2016 Book 362: MERCURY by Margot Livesey

Mercury by Margot Livesey 
ISBN: 9780062437501 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062437532 (ebook)
ASIN: B01A5CB3FS (Kindle edition)
Publication date: September 27, 2016 
Publisher: Harper

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Donald believes he knows all there is to know about seeing. An optometrist in suburban Boston, he is sure that he and his wife, Viv, who runs the local stables, are both devoted to their two children and to each other. Then Mercury—a gorgeous young thoroughbred with a murky past—arrives at Windy Hill and everything changes.

Mercury’s owner, Hilary, is a newcomer to town who has enrolled her daughter in riding lessons. When she brings Mercury to board at Windy Hill, everyone is struck by his beauty and prowess, particularly Viv. As she rides him, Viv begins to dream of competing again, embracing the ambitions that she had harbored, and relinquished, as a young woman. Her daydreams soon morph into consuming desire, and her infatuation with the thoroughbred escalates to obsession.

Donald may have 20/20 vision but he is slow to notice how profoundly Viv has changed and how these changes threaten their quiet, secure world. By the time he does, it is too late to stop the catastrophic collision of Viv’s ambitions and his own myopia.

At once a tense psychological drama and a taut emotional thriller exploring love, obsession, and the deceits that pull a family apart, Mercury is a riveting tour de force that showcases this “searingly intelligent writer at the height of her powers” (Jennifer Egan).  


Donald and Vivian are living the American dream. They’re married with two adorable children, in a loving and committed relationship, and have a close circle of family and friends nearby. Sadly, their dream relationship begins to take a wrong turn and things go from bad to worse in Margot Livesey’s latest, the psychological thriller Mercury.


Donald was born in Scotland and came to the United States with his family as a child. He went back to Scotland as an adult and studied medicine before returning to the US to work as an ophthalmologist. He enjoyed his career and serendipitously meets and falls in love with Vivian (Viv). Soon they have two lovely children, a boy and girl, get married, move to the suburbs, and restructure their lives to suit their families needs. Fast forward a few years and Donald is working as an optometrist and Viv is no longer working in high finance but is now a horse trainer working at a local stable with her childhood best friend. Viv seems happy with her life as a trainer, mother, and wife until a new horse is brought to board at the stables. Soon she is spending all of her time at the stables, obsessing over training with this horse, obsessing over possible danger to this horse, and just obsessing. She’s no longer the woman Donald married and Donald isn’t quite sure when things went wrong, how to fix it, or whether he even wants to fix his marriage.

I found Mercury to be an engrossing read that hooked me from the very beginning. Although I read this book in one day, it is quite possible (and highly probable) that I would have finished it in a few hours if I weren’t dealing with a migraine that progressed from moderate to severe throughout the day. Even with the multiple breaks I was forced to take, I couldn’t wait to return to this story to find out what happens next. Ms. Livesey has crafted an incredible story with amazingly real and realistically flawed characters that made me believe the action was really happening rather than mere words on a page. I was intrigued by this book’s synopsis and the cover image and smiled when I got to the point where the image layout made sense (read the book and you’ll understand). I also enjoyed reading about a character with my first name, Vivian (even though I didn’t really care for the abbreviated Viv). I could tell you more about what happens in the story but I won’t (okay, there is a parrot that you’ll enjoy reading about). It is sufficient to say that Mercury includes family angst and drama, marital discord (not knock-down drag-em-out fights or anything but discord nonetheless), obsessions, lying to family and friends, cover-ups, and more. If you enjoy reading books about family drama, psychological suspense, or just want a good book to read, then I strongly urge you to grab a copy of Mercury to read. Trust me, this is one must-read book you’ll want to read sooner rather than later. I also recommend you make sure you have sufficient time set aside to read this book (like a weekend) because you probably won’t want to put it down once you start.

Disclaimer: I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes 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.”



margot-livesey-ap-photo-by-tony-rinaldiAbout Margot Livesey

Margot Livesey is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Flight of Gemma Hardy, The House on Fortune Street, Banishing Verona, Eva Moves the Furniture, The Missing World, Criminals, and Homework. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, Vogue, and the Atlantic, and she is the recipient of grants from both the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. The House on Fortune Street won the 2009 L. L. Winship/PEN New England Award. Born in Scotland, Livesey currently lives in the Boston area and is a professor of fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Find out more about Margot at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.




