Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Mother
by Yvette Edwards

Publisher: Amistad
Pages: 256
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  The unimaginable has happened to Marcia Williams. Her bright and beautiful sixteen-year-old son Ryan has been brutally murdered. Consumed by grief and rage, she must bridle her dark feelings and endure something no mother should ever have to experience: she must go to court for the trial of the killer—another teenage boy—accused of taking her son’s life. 

How could her son be dead? Ryan should have been safe—he wasn’t the kind of boy to find himself on the wrong end of a knife carried by a dangerous young man like Tyson Manley. But as the trial proceeds, Marcia finds her beliefs and assumptions challenged as she learns more about Ryan’s death and Tyson’s life, including his dysfunctional family. She also discovers troubling truths about her own. As the strain of Ryan’s death tests their marriage, Lloydie, her husband, pulls further away, hiding behind a wall of secrets that masks his grief, while Marcia draws closer to her sister, who is becoming her prime confidant. 

One person seems to hold the answers—and the hope—Marcia needs: Tyson's scared young girlfriend, Sweetie. But as this anguished mother has learned, nothing in life is certain. Not any more.



Kritters Thoughts:  Marcia Williams was an attentive mother and tried to do all the things she could to allow for her son to have the best upbringing and by a turn of circumstances he is murdered.  The book begins as the trial for his alleged murderer and she believes that she must sit through every day to help with her grief and "support" her now deceased son.  Her marriage is falling apart and her husband is dealing with the grief in a very different way and they are not connecting.  This story is not only about a marriage in disarray and a courtroom drama.

This book is both in and out of my wheelhouse in interesting ways.  I love a good courtroom drama and I read them often, so that was in my wheelhouse.  The out of my wheelhouse was that it came from the viewpoint of the mother of the deceased and there was drama both out and in the court and they bled together.  

The mother of the victim interacted with the mother of the accused and this was a big part of the book.  I would love to read this story again through her eyes and see what she has to say as she raised three boys on her own.  The reader only gets to know her through the mother of the victim's eyes which are obviously jaded!  

Has anyone read Yvette Edwards' previous book - A Cupboard Full of Coats?  I just may have to read it next!


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.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Gridley Girls
by Meredith First

Publisher: SparkPress
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Sometimes you have to go back before you can move forward. Meg Monahan feels like she was born to be a secret keeper. From the moment she became a peer counselor in high school, Meg has been keeping her friends secrets from sordid family drama to their sex lives that she never wanted to know. Flash forward to adulthood when Meg is a recruiter for the world's hippest (and most paranoid) high-tech company and now Meg is a professional secret keeper. When sudden tragedy strikes before Meg hosts the wedding of her childhood BFF, Anne Calzaretta, the women are forced to face their past and their secrets in order to move on to their future. In 1978, Meg, Anne, Jennifer, and Tonya were such close friends, they were known as The Group in their hometown of Gridley, California. But in ninth grade, their lives were changed forever. Loss, lies, and secrets separated them, but could not break their bonds of friendship. Thirty years later, Meg and Anne reminisce about those days dealing with parents, school, boys, sex, love, and betrayal. Anne remembers their freshman year as an easier time, but Meg, still feeling guilty about a betrayal of Anne s trust, is haunted. Even now, Meg is keeping a secret she s not prepared to face, let alone share.


Kritters Thoughts:  Meg Monahan still lives in the city where she was raised and is still living with the reputation of being the good girl of the crowd.  All of her friends trusted her with their secrets in high school and some she kept and some she may have shared.  This has been haunting her and many years later she needs to come clean and clear the air with her childhood friends.

This book had chapters that moved from stories of their days in high school to their current story.  I loved this format and I honestly enjoyed both the past and the present.  In most books where there are two types of stories, I usually prefer one over the other, but this one I really couldn't pick I loved them both!  

I loved this book that solely focused on friendship.  Because this book spans a lot of years, the reader gets to see how female friendships can change and evolve over a range of years.  

