REVIEW – How to Walk Away by Katherine Center

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Expected publication: May 15, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

 

“When you don’t know what to do for yourself, do something for somebody else”

Sometimes a book comes along that makes my heart skip a beat. This is one of those times. I may not have come across this novel but a friend had just finished reading it and loved it. She thought I might enjoy it too.

She was right. I loved it!

Margaret Jacobsen has worked hard all of her life and things are starting to pay off.  She’s dating an awesome guy, she’s going to be starting a great new job, and on a night out with her boyfriend, Chip, she has a strong feeling that things are about to get even better.

We’ve all heard that saying that life can change in a moment, or the blink of an eye. And for Margaret, nothing could be truer when the greatest day of her life quickly turns into the worst day of her life. Her life is forever changed.

 “They say your life flashes before your eyes, but it wasn’t my life as I’d lived it that I saw. It was the life I’d been waiting for. The one I’d never get a chance to live.”

How to Walk Away” really was a fantastic read populated with so many awesome characters. Some good guys…some villains…but all well-developed and entertaining! Margaret is such a great character. Her personality won me over instantly. Her habit of filling the quiet with very strange but hilarious comments was just one of the things I loved about her.

Heart-breaking one moment and laugh out loud funny the next (“Mes jambons sont eclatés” ). This was an incredibly inspiring read that made me look at a few things in my own life in a different way.

Katherine Center writes with honesty and includes all of the messy parts. For me this was more than just a good story….it was fantastic! Strained relationships and family secrets, many things were easy to relate to. A story about strength, determination, love and so much more. The plot held my interest from start to finish and the characters captured my heart. I may have been able to see where things were going but the journey was just so much fun. Witty, loving, and optimistic, I started reading slower because I didn’t want it to end.

 “Carry the sorrow when we have to, and absolutely savor the joy when we can”

I’m looking forward to reading whatever comes next from Katherine Center. She has written five other novels about love and family. You can bet I’ll be checking out those books out too.

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

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REVIEW – Good Luck with That by Kristan Higgins

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Expected publication: August 7, 2018 by Berkley Books

WOW!

I know this book isn’t out until August. However, after reading the description and some recent reviews, I decided I had to read it right away.

And I’m really glad I did.

Georgia, Marley, and Emerson met at Camp Copperbrook, a weight-loss camp when they were in their teens. Now they are almost 35 years old. Georgia and Marley have been contacted by Emerson who asks to see them. Emerson knows she’s dying and wants to see her best friends one last time.

When they see her they are both shocked at how ill she is and how heavy she has become. They feel guilty that they hadn’t kept in better contact. They wonder why she didn’t reach out for help from them but deep down they know why….it was because Emerson felt ashamed. And when they visit her for the last time she hands them an envelope “To be opened after my funeral”.

After Emerson’s funeral, they open the envelope and are surprised it’s just one page long. They recognize the paper though…it’s a list from their time at Camp. A list they made called “Things We’ll Do When We’re Skinny”. It says things like – eat dessert in public, hold hands with a cute guy, shop at a store for regular people, etc….   These were all things that felt out of reach for them when they were young and overweight. Things they felt only thin girls got to enjoy.  Their conversations often had the words “When I’m skinny,  I’m going to….”

Marley is now a personal chef who delivers home-cooked meals to a variety of different people. Her clients love her. Marley comes across as happy …all the time. But is she truly happy? Or is it just an act she puts on to hide her pain? “The ache of feeling half of a pair instead of a whole person.”

Georgia left her job at a law firm four years before to become a nursery school teacher. Being overweight is unforgivable in Georgia’s family. Her brother and mother NEVER let her forget it. Georgia had been married but was unable to accept the love her husband offered.

Marley and Georgia decide they will try to complete the list Emerson left for them.

But will they realize what Emerson was really trying to tell them? What she wanted for her best friends more than anything else?

Interspersed throughout the novel are passages from Emerson’s diary. It includes things that happened when she was a child as well as the life she had been living over the last four years. Honestly, parts of the book were painful to read, especially the first few chapters and Emerson’s diary.  I felt for all of the characters. I could relate to a lot of what they were going through. I think a lot of people will. I have struggled with my weight but I don’t think you have to be overweight to understand.

I don’t agree with how people have attacked the author (in most cases WITHOUT HAVING READ THE BOOK). You don’t have to like every book you read, we’re all different. You don’t have to read the book. But attacking the author and telling others not to read it (especially if you haven’t read it) is a bit much in my opinion. One reviewer said “Thin people: please stop writing fat characters. You’ll only fuck it up. Just like Kristan Higgins most likely has.”   Number one:  We don’t know what the author (or someone close to them) may have struggled with in life. Number two: Most authors who write about serial killers aren’t serial killers so does that mean they don’t have the right to write about one?

In my opinion, this book was AWESOME.

Yes, it’s a book about weight and body image. However, it’s also about love, the bonds of friendship, relationships, self-acceptance, and other important issues.

I love the way the author writes. The relationships between many of the characters felt genuine. It’s also obvious the author has done her research. Like I said, some of the book is painful…I cried. But there was a LOT of the book that had me laughing out loud (seriously there was some crossing and knocking on wood, a spa trip and a magic show that almost had me in stitches).

There are definitely some vile characters who say some horrible things (just like in real life). However, there are also many kind, thoughtful, fantastic characters…including some of the most adorable four-year-olds ever. Kristan Higgins strikes an excellent balance between seriousness and humor.

Good Luck With That” was a fantastic read. A deeply moving and satisfying novel by an excellent author.

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

REVIEW: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

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Expected publication: August 21, 2018 by St. Martin’s Griffin

 

As soon as I read the description of this novel, I knew it was one I had to read. I was pretty sure that I was going to love it.

