Lies That Bind

The Lies that Bind is gut-wrenching and touching as well as frustrating and enraging.

Cecily is trying to keep her mind off her break up with her ex-boyfriend Matthew. One of her distractions is at a local bar where she meets the most wonderful and polite guy. She takes him home but they don’t have sex. He is proving to be sweet and unusual and that just endears her more. She begins to fall for him but she doesn’t know that just because he seems perfect, he isn’t really a mess underneath.OIP

The last two novels by Emily Giffin have been a disappointment. I couldn’t bring myself to care about the main characters and the magic of her previous novels was gone. The first half of this book goes back to her classic books that brought in readers: an engaging story and anxiously waiting to see what happens when the other shoes drops. But unlike some of her earlier novels, the other shoe drops in such a way that it turns you off of the book as a whole.

Even without reading a summary of the plot, readers know as soon as they see the book is set in 2001, that 9/11 will be a prominent feature in this story. As the romance builds, the reader is anxious to see what happens when the story clashes with this real-life event. Giffin creates a juicy story that bucks every expectation.

Unfortunately, the twist doesn’t follow through in-depth. The characters make bad choices, you can see one twist coming, and many other plot points are just thrown in without any real meaning. By the end of the book you like none of the characters, and I was just pissed off such potential was wasted on the drivel that was the ending.

Overall, The Lies That Bind is at once classical Giffin mixed with the lesser work she has done of late. I wanted this book to bring me back into her fold, but at this point, I’m getting to the point where I leave her books behind.

 

Publication Date: June 2

I received ab ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own,

 

A Week at the Shore

A Week at the Shore, at first, seems like a breezy summer read. But the cover and the title don’t reveal the true depth of the story.

Mallory hasn’t been home to see her dad in a long time. She escaped to New York and has a great life as a photographer and raising her teenage daughter. When she gets a strange call from her ex-boyfriend (her dad is threatening him with a gun), Mallory thinks her father is sicker than her sister ever let on. Her daughter Joy convinces her they should visit him so Joy can bond with her family. Mallory gives in to her daughter. Their visit starts a cascade surrounding a decades-old mystery of a woman who died while on a boat with her father.

The characters are all very flat. The main character seems almost like she has no personality; she takes from other characters. Mallory absorbs the emotions of those around her second-guessing her own.  Her teenage age daughter basically runs her life (and doesn’t act like a teenager at all). The other characters aren’t much better; they are pretty much basic archetypes.

Delinsky uses a hammer to tackle every topic. There is very little finesse which seems odd for the author. Usually, her stories are deep and subtle allowing the readers to absorb the ideas.  Mallory suddenly thinks that she has another parent and acts like she has thought that for a long time but there is nothing before in the book to back that theory. There was no subtle lead up to the idea.

Even so, plot-wise, she manages to throw a few curbs balls.  But in the end, it wasn’t enough to save the novel.  I won’t recommend this one when I make a suggestion to my friends about this author.

Though the subject matter is thoughtful, it’s not written very well, leaving me with a bad taste in my mouth.

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Publication Date: May 19

I received an ARC through NetGalley; all opinions are my own.

This is How I Lied

This is How I Lied brings back a decades-old mystery threatening to show the truth of many of the small town’s citizens.

Local cop Maggie should be taking desk work as her due date is fast approaching, but when new evidence appears in the case of the murder of her childhood best friend, she This Is How I Lied Coverknows she has to run point. Maggie lives with the guilt from the death of her best friend and it doesn’t help that many of the suspects she must deal are cagey and combative. Maggie must follow the twists while keeping herself safe as many hidden truths come to light.

This book combines a variety of plot points that have been popular this year. The issue is that many of these aren’t very creative. Here the father with dementia/alchemize doesn’t really add much; he becomes a tool of how the main character sneaks into places she does’ have a legal leg to enter. The bereft best friend fake-out has been done before and would have worked better if the opening hadn’t described the murder in depth. I was also annoyed with the sociopath stereotype that I kept expected to twist but it really just went off the deep end.

