2019 Book 156: THE WEDDING PARTY by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Party by Jasmine Guillory 
ISBN: 9781984802194 (paperback)
ISBN: 9781984802200 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781984890528 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07JL42SQ6 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 16, 2019 
Publisher: Berkley Books


As seen on The Today Show

The new exhilarating romance from The New York Times bestselling author of The Proposal, a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick! Maddie and Theo have two things in common:

1. Alexa is their best friend2. They hate each other

After an “oops, we made a mistake” night together, neither one can stop thinking about the other. With Alexa’s wedding rapidly approaching, Maddie and Theo both share bridal party responsibilities that require more interaction with each other than they’re comfortable with. Underneath the sharp barbs they toss at each other is a simmering attraction that won’t fade. It builds until they find themselves sneaking off together to release some tension when Alexa isn’t looking, agreeing they would end it once the wedding is over. When it’s suddenly pushed up and they only have a few months left of secret rendezvouses, they find themselves regretting that the end is near. Two people this different can’t possibly have a connection other than the purely physical, right?

But as with any engagement with a nemesis, there are unspoken rules that must be abided by. First and foremost, don’t fall in love.





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The only thing that Maddie Foster and Theo Foster seem to have in common is their friendship with Alexa Monroe. Maddie thinks that Theo is somewhat of a prude given to mansplaining and touting his Harvard degree. Theo seems to think that Maddie’s job as a fashion stylist is a waste of time and bordering on the idiotic. To say that these two rub each other the wrong way is a major understatement, but all of that seems to change on the night of Theo’s birthday party. Maddie agrees to accompany Alexa and actually has a good time. Halfway through the evening, Alexa runs into Drew (read The Wedding Date to find out more about these two) and the romance that was on-the-rocks seems to be back on steady ground and Alexa leaves with Drew, leaving Maddie alone at the party. Maddie’s attempt to exit the party solo goes nowhere as she’s walked to her car by none other than the birthday boy. This walk turns into her giving Theo a ride home, a taunt about dancing, and before you know it, Maddie and Theo are tearing up the sheets. The next morning, Maddie and Theo agree that this was an aberration and will never happen again, but it does repeatedly. Before you know, Maddie and Theo are routinely texting. Maddie is cheering Theo on behind-the-scenes with his work projects and Theo is doing the same for Maddie. When Theo is injured by a protester during a campaign speech, it is Maddie that shows up at the hospital, stays all night, and accompanies Theo home ensuring he is well cared for and safe. Just when it seems like things are going great for the two of them, something happens and their relationship is over. This wouldn’t be a problem except Alexa is getting married in a few weeks and Alexa is her bridesmaid and Theo is her bridesman. Can you say awkward?! Will they be able to mend fences and admit they love one another without destroying their friend’s wedding?

I initially read The Wedding Party a few weeks ago when I was traveling to Florida for my great-niece’s high school graduation. Most of you know that I read about a book a day, so I felt it only proper to re-read The Wedding Party before writing this review. Okay, I didn’t really have to re-read the book since I had made pretty good notes, I just wanted the excuse to re-read it. I enjoy a good romance as much as I enjoy a good mystery or suspense read, and Ms. Guillory provides witty, sexy, romances to read with highly relatable characters. These characters are super-rich, but they are smart, well-educated, well-spoken, and hard-working. Maddie is a fashion stylist trying to grow her business and is addicted to reality television shows like The Great British Bake Off, Say Yes to the Dress, and more. Although Theo does initially come across as a prudish, mansplaining elitist, he isn’t any of those. He is exacting and somewhat of a perfectionist. Yes, he did go to Harvard, but he doesn’t look down on anyone that didn’t go to an Ivy-league college or college at all. Theo holds himself to higher standards than he’ll hold anyone else to and as the public relations person for the mayor of Berkley, he always feels that he must be better than anyone else and never make mistakes. Part of that is due to his insecurity issues and part of that is due to the double-standards held for people of color in many industries (yes, it is a real thing). I enjoyed the push/pull relationship between Maddie and Theo, as well as getting to know a different side to Alexa. Yes, there’s a happy ending, this is a romance! If you’ve read The Wedding Date or The Proposal then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of The Wedding Party as soon as possible. If you haven’t read The Wedding Date or The Proposal and you’re a romance reader (I don’t know why you haven’t read either since I encouraged you to read both of them, but you still have time), then go grab copies of those two books along with a copy of The Wedding Party. Take a long weekend or your vacation/staycation and read all three, you can thank me later. Trust me, you’ll be thanking me later. I’ll probably be re-reading all three while I wait for the next book from Ms. Guillory, Royal Holiday, scheduled for release later this year. Happy Reading my fellow romance readers!


