The Dinner Guest Book Review

“But love changes over time, and in those final moments when I knew he was dying, well, I must confess that through the horror and the blood and the shock, the love I felt for him wasn’t quite as profound as I would have expected.  Even after everything that had happened.”

Charlie

This quote is in the Prologue… I mean, is there any doubt that this is going to be an intriguing read?  I loved how the synopsis for this book was very brief – and that is exactly how you should go into this book – knowing next to nothing.  The book opens with Matthew, husband to Charlie and father to Titus, dead at the dinner table, stabbed with a knife and Rachel, a newly found friend, holding that knife.  As Rachel confesses to the murder, it is obvious that that she is not the one who yielded the knife, but finding out who really was the murderer was a roller coaster of a journey.

The book alternates between Charlie and Rachel’s voices – the chapters are specifically designated as either the time period before the murder, or the time period after the murder, giving your brain time to acclimate.  I thought the character development was very strong.  I could see how each character arrived at where they were emotionally and how their varied backgrounds affected their actions.  I didn’t love or hate any characters, but I was fully vested and interested in finding out more about every single one of them!

I find it difficult to talk about the plot when reviewing thrillers without spoiling the thrill for others, so I try to stick to discussing how I felt.  I had a strong suspicion throughout the book and in true good thriller fashion, it was partly true, but there was much more than what I assumed.  The author wove in some delicious twists and kept my fingers turning those pages into late in the night.  The first part of the book may feel like a slow burn – but it was so important to the character and relationship development.  It felt like the perfect amount of anticipation was built up for the action and revelations that started multiplying quickly in the second half.  My thoughts while reading the end:  yup…ah, sure…okay…oh I forgot about that…uh oh…crap…yikes…good luck.  Highly recommend!

It was divine, in the true sense of the word, with vengeance and justice coming together to stabilize an imbalance in the world.  It was something greater than anything the day-to-day human life encountered, and therefore required such language to even come close to describing it.  Those who claim there is no beauty in violence really have no clue.”

Charlie

Thank you to HarperCollins UK and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review an advance copy.  This book is now available everywhere.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Mother May I Book Review

Mother May I by Joshilyn Jackson

“Some things were too broken and too torn to ever again be mended.”

Bree

I kept seeing so many great reviews for this book so I really wanted to dig in and see for myself if it lived up to the hype. Conclusion? It does!

Bree is introduced as the main character. We learn that she is happily married with three beautiful children. She grew up in poor, rural Georgia, but has married well, and now enjoys the luxuries that old money provides. She is uber involved in her children’s activities, especially her middle child, Anna-Claire’s acting endeavors. Bree was an aspiring actress prior to meeting her husband, Trey. Once married, acting fell away and creating her family became her focus. She frequently relies on the skills she learned while trying to hone her acting career.

In a twisted turn of events, Bree’s baby, Robert, is kidnapped right from under her as she is watching Anna-Claire perform in a school production. She is understandably distraught and is immediately contacted and told that she can tell no one. Her Momma bear instincts kick into high gear and she tries to handle getting her son back on her own. She is forced to do something she would never imagine had she not been backed into a corner.

While the story unfolds, she involves former cop and her deceased best friend’s husband, Marshall, in order to get Robert back. During the frantic search for information about the kidnapper, details of a years ago, sordid event are revealed that she wishes she could un-know. Unfortunately, since the past can’t be changed, she struggles with how she can move forward possessing this knowledge.

Although the main story in this book is about the kidnapping, it twists into quite another story. This was interesting to me, how once one story came to a close, the other was sitting there waiting for its turn. I didn’t love the second story, but I can see why the author chose it and wanted to bring it to light. The way it resolved was not 100% for me, but it was acceptable. An eye for an eye as they say.

This book was a riveting read – a hard to put down and go to bed kind of read. One that made me ponder the second story far after I finished the book. I thought the character development was excellent. The story was well developed, and nothing was thrown in at the end which should have been known upfront. I have seen it called domestic suspense, and that is the perfect description. Lies, secrets, forbidden love, hidden pasts and murder – what more could you want in a thriller?

I really enjoyed this book and easily recommend!

Thank you to NetGalley and William Morrow / Custom House for providing an advance copy for me to read and review. Pub date – April, 2021

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When The Stars Go Dark Book Review


⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Synopsis from the book:
Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When overwhelming tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns a local teenage girl has gone missing. The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

My review:
This book is written so poetically, you can’t rush through reading it. This is a book to be savored. From the outset it is obvious that the main character, Anna, carries a lot of emotional trauma around with her. It is what has made her successful in solving missing persons cases. She is able to take her experiences, her grief, her counseling and her instinct into each investigation. She is singularly focused, which has taken a huge toll on her personal life.

“For the longest time I stand on Lansing street, thinking about beauty and terror. Evil. Grace. Suffering. Joy. How they’re all here every day, everywhere. Teaching us how to keep stepping forward into our lives, our purpose.”

