The Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson

The Almost Sisters
by
Joshilyn Jackson

Blurb:
“Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Brigg’s weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comic-book convention, the usually level-headed graphic novel artist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman. She remembers he was tall, black, and an excellent French-kisser–but not much else. It turns out the Caped Crusader has left her with more than just a fond, fuzzy memory. That pink plus sign on the stick isn’t wrong; she’s having a baby–an unexpected but not unhappy development. She always wanted to fall in love and have a child, but as a young woman, she learned exactly what betrayal felt like. Now she’s thirty-eight and dead single, having walked–no, run–away from every man she might have married, trying to avoid more loss, more regrets. Before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional lily-white southern family, her perfect stepsister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Leia wants to help, but Rachel is married to the very man who broke her heart all those years ago. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, has been hiding her rapidly progressing dementia with the help of her lifelong best friend, Wattie. Birchie is Leia’s only living paternal relative, a proper yet fierce woman who has long lived by her own rules in Birchville, Alabama, the small town her family founded generations back. Now this grande dame has started a row at the church fish fry that has set every tongue wagging, pitted neighbor against neighbor, and made it plain to Leia that her grandmother needs some serious looking after. Heading seven hundred miles south, Leia plans to put Birchie’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and break the news of her blessed event. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked away in a trunk in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her unborn son and the possibilities of his absent father, and the warm and friendly–yet deeply flawed and contradictory–world she thinks she knows.”
My Review:
I loved the characters in this book! They are all so full of life, well developed, and realistic. Each of the characters has a great voice; I loved that there was some spontaneity, a few flaws, a bunch of secrets, and lots of love to go around. Leia is probably the character that I relate to the least; graphic novels are definitely not my forte. The great thing is that it didn’t really matter because she has such a great voice that I found myself caring about her and the sudden drama surrounding her family. And there’s drama. Definite drama. Birchie is hilarious and yet so complex all at the same time, and her friend Wattie is such a great side-kick character. Rachel and Lavender both add to the story as well. The plot of this book is full of twists and turns, and is a great ride. It’s definitely a page-turner! The relationship between Birchie and Wattie is so sweet, yet so sneaky. I loved the two of them together. I could just picture them plotting to take over the world while rocking in their rocking chairs on their Southern front porch. Birchville is the perfect setting for the book; the town square with the church and the shops comes alive with Ms. Jackson’s excellent descriptions. I couldn’t put this book down. I thoroughly enjoyed it!
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers. There is some profanity, including a few “f” words, and there is some minor violence. There are a couple of “intimacy” scenes, and lots of talk about “intimacy” and body parts are named as well. 
Recommendation: Adult
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Things We Wish Were True

The Things We Wish Were True by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen

Blurb:
“From the outside, Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, might look like the perfect all-American neighborhood. But behind the white picket fences lies a web of secrets that reach from house to house. Up and down the streets, neighbors quietly bear the weight of their own pasts–until an accident at the community pool upsets the delicate equilibrium. And when tragic circumstances compel a woman to return to Sycamore Glen after years of self-imposed banishment, the tangle of the neighbors’ intertwined lives begins to unravel. During the course of a sweltering summer, long-buried secrets are revealed, and the neighbors learn that it’s impossible to really know those closest to us. But is it impossible to love and forgive them?”
My Review:
I was excited to read this book because Marybeth Whalen is one of the amazing SheReads.org ladies! Let me tell you, this book did not disappoint! You know when you’re sitting at the neighborhood pool or park over the summer with your friends and you get all the neighborly gossip? Well, this book brings that juicy gossip to life. Overall, this book is well written. There are a lot of characters, and it took me a minute to figure out who they all were, but once you get them all straight it’s not too bad. The time changes from present to past events, and it’s usually fairly easy to figure out in what time period you’re reading. Even though there are a lot of characters, they are very well developed. Each character has his or her own personality and place in the neighborhood, and Marybeth does a great job of bringing them to life on the page. You seriously feel like this is your neighborhood and you are sitting right there with all the characters at the pool. Cailey is a cute character. She is well written and usually easy to like. Zell is an interesting character. She seems like the mom of the neighborhood. She is older and her kids have moved out, but she isn’t ready to stop taking care of little ones, so she likes taking care of everyone in the neighborhood. There is a little bit of mystery surrounding her, though, and it makes you wonder what happened. Bryte seems like a fun young mom. These are just a few of the characters that I liked in the story. The book may seem simple on the surface, but there are many facets and layers to the story, and as each one unravels, more of the truth is revealed. There are quite a few twists and turns in this book that keep you turning the pages. And no, I could not put it down! My children may have been a little bit ignored as I read this book; oops! 
Rating: R (There’s some profanity in this book, but not a whole lot. There is “intimacy.” There are innuendos, talk about it, and it does happen, but the scenes are not detailed at all-pretty much you know it happens and that’s all. There’s no violence. I rated it higher because there are adult themes in the book that I don’t think are appropriate for younger readers.)
Recommendation: Adult (May be ok for 18+)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