Disclaimer: I received a free print review copy of this book from the publisher along with a digital review copy via Edelweiss+. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

2019 Book 102: BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND by Heather Gudenkauf

Before She Was Found by Heather Gudenkauf
ISBN: 9780778308621 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780778307730 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9781488095429 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488205996 (audiobook)
ASIN: B07CS5X1R7 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Park Row Books 
Publication Date: April 16, 2019


A gripping thriller about three young girlfriends, a dark obsession, and a chilling crime that shakes up a quiet Iowa town, from the New York Times bestselling author of The Weight of Silence.

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

Before She Was Found is a timely and gripping thriller about friendship and betrayal, about the power of social pressure and the price of needing to fit in. It is about the great lengths a parent will go to protect their child and keep them safe—even if that means burying the truth, no matter the cost.





Violet Crow and her family never intended to live in Pitch, Iowa, but their car broke down on their way to a larger town. Now, she, along with her mother and older brother, is simply trying to make the best of a bad situation in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Violet is the new girl in town and at the school and all she wants to do is fit in and get along. Jordyn Pettit wasn’t born in Pitch, but her father and grandparents were. She’s now living with her paternal grandparents and has been for the past eight years. Jordyn may not have been born in Pitch, but she is definitely the queen bee of the sixth grade. No one wants to get on her bad side because they all know that there will be repercussions, perhaps not today, or tomorrow but at some point in time. Cora Landry was born in Pitch. She was born premature, is small for her size, quiet, often nervous and anxious, and definitely doesn’t fit in. She’s the child that takes everything to heart and her feelings can be bruised quite easily. 

Cora is initially quite pleased to welcome Violet and the two quickly become friends. Violet even begins to spend afternoons and nights at the Landry home. Things are great for Cora in middle school, but they definitely take a turn for the worse when she begins to work on an “urban legend” assignment along with Violet and Jordyn for school. The assignment ends with Cora unwittingly antagonizing a friend of Jordyn’s in class followed by an argument with Jordyn and a slap in Jordyn’s face. If Cora was ostracized before that incident, her life afterward became a virtual hell. Then, several months after the classroom incident, Cora, Violet, and Jordyn seem to be getting along quite well. Plans are made for a sleepover at Cora’s house and the night ends with Cora suffering from a severe beating and stabbing, Violet being in shock, and Jordyn being evasive and defensive about what happened. Were the girls out for a random walk or were they attempting to prove/disprove a local urban legend? Was there someone else at the train depot that night or had one of the uninjured girls finally gotten the long-awaited revenge?

Before She Was Found is an unsettling read, primarily because of the subject matter, a child found beaten and stabbed and the possibility it might have happened at the hands of another child. It is also a fast-paced read with plenty of twists and turns. One minute you’ll think the culprit is suspect A and the next you’re sure it’s suspect B before deciding there’s a possibility it could be suspect C or even D. (No, I’m not going to reveal just who the suspects are…read the book!) It’s hard to imagine young twelve-year-old girls with deep, dark secrets, but the more you read, the more you realize these aren’t your typical twelve-year-old girls (or at least you’re praying that these aren’t your typical twelve-year-old girls). Throughout most of the story, it’s quite easy to sympathize with both Cora and Violet’s situation. Jordyn begins the story as a mean girl and it’s just hard to feel for her despite the circumstances. But all is not what it appears in this story and don’t be so quick to judge. (Again, I’m not going to reveal who-did-it or why, read the book!) I enjoyed the way Ms. Gudenkauf wove the history between these girls into the present situation so you’re gradually learning more and more about each girl and what brought them all to now. It isn’t until the last few pages that the author throws the reader a curve and makes you ask “why didn’t I see that coming?” I enjoyed the characters, the small town setting, and the action. There were characters I liked and characters I didn’t like and felt quite unsympathetic towards throughout. This story is about more than an urban legend or even one injured girl, it provides elements of tween angst and drama, friendship, bullying, family drama, and the lengths family will go to while trying to protect a loved one. Before She Was Found is a taut psychological suspense read that kept this reader on the proverbial edge of my seat wondering just what would happen next and why. If you enjoy reading books based on reality (think Slenderman) or suspense reads, then I strongly encourage you to grab a copy of Before She Was Found to read. I enjoyed reading Before She Was Found and look forward to reading more from Ms. Gudenkauf in the future.


Disclaimer:  I received a free digital copy of this book from the author/publisher via Edelweiss+ for review purposes. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2017 Book 203: EVERY LAST LIE by Mary Kubica

Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica 
ISBN: 9780778319986 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781460396698 (ebook)
ASIN: B01N0UM130 (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 27, 2016 
Publisher: Park Row Books 

New York Times bestselling author of THE GOOD GIRL, Mary Kubica is back with another exhilarating thriller as a widow’s pursuit of the truth leads her to the darkest corners of the psyche. 

