July-August Book Reviews

VERITY by Colleen Hoover

Rating: 5 Stars!!!! Highly Recommend.

Synopsis: The Crawford family has suffered tragedies – their twin daughters have passed away and now famed writer Verity Crawford has been in a car accident leaving her incapable of continuing her career as a writer; she has three books to complete in her series. She needs around the clock care and cannot speak or move. Verity’s husband Jeremy and her agent Amanda offer a lesser known author, Lowen Ashleigh, to complete the series. Once Lowen signs on, she visits the Crawford house to go through Verity’s office to find her notes on the series so that Lowen knows how to continue the series. During Lowen’s search, she finds a disturbing manuscript written by Verity detailing the tragedy the Crawford family. Lowen instantly becomes scared of Verity and begins believing Verity could talk and move, even though the doctors say she cannot. What really happened to the Crawford family? Who did what and why?

Review: This instantly became one of my favorite books that I have read this year. Colleen Hoover grabs you in from the very first page. I prefer to read books that start off with a bang and get right to the point. She introduces characters and describes situations without too much prose; there’s no superfluous language at all in this novel. Just when you think you know what is going on, there is a twist. Then when you have comprehended the twist, there is another twist! Colleen Hoover flawlessly developed each character; I felt like I knew these people and I was rooting for one and hating the other. There were a few instances in the book I was literally disgusted by one of the characters believing the character to be a real person. Any book that draws me in, gets me to finish it in less than two days, and has me believing characters are real gets 5 stars!*******************************

THE WIFE UPSTAIRS by Rachel Hawkins

Rating: 3.5 Stars.

Synopsis: Jane runs away from a life back in Arizona. She lives with John, which is not ideal, but at least she has a place to sleep. Jane takes on dog walking for prestigious Thornfield Estates – a gated community with mansion, and housewives who do not know what to do with themselves. Blanche and Bea were among the housewives, married to Tripp Ingrahm and Edward (Eddie) Rochester respectively. Blanche and Bea grew up together and were the best frenemies. That was until Blance and Bea disappeared and were assumed dead in a boating accident, leaving both men widowed. During one of Jane’s dog walking excursions, Jane and Eddie meet and share an instant connection. They begin dating and rather quickly become engaged. But Eddie has a secret – his wife is upstairs in a panic room. Why is she up there? What happened to Blanche? Does Tripp know where Blanche is located? What really happened that night Bea and Blanche were out on a boat?

Review: This book was not my favorite. I do not know if it was because I was coming off my Verity high, but it just did not do it for me. The title of the book clearly tells you that Eddie’s wife is upstairs, so that is no surprise when they introduce that into the book. The relationship between Jane and Eddie seemed really forced. I realize that each had their reasons for moving quickly, but it never felt right. Jane really tried too hard to fit in and tried too hard to push bad thoughts out of her head. One minute she is frustrated/mad/skeptical of Eddie and the next she trusts him. I never believed that relationship. There’s a journal making you believe that events happened one way and then there’s a twist. Again, after reading Verity, the twist was easy to figure out and was just not surprising. The only surprising part was the very end, which was left open. All in all, like I said above, it was just not my favorite. ***************************************************************

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW by Kiersten Modglin

Rating: 4 Stars!!!! Highly Recommend.

Synopsis: It is just Loren and her daughter Rynlee against the world; that is, until she meets Jack. Jack seems perfect. He is caring, doting, and most of all, develops a great relationship with Rynlee. Jack and Loren marry, but are then met with an unfortunate circumstance. Jack’s father dies, leaving his mother, Coralee, all alone. Jack stays with his mother immediately after the death, but Loren misses him too much. Loren invites her mother-in-law to stay in her house, which has been passed down through the family. It is not too soon after that does Loren start to question her invitation. Strange things begin to occur; Rynlee is scared to stay in her room. Coralee is doing anything and everything to drive a wedge between Loren and Jack. At first, Jack believes his mother needs help, but eventually sees her to be the sinister women that she is. Now, Loren and Jack are desperately trying to get Coralee out of the house. It is not so easy, and Coralee puts down her foot and puts up a fight. Why will Coralee not leave the house? What is her connection to the house? Are Loren and Jack able to get Coralee to leave the house?