That Night

THAT NIGHT by Chevy Stevens
*This post was originally written on 7/9/14. I’m reposting it because it is now out in paperback AND…..I have a copy to give away! The first person that comments below saying they would like it, gets it!) 
(Summary taken from shereads.org)
They said she was a murderer.
They said she killed her sister.
But they lied.
As a teenager, Toni Murphy had a life full of typical adolescent complications: a boyfriend she adored, a younger sister she couldn’t relate to, a strained relationship with her parents, and classmates who seemed hell-bent on making her life miserable. Things weren’t easy, but Toni could never have predicted how horrific they would become until her younger sister was brutally murdered one summer night.
Toni and her boyfriend, Ryan, were convicted of the murder and sent to prison.
Now thirty-four, Toni is out on parole and back in her hometown, struggling to adjust to a new life on the outside. Prison changed her, hardened her, and she’s doing everything in her power to avoid violating her parole and going back. This means having absolutely no contact with Ryan, avoiding fellow parolees looking to pick fights, and steering clear of trouble in all its forms. But nothing is making that easy—not Ryan, who is convinced he can figure out the truth; not her mother, who doubts Toni’s innocence; and certainly not the group of women who made Toni’s life hell in high school and may have darker secrets than anyone realizes. No matter how hard she tries, ignoring her old life to start a new one is impossible. Before Toni can truly move on, she must risk everything to find out what really happened that night.
But the truth might be the most terrifying thing of all.”
July’s SheReads selection is “That Night” by Chevy Stevens. This is the first time SheReads has selected a suspense, murder mystery, and I was excited to read it. Chapter One intrigued me. There is this woman who is getting out of prison after what sounds like a very long sentence. I wondered what she had done to be imprisoned for so long. I wondered why she didn’t have any family to pick her up or get her new clothes to wear. I wanted to know more of the story. And then I got to Chapter Two. Chapter Two flashes back to this same woman when she was in high school. Her name is Toni, as you later figure out. And that is where I lost interest. Seriously. I’ve read a bunch of the SheReads reviews of this book, and so far I’m the only one who didn’t enjoy it. I think this is why: I am 100% opposite of Toni. I’m opposite in every way. I could not relate to her at all. Yep, I’m the one who was called “good-goody” and “teacher’s pet” in school. I’m the one who would study rather than go to a party. I’ve never done drugs, smoked, or tasted alcohol. Those things never interested me in school, and they don’t now. I know I’m in the minority in this so others may feel differently, but I just couldn’t relate to her. I found her extremely unlikable and disagreeable. I cringed at all the things she did and started praying that my kids won’t do those things. I didn’t relate to Ryan either. Or Nicole. Or the friends. Or her parents. Ok, Toni’s dad is probably the one person I kind of liked. But he wasn’t that great either. It’s not that I judge her, or anyone, for choosing those things, I don’t, I just do not do them myself, and therefore can’t relate to those experiences. The writing style was ok; there were some twists and turns that I hadn’t anticipated. The character development was good. Even though it flashed back and forth between the present and the past it was fairly easy to follow, so that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I didn’t like Toni or Ryan or really anyone. I couldn’t find a way to like them or care about them. I also felt like Toni being bullied in high school, prison, the half-way house, and after was unrealistic. I didn’t like her victim mentality. It just kept going and going. I did feel bad that they had been in prison if they were innocent, like they claimed, but that’s as far as it went. And if she were that worried about being bullied, why would she go back there? Why not move somewhere completely different and get a fresh start? The other problem for me was the language. There is so much profanity in this book that I found it distracting. And it’s not that easy to skip words, it’s them plus dozens of the “f’ word. And the teen-age intimacy, drug use, smoking. All of it put together just made this book completely unappealing to me. 
There is a gruesome murder, lots of teen-age intimacy, smoking, drug use, stealing, lying, fighting, and way too much profanity. There are dozens of “f” words and lots of the other words. I guess it did do a few things for me: if I had ever thought of wanting to go to prison (which I haven’t)–I FOR SURE don’t want to now! Also, Toni does realize that her drug use was a problem and she ends up quitting. So that was a positive.