I hate to be so down on the novel because there are parts that I actually enjoyed. The killer isn’t immediately guessable and Heather Gudenkauf leads you on a winding journey through past and present.  She creates a unique dilemma for the main character leading you and the character to question what values the character (and we) hold dear. Should we take the easy way out? How should justice actually be served?

Overall  This is How I lied is a mixed bag. There are many ideas that have been done better in other novels, but the author also keeps you reading desperate to know who done it.

Publication Date: May 12, 2020

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Call of the Raven

I have never read any books in the series. When Bookish First provided a First Look of Call of the Raven, I was intrigued. Mungo St John seemed like a character I needed to get to know.ck1uspmd400wisbpallt691r3-call-of-the-raven-fcvr-wip-1.full

Mungo St John is the privileged son of a slave owner. While he is in Europe for school, he gets a letter from a salve with whom he is love with. Camilla is calling him home after Mungo’s father has died. When Mungo arrives he finds his home is gone, his girl is dead and there is one man to blame. Mungo’s next steps are all to take revenge on that man, no matter what it takes.

Mungo is complex with so much black and so much white that his whole life is a shade of grey. Wilbur Smith has created a character that you want to like and then want to hate at the same time. This makes you emotionally invested and the swirl of emotions really anchors you to the story. Corban Addison helped create a world where slavery is still king and animal lives don’t matter. There is enough truth to the background that you don’t question how one man can go through so much; the action just keeps rolling.

The book is seamless between the two authors so I would have never known two people worked on it. The writing style is consistent and Mungo and Camilla’s voice never changes. Pacing is even throughout the book and I truly enjoyed the experience.

Call of the Raven is filled with white hats and black hats, but the main characters are a shade of grey that is both complex and empathetic.  In fact, I want to know what happens to Mungo next.

 

Publication Date: April 21

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Truths I Never Told You

I give Truths I Never Told You 3.5 stars.

Beth lost her mother when she was young but had a wonderful father who worked hard to support her. In 1996, she has a baby of her own and is struggling with the idea of being a good enough mother. At the same time, she is dealing with the terminal illness of her father. Since she cannot change his health, she throws herself into cleaning up his house.  She wasn’t expecting to find the huge mess her father has left but even more shocking is the evidence that her mother’s death wasn’t a car accident. To deal with her own issues of motherhood, she digs deeper to solve the mystery her father has created.

Mostly, I enjoyed the story. The variety of perspectives weaves a generational tale of what it’s like to be a mother and how they are expected to be able to do it all. Kelly Rimmer thoughtfully weaves questions about postpartum depression, abortion, and motherhood as a whole. Beth will be familiar to many as a mother and her journey one they know. And even if you aren’t a mother, the novel looks at losing a parent and how adult children deal with that legacy. Many will understand the suffering of a child as 45701218their parent becomes ill. Navigating the generational stories, each family member has their unique issues that truly reflect many things we have readers have gone through in our own life making this book a tale for adults of all ages.

The biggest issue with the novel is that the timing isn’t balanced. The present story is equally mixed with the past until about the last quarter of the book. Then the author dumps the most important stuff quickly and densely. This is the real story and it is not given the same room to breathe as the beginning. It also gives an abrupt and unrealistic change of the present storyline and goes back on some of its own philosophies. For example: even then after making the point one to say no to children, the characters encourage one of their family members to get back together with his ex, even though he’s not ready for a baby at the moment and she is. While this is a minor story element, to mention others would spoil the story.

With a great start, Truths I Never Told builds a mystery that keeps you turning the pages. While the novel doesn’t take the time to truly unpack the climax, the story itself is truly compelling.

 

Publication Date: April 14

 

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is a story about starting over and knowing that it is never too late.

After her mother dies, Adele finds herself no longer a caretaker for a sick parent as she sunrise-on-half-moon-bay-by-robyn-carrhas been in the last 8 years. She has no job, very few friends and an old house that needs a lot of work. Her sister Justine, 20 years her senior, is a successful lawyer who is facing familial upheaval. The two sisters must come together and form a relationship despite their age gap to find a new normal in their lives.