“The bad man, Daddy. The bad man is after us.” 

Clara Solberg’s world shatters when her husband and their four-year-old daughter are in a car crash, killing Nick while Maisie is remarkably unharmed. The crash is ruled an accident…until the coming days, when Maisie starts having night terrors that make Clara question what really happened on that fateful afternoon. 

Tormented by grief and her obsession that Nick’s death was far more than just an accident, Clara is plunged into a desperate hunt for the truth. Who would have wanted Nick dead? And, more important, why? Clara will stop at nothing to find out—and the truth is only the beginning of this twisted tale of secrets and deceit. 

Told in the alternating perspectives of Clara’s investigation and Nick’s last months leading up to the crash, master of suspense Mary Kubica weaves her most chilling thriller to date—one that explores the dark recesses of a mind plagued by grief and shows that some secrets might be better left buried.


Clara Solberg is a happy, but tired stay-at-home mom. She’s just given birth to her second child and the only thing she truly longs for is a good night sleep. Awaking to find that her husband dead, his business in shambles, his life insurance canceled, her daughter traumatized, and her parents dealing with their own set of problems just might be more than she can handle all at once. These are just a few of the things going on in Every Last Lie by Mary Kubica.

Clara and Nick Solberg are a happy and loving couple. Clara has gladly given up her career in photography to be a stay-at-home mother to their four-year-old daughter Maisie. After Nick’s sudden traumatic death, Clara has to deal with a traumatized Maisie, a newborn infant, a house in constant need of repair, a dwindling amount of income, the possibility that her husband’s car crash might not have been an accident based on her daughter’s night terrors, and her mother’s ever-increasing problems associated with early-onset dementia. Clara is somewhat single-minded in what she is and isn’t willing to deal with, but she’s sure that Nick must have been murdered based on her daughter’s terrors and statements and begins to investigate. Her investigation reveals more than she may have ever wanted to know in some regards, but is she getting closer to the truth or simply uncovering more secrets and lies? Was Nick murdered or was it just a tragic accident?

I’m a huge fan of mystery thrillers, suspense thrillers, and psychological thrillers and Ms. Kubica crafts some of the best thrillers I’ve read and she’s done it yet again with Every Last Lie. I enjoyed this fast-paced story, found it to be part mystery thriller and part psychological thriller, and a wholly entertaining read. I also enjoyed the way Ms. Kubica told this story in alternating viewpoints, so the reader gets to know both Clara and Nick (and let me say there were times I wanted to bop them both upside the head and say “get a grip!”). Are there bad guys in Every Last Lie? Well, yes and no (you’ll need to read the story to discover the truth of this for yourself). There’s a lot of action going on in Every Last Lie and if I told you everything that happened you wouldn’t need to read the book, but I’ll tell you there are hints of marital infidelity, gambling, theft, workplace incompetence/negligence, bullying, marital abuse, and much more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re not sure about this genre then I suggest you add all of Ms. Kubica’s titles (The Good Girl, Pretty Baby, Don’t You Cry, and Every Last Lie) to your TBR list, because after reading just one of her books you’re sure to be a fan. If you’ve read any of Ms. Kubica’s previous titles, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of Every Last Lie to read.



Read an excerpt from Every Last Lie here


Watch the book trailer for Every Last Lie:



Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Every Last Lie

Every Last Lie

Every Last Lie :  A Gripping Novel of Psychological Suspense

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2017 Book #37: ALWAYS by Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio 
ISBN: 9781101885024 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781101885031 (ebook)
ASIN: B01FC02OS8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2016

From the New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter and The Violets of March comes a gripping, poignant novel about the kind of love that never lets go, and the heart’s capacity to remember. 

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiance, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for the Herald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister. 

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense everything connected and felt “right.” But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what and whom she wants. 

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.



Kailey Crane is a thirty-something-year-old journalist engaged to a good man, Ryan Winston. They are in the midst of arranging for the upcoming wedding and life is good. Well, as good as can be expected when you’re engaged to someone involved in real estate and you’re writing an investigate piece about how developers are in the process of destroying a necessary social services institution, namely a homeless shelter. Kailey and Ryan have their differences, but they do love one another and are looking forward to building a life together. Ryan knows that Kailey has a past and that her past has involved a lover or two, but he’s willing to let the past stay in the past as long as they can build a future together. Everything is going well until the man from Kailey’s past returns and his disappearance and return are surrounded by a mystery. Can Kailey ignore the old love of her life in order to build a new life? Can she help the old love of her life without destroying her new love life? And more importantly than either of these questions, is that old love truly dead?

