Category Archives: Fiction

Summer Secrets

Finished Summer Secrets by Jane Green.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Jane Green delivers her second blockbuster novel of 2015, a story of one woman struggling to right the wrongs of her past, with even more complications in the present.

June, 1998: At twenty seven, Catherine Coombs, also known as Cat, is struggling. She lives in London, works as a journalist, and parties hard. Her lunchtimes consist of several glasses of wine at the bar downstairs in the office, her evenings much the same, swigging the free booze and eating the free food at a different launch or party every night. When she discovers the identity of the father she never knew she had, it sends her into a spiral. She makes mistakes that cost her the budding friendship of the only women who have ever welcomed her. And nothing is ever the same after that.

June, 2014: Cat has finally come to the end of herself. She no longer drinks. She wants to make amends to those she has hurt. Her quest takes her to Nantucket, to the gorgeous summer community where the women she once called family still live. Despite her sins, will they welcome her again? What Cat doesn’t realize is that these women, her real father’s daughters, have secrets of their own. As the past collides with the present, Cat must confront the darkest things in her own life and uncover the depths of someone’s need for revenge.”

I started this novel expecting a pretty light, fun experience.  (Yes, it looks pretty clear from the synopsis that there are some weighty topics, but it’s a Jane Green book!)  Instead, I got the fun I was expecting, but something that was a lot better.

I don’t have a problem with alcohol, but I have friends who did and have been in a few AA meetings.  I feel like the potential to get a little snarky about it was there (as Cat points out at her first meeting, the rooms can get a little cult-like) but instead, Jane Green dealt with everything with respect.

The story is straightforward but incredibly well-told.  The fact that many of the events can easily be guessed didn’t take away from my enjoyment (and there were still a few surprises on top of that).

Jane Green’s come a long way.  I can’t wait to read her next book and meanwhile, I am excited to catch up on the couple of books from her backlist I’ve missed.

Recommended.

The Lives Between Us

Finished The Lives Between Us by Theresa Rizzo.  I received a copy of the book for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

How far would you go to save the one you love?

Reporter Skylar Kendall has run from commitment all her life, pushing people away before they leave her, until her niece worms her way into Skye’s heart and settles in tight. Skye relaxes into a career she enjoys and relishes being a doting aunt.

Then her niece becomes gravely ill. Unable to bear yet another loss, Skye is determined to find a cure, but the girl’s only hope lies in the embryonic stem cell therapy Michigan Senator Edward Hastings repeatedly opposes. When Skye fails to find alternative treatment in time, she vows to end the senator’s political career.

Curious about the woman behind the scathing articles on his best friend, Mark Dutton pursues Skye. Dating Mark gives her access to Hastings’s life and secrets that would launch Skye’s career and satisfy her need for retribution… Only she hadn’t counted on falling in love.

Can she avenge the lives lost to politics at the expense of her new love and friends?”

I love books like this.  I am definitely Team Skye when it comes to stem cell research so I found her to be an incredibly sympathetic character.  (One thing I do appreciate, though, is the fact that no one here is evil.  The senator is someone I disagree with politically, but he is acting in accordance with his own beliefs, but he is actually a good guy.)

I’m not sure that this book could change anyone’s minds, but if nothing else, it will show that people on the other side just have different opinions (as opposed to being bad people).

I loved Skye immediately but also came to care for every character in the book.  This is the kind of book you fall in love with. :)

Recommended.

Disclaimer

Finished Disclaimer by Renee Knight.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Finding a mysterious novel at her bedside plunges documentary filmmaker Catherine Ravenscroft into a living nightmare. Though ostensibly fiction, The Perfect Stranger recreates in vivid, unmistakable detail the terrible day Catherine became hostage to a dark secret, a secret that only one other person knew–and that person is dead.

Now that the past is catching up with her, Catherine’s world is falling apart. Her only hope is to confront what really happened on that awful day even if the shocking truth might destroy her.”

