Book Review | Every Time You Go Away by Beth Harbison

Beth Harbison Every time you go away cover

Book Description:

In New York Times bestselling author Beth Harbison’s most emotional novel ever, a fractured family must come together at a beach house haunted by the past.

Willa has never fully recovered from the sudden death of her husband, Ben. She became an absent mother to her young son, Jamie, unable to comfort him while reeling from her own grief.

Now, years after Ben’s death, Willa finally decides to return to the beach house where he passed. It’s time to move on and put the Ocean City, Maryland house on the market.

When Willa arrives, the house is in worse shape than she could have imagined, and the memories of her time with Ben are overwhelming. They met at this house and she sees him around every corner. Literally. Ben’s ghost keeps reappearing, trying to start conversations with Willa. And she can’t help talking back.

To protect her sanity, Willa enlists Jamie, her best friend Kristin, and Kristin’s daughter Kelsey to join her for one last summer at the beach. As they explore their old haunts, buried feelings come to the surface, Jamie and Kelsey rekindle their childhood friendship, and Willa searches for the chance to finally say goodbye to her husband and to reconnect with her son.

Every Time You Go Away is a heartfelt, emotional story about healing a tragic loss, letting go, and coming together as a family.

This book was beautiful. It definitely focused on grief in a way we’ve not seen in other books.  The story of Willa and Jamie takes a new turn as the two main characters go back to their summer home, three years after the death of their husband/father, to restore the place and sell it.  Willa begins to heal as she purges the house of items that were Ben’s and gives it a new makeover with fresh paint and furniture.  In the course of revisiting the location where Ben breathed his last, Willa begins to see him, after he’s passed.  She and he begin to have conversations and then late night rendezvous.  And they’re not tacky or inappropriate, they are sweet and realistic conversations that a widow might have, if she had the opportunity to reach out to her beloved, very much missed husband.

Jamie, Willa’s son, at the beginning of the book, has a dreadful girlfriend who is desperately in need of being let go.  It is just too much -it breaks my heart to read about a young woman who is so unstable and needy.  Mothers and fathers, spend time with your daughters, so they won’t turn into this hideous Roxy!  Her texts, phone calls and incessant pleas for Jamie were unnerving, but sadly realistic. Eventually, Jamie stands up to her and goes to visit his mother, which is so necessary to them both moving through grief.

Throughout the summer journey of revisiting and remembering, mother and son become closer, and healing begins, and it’s with the help of a wonderful friend, Kristin and her daughter, Kelsey.  And the direction that the kids take as a result of “fixing up the place” just opens doors for more romance.

I loved the pace of the book, the realistic parts that made sense regarding Willa wanting to reconnect and have some peace on moving on, and I really enjoyed the moments where the author recounted Willa’s memories for us.  Working through the death of a loved one is never easy.  And I felt her descriptions and imagery was believable.  It was a sad story that dealt much with healing, loss and grief.

Caution: If you have an event you are working through, this may trigger some feelings and heartache, but it was very well written and sweet.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | Bloody Sunday by Ben Coes

Book 8 in the Dewey Andreas series…

Ben Coes Bloody Sunday cover

Book Description:

North Korea, increasingly isolated from most of the rest of the world, is led by an absolute dictator and a madman with a major goal―he’s determined to launch a nuclear attack on the United States. While they have built, and continue to successfully test nuclear bombs, North Korea has yet to develop a ballistic missile with the range necessary to attack America. But their missiles are improving, reaching a point where the U.S. absolutely must respond.

What the U.S. doesn’t know is that North Korea has made a deal with Iran. In exchange for effective missiles from Iran, they will trade nuclear triggers and fissionable material. An exchange, if it goes through, that will create two new nuclear powers, both with dangerous plans.

Dewey Andreas, still reeling from recent revelations about his own past, is ready to retire from the CIA. But he’s the only available agent with the skills to carry out the CIA’s plan to stop North Korea. The plan is to inject a singular designer poison into the head of the North Korean military and in exchange for the nuclear plans, provide him with the one existing dose of the antidote. But it goes awry when Dewey manages to inject a small amount of the poison into himself. Now, to survive, Dewey must get into North Korea and access the antidote and, while there, thwart the nuclear ambitions of both North Korea and Iran. And he has less than 24 hours to do so―in the latest thriller from Ben Coes.

