Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Simple Favor: A Novel by Darcey Bell

(Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother’s life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.

my thoughts:

Hmm...not sure what to write. I just finished A Simple Favor the other day, so its still fresh in my mind.

Stephanie is a mommy blogger, widow, and BFF to Emily.  Her life is her son, Miles.  One day, Emily asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky from school - he's Miles' BFF.  Stephanie takes him home and expects Emily to pick him up later that evening.  Except, Emily never shows.  Days pass by and still now word from Emily.  Stephanie starts to panic as she worries that something awful has happened to her BFF.  She even phones Emily's husband, Sean, to find out if he knows where his wife is at.  He doesn't.  He's in London on business and heard that Emily was also away on business.  Stephanie begins to think she misheard Emily and that she wants her to look after Nicky for a few days and not just the one afternoon.  And then Sean comes home from London and realizes that Emily is still nowhere to be found and panic really sets in.  The cops are phoned, but they brush the whole thing off.  They believe Emily wanted a few days of rest and took off.  Stephanie doesn't believe her friend would leave Nicky behind.  As events unfold, Stephanie blogs about it all.  She posts about Nicky missing his mom, Sean becoming her friend, and finding out that Emily has died.  Yep, Emily's body is found and the mourning begins.  We find out that Nicky is acting out and blaming Stephanie for his mom's passing.  Sean and Stephanie are becoming more than friends.  And, one of the "mommies" reading Stephanie's posts is Emily.  Say what?!  Turns out she didn't die! I don't want to give anything away, so I'll just leave you with these words: twins, insurance policy, fish, ring.

Okay, so the story does sound interesting, right?  A friend helping out a friend who disappears.  Pretty intriguing, eh?  Well, its not.  I'm serious.  The story is lackluster and falls flat.  There are not twists and turns.  You can see everything coming long before it happens.  I will give you an example: when Emily shows Stephanie her prized possession - a photograph of twins by a famous photographer (we later learn its Diane Arbus) and asks her which twin she thinks is the dominant one - hello! huge clue!!  My point is that nothing surprising happens in the book.  There is no suspense or thrill.  Its just one event unfolding after the other in such a predictable manner. I skim read the book to get to the end and found myself wishing I had passed on this book. It just wasn't an exciting read like I had expected.  A Simple Favor is a HUGE miss for me.

Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: A Simple Favor
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Eggshells: A Novel by Caitriona Lally

about book:

A whimsical, touching debut about loneliness, friendship and hope…

Vivian doesn’t feel like she fits in — and never has. As a child, she was so whimsical that her parents told her she was “left by fairies.” Now, living alone in Dublin, the neighbors treat her like she’s crazy, her older sister condescends to her, social workers seem to have registered her as troubled, and she hasn’t a friend in the world.

So, she decides it’s time to change her life: She begins by advertising for a friend. Not just any friend. She wants one named Penelope.

Meanwhile, she roams the city, mapping out a new neighborhood every day, seeking her escape route to a better world, the other world her parents told her she came from.

And then one day someone named Penelope answers her ad for a friend. And from that moment on, Vivian’s life begins to change.

Debut author Caitriona Lally offers readers an exhilaratingly fresh take on the Irish love for lyricism, humor, and inventive wordplay in a book that is, in itself, deeply charming, and deeply moving.

my thoughts:

Quirky and offbeat - those are my favorite types of characters.  They are the ones that march to the beat of their own drum and view the world through neon-green lenses.  They are unique and fascinating. And they are unforgettable.  So, I was thrilled to when offered the chance to read  Caitriona Lally's novel, Eggshells - the story of a quirky gal named Vivian.  How could I resist, right!?!

Vivian is definitely odd.  Her parents told her she was a "changeling" - something she still believes.  She's always looking for the entrance to the world she knows she belongs in.  The only downside to being different is that not everyone understands you - like, at all.  Vivian's family talk down to her.  Her neighbors think she's crazy.  And her friends are nil.  Yep, Vivian is lonely.  She wants a friend.  So, she decides to find one - the only requirement, the friend must be named Penelope.  And we are off.

Eggshells is a character-driven story to the max.  Its slow-going and doesn't really have a plot.  The story is more like a snapshot into the life of Vivian and her plan to make a new friend.  Nothing much happens, except the daily goings-on of life itself.  I enjoyed learning about Vivian in this way.  My only quibble, is that I would have liked to learn more about her past.  And I did feel like the story just sort of petered out and ended.  I feel like oddball characters tend to have adventures of some sort and that Vivian's story didn't really have one.  I suppose I just wanted "more".  I feel like I thought the story would be one way and it turned out to be vastly different than what I had expected.  Not necessarily in a bad way, just not as good.  I just feel like I was reading and reading, but not really getting anywhere with what I was reading.  Does that make sense?

