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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Plane Crashes: Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Penned by Fargo (TV show) writer Noah Hawley, Before the Fall takes a close look at the events before and after a mysterious plane crash.



Recovering alcoholic and talented painter Scott Burroughs never should have been on the flight. It was the kindness of the wife of a TV mogul's wife that convinced him to get on the plane. When that private plane crashes into the ocean, Scott somehow survives, but he's now stranded miles offshore and the only other survivor is the young son of the women who offered him a seat on the plane.

Scott manages to get them safely to shore, but that's just the beginning of his story. Questions arise as to whether he was having an affair with her. How was he the only adult survivor? What caused the plane to crash?

As the investigation kicks in and media begins looking at Scott as the possible reason for the plane to crash, Scott must keep himself hidden. Meanwhile, he's bonded with the young boy he saved, and he wants to remain part of the boy's life, if the boy's aunt and money-grubbing uncle will let Scott have any part in their lives.

The plot of Before the Fall does revolve around a number of things. First is Scott's past and the reason he was heading to the city. Passengers on the plane play an important part. There's the Wall Street mogul who was under investigation and about to be indicted. There's the last-minute switch co-pilot. There's the boy's father's TV station, a station known for creating stories through illicit means. There are dozens of people who could have wanted the plane to crash, but until the plane is found and the investigation is complete, no one has the answers the media, survivors, and officials are all desperate to find.

I haven't watched Fargo yet. I loved the movie too much. Given that, the writing of Noah Hawley's novel is so gripping that I imagine it's time to dive into the show.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Emilie Richards' When We Were Sisters

I've read many Emilie Richards books over the years, but this one quickly became a favorite. It's not an overly fast-paced novel, but it's so emotionally gripping and woven intricately. I felt like I was part of When We Were Sisters.



Robin's childhood was lousy. Her teen mother left her with her grandmother, and her grandmother seemed intent on making Robin pay emotionally for daring to be born. As a result, Robin chose to be mute rather than say anything that would only add fuel to the fire. When Robin's grandmother died, Robin entered the foster care system. That's where she met and became "sisters" with Cecilia.

Many years later, Cecilia is a popular musician. Robin gave up her career to raise a family. Robin's not in the happiest of places. She adores her kids, but her workaholic husband seems far happier working long hours than spending time with any of them. When Robin is in a car accident that kills her friend and neighbor and leaves Robin with serious injuries, she thinks it might be what it takes to turn her husband around, only nothing changes. He is late to their neighbor's funeral. He still misses dinner and time with their kids. Meanwhile, Cecilia breezes in and makes Robin the offer of a lifetime.

Cecilia's been approached to star in a documentary about growing up in the foster care system. She is eager to do the project, no matter how painful returning to her past will be, but she can get Robin a job in photojournalism again. Robin's just as eager to jumpstart her old career. For Robin it's a chance to see if her husband can become the man she fell in love with. For Cecilia, this project is going to bring her dark past to light and hopefully allow her to move on from secrets that have haunted her for decades.

There are touches of romance in Emilie Richards' latest novel. You have Robin and Kris's struggling marriage and Cecilia's struggles as she begins to fall for her long-time manager. This adds a little lightness to the sometimes dark subject matter of the failures of the foster care system.

Much of When We Were Sisters is told from varying points of view. It focuses a lot on Robin and Cecilia, but the addition of Kris's insight completes the picture. It's an emotionally charged look at work, marriage, and life in general, and I loved it.




Friday, May 27, 2016

The Girl I Used To Be - Young Adult Mystery

Her mother was stabbed to death in front of her. For 14 years, Olivia and police believe her father was responsible and that he fled after leaving his three-year-old daughter at Walmart. Now, some of his remains have been found, and police and Olivia are seeking the truth.



Olivia heads to the town she left long ago. She's spent just about a decade in foster homes and went through a failed adoption before becoming emancipated. The adoption changed her name legally, but she took an additional step and changed her hair color to hide her true identity. Now that it's clear there's a killer out there, Olivia may be next to be silenced forever.

The Girl I Used to Be is a teen mystery, which may explain some of the questions I had. I couldn't understand how finding a small portion of Olivia's father's remains was immediate proof there was another killer and not a murder-suicide. That was just one thing that niggled at me, but I am coming into the story from an adult perspective. I was also shocked at how quickly a teenager working in a grocery store was able to rent an entire house. I just went through a situation where my son, a new college graduate with a full-time job with a biomedical firm, was unable to rent a house unless I cosigned the six-month lease. I really, really doubt that Olivia would have been able to rent this house so easily.

