Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Secret Keeper Book Review

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

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During a picnic at her family's farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson witnesses a shocking crime, a crime that challenges everything she knows about her adored mother, Dorothy. Now, fifty years later, Laurel and her sisters are meeting at the farm to celebrate Dorothy's ninetieth birthday. Realizing that this is her last chance to discover the truth about that long-ago day, Laurel searches for answers that can only be found in Dorothy's past. Clue by clue, she traces a secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds thrown together in war-torn London - Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy - whose lives are forever after entwined.

Review by Brittany:

As a long-time fan of Morton's, I tend to pick her books up without much thought or without worrying about the blurb.

I found this one to be extra interesting because Morton created the character of Dorothy to be somewhat unlikeable. As the story progressed, I found myself often feeling disgusted with Dorothy and the way that she was. She seemed to me to be childish, often pretending to be someone else and constantly obsessed with seeming greater and richer than she was. Once Laurel starts piecing together the past, some of Dorothy's actions are explained away and much more understandable, although that didn't make me like her more.

In fact, I struggled to find very many redeeming characters in this novel at all. I either didn't like them or was indifferent. Jimmy was probably the only character who I enjoyed reading about, and at the end of the novel he proves himself to be quite a good, honorable man.

Alternating between Laurel in the present, trying to discover her mother's secrets, and Dolly's past, when the events take place, was an interesting way to write the book. I think it worked rather well for this story because, once the ending was revealed, it really pieced together the entire rest of the book, which is what a reader hopes will happen.

This one was a bit slow at parts for me, but overall I did enjoy it. Morton wrapped up the story well and created a nice well of secrets within the family, illustrating how war can change anyone.

Notable quotes:

Children could be self-centered like that, especially the happy ones.

Laurel knew quite a bit about keeping secrets. She also knew that was where the real people were found, hiding behind their black spots.

It struck Laurel now that even then she'd been too self-absorbed to wonder or ask what her mother was actually like at seventeen, what it was she'd longed for, and what mistakes she'd made that she was so anxious her daughter should not repeat.

In a family of daughters it was a happy thing not to be the worst.

...she'd felt infinitesimally small and alone and at the whim of the next wind that might blow.

Jimmy smiled and swallowed the lump that was always in his throat these days, of love balled together with a sadness he couldn't articulate...

He had the vague sense he was veering off course, saying too much, not saying the right things, but he couldn't seem to stop.

It struck Vivien that it was far easier just to say what people wanted to hear. What difference did it make anyway?

Jimmy admitted to taking a certain pleasure in upsetting her, in showing her things didn't always go her way.

At her lowest moments, Dolly had even started to wonder that he might not love her in quite the same way, that he might not think she was exceptional anymore.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places Book Review

I've Got Sand in All the Wrong Places by Lisa Scottline & Francesca Serritella

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Lisa and Francesca are back with another collection of warm and witty stories that will strike a chord with every woman. This six book series is among the best reviewed humor books published today and has been compared to the late greats, Erma Bombeck and Nora Ephron. Delia Ephron said of the fifth book in the series, Have a Nice Guilt Trip, "Lisa and Francesca, mother and daughter, bring you the laughter of their lives once again and better than ever. You will identify with these tales of guilt and fall in love with them and fierce (grand) Mother Mary." This seventh volume will not disappoint as it hits the humorous and poignant note that fans have come to expect from the beloved mother-daughter duo. 

Review by Brittany:

This book is much different than anything else I usually read, but I'm so glad that I requested in on NetGalley! Lisa Scottoline is an author I completely adore when it comes to her fiction, but this is my first experience with her non-fiction. Francesca is her daughter, which adds a neat touch to the book.

I laughed out loud many times while reading this book. Lisa and Francesca have a way of looking at the world that is so honest and also so funny. Even when they're discussing a situation that is less than funny, like Francesca getting mugged, they can still find the funny and the lightness in the situation.