The second I heard about this book, I knew it was something I would want to read.  I mean, how awesome is this concept?  And how terrifying would that be, starting to read this book that randomly shows up in your house and realizing that it is about YOU, and that the story it tells is something that literally no one else knows?

Not surprisingly, Catherine starts to go off the rails a little bit (and even more, once copies of the book start showing up other places, too—to her office, for example, and to her adult son) and also not surprisingly, people start to think that she’s lost her mind.

(And how do you manage to convince people that you aren’t crazy when you’ve been acting that way for days and weeks?)

This book is a little bit of a slow burn but the tension keeps ramping up an inch at a time until finally it’s completely impossible to put it down.  (For what it’s worth, though, I read this in one evening and didn’t do anything else.  It’s a fun, creepy book.)

Recommended.

Eight Hundred Grapes

Finished Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A breakout novel from an author who “positively shines with wisdom and intelligence” (Jonathan Tropper, This Is Where I leave You). “Laura Dave writes with humor and insight about relationships in all their complexity, whether she’s describing siblings or fiancés or a couple long-married. Eight Hundred Grapes is a captivating story about the power of family, the limitations of love, and what becomes of a life’s work” (J. Courtney Sullivan, Maine).

There are secrets you share, and secrets you hide…

Growing up on her family’s Sonoma vineyard, Georgia Ford learned some important secrets. The secret number of grapes it takes to make a bottle of wine: eight hundred. The secret ingredient in her mother’s lasagna: chocolate. The secret behind ending a fight: hold hands.

But just a week before her wedding, thirty-year-old Georgia discovers her beloved fiancé has been keeping a secret so explosive, it will change their lives forever.

Georgia does what she’s always done: she returns to the family vineyard, expecting the comfort of her long-married parents, and her brothers, and everything familiar. But it turns out her fiancé is not the only one who’s been keeping secrets…

Bestselling author Laura Dave has been dubbed “a wry observer of modern love” (USA TODAY), a “decadent storyteller” (Marie Claire), and “compulsively readable” (Woman’s Day). Set in the lush backdrop of Sonoma’s wine country, Eight Hundred Grapes is a heartbreaking, funny, and deeply evocative novel about love, marriage, family, wine, and the treacherous terrain in which they all intersect.”

I absolutely loved this!  I love books about family and this is one of the best examples of that I’ve read in years.

This is just an incredibly sweet, perfect novel.  I thought I knew where it was going multiple times; I couldn’t have been more wrong at any of those times.

While the relationship between Georgia and her fiance is the center of the novel, I was much more interested in her relationship with her parents and brothers.  (I don’t have brothers, but this novel makes me wish I did.)

I can’t say enough good things about this book; I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it.

Recommended.

In the Unlikely Event

Finished In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.

Summary (from Goodreads):

In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.

In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.

In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.”

Like every woman of my age, I am a huge Judy Blume fan.  The news that there would be a new novel by her (the first, I think, since Summer Sisters back in the 90s) was a huge delight and I have been eagerly anticipating this for a year.

This is Judy Blume at her best.  While it’s a novel for adults, the main character is a teenager, and I think this is appropriate for YA audiences.

This is based on a true story (over the course of a couple of months, three planes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey) and that is completely shocking to me.  How is that not something that everyone knows? Three fatal plane crashes in something like two months?

Anyway.  So a lot of the different characters react to that but, because they are people, there are also a lot of smaller, more personal dramas going on.  (To say more would be to spoil things.)

Highly recommended.

Finders Keepers

Finished Finders Keepers by Stephen King.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A masterful, intensely suspenseful novel about a reader whose obsession with a reclusive writer goes far too far—a book about the power of storytelling, starring the same trio of unlikely and winning heroes King introduced in Mr. Mercedes.

“Wake up, genius.” So begins King’s instantly riveting story about a vengeful reader. The genius is John Rothstein, an iconic author who created a famous character, Jimmy Gold, but who hasn’t published a book for decades. Morris Bellamy is livid, not just because Rothstein has stopped providing books, but because the nonconformist Jimmy Gold has sold out for a career in advertising. Morris kills Rothstein and empties his safe of cash, yes, but the real treasure is a trove of notebooks containing at least one more Gold novel.

