. Frightened of the darkness enveloping her family, Jenna struggles to hold her loved ones together. But a cruel disturbance has insinuated itself into her home, threatening to take away everything she holds dear.

My rating:  4.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book will count towards my “Holiday 2015 Bookish Bingo” reading challenge, marking off the “2015 Release You Missed” square, since I was supposed to read this book for its 2015 release on NetGalley and fell a little behind therefore I missed it. This book tells the story of Jenna Moore, her husband Jack, and her four children (from oldest to youngest) Paige, Josh, Wills and Flora (twins). Paige is fifteen now and even though they just moved from London to Wales, she is making lots of new friends at her new school and she is thriving in her new school environment. She is working on a film project for school with the help of her step-father Jack and she was also given a lead role in an upcoming school play.
Jenna is happy with her family’s move and is looking forward to the business she is building with her husband. Though Jenna has already published a couple novels, she is currently experiencing some writer’s block and has fallen behind with her agent on her deadline for her next book. Other than that though things seem to be going along well. And then all of a sudden things start falling apart. Jenna starts noticing that her husband Jack is disappearing a lot. And his stories about where he’s been aren’t really adding up. Jenna starts to suspect that something awful may be brewing, but she isn’t prepared when Jack finally decides to reveal the truth. Also Paige has been distant, withdrawn, and downright mean lately to her family and Jenna can’t figure out why (though to be fair she doesn’t try overly hard to figure it out). What Jenna doesn’t realize is that Paige is dealing with her own demons, ones that she really needs help with but has no idea who or how to ask. And if Jenna isn’t careful, she may lose her firstborn to these events.
It is hard for me to say that overall I liked this book but I did. Obviously no one likes the story matter of this book, these are tough items to deal with. Divorce and bullying can make anyone’s stomach turn but even though these are hard topics to read about, they are so important. This book had an extremely important message about bullying and the trauma it can cause. The raw emotion in this book was just astounding to me, as a reader I was filled with tension and anxiety and apprehension for most of the book. I was on the edge of my seat with my stomach in flutters getting ready for the next fight. If you as a reader connect emotionally with the story then this may be a tough one because you will feel pain and desperation and frustration like you’ve never felt before in a book. I didn’t like this book because there was a happy ending, I liked this book so much because it was powerful. It had a powerful message that it delivered with powerful emotions through well developed characters. I think this is a book that everyone should read, if only to see the pain that bullying can cause.

The bottom line: I would recommend this book, it was riveting and heart-breaking and tension filled. Just be forewarned that if you are a reader who gets emotionally involved in the stories, this one may be a tough one to get through. Definitely recommend it though! Powerful stuff.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #110 – Smoke by Catherine McKenzie

41gqky7Ud9LTitle: Smoke
Author: Catherine McKenzie
Date finished: 10/22/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Pages in book: 351
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the internationally bestselling author Catherine McKenzie comes an evocative tale of two women navigating the secrets and lies at the heart of a wildfire threatening their town.
After a decade-long career combating wildfires, Elizabeth has traded in her former life for a quieter one with her husband. Now she works as the local arson investigator in a beautiful, quaint town in the Rockies. But that tranquil life vanishes when she and her husband agree to divorce and a fire in nearby Cooper Basin begins to spread rapidly. For Elizabeth, containing a raging wildfire is easier than accepting that her marriage has failed.
For Elizabeth’s ex-friend Mindy, who feels disconnected from her husband and teenage children, the fire represents a chance to find a new purpose: helping a man who has lost his home to the blaze. But her faith is shattered by a shocking accusation.
As the encroaching inferno threatens the town’s residents, Elizabeth and Mindy must discover what will be lost in the fire, and what will be saved.