Overall, the story is heartwarming. By focusing on both sisters, readers were given different examples of how life can change no matter your age. This isn’t jutting something young people or older people deal with.  The author focuses on women’s issues while giving little insight into the male characters. (These instances weren’t that exciting and I really didn’t care to know what the men thought about the problems they caused) And while many aspects deal with the mistakes men made in treating the sisters, it isn’t just male-bashing. There are other male characters that aren’t cheating on their wives and running out on their families. But regardless of what these men do, it is watching these two women grow within their own skin that makes an impact. Each woman has their own issues that are exacerbated by their current situations and how they handle these issues is the heart of the book.

Robyn Carr tells the reader too much. Large chunks of exposition saturate the pages, especially at the beginning. There is little dialogue and actual actions by the characters and the reader must slog through pages of past actions without any active thoughts or feelings of the characters. Luckily, this gets better as the book moves on. The problem doesn’t resolve itself, but we begin to see the characters think, speak and act. This is where the book shines. Hearing from the characters themselves brings the feeling to life and you really start to empathize and truly become invested.

While the writing style isn’t perfect, the story is moving and the characters remind you of people you know. This is a great read for those who like women’s fiction.

 

Publication: April 7

 

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Music From Another World

This delightful tale of the LGBTQ+ experience in the American ’70s is full of heart and passion.

During the summer of 1977, two high school students from opposite sides of California are tasked with a pen pal assignment. Each girl is keeping secrets as the world waits to see what will happen with homosexuals and their civil rights. Tammy has been raised in a very conservative Christian home and will be abused if she tells anyone she is a 9781335146779_SHC_prdlesbian.  Sharon is tasked with keeping the secret that her brother is gay while becoming exposed to the punk side of San Francisco.

The stories are told in diary and letter form. The diaries give you a chance to see the truth of the girl’s lives, things that are left out of the letters. But the letters grow in-depth as each girl begins to trust each other. Their voices are district and each point of view adds beautifully to the narrative. Choosing a format somewhat different from a traditional novel is pretty perfect for a book about feeling different.

The ending was somewhat on the nose but Robin Talley gives a little twist which ended up making Sharon a more complex character. Also, this book only covers a short period of time, a time that echoes the girl’s life, not the civil rights movement. That is ok because the story is that of the two girls and how they find their way in that world. The ideological aspects never overtake the characters.

I truly enjoyed this story. The author transports you to another time and pace and makes you feel for someone different than yourself.

 

Publication Date: March 31

I received an ARC through the publisher; all opinions are my own.

Book Club Review: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

Kim Michele Richardson spins an emotional tale about the book women of Appalachia adding an interesting twist.

Cussy Mary is a “Kentucky Blue,” born from a family whose skin is literally blue. Already Book-Woman-Troublesome-Creek-Kim-Michele-Richardsonstruggling in poor Appalachia in the 1930s, being colored is just another hurdle Cussy has to get around. Called Bluet by the majority of the population, she overcomes her stigma by becoming a Book Woman, one of the programs set up to help the poor area by providing books to the local population. Bluet must content with racist town folk, murderous preachers, and the creatures of the Appalachian wilderness. Each day, she rises above this because providing books, knowledge to her patrons gives her a sense of purpose.

I’ll be honest; I was intrigued because I had never heard of the Blues. And honestly, I feel like my education has let me down. While it was only in small, confined areas, it happened to many other populations and not just Kentucky. There is, in fact, an answer and diagnosis in regards to this and I’ve never heard about it. I loved learning about the illness and it broke my heart that these people were treated so shamelessly. I will make sure my children know their story.

I really enjoyed learning about the life of those in Appalachia. My heart ached for each patron on her route. In fact, I had sympathy for everyone but her supervisors at the Center; they were horrible people. I was frustrated with their fights from the coal miners to the chicken stealers. I do think that these stories were too strung along. There were so many it was hard to truly get into these stories as deeply as was called for. There were times when they slowed down the narrative dragging the story along as slowly as the mule on the rocky path.

That being said, I like how the author didn’t play all her cards upfront. We didn’t meet each patron at the beginning adding freshness to the story and Cussy Mary’s route. But at points, these stories started to drown out the Book Woman’s story.

My biggest issue with the novel is the ending. It is thrown in at the last minute and is a huge twist in the tale. The author handles it in one chapter and an epilogue when it is a clear turning point for the story that needed more time to deal with and understand. A “poof” and its gone answer belittled the event and the story.