I will definitely be on the lookout for Meredith First's next book!

Rating: perfect beach read

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from BookSparks PR.  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, May 29, 2016

A holiday weekend with very few plans made for such a fun long weekend of reading!  It also helped that a lot of these books were short and sweet and good!!

A meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 

Finished this past week:
Liberty and Means by Kristin Dow
Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Gridley Girls by Meredith First
The Mother by Yvette Edwards
Saving Abby by Steena Holmes
One True Loves by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Currently Reading:
Flight Patterns by Karen White

Next on the TBR pile:
Sunshine Beach by Wendy Wax

Friday, May 27, 2016

Death at Breakfast
by Beth Gutcheon

Publisher: William Morrow
Pages: 288
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Retired New York City private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, society matron Hope Babbin, are off on a weeklong vacation to Maine, to visit Hope’s son and attend a master cooking class at the picturesque Oquossoc Mountain Inn. The worst tragedy they anticipate is a boring fellow guest or a fallen soufflĂ©. 

But their quiet idyll is disrupted by the arrival at the inn of a boorish couple, Alexander and Lisa Antippas, and Lisa’s sister, Glory. Imperious Hollywood one-percenters, Alex and Lisa are also the parents of the latest pop sensation, teen icon Artemis. Discord enters with the family, closely followed by disaster. When a suspicious late-night fire at the inn is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. 

Enter the local deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, who is Hope’s long-estranged son and a former student of Maggie’s. Buster needs a success, and Hope and Maggie, informed by a lifetime of observing human nature, coupled with a certain cynicism about small town justice and a healthy dose of curiosity, decide there is role for them to play here.


Kritters Thoughts:  Two friends go on vacation and end up in the middle of a murder/crime scene and become quite intrigued to help out the local jurisdiction with their investigation - it helps that one of them is the mother of the local policeman.

The location of this story was great.  I loved the secluded inn in a small town in Maine.  I read very few books that take place in Maine and have never travelled there, so reading a book set there is always fun.  For me this was the highlight of the book.

What didn't work for me was the pacing and plot.  This was a shorter book, with less than 300 pages and it moved very slow.  I didn't enjoy the pace at all and wanted things to move a little more swiftly.  

I don't know how to describe it, but the book felt bland, it was just ok.  Maybe I read too many mystery thrillers and my standards are high, but this one just so so and if at the end there is a hint for a sequel, I am not sure I would pick it up.

Even though I didn't love this one, it doesn't rule out this author and I am still wanting to read some of her other books.


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.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Leaving Blythe River
by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 322
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Seventeen-year-old Ethan Underwood is totally unprepared to search for his father in the Blythe River National Wilderness. Not only is he small, scrawny, and skittish but he’s barely speaking to the man after a traumatic betrayal. Yet when his father vanishes from their remote cabin and rangers abandon the rescue mission, suddenly it’s up to Ethan to keep looking. Angry or not, he’s his father’s only hope.
With the help of three locals—a fearless seventy-year-old widow, a pack guide, and a former actor with limited outdoor skills—he heads into the wild. The days that follow transform Ethan’s world. Hail, punishing sun, swollen rapids, and exhausting pain leave him wondering if he’s been fooled yet again: Is his father out here at all? As the situation grows increasingly dire, Ethan realizes this quest has become about more than finding his dad.


Kritters Thoughts:  First, I don't read a ton of adventurie stories with hiking and bears and wilderness and I don't read a lot of books with males or even younger males as the lead.  This was a departure from my usual, but with an author that I have read and loved!

I loved how it was formatted.  I loved how the story lets you know from the beginning that Ethan's father is going to go missing, but we need to start before he does to set the foundation.  I am so glad we meet Ethan and his parents before his move to Wyoming and before his dad's disappearance, so we the reader are somewhat informed.

The people that surrounded Ethan on his adventure were so full and rich.  I enjoyed watching them guide him in all ways and teach him lessons that his parents didn't have or make the time to do.    