I also was so amazed at just how real these women are. When it comes to authors or other "famous" people, you can't help but think that they don't experience life the same way as you. That they don't have the same feelings about things or the same responses to situations. And I'm younger than both of them (sorry!), so there's some life experience because of age that I haven't had and some because of location - living in a semi-small town in central Texas is not the same as living in Philly or Manhattan I bet. But I could still relate to a lot of what they wrote about, which quickly made this book one of my favorites.

I also now have the desire to read every single one of Lisa Scottline's fiction books, even the ones I've read before. When you learn about an author as a person, it draws you in. At least, that's my experience.

Overall, this is worth picking up. It's humorous and light-hearted, just a really fantastic read. I definitely recommend.

Notable quotes:

We forget that the difference in perspective is simply a difference, and not all differences are wrong. 

Sometimes the only silver lining you get is to get through it.

It takes practice. All risk does, and all change. The more changes you make, the easier it is to change.

My closest girlfriends don't tell me the truth. They flatter me and build me up, and I like that about them.

A child is a beloved responsibility. But a responsibility just the same.

I also cried the last time, when it was the end before the end - that wretched, miserable time when you both know a relationship is on its last legs.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The Unexpected Consequences of Love Book Review

The Unexpected Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

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Sophie Wells is a successful photographer with a focus on putting the past firmly behind her. When Josh Strachan returns to the seaside town of Cornwall from the States to run his family's hotel, he can't understand why the fun, sexy girl has zero interest in letting him - or any man for that matter - into her life. He also can't understand how he's been duped into employing Sophie's impulsive friend Tula, whose crush on him is decidedly unrequited. Both girls remain mum about the reasons behind Sophie's indifference to love. But that doesn't mean Josh is going to quit trying. 

Review by Brittany:

My love for Jill Mansell knows no bounds, so this book was an easy choice for me to pick up. I always know that there will be humorous relationship situations and a happy ending in Mansell's books, and I love being able to pick one up and know what I'm getting.

In this book, my favorite couple actually wasn't the main couple. While Sophie and Josh developed their relationship throughout the book, I was more invested in Tula and Riley. Tula has trouble men - she always seems to pick the ones who have no ambition, no drive, and are basically no-hopers. When she meets Riley, she notices (of course) that he's absolutely gorgeous, but she knows that he's a surfer with no other job and no ambition to get one.

The best part of the book for me was the scene where Riley and Tula are going to a wedding together. Tula's friend is getting married and she desperately does not want to show up to the wedding alone, so Riley agrees to step on. On the way, in typical Mansell style, there are many humorous obstacles that prevent the evening from going quite the way Tula thinks it's going to. Riley also proves himself to be more than just a pretty face, and I found myself falling a little in love with him.

This book is pretty standard for Mansell. If you're looking for a fun, light-hearted read that ends happily, then this is the one for you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Ink and Bone Book Review

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

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Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can't see and haunted by prophetic dreams, she has never been able to control or understand the things that happen to her. When Finley's abilities start to become too strong for her to handle - and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can't drown out the voices - she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri's not a believer, but she's just desperate enough to go down that road, praying she's not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.

Review by Brittany:

I requested this book on NetGalley largely because I have not read anything by Lisa Unger, despite her being a bestselling author.

I'm not typically a fan of psychic-type novels, possibly because I'm a bit of a skeptic, but mostly because the story line just typically feels a little too "magical" for my liking. This one still has tones of that - Finley having visions and hearing things - but there was enough solidity to it to keep me interested. While Finley is working with Jones to find Abbey, the reader is also given glimpses into the world of an abducted girl. She is referred to as "New Penny", and it's through these parts of the story that the reader learns why multiple girls have been abducted through one family.

