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Sunday, July 15, 2018

REVIEW: The Drama Teacher by Koren Zailckas @crownpublishing

The Drama Teacher
by Koren Zailckas

Thank you to Crown Publishing for this gifted copy.
A character study that will have you questioning if you're being scammed and by whom around you.

Publisher:  Crown Publishing
Publish Date:  August 7, 2018
400 Pages
Genre:  Psychological Suspense

Gracie Mueller is a proud mother of two and devoted wife, living with her husband Randy in upstate New York, her life complicated by the usual stressors and tedium—young children, marriage, money—and she’s settled down comfortably enough. But Gracie, underneath all that’s marked her life as average, has a lot to hide about where she’s from, who she is, and who she’s been. And when Randy’s failing career as a real estate agent makes finances tight, their home goes into foreclosure, and Gracie feels she has no choice but to return to the creatively illegal and high-stakes lifestyle of her past in order to keep all that she’s worked so hard to have.
Gracie learned from her manipulatively charming father how to steal identities in order to survive, and she eases back into her routine of lying and cheating with a wicked skillset and gritty resolve. Things begin to slip out of her control, though, when her web of deceit lands her a job as a private school drama teacher--a role that demands emotional honesty--and soon more questions about the truth of her past are raised, including all the ones she never meant to, or even knew to, ask. 

My Review:

Wow.  I'm actually really torn on what to think about this novel.  This is a character study of a woman who endured a difficult childhood with a crazy father.  This shaped her adulthood and set her on a path that she does not know how to get out of. Told strictly through Gracie, traveling from her childhood to her present day, the author takes you right into Gracie's thoughts, her fears, her intelligence and her manipulative ways.  Somehow, I never get mad at her though.  I empathize and see how what she is doing is all she has ever really known.  

I actually started thinking about how much she figured out as a child.  How susceptible you are a child to soak in what is around you and how parents don't realize that the child knows way more than they ever think they do... and vice versa.  Clearly Gracie is an extremely intelligent person and watching her transverse between the various situations she got herself into really did fascinate me.  I kept waiting for the shoe to drop and well.... you're just going to have to read this to figure out what happens.

I will say that I did get a little bored in certain areas.  I felt at times that it stretched on just a little too long and I almost wished at certain moments that it was a more linear read.  However, I will say that once I got to the last 10%, I understood why it was written the way that it was written.  The reveals that came towards the end just kind of gave me that "oh, yeah, ok" kind of feeling.  I wasn't surprised by them but I also don't think you really needed that AHA moment with this type of read either. 
This is a great read for those who love a good character study and really want to dive deep into the mind of a woman who is just trying to do right by herself and her kids when she didn't get a very good hand to start with.  


#allthebookreviews: The Last Time I Liked by Riley Sager @riley_sager @duttonbooks

The Last Time I Lied
by Riley Sager

Thanks so much to Dutton Books for these copies!
Jessica and I do love some Sager - especially after Final Girls last year.

Publisher:  Dutton Books
Publish Date:  July 3, 2018
370 Pages
Genres:  Thriller, Mystery, Horror

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

My Review:

We are all aware of the hype of Sager after Final Girls last year.  I absolutely LOVED that story.  This one falls somewhat along the same lines in terms of the way the story is told.  However, that's about all the similarities there are, which I love because when an author doesn't just regurgitate what they're really good at, it's nice to see where else their mind can take us.

While Final Girls felt more along the lines of YA horror, The Last Time I Lied takes us more into a psychological thriller feel surrounding an unreliable narrator and a fifteen year difference between disappearances.

I did feel this one ran a little slow at the beginning but then it ramps up towards the middle and I was fully immersed into finding out what keeps happening at this camp!  It's hard not to compare an author's sophomore release when the first one was such a big hit in the reading world.  In doing so, I realize that this one didn't quite resonate with me as the first one did.  However, it is well written with hints of a mean girls vibe (sorry ladies, no one is going to make me feel like I can't stuff my face full of foods I like), camp cliques and that all time alpha girl that you adore and hate at the same time.

Sager is an author to watch out for and I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for the next release.


Jessica's Review:

We've all played two truths and a lie, right? Well, what happens when that goes too far? Last year I read Sager's debut, FINAL GIRLS, and loved it! I didn't think it could be topped, but I think I loved this one even more. THE LAST TIME I LIED was one I could not put down. My first sitting was short-lived because life and responsibilities, but my second sitting I read pages 19-384. So basically, I finished the book that night and before I knew it it was 2am.