Review: First and foremost, I love Kiersten Modglin’s books. I learned about this author through one of the books clubs that I attend. She has been gracious enough to join in our book club meetings and has answered many questions about her books and her writing process. One of the things that I love about Kiersten’s books is that they grab you right from the beginning. There is no useless prose; every word written is in furtherance of the story. This particular book for me is not my absolute favorite of hers, but it is definitely close to the top of the list. This book grabbed me and kept me reading, especially when it got closer to the end – I could not stop reading to the point where I stayed up late in order to finish this book! You could viscerally feel the viciousness of Coralee. The twists and turns of this book are never predictable (at least not for me!) My ONLY issue with this particular book, is that I felt that the relationship between Loren and Jack was a little rushed. While it stated that Jack and Loren had gone on a number of dates, I did not get to experience those dates with the characters. So I never had my heart invested in their relationship like I have in other books. ***************************************************************

THE PERFECT CHILD by Lucinda Berry

Rating: 5 Stars!!!!! Highly Recommend

Synopsis: Christopher and Hannah seemingly have the perfect life; the only way to complete their life is to have a child. After several attempts to have a child either naturally, through IVF or adoption, they give up on their dream. Janie comes to the hospital needing extra care – she has been neglected and malnourished. Christopher, or Dr. Chris as Janie referred to him, forms a bond with Janie and convinces Hannah to bring Janie home. Janie, however, is not your normal six year old. She suffers from attachment disorder and is very damaged. She bites, smears feces on walls, and has screaming tantrums, among other disturbing behaviors. Janie and Hannah do not form the same bond and Hannah is drowning in the pressure she feels to care for Janie; Janie is just too much for Hannah to handle. What happened to Janie in her past to make her act out like this? What happens to Hannah? Are children “fixable”?

Review: First, let me go on the record and say this book is not for the faint of heart. It discusses child abuse and neglect. It also discusses mental illness. That being said, there were some moments in the book that I exclaimed, out loud, “what the F***?” I always try to figure out what is going to happen, but it was not until the twist happened that I was able to rationalize the events. Lucinda Berry has a great way to describe what is happening where you can actually visualize everything that is going on in the book. The book grabbed me and did not let me go until I finished it. However, I was not thrilled with the ending. More so because it was left open ended. The ending left me needing more; I need to know exactly what happened. I can envision my own course of events, but I am sure they would not be as great as what Lucinda Berry could write.


Rating: 3 Stars.

Synopsis: Suzanna Duff never planned to stay in Cousins, GA when she was on her way to New Jersey to start a new life for her and her daughter, Annie. She wanted to leave behind the football player that got her pregnant, the dad who kicked her out when she got pregnant, and the drunk that took her and her daughter in when she did not have a place to live. Suzanna and her daughter attended a wake as a means to an end – merely to get free food. Ida Parker, the grieving widow, took Suzanna for her granddaughter, and Suzanna went along with it. At first, it was only supposed to be for a few days, but then Suzanna finally felt what it was like to have a family. She always wanted better for her daughter, Annie, and this was better. The longer she stayed, the more her lies felt like they were choking her. Soon enough, a year past and Annie’s dad found Suzanna. How does Suzanna handle Annie’s dad being back? Do her lies get exposed by his return? Will Grandma ever learn the truth? Or does Suzanna leave before she’s found out?

Review: I could not give this book more than 3 stars. When I read the synopsis, I thought the plot of the book was really going to push the story along. However, the book was slow and drawn out. Additionally, much of the chapters describing Suzanna’s inner thoughts were VERY repetitive. At one point, Suzanna, as Ida’s granddaughter, gets a job and a paycheck. I know this was set in the 50’s and 60s’, but how does one in that time deposit a check to an account with the wrong name on it? Suzanna does not have an ID with her fake name, but that is to whom the checks would be payable.

**** SPOILER **** It was predictable that someone at the fashion show would recognize her, especially after Suzanna agonized over it for a week. Also, Ida and even Gregg, seemed to accept Suzanna’s lies way to easily.

Overall, this was not the book for me.

THE MAD GIRL by Andrew Colvin

RATING: 4 Stars!!!! Recommend!

SYNOPSIS: First things first, TRIGGER WARNING. This book contains self-harm, sexual assault, and abuse.

Cee has suffered abuse by her father for many years; at the age of 12, she loses bother her father and her beloved brother. Cee believes that she is the cause of their deaths, and turns to the parish Priest for guidance and forgiveness. The Priest takes her under his wing, tells her she has been chosen to follow his guidance, which is deranged. The Priest is in Cee’s head with every bad decision she makes. Cee struggles to find freedom and happiness among the mess that has become her life. Now Cee finds herself as the link between three murder victims. Did Cee murder any of these three people? How are these victims intertwined? What was the motive behind these murders?

REVIEW: This book is very captivating. The plot twists are unpredictable and the character development is deeper than most books, but is much needed to understand the book and the decisions by each character. It is beautifully interwoven within the novel, so it is not just boringly told to you at the beginning. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the struggles of the characters between good and bad, and how God could let bad things happen – whether it really is God that is letting bad things happen. It is something that as a Catholic I have struggled with myself. I related to the self-harm within the book for different reasons, but I felt that as a teen girl self-harming, the book lacked in the emotion behind it.