All niggles aside, the book is fast-paced and holds your attention. I got frustrated that I couldn't seem to fit in more than 20 minutes here and there to read it. Every inch of me wanted to sit down and read it from cover to cover in one shot. It's that gripping!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Fallout: An Intimate Look at the Aftershocks of a Separation

I'll admit, it's tough categorizing The Fallout by Tamar Cohen. It's a touch romance, a little bit suspenseful, but downright chilling as the pieces start to fall together. This is a May 31st release from Harlequin/MIRA.



Josh and Hannah find themselves in an incredibly difficult situation when their best friends Dan and Sasha break up. Dan's found someone else, someone much younger, and desperately wants Josh and Hannah to keep it hidden from his wife. Hannah is Sasha's best friend. They've raised their daughters together. It's a betrayal to keep it hidden, so it is made clear that they refuse to take sides while the couple figures things out.

It's only a matter of time before Josh and Hannah are struggling with the fallout from Dan and Sasha's separation. From voracious lawyers to Sasha's claims that Dan is trying to kill her, the reality is grim. Josh and Hannah are struggling to keep their own relationship intact when their friends are battling for their full attention.

I never expected to love this book. I couldn't stand Sasha, hated Dan, and eventually wondered what on earth Josh and Hannah were doing. By the final page, I felt like I'd been on a fictional roller coaster ride and found myself thinking over scenes for hours. The Fallout is clever, has twists I never saw coming, and definitely is unlike much I've read in the past!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel

I loved Catherine Ryan Hyde's Pay It Forward. That same mesmerizing writing style draws you into Leaving Blythe River: A Novel. I'm not sure of the intended audience in this new novel, the hero is a 17-year-old boy, but I feel the story will appeal to all ages.



His parents' marriage is over, and the events leading up to it forever changed Ethan Underwood. He's not happy to be heading off to spend time with his father in the wilderness of Blythe River. For this city boy, being told that he should never leave the house without bear repellent is not appealing. He's also not thrilled to be with the father that betrayed Ethan in more ways than one.

When Ethan's father never returns from his daily run, Ethan becomes concerned and contacts authorities. After a two-day search, they decide Ethan's father must have taken off and abandoned his son. Ethan's not as convinced and does not want to go home until he's at least made the attempt to find his dad. With the help of a skilled pack guide and a bold elderly neighbor, Ethan and the pair head out into the forest to see if they can discover the truth.

I loved this story. It's a great coming-of-age story with tense moments and emotional interactions between the much younger Ethan and the seniors helping him navigate the wilderness. It's not an overly long story, I finished it in a couple hours, but it definitely holds your attention from start to finish.

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who never was impressed by Elvis. I was, however, very impressed by Kim Wright's Last Ride to Graceland, even if the story does focus a little on Elvis's music and lifestyle.



Cory Ainsworth's father should never have repeatedly told her NOT to look in the shed at his house when he asks her to find his wading boots and send them to him in Florida. Months after her mother's death, Cory's watching her friends settle down, have kids, and it that type of lifestyle just doesn't seem to be in the cards. When he repeatedly tells her NOT to look in the shed, that's the very first thing she does. She's shocked to find a mint condition Stutz Blackhawk. As Cory's mother was a back-up singer for Elvis right before his death, Cory realizes it must be Elvis's car. With a car full of trash, she goes on a quest to Graceland to do a reverse of the path her pregnant mother took when she left Graceland and returned to her hometown.

There's always been a mystery involving the identity of Cory's father. She hopes now she can finally determine if she is Elvis's illegitimate daughter or not.

I quickly found myself hooked in Cory's story, even with the chapter changes from Cory's point of view to her mother's POV in the 70s. Usually, I find changes in time a little distracting, but these were smooth and timed perfectly.

The story is a wonderful coming-of-age-type where this time it's a grown woman who needs to come to terms with her past and see what she really wants to do from here. I loved it.

Look for Last Ride to Graceland to be released by Gallery Books on May 24th.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Head Back to Whiskey Creek With Brenda Novak

Brenda Novak brings readers back to Whiskey Creek where the Amos brothers try to do their best with the hand they were dealt. Rod Amos was only trying to protect his step-sister. He never expected the guy to run him off the road. Rod takes care of the abusive drunk, but he's miles from home and his motorcycle is toast for now. He's thrilled when his new neighbor drives by and begrudgingly agrees to help him out.



India Sommers is now a single mom, no thanks to a violent past boyfriend who murdered her husband. She's in Whiskey Creek to start anew. All she needs is police to do their job and put her ex behind bars for good. Once that happens, she can bring her daughter to Whiskey Creek and start a new life. The last thing she needs in her life is Rod, a man she is certain is another bad boy, yet he's exactly what her heart is saying she needs.