We go back and forth between present day and 15 years ago at Camp Nightingale, a prestigious camp for girls that lasted 6 weeks. Emma spent her first summer there 15 years ago and it ended in tragedy. The three girls she shared her cabin with - Natalie, Allison, and Vivian - all went missing and were never seen again. This caused the camp to close and the guilt has haunted Emma ever since.

Now, she is a rising star in the New York art scene, and one day she is approached at a gallery show by the owner of Camp Nightingale. Franny has a proposition for her. She is planning on reopening the camp for a summer and would love for her to come back, this time as a counselor. Emma decides to go so that she can try and find the girls that vanished 15 years ago and finally put her guilt to rest.

That's all I'm going to say! I couldn't believe all the twists in this one. I had moments of whispering, "what the fuck - did that just happen?" to myself. The beginning had a slower introduction but once she gets to the camp (around 20ish pages in) then things pick up and don't stop! So many secrets to uncover, eerie events, and having to face her past, THE LAST TIME I LIED is one I can see being another popular one for the summer. If you liked FINAL GIRLS, then you'll love this one.

I give this 5/5 stars!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

BLOG TOUR: Needle Song by Russell Day #needlesongbook @rfdaze @fahrenheitpress @damppebbles

Needle Song 
by Russell Day

You may remember my Cover Reveal post from back in April - if not, you can check that out HERE.

Today is my Blog Tour stop - check below for the synopsis, about the author and then a letter from Russell Day himself - a fun read about his years on a bike and why you should normally NOT read a book with a motorcycle on the cover. 

It's quite an interesting read - please take a look.

Spending the night with a beautiful woman would be a good alibi, if the body in the next room wasn't her husband.

Doc Slidesmith has a habit of knowing things he shouldn’t. He knows the woman Chris Rudjer meets online is married. He knows the adult fun she’s looking for is likely to be short lived. And when her husband’s killed, he knows Chris Rudjer didn’t do it. 

Only trouble is the police disagree and no one wants to waste time investigating an open and shut case.

No one except Doc.

Using lies, blackmail and a loaded pack of Tarot cards, Doc sets about looking for the truth - but the more truth he finds, the less he thinks his friend is going to like it.

About Russell Day:

Russell Day was born in 1966 and grew up in Harlesden, NW10 – a geographic region searching for an alibi. From an early age it was clear the only things he cared about were motorcycles, tattoos and writing. At a later stage he added family life to his list of interests and now lives with his wife and two children. He’s still in London, but has moved south of the river for the milder climate.
Although he only writes crime fiction Russ doesn’t consider his work restricted. ‘As long as there have been people there has been crime, as long as there are people there will be crime.’ That attitude leaves a lot of scope for settings and characters. One of the first short stories he had published, The Second Rat and the Automatic Nun, was a double-cross story set in a world where the church had taken over policing. In his first novel, Needle Song, an amateur detective employs logic, psychology and a loaded pack of tarot cards to investigate a death.

Russ often tells people he seldom smiles due to nerve damage, sustained when his jaw was broken. In fact, this is a total fabrication and his family will tell you he’s has always been a miserable bastard. 

Note from the Author:

