Monday, November 12, 2018

Book Review: Her Pretty Face, by Robyn Harding

Kate's laughter tinkled, and Frances felt warm and happy. She was having a girls' day out. Like other women did. Like women whose children didn't require special diets and structured routines and constant research into treatments and behavioral modification therapies. Like women who didn't eschew close relationships because their past was full of terrible secrets they'd protect at all costs. As the SUV exited the freeway, Frances felt a shiver of anticipation. Today felt like the start of something.

What would you do if you found out a friend had been hiding something from you?

If it was something small, would it matter? How about if it was something larger—like she was a murderer?

That is the question that Her Pretty Face asks of us.

Official synopsis:
Book Review: Her Pretty Face, by Robyn Harding
The author of the bestselling novel The Party—lauded as “tense and riveting” by New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda—returns with a chilling new domestic drama about two women whose deep friendship is threatened by dark, long-buried secrets.

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart.

Because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunik. And she’s a murderer.

In her masterful follow-up to
The Party, Robyn Harding spins a web of lies, deceit, and betrayal, asking the question: Can people ever change? And even if they can, is it possible to forgive the past?

I haven't read a twisty mystery in a while, and I really enjoyed this book. Frances is kind of an outcast at her child's school after he pees in another child's water bottle (yes, really; she was mean to him first, though), and is labeled as one to stay away from. Frances finally meets a kindred spirit in Kate, another mother, who essentially takes her under her wing; eventually they become best friends. 

Frances has a past she's hiding as well, though it's not quite as bad as Kate's ... 

From the book synopsis, we know that one of these two women is a murderer. I figured out early on which woman was Amber, in a previous life, but there were still some twists and turns near the end which surprised me. I read this book in about two days because I couldn't put it down, and I wanted to find out what happened at the end.

I'd recommend this novel for anyone who likes mysteries, stories about friendship, or thrillers. 

4.5 stars out of 5.
{click here to purchase}

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Quick Pick book review: Girls' Night Out, by Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke

  • Opening lines: The Day After. Natalie.
    Waves lapped against the shore. It sounded as if the sea were breathing.
    In and out. In and out. Between the whitecaps breaking against the sand, there was a pause, almost as if the ocean were inhaling and preparing to release another breath. In and out. In and out. 
  • Reason I picked up the book: I'm a fan of Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke's books - I've reviewed a few of them, as well.
  • And what's this book about?
  • From the bestselling authors of The Good Widow comes a chilling novel of psychological suspense that will make you think twice about what your best friend may be hiding...

    For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it's time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls' getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they're reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they're hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls' night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

    Was Ashley with the man she'd met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse - could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

    As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren's search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing - or too afraid - to admit.
  • Recommended for: Anyone who enjoys thrillers, or stories about friends (trying to) reconnect.
  • Favorite paragraph: She hung up the phone and raised her head to the sky, a dark storm cloud making its way towards her from the east. "What if I can't convince her?" she whispered to herself. She almost always let Ashley have her way. She could count on one hand the number of times she'd put her foot down about something at work. Would Ashley understand it was Natalie's turn to get her way? She stood there until the ominous cloud was directly overhead, and let her tears mix with the rain it brought, finally composing herself and walking back to where Lauren sat, as if the world she built weren't crumbling.
    • Something to know: I could definitely see this being adapted into a movie - the majority of the book takes place in Mexico, which is very picturesque. The women are all in their late 30s (one mentions she's 39) and I believe two of them just turned 40, which is another reason they wanted to take this trip together - they've known each other since college.
    • What I would have changed: Nothing I can think of.
    • Overall rating: 4 stars out of 5.
    • Where can I find this book? Click here to purchase on Amazon.
    *Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from NetGalley for reviewing purposes. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

    Thursday, November 8, 2018

    Book Review: What I Leave Behind, by Alison McGhee

    Guest review by: Becki Bayley

    At some point she has to walk out of the house into invisible air, air that has no roof or walls.

    And how do you get through? You know? When things are too much?

    Because the world, it’s full of air. Full of sky and space. Ocean, too. All of which are bigger than any crowd of human beings, on the street, at school, at Dollar Only, at restaurants. At parties.

    It’s hard to remember that, though. Hard to remember that people are tiny. They stare at you, they talk about you, but all they are? Tiny.

    Look up, artists.


    I seriously think this is one of my new favorite books. I just finished it, and I may read it again. The voice in What I Leave Behind by Alison McGhee is just that good.

    Official Synopsis: 
    Book Review: What I Leave Behind, by Alison McGhee
    Sixteen-year-old Will spends most of his days the same way: Working at the Dollar Only store, trying to replicate his late father’s famous cornbread recipe, and walking the streets of Los Angeles. Will started walking after his father committed suicide, and three years later he hasn’t stopped. But there are some places Will can’t walk by: The blessings store with the chest of 100 Chinese blessings in the back, the bridge on Fourth Street where his father died, and his childhood friend Playa’s house.

    When Will learns Playa was raped at a party—a party he was at, where he saw Playa, and where he believes he could have stopped the worst from happening if he hadn’t left early—it spurs Will to stop being complacent in his own sadness and do some good in the world. He begins to leave small gifts for everyone in his life, from Superman the homeless guy he passes on his way to work, to the Little Butterfly Dude he walks by on the way home, to Playa herself. And it is through those acts of kindness that Will is finally able to push past his own trauma and truly begin to live his life again. Oh, and discover the truth about that cornbread.


    The voice of Will, and the lyrical way he told his life completely resonated with me. Over the course of the two evenings it took me to read this book, it gave me a feeling of peace.

    Will knows himself pretty well, and reads those around him in an insightful and warm way. He’s compassionate and wants the world to be a better place. Each of his chapters about lifejust a few paragraphs each, always less than a full pagepresented a memory of an interaction with the world around him. I loved every single one.

    I can’t tell if everyone else would love this book as much as me, but with less than 100 pages of actually words, I think you should give it a try. I give this book 5 out of 5 stars and I may not pass along the book like I usually do, since I already want to read it again.

    {click here to purchase}

    Becki Bayley has been a blogger for more than 15 years at SweetlyBSquared.com. She wishes her words could make someone feel as good as this book made her feel. Someday.

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