Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Red Leaves
by Paullina Simons

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 448
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  As the star player of Dartmouth College’s women’s basketball team, Kristina Kim is beautiful, intelligent, and fearless. But though she’s just 21, Kristina has already had her share of heartache, loss, and dark secrets that haunt her. She’s best friends with Conni, Albert, and Jim, but the only one who seems to really know her is Albert. With long dark hair, tattoos, and a rebellious streak, Albert doesn’t fit in with the rest of the clean-cut Ivy Leaguers. Like Kristina, he has his share of secrets—secrets that are beginning to unravel this intimate circle of friends.

One wintry Thanksgiving weekend tragedy strikes...

When Detective Spencer O’Malley goes to investigate something suspicious at the foot of a steep hill on Dartmouth’s campus, he doesn’t expect that the frozen, naked body found in deep snow would belong to Kristina Kim—the remarkable young woman he met recently who entranced him. Now Spencer will never know if the chemistry he had with her was real. All he can do is find her killer.

Spencer is pulled into the strange, complex web of the surviving friends. Many important questions about Kristina’s murder cannot be answered, such as: why did none of them report her missing for nine days before her body was discovered? The more Spencer digs, the more clear it becomes that each of the three has a motive for killing Kristina. And as Spencer, seeking justice for a dead girl, is led down a labyrinth of deceit, every new revelation proves more shocking than the last….and more dangerous.

Kritters Thoughts:   Four friends are hit with tragedy and must wade through the mystery to find the truth.  The combination of a death and the wintry snow were an interesting combo that for me went hand in hand to up the creepy factor.  I will divulge next what didn't work for me in this one.

This was my first rodeo with Paullina Simons fiction and for me it wasn't a great experience.  The writing seemed elementary and at times staccato and abbreviated.  I could never get into the flow of this book and I wanted so much because the subject/synopsis was right up my alley.  I agree with others that from the beginning I was comparing this to Donna Tart's The Secret History and even if I had read this one first, I would still stick with Tart's book.  Because of the lack of flow, I was also unable to connect with any of the characters and for me that doesn't end up with an enjoyable reading experience.    

I say all this but end with hope that I would still read her again.  I could never say adios to an author after only one experience with them.  If you are a fan, what is your favorite of hers?

Rating: enjoyable, but didn't leave me wanting more

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Women in the Castle
by Jessica Shattuck

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 368
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Amid the ashes of Nazi Germany’s defeat, Marianne von Lingenfels returns to the once grand castle of her husband’s ancestors, an imposing stone fortress now fallen into ruin following years of war. The widow of a resistor murdered in the failed July, 20, 1944, plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler, Marianne plans to uphold the promise she made to her husband’s brave conspirators: to find and protect their wives, her fellow resistance widows. 

First, Marianne rescues six-year-old Martin, the son of her dearest childhood friend, from a Nazi reeducation home. Together, they make their way across the smoldering wreckage of their homeland to Berlin, where Martin’s mother, the beautiful and na├»ve Benita, has fallen into the hands of occupying Red Army soldiers. Then she locates Ania, another resistor’s wife, and her two boys, now refugees languishing in one of the many camps that house the millions displaced by the war. 

As Marianne assembles this makeshift family from the ruins of her husband’s resistance movement, she is certain their shared pain and circumstances will hold them together. But she quickly discovers that the black-and-white, highly principled world of her privileged past has become infinitely more complicated, filled with secrets and dark passions that threaten to tear them apart. Eventually, all three women must come to terms with the choices that have defined their lives before, during, and after the war—each with their own unique share of challenges. 

Kritters Thoughts:  I have read quite a few historical fiction books and quite a few set in this same time period - but this one was different.  It was such a unique view of this time and place and I loved every minute of it.  

The book flips and flops between years and years, but it was so easy to know when and where we were in the book.  Each chapter is introd with a time and place, but you don't have to keep a timeline, instead it was easy to know almost in the first paragraph who was the main character in that moment and who was going to lead the story in that chapter.

And these women.  They were inspiring and emotional, it was so interesting seeing this through their eyes.  I loved that they had this opportunity to tell their side of the story.  Each woman was unique, but it was easy to find similarities between them and it was easy to see how they would come together at this time.  

I am intrigued as to what Jessica Shattuck can come out with next, I hope she sticks with some more historical fiction!  

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

I am taking a week away.  I am in one of my favorite cities, Charlotte, NC for a work function that is solely in my hands.  So in this crazy week I am taking a moment away from this blog and can't wait to return next week!

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Forbidden Garden
by Ellen Herrick

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 400
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Every garden is a story, waiting to be told… 

At the nursery she runs with her sisters on the New England coast, Sorrel Sparrow has honed her rare gift for nurturing plants and flowers. Now that reputation, and a stroke of good timing, lands Sorrel an unexpected opportunity: reviving a long-dormant Shakespearean garden on an English country estate.

Arriving at Kirkwood Hall, ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife Stella, Sorrel is shocked by the desolate state of the walled garden. Generations have tried—and failed—to bring it back to glory. Sorrel senses heartbreak and betrayal here, perhaps even enchantment. Intrigued by the house’s history—especially the haunting tapestries that grace its walls—and increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, Sorrel sets to work. And though she knows her true home is across the sea with her sisters, instinct tells her that the English garden’s destiny is entwined with her own, if she can only unravel its secrets…

Kritters Thoughts:   Sorrel Sparrow is called from her home to England to help the Kirkwoods with the garden at their ancestral home, although she is semi excited to leave the drama of her home, she is nervous to enter someone else's garden and try to work her magic.  