Back in 1981, just before I left school, I found a copy of The Jammer’s Handbook. For those of you that don’t know, The Jammer’s Handbook was a motorcycle parts/accessories catalogue dressed to look like a magazine. It was printed in America and catered mainly to people looking to modify their Harley Davidsons. What this particular copy was doing in a newsagent in Harlesden, alongside all the copies of Woman’s Own and The Beano, I have not a clue. But there is was. Page after page of monstrous, chrome-dripping, road-stomping, ear-splitting Harleys. Screaming a great and glorious FUCK YOU to anyone who couldn’t see the beauty of it all. Unforgiving god-machines, their acolytes; serious looking men, baptised in oil and anointed with tattoo ink. Not to mention the choir of insanely desirable woman, singing their praises in flesh as the road to paradise unwound before them.
I was sixteen.
I was smitten.
Of course, at the time I didn’t have a clue what I was looking at. I didn’t know a Sportster from an Electra Glide or a swing arm from a rigid. What I did know was I wanted a motorcycle, wanted to be one of those serious looking acolytes, hammering down Route whatever, heading out to who-the-hell-cares? Wind in my face, sun on my back, joy in my soul.
I’ve now spent more than thirty years on or around bikes. I’ve been baptised in oil, rain, hail, sleet and snow. I’ve been T-boned and sideswiped by cars, I’ve been hit by a bus, ridden into a ditch, had two bikes burst into flames and spent more time with ambulance men than a pervert with a bandage fetish. I also found out, that despite the promises of the various motorcycle manufacturers, being covered in road-crap, oil and gravel-rash does not make you irresistible to woman.
I think that’s why most bikers have a lot of tattoos. After you’ve sampled the joys of motorcycling, having someone jab a needle into you for a couple of hours counts as light relief.
And would I change a minute of it?
Which bring me around to the book I’m supposed to be plugging. As you’ve probably guessed I like motorcycles. I also like reading. But choosing a novel because it has a motorcycle on the cover is a bad idea.
Trust me.
If you find a motorcycle in a work of fiction, nine times out of ten, it heralds the arrival of a mindless thug or somebody’s midlife crisis. I’ve read a lot of novels with bikes on the cover and, to date, only three of them didn’t end up in the bin. They’re all crime novels and they all, to one degree or another, involve bikers. The bikers aren’t always the heroes, but they’re there in 3D, characters rather than cut and paste clichés. In no particular order those novels are:
1.      Billie Morgan by Joolz Denby
2.      13 by Steve Wilson
3.      Against the Wind by J F Freedman
With Needle Song I’m hoping that list might make it up to four.
Be lucky,
Russell Day 

Friday, July 13, 2018

REVIEW: The Subway Girls by Susie Orman Schnall @stmartinspress @susieschnall @netgalley

The Subway Girls
by Susie Orman Schnall

Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Griffin for this adorable story.
A look into the history of The Subway Girls via two women who fight to find their independence, love and ambition.

Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date:  July 10, 2018
Kindle Edition
Genre: Historical Fiction

In 1949, dutiful and ambitious Charlotte's dream of a career in advertising is shattered when her father demands she help out with the family business. Meanwhile, Charlotte is swept into the glamorous world of the Miss Subways beauty contest, which promises irresistible opportunities with its Park Avenue luster and local fame status. But when her new friend—the intriguing and gorgeous fellow-participant Rose—does something unforgivable, Charlotte must make a heart-wrenching decision that will change the lives of those around her forever.
Nearly 70 years later, outspoken advertising executive Olivia is pitching the NYC subways account in a last ditch effort to save her job at an advertising agency. When the charismatic boss she’s secretly in love with pits her against her misogynistic nemesis, Olivia’s urgent search for the winning strategy leads her to the historic Miss Subways campaign. As the pitch date closes in on her, Olivia finds herself dealing with a broken heart, an unlikely new love interest, and an unexpected personal connection to Miss Subways that could save her job—and her future.
My Review:
I used to think historical fiction was my least favorite genre.  I'm being proved wrong over and over again these days, which makes me happy that I've expanded my diversity in reading.  Turns out, I'm just not a fan of historical fiction that reads like a history textbook or spends too much time trying to teach me a lesson.  
Luckily, the The Subway Girls, the author journeys us back to 1949 through Charlotte's eyes and then to present day 2018, through Olivia's eyes.  Both women trying to find a balance between love, ambition and the hindrances that come with each.  We see that throughout the decades, not much really changes when it comes to trying to strive what you want without doing it at the expense of your own self.  And by that I mean, finding a balance and compromise that makes you happy. Don't we all want this ultimately?
I loved reading about Olivia and Charlotte.  There's subtle Mad Men/Penny Olson vibes with the advertising agency and a woman just trying to be taken seriously.  Regardless of how forward we've moved as a society (and seem to be regressing rapidly these days unfortunately), we still have issues with women being taken seriously over men in the same positions.  We have made great strides though as well, which we should all take into account.  Realize that our actions today may not seem like they make much of a dent but like I've learned, even the tiniest things are noticed by SOMEONE, whether you think so or not.  So try and do as right as you can.  I KNOW it can be difficult, and I certainly have a mouth on me, but move forward and realize, as it's noted in this novel, that are problems really aren't as big as they may seem at the time.  Change the frame of what you see around you and note that the world doesn't stop for ANYONE.
Well, that certainly was a ramble.  🤣 Please also take the time to read the little history lesson that you do get at the end of the book about the real Subway Girls and the impact they made on the world.  I am pleasantly surprised at how happy all of this made me. 
An absolutely adorable novel.