This was another great book from Catherine Ryan Hyde and I will definitely read her upcoming things and hope to check out her extensive backlist.  


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.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Liberty and Means
by Kristin Dow

Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Someone is tracking Shannon Clark, altering the course of her life in a most unexpected, thrilling way. But as the familiar is gradually stripped away, she starts to feel disconnected and doesn’t know who to trust. Family, friends, dating, work...nothing is the same and everything is complicated. Will Shannon learn to embrace her new world filled with golden opportunity or get lost amongst its trappings? She now has the chance to follow her dreams. Trouble is, she doesn’t know what they are. 


Kritters Thoughts:  With a vague synopsis, I went into this book with little to no to go on and I liked it.  So I will try to review it without giving much more away because it is worth reading without the details.  

Shannon Clark is being followed and with the help of a longtime family friend she finds out who the person is and what they want with her.  They will be giving her something that is going to send her life down a completely different path and it affects her friendships, job and potential relationships.  I have never been dealt the cards she was and I loved reading how it affects every facet of her life.  

I loved it.  I talk a lot on this blog about pacing because you can have great characters and a great plot but if the book doesn't feel good, then the actual reading experience isn't enjoyable.  I loved how this book moves and it wasn't full of car chases or explosions (maybe mini ones!) but there was constant action and I just loved reading it.

This is my first Kristin Dow read and it will most definitely not be the last.


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

Ebook 2016 Challenge: 14 out of 50


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from the author.  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, May 24, 2016

The Memory of Us
by Camille Di Maio

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  Julianne Westcott was living the kind of life that other Protestant girls in prewar Liverpool could only dream about: old money, silk ball gowns, and prominent young men lining up to escort her. But when she learns of a blind-and-deaf brother, institutionalized since birth, the illusion of her perfect life and family shatters around her.

While visiting her brother in secret, Julianne meets and befriends Kyle McCarthy, an Irish Catholic groundskeeper studying to become a priest. Caught between her family’s expectations, Kyle’s devotion to the church, and the intense new feelings that the forbidden courtship has awakened in her, Julianne must make a choice: uphold the life she’s always known or follow the difficult path toward love.

But as war ripples through the world and the Blitz decimates England, a tragic accident forces Julianne to leave everything behind and forge a new life built on lies she’s told to protect the ones she loves. Now, after twenty years of hiding from her past, the truth finds her—will she be brave enough to face it?
 



Kritters Thoughts:  An epic love story that with war pending made the book seem even more heavy than your typical love story.  Julianne finds that she is a twin and her twin brother has been put in a home as he is "different."  Julianne has been raised with a father who has a fairly negative opinion about Catholics so when she is visiting her brother behind her parents' back and meets a man that is Catholic and pursuing to be a priest - Julianne's world is turned upside down.

Sometimes it is just nice to curl up with an epic love story and this one hit the spot.  I loved Julianne as a character and enjoyed reading the conflict she had between pleasing her parents and becoming an adult and going her own way.  

After thinking about this book, I would also put it in the coming of age category.  Coming of age as in becoming an adult who makes their own decisions and has to live with both the positive and negative consequences that come from those decisions.  I liked that it was coming of age, but not YA.

There is one part that threw me for a loop and of course I can't share or it would ruin things, but it sent the story down an interesting path and I am not sure I loved it, but it certainly didn't ruin the book for me.

Not that I expect less from a debut author, but I had to go back and double check because I loved the flow of the story so much.  For me that can be lacking in a debut author, but this story just kept moving at a great pace from beginning to end.  I can't wait for her next one!  


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 BookSparks.  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, May 23, 2016

The Secrets of Flight
by Maggie Leffler

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

Goodreads:  Estranged from her family since just after World War II, Mary Browning has spent her entire adult life hiding from her past. Now eighty-seven years old and a widow, she is still haunted by secrets and fading memories of the family she left behind. Her one outlet is the writing group she’s presided over for a decade, though she’s never written a word herself. When a new member walks in—a fifteen-year-old girl who reminds her so much of her beloved sister Sarah—Mary is certain fate delivered Elyse Strickler to her for a reason.

