Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Book Review: The Girls in the Garden, by Lisa Jewell

Her girls both nodded and smiled.

Clare felt a brief moment of parental satisfaction - a compromise painlessly reached - before it was overtaken by a wave of nervous energy that went straight through her gut like a storm. Dinner. With strangers. Her daughters finding safe places away from her. Lies to cover up. Secrets to keep. And all the time, as a throbbing, ominous backdrop, her husband, back to health, ready to reenter the world. And possibly turn it upside down.

The Girls in the Garden, formerly just titled The Girls, started at the ending, and then spooled us back in time so we could see the events leading up to it. I liked this technique a lot, and overall this was a book worth reading.

Official synopsis:
Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?

On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

This was a novel that definitely kept me guessing, and a "whodunit" of sorts too. At the beginning of the book, Pip finds her sister, Grace, who has just turned thirteen, unconscious in the garden near where they live. Grace is in a coma, so she can't tell them who knocked her unconscious, and we (the readers) almost have to figure it out ourselves, as the book goes back in time and starts us off from the beginning.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Quick Pick: The Last One, by Alexandra Oliva

  • Opening lines: The first one on the production team to die will be the editor. He doesn't yet feel ill, and he's no longer out in the field. He went out only once, before filming started, to see the woods and to shake the hands of the men whose footage he'd be shaping; asymptomatic transmission. He's been back for more than a week now and is sitting alone in the editing studio, feeling perfectly well. His T-shirt reads: COFFEE IN, GENIUS OUT. He taps a key and images flicker across the thirty-two-inch screen dominating his cluttered workstation.
  • Reason I picked up the book: I had downloaded a copy via NetGalley, and wanted something to read on my flight out to LA for BlogHer last week. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Survival is the name of the game as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself in Alexandra Oliva’s fast-paced novel of suspense. She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far. It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of their endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it human-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game. Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes. But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will be either her triumph or her undoing. Sophisticated and provocative, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real: how readily we cast our judgments, how easily we are manipulated.
  • Favorite paragraph: "The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit." No one knows how long the show will last, not the creators, not the contestants. Their contracts said no less than five weeks and no more than twelve, though a fine-print footnote actually allows for sixteen weeks in the case of extenuating circumstances. "Ad tenebras dedi," says the host. "There is no other way. And regarding this, the contestants are truly In the Dark."
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes an interesting story, and particularly those who are fans of The Walking Dead, Survivor, and/or The Hunger Games.
  • Something to know: I found this to be a mashup of The Walking Dead (minus the zombies) meets Survivor (the TV show) and it was very interesting, especially after an event occurs that Zoo (main protagonist) doesn't know about; she still thinks she's playing the game/still in the TV show that she signed up for.
  • What I would have changed: Nothing. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: Three Truths and a Lie, by Brent Hartinger {ends 8/9}

It's hard for me to talk about that conversation in the taxi. If I'd never suggested going away, I wouldn't have reminded Galen about Mia's parents' cabin. We never would have gone away. None of what happened that weekend would've happened. 

That's what I mean about this being all my fault. 

It's hard for me to talk about that conversation in the taxi. But that's easy compared to talking about everything that came next. 

I wasn't aware while starting this book that it was going to be as creepy as it ended up being; it definitely had a Cabin in the Woods vibe to it.

Official synopsis:
A weekend retreat in the woods and an innocent game of three truths and a lie goes horribly wrong in this high-octane psychological thriller filled with romantic suspense by a Lambda Award–winning author.

Deep in the forest, four friends gather for a weekend of fun.

Truth #1: Rob is thrilled about the weekend trip. It’s the perfect time for him to break out of his shell…to be the person he really, really wants to be.

Truth #2: Liam, Rob’s boyfriend, is nothing short of perfect. He’s everything Rob could have wanted. They’re perfect together. Perfect.

Truth #3: Mia has been Liam’s best friend for years…long before Rob came along. They get each other in a way Rob could never, will never, understand.

Truth #4: Galen, Mia’s boyfriend, is sweet, handsome, and incredibly charming. He’s the definitely of a Golden Boy…even with the secrets up his sleeves.

One of these truths is a lie…and not everyone will live to find out which one it is.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Quick Pick: Run, by Kody Keplinger

  • Opening lines: {Bo}
    I'm waiting for the sirens.

    I know it don't make much sense. The police ain't coming for me - not yet, anyway - but I already feel like a fugitive.
  • Reason I picked up the book: My friend Mandy over at The Romance Bookie had a signed copy that she mailed me! I love Kody Keplinger's books, so I was super excited to receive it in the mail. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Bo Dickinson is a girl with a wild reputation, a deadbeat dad, and a mama who's not exactly sober most of the time. Everyone in town knows the Dickinsons are a bad lot, but Bo doesn't care what anyone thinks.

    Agnes Atwood has never gone on a date, never even stayed out past ten, and never broken any of her parents' overbearing rules. Rules that are meant to protect their legally blind daughter -- protect her from what, Agnes isn't quite sure.

    Despite everything, Bo and Agnes become best friends. And it's the sort of friendship that runs truer and deeper than anything else.

    So when Bo shows up in the middle of the night, with police sirens wailing in the distance, desperate to get out of town, Agnes doesn't hesitate to take off with her. But running away and not getting caught will require stealing a car, tracking down Bo's dad, staying ahead of the authorities, and -- worst of all -- confronting some ugly secrets.
  • Favorite paragraph:
    {Agnes}
    Every small town has that family. You hear their last name and you just shake your head because you know the whole lot of them are trouble. No one will make it to their twenty-first birthday without being arrested at least once. Maybe it's in their blood, or maybe it's just how they're raised. It's hard to say. All you can do is steer clear because nothing good can come of getting mixed up with that bunch.