SPOTLIGHT: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett & MinaLima @harperdesignbks @harpercollins

The Secret Garden
by Frances Hodgson Burnett
Illustrated with Interactive Features by MinaLima

Thank you to HarperCollins for this beautiful gifted edition!

Beyond thrilled to be spotlighting this on my blog today.

Can you BELIEVE I still have not read this book?  I will be doing a review later so keep your eyes out but until then just feast on how GORGEOUS this edition is!  The pictures really don't do it justice. 😍

Part of Harper Design’s series of deluxe reimagined children’s classics, this captivating unabridged gift edition takes readers on a memorable journey that teaches them lessons about hardship, friendship, happiness, and restoration. Originally published in 1911, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s beloved classic has captured reader’s hearts for more than a century.  The Secret Garden will also be brought to life on the big screen soon, in a new film adaptation starring Colin Firth and Julie Walters.

Illustrated throughout, The Secret Garden comes with ten interactive features, including:
  • A layout of the Manor House and grounds
  • A map of the Secret Garden
  • A dial showing how plants grow throughout the season
  • A cut-out paper doll of Mary and her clothes
  • A removable letter to Dickon from his older sister, the maid who tells Mary the story of the garden

"One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children's literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911. 

The plot centers round Mary Lennox, a young English girl who returns to England from India, having suffered the immense trauma by losing both her parents in a cholera epidemic. However, her memories of her parents are not pleasant, as they were a selfish, neglectful and pleasure-seeking couple. Mary is given to the care of her uncle Archibald Craven, whom she has never met. She travels to his home, Misselthwaite Manor located in the gloomy Yorkshire, a vast change from the sunny and warm climate she was used to. When she arrives, she is a rude, stubborn and given to stormy temper tantrums. However, her nature undergoes a gradual transformation when she learns of the tragedies that have befallen her strict and disciplinarian uncle whom she earlier feared and despised. Once when he's away from home, Mary discovers a charming walled garden which is always kept locked. The mystery deepens when she hears sounds of sobbing from somewhere within her uncle's vast mansion. The kindly servants ignore her queries or pretend they haven't heard, spiking Mary's curiosity. 

The Secret Garden appeals to both young and old alike. It has wonderful elements of mystery, spirituality, charming characters and an authentic rendering of childhood emotions and experiences. Commonsense, truth and kindness, compassion and a belief in the essential goodness of human beings lie at the heart of this unforgettable story. It is the best known of Frances Hodgson Burnett's works, though most of us have definitely heard of, if not read, her other novel Little Lord Fauntleroy. 

The book has been adapted extensively on stage, film and television and translated into all the world's major languages. In 1991, a Japanese anime version was launched for television in Japan. It remains a popular and beloved story of a child's journey into maturity, and a must-read for every child, parent, teacher and anyone who would enjoy this fascinating glimpse of childhood. One of the most delightful and enduring classics of children's literature, The Secret Garden by Victorian author Frances Hodgson Burnett has remained a firm favorite with children the world over ever since it made its first appearance. Initially published as a serial story in 1910 in The American Magazine, it was brought out in novel form in 1911."

SPOTLIGHT: An Outlaw Makes It Home by Eli Jaxon-Bear @annasacca @fsbassociates @elijaxonbear

An Outlaw Makes It Home:
The Awakening of a Spiritual Revolutionary
by Eli Jaxon-Bear

Spotlighting this funny and personal memoir, we get taken on Eli Jaxon-Bear's journey around the world.  Won't you keep him company?

Can drugs, sex and revolution lead to lasting fulfillment and love? This memoir by Eli Jaxon-Bear, framed as a teaching story, using Joseph Campbell’s model of the hero journey, answers this question in an exciting, funny and deeply personal memoir. 

From being attacked by possemen on a civil rights march in Alabama to becoming a federal fugitive in a cabin in Colorado, Jaxon-Bear’s life then leads us to the uncharted Andes, a Zen Monastery in Japan and a Sufi initiation in Morocco. We are taken on a roller coaster adventure of discovery in the search for freedom and finally finding true love and fulfillment. We see the tests and challenges that confront all of us as we navigate through life in the search for happiness.


