REVIEW – All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

All We Ever Wanted

Published: June 26, 2018 by Ballantine Books

 

“All We Ever Wanted” was my first read from Emily Giffin and I loved it!

Life is good for the Browning family. Nina Browning’s husband Kirk sold his software company at the right time and they went from comfortable to very wealthy in a very short period of time. Nina doesn’t like to flaunt how wealthy they are, but her husband is a different story. Nina is trying to keep their eighteen-year-old son, Finch from becoming entitled though she admits they don’t say no to him often enough.

They just found out that Finch has been accepted to Princeton and the family is thrilled.

The book opens on a typical Saturday night…well typical for the Browning family. They are attending their fifth gala of the year. This gala is about suicide awareness and prevention and they are being honoured for their contributions.

Lately, Nina has been feeling like something is off in her marriage. She wonders if it’s money coming between them or something else. As she listens to her husband giving a speech about the horrors of losing someone to suicide, Nina thinks about Finch and all of the opportunities he has ahead of him. Time has gone by so fast. He used to tell her everything and now she’s lucky if she gets a few words out of him. She really can’t believe that he will be off to college in the fall.

What Nina doesn’t know is that right at that moment their son is across town making the worst decision of his life.

Tom Volpe is a single father who works multiple jobs in order to support his daughter, Lyla. Tom is extremely proud of his daughter. She is very smart which is how she ended up at Windsor Academy. The school is intense academically as well as socially. But so far Lyla seems to have adjusted well. As she heads out Saturday evening, she promises her father that she won’t be out late – he tries not to worry. However, later that evening Tom senses that something is wrong with Lyla.

Sure enough, a few minutes later his phone rings…

The story is told from the perspectives of Nina, Tom, and Lyla which really helped the story flow nicely. I liked hearing from both parents as well as Lyla.

As parents, our first instinct is to protect our children from everything. But are there times where we can’t (and maybe shouldn’t) step in and fix everything? What is the difference between privilege and entitlement? It’s hard when your child makes a mistake….to know when to help them and when to step back. It can be so difficult to let our children suffer the consequences of their actions.

Emily Giffin sure knows how to tell an engrossing and entertaining story with relatable and perfectly imperfect characters. I thought this was a well-written and thought-provoking novel that deals with important and relevant issues. I liked how everything came together and especially loved the epilogue.

All We Ever Wanted ” was a very powerful and touching read that I’ll be thinking about for quite some time. I’m really looking forward to reading more from this very talented author.

I’d like to thank Ballantine Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

REVIEW – Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

Before and Again

Expected publication: June 26, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

 

I’ve enjoyed quite a few novels written by Barbara Delinsky and as soon as I read the description for “ Before and Again ”, I knew I had to read it. I’m thrilled to say that I really enjoyed this novel.

After a very heartbreaking beginning, I was immediately pulled into the story…

Mackenzie Cooper has a wonderful life. She is a talented artist, she has many good friends and above all, she has a wonderful husband and five-year-old daughter.

But in one moment she loses it all.

A shattered version of her former self, Mackenzie, now known as Maggie Reid, slowly begins to build a very different kind of life. She craves privacy and she finds it in a small town in Vermont. Four years later she lives a quiet life in her secluded little house with her beloved pets. Maggie has also found meaning in the work she now does. Helping people feel good about themselves is very healing.

“To live through trauma and thrive? That was my goal”

Though she likes to keep to herself, she has made a few good friends. She’s become especially close with a co-worker, Grace. Grace also likes the privacy the town provides. By an unspoken rule, they don’t discuss the past….

“Our friendship was about the here and now”

But everything changes when Grace suddenly needs Maggie’s help. On top of that, people from her past start turning up; disrupting the life she has made for herself. There are three things Maggie avoids as much as possible “law offices, police stations, and the press – and now here they all were”

Will Maggie help her friend? Even if it means that her own anonymity may be threatened?

This was such a great read! The story was engaging and I thought the characters were wonderfully fleshed out. I loved Maggie along with many of the other characters, their stories captured my heart. Even the characters with smaller parts were intriguing.

“When you lose the most precious thing in your life, how do you go on?”

The story shows that no matter how old we, we continue to learn from all of our experiences… including trauma. We may try to keep things locked up in a box (real or imagined) but eventually, we will likely need to go through that box to confront things that may be painful to think about.

I love how Barbara Delinsky tells a story. The story was very emotional at times. However, this well-written novel also had many humorous moments that kept things from being too heavy for too long. “Before and Again” is a touching story about loss, grief, blame, love, and forgiveness.

This was a fantastic read that I won’t soon forget.

I’d like to thank St. Martin’s books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

REVIEW: Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering

Tell Me Lies

Published June 12, 2018 by Atria Books

 

“Tell Me Lies is about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget”

This was such an addictive read. The blurb and that cover pulled me right in. I started the book and was finished a few hours later. Thankfully, I had no plans for the day. Groceries and cleaning house? Bah…they could wait!