Rating: R (Murder, teen-age intimacy, smoking, drug use, stealing, lying, fighting, lots of profanity, including many “f” words)
Recommendation: Adult (This book is NOT appropriate for YA or anyone younger than an adult.)

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Magician’s Lie

The Magician’s Lie by Greer MacAllister

Blurb:

“The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her incredible trick of sawing a man in half onstage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear. But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell.  Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless–and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, the magician will need to pull off one final act–this time with her life at stake.”

My Review:

This book is definitely captivating. It drew me in from the beginning, and I was hooked. It is well written with descriptive language and great character development. I thought Arden, Clyde, Adelaide, and Ray were especially well done. They came to life on the page. You could feel Arden’s excitement while on stage, and you could feel her hesitations and fears. For a lot of the book Clyde seems a bit mysterious, and I think that was done purposefully. Can you trust him? What are his intentions and motives? Even though he’s a bit mysterious, he is still well developed. Ray is…….well…..I’ll let you figure that one out, but let’s just say that I don’t like him and his character is developed a little too well for me……I loved Adelaide’s character even though she isn’t in the entire book. I loved how she brought Arden down to earth, and was motherly yet not. She grounded Arden, and I liked that. Virgil was an interesting character. You don’t know much about him at the beginning, yet he’s a likable character and you can tell that there is something he wants from all of this. His motives become a little more clear as you’re reading. The story flows well and is easy to understand. It’s intriguing, and I couldn’t put it down. It’s interesting because the whole time I was reading I was wondering if the entire story was a lie or if it was the truth. That’s one of the reasons I had to keep reading; I had to know what really happened!

This book has some profanity in it, although not much. There is a lot of domestic violence and abuse in this book, and it is difficult and uncomfortable to read. There is a murder. There is also a scene where many people die a horrific death, and that scene is actually based on a real event. It’s bad. The other thing that this book contains is a lot of “intimacy.” There is one scene in particular….I haven’t read a scene like that in a long time. It is very detailed and passionate, let’s just say that. So be prepared. I thought it was definitely too much. One other silly thing that bugged me was the cover. If you look at it, it doesn’t work. The hand that is holding the bird can’t be the lady wearing the dress, it doesn’t work. Silly, I know. With the exception of a few of those previously mentioned scenes, I really enjoyed the book and the story line. It would have been really good had those things been toned done a bit.

Rating: R (Not appropriate for younger viewers!! Domestic violence, murder, many people die a horrific death, and a lot of detailed “intimacy.”)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Mercy Snow

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker

Blurb:

“In the tiny town of Titan Falls, New Hampshire, the paper mill dictates a steady rhythm of life. But one day, a tragic bus accident sets two families on a course of destruction. June McAllister, the wife of the local paper mill owner, discovers a dark secret about the crash that threatens to upend her picture-perfect life. She will do anything to cover it up. But the recently arrived Snow family, a group of itinerant ne’er-do-wells, has different ideas–especially Mercy Snow, whose brother is blamed for the accident. She will do anything to save him. The stakes reach new heights when a skeleton is discovered on the Snow’s land, not far from the crash site. As June and Mercy move closer to the truth of the crash, even the oldest bonds will be tested, and Titan Falls finds itself leaving history behind as it moves into an uncertain future.”