Overall, this would be a great book to discuss in your book club. Engaging and educational, your group will enjoy a trip to Appalachia.

 

Bonus Review: The Giver of Stars

The Giver of Stars is another book to read if you are interested in the Book Women.

In 1937, women in Baileyville, Kentucky go against the wishes of many a man when they take part in the federal program that pays them to make sure even the most remote people had a chance to read. Alice, Margery, and a few others ignore the gossip of the thtown that women shouldn’t be working at something like that because all the people need is the Bible. The women face many trails culminating in one of the women being accused of murder.

Jojo Moyes presents characters that you can really feel for. This one, in particular, shines lights on the “outcasts” and how they can make a difference if someone just let them. Your group can discuss each women’s story, how they intertwine and how you can see parallels to today.

I really enjoyed how Moyes branched out with this work. While she often works with historic fiction, this one took her out of her comfort zone and showed how well she can understand and empathize with an area outside her continent.

These two books are great stories of strong women in a world where they weren’t usually allowed to be.

 

Before He Vanished

I was taken in by the story presented in Before He Vanished

Halle has moved home after leaving Nashville and her mistakes behind. She settles in at the local newspaper and sees her chance to prove her mettle: it’s the 25 Anniversary of cover image_Before He Vanished by Debra Webb (Intrigue) (1)The Lost Boy. Andy was Halle’s best friend and she knew his mom would talk to her. This story was more just business–it was truly personal. When a man arrives in town looking just like Andy, Halle must figure out what’s really going in this town and if this mysterious strange is who she thinks he is.

This is taking place in a series of books about Winchester Tennessee. I haven’t read anything before them, but it was not needed as the author Debra Webb mentions past cases. She also makes sure the story stands on its own apart from the others. This makes it easy for new reads to join in this series.

I really like the story created here. There are several levels at work, and I enjoyed the twist (I almost didn’t see it coming; so that’s some good work by the author). This wasn’t just some love story with a mysterious background. it is the mystery that moves the story forward. The set up even made the whirlwind romance fitting for the story. I have to say this is one of the best Harlequin books I have ever read whether Intrigue or not.

The book is written simply, nothing overly complex. This works well for the intended target audience and keeps the story moving.

Overall, I mostly enjoyed Before He Vanished even if this isn’t usually the type of books I typically read.

 

Publication Date: March 7

I received an ARC from the publisher; all opinions are my own.

The Vanishing Deep

The Vanishing Deep is a post-apocalyptic world covered by water. This adds new dimensions to typical dystopian fiction that I was intrigued with.

Tempest lives in the world after the Great Waves where actual land is scarce and people struggle to survive. Tempest makes her Notes by diving, finding any last treasure of the vanishing deepold world.  She saves each Note because she wants to revive her sister. That’s the magic of this world; the dead can be brought to life for 24 hours. But Tempest didn’t imagine to bring back her sister would be so dramatic and turn her world upside down.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book. It breaks from the stereotypical YA love triangle. Instead, The Vanishing Deep focuses on family. Each character has a motive and a detailed past. I never once wondered why a character said or did a thing; they were well fleshed out.

I also loved the world created. I wanted to see so much of it! The book takes us to a few places and my imagination loved the places and just wanted to peek in every nook and cranny. I never got bored reading the world’s history.

My four-star rating is because Astrid Scholte doesn’t go quite deep enough. While the basics of revival technical are explained, it’s never told truly how it works.  The author also doesn’t follow through with some of the connections she has made. Without spoiling the book, I will say as a reader, I was confused why certain characters weren’t affected earlier in the book when biological aspects changed as they did later. I needed a bit more about the world, about the revival connection, about the science of it.

The ending stretches and doesn’t add. The truth of death is hidden. No one truly suffers from a twist that makes little sense overall and changes nothing about the story already told.

The Vanishing Deep is an atypical dystopian story with a hint so science fiction. I truly enjoyed being submerged into this world even if I wasn’t completely satisfied.

 

Publication Date: March 3

I received an arc from the publisher; all opinions are my own.