    In Mursey, that family was the Dickinsons.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes interesting YA (Young Adult) stories.
  • Something to know: The author is partially blind, like her character Agnes. I actually ended up relating a lot to Agnes, as well - because of her blindness, her parents are very strict with her, and that's sort of how my parents were with me in high school as well (I'm an only child).
  • What I would have changed: I wasn't sure if Bo was in love with Agnes or not - Bo comes out to Agnes as bisexual, and it's said that she loves Agnes, but I think it ended up being more as a friend. So I would have clarified that a bit. 
  • Overall rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Quick Pick: The Way to Game the Walk of Shame, by Jenn P. Nguyen

  • Opening linesBefore I even opened my eyes, I knew something was wrong. I wasn't in my bed like I should be, surrounded by the cream duvet comforter that Mom and I had gotten from Macy's last month. The fabric under my fingertips was cool and kind of scratchy. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I found it on NetGalley, or perhaps in an email they sent out, and it sounded like it could be a fun read. 
  • And what's this book about?
  • Taylor Simmons is screwed.

    Things were hard enough when her single-minded dedication to her studies earned her the reputation of being an Ice Queen, but after getting drunk at a party and waking up next to bad boy surfer Evan McKinley, the entire school seems intent on tearing Taylor down with mockery and gossip.

    Desperate to salvage her reputation, Taylor persuades Evan to pretend they’re in a serious romantic relationship. After all, it’s better to be the girl who tames the wild surfer than just another notch on his surfboard.

  • Favorite paragraph:
    Hmmm. This was more like it. The kiss was turning out pretty nice. Okay, if pretty nice meant awesome, blow-your-mind-out-hot.

    It was ... god, like nothing I had ever imagined. I'd read about kisses like this in novels, but I never thought that it was possible. Nothing can make the world melt away and make you forget about everything and everyone except the person in front of you. The way he smelled. His muscles and warm skin pulsing beneath your fingertips. The softness of his hair as your fingers ran through it. And his lips, soft but impossibly hot without burning as they pressed against yours, opening and moving to massage, to kiss, to taste ... 

    The first thought that popped into my head was that Evan wasn't lying about his experience. In fact, he may have underplayed it. This was some damn kiss. 
  • Recommended for: Anyone who likes cute YA (Young Adult) stories. 
  • Something to know: -
  • What I would have changed: For some reason, a lot of the parents in this novel somehow magically knew what Taylor and Evan's classmates were up to - I could see this working if they were close with the classmates' parents, but the author just said things like "I heard that (so-and-so classmate) is going to this college," or other related things, and I wasn't sure how they would have heard that, so it bugged me a little. 
  • Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
  • Where can I find this book? Click here to order on Amazon.
*Disclosure: I received an e-copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Book Review: Some Women, by Emily Liebert

She'd made peace with her reality, thanks, in large part, to Mackenzie and Piper's friendship. 
...
Piper and Mackenzie had become her people. The ones she called crying in the middle of the night. The ones who materialized at her front door at a moment's notice when they detected even the slightest note of sadness in her voice. She'd learned so much from leaning on them. She'd learned to be her own person. To take responsibility for her mistakes and to face her fears, even if it meant stumbling like a fool along the way. 

She had no idea why she hadn't noticed how lost she'd been the past few years. 

I've read two other Emily Liebert books before, and both were satisfying chick lit - perfect for a day at the beach or a quick summer read. Some Women is no different, and follows three women, who weren't originally friends, and who are all currently having relationships issues.

Official synopsis:
An engrossing and thought provoking novel that examines the intricacies of marriage, friendship, and the power of unexpected connections…

Annabel Ford has everything under control, devoting her time to her twin five-year-old boys and to keeping her household running seamlessly. So when her husband of a decade announces that he’s leaving her, without warning, she’s blindsided. And suddenly her world begins to unravel.

Single mother Piper Whitley has always done her best to balance it all—raising her daughter Fern by herself and advancing her career as a crime reporter. Only now that she’s finally met the man of her dreams, Fern’s absentee father arrives on the scene and throws everything into a tailspin.

Married to the heir of a thriving media conglomerate, Mackenzie Mead has many reasons to count her blessings. But with an imperious mother-in-law—who’s also her boss—and a husband with whom she can no longer seem to connect, something has to give.

On the surface, these three women may not have much in common. Yet when their lives are thrust together and unlikely friendships are formed—at a time when they all need someone to lean on—Annabel, Piper, and Mackenzie band together to help each navigate their new realities.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Book Review and GIVEAWAY: In Twenty Years, by Allison Winn Scotch {ends 7/23}

"Please don't get arrested," Catherine fretted. "Our parents are all in town! And we're graduating tomorrow!"

Not everyone's parents were in town, but we were past offending one another by parsing words. Only Annie's mother was here. And my parents not at all. 

But it didn't matter. What mattered was the six of us. What mattered was our star. What mattered is that in this moment in time, we were unbreakable. We were light and destiny and a meteor shower of invincibility.

We were twenty-one. We were allowed to believe impossible things. 

I'm a big fan of Allison Winn Scotch's books, and I've reviewed two of them here before, with them earning a 5/5 rating (which I don't give lightly) and 3.5/5. In Twenty Years was just as good, if not better, and was a great book to read.

Official synopsis:
Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.

Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past.