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book. It’s full of mystery, tradition, lies, cover-ups, young love, betrayal, loyalty, growth, and survival. The writing just draws you in and doesn’t let go. You get sucked into this world of Titan Falls and its paper mill. The character development is so well done. I felt like I was a part of their world. I liked June at the beginning of the book, but by the end my opinion of her had done a 180. I liked Fergus and his wife Hazel. She was a little odd, and quick to bow to others’ wishes, but I liked her. I liked the Snows. Mercy, Hannah, and Zeke. I felt bad for them and their poor circumstances. I liked Mercy’s drive to be independent. I liked how she worked hard to take care of Hannah. Even though Zeke isn’t in the book for very long, I liked him. There’s a lot said about him, some good and some bad, but I think deep down he’s a good guy. I liked Nate and felt bad for the position he was in. Ms. Baker’s use of words and description allows the story to come alive as you’re reading, and I love it when that happens. There were a few things that were predictable, but there were also some surprises. Either way I kept on reading.

There is some profanity in this book, including a couple of “f” words. You know me, I wish it didn’t have any, but overall it’s not too bad. There is some minor violence including the death of at least one character and a couple of animals. There’s a teenage “intimacy” scene, and the description of a rape that happened before the story began. Neither one has too much detail.

I think this would make a great book group read, and I think there could be some very good discussions. I enjoyed this book and would recommend it with the previously stated warnings.

Rating: R (Profanity, including a couple of “f” words, violence including the death of a character and a few animals, an “intimacy” scene and the description of a rape that happened before the story began.)

Recommendation: Adult

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
“Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager. It was a belief that helped shape her own childhood and that of her brother. It shaped her view of her family and their dynamics. It influenced her entire life. Now, more than twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina, cleaning out his house when she finds evidence that what she has always believed is not the truth. Lisa is alive. Alive and living under a new identity. But why, exactly, was she on the run all those years ago? What secrets are being kept now, and what will happen if those secrets are revealed? As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family. Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her new-found reality.”

Imagine waking up one morning and finding out that everything you’ve known about your family for your entire life is a lie. A deception. Nothing is actually what you thought it was. This is pretty much what happened to Riley MacPherson. It didn’t happen over night, but it did happen within a few weeks after her father passed away. I can’t even imagine. Not only is Riley dealing with the passing of her father, but she is also dealing with his finances, his estate, and his lies. I could not put this book down. It grabbed hold of me from the beginning, and I was hooked. The writing in this book is so well done. It’s captivating, engaging, and you feel as if you too are caught in this web of lies. The characters come to life on the page. I love that they are so realistic and life-like. They are not perfect, they have their flaws, and yet they are real. Riley could be your next door neighbor. There were a few instances that I felt she accepted her new realities a little too easily, but I think she was desperate and since I’ve never been in that situation, her reactions could be completely realistic. Riley’s brother Danny is an interesting character. I can understand where he is coming from, and why he feels the way he does, and I feel bad for him. He also kind of scares me, actually. I am not sure if I believe his reaction at the end of the book because it seems completely out of character. I don’t know if the feelings he felt in that moment were enough to change his mind that much. Jeannie and Christine are such fun characters, and I think they add a lot to the story. I like that they have history with the family and are there for Riley when she needs their help. Verniece and Tom add a depth to the story, along with a few surprises. They scare me a little as well, especially Tom. I feel bad that he was put in the position he was put in, but I don’t think he deserved what it was that he wanted from Riley. The ending was almost too perfectly put together, but it was decent. I still loved the book.

