Monday, December 24, 2012

The One I Left Behind

The One I Left Behind, by Jennifer McMahon

It scared Reggie a little - how consumed Tara had become with all of this. But deep down, she believed Tara was right - the police were not going to catch this guy. They'd had their chance and failed three times. And this time was different. This time, it was her own mother's life at stake.

The One I Left Behind, Jennifer McMahon, mysteries, killings, serial killers
I've never read any of Jennifer McMahon's books before this, but now I definitely am planning on reading the others. This novel focused on Reggie (real name is Regina), whose mother was the last in a string of murders by a serial killer in 1985 - so she thought, until her mother turns up at a homeless shelter in Boston, twenty-five years later. The book jumps between June 1985 and the present day, in 2010, and Reggie must figure out if the killer, Neptune, is still alive, and if so, if he's still a menace to society.

Official synopsis:
The summer of 1985 changed Reggie's life forever. Thirteen, awkward, and without a father, she finds herself mixed up with her school's outcasts - Charlie, the local detective's son, and Tara, a goth who harbors a dark secret. That same summer a serial killer nicknamed Neptune begins kidnapping women, leaving their severed hands on the police department steps and, five days later, publicly displaying their corpses around town. Just when Reggie needs her mother Vera, an ex-model with many "boyfriends" and a thirst for gin, the most, Vera's hand is found on the steps - but her body fails to show up five days later, and Neptune is never caught.

Now a successful architect who left her hometown behind, Reggie doesn't trust anyone and lives with few attachments. But when her aunt calls saying her mother has been found alive, Reggie must confront the ghosts of her past and find Neptune before he kills again.

I really liked how the book jumped between 1985 and 2010 each chapter, and even more so when Reggie's friends from 1985 started appearing in 2010. Reggie had a huge crush on Charlie, who had feelings for Tara (that were not reciprocated), but now he's a plump real estate agent and she can't reconcile the two. Tara is now a nurse and is hired to care for Vera, Reggie's mother, once she returns, but soon Tara is taken by Neptune and Reggie must find her before she turns into the next victim.

We also learn about a criminal act that the three friends were involved in back in 1985, and how it was covered up and labeled an accident, as well as a dangerous habit that Tara and Reggie shared back then,  that Tara introduced to Reggie.

The One I Left Behind is perfect for those who love mysteries, or really anyone that loves a good read - I enjoyed it very much, and it leaves you guessing until the very end as to the real identity of Neptune.

The One I Left Behind will be in stores on January 2, 2013. 5 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received a copy of this novel to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Hynotist's Love Story

The Hypnotist's Love Story, by Liane Moriarty.

Afterward, they went for dinner at that Thai restaurant on the corner where he told me he loved me for the first time.

I wonder if they sat at the same table.

I wonder if he remembered, just for a second. Surely I am worth a fleeting thought.

I couldn't get a table. They must have had a reservation - she must have done it, he would never bother. So I went to a cafe and I wrote him a letter, just trying to explain, to make him see, and I left it on the windscreen of his car.

I am looking forward to my next appointment with the hypnotist.

The Hypnotist's Love Story, stalking, Liane Moriarty, pregnancy
Back in June, I read What Alice Forgot for the BlogHer Book Club, and since then I have wanted to read more of Liane Moriarty's work. Moriarty writes with a certain wit, even when the situations are serious, and it makes me laugh out loud during some pages; she's a fantastic writer.

The Hypnotist's Love Story is her newest book, and what I really loved about it is that there are two distinct parts: the chapters alternate between Ellen (the hypnotist's) story, told in third-person omniscient point of view, and Saskia (the stalker's) story, in first-person.