I was right.

Sarah Walker has just gone through a tough break-up. She’s trying to get on with her life.  Sarah is on her way to the airport for a business trip when she sees HER.

A little girl, not more than five or six, stood in a red dress complete with sequins, a red bow, and even ruby-red slippers. “She looked like Christmas”.

Then she sees the girl’s mother. Face red with anger, she was yelling at her daughter “Emma hurry up”…”Emma stop it, just STOP” …”Emma, what is wrong with you”…”Emma.. GO!” Sarah watches openmouthed as the woman shoves the girl out of the way, yells at her husband, and then continues to yell at the girl. She feels like she’s the only one who notices this spectacle.

It all takes her back to her own childhood, her own mother. Sarah remembers how she used to envy other girls when they were out with their mothers. She would see the tolerance, love, and patience on those mother’s faces, instead of the annoyance, exhaustion, and intolerance she saw on her own mother’s face….and what she sees now on this mother’s face. She knows that parents get stressed and being at the airport can make anyone overwhelmed and cranky…

“I knew all of that, but seeing this outright act of cruelty for no apparent reason made me want to punch this woman in the face”

Sarah can’t get the image of the woman pushing and pulling her daughter around out of her head.

Weeks later, out on a project for work she sees Emma again. “The girl I first saw in the airport. The girl who rocketed back into my life when I was just starting to forget her”.

It can’t be a coincidence…

She knows she should just leave, but one question keeps hounding her “What if she needs to be rescued?”

She can leave and go back to her normal life. She can make an anonymous call and hope this family gets the help they need. But then she sees something and she’s no longer thinking, the decision has been made and she’s acting on it.

Amy Townsend is an unhappy wife and mother. Her life is ALWAYS the same …kids, work, cleaning, cooking, and errands. No matter how she tries to organize she is always behind.

Amy doesn’t know why she’s able to keep her cool with her son but lashes out when it comes to her daughter, Emma. Every night she promises herself that the next day will go better. But it never does. Now Emma is gone and Amy hasn’t told the entire truth about what happened.

Amy Townsend is definitely an unfit mother. Does she deserve a second chance? Does she even want one?

The story is told from Sarah and Amy’s perspective and alternates between before, during, and after.

This was a gripping read. I’ve read quite a few missing children books over the years and I found this one very unique. This was a well-written, quick read that was very easy to follow. There were a couple of things some readers may find unlikely, but it is a fictional story so instead of worrying about it, I just gave myself over to the story and enjoyed it.

Rea Frey’s writing comes across very authentic and honest and she addresses some very important issues. I was completely invested in this story and anxious to see how things were going to turn out.  I was almost holding my breath as I waited to see which direction the story was going to take. I was very satisfied with how everything came together in the end.

This was a fantastic debut novel and I really hope Rea Frey is hard at work on her next novel… because I can’t wait for more!

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

REVIEW: The Summer I Met Jack by Michelle Gable

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Expected publication: May 29, 2018 by St. Martin’s Press

 

This is the first novel I’ve read from Michelle Gable. The first line of the book blurb:

 “New York Times bestselling author imagines the affair between JFK and Alicia Corning Clark – and the child they may have had.”

I was intrigued. The fact that this is based on the real-life romance between Jack Kennedy and Alicia Corning Clark is fascinating.

Alica Darr (formerly Barbara Kopczysnka), came to America in hopes of a better life. Before the war, Alicia was an upper-class citizen with a loving mother and father. Now she’s a “Displaced Person”, alone and hoping that she’ll be allowed to stay in America.

Alica meets a handsome and charismatic man at the movie theatre where she works. She feels an instant connection to him. It’s not just that he’s handsome, “there remained something special about him, something beautiful that had little to do with actual presentation” and he also “had one hell of a smile”.

And then he introduces himself…..“My name’s Jack. Jack Kennedy”

He was one of them. Her friend, Irenka had told many stories of this family…the mischief and the trouble they caused. “They stole cars, broke limbs, and swiped food off one another’s plates.” After some harmless flirting, he leaves….leaving Alicia both charmed and bewildered.

And so begins a romance like no other. But this isn’t just about Alicia and Jack. It’s also about the other aspects of Alicia’s life. A woman with many names whose life was full of fascinating experiences and people. From Massachusetts to Hollywood and Rome; she had friendships and relationships with many well-known people. People like Kirk Douglas, Marilyn Monroe, and Katherine Hepburn, just to name a few. And of course Jack…“ how can I love him so much when he gives me so little in return”. 

But Alicia also had secrets and lived in fear of many things. We learn about her engagements and marriages… and the tough choices she had to make.

This was such a unique read for me. I’ve always wondered about the Kennedy’s but knew very little about them. I was so curious about what was true, what wasn’t true….or even what was partially true. Was Rose Kennedy really a cold mother obsessed with her children’s weight, weighing them weekly? Did she run her family like a business? Was Joe really warm and loving to his children but so blatantly obvious about his extracurricular activities?

I was constantly running to my laptop to check things out. It was interesting looking at old pictures and articles online. I’ve honestly never Googled so much about a novel I was reading before. Even if some of what I read wasn’t true… it didn’t matter to me. I was learning things while enjoying a great story.

This is a story about a love affair, a fascinating woman, and a family that was said to be more connected than the mob and FBI and apparently more deceitful than both of them put together. This is not a biography, but it is based on real people and events. A book with a lot of true facts mixed with fiction in order to tell a story. And what a story it was! I can tell how much effort went into this novel and I appreciate it. What’s the full truth? We may never know for sure. But this sure was an interesting read.

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