Book Review | The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

dream daughter

Description

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 | Anything for Her by G. J. Minett

anything for her

Book Description:

When Billy Orr returns home to spend time with his dying sister, he bumps into his ex-girlfriend Aimi, the love of his life. He might not have seen her in eleven years, but Billy’s never forgotten her. He’d do anything for her then, and he’d do anything for her now.

When Aimi tells him that she wants to escape her abusive husband, Billy agrees to help her fake her own death. But is she still the Aimi that Billy remembers from all those years ago?

Once Aimi disappears, Billy has to face the possibility that perhaps she had different reasons for disappearing – reasons that might be more dangerous than she’s led him to believe . . .

Sometimes trusting the one you love is the wrong thing to do.

This book was a great read!  It started out with a prologue that reeled me in and got me speculating, so that’s a great start!

Billy Orr and his sister Mia have a strong relationship.  They grew up very close, despite a tragic childhood trauma situation. Mia is now married and dying, so Billy goes back home to assist.  And though he has a purpose for being there, he soon becomes distracted by an old love interest with an urgent need.

Things get weird pretty fast, and I liked the pace of the book.  It does skip back and forth from now to a few years earlier, so much is revealed in the flashbacks.

After “Gone Girl”, I’m getting used to the time jumps in stories. And with this style of writing, G. J. Minett nails it.  So much comes out! Very suspenseful book and a great twist at the end gave this book the boost to 4 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Netgalley and the publisher, Bonnier Zaffre.  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 | Need to Know by Karen Cleveland

need to know

A classy spy novel with intrigue, doubt, and fierce loyalties.  This debut novel by former CIA analyst, Karen Cleveland, grips and doesn’t let go.  The main character, Vivian, tracks Russian sleeper agents for her career, and at the end of chapter one, realizes they are much closer to home than she thinks!  Hacking into a recovered laptop from a known Russian source, she uncovers five covert agents who are sleepers and she is about to expose them.  But what must she do when one of them is related to her?  The book immediately gets the reader thinking ethically and to what extent we might bend the rules.

By chapter six, she makes a decision that affects everyone in her family, her four children and husband included, and the story takes off.  Can she protect her family from those who really wish harm, or is she trapped?  And will she be able to move on when lies are built on lies?

If you love spy stories, or possible real life fiction, this book is for you.  I will admit at some points, I struggled with some of Vivian’s decisions, but her motherly ways influence her in ways I might not have chosen. However, the end is satisfying, and some of the conversations throughout the book aren’t predictable, but flow as if characters are actually having a conversation, which is rather refreshing.  For a debut novel, I would definitely read more by this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House Publishing through 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.”

Movie Update: http://deadline.com/2017/02/charlize-theron-need-to-know-cia-spy-novel-universal-pictures-karen-cleveland-1201924366/

 

Book Review | The Good Sister by Jess Ryder

the good sister

Official Book Description:

“Two sisters. One secret… A lie that could destroy them both.

When her father dies, Josie is devastated to uncover he led a secret life: another house, another family and a half-sister called Valentina.

Both with red hair and icy blue eyes, Josie and Valentina could be mistaken for twins. But the similarities end there…

Josie – Sweet, reserved, jealous, thief.
Valentina – Care-free, confident, dangerous, liar.

Two sisters. One survivor.

A nail-bitingly tense and unputdownable read that will keep you turning pages into the night. Perfect for fans of Gone GirlThe Girl on the Train and Sister Sister.”

I’m not sure about “gripped”, but this book definitely took me down roads I wasn’t ready to go down.  The story opened up with a man named Jerry, dying in a motorcycle accident, after refusing to respond to text messages that seem to be incriminating him in some way.  As a result, his wife Helen and her daughter Josie are alerted to his death and they start the process of grief and moving on.  Josie’s father, Jerry, was a Viking who passed down to her his heritage and philosophy, and it is evident in her appearance and way of thinking.

When Jerry passes, Josie goes to his second residence to clean it up and get it ready to sell.  It’s there that she begins to realize who her father really was.  There is a sister named Valentina who is five days older than she, and another mother she’s never met, and all of a sudden, her father’s time spent away from home begins to take shape.  The betrayal, questions and heartache are all left wanting, as Jerry isn’t there to fill in the blanks.

As the half sisters begin to spend more time with each other, they begin to learn about each other and it’s hard not to compare how one of them was given much, while the other had to struggle through life.  The built up animosity begins to show, and sadly, the lines begin to blur between what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Sidenote: At the beginning of each chapter is a “truth” about Viking morals and values, and it prefaces what is about to happen.  These are very contradictory to a healthy functioning family, and seems to give Jerry a pass at not being the best father.