I love the interactions between India and Rod in Discovering You. Both act on emotions and tend to jump in heart first, which made for some steamy scenes, but also ones that were filled with emotion. I did think at the end that India took a few too many risks for a single mom and widow, but it definitely also kept me hooked. Without giving away spoilers, I loved seeing her toughen up towards the end!

This was the second Whiskey Creek novel I've read, but I hadn't remembered much about the first. It didn't matter anyway, as this one stands alone well.

Monday, May 16, 2016

It Wasn't Always Like This: Teen Fiction Delves Into Eternal Youth

A family tests a potion designed to prevent polio and discovers eternal youth in Joy Preble's It Wasn't Always Like This. The plot is packed with suspense as two teens struggle to stay one step ahead of a radical religious group who wants them dead. The only way to end the life of someone with eternal life is by murdering them.



Charlie and Emma have been friends for ages, drawn together by their fathers' work. As they reach the age of 17, they're clearly in love. That's when they test the polio cure and stay at the age of 17. When the powerful preacher of a church group known as the Church of Light realize the families' secrets, they set out to destroy them. Charlie and Emma's family members are killed and the two go on the run.

In a suspense/thriller that spans decades, Charlie and Emma have gone their separate ways for their safety. Now in present day, Emma is aware of a series of murders of young women who resemble her. It's time to stop the ancestors of the Church of Light once and for all. This might be the only way she can reunite with the young man she loves and misses desperately.

The story switches back and forth between past and present. As you watch the teens grow and adapt to their new lives, it draws you in. It's easy to root for them, and I wanted desperately to see the Church of Light come to an end. Their intolerance and hatred bothered me, even if it paralleled the hatred you see in the news almost every day. I couldn't wait to see how things would play out.

It Wasn't Always Like This is a Soho Teen release due out on May 17, 2016. You'll find it online and in some brick and mortar booksellers.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

One Summer Night: A Love Letter to Life by Emily Bold



Emily Bold's One Summer Night takes place in Vermont, along the shores of Lake Champlain to be exact. This puts it right in my backyard essentially. It makes me wonder why the German author chose that setting. That said, I can't argue with the setting she created. She did a good job.

Lauren meeting Tim seemed a little surreal, but even with a few obstacles, the pair have made an incredible life for themselves and their daughters. That all blows up in their face when Lauren is diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. Suddenly, she's torn apart by the knowledge that she only has a short time left to see her daughters grow and to love her husband to the fullest.

That's the premise. The entire book bounces between past and present and takes you on an emotional roller coaster throughout. I smiled, cried, and just didn't want to put this book down. There is romance, there is drama, but mostly it's just a very emotional look at what happens when you learn you only have a little time left.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Third Tracy Crosswhite Book - In the Clearing

From the very moment I started reading the first novel in the Tracy Crosswhite series, I became addicted. Robert Dugoni is very talented and created characters I really like. I'm a big fan of shows and books like Rizzoli and Isles, Luther, and many others, and Tracy Crosswhite comes across as very genuine and good at her job.



In the Clearing is the third novel in Robert Dugoni's mystery series. Tracy is asked to look into a decades old suicide. The teenage girl supposedly killed herself, but Tracy's former classmate doesn't understand why her father kept a secret file regarding the death. Tracy begins her investigation and realizes that this wasn't a suicide at all, and now four decades have passed, which makes it hard to track down possible suspects.

At the same time, Tracy is helping with the investigation into a shooting. She suspects the "shooter" is lying, but conflicting witness and victim statements isn't getting her anywhere. With two cases to solve, and her own relationship being shoved aside, Tracy's being left with little downtime.

Now while In the Clearing's suicide case seemed pretty easy to solve, I did like watching the clues get revealed over time and pieces of the puzzle all come together. The actual revelation when the killer is identified wasn't surprising. Even the present-day case wasn't that baffling to me. The solutions simply made sense.

That said, I still love spending time reading about Tracy's work and personal life. She's an enjoyable character, and it makes me eager for the next book in this series.






Thursday, May 12, 2016

Sneak Peek at Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

I want to note that I was not able to read the entire novel written by Lauren Wolk. My review of Wolf Hollow is based on the sneak peek into a few chapters. That said, this is a very engaging read that reminded me a bit of books I grew up with.



Annabelle enjoys her quiet existence in her small Pennsylvanian town. The entire family are close, but they tend to keep to themselves and treat everyone they do know with kindness. That all changes when a new girl moves to town and begins bullying Annabelle. Annabelle's not thrilled, but when Betty turns her attention on a kindly war veteran and then disappears, Annabelle must fight for what she knows is right.