First of all, wow! I love political thrillers, especially from previous government employees who have intel we would never have! This author is very engaging, keeps the pace moving from the first page and never let me down.  Quite a feat! 5/5 for this book!

Ben Coes, the author, is a former member of the U.S. Special Forces Delta Force. Working for the Veterans Administration, I can concur that there are abbreviations and acronyms for everything we do, and reading this book, gave me a lesson in even more of them.  For instance, SOQ is statement of qualifications, THAAD stands for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, and DARPA is Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Felt like I was reading an email from a colleague with a va.gov address, but I digress…

The book has so much action, characters who are easy to follow who aren’t predictable or annoying, and a plot that could easily fit into today’s headlines. With Kim Jong Il found to be dying of pancreatic cancer that has spread, he’s determined to annihilate the western part of the US with nuclear warfare because he wants to go out strong. But what he doesn’t realize is that Dewey Andreas, though bordering on retirement, gets pulled back in to stop him.  And when the plan that’s in place goes off-course when one of Jong Il’s agents overpowers Dewey, the clock begins ticking and it’s a race to get him back to safety and to baseline.

If you like political thrillers packed with action starring a man who looks like Jason Statham (in my mind), these books are for you.  This book was a fast-paced read and since it was built on the previous seven in the series, it would most likely be wise to go back and read them in sequence just for fun.

Book One: Power Down, 2010

Book Two: Coup d’etat, 2011

Book Three: The Last Refuge, 2012

Book Four: Eye for an Eye, 2013

Book Five: Independence Day, 2015

Book Six: First Strike, 2016

Book Seven: Trap the Devil, 2017

Book Eight: Bloody Sunday, 2018

Thanks for reading! 😉

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Book Review | The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

dream daughter

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Book Review | Bring Me Back by B. A. Paris

bring me back

Description

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through St. Martin’s Press and Netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall

subway girls susie orman schnall

Book Description:

Book Review | All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

all we ever wanted

Book Description:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

In an age where pictures can be shared in seconds via social media and texting, and long-term repercussions are not considered, this story takes a very realistic scenario and plays it out with such fast-pace that it pulls you in and challenges everything you believe.  “White privilege” and minority stereotypes were addressed in this story and it was extremely well written, without being forceful toward a certain agenda.  Thankfully fiction stayed as fiction.

This story really made me feel all kinds of emotions: compassion, sympathy, anger, sadness, happiness, disgust. I loved the writing, as it was so incredibly vivid.  The characters were definitely realistic, even the teenage viewpoints and I felt like they weren’t forced.  The “uppity” status exemplified by Nina’s husband was sadly believable as well, and the conversations had between multiple parties flowed.

I really enjoyed the novel, didn’t mind thinking about the worst case scenario when it comes to consequences and actually think this book might be extremely relevant for mothers, fathers, and teenage children to read together to cause discussion.  I would definitely read another book by the same author anytime, and enjoyed this book, despite the raw scenes. It was refreshing to read something that was mature about a topic as severe as this one.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

death of mrs westaway

Book Description:

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

Full of spellbinding menace and told in Ruth Ware’s signature suspenseful style, this is an unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

This is the third book from Ruth Ware that I’ve read (previously LOVED In a Dark, Dark Wood and So/So The Woman in Cabin 10).  I must say, I do think this author’s got talent and I like her characters, as she definitely lets you know their perspectives (sometimes too much in their heads), but unfortunately, this is my least favorite so far.

The synopsis of the story was enough to intrigue me: who wouldn’t want a letter stating that you have an inheritance coming when you’ve got bills piling up on your kitchen table?  And I will say I’ll give this book 4/5 stars for the characters that intermingle like the cast of Clue.  However, I did feel that some explanations were lacking and there are some bizarre events that take place once Hal meets the rest of the family and stays at the family residence.  And to be frank: it just feels cattywampus.