I’ve just got to say that I loved Always. I ripped through this story without interruption in one sitting on Sunday evening. This story touched me in so many ways, but primarily because I have a good friend from high school that suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a severe beating and his recovery has been long and hard. Ms. Jio has taken several sensitive subject matters, traumatic brain injury or TBI and homelessness and incorporated them into a story about loss and love. I enjoyed the twin storylines, as they provide the reader with a glimpse of Kailey’s early relationship with Cade and its development, as well as her current relationship with Ryan and the impact finding Cade has on it. I enjoyed all of the characters, the action, and the settings. Seriously, I loved this book and can foresee me rereading it over and over again. (Yes, it was just that good in my not-so-humble opinion.) Always is more than just a love story it is a story that pulls at the emotions as it asks what will and won’t we do for the sake of love. If you’ve read any of Ms. Jio’s writings then I encourage you to go out and grab a copy of Always to read. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Jio then Always may be the perfect starter book. I will say this, set aside enough time to read uninterrupted and for those of you that get a little misty when reading emotionally laden books, grab some tissues. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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Always

Always

Always

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2015 Book 26: THE EX by Alafair Burke

The Ex by Alafair Burke 
ISBN: 9780062390486 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062390509 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780062444882 (audio)
ASIN: B00X3N8S96 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 26, 2016 
Publisher: Harper


Twenty years ago she ruined his life.

Now she has the chance to save it.

Olivia Randall is one of New York City’s best criminal defense lawyers. When she hears that her former fiancé, Jack Harris, has been arrested for a triple homicide—and that one of the victims was connected to his wife’s murder three years earlier—there is no doubt in her mind as to his innocence. The only question is, who would go to such great lengths to frame him—and why?

For Olivia, representing Jack is a way to make up for past regrets and absolve herself of guilt from a tragic decision, a secret she has held for twenty years. But as the evidence against him mounts, she is forced to confront her doubts. The man she knew could not have done this. But what if she never really knew him? 


Olivia Randall has few regrets in life, but she does regret the way her relationship with Jack Harris ended twenty years ago. When she receives a frantic phone call from Jack’s daughter, Olivia does what she thinks is right and heads to the police department to help out her former fiancé in Alafair Burke’s latest thriller, The Ex.

Olivia Randall met Jack Harris in college. Their relationship went from being friends to lovers and eventually they became engaged. Unfortunately, Olivia wasn’t quite ready to settle down and took advantage of Jack’s kindness during the last year of their engagement. The end came after Jack discovered proof of one of Olivia’s liaisons in their apartment. The engagement was over and Jack moved on. Then Jack’s wife was murdered in a mass shooting at Penn Station. The general opinion was the father of the shooter should have been responsible for his son’s actions since it was known the teenage boy had mental health issues and the father supported the boy’s access to guns. Now that father has been found shot to death in a spot where Jack had been waiting for a date. The police feel they have the right man, but Olivia feels differently. Over the course of her investigation into Jack, his marriage, his wife’s murder, and his life after, she uncovers one too many secrets that lead her to change her belief in Jack’s innocence. Olivia begins to feel as if she never really knew Jack and fears she’s being manipulated. Can she find answers to her burning questions about Jack and his past? 

I found The Ex to be an intriguing and engrossing fast-paced read. Ms. Burke has crafted a scenario that is not only wholly believable but tragically realistic. Olivia is a forty-something lawyer struggling with her guilt over past behavior. Jack is a forty-something author struggling to forgive Olivia and keep secrets. Buckley, Jack’s teenage daughter, is overwhelmed with guilt over her mother’s death (read the book to find out why) and wants to keep her father out of prison. The Ex is part legal thriller, part psychological thriller, part suspense thriller, and one darn good read. I enjoyed all of the characters and found most of them to be deeply flawed but likable. Just when you think you might have things figured out, Ms. Burke throws in a nice twist (or two) to keep you guessing. I can always count on Ms. Burke for a well-crafted and well-written story. If you enjoy suspense thrillers, legal thrillers, psychological thrillers, or are just looking for something a little different to read, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of The Ex.


Watch the book trailer:



Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2016 Book 25: THE GOLDEN SON by Shilpi Somaya Gowda

The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda 
ISBN: 9780062391452 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062391476 (ebook)
ASIN: B00X3N8SIM (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 26, 2016 
Publisher: William Morrow


Anil is the cherished son of a large family in rural India. As the eldest boy, he is expected to inherit the role of leader of his clan and arbiter of its disputes, dispensing wisdom and good advice. Leena is his closest companion, a fiercely brave girl who loves nothing more than the wild terrain they inhabit and her close-knit family. As childhood friends, they are inseparable—but as adulthood approaches, they grow apart.

Anil is the first person in his family to leave India, the first to attend college, the first to become a doctor. Half a world away in Dallas, Texas, he is caught up in his new life, experiencing all the freedoms and temptations of American culture: he tastes alcohol for the first time, falls in love, and learns firsthand about his adopted country’s alluring, dangerous contradictions. Though his work in a gritty urban hospital is grueling, Anil is determined to carve out his own life in America.