Peter Coyote wrote, An Outlaw Makes It Home, bares it all. An often laugh-out-loud, but always playing-for-keeps quest for spiritual wisdom and enlightenment, it unfolds in rapid fire short bursts of improbable adventure, with a startling turn in the heartwarming discovery after an eighteen year search. Jaxon-Bear does not spare himself or try to polish his flaws and mistakes: in that regard, he is a warrior.

Eli Jaxon-Bear is the author of An Outlaw Makes It Home, Wake Up and Roar, Sudden Awakening and  Fixation to Freedom.  He has worked as a mailboy, dishwasher, steel-worker, teacher and organic farmer.  He was a community organizer with VISTA in Chicago and Detroit before entering a doctoral program at the Graduate School of International Studies in Denver, Colorado.  He has been living with his partner and wife, Gangaji, Since 1976.  They currently reside in Ashland, Oregon.  Eli meets people and teaches through the Leela Foundation.

#allthebookreviews: Somebody's Daughter by David Bell @berkleypub @davidbellnovels

Somebody's Daughter
by David Bell

Thanks so much to Berkley Books for these copies!
I absolutely love Bell's writing so was extremely ecstatic to get my hands on this one.
Continue below to see what Jessica and I thought of this quick read of a thriller.

Publisher:  Berkley Books
Publish Date:  July 10, 2018
432 Pages
Genres:  Thriller, Mystery, Suspense

In the pulse-racing new suspense novel from the bestselling and acclaimed author of Bring Her Home and Since She Went Away, the life of a little girl rests in the hands of the father who never even knew she existed...

When Michael Frazier's ex-wife, Erica, shows up on his doorstep pleading for help, she drops a bombshell that threatens to rip his family apart: Erica's nine-year-old daughter is missing--and Michael is the father. Unable to quickly determine if Erica is telling the truth, and unwilling to leave the little girl's fate to chance, Michael has no choice but to follow the elusive trail of the child he has always wanted and never knew he had.

But finding Felicity comes at a price--the closer Michael gets to the truth, the further into jeopardy his marriage falls and the faster his family begins to unravel. As lies that span a decade bubble to the surface and the window for Felicity's safe return closes, Michael will have just a few short days to decide who can be trusted and who is hiding the truth.

My Review:

It's no secret that I'm a fan of Bell.  His writing is addictive as he writes short hanging chapters that keep you turning page after page.  All three I've read from him have something to do with a daughter being gone.  What else can he do with these poor girls!!  I'll always want to know!

I couldn't imagine having my husband's ex-wife show up on my front porch saying their child that he had no idea he had, is missing.  I mean, BOOM - what a way to start.  (Also, I can't particularly imagine having a husband but that's a whole other story - ha!😜)  All jokes aside, this immediately set my curiosity sparks firing.  Somehow Bell manages to build these characters and their complex lives in a very short time.  No over indulgent descriptives that can get overwhelming in some books.
Look, I'm a fan.  I can't help but know I will always want to read whatever he puts out into this world.  I can't quite pinpoint what it was that made me not like this quite as much as Cemetery Girl.  At one point I felt like I was left hanging with one plot line but then realized it did get answered in the end but I was curious - what happened to those other characters though? Such a relative thing since they were really tertiary characters but still... I have to say the fact that he had me thinking about these still is a tip of the hat to Bell.

For thriller fans who love domestic suspense and a binge read, Bell is always the way to go.


Jessica's Review:

I've read CEMETERY GIRL and BRING HER HOME by David Bell and I loved them both! He has a writing style that just sucks you in and doesn't let go until the very end. SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER was no different. 

We get quite the bombshell to start off this thriller. Erica shows up on her ex-husband's doorstep in desperate need for help. Michael's world flips upside down when Erica tells him that their nine-year-old daughter has done missing - a daughter that Michael knew nothing about. Talk about a crazy start to a book, definitely grabbed my attention! The closer they get to finding her the harder life becomes. Michael is desperate to find Felicity, but it is threatening to tear apart his marriage and family. 

Bell always does a fantastic job developing the characters and it never feels like they get lost in the mix. Each character has their distinct voice and story. There's never a drop in the pacing either, lately I feel like I've hit a snag with some other domestic thrillers where things start to drop off in the middle, but not here! If you're looking for a binge-worthy read, then SOMEBODY'S DAUGHTER should be on your summer TBR!