The beginning of the story started out strong: letting you follow Hal to her tarot card stand, and seeing her encounter a few curious patrons, but then after the notice about the letter, it doesn’t seem to build as much suspense.  And the part where there is a big reveal, left me going, “Huh? Did I miss something?”  I typically pick up on little details, but this didn’t have the crescendo I was so looking forward to.  It ended up being a lead balloon.

However, I’m not giving up on Ms. Ware.  I love suspense and I think she is a great story teller.  So, if you’re like me, and you tend to keep giving grace, do so for Ms. Ware.  This may be a great read for you.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Book Review | The Forgotten Life of Evelyn Lewis by Jane Rubietta

the forgotten life of evelyn lewis

Book Description:

In a desperate attempt to save her company from bankruptcy, designer Evelyn Lewis decides to sell the only memento from her past worth anything—the family farmland. Determined to get in and get out of the abandoned property, she finds the valuable land tangled in a trust, and wonders who she can really trust, Not the property manager and affable southern gentleman, Taylor Simpson.

Caught up in the mechanics of a farm, a legal document she can’t break, and pressure from her company for money, Evelyn turns to her own wiles and willpower…but can she resist the South’s wooing?

I know Jane Rubietta as a non-fiction Christian author/speaker and have appreciated her insight over the years.  She is inspirational and enthusiastic about her Christian faith.  In 2015, I reviewed: “Worry Less So You Can Live More” – [https://freshlyprinted.blog/2015/05/21/worry-less-so-you-can-live-more-by-jane-rubietta/%5D. And I will continue to read anything she puts out, non-fiction and fiction alike.

This book was such a refreshing novel for me.  The writing was splendid, and I knew this was Jane’s first attempt at a novel.  I was so intrigued to see how it would go.

If you’re unfamiliar, Jane has a unique writing style that is very descriptive and seems to bring beauty to words in a way unparalleled.

For instance, in describing laughter, “Silver wind chimes of his child’s laugh pealed and filled his soul”, or someone’s eyes, “Those eyes could set fire to wet timber”, and finally, “Handel never heard a more beautiful chorus of amens.” Rich terms to give visuals that stick.  Her books continuously flow with these gifted words.

So, on to the actual review: this book will stay with me for a long time. I almost wish there was a follow-up novel to continue the direction the book was going.  If you’re a Hallmark movie lover like myself, yes, this book is reminiscent of some of those happy town scenes and relationships built.  But there was so much more.  The depth of character that Jane was able to produce, in the main character Evie with her struggles in business, relationships and life in general, in Taylor with his grief and family struggles, in the townspeople who were seeing a city girl come to make change, they were so incredible, you feel like you’ve actually met them!

There is definitely conflict and the ability to overcome at certain points in the book (and I certainly won’t spoil the situations, as each moment is so vivid and unique). That is why this book stands out to me.

The aspect of Evelyn Lewis losing a part of herself throughout her life is something most of us can relate to.  And in witnessing her journey through tears, pain, conversations and relationship, her growth and desire to change was so encouraging.  I felt like I knew her!

I also appreciated her love interest in the story and the way their relationship developed.  It was written so believably, especially in how it included “the good and the bad”. I love stories that are not entirely perfect.  And this one was fantastic!  There were so many parts I would love to point out and address, but I wouldn’t be letting the book do the talking.  So I’ll just encourage you to grab the novel, get a cold glass of sweet tea and read it on your front porch.  It’ll be a sweet ride, one that leaves you with a smile and a Southern sigh at the end. Kudos Jane, you are a gift!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Jane Rubietta. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

jar of hearts

Book Description:

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Whoa! I love psych thrillers and loved the synopsis of this book when I read it. Then I began it, and immediately I’m in the courtroom, reading about Geo and how her life ended up as a result of a horrible decision as a teenager.  From there, she goes to prison and then assimilation back into real life. Sadly, not much of a normal one.