I love the character of Jones in this novel. It's interesting that he is one of my favorites because he actually doesn't get much page time in the novel. I think one thing that appeals to me about his is the fact that he's very much unsure about the psychic abilities of Finley and Eloise, but he takes what they say into consideration and can give these things a head nod, despite his desire for more logic. He also struck as the most interested in justice and the most respectful of the role that every person plays in a missing persons investigation - not just the psychics, but the police who get a bad rap for not handling investigations well. I think he was a great, solid role for this book, especially considering how many parts of this novel were paranormal in nature.

The suspense in this novel is pretty top notch. I definitely felt intrigued by the story and wanted to keep reading to see if Abbey could be found. The end of the novel has a bit of a twist to it that came as a surprise, and also left me interested in how this twist would help develop characters. Based on this novel, I would definitely read more by Unger.

Overall, I quite liked this book. The plot was interesting, and there was quite a bit of character development throughout, with not only the main characters, but also the supporting characters. If paranormal suspense is in your wheelhouse, I'd definitely recommend picking this one up.

Notable quotes:

More than anything else, resentment was the death of love. It killed slowly.

But language was a precision instrument. Used imprecisely it could level all kinds of damage.

"We almost never feel ready for any of life's passages. And yet we often must move through them all the same."

The smart phone dad - always taking pictures and posting beautiful filtered shots on Facebook and Instagram for others to admire, forgetting almost entirely to look with his own eyes.

She didn't want to forget, to move on. You didn't have to do those things to let go.

People didn't even know how cruel kindness could be, how much it hurt.

But, silently, like so many other things, it gnawed at the cord that tethered them, fraying it so that when it was pulled tight in stress it nearly snapped.

Daily, she forgave his flaws, just as she knew he forgave hers.

But in another place and time, it wouldn't have mattered. The consequences were not appropriate to his actions.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Silkworm Book Review

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

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When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days - as he has done before - and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine's disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives - meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before.

Review by Brittany:

This is the second book in the Cormoran Strike series, and I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery novel.

I love how enjoyable I find these novels when there is limited action throughout. Galbraith has made it a point to utilize dialogue more than violence or full-throttle action in order to move the plot along, and while I would think this method wouldn't work for me, it actually keeps me glued to the page. Strike is able to interrogate suspects and think through each piece through dialogue in the novel, keeping the reader in the loop with each individual piece of evidence that he acquires. The only time the reader does not get full reign on Strike's thoughts is at the climax of the novel, when Strike has put together what happened and who the killer is, and the setup is needed to reveal it to the reader.

As in the previous novel, Robin serves as Strike's secretary/partner, and she is a wonderful addition tot he novel. I love how Galbraith takes the time to explore Robin's relationship with her fiance, Matthew, and how it affects her employment with Strike. Galbraith took the time to develop this relationship more in this book, which I appreciated since I'm a fan of Robin. I also think there were some of the same subtle hints to burgeoning feelings between Strike and Robin in this novel as there were in the first, which is interesting and has left me wondering what is to become of them.

As for Galbraith's writing, I have to point out that one of the things I love most are some of the silly details that get thrown in with the more serious subject matter that the plot of the book relies on. The farting leather couch in Strike's office never failed to make me smile each time it was mentioned, and Strike's constant awareness of the cost of things in his time of debt felt close to home to me. Galbraith knows how to slide in little pieces of amusement without taking away from the seriousness of the book.

That being said, this one was definitely gruesome. Both the description of Quine's murder and the detailed descriptions of excerpts of his book occasionally made me shudder because of the grotesqueness of them, but because I'm a little bit morbid, I also appreciated it.  This was also a good tool for Robin's character development as she got to experience some of the more morbid sides of Strike's work.

Overall, this was a great second addition to the series. I loved the first book and I loved this one. I already have the third on TBR and imagine that I will continue to read the series.

Notable quotes:

Women, in his experience, often expected you to understand that it was a measure of how much they loved you that they tried their damnedest to change you.

But he knew no other way; it was part of a short but inflexible personal code of ethics that he carried with him all his adult life...

It was as though her eyes were being stripped of a comfortable soft focus.