At home, Leena dreams of marriage, a strong and true love like the one shared by her parents, and leaves her beloved home to join her new husband’s family in a distant village.

Then things start to go wrong: Anil makes a medical mistake with tragic results, his first love begins to fray and a devastating event makes him question his worth as a doctor and as a friend. On a visit home, Anil rekindles a friendship with the woman who seems to understand him better than anyone else. But their relationship is complicated by a fateful decision made years earlier.

As the two old friends discover each other again, they must also weigh the choice between responsibility and freedom, and between loyalty and love. 


Anil has been looking forward to his medical training in America but comes to realize that his training is going to be much harder than he had imagined. He begins to enjoy many of the freedoms offered and even has a girlfriend for the first time in his life. While Anil is enjoying all that America has to offer, including racism and prejudice, his childhood friend is dealing with the worst that marriage has to offer back home in India. Both Anil and Leena must deal with massive disappointments in The Golden Son by Shilpi Somaya Gowda.

Anil has always been the favored son, primarily because he is the eldest, and because he showed such promise in school. Although his family is held in high regard in rural India, outside of his village, Anil is just another intelligent and educated Indian male. Anil knows that he has to live up to his parent’s expectations and he strives to be the best he can be. His struggle to succeed hits a wall during his internship and residency training in America. He begins to second-guess his decisions and constantly worry that he might say or do the wrong thing. The one good thing he’s experienced in America is his friendships with his roommates and his relationship with his girlfriend, Amber. Anil’s life takes a dramatic turn after his father’s death. He becomes the person responsible for arbitrating disputes in his family’s rural area, even doing so by phone. Anil struggles with the responsibilities of being an arbiter and a resident. While Anil is dealing with life in America, Leena is dealing with married life in India. Her husband’s family showed themselves to be wealthy and respectable people. After her marriage, Leena learns that the family lives in a home that requires numerous repairs and all they wanted was a live-in servant. She works around the clock preparing food, cleaning the house, and washing clothes. Her in-laws begin to extort money and more from Leena’s parents when they speak of their dissatisfaction with Leena’s abilities. Cutoff from her family and treated horribly from her in-laws, Leena begins to wonder if she can endure and survive. Tragedy strikes for both Leena and Anil and they must make decisions that will have repercussions for themselves, their friends, and their families.

I found The Golden Son to be a fast-paced and wholly enjoyable read. Yes, there are some tragic events that take place in the story, but the overall story is about becoming not only self-aware but self-assured. I enjoyed the parallel stories of Leena and Anil, as well as how the stories intersect with their childhood friendship, Leena’s friendship with Anil’s sister, and the fact that both families are from the same village. There’s another intersection that occurs due to money and advice, but you’ll need to read the story to learn about this one. Ms. Gowda has an amazing ability to craft characters and stories that pull this reader in, to the point where I become invested and want to learn more about the characters and what happens next. The Golden Son vividly portrays the struggle of an immigrant to America, as well as the struggle to continue to adhere to familial and cultural values and mores. If you enjoy reading stories about love, loyalty, and family then you’ll definitely want to read The Golden Son. If you’ve read Secret Daughter then you’ll want to add The Golden Son to your TBR list. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Gowda then I strongly urge you to read both Secret Daughter and The Golden Son. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Gowda in the future.


Watch the book trailer:



Read an excerpt here.

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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The Golden Son: A Novel

2016 Book #3: THE GUEST ROOM by Chris Bohjalian

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian
ISBN: 9780385538893 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780385538909 (ebook)
ASIN: B00VZZ07GG (Kindle version)
Publication Date: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Doubleday


From the New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Sandcastle Girls comes the spellbinding tale of a party gone horribly wrong: two men lie dead in a suburban living room; two women are on the run from police; and a marriage is ripping apart at the seams.

When Richard Chapman offers to host his younger brother’s bachelor party, he expects a certain amount of debauchery. He sends his wife, Kristin, and young daughter off to his mother-in-law’s for the weekend, and he opens his Westchester home to his brother’s friends and their hired entertainment. What he does not expect is this: bacchanalian drunkenness, a dangerously intimate moment in his guest bedroom, and two naked women stabbing and killing their Russian bodyguards before driving off into the night. In the aftermath, Richard’s life rapidly spirals into a nightmare. The police throw him out of his home, now a crime scene; his investment banking firm puts him on indefinite leave; and his wife finds herself unable to forgive him for the moment he shared with a dark-haired girl in the guest room. But the dark-haired girl, Alexandra, faces a much graver danger. In one breathless, violent night, she is free, running to escape the police who will arrest her and the gangsters who will kill her in a heartbeat. A captivating, chilling story about shame and scandal, The Guest Room is a riveting novel from one of our greatest storytellers.