I give this 4/5 stars!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

REVIEW: I Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi @annmarienieves @stmartinspress @abbyfabiaschi

I Liked My Life 
by Abby Fabiaschi

A big thank you to the author, GedRed PR and St. Martin's Griffin for copies of these for my Book Club!  We are so excited to discuss this with the author. 💗

Publisher:  St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date:  May 8, 2018
288 Pages
Genres:  Contemporary, Women's Fiction

Maddy is a devoted stay-at-home wife and mother, host of excellent parties, giver of thoughtful gifts, and bestower of a searingly perceptive piece of advice or two. She is the cornerstone of her family, a true matriarch...until she commits suicide, leaving her husband Brady and teenage daughter Eve heartbroken and reeling, wondering what happened. How could the exuberant, exacting woman they loved disappear so abruptly, seemingly without reason, from their lives? How they can possibly continue without her? As they sift through details of her last days, trying to understand the woman they thought they knew, Brady and Eve are forced to come to terms with unsettling truths.

Maddy, however, isn’t ready to leave her family forever. Watching from beyond, she tries to find the perfect replacement for herself. Along comes Rory: pretty, caring, and spontaneous, with just the right bit of edge...but who also harbors a tragedy of her own. Will the mystery of Maddy ever come to rest? And can her family make peace with their history and begin to heal?

My Review:

"Loving a person doesn't make them who you desire, it makes you vulnerable to their reality."

Sometimes you pick up a book at the exact perfect moment that you needed it in your life.  This is what happened here.  Maddy, Brady and Eve - wife, father, daughter.  We get each of their POVs from the aftermath of Maddy's death.  I absolutely loved getting Maddy's point of view and how she helped to ease their pain and point them in the right direction from beyond the grave. There are mounds and mounds and MOUNDS of quotable lines in this book.

My like for this book grew to love by the time I reached the final chapter.  This is one of those books that just grows on you page by page, word by word, emotion by emotion.  The synopsis doesn't do the book justice in terms of what you get out of this read.  This is more a lesson on grief, appreciating the people in your life and letting them know... if not on a daily basis (because we're human, of course), then at least once in a while so they know they matter and that everything that they do, sacrifice, give and even take back, are noted and acknowledged.  In this busy world we live in, this can get lost all too easily and then the bad outweighs the good.  Try to take a left turn somewhere and balance this out.

I absolutely adore Maddy and how she viewed life and the advice that she gave to her sister, daughter, husband... the world.  Brady is your typical husband who puts work before family and doesn't realize how good and easy he has it until it's stripped away from him.  My favorite character, however, has to be Eve.  To watch her grow.  To see how she deals with this as a teenager who is doing teenage things, but yet the death of her mother forces her to mature beyond her years.  As I hold a very special relationship with my own father, it was especially emotional to read about theirs.

I've written down some of the quotes but am quite sure I will be coming back to this book to take on some of Maddy's advice.  As I deal with my own inner demons (as we all have them), I've taken to journaling again after reading this.  Everyone needs an outlet. 

The ending wasn't quite what I expected... and I like that I was surprised.  Everyone's journey in life is difficult, wonderful and different.  I am certainly not going to besmirch these character's journeys.

"At the end of each day, acknowledge the things you wish you'd done differently so that tomorrow you will." 

"Give yourself a break, but not a free pass."


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

#allthebookreviews + Q&A: Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding @scoutpressbooks @gallerybooks

Her Pretty Face
by Robyn Harding


Thanks so much to Gallery for these copies! Jessica and I both LOVED this book!
Continue below for our reviews and a personal Q&A from Harding! You'll want to read her answers!
Head over to Jessica's blog: for the other half of the Q&A 

Publisher:  Gallery/Scout Press
Publish Date:  July 10, 2017
352 Pages
Genres: Domestic Thriller, Suspense

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 Kunick. 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?

My Review:

I find myself rating books dependent on my mood right after I'm done.  I'll admit this one didn't WOW me in the sense that it throat punched me with a crazy twist, or went deeply dark and macabre like I tend to like my thrillers.  However, I will say that this was ABSOLUTELY ADDICTIVE.  I started this late last night and did NOT want to put it down.  But I had to because of an early work day (damn, you adulthood! *shakes fist*).. then I spent my morning commute trying not to get hit by a car, a pedestrian or a subway as I finished it on my way into the office.  That's when I know a book has TRULY hooked me and I MUST FINISH! (a bookish Mortal Kombat if you will)

Harding introduces us to Frances, whose self esteem is nil, who has a secret from the past that not even her husband knows about, and who finds solace in Kate, the only woman who befriends her from the mean girl population of other mothers at the school their sons attend.  Kate and Frances - bound by their mutual dislike of these other women, bound by their sons friendship, bound by secrets they both carry - an underlying camaraderie.  But who is who? And whose secret is worse? She also takes us to the past where we learn of a past abduction and murder - where we only see through the eyes of the younger brother of the victim.  How do these all come together?