I know this book is just releasing, but from the beginning the words Ellen Herrick used seemed to make it feel as though I was reading a classic - I say this as a compliment!  I loved the words she chose and combining it with gardening and England, it all just worked together.  Although this wasn't a quick book to read, it was immersive and I was excited to go back to it each time I picked it up to hear what Sorrel would find out about the Kirkwoods.  

After finishing this book, I read reviews to see how my experience compared to others and like others didn't know that there was a previous book that told the story of the Sparrow sisters.  I agree with other reviewers to say that if I had read that book first, it may have helped with the reading of this one.  I felt as though the beginning almost started as though the reader had the prior knowledge of these sisters and their story.  So now I am intrigued by these sisters and will have to read The Sparrow Sisters.  

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Book Tours.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Thank goodness the crazy life is slowing down.  Next week is my big corporate event, so hopefully after it is done life will be much quieter!

A meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 

Finished this past week:
Gone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
The Widow of Wall Street by Randy Susan Meyers
The Forbidden Garden by Ellen Herrick

Currently Reading:
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Next on the TBR pile:
Red Leaves by Paullina Simons
The Widow of Wall Street
by Randy Susan Meyers

Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 339
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  What’s real in a marriage built on sand and how do you abandon a man you’ve loved since the age of fifteen?

Phoebe sees the fire in Jake Pierce’s belly from the moment they meet as teenagers in Brooklyn. Eventually he creates a financial dynasty and she trusts him without hesitation—unaware his hunger for success hides a dark talent for deception.

When Phoebe learns—along with the rest of the world—that her husband’s triumphs are the result of an elaborate Ponzi scheme her world unravels. Lies underpin her life and marriage. As Jake’s crime is uncovered, the world obsesses about Phoebe. Did she know her life was fabricated by fraud? Did she partner with her husband in hustling billions from pensioners, charities, and CEOs? Was she his accomplice in stealing from their family and neighbors?

Debate rages as to whether love and loyalty blinded her to his crimes or if she chose to live in denial. While Jake is trapped in the web of his own deceit, Phoebe is faced with an unbearable choice. Her children refuse to see her if she remains at their father’s side, but abandoning Jake, a man she’s known since childhood, feels cruel and impossible.

From Brooklyn to Greenwich to Manhattan, from penthouse to prison, with tragic consequences rippling well beyond Wall Street, The Widow of Wall Street exposes a woman struggling to redefine her life and marriage as everything she thought she knew crumbles around her.

Kritters Thoughts:  Like many readers, I love a good story about a marriage from the dating years to young family to the older years.  I loved how this story started with present day and the situation they are in and then right from there you go back to their first years together and you see it build.  

I am a Randy Susan Meyers fan, so when I heard this book was coming out I was on board from the beginning.  I know there have been a few books that take the ponzi scheme plot point and hear from the wife's perspective, but I am fine with reading it again!  I haven't read them all, but this one seemed more than the two that I have read because it was honestly about the building and then crumbling of a marriage.  

The one thing that I just didn't love about this one was the chapters from Jake's perspective.  Don't get me wrong I LOVE a dual narrative where you get multiple points of view, but for some reason I just didn't care to hear the story from his view point.  I cared about him as a character in relation to Phoebe, but hearing his side of the story was just ehh ok.  

After reading this book I definitely want to push the two books in Meyers backlist up my TBR pile, it reminded me how much I love she builds a story with fantastic characters.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Ebook 2017 Challenge: 8 out of 50

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Atria.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Gone Without a Trace
by Mary Torjussen

Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Hannah Monroe's boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It's as though their last four years together never happened.

As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she'll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth...

Kritters Thoughts:  From the beginning of this book, the reader knows that Matt is gone and "Gone Without a Trace" he has packed up everything from his underwear to his pictures on the wall to his tv.  She comes home from a work trip to nothing.  

The first few chapters I understood that the scene was getting set, but right when I was done hearing about Hannah's wonderment, the story turned and from there to the end, I barely set it down!  I loved the idea of someone just completely disappearing and then the idea that Hannah even questioned if she really knew him all that much after clue after clue slowly unravels the truth.  

After finishing the book I went to read reviews and saw that there were almost two different camps, one who didn't love the reveal and those who loved it.  I would say I loved the reveal but agree with the part of that crowd that felt as though post reveal did drag for a bit.  This didn't change my enjoyment of the read and I would definitely read the next one from Mary Torjussen.

Rating: definitely a good read, but can't read two in a row

Ebook 2017 Challenge: 8 out of 50

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Berkley NAL.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Night the Lights Went Out
by Karen White

Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 416
Format: book
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It's not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren't helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail. 

Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee--something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past. 

Sugar's stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother's seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather's world. 

In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee's house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women....

Kritters Thoughts:  Merilee is a mom just trying to do right by her kids.  She is willing to almost do anything to make sure her kids have the best life.  From page one, I couldn't wait to get time to curl up with this one and see where Merilee's and Sugar's adventures would go next.  I wanted to be completely swept into this small town in Georgia and read about how Merilee was going to adapt to her new life.

I am not a mom and don't have aspirations to be a mom so sometimes "mom" books just don't hit a chord with me, but this one did.  I loved Merilee was a working mom who found joy in her job and how driven she was to make her life and her kids lives better.  She was a character from the beginning it was just easy to root for and I wanted to know more and more about her.

Then there was Sugar.  What a lady!  I loved that she was the perfect antithesis to Merilee and at the same time a compliment.  

I was a fan of Karen White before reading this book and I continue to be a fan after this one.  She knows how to write females in a way that is honest but full.  Karen White was the right author to read during this busy time in my life, her book was the right escape.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Berkley NAL.  I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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