  

As his younger brother’s best man, Richard Chapman thought he was doing a good thing by hosting a bachelor’s party at his home. Little did he know that one of his brother’s friends would secure “entertainment” for the night, namely stripper/prostitutes. When one of the “entertainers” goes off and kills one of the “bodyguards,” Richard’s life is turned upside down in The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian.

Richard Chapman considers himself a normal, healthy forty-year-old man. He has a job as an investment banker that he enjoys. He has a wife that he loves and a daughter that he adores. He doesn’t consider himself prudish and accepted that there might be strippers at the bachelor’s party, but he didn’t imagine that his brother or any of his brother’s friends would be having sex with the strippers in his home. Turns out the stripper/prostitutes were part of a sex trafficking ring and one of the girls feared for her life and struck first. Sonja was always considered a little off and angry, but when her captors kill another one of the captives and learn that she knew a little of the girl’s story, she assumed she was next. Her preemptive strike was to secure her life and freedom. Alexandra, another captive, accepted the idea that she might never be free. Alexandra had already spent five years “working” for her abductors and now that her last remaining family was dead, she realized she would never be allowed freedom or to return home. Now Sonja and Alexandra are on the run and Richard is being blackmailed by his brother’s friend. Can Sonja and Alexandra truly make lives for themselves after years of torture and sexual brutality? Will Richard ever regain the trust of his wife and daughter? 

I found The Guest Room to be a riveting and relatively fast-paced read. Due to the weighty subject matter, namely child abduction, rape, and other brutalities toward children and teenaged girls, I had to stop reading quite a number of times. Mr. Bohjalian has tackled the subject of sex trafficking and provided a realistic face and story to go with it, albeit a fictionalized story. Mr. Bohjalian slowly reveals the story in alternating voices of Richard and Alexandra. The reader gets the chance to learn Alexandra’s backstory and it is close to impossible not to feel sympathy and pain at this child’s years of torment. Richard is, for all intents and purposes, just as much an innocent in the story as Alexandra. He feels ostracized and stigmatized by hosting a party that ended with attendance by presumed prostitutes, later revealed to be sex slaves, brought into his home as well as for the murders that occurred there. There are truly bad guys in this story, namely the abductors, sex traffickers, and the vast majority of the johns. And there are sleazy guys, namely Richard’s brother’s friend who tries to blackmail Richard and then plea bargains with the district attorney to avoid any jail time. And finally, there are the innocents, the victims of the sex trafficking, girls held in captivity for years at a time after being raped, drugged, isolated, and mentally abused. No, this isn’t a pretty picture, but then neither is sex trafficking. However, Mr. Bohjalian has taken a story that should make us cringe, but instead, it makes us want to do all that we can to rectify this growing problem. The Guest Room may not be a story for the prudish reader, but it is one that this reader can highly recommend as it is a fantastic read that deals with a horrific subject matter in a respectful and responsible manner. 

Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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The Guest Room

2015 Book 301: EVERYTHING SHE FORGOT by Lisa Ballantyne

Everything She Forgot by Lisa Ballantyne
ISBN: 9780062391483 (trade paperback)
ISBN: 9780062391490 (ebook)
ASIN: B00SG1ELOG (Kindle edition)
Publication date: October 6, 2015 
Publisher: William Morrow


They’re calling it the worst pile-up in London history. Driving home, Margaret Holloway has her mind elsewhere—on a troubled student, her daughter’s acting class, the next day’s meeting—when she’s rear-ended and trapped in the wreckage. Just as she begins to panic, a disfigured stranger pulls her from the car just seconds before it’s engulfed in flames. Then he simply disappears.

Though she escapes with minor injuries, Margaret feels that something’s wrong. She’s having trouble concentrating. Her emotions are running wild. More than that, flashbacks to the crash are also dredging up lost associations from her childhood, fragments of events that were wiped from her memory. Whatever happened, she didn’t merely forget—she chose to forget. And somehow, Margaret knows deep down that it’s got something to do with the man who saved her life.

As Margaret uncovers a mystery with chilling implications for her family and her very identity, Everything She Forgot winds through a riveting dual narrative and asks the question: How far would you go to hide the truth—from yourself?  



Margaret Holloway is a devoted teacher as well as a loving wife, mother, and daughter. After fighting to keep a student in school, she begins her drive home only to wind up in a horrific multi-car accident. Margaret is trapped in her car as it begins to burn due to a ruptured fuel tank. Thankfully, she’s saved by a stranger, who quickly disappears from the scene. The accident and the kindness of this stranger awaken long-lost memories in Everything She Forgot.