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2016 Book 162: GIRLS ON FIRE by Robin Wasserman

Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
ISBN: 9780062415486 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062417169 (ebook)
ASIN: B013PKGT2O (Kindle version)
Publication Date: May 17, 2016 
Publisher: Harper


Girls on Fire tells the story of Hannah and Lacey and their obsessive teenage female friendship so passionately violent it bloodies the very sunset its protagonists insist on riding into, together, at any cost. Opening with a suicide whose aftermath brings good girl Hannah together with the town’s bad girl, Lacey, the two bring their combined wills to bear on the community in which they live; unconcerned by the mounting discomfort that their lust for chaos and rebellion causes the inhabitants of their parochial small town, they think they are invulnerable.

But Lacey has a secret, about life before her better half, and it’s a secret that will change everything…



Hannah Dexter was considered a normal, albeit quiet and somewhat isolated, teenager. She went to school, studied, and avoided any attention or trouble. All that changed when she was befriended by the “new” girl, Lacey Champlain. The story of their friendship and devotion are revealed in Girls On Fire by Robin Wasserman.

Hannah Dexter quickly goes from being the invisible kid in school to Lacey’s mini-me sidekick Dex, wearing Doc Martens and flannel shirts, listening to grunge rock, and taking on the resident mean-girl and queen bee, Nikki Drummond. Dex and Lacey want to escape small town life and go about it in all the wrong ways (think of an evil and darkly twisted younger version of Thelma and Louise). Their friendship spirals from being supportive to a level of devotion that is unsettling. Although the main characters of Girls on Fire are teenagers and the story does contain a certain amount of teenage angst and drama, this is anything but a young adult novel. Ms. Wasserman introduces a host of dark and evil behaviors such as Satanism and rape. The language is coarse and filled with profanity. The action takes place in a small town in Pennsylvania during the earlier 1990s. Girls on Fire is not an easy read (or at least it wasn’t for this reader), primarily because of the dark nature of the two primary characters as well as the profanity and violence. (Yes, my inner prude raised its head several times and I had to set the book aside just to regain my equilibrium.) I think that this is going to be a book that people either love or hate (not hate the writing but hate the dark side that is revealed in the book). I didn’t like the characters or even where the story went, but I appreciate the talent of Ms. Wasserman to pull me into a story that I constantly wanted to turn away from. Girls on Fire is not for the faint of heart but it is a read that you won’t soon forget.


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.”



Read an excerpt from Girls On Fire here.



Meet the author:


Robin Wasserman is a graduate of Harvard University and the author of several successful novels for young adults. A recent recipient of a MacDowell fellowship, she lives in Brooklyn, New York. Girls on Fire is her first novel for adults.


Find out more about Robin at her website and connect with her on Twitter.





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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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2015 Book 84: THE BOOKSELLER Review

The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
ISBN: 9780062333001 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780062333025 (ebook)
ASIN: B00L7WZDES (Kindle edition)
Publication date: March 3, 2015
Publisher: Harper

A provocative and hauntingly powerful debut novel reminiscent of Sliding Doors, The Bookseller follows a woman in the 1960s who must reconcile her reality with the tantalizing alternate world of her dreams

Nothing is as permanent as it appears . . . 

Denver, 1962: Kitty Miller has come to terms with her unconventional single life. She loves the bookshop she runs with her best friend, Frieda, and enjoys complete control over her day-to-day existence. She can come and go as she pleases, answering to no one. There was a man once, a doctor named Kevin, but it didn’t quite work out the way Kitty had hoped.

Then the dreams begin.

Denver, 1963: Katharyn Andersson is married to Lars, the love of her life. They have beautiful children, an elegant home, and good friends. It’s everything Kitty Miller once believed she wanted—but it only exists when she sleeps.

Convinced that these dreams are simply due to her overactive imagination, Kitty enjoys her nighttime forays into this alternate world. But with each visit, the more irresistibly real Katharyn’s life becomes. Can she choose which life she wants? If so, what is the cost of staying Kitty, or becoming Katharyn?

As the lines between her worlds begin to blur, Kitty must figure out what is real and what is imagined. And how do we know where that boundary lies in our own lives?


Katharyn “Kitty” Miller is a single, late-thirties business owner in Denver, Colorado. She runs a bookstore with her best friend, Frieda Green. Kitty had worked as a school teacher but found that she couldn’t handle the classroom environment very well. Kitty’s parents are taking a long vacation in Hawaii. Although she misses her parents, she is kept busy with her job and her wonderful dream world as a married mother of three.

Katharyn Andersson seems to only live in Kitty’s dreams. She’s married and has three children, triplets – Michael, Mitch, and Missy. Her life as Mrs. Andersson is almost perfect, except she is not quite sure how to deal with her autistic son Michael, she is estranged from her best friend Frieda, and she seems to be increasingly forgetful about what is real and what isn’t anymore. This confusion is exacerbated by the fact that her dreams are about her single life as Kitty Miller. 