The story shifts each chapter between Josie and Valentina, and even toward the end, it’s hard to tell which is which, so that may be a bit confusing, but it does eventually line up.  And although I enjoyed the suspense of the mothers finding out, the details learned by the sisters, and the antics they go through, I couldn’t help but find myself yelling at one of the sisters in many of the situations, because she seems to allow herself to be led down paths she knows aren’t safe.  What truly is the intention of the “bad” sister?  And which sister is which?  The ending is bizarre, but leaves lingering questions.  However, I read it in less than a week, so maybe it did grip me.

Nature of book warning: graphic sex scene and memories of a rape

Blogger note: I read 50% of this book, and listened to the other half through Amazon Audible.  I loved the narrator, Annette Chown, as she read from Josie’s and Valentina’s perspectives.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Bookouture 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 | Are You Sleeping by Kathleen Barber

are you sleeping

Whoa…talk about suspense!  Twins who grew up together shared a very sad secret for years, but it looks like it has finally caught up to them.  Josie and Lanie’s father was murdered, and a man has been in prison for over ten years, due to Lanie’s eyewitness account.  But when a woman who runs a podcast begins to question if the right person is serving time, it shakes the remaining family members to the core.  Did Lanie tell the truth?  If she didn’t, who killed their father?

The sad truth too, is that Josie, unable to trust her twin, moved away after the murder and has no relationship with her sister.  When their mother, who had run off to join a cult commits suicide, they are brought together to unravel the lies, determine the truth and shut down the suspicion of the podcast following.  Their interactions are believable (I have a sister) and I was able to relate to Josie very easily.

I loved the book, enjoyed the characters and appreciated the outcome.  Very well written first book!  I would gladly read another book by Kathleen Barber.

Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery, Threshold and Pocket Books for the advanced reader copy and the opportunity to read and review this book honestly.  It is a privilege and an honor.

Book Review | Eight Twenty Eight: When Love Didn’t Give Up by Larissa Murphy

828

Eight Twenty Eight was a very easy, yet emotional read.

Larissa Murphy writes a first-person account of meeting a young man and falling in love with hopes of a picture perfect wedding, only to have those dreams shattered when her new love survives a very tragic accident that changes both of their lives forever.  She writes deeply about the love that she has for him which was maintained during learning what it’s like to live with someone who can’t do things by themselves anymore.

Ian and Larissa, both young Christians, demonstrate intense faith amidst great tragedy.  Much of what is in the book comes from Larissa’s journals during that time, and she struggles very candidly with whether or not she has the level of love needed to continue the new relationship with Ian.  Trust in God becomes a new trial and she questions God’s grace and purpose in all of it.  But with a renewed sense of who she is and who God is making Ian, she pushes forward to care for, live with and pursue a relationship, and ultimately a marriage with the man she knows God had in mind for her.

It’s beautiful how she writes through the pain, allows us to see the heartache, and the hunger for God during her questioning, struggles and uncertainty.  With raw emotion, she details exchanges between herself and Ian’s family, friends and others whom she encounters.  And she’s not afraid to admit her anger during her grief.  I enjoyed this book a lot and shed many tears through its pages.

The flow of the story was disjointed at times, and I believe it was because her emotions were the focus of the story and not a chronological timeline.  It’s still understandable, but that would be my only con.  Other than that, a great read about faith being strengthened, relationships growing and grace persevering.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through B&H Publishing 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 | Death on Hold: A Prisoner’s Desperate Prayer and the Unlikely Family Who Became God’s Answer by Burton Folsom Jr and Anita Folsom

death on hold
Death on Hold was the first book I’d ever read that was based on the life of an inmate.  Very intense at times, somber and sad at others, but told from the perspective of the one who lived the moments.  It’s an amazing story of growth, love, forgiveness and God’s redemption.

Mitch Rutledge made some bad choices after his mother passed and his dad abandoned him and his siblings.  He took to the streets and followed the path of drugs, alcohol and gangs.  Finding his “family” in the gang worked for a length of time, but eventually landed him in trouble.  He made a decision to take a life, and as a result, was found out by the law, and prosecuted.

Mitch’s story is told primarily by Mitch, however he begins to develop relationships with some families outside of prison; people who want to show him hope, the Gospel and love.  These families that wrote to him shared their perspectives through this book as well.  It’s beautiful to see their hearts and viewpoints during court sessions, meeting Mitch in the “yard” and during their prayers as he had to wait to see if he could get off of death row.

To Mitch, a young man who couldn’t read or write, it took a while to find out what the letter writers were saying, but he began to study English and believe that he had value.  Fellow inmates would read him the letters of those who wanted to teach him about Jesus, and as a result, he learned to read and write, and took what he was learning from his friends and the Bible to heart.  He ended up becoming repentant, and became a person known in prison for staying neutral and defusing tough situations.

Read this book to learn the story of a man who is rehabilitated, learn about Jesus in a new way, and/or see the work of the Lord behind bars.  No one is out of His reach!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have 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.”