A Stranger On The Beach | Michele Campbell | St. Martin’s Press | Book Review

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“From the bestselling author of It’s Always the Husband comes a novel about a love triangle that begins on a fateful night…

There is a stranger outside Caroline’s house.

Her spectacular new beach house, built for hosting expensive parties and vacationing with the family she thought she’d have. But her husband is lying to her and everything in her life is upside down, so when the stranger, Aidan, shows up as a bartender at the same party where Caroline and her husband have a very public fight, it doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary.

As her marriage collapses around her and the lavish lifestyle she’s built for herself starts to crumble, Caroline turns to Aidan for comfort…and revenge. After a brief and desperate fling that means nothing to Caroline and everything to him, Aidan’s obsession with Caroline, her family, and her house grows more and more disturbing. And when Caroline’s husband goes missing, her life descends into a nightmare that leaves her accused of her own husband’s murder.

A Stranger on the Beach is Strangers on a Train meets Fatal Attraction in Michele Campbell’s edge-of your-seat story of passion and intrigue.”


A Stranger on the Beach is my second Michele Campbell book. If you are looking for a domestic/psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very end, this is it! This novel is written from multiple points of views, each sharing their own narratives of what ‘happened’. Campbell is able to build suspense while the twists keep coming and I didn’t know who to trust as I progressed through the pages.

This was one of those books where I just needed to know what happened. This book is dark and manipulative and I didn’t care for any of the characters, which I think was Campbell’s intention. There are many issues that are covered, including marriage, infidelity, class, money, greed, fraud, betrayal and more. If you are looking for a dark mystery that will keep you on your toes, I think you will really enjoy this newest book by Michele Campbell. A big thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a copy of this e-book. All opinions are my own.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig | Book Review

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“The societies we live in are increasingly making our minds ill, making it feel as though the way we live is engineered to make us unhappy. When Matt Haig developed panic disorder, anxiety, and depression as an adult, it took him a long time to work out the ways the external world could impact his mental health in both positive and negative ways. Notes on a Nervous Planet collects his observations, taking a look at how the various social, commercial and technological “advancements” that have created the world we now live in can actually hinder our happiness. Haig examines everything from broader phenomena like inequality, social media, and the news; to things closer to our daily lives, like how we sleep, how we exercise, and even the distinction we draw between our minds and our bodies.”

“I sometimes feel like my head is a computer with too many windows open. Too much clutter on the desktop. There is a metaphorical spinning rainbow wheel inside me. Disabling me. And if only I could find a way to switch off some of the frames, if only I could drag some of the clutter into the trash, then I would be fine. But which frame would I choose, when they all seem so essential? How can I stop my mind from being overloaded when the world is overloaded? We can think about anything. And so it makes sense that we end up thinking about everything. We might have to, sometimes, be brave enough to switch the screens off in order to switch ourselves back on. To disconnect in order to reconnect.” ― Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet

This book was my first by Matt Haig and I found it very engaging. I love how he normalizes mental health issues but also asks such thought-provoking questions within his writing. I won this in a Goodreads giveaway and devoured the short chapters which led to very interesting conversations with my friend who also was reading the book at the same time.

The chapters are short and quick and so it is a book that is easy to take in a little at a time. I love the importance he places on true connection with each other. Some of it was a little “out there” but I do agree that technology has changed the ways we interact and connect with one another and he had some powerful reminders and perspective about this.

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman | Book Review

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“Jen Dixon is not your typical Kansas City kindergarten class mom–or mom in general. Jen already has two college-age daughters by two different (probably) musicians, and it’s her second time around the class mom block with five-year-old Max–this time with a husband and father by her side. Though her best friend and PTA President sees her as the-wisest-candidate for the job (or oldest), not all of the other parents agree.

From recording parents’ response times to her emails about helping in the classroom, to requesting contributions of-special-brownies for curriculum night, not all of Jen’s methods win approval from the other moms. Throw in an old flame from Jen’s past, a hyper-sensitive -allergy mom,-a surprisingly sexy kindergarten teacher, and an impossible-to-please Real Housewife-wannabe, causing problems at every turn, and the job really becomes much more than she signed up for.”


I enjoyed Class Mom and found it to an easy and engaging read, especially relatable as a mother to two children in grade school. It is definitely a snarky take on school politics and there are the cliched characters to go with it.

I know it was meant to be “stereotypical” but I found the characterization of the “allergy mom” to be particularly insensitive…it did have plenty of funny moments but this was just a smaller thing I noticed.

There was plenty of drama and secrets and this was a great “mindless” read to cozy up with on the couch on a chilly day. This was a light-hearted read and if you are looking for something like that, I think you will enjoy this one a lot.

 

A Ladder To The Sky by John Boyne | Book Review

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The new novel from the beloved New York Times bestselling author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Heart’s Invisible Furies , a seductive Highsmithian psychodrama following one brilliant, ruthless man who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of fame.

Maurice Swift is handsome, charming, and hungry for success. The one thing he doesn’t have is talent – but he’s not about to let a detail like that stand in his way. After all, a would-be writer can find stories anywhere. They don’t need to be his own.
Working as a waiter in a West Berlin hotel in 1988, Maurice engineers the perfect opportunity: a chance encounter with celebrated novelist Erich Ackermann. He quickly ingratiates himself with the powerful – but desperately lonely – older man, teasing out of Erich a terrible, long-held secret about his activities during the war. Perfect material for Maurice’s first novel.
Once Maurice has had a taste of literary fame, he knows he can stop at nothing in pursuit of that high. Moving from the Amalfi Coast, where he matches wits with Gore Vidal, to Manhattan and London, Maurice hones his talent for deceit and manipulation, preying on the talented and vulnerable in his cold-blooded climb to the top. But the higher he climbs, the further he has to fall…


Wow! This was my second John Boyne book and following The Hearts Invisible Furies, I had high expectations. This book was totally different and the storytelling was just truly impressive. This story follows Maurice Swift and his rise to fame as an “author”. Maurice is introduced as a handsome young man who wants nothing more than to be a famous and celebrated writer.