At the end of the day, Eggshells was an okay read.  It was solid writing, but nothing much happened with the story.  Vivian was interesting-ish, but I will admit I tired of her early on.  I'm not really sure I'd recommend this one.  So, definitely check out what other bloggers have to say about the book before you decide to check it out or pass on it.  Here's the link to the TLC Book Tour schedule for: Eggshells
Thank you to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing me with a copy of this book!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Who You Think I Am: A Novel by Camille Laurens

(Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!)
about book:

This psychological thriller dissects online relationships, offering a stunning indictment of the way society perceives women in contrast to men when age comes into play.

This is the story of Claire Millecam, a forty-eight-year-old teacher and divorcée who creates a fake social media profile to keep tabs on Joe, her occasional, elusive, and inconstant lover. Under the false identity of Claire Antunes, a young and beautiful twenty-four-year-old, she starts a correspondence with Chris—pseudonym KissChris—which soon turns into an Internet love affair.

A Dangerous Liaisons for our times, Who You Think I Am exposes the disconnect between fantasy and reality. Social media allows us to put ourselves on display, to indulge in secrets, but above all to lie, to recreate a life, to become our own fiction—magnifying and manipulating the double standards to which older women are held when they refuse to give up on desire.

Simultaneously sensual, intellectually stimulating, and utterly relevant, this page-turner will stick in your mind long after reading.

my thoughts:

Talk about a thrill ride! Who You Think I Am is chock full of twists and turns that will leave your head spinning! I absolutely LOVED getting lost in this great story about love, social media, and reality.  It was such a fun and exciting read!

Claire decides to spy on her lover, Joe, by creating a fake FB page.  Her new profile is that of a PYT (pretty young thing).  Except, instead of keeping tabs on Joe, she winds up in an online affair with his friend Chris.  Say what?!  Yep, fake-Claire is seen as youthful, beautiful, and desirable. And apparently, Chris wants her.  What is Claire to do?  Pursue a cyber relationship with him as fake-Claire.  Except, is she falling for him or is it fake-Claire that is falling for him.  Who's who?   Reality and social media quickly become entwined leading to a dark and disturbing tale of lies and deceit.  One minute you think you know what's happening and the next, you have no clue.  What's the truth?  Part of the story is even told in a conversation style that is one-sided, so you truly have no idea what is happening.  Its thrilling to read!

I absolutely enjoyed Who You Think I Am.  I loved the writing! I loved the topics that were explored: social media, love, aging, identity, reality, etc..  I enjoyed getting caught up in this charade of Claire's and finding out just how invested she was in fake-Claire.  Definitely an interesting and unique story.  I would happily recommend Who You Think I Am to fans of Laurens' works and anyone looking for their next great read - you will LOVE this book!!

Thank you to Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book!!

Friday, March 24, 2017

My Friday Five...


I just finished reading this book and can't stop thinking about it.  Wow.  Just, wow.  It truly epitomizes the term "thought-provoking".

2.  TV shows.  I've been watching RHOBH and TWD.  Oh, and I've been re-watching Seinfeld on DVD.  RHOBH is getting even more ridiculous and I love it. The gals are in Hong Kong, which looks like such an awesome and beautiful city.  Of course, instead of trying to enjoy their trip, they choose to lash out at each other instead.  They fight on a junk boat and that leads to tears.  They fight in a restaurant and that leads to more tears.  And what are the fights about - false accusations, underwear, cocaine, and more false accusations.  Crazy!! By the by, I meant to watch Dancing With The Stars, because even though I don't care for Erika Jayne (from RHOBH), I saw she was going to be on the show and I wanted to see how she would fare.  I heard her first dance was rather raunchy, which sounded about right to me considering her music videos are raunchy with a capital "R".  I remember Rinna being scandalized by EJ's music videos - LOL!  Anyhow, I'm thinking that the lady from Glee will probably win Dancing With The Stars - she's a trained dancer and has been a back-up dancer for tons of pop stars.  I always think it seems like a cheat to have trained dancers on the show competing.  Maybe I'll watch the show next week.  As for TWD, what is going on? When is the gang going to rally all the troops (Alexandria, Hilltop, Kingdom, Heapsters, and Oceanside (will they even join the fight?) and set a plan in motion.  I feel like they need to hurry, because Sascha and Rosita just set things off with their over-zealousness to take down Negan.  Hurry up, Rick!!

3.  Family.  My cousins came to visit and we definitely had a great time catching up.  The only downside was all the food. Yep, we tend to hang out during meal times and that is not good.  Well, its not good for me, because I fell off the wagon when it came to WW. Ack! I ate all the foods and enjoyed it.  Of course now I'm paying for it all - ugh!  I am back on track, so at least I didn't just stay off the wagon completely.  I just need to be stronger and not allow myself to be so easily derailed.

4.  Lent.  40 bags in 40 days is a success.  We are still in March and I've already cleared out several rooms and have gathered 30 bags - woo hoo!  Its like once you start, you can't stop.  I love decluttering!