Anna runs to Mendocino, a place where her upended life finally found some peace, to deal with a recent tragedy that is only hinted at. It isn’t until the last part of the book that the nature of the tragedy she is running from is revealed. Knowing that she is emotionally raw when returning to Mendocino led me to understand why she would jump headfirst into a missing child investigation. Better to spend time unraveling someone else’s potential mistakes. Each revelation about Anna’s past enforced the believability that she could easily put herself in the victim’s place. The clues presented in the book were more from Anna’s instincts than actual physical evidence.

Much of the book is written about nature and the ways in which Anna’s adopted father taught her to love and respect the woods around their house. The author’s descriptions of the landscape is so immersive that I could feel the sun shining on my face through the canopy of trees. Chapters full of scenic descriptions may be off-putting to readers more interested in the thriller aspect of the story, but that was one of the things I appreciated most about this book. It is a “slow burn” – not because it is boring – far from it – more because the author placed each word lovingly in this book and I wanted to absorb each one.

The subject matter is tough, and could be a trigger for some. With the introduction of an actual missing child case in the mix of the investigations Anna was involved in, I could appreciate that the author was giving a voice to this family and community, and the way they were able to band together in the midst of devastation and develop methods to improve future searches. It is definitely worth reading the afterword for more information about the Klaas family and the impact their efforts have had on missing child cases.

The ending happened just a little too suddenly and the beginning was a tad confusing, hence 4, rather than 5 stars for me. Overall though, the book was so beautifully written and the processes that Anna used to investigate anyone involved were believable and consistent. Paula McLain definitely used her well developed research skills to develop the methods and background Anna possessed.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House – Ballantine for allowing me to read and review an advance copy.

Unhesitatingly recommend. Pub date: April, 2021.

The End of Her Book Review

It makes her wonder if love is just an illusion, one that disappears when reality gets too dark.

Stephanie from “The End of Me”

I was riveted by this book. The ending was not what I was expecting/hoping/planning. There were so many awesome possibilities hanging out there, so I must admit I was a little disappointed in the ending. But alas, I’m not the author so…..far be it from me to act like I know better than the this one. This book had so many interesting and well-thought out characters. I doubted several of them, and I love that in a thriller. I really want to think any of the characters could have committed the unspeakable deed in question.

This book opens with the untimely death of a young almost-mother, Lindsey, in a tragic accident. It then picks up with a young, exhausted, sleep deprived mother of twins, Stephanie. The reader is informed that Stephanie, is the second wife of the husband of Lindsey. The reader soon finds out that Lindsey and Stephanie’s better half, Patrick, is hiding some big secrets and they come to light as Erica enters the book. Erica is the best friend of Lily and the ex-lover of Patrick, who thinks he is guilty of the Lindsey’s murder. (Remind me not to have friends like her!) I loved how the author constantly made me second guess Patrick, then Erica. Who is the heck was the liar and who was telling the truth. Or… does anyone really ever tell the full truth in a captivating thriller? The answer is a resounding no. That is one of the reasons why we all love thrillers. Everyone is a suspect!

This book had me imagining so many possible scenarios that my mind was spinning. The reader is introduced to several more characters who are intertwined with Stephanie, Patrick and Lindsey. There were a few sideline stories that seemed a little too convenient to introduce. But all in all, the story was fast-paced and engrossing. If you have read this author before, you know she is adept at creating interesting characters for the reader to love, hate, or admire. She has definitely done that again.

This is another good read from Shari Lapena and I recommend.

In Five Years Book Review

“But I was wrong. I wasn’t the strong one, she was. Because this is what it feels like – to take a risk, to step out of line, to make decisions not based on fact but on feeling.

Dannie from In Five Years

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 I need a minute.  Ok a few minutes.  Time to compose myself after being completely undone by this wonderful book. 

Summary:

Dannie Kohan, a high-powered type A personality corporate lawyer has her life planned out.  The story begins with Dannie interviewing for her dream job and getting engaged to her long time boyfriend.  Dannie falls asleep on the couch that evening and wakes up in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger in bed beside a very different man.   She looks over at the TV playing on mute, and sees the date, 2025 – five years in the future.  Once she wakes up again, she is back in the life she knows.  She doesn’t understand any of it.  Was it a dream or possible a look into her future? 

The reader is then introduced to her forever friend Bella.  Bella has been her best friend since meeting her at a park at an early age.  Bella is her exact opposite.  She is a successful artist and gallery owner with a spontaneous, bohemian personality.  The reader also meets both sets of the girls’ parents.  Bella’s are divorced, wealthy and were never keen on being parents.  Dannie’s on the other hand are involved, loving parents, affected by a tragedy that reshaped their future.

Chalking up the event as some sort of strange dream, her life as a successful, engaged lawyer continues.  Then four and a half years later, she comes face-to-face with the man in the dream.