There really is no way to talk about this book without giving anything away. After I finished it last night I thought and thought about how I could try and describe the situation without spoiling it, and I’m just not sure it’s possible. There’s so much going on, and because so much of it is truth coming out after years of lies, discussing it at all leads to realizations and secrets found out. So, I’m going to leave it at this: I loved this book. I couldn’t put it down. It was a roller coaster of emotions, and at some points I wasn’t really sure who to cheer for. I don’t like feeling as if I’m cheering for the “bad guy,” but is it a “bad guy” or is it a victim or an underdog? I could feel Riley’s emotions with her: anger, confusion, stress, worry, love, fear, a yearning for something other than what she had, sadness, and so many more. The emotional pull of this book leaves you feeling as if you’ve experienced it in person. Ms. Chamberlain’s writing style grabs hold of you and doesn’t let go. Even after I finished the book I couldn’t stop thinking about it. (I’m dying to talk to someone about this book!!! If you read it I’d love to hear your thoughts!)

There isn’t a whole lot of profanity in this book, except for the “f” word. And there are many of those. It is mostly one character who says it. There are a lot at the beginning of the book and a bunch at the end, but the middle of the book doesn’t have as many. The character who uses the word constantly isn’t in the entire book. There is a murder, rape, and some “intimacy” where you know it happens but it doesn’t go into a whole lot of detail. There is also a lesbian relationship. This is the first book I’ve read where the lesbian is the first person narrator, and she falls in love. It doesn’t go into a lot of detail, but enough to know what is going on and to set up the relationship. Overall, I really liked this book. There were a few times I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep reading because of the language and content, but I’m glad I did. I would recommend it if you’re ok with the above warnings.

Rating: R (Language, especially the “f” word, murder, rape, “intimacy,” a lesbian relationship)

Recommendation: Adult. This book is not appropriate for younger readers.

Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Someone Else’s Love Story

Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson
(Summary taken from the first page of the book) “At twenty-one, Shandi Pierce is juggling finishing college; raising her delightful three-year-old genius son, Nathan, aka Natty Bumppo; and keeping the peace between her eternally warring, long-divorced Christian mother and Jewish father. She’s got enough complications without getting caught in the middle of a stickup in a gas station minimart and falling in love with a great wall of a man named William Ashe, who willingly steps between the armed robber and her son. Shandi doesn’t know that her blond god, Thor, has his own complications. When he looked down the barrel of that gun he believed it was destiny: it’s been one year to the day since a tragic act of physics shattered his universe. But William doesn’t define destiny the way other people do. A brilliant geneticist who believes in science and numbers, destiny to him is about choice. Now, he and Shandi are about to meet their so-called destinies head-on, making choices that will reveal unexpected truths about love, life, and the world they think they know. Someone Else’s Love Story is Joshilyn Jackson’s funny, charming, and poignant novel about science and miracles, secrets and truths, faith and forgiveness; about a virgin birth, a sacrifice, and a resurrection; about falling in love, and learning that things aren’t always what they seem–or what we hope they will be. It’s  a novel about discovering what we want and ultimately finding what we need.”
The characters in this book are well done. Each has a distinctive voice and personality. I had a bunch of guy friends in high school and college, so I could definitely picture the relationship between Shandi and Walcott. I loved the love that Shandi had for her son. I loved that she was trying to finish college and not let a teenage pregnancy rule the rest of her life. Walcott was one of my favorite characters. I thought he just seemed so nice, helpful, kind, considerate, patient, and gentlemanly. William was harder to read. I couldn’t ever quite figure him out, but at the same time I thought he was genuinely sincere and had a good heart. I liked the impulsively nice things he did, like putting himself between the robber and Shandi’s son Natty. Oh, Natty. I loved him. So cute and smart!!! Three is a hard age, but a fun one too. I had a hard time getting used to Ms. Jackson’s writing style, and had to reread a few sentences to understand them, but by about half-way through I didn’t notice it as much, and got sucked into the story. It’s not the easiest writing style to read, but it got easier the more I read. I didn’t like how she jumped from character to character. Sometimes it was in the character’s mind and sometimes it was not in the other character’s mind. I think it felt choppy and it took me a few sentences each time to figure out where we were. I ended up liking the story, ok. It came together well and there were some surprises at the end that completely got me! I liked how Shandi and William were able to move past some very difficult situations to find what they needed. Both of them showed personal growth; it was good to see. Although, I’m not quite sure her decision to maybe forgive at the end was realistic, especially without the whole truth. The lessons of accepting the past and moving forward, and figuring out what you really need are poignant. I wished it went on just a few more pages….I wanted a little bit more info at the end, but it was ok. I did enjoy the story in the end, but it did take me awhile to get into her writing style. I also figured out half the ending. I know, half, right? Well, the other half was one of the surprises.
It’s a good thing the story was good because the language was awful. There is a lot of profanity in this book, especially the “f” word. There is also a lot of talk of, and discussions about, “intimacy.” There is a rape that is discussed and a lot of “intimacy” scenes and discussion. It’s not put delicately either. College frat initiations, high school boys that have reputations, that kind of thing, and it’s quite detailed. You’ve probably read enough of my reviews to know that I’m not a huge fan of this. I did find parts of this book offensive, and the language was too much for me. But, I know I’m kind of by myself in this regard. The story was good, but it would have been so much better without the language and “intimacy.” I know, some of it may have been necessary to set up histories and personalities, but for me it was too much. Putting all that aside, I did enjoy getting sucked into Shandi and William’s worlds. I think I can learn their lessons and try each day to make my marriage stronger, not take for granted the loved ones in my life, and help make the world a better place.
**Update!!! I originally posted this review on 11/12/13, but I’m reposting it today because it comes out in paperback this week, and the publisher asked if I could help her get the word out!!!**
Rating: R (This does not follow the movie ratings exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, especially the “f” word, rape, intimacy scenes and discussions about, a robbery with a gun, and violence.
Recommendation: Adult. This book is not appropriate for younger readers.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Shadow Year