Morris hides the money and the notebooks, and then he is locked away for another crime. Decades later, a boy named Pete Saubers finds the treasure, and now it is Pete and his family that Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson must rescue from the ever-more deranged and vengeful Morris when he’s released from prison after thirty-five years.

Not since Misery has King played with the notion of a reader whose obsession with a writer gets dangerous. Finders Keepers is spectacular, heart-pounding suspense, but it is also King writing about how literature shapes a life—for good, for bad, forever.”

I absolutely loved this book, probably even more than Mr. Mercedes.  Obviously the idea of a reader so obsessed that they would kill an author just to be able to read their unpublished work…well, I think every book blogger would be like, “THAT IS CRAZY!” but I think most of us could understand the impulse.

That’s probably my favorite thing about Stephen King.  In his books most of the time, the scariest thing is the evil that humans do to each other.  Yes, obviously there are terrifying paranormal things, too (hello, Pennywise!).

There is another book coming in this trilogy, and I cannot wait.

Highly recommended.

All the Light We Cannot See

Finished All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Marie-Laure lives with her father in Paris near the Museum of Natural History, where he works as the master of its thousands of locks. When she is six, Marie-Laure goes blind and her father builds a perfect miniature of their neighborhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. When Marie-Laure is twelve, the Nazis occupy Paris, and father and daughter flee to the walled citadel of Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s reclusive great-uncle lives in a tall house by the sea. With them they carry what might be the museum’s most valuable and dangerous jewel.

In a mining town in Germany, the orphan Werner grows up with his younger sister, enchanted by a crude radio they find. Werner becomes an expert at building and fixing these crucial new instruments, a talent that wins him a place at a brutal academy for Hitler Youth, then a special assignment to track the resistance. More and more aware of the human cost of his intelligence, Werner travels through the heart of the war and, finally, into Saint-Malo, where his story and Marie-Laure’s converge.”

Oh wow, this book.

Pretty much every actively literate person I know has already read this and has raved about it.  I have no excuse for not having read it before.  (Fortunately, thanks to (a) receiving it as a birthday present and (b) it getting chosen as a book club book, this FINALLY HAPPENED.)

Obviously because it’s set during World War II, there is a lot of sadness in this book.  On the plus side, there’s also…well, at least some hope.  Plus, the writing is gorgeous.

Several of the reviews I read said that the last 50 pages or so weren’t necessary.  I completely disagree.  Obviously, I am a huge fan of longer books, but if the book ended where those reviewers wanted it to, the tone would have been far different.  (Granted, the final 50 pages are basically vignettes of where the survivors ended up, but it was still nice to see that everyone who survived had happy, healthy lives.)

Highly recommended.

Local Girls

Finished Local Girls by Caroline Zancan.  I received a copy from the publisher for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

The first person to break your heart isn’t always your boyfriend. Sometimes it’s your best friend.

Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina have been friends for most of their lives. The girls grew up together in a dead-end Florida town on the outskirts of Orlando, and the love and loyalty they have for one another have been their only constants. Now nineteen and restless, the girls spend empty summer days bouncing between unfulfilling jobs, the beach, and their favorite local bar, The Shamrock. It’s there that a chance encounter with a movie star on the last night of his life changes everything.

Passing through Orlando, Sam Decker comes to The Shamrock seeking anonymity, but finds Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina instead. Obsessed with celebrity magazines that allow them a taste of the better lives they might have had, the girls revel in his company. But the appearance of Lila, the estranged former member of the girls’ group, turns the focus to their shared history, bringing all their old antagonisms to the surface—Lila’s defection to Orlando’s country club school when her father came into some money, and the strange, enchanting boy she brought into their circle, who fundamentally altered dynamics that had been in play for years. By the night’s end, the escalation of these long-buried issues forces them to see one another as the women they are now instead of the girls they used to be.