Review

The characters in this book were so well developed.  Rebecca Searle gave us such depth into their relationships.  The story touched on experiences in our childhood that frame us, the concepts of choice vs. destiny, and the everlasting power of friendship and love.  Love in many forms.  And finding the strength you never knew you held.  I love a story involving the power of female friendships and I was richly rewarded with this book.  I could not put the book down.  I obviously knew that some sort of realization was coming, and I was dying to know how this is going to turn out, but the author gave connections in between that made the wait worthwhile.  This book ended up being a little different than what I expected, but it worked in a magical way. 

I am completely smitten with this book!

The Push Book Review

 

The Push by Ashley Audrain

WOW!!!!!!!

A mother’s heart breaks a million ways in her lifetime.

Blythe – from The Push

Synopsis:

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had. But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

My review:
I read this book in 2 days.  This book pulled me in right from the start. I was doing it as a buddy read (check it out our discussion here: https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/21848054). WARNING – it is full of spoilers.

So much hurt, so much guilt, so much left unsaid. I flew through it. The only character I loved was Mrs. Ellington, but that was ok. I cared enough about all of them to want to know how they got where they were, and where they would end up. It is disturbing to think about how much mental illness is pushed under the rug and still not discussed. Blythe’s past was full of undiagnosed mental illness. I think she went into motherhood hoping to change the patterns and hoping to be a better Mother than her own mostly removed Mother was. Without spoiling anything, she has a hard time bonding with her first child, has a second child who she easily bonded with while simultaneously dealing with events that have her (and the reader) questioning her first child’s mental health. Throughout the book, the author leaves that question open for interpretation by the reader. Do we believe the character describing the stories, or do we believe she is describing it from her stilted point of view? I liked that. And I loved this book!

Highly recommend – 5 starts.

You know, there’s a lot about ourselves that we can’t change – it’s just the way we’re born. But some parts of us are shaped by what we see. And how we’re treated by other people. How we’re made to feel.

Violet – from The Push

Where does it begin? When do we know? What makes them turn? Who is to blame?

Blythe – from The Push

Anxious People Book Review

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Backman has done it again. This book was everything I was hoping it would be. His ability to interject humor into heavy subjects is nothing less than masterful. His characters come to life and I just want to hug them, slap sense into them, pinch them, punch them but also be their friend. There were so many lines from this book (especially from the interviews) that I read out loud to my husband because they were so witty.

Zara – oh goodness, I loved Zara. I love an honest and brazen character. She was definitely my favorite. Here is just one nugget: “Zara could have gone up to the real estate agent and pointed that out, if only the real estate agent hadn’t been a human being, and if only Zara hadn’t hated human beings. Especially when they spoke.”

Even the characters I thought I wasn’t going to like, I understood at the end. I think, no I KNOW, I would have enjoyed being one of the hostages.

While Backman infused humor throughout, I didn’t feel like he downplayed or ridiculed the serious subjects. He just made them a little easier to digest.

This is a MUST READ in my book.

The truth of course is that if people really were as happy as they look on the Internet, they wouldn’t spend so much damn time on the Internet, because no one who’s having a really good day spends half if it taking pictures of themselves.

F. Backman from Anxious People

Look, I don’t describe people by their height. That’s really excluding. I mean, I’m short, and I know that can give a lot of tall people a complex.

London from Anxious People, when responding to a policeman’s question about the height of a suspect


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The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo Book Review

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


I was totally transported

A 4.7 for me. I felt like I was actually a part of Old Hollywood.

I could picture exactly how the characters looked and what their voices sounded like.I loved the character development and interactions. I loved the honesty and the grit.

I loved how the author made sure we wouldn’t “pity” Evelyn. Nope- Evelyn owned all of her choices. But that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t devastated for her in the end. I wanted a little more from Monique.

I will definitely be thinking about this book for a long time.
A great read!



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“I don’t look like I am half of one thing and half of another but rather one whole thing, theirs. Loved.” Monique

Why this blog?

I wanted to start a blog to combine 3 of my favorite things, reading, wine and dogs. So I figured, why not personalize my little corner of the internet to combine the 3 and discuss books I’ve read, heard about and want to read while sipping a Cabernet and snuggling with my furry pack? I have always loved reading. I love how it transports me into different worlds, different eras and different families. I love finding myself vested in characters, no matter how that reveals itself; love, hate, frustration, confusion, disgust, sorrow, admiration, distain, jealousy, or amazement. I love a book that makes me stop and think, that makes me reflect, that makes me question and that makes me visualize. My least favorite books to read are ones where I realize that I feel indifferent towards the characters, and therefore, don’t really care what happens to them. I’d love for you to join me, to add to the discussions and to share books you’ve read and loved, hated, or even worse: felt indifferent about. What makes you love a book? What makes you dislike one? Let’s discuss!

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