Seriously you guys, I was hooked from the very beginning. Absolutely enjoyed this domestic thriller that barely touches on nature versus nurture but definitely shows the dark side of the sociopath. 


Jessica's Review:

Ok, so last year I read and really liked THE PARTY by Robyn Harding, and I've been anxious to see what else Harding had in store for us! HER PRETTY FACE will not disappoint. This is one you'll want to clear your schedules for because once you start you'll become addicted!

We jump between different perspectives and timelines throughout this domestic thriller. Frances is a woman with withering self-esteem and seems to have an uphill battle with the other moms at her son's private school. She finds comfort in a new friend, Kate. Both women have a shared dislike for the other moms and form a close friendship. Another thing they have in common is that they are both hiding dark secrets, ones that are buried so deep that their husbands aren't even aware of them. 

We also get a glimpse into a terrible abduction/murder case from the past. These chapters were through the eyes of the younger brother of the victim. These chapters always had me sucked in - the way the case unfolded and the mental and emotional strain the trial put on the family. You become so absorbed. 

I don't want to give away much more detail, because this is one you need to just jump into! Harding did a fantastic job building the suspense, creating twisty and disturbing characters, and had me flying through the 300+ page book. If you want a great domestic thriller that pulls you into the mind of a sociopath, then this needs to be on your summer TBR!

I give this 5/5 stars!

Q&A with Robyn Harding:

Robyn Harding is the author of several novels, including the international bestseller, “The Party”, and “Her Pretty Face”. She has also written and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, BC with her husband, two kids, and a seven-pound dog with no teeth.

What is the most difficult part of your writing process? Your writing Kryptonite?
My writing kryptonite is physical pain! It sounds crazy that such a sedentary job could be so hard on the body, but it is. My forearms are killing me right now. By the afternoon, the pain will have worked its way into my shoulders and I’ll probably have a headache. (This is reminding me to book a massage.)

Do you have any strange writing habits?
In the morning, I get up early, grab a cup of coffee, and head to my office. I turn on a SAD lamp (I read that it’s supposed to help with sleep at night) and I start writing at my stand-up desk. I don’t shower or wash or brush my teeth until I’ve written for about three hours. Then I emerge, looking like a hideous monster, and get ready for the day. (I don’t think this is all that strange though.)

Does a big ego help or hurt writers?
I don’t have a big ego which means I am riddled with self-doubt, wounded by criticism, and crushed by rejection. But writers who do have big egos are more resistant to editing and advice. An editor’s job is to make your book better, and if a writer’s ego doesn’t allow that, the book will suffer. I have met some aspiring writers who are extremely confident in their work (a.k.a. have big egos about it). They are resistant to changes and suggestions, which could hold them back from getting an agent and a book deal.

How long does it usually take you to write a book?

I’ve gotten myself onto a crazy book a year schedule. It takes me about 9 months to write a novel. The same time it takes to make a baby!

Do you read your reviews?  Do you respond to them, good or bad?  Any advice on how to deal with the bad?

I do look at reviews. I sort of skim the bad ones and read the good ones twice to balance it out! I never respond to bad ones, but I sometimes respond to good ones. It is so rewarding when a reader really “gets” what you were going for! To deal with bad reviews, I always remember that an agent believed in my writing enough to represent me, that an editor liked my story enough to buy it, and that a publisher believed in me enough to promote it.

Do you google yourself?

If I admit to this, do I have to change my “I don’t have a big ego” answer? I do, but only in conjunction with my book title.

As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

Giraffe. Slow, steady, chill… (on the outside at least)

What is your least favorite part of the writing / publishing process? Favorite part?

Negative reviews are no fun. And negative emails sent directly to me are even less fun. I love how social media and the internet have connected authors and readers. I’ve met so many amazing people (like you two!). But I’ve gotten a few critical, antagonistic emails through my website. It makes me feel vulnerable.

But my favorite part is the actual writing. I love, love, love writing so I feel incredibly lucky to do this for a living.