With an uncanny eye for the raw edges of what it means to be a girl and a heartfelt sense of the intensity of early friendship, Local Girls is a look at both the profound role celebrity plays in our culture, and how the people we know as girls end up changing the course of our lives.”

This book is a bit of a slow burn.  We know something bad happens and that something bad HAS happened, but a lot of those things—as well as why—are kept secret from the reader for most of the book.

The book goes back and forth between the girls’ night with movie star Sam Decker and to sometime in the past, explaining why there are only three friends now instead of four.  (Note: most of the book is in the past.)

The pacing is very deliberate (some would stay slow) and readers should stay patient.  Once I got the answers, I actually gasped; it felt like I had been punched in the stomach.

This is a book that will stay with me for a while, but I didn’t really connect with the characters.  I felt like if the book had been longer, that would’ve helped.  Even so, the plot carries the day here and patient readers will be rewarded.

Funny Girl

Finished Funny Girl by Nick Hornby.  I received a copy from the publisher.

Summary (from Goodreads):

From the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.

Set in 1960’s London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby’s latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.”

I’ve been a fan of Nick Hornby’s for something like 20 years, since I read High Fidelity and About a Boy.

Rebecca has known for almost her whole life that she wants to be famous and, more specifically, she wants to be a comedienne like her idol, Lucille Ball.  After she wins a beauty pageant in her home town, she knows that now is her time.

Shortly after (and now christened Sophie Straw), she starts auditioning.  It doesn’t go well—until it does, and she ends up on a hit BBC comedy.  Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that, both for Sophie and for her coworkers.

All the once-a-year releases have spoiled me, but new Nick Hornby novels are an event.  (Even though now I probably have to wait at least four years for a new one.)

Highly recommended.

Days Like This

Finished Days Like This by Danielle Ellison.  I received a copy from the author for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Sometimes the only thing standing between fear and hope is you.

Almost a year ago, nineteen-year-old Cassie Harlen had a lot to deal with. A stack of college acceptance letters waiting for answers, a proposal from the boy next door, and a mother whose most recent bipolar episode left Cassie hurt and confused. Tired of cleaning up the messes caused by her mother’s disorder, of resenting her mother for not being there, and scared of being trapped by an inevitable future—which included marrying Graham Tucker—Cassie did the only thing she could think of to keep from ending up like her mother: she left.

Graham never knew why Cassie walked away. He woke up one morning and she was gone—along with the life that he’d created around her. After eleven months, Graham has a new plan for his future. One that doesn’t involve Cassie Harlen.

When Cassie’s mom nearly burns down her house, Cassie’s forced to return home. Back to a mother she’s tried to ignore and the guy she’s been unable to forget. Graham doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the whole summer living next door to the person who broke his heart without letting those old feelings push through to the surface.

Neither does Cassie.”

Okay, first a disclaimer: I am Danielle Ellison’s publicist at Spencer Hill, and we are friends.  (By which I mean that she is my friend and I am probably like her annoying-as-hell little sister.  As an example, when I heard about this, I whined and begged and pleaded and she let me read the book instead of blocking my email.  Danielle is awesome.)

It’s told from Cassie and Graham’s perspectives in alternating chapters and I absolutely love them both.  If you’ve ever read a love story, it’s pretty clear that they’re going to end up together, but it’s still so fun to see how and how long it takes.  (Because oh wow, this book.  THIS. BOOK.  I want to flail about it but I don’t want to ruin a second of it for you.  So hurry and read this and find me so we can discuss.)

I think this is my favorite NA novel ever.  (And yes, I read Colleen Hoover and Cora Carmack.  And no, not just because I know Danielle.  In fact, if I didn’t know Danielle, this book would make me Twitter-stalk her*)  It’s sweet and wrenching and just perfect.  (AND there will be two companion novels, and I absolutely plan to whine and beg and plead until I can read those two, as well.)

Highly recommended.

* = in a nice way.  I am not scary.