Mary hires the serious-eyed teenager to type her story about a daring female pilot who, during World War II, left home for the sky and gambled everything for her dreams—including her own identity.

As they begin to unravel the web of Mary’s past, Mary and Elyse form an unlikely friendship. Together they discover it’s never too late for second chances and that sometimes forgiveness is all it takes for life to take flight in the most unexpected ways.
 



Kritters Thoughts:  Two stories are woven together in such a great way - through the writing of a memoir.  Mary Browning is in her later years and has been a member of a writing group filled with other folks around her age and in walks a teenager who will help Mary discover some truths.  Elyse is the teenager that enters her world and she has some dramas of her own - her parents are separating after a battle with cancer and her grandmother is in ailing health, so Mary will be able to help Elyse just as much as she is helping her.

I am not sure if I would say if this is extremely dual narrative - but it felt like it and I liked it.  I liked how Mary's story told through short stories also fit into the bigger story of having Elyse help her write her memoir it made the book feel natural and the two storylines weren't forced together.  

I don't think I knew much about the female flight program during the war and I loved reading the stories of how they were able to qualify and then how the program worked.  My favorite thing about historical fiction books is learning something without feeling like I am reading a textbook or doing research.  

The other thing that I loved and learned was the aspect of how Jewish people living in America felt as World War II was affecting their family and friends overseas.  I think most of the books I read during this time period that focus on Jewish folk do not take place in the States.  It was interesting to read how the sentiment of the Germans was bleeding over to Americans and how getting into college could be difficult due to a last name.

This is my first Maggie Leffler book and I am excited to see what she comes out with next.

Rating: absolutely loved it and want a sequel

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from TLC Books 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, May 22, 2016

With a rainy weekend in the books, I spent the time reading away in my library.  It was great to have a weekend with minimal plans and maybe ignoring my to do list!

A meme hosted by Kathryn at The Book Date. 

Finished this past week:
Don't You Cry by Mary Kubica
Re Jane by Patricia Park
The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio
The Secrets of Us by Maggie Leffler
Death at Breakfast by Beth Gutcheon

Currently Reading:
Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Next on the TBR pile:
Liberty and Means by Kristin Dow

Friday, May 20, 2016

Re Jane
by Patricia Park

Publisher: Penguin Random House
Pages: 352
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  For Jane Re, half-Korean, half-American orphan, Flushing, Queens, is the place she’s been trying to escape from her whole life. Sardonic yet vulnerable, Jane toils, unappreciated, in her strict uncle’s grocery store and politely observes the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of good manners, hierarchy, and obligation). Desperate for a new life, she’s thrilled to become the au pair for the Mazer-Farleys, two Brooklyn English professors and their adopted Chinese daughter. Inducted into the world of organic food co-ops, and nineteenth–century novels, Jane is the recipient of Beth Mazer’s feminist lectures and Ed Farley’s very male attention. But when a family death interrupts Jane and Ed’s blossoming affair, she flies off to Seoul, leaving New York far behind.

Reconnecting with family, and struggling to learn the ways of modern-day Korea, Jane begins to wonder if Ed Farley is really the man for her. Jane returns to Queens, where she must find a balance between two cultures and accept who she really is.
 

Kritters Thoughts:  Let me start by saying, I have not read Jane Eyre, so as I know that this is a retelling or reimagining of sorts - for me this was a fresh read.  Yes, I do plan on reading Jane Eyre eventually, but there are just so many good books that come out every Tuesday it is hard to go back that far!

Re Jane was such an interesting read with a character who is half Korean and half American and doesn't feel like she quite fits in with either.  She has been living with her uncle and living by his rules until she is offered a job that gets her out of the home and gives her the opportunity to become an adult.  A family tragedy sends her to Korea where she gets to experience the other half of herself and her family there, but ultimately she returns to New York to find her place.