In Kitty’s life she never met Lars, he died before they met. Her dream home has never been built, and most importantly she is still friends with Frieda. Kitty and Katharyn’s lives seem to run on parallel courses. It’s the same year. The same events are taking place. The basics are the same – friendship with Frieda, operating the bookstore Sisters with Frieda, and her parents’ trip to Hawaii. Their lives diverged in the mid-1950s when Katharyn actually saved Lars’ life and they eventually married and started a family. 

I found The Bookseller to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. The lives of Kitty/Katharyn were filled with the normal joys and sorrows, although Katharyn seemed to have suffered more (no I won’t tell you how she suffered . . . read the book!). Although I knew that Kitty and Katharyn are the same person living seemingly different lives, it felt as if they were two completely different people. Each life was vivid and incredibly realistic. Along with Kitty/Katharyn, I found myself asking “which life is real?” Yes, Ms. Swanson provides an answer at the end and the end neatly ties up the disparities in their lives. I found it difficult to pigeonhole The Bookseller. Is it a psychological thriller? Is it historical fiction? Is it literary fiction? Or is it possibly a combination of all three. I can say that The Bookseller was an intriguing book that forced me to sit and think about life and the choices we make. This was a book that required me to take a step back and think about the story for a few hours after I finished reading it, simply because it was just that good and I couldn’t think about reading anything else for awhile. If you enjoy reading fiction that’s a little different, that incorporates heart-warming and heart-wrenching drama, and is well-written with wholly believable characters and plausible action then you’ll definitely want to read The Bookseller. Don’t just add this to your TBR list, set aside time to read it as soon as possible. You won’t be disappointed. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Swanson in the future. 

(NOTE: I prefer the cover for the ebook and Kindle version of this book as it exemplifies the different lives and lifestyles of Kitty and Katharyn.)

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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2015 Book 79: THE BLACK WIDOW Review

The Black Widow by Wendy Corsi Staub
ISBN: 9780062222435 (paperback)
ISBN: 9780062222442 (ebook)
ASIN: B00FJ33276 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 24, 2015
Publisher: Harper


In a chilling new thriller from New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub, one woman looking for love online is entangled in a killer’s terrifying scheme . . .

In the moonlight, shovelfuls of earth fall on a wooden crate at the bottom of a deep pit. Soon the hole will be filled and covered over with leaves, erasing all trace of the victim below, waking to the horror of being buried alive . . .

Newly divorced Gaby Duran isn’t really expecting to find her soul mate on a dating site like InTune. She just needs a distraction from pining over her ex-husband, Ben, and the happy marriage they once had. And she’s wise enough to know that online, the truth doesn’t always match the profile. Almost everyone lies a little–or a lot.

But Gaby quickly discovers there is much more at stake than her lonely heart. Local singles are going missing after making online connections. And a predator is searching again for the perfect match. One who will fulfill every twisted desire . . . or die trying. 



Ben and Gaby Duran had a perfect marriage until the death of their child. Gaby was mired in depression, guilt, and anger and Ben wasn’t able to breakthrough and help Gaby with her grief. The marriage ended in divorce. Now Ben and Gaby both want to make a fresh start. Both have profiles on a local dating site, unfortunately one of these profiles catches the attention of a killer.

The Black Widow was a fast-paced and tension-filled suspense-thriller read. It took me awhile to get into the story simply because there are four stories going on and it was a little difficult for me to switch from a Gaby storyline to a Ben storyline then over to a police storyline and back to the killer’s storyline. Once I got all of the storylines straight in my head and understood the interrelationship among all stories the reading pace picked up and I simply had to know what happens next. What happens next is a lot! 

There’s the story of the police investigating missing Hispanic adult males: there’s Ben and Gaby reconnecting after being divorced and apart; there’s Ivy on the hunt for a missing co-worker; and, there’s the killer out to recreate her past. Okay, there’s a lot more going on (abduction, mental illness, arson, and murder), but if I tell you too much you won’t need to read the book, and if you enjoy reading suspense-thrillers then you’ll definitely want to read this book. I’ve read and enjoyed numerous books by Ms. Staub and The Black Widow was another enjoyable read. The characters were fully developed and wholly believable, and the action was plausible. Was there anything I didn’t like about this book or the story? Not really . . . okay, I read an advance reader digital copy of the book and it didn’t feature any breaks between the changes in character stories. That made it a little difficult for me to switch gears mentally and keep up with the story initially, however, that wasn’t enough to stop me from purchasing a copy of The Black Widow for my library. 


Watch the book trailer:




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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