The story begins in December 2013 on the day of the tragic multi-car accident, and alternates between December 2013 and late September and early October 1985 as we’re introduced to seven-year-old Molly Henderson, Big George McLaughlin, Angus Campbell, and Kathleen Henderson. Ms. Ballantyne provides the backstory to George McLaughlin’s life and obsession with the love of his life, Kathleen Jamieson, and their daughter Molly. George decides to find Kathleen and, once again, ask her to marry him, but he finds that Kathleen is married and seems to be quite happy in her new life. He then decides to introduce himself to his daughter Molly, only after seeing her being bullied by three girls on her way to school. That introduction turns into an unplanned abduction that forces George to run from Scotland into England with his daughter. Angus Campbell is a local reporter in the area Molly was abducted from. All he wants is to be a respected journalist and he decides that it is his duty to find out all he can about Molly and Kathleen and he has to be the one to bring Molly safely back home. 

Everything She Forgot is a story that I didn’t want to put down. I quickly became invested in Margaret, George, and Molly’s stories and wanting to know what happens next. I wanted to know more about Margaret and her apparent obsession with the stranger that saved her. I needed to know more about George and Molly and their “adventure” into England. The more I read, the more I found myself pulled into the story. I empathized with Kathleen as she awaited news about her daughter. I felt sorry for George and the horrible childhood he had but rejoiced over the connections he was building with his daughter. His abduction of Molly may not have been planned, but it still caused needless trauma to Molly and her parents. It took a while for me to get used to the back-and-forth between past and present, but once I did the story seemed to suck me in. Did I enjoy Everything She Forgot? Yes! Ms. Ballantyne has crafted a beautiful and haunting story about memories, relationships, and the need for family. If you enjoy reading well-written stories, then you’ll want to add Everything She Forgot to your reading list.


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Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2015 Book 143: THOSE GIRLS Review

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens
ISBN: 9781250034588 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781250034595 (ebook)
ASIN: B00R1AWE1A (Kindle edition)
Publication date: July 7, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press


Chevy Stevens is back with her most powerful, emotional thriller yet — a story of survival…and revenge. 

Life has never been easy for the three Campbell sisters. Jess, Courtney, and Dani live on a remote ranch in Western Canada where they work hard and try to stay out of the way of their father’s fists. One night, a fight gets out of hand and the sisters are forced to go on the run, only to get caught in an even worse nightmare when their truck breaks down in a small town. Events spiral out of control and a chance encounter with the wrong people leaves them in a horrific and desperate situation. They are left with no choice but to change their names and create new lives. 

Eighteen years later, they are still trying to forget what happened that summer when one of the sisters goes missing and they are pulled back into their past. 

This time there’s nowhere left to run. 

As much of a thriller as it is a deep exploration of the bonds among sisters, Those Girls is an unforgettable portrait of desperation, loyalty, and evil. 



Jess, Courtney, and Dani Campbell now that life is hard. They’ve suffered the loss of their mother, the loss of their home, and the constant abuse at the hands of their alcoholic father. After living in foster care for a few months after their mother died, the girls vow to do whatever is necessary to ensure they never have to return to foster care. Their father often leaves them alone for weeks at a time with little money for food and other necessities. All three girls work hard on the ranch to help offset their rent. Life gets much harder for the girls when they run away from their abusive home and find themselves in an even more abusive environment. Fortunately, they are able to escape and begin their lives over in Vancouver with new identities. Those Girls asks just how far are you willing to go to protect your family? 

Those Girls starts off in 1997 with Jess, Courtney, and Dani struggling to survive. They steal food when necessary and often steal other incidentals to get by. Jess is the youngest and the most studious. Dani is the oldest and strives to provide for her sisters and keep them in check at all times. Courtney is the middle sister and the wild child. Courtney knows she’s attractive and uses her physical beauty to get boys and men. It is this behavior that causes their father to go off and attempt to kill Courtney. After doing everything possible to get their father to stop, the unthinkable happens and the girls run away in a dilapidated truck heading to Vancouver. They don’t have enough money for gas or food and steal what they can on their road trip. When their truck breaks down, they accept an offer to work on a local ranch to get money for repairs. What followed is the worst thing imaginable — abduction and repeated rapes at the hands of two evil and sadistic young men. After five days of rapes and brutality the girls escape and a local pub owner provides them with bus fare and the name of someone that can help them in Vancouver. It is in Vancouver that they became Jaimie, Crystal, and Dallas. And a few months after they arrive they learn that Jaimie is pregnant.