The reason for the four star review rather than five stars, is because I had some issues with the book. The beginning of the book is off putting. I found myself immediately wanting to put it down. It felt like it was trying to hard and it made me feel stupid as a reader. However, once the book got going, this stopped and I thought it was great. Also, toward the beginning and a little bit throughout, there were too many useless metaphors (in my opinion). I do not mind the cursing in a book, but if felt too much at one point. There were also some minor editing issues – quotes, the name Berger used when it was supposed to be the Priest, and the use of the word cellophane three times in one paragraph.

Overall, I would recommend this book!!

THE BETTER CHOICE by Kiersten Modglin

RATING: 5 Stars!!!!! Highly Recommend!

SYNOPSIS: After experiencing the death of her parents, and her childhood house burning down, Blythe decided to move to New York City for a fresh start. Her very first day in NYC she is mugged; her money, her wallet, her mother’s necklace and pictures all gone and her elbow is bleeding. A nice stranger, Finn, helps her and she stays the night at Finn’s place. The next day, Blythe goes to her Aunts house, where she will be staying. Blythe finds a job as a waitress with a catering company. This is where she meets Asher, a wealthy, confident, and good looking man. Both of these men want Blythe and she has a choice to make. Both of these men have secrets. What are these secrets? Who does Blythe choose? Did she make the better choice?

REVIEW: “I’d rather be hurt a thousand times than give up on the idea of finding love and being truly happy.” I absolutely loved this book. I could not put it down and read it in one day. I did figure out who Blythe would pick quickly, but I DID NOT figure out the two major twists in the story. The story just flowed beautifully and I was really invested in what was going to happen. I have not been this invested in characters in a while; I am starting to think that romantic suspense might be a new genre for me!

THEN SHE WAS GONE by Lisa Jewell

RATING: 3 Stars.

Synopsis: Fifteen year old Ellie Mack seemed to have the perfect life. She was popular, gorgeous, had a wonderful boyfriend, and was just a few exams away from a perfect summer. Then she was gone. No one knows what happened to her. Laurel Mack, Ellie’s mother, was trying to put her life back together after her marriage ended and her strained relationships with her other children. Laurel then meets a man, Floyd. He seems perfect. He has a beautiful daughter, Poppy. Laurel is taken aback when she meets Poppy because she reminds her so much of Ellie. This has Laurel questioning Ellie’s disappearance once more. Did Ellie run away? Did something more sinister happen to Ellie? Who is this Floyd? Why does Poppy remind Lauren of Ellie so much?

REVIEW: It would be hard for me to give this book more than 3 years. It was raved about by many and for me, it did not live up to the hype. Lisa Jewell is an excellent writer, but this book seemed drawn out and became boring. Parts of this book are very predictable. The “twists” just turned out to be blah. Usually when a twist happens, my mind is blown, but not in this book. In the acknowledgments the author herself said either this book is brilliant or bizarre; for me, it was just bizarre. Unfortunately, I would not recommend this book.

OUR LITTLE SECRET by Kiersten Modglin

RATING: 4 Stars!!!!

SYNOPSIS: Michelle, Jude, Sophie, Caroline, Stephanie, Enzo, Ted, Raf, and Dominc all have something to hide. Jude is the town sheriff, and his wife is Michelle; they have a daughter together Caroline. Stephanie is married to Ted with their two boys, Raf and Dominic. Enzo is the mayor of their town, and his niece Sophie likes to visit him. One night, Stephanie calls the police to falsely report seeing a car go into the lake; why? Why is her motive? Jude is called to the scene. He desperately wants Stephanie to recant her story; why? What is his motive? Enzo also goes to the scene. He is the one that convinces Stephanie that maybe her eyes were playing tricks on her since she has been working two jobs; why? What is his motive? In this small town, everyone has something to hide and everyone is lying. What is really going on?

REVIEW: Let me start by saying this: this is not my favorite KMod book. That would be Just Married (yes, you need to check that out). I think for me this one fell a little flat since that one was just SO good. The first two chapters had me hooked, but I felt that the story dragged on a little. This was not a “page turner” for me after a while. In true KMod form, there were quite a few twists, only one of which I was able to figure out. For me, that is enough reason to give it 4 stars. There were two twists that I did not see coming at all and they did shock me. I just think it took a little too long to get there this time. I think what I am trying to say is that between the first two chapters and the first twist, there was not enough action. Still a very pleasant read.