5. My current read:
I started this one last night and already LOVE it.  I can totally relate to some of the issues that Starr talks about in this book.  My family and I have talked about race relations and the police. Several of my family members have been harassed by the police with guns - whether it be for driving while brown or for identifying them for a crime they didn't commit.  Its terrifying and unfair and makes you feel helpless.  The people that are supposed to protect you are the ones trying to hurt you - say what?!!  Yep, that is reality.  Now, I'm not saying that my family endures these situations day and night, but they have experienced it.  And, its not just cops.  I've seen my family and friends get followed in a store or completely ignored when trying to make a purchase.  Why? Just because their skin is dark brown!?!  How crazy is that?!  They all tell me I'm lucky that my skin is white, because these things won't happen to me.  Let me just say that I don't feel lucky.  Oh, this book! It is definitely giving me all the FEELS and then some.  I can't wait to get back to it later this weekend.  I have a feeling that this is going to be one book I won't forget.

Happy reading!! 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Mini Reviews...

I have been reading like crazy lately.  So many great books and so little time, means that I am zooming right through them just to get to the next one. Luckily, they have all been so fantastic that I'm enjoying every second I spend with them.  Here are a few of the books I've recently devoured:

A short novel about a man named Shimura, who notices that the food he buys keeps disappearing.  He sets up a camera and watches his home from work.  What does he see? A woman making tea in his house! Say what?! Yep, he finds himself watching a woman in his kitchen making herself at home.  Whoa, Nelly! Talk about a shocker!  He phones the police to bust the woman at his home, but then finds himself hoping she will escape before the police arrive.  In the end, she gets arrested.  Turns out she is homeless and has been living in his home for more than a year!  A year - can you imagine!?! Apparently, she was in the neighborhood one morning and noticed him leaving his house for work. She noted that he didn't lock his door.  So, she decides to check out his house and once inside, she finds herself eager to stay.  She sleeps in the closet in his guest room - the one room he never goes in.  Shimura is beyond shocked and feels violated.  He can't believe that she had been in his house while he was asleep, away on vacation, watching TV, etc. It just confounds him.  Suffice it to say, I was shocked. I felt badly for this woman being in such a position that she felt she needed to break into a house to find shelter.  However, I definitely understood Shimura's feelings and agreed with him that his home no longer felt like his home.  This is one book that I can't stop thinking about.  I just loved it so much. It was short, but so thought-provoking with its exploration of loneliness and homelessness.  Talk about a must-read!

Love, love, love!! Gabi, A Girl in Pieces was such a fun and entertaining read. I loved getting to know Gabi, her family and friends. High school is tough, especially senior year when you are applying to college.  Its especially tough when your mom doesn't want you to go away to school, your father is a meth addict, your brother is always getting in trouble lately, your best friend is pregnant, and your other best friend has just come out as gay - OMG!  What's a girl to do? Eat some lemon pepper chicken wings and write some kick ass poetry.  Gabi is awesome.  She's honest, brave, and keeps it real.  I love how supportive she is of her family and friends. I love how she throws herself into her poetry and finds comfort through her poems.  I love how she opens her heart to the possibility of love.  And I love how she accepts her body, even though people are always commenting on it.  Gabi is truly an unforgettable character - I would love for Quintero to write about Gabi's life in college!!  This is one book that I will definitely be re-reading in the future.

I am a HUGE fan of Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians series - it is beyond!  The way he writes about these fascinating characters and their luxe life is fun, entertaining, and unputdownable.  I just love when a new book comes out! Rich People Problems is the third book and I absolutely LOVED it. I sat down one afternoon to read it and didn't get up until I had turned the very last page later that night.  I found myself catching up with familiar characters and getting lost in their new dramas (of which there were so many to choose from).  Such a fun read! Basically, the family matriarch is dying and that means that everyone in the family is over at her house trying to make sure they  are still included in her will.  Yep, its "all about the Benjamins" when it comes to this family.  Suffice it to say, there is plenty of backstabbing, lying, and cheating when it comes to staking claim in the family's fortune and I loved reading all about it!  I love the family drama and dysfunction, the fashion, the luxury, and pretty much everything about this book.  It was such a treat to read! I'm hoping there's another book in the offing, because I would LOVE to find out what happens next to this crazy, rich family!

A quick and light read about a young woman's first trip to Florence with her cousin.  Its a diary that pretty much sums up what they did each day - eating delicious foods and visiting old churches.  Athill does write about the people they meet, the places they stay and the train rides to and fro.  It does make for an interesting read about such a beautiful and dynamic city.  I couldn't help but find myself thinking about my trip to Florence.  I went with my best friend.  We were in grad school and didn't have a lot of money, but we managed to delight in the sights, foods, museums, and experience of it all.  Gelato was our food of choice - how could it not be?!  We walked everywhere and loved taking it all in - the city, the people, and the atmosphere.  We just loved being in such a vibrant and beautiful place. I can still remember the awe I felt when I saw Michelangelo's David and Botticelli's artwork up close - it was truly a mind blowing experience.  I would love to go back and stay for a month or two - that would be bliss.  Reading Athill's book was definitely fun.  I enjoyed learning about her trip and how it made me think about my own trip - a great walk down memory lane.

And there you have it, a few of the books that I've recently had the pleasure of reading.  Not a bad bunch, right?  What about you? What have you read lately?  Anything you want to recommend - let me know.  Happy reading!!