Fast forward to the summer of 2015 and we meet Skylar, Jaimie’s teenage daughter. After several incidents involving Crystal, Skylar learns the truth about her birth father and how she was conceived. It is apparent to all that Crystal has become unstable and after an intervention, Crystal takes off. Skylar lies to her mother and takes off after Crystal. Skylar thinks that her aunt has returned to Cash Creek to possibly confront her abductors and rapists. While Skylar investigates her aunt’s disappearance, she unknowingly places herself in serious danger as she thinks about confronting her birth father and meets her half-brother and half-sister. The more Skylar learns the more dangerous the situation becomes until she is abducted at the hands of her birth father’s brother. 

I began reading Those Girls at approximately 6 PM on a Thursday evening and didn’t put it down until I had finished it at approximately 11 PM that same evening. Okay, I took a dinner break and then cleaned the kitchen up after eating, but that was the only downtime other than preparing a couple of cups of tea. I found Those Girls to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. Yes, it was difficult to read about the abuse and rapes suffered by Jess, Courtney, and Dani, but Ms. Stevens presented these incidents without hype or sensationalization. There is tragedy after tragedy in the lives of Jess, Courtney, Dani and even Skylar, but there are also periods of hope. The bad guys are not just bad but truly despicable human beings and downright evil. Does good prevail over evil? You’ll have to read the book to find out for yourself. Those Girls covers a lot of topics: child abuse, alcoholism, sexual promiscuity, abduction, rape, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, teen runaways, etc. It is easy to think that Those Girls is going to be a dark, depressing, and twisted read, but it isn’t. Those Girls is just as much about survival, hope, and family as it is about anything. Just in case you couldn’t tell, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I found the characters to be well developed and the action to be very realistic. If you enjoy reading thrillers that encompass much more than just the dark and twisted then you’ll definitely want to add Those Girls to your TBR list.



Read an excerpt from Those Girls here.


Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via GoodReads First Reads. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”




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2015 Book 3: AS CHIMNEY SWEEPERS COME TO DUST Review

As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust (Flavia de Luce #7) by Alan Bradley
ISBN: 9780345539939 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345539953 (ebook)
ASIN: B00LYXN3LK (Kindle edition)
Publication date: January 6, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press


Hard on the heels of the return of her mother’s body from the frozen reaches of the Himalayas, Flavia, for her indiscretions, is banished from her home at Buckshaw and shipped across the ocean to Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy in Toronto, her mother’s alma mater, there to be inducted into a mysterious organization known as the Nide.

No sooner does she arrive, however, than a body comes crashing down out of the chimney and into her room, setting off a series of investigations into mysterious disappearances of girls from the school.



Flavia de Luce has barely had time to grieve her mother’s death when she is rushed off to a school in Canada. Flavia feels as if she has been banished from her beloved Buckshaw and is missing all that is familiar, including her sisters Daphne and Ophelia, not to mention Dogger and her beloved bicycle Gladys. What can a poor girl do when she is left alone in a foreign land? Well if that girl is Flavia the only answer is to solve a crime and she is provided the perfect opportunity when a body falls out of the chimney in her room at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy on her first night in Toronto. If that wasn’t enough to deal with, she is warned about girls going missing when they ask too many questions.

I’ve said it before and have to say it again I thoroughly enjoy reading about Flavia’s adventures. Flavia comes across as a mixture of Encyclopedia Brown, Nancy Drew, Hercule Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and Monk rolled up in one neat little package. Although she hasn’t reached the age of puberty, Flavia has the uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time to discover bodies and mysteries. But now Flavia is in an unknown environment without her usual support network and, as a result, isn’t quite sure who to trust. She is somewhat leery of her headmistress, Miss Fawlthorne, and of her fellow students. The only teacher she seems to like is her chemistry professor, an acquitted murder suspect, Mrs. Bannerman. She doesn’t like or trust the trustees that chaperoned her trip from England to Canada, the Drs. Rainsmith. Is it possible for Flavia to solve the crime of the headless corpse from the chimney with minimal clues and limited access to a lab? Can she determine what has happened to the missing girls without asking too many questions and putting herself in peril?

I found As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust an engaging and fast-paced read. This installment in the Flavia series showed a more emotional young girl. Flavia cries in grief over the loss of her mother and feels a sense of isolation by her “banishment” to a school far, far away from home. The only contact she has from home are the occasional letters from Dogger and her cousin Undine. The lack of contact from her immediate family only adds to her sense of being forgotten and banished. The Flavia revealed in this book is more thoughtful and not as prone to retaliation or pranks. She’s much more analytical in her thinking and doesn’t rely upon chemistry as much as she has in the past. (Yes, she still uses chemistry but in a different manner.) There are a lot of questions raised and answered in As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, but questions still remain about the Nide, their purpose, and Flavia’s role within this group. I look forward to reading more Flavia stories in the future and can’t wait for her to return to England. If you want to know if Flavia solves the crimes and finds answers to the questions raised you’ll have to read the book and find out for yourself.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated 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: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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