My rating: 3.25 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. This book tells the story of Elizabeth Martin, an ex-firefighter who as the story opens we learn is planning to get a divorce from her husband, Ben. Elizabeth used to be friends with Mindy Mitchell but they had a falling out about a year ago. Anyways, there is a fire within the town of Nelson, where they both live, and its spreading through the forest area in/surrounding the town I believe. Elizabeth used to be an arson investigator and she now works for the local police department so she is called in to investigate the fire. Since she has been fighting fires for 10 years as well, she knows a lot of the people called in to help control the situation. Unfortunately there is no rain on the horizon and the fires are spreading like… well like wildfire. Elizabeth ends up having to figure out what is important to her while she is drawn back into the fire-fighting world.
On the other end of the spectrum, Mindy is trying to figure out what’s been up with her oldest son lately. He’s been acting weird and she thinks he might be sneaking out at night but can’t seem to find a way to prove it. Mindy feels awful for the man who lost his house in the fire and wants to do something to help, so she has the upcoming fundraiser divert their funds from the high school hockey team to this man who lost his home and everything else in the fire. Then Elizabeth discovers the fire started in this man’s fire pit outside his house, and the twists and turns start coming as we journey through the days following the start of the fire while staff try to contain it and put it out and Elizabeth tries to figure out who is behind all of this.
Overall I am not 100% sure how I felt about this book (which doesn’t usually happen for me). There were some parts of it that I really liked and that made me not want to put the book down but I had some trouble getting into the book until I was about halfway through. Also, one of my biggest book peeves is when we get a hint of something that seems like its going to be an issue and then that item is never followed up on, maybe in the interest of time or the author just forgot about it, I don’t know. That whole thing with the teacher named Elizabeth and how Ben never mentioned her and what not, I felt like that was leading somewhere. At the very least I felt like that should have been a discussion item, seeing as how Ben was all bent out of shape that Elizabeth was friends with Andy but Ben is friends with this Stephanie girl and never even mentions her? Weird. Also Elizabeth makes some vague mentions of something that happened between Kate and her husband but we never find out what and that is annoying. Also Tucker (while not technically the “villain” we are looking for) is a freaking psychopath shithead and I really wanted somebody to punch him. I was kind of upset he didn’t get in any trouble really. And my final issue was with the divorce in the first place. Obviously if you’re miserable and you can’t do it anymore and you’ve tried all you can, no one can expect you to stay miserable fort he rest of your life, we all deserve to be happy. But yanking this guy around telling him you want a divorce and then you don’t, that just bothered me. Obviously he is going to be confused and hurt and distrustful, honestly what do you expect?
So as you can see I had some overall issues with this book but that’s more of a personal thing. The story line was interesting and some parts of the book kept me on the edge of my seat waiting to find out what was going to happen next.

The bottom line: This was an ok book for me. I’m glad I read it but I’m on the fence about recommending it.

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page

2015 Book #89 – We Never Asked For Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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Title: We Never Asked For Wings
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Date finished: 8/22/15
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: August 18, 2015
Pages in book: 320
Stand alone or series: Stand alone
Where I got the book from: NetGalley NOTE: I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion of the book, or the content of my review.

Blurb from the cover:

From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Language of Flowers comes her much-anticipated new novel about young love, hard choices, and hope against all odds.
For fourteen years, Letty Espinosa has worked three jobs around San Francisco to make ends meet while her mother raised her children—Alex, now fifteen, and Luna, six—in their tiny apartment on a forgotten spit of wetlands near the bay. But now Letty’s parents are returning to Mexico, and Letty must step up and become a mother for the first time in her life.
Navigating this new terrain is challenging for Letty, especially as Luna desperately misses her grandparents and Alex, who is falling in love with a classmate, is unwilling to give his mother a chance. Letty comes up with a plan to help the family escape the dangerous neighborhood and heartbreaking injustice that have marked their lives, but one wrong move could jeopardize everything she’s worked for and her family’s fragile hopes for the future.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh blends gorgeous prose with compelling themes of motherhood, undocumented immigration, and the American Dream in a powerful and prescient story about family.

My rating: 3.0 stars out of a scale of 5

My review: This book will be counting towards my goal for ARC August reading challenge, it is #10 on list from my sign up post. I was provided a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and fair review. I have seen this book a lot in the last month or two as a must read book for summer so when I saw it was available on NetGalley I thought I would try reading it. This is the story of Letty Espinosa and her two children, Alex and Luna. Letty’s mother has raised Alex and Luna since they were babies while Letty works three jobs. But when Letty’s parents suddenly move back to Mexico, Letty is forced to face motherhood in a way that she has never had to before.
I liked this book. It had an interesting story line and was different from anything I’ve read before. There are some political commentary undercurrents about immigration towards the end but mostly I think this book is about Letty’s character growing and discovering what it means to be a mother. I didn’t end up loving this book because I had trouble forming a deep connection with the characters. It was great to see the characters evolve through the story, especially Letty, but at the same time I couldn’t form a personal connection with the story. When Letty got Alex drunk I honestly couldn’t read the book anymore that day I was so disturbed. I loved how supportive Rick’s character was though, he was like a constant pillar of strength. And Luna is just a little cutie. I couldn’t understand how Letty’s parents could leave them so suddenly but its probably better that they did, it forced Letty to stand on her own two feet. While there were pieces of this story I didn’t love, I liked the book overall.

The bottom line: I thought this story had a sweet ending even if I did get a bit freaked out along the way. It was interesting to see the characters grow through the story. I would recommend!

Link to author website

Click on the cover to go to the book’s Amazon page