The description said Wolf Hollow is kind of a To Kill a Mockingbird for the younger crowd. I do think that's a fair assessment. I was mesmerized and kind of sad that I only get the sneak peek. It's a book I want to read and am putting on my wish list.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

All Things Beer: Read The Beer Geek Handbook

If you already enjoy beer, want to understand the world of beer a little better, or are diving into craft brewing and want to get to know what to expect, The Beer Geek Handbook is a must-have!



I live in the land of IPAs and DIPAs. Much of the world has heard of the Alchemist's Heady Topper, as is mentioned in this book, (though I will say I still prefer Focal Banger and recommend you get your hands on a can if at all possible). Craft breweries like Hill Farmstead are winning world's best beer awards. You may even have heard of Burlington Beer Company (YUM), 14th Star (a brewery run by vets), or Frost out of Hinesburg. (Just a few of the many, many craft brewers in Vermont.) I used to hate IPAs, but now they're really all I drink. I love the perfumey pine/citrus flavors and aromas hops bring to beers. For me, The Beer Geek Handbook is an ideal coffee table book. It's there to inspire, educate, and amuse.

This guide to all things beer covers breweries, types of beers, and much more. There are fun little quizzes along the way, information on the best temperatures for storing beer, and quick bios of some of the beer icons who founded breweries or write about beer (Michael Jackson all the way.) I had a lot of fun reading this guide, learned a few things, and am about to take some of the things I learned on a journey to Maine where I'll be doing plenty of sampling a variety of craft beers.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica

Most people know that I'm a big crime nut. I love trying to solve a case before the television or fictional detective puts the pieces together. Don't You Cry is the latest from Mary Kubica, and it's a goodie!



After a one-night stand, Quinn Collins is awoken unpleasantly by her roomate's alarm. She stumbles into her roommate's Chicago bedroom to find the window open and no sign of Esther Vaughan. Quinn's determined to find Esther, but the more she discovers, the more baffled she becomes.

Miles away in a small Michigan community, a young woman starts frequenting a cafe where Alex Gallo works. He's 18 and finds the woman he dubs "Pearl" to be an enigma, an attractive one at that. There are things Alex will find out that will forever change him.

As the story progresses, there are a lot of twists. I had part of it figured out, but still there was little hope for me beating the characters to the truth. I always love being surprised.

I've become very fond of books along the lines of Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and such. One thing I've come to find is that when I'm in the mood for that kind of dark, suspenseful mystery, Mary Kubica will always deliver.

Look for Don't You Cry on May 17, 2016. It's a MIRA release.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Claire Mackintosh's I Let You Go

You're playing with your child on the way home, racing him to be exact. In that one minute you let go of his hand, he darts into the road and is hit by a car. The driver of that car takes off. You hear the whispers blaming you for letting go of the child's hand and that no good mother would have let go of their child's hand. That's part of the premise in Claire Mackintosh's I Let You Go.



I Let You Go is a debut, based very loosely on a case the author had while working for the police. The story is really told from multiple viewpoints, but the two key players are Jenna Gray, a woman who left her life behind to try to forget the accident, and the lead detective who is trying to solve a case with few witnesses and little evidence.

The twists in this book hit me and I admit left me feeling a little shaken. There are things I did not see coming. In fact, it's those twists that will make this a book I doubt I'll be able to forget it months, even years, from now. This entire story grabbed me and held my attention until the final word. It's just that good, if not a little sad at times and definitely worthy of book group discussions.

Look for I Let You Go on May 3rd. It's a Berkley release and a book that I highly recommend for the characters, setting, and gripping storyline.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Agnes Martin-Lugand Delivers an Emotional Story With More to Come

Translated from the self-published release Les Gens Heureux Lisent et Boivent du Cafe, Happy People Read and Drink Coffee is a charming story with an even better setting. I'm eager to see more from Agnes Martin-Lugand.



It's been a year since Diane's husband and daughter were killed, and in that year, she's found it difficult to function. When pressure from her best friend becomes too much to bear, Diane opts to get away.

Her husband always wanted to go to Ireland, and Diane was never agreeable to anything short of the thoughts of sun and sand. She packs up and heads to small town in Ireland where she plans to continue grieving her losses. She never expects to find this coastal town to be the thing that prompts her to start healing. She's soon making friends and finding herself attracted to one very moody photographer. When it's time to return to Paris, will her new romance withstand the separation? Will she even want to return home?

One sitting. That's all it took. I was hooked in Diane's life from the first page and couldn't stop. The setting was memorable and made me want to go. I wanted to be part of this charming coastal town, even if it was rainy and dreary. I wanted to go to the pub and have a pint with them. I wanted to walk down the beach and feel the sand between my toes while getting drenched, only to then return and curl up by a fire. The atmosphere drew me in.