Ellen has recently started dating the widowed Patrick, who she met online, and on one of their early dates he tells her about his stalker, Saskia. Saskia and he dated for about three years, and she helped to raise his son, Jack; he abruptly dumped her about a month after her mother passed away, and since then she has been stalking him. She's not a violent stalker - she doesn't hit or harm - but she emails him, leaves him notes, and calls him constantly, as well as follows him and Jack when they go places. Ellen can't help but be intrigued by Saskia, probably because she's a psychiatrist of sorts, but this comes to a head when she realizes she's already met Saskia: she's been masquerading as one of Ellen's clients, though to be fair the problem she comes in for is real.

I had a lot of empathy for Saskia in this novel, because it did seem like Patrick dumped her rather harshly; he should have at least let her to continue to see Jack, who seemed like her son, almost, since she raised him while Patrick was working. That being said, she is indeed a crazy person, and Ellen and Patrick try to steer clear of her as much as possible. Some of Moriarty's humor comes through still, however - in one example, while on a plane going for a long weekend with Patrick, Ellen remembers with horror that she told Saskia where they were going (when Saskia was one of her clients), and she wonders if she's on their plane. Then Saskia's part chimes in, saying something like "I'm on the same plane as them, but tickets were expensive."

I loved this book, and am looking forward to reading Moriarty's other two novels. I've seen this book listed on "summer reads" or "beach reads" lists online, but I think it's appropriate for any season, really, or anyone looking for a good read.

5 stars out of 5.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Don't You Wish

Don't You Wish, by Roxanne St. Clair.

"So don't even think about it again," she says. "Because you are who you are meant to be. Annie Nutter, daughter of Mel and Emily Nutter."

"But you don't know, Mom. What if I were the daughter of Jim and Emily Monroe? What if you'd had a daughter with a different husband? Who knows if I would still be me?"

"That's a silly question."

Is it? Would I play the violin? Would I have my same lousy hair but pretty blue eyes? Would I still love Jolly Ranchers and SpongeBob, or would I be too rich and cool for candy and old-school cartoons? Would Lizzie be my BFF? Would Theo still gross me out? Would I still be the poster child for the website My Life is Average? Or worse? I think not.

"If you even existed," Mom says. "You'd be somebody else entirely if you had different parents."

"But wouldn't I have the same soul?"

Mom looks at me, her eyes clear now, but still mascara-smudged. "I have no idea. Nobody can answer that question."

But I think about it all the way home.

Don't You Wish, teens, YA, Roxanne St. Clair
Although this book was fairly predictable, I definitely had a fun time reading it, and in fact devoured it in a day. Annie Nutter is a plain high school student - she wears braces and doesn't always have the best hair days - and her mom is a real estate agent and her dad is an inventor. She also has a little brother, Theo, who can be annoying at times. One day, her mom shows her an architecture magazine with a picture of an enormous, beautiful house, and the owner is Jim Monroe, a billionaire whom her mom used to date before marrying her dad. Her mom wonders if life would have been different if she was Mrs. Monroe, rich heiress; Annie does as well.

Annie is playing with her dad's latest invention one night, a mirror that helps you envision your "perfect self," and she gets electrocuted or something while doing it. When she wakes up, she's no longer Annie Nutter: she's Ayla Monroe, daughter of Jim Monroe (though she has the same mother, albeit one who is flawless-looking and 15 pounds skinnier than her "old mom" was). At first, Annie (Ayla) loves being popular, but she soon realizes that this life isn't all it's cracked up to be, and she wants to return to her old life as Annie Nutter; she just needs to find a way back.

This book has been optioned as a film, and I think it could make a great movie for teens. There are a lot of great supporting characters in the novel, like Charlie, a "nerd" that Annie meets while Ayla who tries to help her get "home" to her "real reality"; his theory is that there are multiple realities out there. Even though Annie likes a lot of the perks in Ayla's life, like the Aston Martin she drives and huge mansions she lives in, she realizes that she was happier when she had her "normal" family, which is why she wants to return to that life.