I loved this book.  It was a sweet coming of age story but with the twist of not fitting in ethnically to any group.  I loved that she learned different lessons from different people and they all didn't revolve around love, but honestly what type of person do you want to be.  I love when characters going through this moment in life are right out of college or finishing it up and embarking on adulthood, that is my favorite coming of age story.

I think if you have never read Jane Eyre or have read it multiple times, you can enjoy this book as the stand alone that it is.



Rating: perfect beach read

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Penguin Random House.  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, May 19, 2016

Portrait of a Conspiracy
by Donna Russo Morin

Publisher: Diversion Publishing
Pages: 298
Format: eARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  One murder ignites the powderkeg that threatens to consume the Medici's Florence. Amidst the chaos, five women and one legendary artist weave together a plot that could bring peace, or get them all killed. Seeking to wrest power from the Medici family in 15th Century Florence, members of the Pazzi family drew their blades in a church and slew Giuliano. But Lorenzo de Medici survives, and seeks revenge on everyone involved, plunging the city into a murderous chaos that takes dozens of lives. Bodies are dragged through the streets, and no one is safe. Five women steal away to a church to ply their craft in secret. Viviana, Fiammetta, Isabetta, Natasia, and Mattea are painters, not allowed to be public with their skill, but freed from the restrictions in their lives by their art. When a sixth member of their group, Lapaccia, goes missing, and is rumored to have stolen a much sought after painting as she vanished, the women must venture out into the dangerous streets to find their friend and see her safe. They will have help from one of the most renowned painters of their era the peaceful and kind Leonardo Da Vinci. It is under his tutelage that they will flourish as artists, and with his access that they will infiltrate some of the highest, most secretive places in Florence, unraveling one conspiracy as they build another in its place.


Kritters Thoughts:  Whether this story was based in truth or is true fiction, it was entertaining.  An underground group of women all have passion in the creative field and in the time that they live in, women aren't welcome to be creative - it is a man's world.  Leonardo Da Vinci saw something in the women and wanted to help push their creativity along.  At the same time there is major upheaval in Italy and there is war and the women are caught completely in the middle.

I don't read a lot that takes place in this time and space, so I just enjoyed reading something out of my usual reads.  I loved reading about women defying the custom of the time and instead following their own path even if they may have to do it in secret.  

I didn't know a ton about the upheaval at the time, so there were moments when that part of the storyline may have gone over my head, but there was still enough story without it.  I know that the unrest mattered to the story, but I would have loved more content about the women and what they loved to do.  

This is the first in a series and I am not sure if I will continue, but I did enjoy this one.


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

Ebook 2016 Challenge: 13 out of 50


Disclosure of Material Connection:  I received one copy of this book free of charge from Diversion Books.  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, May 17, 2016

Don't You Cry
by Mary Kubica

Publisher: MIRA
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Buy the Book: Amazon

Goodreads:  In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she's the person Quinn thought she knew. 

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.  

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl's spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.


Kritters Thoughts:  Two stories are moving forward at the same and you wonder when and how they may intersect and although it takes awhile they do and in a big way!  

Quinn narrates one side of the story and her room mate has gone missing and as she tries to find her she finds out a lot of secrets that her room mate had.  The other story is narrated by Alex who chose to stay in his home town instead of going off to college and he is following this new mysterious girl who will change his life.

In true Kubica fashion, this book has twists and turns, but as a reader you will enjoy the final destination.  I kept waiting for the stories to connect and as a warning, it is at the bitter end, but I am glad that we had all of the clues and mystery before the final reveal. 

This book definitely has a creepy factor and I was glad that I wasn't home alone reading it!  From graveyards to haunted houses, all of the creepy things were in this book.

I have read two out of the three of Kubica's books and officially I am a fan and will read whatever comes next - even before I read the synopsis!


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 Harlequin MIRA.  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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