The Shadow Year by Hannah Richell
(Summary taken from the back cover of the book) “Lila, a young woman who’s just suffered a terrible loss, finds a welcome distraction when she mysteriously inherits a ramshackle lake house in need of a major renovation. Scraping away layers of old walls, she unexpectedly stumbles upon cryptic notes and other clues that offer an intriguing glimpse into the lives of her home’s previous residents. Slowly, she begins to piece together the story of a group of idealistic university graduates who’d thrown off the shackles of bourgeois city life to rely only on one another and the land for one year. But as she delves deeper, it becomes clear that their experiment ended in tragedy. In untangling the house’s web of shocking secrets and lies, Lila will have to come to terms with her own loss and find a new path for herself.”
This is one of those books that you finish and immediately want to call someone to discuss it. I was so upset that I couldn’t discuss it with anyone. Ahhhhhh……at least I get to write my feelings. Then when you read it you can post comments and we can discuss it. Wow. You all know me fairly well by now, I think. I do not read summaries before I read the book. I want the surprise. You also probably know that I usually don’t sit and ponder books and try to figure out where they’re going. I don’t try and figure out who did it or how it all happened, I just read. I just read the book and enjoy it. This book, though, was different. Every time I put it down (which wasn’t very often), I kept thinking about it. How did these two stories connect? There’s got to be something to connect them, right? And then as I read more I started to get glimpses and think maybe I had it figured out. Nope. Okay, well maybe this instead? Nope. I’d go back and check to see if something earlier gave it away but I didn’t realize it when I read it……Nope. So, I just had to keep reading until I finished. And the shock at the end. Wait, what?? What? Really? I haven’t been as shocked by an ending in a long time. Who knows. Maybe you are all a lot smarter than I am and will figure it out, but I did not see that one coming. Obviously, this book is well written. It’s engaging, intriguing, creative, and addictive. Her descriptions are right on. They are well done yet not over-the-top. I felt like I was right there in that cabin with Lila. The characters are also very well done. Each of them has a distinct personality and I felt like they stayed true to themselves all the way through. There were some character traits that I did not expect. You’ll see. I felt like I related to Lila more than I did the other characters. Even though I didn’t really relate to the other characters, it didn’t matter this time. The story was so interesting that I got lost and didn’t even think about it. Lila made me nervous though. Here she had just lost something so precious, and I didn’t want her to lose the one thing she had left by running away. She definitely put herself in some situations that made me nervous, and I kind of agreed with her husband. I never liked or trusted Simon, and that dislike got even greater the more I read. There were times in the book that I liked Kat, and times that I didn’t. She was a little too infatuated for me; it clouded her judgement. She had a quick temper and tended to trust those she shouldn’t more than she trusted those she should. The dynamic of the group was interesting, to say the least. It’s an experiment that would definitely try the best of relationships. 
With all that, you’ll be surprised I liked it when you find out what is in it. Normally I don’t think I’d like or read a book that contained so much drug use. Wow. It was 1980 and these college graduates definitely believed in the 60’s mentality of free love and drug use. They definitely didn’t see those commercials with the fried egg that said “This is your brain (picture of an egg), this is your brain on drugs (picture of a fried egg).” Do you remember those? Well, I’m pretty sure these kids didn’t see them. So, lots of drug use in this book. There is also a lot of “intimacy.” As I said, they believed in free love, and when you add the drug use to the free love mentality, guess what happens? There is also quite a bit of language in this book. There are several “f” words along with some other language. And yes, after all that, I actually really liked the book. I’m still not sure about the ending, but I did like the book. I was so engrossed in it I’m pretty sure I ignored my children and laundry for a couple of days. But, you know, they understand. 
Rating: R (Language, including several “f” words, lots of “intimacy,” and lots of drug use.)
Recommendation: Adult (This book is NOT appropriate for the YA crowd, it is definitely an adult book.)
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress

The Wife, The Maid, and The Mistress by Ariel Lawhon
(Summary taken from the inside of the book jacket.) “Stella Crater, the judge’s wife, is the picture of propriety draped in long pearls and the latest Chanel. Ritzi, a leggy showgirl with Broadway aspirations, thinks moonlighting in the judge’s bed is the quickest way off the chorus line. Maria Simon, the dutiful maid, has Judge Crater to thank for her husband’s recent promotion to detective for the NYPD. Meanwhile, Judge Crater is equally indebted to Tammany Hall leaders and the city’s most notorious gangster, Owney “The Killer” Madden. Then, on a sultry summer night, as rumors circulated about the judge’s involvement in wide-scale political corruption, Judge Crater stepped into a cab and disappeared without a trace. Or did he? After thirty-nine years of necessary duplicity, Stella Crater is finally ready to reveal what she knows. Sliding into a corner booth at Club Abbey, the site of many absinthe-soaked affairs and the judge’s favorite watering hole back in the day, Stella begins to tell a tale–of greed, lust, and deceit. As the story unfolds, Stella, Ritzi, and Maria slyly break out of their prescribed roles, and it becomes clear that these three women know a lot more than they’d initially let on.”
I found it interesting that this fictional story is based on the actual disappearance of the real Judge Crater back in 1930. He was a New York State Supreme Court Justice. Many of the people in this story actually existed, along with some of the situations. Ms. Lawhon simply took those people and situations, and created her version of what happened. I liked the history in this story, and found it interesting how things really haven’t changed a whole lot in 80+ years. We still have corruption in government, and we still have women who silently have to put up with their husband’s antics. I think Maria was my favorite character. I related to her a little more than I related to Stella or Ritzi. The main women characters were well developed, along with a few of the men characters. Judge Crater and Owney Madden were well done, along with Shorty and Stan. I thought Jude was well developed, and liked his character. I loved Maria and Jude together. I liked their love story, and felt so bad for what they endured. I didn’t like the lies that existed in their marriage, though. 
This book was not an easy read for me. There are so many characters, time periods, places, and things going on all at once that I found it choppy and confusing. There were some chapters that had two or three times and places involved in it; sometimes the times would be times would be previous to the current situation, and sometimes they would be later. I relied heavily on the chapter headings, and had to go back a few times to make sure I knew where I was. The more I read the easier it got, but even at the end there were characters I couldn’t remember. I wasn’t a huge fan of the subject matter in the book either. Scandals, illicit love affairs, murders, abortions, smoking, corruption, and gangsters aren’t really my thing. However, if you like the subject matter then you may really enjoy this book. It did have some good tension, mystery, and suspense. There was a lot of language, including at least one “f” word. There was a lot of smoking and drinking. There was quite a bit of “intimacy,” and an illicit love affair. There were a few violent murders (gangster-style) and violence against women. One of the women goes to get an abortion. I can see how this was quite the scandal back in 1930….it would be quite the scandal now! And with the 24 hour news cycle, it would probably be even bigger news. It’s sad that there have been a few situations similar to this in recent years. 
Rating: R (This book is not appropriate for younger readers) Profanity, nudity, murder, “intimacy,” smoking, drinking, abortion, and violence against women. 
Recommendation: Adult
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. Also, Ariel Lawhon is one of the main gals at shereads.org.