2017 – Lucy Albright is on her way to a friend’s wedding. She is extremely anxious…because HE’S going to be there.

“the sickness in my stomach is growing worse by the minutes, the familiarity of the pain creating a nauseating déjà vu. The same gut-wrenching dread I lived with for years.”

2010 – Lucy’s mother doesn’t understand why Lucy won’t attend University closer to home. But Lucy chose Baird because she wanted to be as far away from her mother as possible. A few years ago her mother did what Lucy calls “ The Unforgivable Thing ”.

Now she’s finally at college. A new start. She loves it. She has great classes, awesome new friends, and attends great parties. She meets Stephen DeMarco at one of these parties.

When they first meet, Lucy isn’t really interested. Something about him seemed a bit off. She almost wished she could ask her mother but “when you have a mother who did the Unforgivable Thing, you can’t ask her those kinds of questions.” She runs into Stephen a few more times and it’s not long before she realizes she’s falling for him.

To say Steven is confident and self-assured is putting it mildly. He’s charming when he wants to be, and when he wants something, he goes after it full throttle. “ When I decide I like someone, my first step is to gather as much information as possible about every aspect of her life in order to more closely resemble her ideal partner.”

Stephen has secrets. Things he doesn’t want anyone to know. The night he meets Lucy, Stephen is drinking to get rid of the anxiety that often creeps up on him…reminding him of THAT night.

Wow…what a read!

This is definitely NOT your typical love story. This is about a toxic and an all-encompassing obsessive kind of “love”.

Many of us have had “ the one that got away ” some have “the one that we would have done anything to keep ”. I think many people could relate to parts of this story. But there were times I wanted to scream at the characters. Yes, I found a few parts a bit over the top, but relationships are like that sometimes…. over the top. Many of us have known a Lucy. Some of us have been Lucy.

The story is told from Lucy and Stephen’s alternating perspectives. The storyline also alternates, focusing on the years from 2010 to what is happening currently in 2017. There is a bit of repetition, but for the most part, I found it interesting reading both perspectives of some of the situations that came up.

I’m pretty satisfied with how it all came together although part of me wishes things ended a little differently. I really wanted a couple of things…sorted out. But we can’t always have what we want and like I mentioned at the beginning, I was still addicted to this story, unable to put it down.

“Tell Me Lies” is a fascinating and gripping read about toxic love, addiction, obsession, secrets, and betrayal. Carola Lovering got me hooked on Stephen and Lucy’s story and I can’t wait to read what she writes next.

I’d like to thank Atria books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.

 

REVIEW: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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Expected publication: June 12, 2018 by Minotaur Books
 

Throughout High School, Georgina (Geo) Shaw, Angela Wong, and Kaiser Brody were best friends. They were practically inseparable… until the day Calvin James entered their lives. From then on nothing was the same….

Angela was the captain of the cheerleading squad, the one everyone wanted to be friends with. She craved attention and Georgina was fine with letting her have it. But Angela didn’t like it when Georgina caught the eye of the good-looking, and older Calvin James.

“When she spoke to you, she could make you feel like you were the only person in the room, or she could shred you with one dirty look”.

Soon, Calvin is all Georgina can think of and her friends aren’t impressed. And then one night after a High School party, Angela goes missing. Fourteen years later her remains are found.

Over the years, Georgina had done well for herself. She’s thirty years old and is the youngest VP at Shipp Pharmaceuticals. She’s even engaged to the company’s CEO. She built a new life and kept all her secrets tucked away into compartments in her mind. But her new life ended the day she was arrested by her former best friend, Detective Kaiser Brody, as “Wonderwall” by Oasis played in the background.

“Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you”

The book opens as Calvin James aka The Sweetbay Strangler is on trial for the murder of four women, including Angela Wong.  Georgina Shaw is a witness and after she’s finished giving her testimony, she will be sent to Hazelwood (Hellwood) Correctional Institute to serve a five-year sentence. This was the plea deal for her testimony, though many think five years isn’t enough for Georgina’s part in what happened.

“in every story, there’s a hero and a villain. Sometimes one person can be both”

Detective Brody still has questions for his old friend Geo. He feels that there is more to the story. Will he ever find out exactly what happened that night? And when new bodies start showing up… will the detective be able to be able to do his job properly? Or will old feelings cloud his judgment?

SEE ME

 “Jar of Hearts” was an interesting read packed with well-developed characters and an engrossing plot. The story shifts between past and present and is broken into five parts. The five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The majority of the story is told from Georgina’s point of view but also includes chapters from Kaiser Brody’s perspective.

An extremely well-written story of friendship, obsession, jealousy, and murder. One that does require some suspension of disbelief, but still had me flipping pages quickly to see what was going to happen next.

The author tells an exciting story, one that drew me in right from the very first page. And though I figured out a couple things early on… my jaw still dropped as I came to the unexpected ending of this twisted and addictive read.

This was my first read from Jennifer Hillier and I can guarantee that it won’t be my last.

I’d like to thank Minotaur Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for my honest review.