So much happens so fast, and the book is written so well, that it is like a soft ribbon enclosing the book that when pulled lightly, slowly unravels and each new revelation is more bizarre than the previous. And yet, you keep pulling because you know the buildup will be worth it.

Geo is a believable character, especially as a teenager who has a small circle of trusted friends, is competitive and like normal young women, insecure.  The explanation of her early years, and the contrast as the story switches to her best friend growing up, Kaiser, lends relevant history to her character.  And her love interest, turned boyfriend, exaggerates how young love can be manipulated and not really love at all.

Caution: The book was graphic at parts with sex, rape and the aftermath of all of that. Though relevant to the story, I just want readers to be aware that this is not an after school special.  This is definitely more Lifetime. Or Snapped, even.

And about 80% into the book, an even deeper revelation is revealed that is a fantastic twist, but goes a disturbing direction (one I was able to predict, but still made my jaw drop).  This book is a fantastic suspense read, very deep and methodical.  I hear it may become a movie.  But kudos to the author. It’s a great book with depth and bizarre twists that came through as promised.  And I can never look at cinnamon hearts the same.

Well done!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

 

Book Review | Rethinking Sexuality, God’s Design and Why it Matters by Juli Slattery

rethinking sexuality

Book Description:

Sexual abuse, sex addiction, gender confusion, brokenness, and shame plague today’s world, and people are seeking clarity and hope. By contesting long-held cultural paradigms, this book equips you to see how sexuality is rooted in the broader context of God’s heart and His work for us on earth. It provides a framework from which to understand the big picture of sexual challenges and wholeness, and helps you recognize that every sexual question is ultimately a spiritual one. It shifts the paradigm from combating sexual problems to confidently proclaiming and modeling the road to sacred sexuality.
Instead of arguing with the world about what’s right and wrong about sexual choices, this practical resource equips you to share the love and grace of Jesus as you encounter the pain of sexual brokenness–your own or someone else’s.

I loved this book. Not only do I know Juli Slattery from Authentic Intimacy (https://www.authenticintimacy.com/rethinking), but I’ve heard her countless times on Christian radio.  She is a professional who speaks truth. And sex needs to be talked about.

This timely book starts out strong, “Although sexuality presents an enormous challenge to Christians and the world at large, it is not a problem to be solved but a territory to be reclaimed.” Bold, yet truthful! She provides stats and research regarding the epidemic of discounting the importance of sexual purity, but also recounts the harmful effects of sex outside of the God-given boundaries.

She is also clear to point out, “The world is watching and laughing at Christians who worship the same God and read the same Bible can’t agree on God’s intention for sexuality. We can’t guide others if we ourselves are lost.” Amid the confusion of today, she’s got some answers, with glaring totality. The world can provide sexual answers, or we can go back to God, the originator of the Design and seek His will above the noise.

As the world pushes more toward postmodernism and humanism, we are sucked into the mindset that there are no standards of right and wrong, no moral compass.  But is this actually true?  When did what God said about the beauty and gift of sexuality become something we had the ability to define? “The transgender movement is the ultimate expression of postmodern thought, denying even the biological constraints of male and female. Gender becomes something we create in our own thoughts instead of a physical reality to which we must adjust our thinking.” There has to be a movement back to the basics, back to reality where we let God speak about what He’s created, instead of letting our sinful nature draw us away from the One who designed us intimately.

So why does purity matter?  Why should sex be confined to the marital bed and not out in the streets where lust takes control of us? Why does this all matter?  Because we can teach the next generation about the discipleship of sexuality.  “…if the church were using a discipleship model to teach about sexuality, these young people would understand the underlying spiritual importance and implications of their sexuality…they would also know how to apply the broader message of the gospel (Jesus’s love and redemption, the power of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling) to their lives in all circumstances.”

It’s that important.  I applaud Dr. Slattery for being bold enough to speak out about the dangers of misusing our sexuality, mislabeling and giving into sin, instead of seeking the One who gave us the gift of gender and sexuality.  We all need the Living Water.

Check out the website above. She has provided many resources for education, and check out the podcast “Java with Juli” for more of her content.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley and Waterbrook & Multnomah.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”