The Girl You Left Behind

The Girl You Left Behind by JoJo Moyes
(Summary taken from the inside book jacket) “France, 1916: Artist Edouard Lefevre leaves his young wife, Sophie, to fight at the front. When their small town falls to the Germans in the midst of the World War I, Edouard’s portrait of Sophie draws the eye of the new Kommandant. As the officer’s dangerous obsession deepens, Sophie decides to risk everything–her family, her reputation, and her life–for the chance to see her husband again. Almost a century later, Sophie’s portrait is given to Liv Halston by her young husband shortly before his sudden death. A chance encounter reveals the painting’s true worth, and a battle begins over its troubled history. Was the painting looted during the war? Who is to pay retribution? And who is the true owner now? As the layers of the painting’s dark past are revealed, Liv’s life is turned upside down all over again. And her belief in what is right is put to the ultimate test…”
I loved this book! It is reminiscent of The Firebird, with a twist of The Hiding Place. I didn’t like it as much as I liked each one of those books individually, but it was really good. I thought the writing was excellent. Most of the characters were developed very well, and they each fit right where they needed to in the story. Liv is kind of a hard character to grasp onto at first, but as you get to know her better she grows on you. She becomes much softer and you can see the reasons why she is who she is. I liked Paul a lot. He just seems like a good, down-to-earth, normal guy. He made a difficult choice at the end that I applauded, but was scared for him too. I think he did the right thing. Both Paul and Liv had flaws, which is good because I don’t like it when characters are too perfect. Mo was an interesting character. I’m still not sure what I think of her. She added some humor and a flair of color to Liv’s clean and white lines. I really loved the other half of the story, though. Sophie and Helene were excellent characters. Their depth and strength was inspirational. I don’t know if I could have done what they did. I don’t agree with the decision Sophie made, at all. I thought a lot about it, and I just couldn’t have done it. I don’t think that is what my husband would want me to do either. Now, I won’t tell you if it paid off in the end, but knowing the consequences doesn’t change my mind. I can’t imagine the inner battles that went on in these women’s minds. The Germans had taken almost everything from them, and then they are asked to cook for them. Awww, what a struggle it must have been. I loved Liliane. I didn’t like the decision she made at the end either, but I don’t blame her. The strength she had to go behind the German’s backs was also inspirational. Would I have been brave enough? I wasn’t sure how the two stories would fit together, but, in the end, it was almost seamless. I liked the ending and thought it brought everything together well. I thought Ms. Moyes did a really good job of wrapping it up, but not too perfectly. I do like the perfect ending sometimes, but I don’t think it would have fit the book. I really enjoyed seeing it all come together, and thought the surprise guest at the end was a fabulous touch.
There is language in this book, especially the “f” word. There are several of them. There is  a bunch of other language, and the Lord’s name is used as well. There is a mostly rape scene. I say mostly, because she kind of knew what she was getting herself into, and purposefully went, but she didn’t realize how bad it would really be. There is a very violent and gruesome suicide. There is also war violence and poor treatment of the people by the German occupiers. There are some deaths. Happy, right? There are actually some happy moments, some inspirational people and experiences, and it makes it worth the sadness and harshness of the rest. It makes me so thankful to be where I am, at the time I am. I am so blessed! I definitely recommend this book.
Rating: R (This rating does not follow the movie ratings, exactly, it is just my way of saying it is not appropriate for younger readers.) Language, including the “f” word, rape, suicide, war atrocities, death.
Recommendation: 18 and up.
Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.