“I think Maurice is whatever he needs to be, whenever he needs to be it. He’s an operator, that’s for sure.”
― John Boyne, A Ladder to the Sky

Maurice is actually not a likable guy and he does “whatever it takes” to get the story. But this book keeps you hooked through its dark humor and that this story brought to life through the people that guided (and assisted) Maurice along his way.

This story was truly unique and kept me on my toes. The middle lagged for me a bit but the ending was satisfying and I enjoyed when the tables were turned. A big thank you to NetGalley and Crown Publishing for gifting me a copy of this book, all opinions are my own.

 

Bodies of Water by T. Greenwood | Book Review

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“In 1960, Billie Valentine is a young housewife living in a sleepy Massachusetts suburb, treading water in a dull marriage and caring for two adopted daughters. Summers spent with the girls at their lakeside camp in Vermont are her one escape–from her husband’s demands, from days consumed by household drudgery, and from the nagging suspicion that life was supposed to hold something different.

Then a new family moves in across the street. Ted and Eva Wilson have three children and a fourth on the way, and their arrival reignites long-buried feelings in Billie. The affair that follows offers a solace Billie has never known, until her secret is revealed and both families are wrenched apart in the tragic aftermath.

Fifty years later, Ted and Eva’s son, Johnny, contacts an elderly but still spry Billie, entreating her to return east to meet with him. Once there, Billie finally learns the surprising truth about what was lost, and what still remains, of those joyful, momentous summers.

In this deeply tender novel, T. Greenwood weaves deftly between the past and present to create a poignant and wonderfully moving story of friendship, the resonance of memories, and the love that keeps us afloat.”


What an amazing book. I have been completely engrossed by T. Greenwood’s writing the last few weeks, this being her third novel I have read in a row. Her detailed characters and ability to draw you into her scenes make her books so powerful.

Bodies of Water was such a moving story about love during a time when if it didn’t fit inside a certain box, it was forbidden. This was the love story of two women, Billie, and Eva, that started in the 1960s. This book is narrated by Billie and alternates by her in the present (when she was in her 80s) and going back in time. It was raw and heartbreaking and also just breathtakingly beautiful. The story was depicted so accurately for the times and showed both the personal and financial circumstances that altered the path of their story in such a powerful way. It covered so many issues including domestic violence, loss, friendship, alcoholism, infertility, marriage, and motherhood. I didn’t want this one to end and it is a book that will stick with me for a long time.

 

Happy: A Journal by Fearne Cotton | Journal Review

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From Goodreads.com:

“This book is open, and it’s all about you! It’s a retreat and a safe haven from the stresses of everyday life, a place to work through your problems and confide your worries, fears, and secrets. It offers you a chance to focus on life’s positive aspects and find the things that make you happy.

Each page of this daily journal is filled with new ideas, creative prompts, and words of wisdom that will help you write a little joy into every day of the year. The ideal place to express what’s happening in your life — bitter, sweet, and everything in between — this book promises to be your faithful friend and assist you in finding and unlocking your inner happiness.”


What a little gem! I love the idea of journaling but I struggle with knowing where to start. Happy: The Journal is a guided daily journal with thoughtful prompts to get you writing, reflecting and planning.

I immediately ordered a hard copy of this journal so I could get started. It starts in January and leads you through the year with timely journaling prompts that have a great balance between gratitude, reflection and goal setting. There is an adequate amount of space to write without it feeling overwhelming. This is a great guided journal for someone who wants to get started with daily journaling and I highly recommend. Thank you to NetGalley and Dover Publishing for this copy, all opinions are my own.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain | Book Review

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From Goodreads.com:

“When Caroline Sears receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970 and there seems to be little that can be done. But her brother-in-law, a physicist, tells her that perhaps there is. Hunter appeared in their lives just a few years before—and his appearance was as mysterious as his past. With no family, no friends, and a background shrouded in secrets, Hunter embraced the Sears family and never looked back.

Now, Hunter is telling her that something can be done about her baby’s heart. Something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Caroline has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage that Caroline never knew existed. Something that will mean a mind-bending leap of faith on Caroline’s part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

A rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother’s quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.”


The Dream Daughter was one of my most highly anticipated books of 2018 and it did not disappoint. I am a huge Diane Chamberlain fan and always look forward to her new releases. Although I would probably have not chosen a book about time travel otherwise, Chamberlain rarely lets me down. “Fantasy” kinds of books are not my thing but this was so much more than that. It was a true Diane Chamberlain book with family drama, amazing and relatable characters, all surrounding a story about moral issues. She was able to explore the mother-daughter bond, what makes a family and adoption issues in a new and amazing way.

It had me on the edge of my seat while also constantly making me think “what would I do in this situation?”. You are able to see the story from multiple viewpoints because she does such a wonderful and in-depth presentation of the main characters. This was very different from a lot of her past books with the time traveling aspect but it stayed true to her roots with the general concept and flow of the book. It ended up being one of my favorites of hers and I have many! Thank you Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with an ARC of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.