I also loved the ending - I had a feeling it would be one of those "deus ex machina" types, where it might say something like "And then she woke up and it was all a dream"; however, it definitely doesn't do that, and in fact leaves the reader wondering how much of it was real, and also how many "realities" there can be in a person's life, depending on decisions that they or others make.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley of this book from NetGalley to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Singles

The Singles, by Meredith Goldstein.

In the top right-hand corner of the board was a list of names written in bright red ink and all-capital letters: "HANNAH MARTIN, ROB NUTLEY, NANCY MACGOWAN, VICKI CLIFFORD, JOE EVANS."

Above the same, in the same crimson print, Bee had written the word "SINGLES."

They were the only guests to RSVP for Bee's nuptials without using their plus-one invites, and now they were the only names Bee hadn't yet placed on her seating chart.

The Singles, Meredith Goldstein, love, wedding, romance
This book reminded me a lot of the movie The Romantics, which wasn't that good; however, this book was excellent. Everyone is reuniting in Maryland for Bee's wedding, including her college friends, and tensions are high for everyone. Hannah is kinda looking forward to seeing her ex at the wedding, but also scared. Vicki has been depressed recently and doesn't want to go to the wedding, but feels that she has to. Rob decides to ditch the wedding at the last minute, even though his one-time love and BFF Hannah is going. Joe is Bee's uncle but didn't want to take his current girlfriend to the wedding, and Nancy ends up becoming sick and sending her son, Phil, to go in her place; after all, the places are $200 a piece, she tells him, and she doesn't want food being wasted.

The Singles end up interacting at the wedding and some interesting pairings take place. Each person has a story of their own to tell, and although the reason they are all gathered in Maryland is because of Bee, the focus of the novel is not on her, for the most part, but on her friends and the people who are at the wedding.

I could see this being a movie, too (and one of the characters, Hannah, is a casting agent, and likes to cast people as she meets them), although it might end up being a rom-com even though the source material is more serious throughout.

4 stars out of 5.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goodbye to All That

Goodbye to All That, by Judith Arnold.

"This particular unit," the rental agent said, "gets a lot of sunlight. It's really a very bright unit."

Ruth wished she wouldn't call the apartment a "unit." It was a residence, a dwelling. A home.

Not a home like the house where her children had grown up and where Richard still lived. Not a spacious colonial with rhododendrons and daffodils and spirea that Ruth herself had planted, and ancient pines bordering the backyard and towering above the roofline. Not a house with a kitchen big enough to prepare a Thanksgiving feast or a Seder for the whole family and a finished-basement rec room with a ping-pong table, and a formal living room that always looked so pristine because it was so rarely used. Not a house with an elegant master bedroom suite, with two walk-in closets and a sleek fiberglass tub in the bathroom.

This place - this
unit - was very bright. That would be enough.

It would be perfect.

Goodbye to All That, Judith Arnold
This book was a lot funnier than I thought it would be given the subject matter. Ruth Bendel, who has been married to Richard for forty-two years, decides she doesn't want to live with him anymore, and she gets her own apartment and a clerk job at a local store. Everyone is baffled as to why she's decided to do this: her son, Doug, and daughters Melissa and Jill, and especially Richard. She gives vague reasons as to why she decided to move out - Richard's channel-surfing was annoying her, as was picking up after him each day and chin whiskers he leaves in the sink without cleaning - and the Bendel children all want her to get back together with him. But Ruth likes her independence, and likes having to think of no one but herself ... at least for now.

I really liked how this story delved into each of the main character's lives; you could even write spin-off novels about each of them. They all live in Boston except for the youngest, Melissa, who is an NYC lawyer. Jill is a housewife who writes catalog copy during the day, and Doug is an eye doctor that does Lasik and is super rich because of that. The book doesn't really talk about their childhoods much but chooses to focus on the present and the "situation," and how each of the kids (and their kids, in Jill and Doug's cases) are dealing with Ruth and Richard's separation.

4 stars out of 5.

*Disclosure: I received an e-galley from NetGalley of this book to review. The opinions expressed here, however, are my own.

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