Book Review | Lost You by Haylen Beck

BOOK REVIEW | LOST YOU

TITLE: Lost You

AUTHOR: Haylen Beck

PUBLISHER: Crown Publishing

RELEASE DATE: August 6, 2019

GENRE: Thriller, Fiction, Suspense

PRE-ORDER LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND

A provocative and unputdownable psychological suspense about two women locked in a desperate fight over a child each believes is rightfully hers

Libby needs a break. Three years ago her husband split, leaving her to raise their infant son Ethan alone as she struggled to launch her writing career. Now for the first time in years, things are looking up. She’s just sold her first novel, and she and Ethan are going on a much-needed vacation. Everything seems to be going their way, so why can’t she stop looking over her shoulder or panicking every time Ethan wanders out of view? Is it because of what happened when Ethan was born? Except Libby’s never told anyone the full story of what happened, and there’s no way anyone could find her and Ethan at a faraway resort . . . right?

But three days into their vacation, Libby’s fears prove justified. In a moment of inattention, Ethan wanders into an elevator before Libby can reach him. When the elevator stops and the doors open, Ethan is gone. Hotel security scours the building and finds no trace of him, but when CCTV footage is found of an adult finding the child wandering alone and leading him away by the hand, the police are called in. The search intensifies, a lost child case turning into a possible abduction. Hours later, a child is seen with a woman stepping through an emergency exit. Libby and the police track the woman down and corner her, but she refuses to release Ethan. Asked who she is, the woman replies:

“I’m his mother.”

What follows is one of the most shocking, twist-y, and provocative works of psychological suspense ever written. A story of stolen identity, of surrogacy gone horribly wrong, and of two women whose insistence that each is the “real” mother puts them at deadly cross-purposes, Lost You is sure to be one of 2019’s most buzzed-about novels. (Description from NetGalley)

MY THOUGHTS

(Before reading any further, please be aware that this review may contain spoilers)

I thought Lost You was a very sad story. Not emotional, but I felt very sad for the two main characters. I’m sure I couldn’t connect emotionally because I don’t have children of my own and don’t have a yearning for one at this point in my life, but I could empathize with both characters and what they were going through.

Libby wanted a child so bad and couldn’t have one of her own, so she paid thousands of dollars and destroyed her marriage to have a surrogate carry one for her….even then it wasn’t genetically hers.

Anna was a poor, recently jobless woman who needed to make some money, so accepted the role as surrogate only to find that she fell in love with her unborn child and decided not to give him up.

Both women did something terrible to each other and they end up paying the price for it. They both did it because of the love they had for the baby. They would both do anything to have him.

Overall, I enjoyed the book, but it wasn’t as suspenseful as I thought it might be. I wasn’t at the edge of my seat and I figured the character’s paths were going to end badly. I’d characterize this book more as women’s fiction than a suspense or a thriller.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | GOODREADS

HAYLEN BECK is the pseudonym of acclaimed, Edgar Award-nominated author Stuart Neville, whose crime fiction has won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and made best-of-year lists with numerous publications, including the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Boston Globe. His first Haylen Beck novel was Here and Gone.

Thank you to Crown Publishing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Book of the Week | The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

TITLE: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

AUTHOR: Gabrielle Zevin

PUBLISHER: Algonquin Books

RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2014

GENRE: Fiction, Contemporary, Adult Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died; his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history; and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island—from Chief Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward him; from Ismay, his sister-in-law, who is hell-bent on saving A.J. from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who persists in taking the ferry to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, he can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, though large in weight—an unexpected arrival that gives A.J. the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J., for the determined sales rep Amelia to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light, for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world. Or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. (Description from Goodreads)

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Book Review | The Road She Left Behind by Christine Nolfi

BOOK REVIEW | THE ROAD SHE LEFT BEHIND

TITLE: The Road She Left Behind

AUTHOR: Christine Nolfi

PUBLISHER: Lake Union Publishing

RELEASE DATE: June 11, 2019

GENRE: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Mystery

PRE-ORDER LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND

“Three women. Two families torn apart by secrets.

Crushed by guilt over the car accident that killed her father and sister, and torn apart by her mother’s resentment, Darcy Goodridge fled her family estate eight years ago and hasn’t looked back. Now an unexpected phone call threatens to upend what little serenity she’s found. Her nephew, Emerson, who was just a baby when his mother died, has gone missing. Darcy must return home and face her past in order to save him.

Once back in Ohio, Darcy realizes there’s more to Emerson’s disappearance—and to the sudden retirement of her mother, Rosalind—than meets the eye. As she works to make inroads with Rosalind, Darcy begins to unravel a decades-old secret that devastated her family and forced a wedge between her and Michael Varano, the man she left heartbroken when she vanished after the funeral. After carrying the scars of that fateful night for almost a decade, Darcy is determined to find closure, healing, and maybe even love where she lost them all in the first place—right back home where she belongs.” (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(Before reading any further, please be aware that this review may contain spoilers)

Sometimes the first few chapters of a book can start slow and it takes some time to get into it, but Nolfi did a great job getting me interested in The Road She Left Behind right from the start. From the first chapter, I was wanting to know what happened and why Darcy was running away from her past.

The story revolves around a very dysfunctional family littered with tragedy and heartache. Without giving away much there’s a lot of broken hearts, guilt, death, and deception throughout. Most of the book left me wondering what would happen next, but as it got toward the end I started figuring out the puzzle and it became predictable. Not to say it wasn’t a good book. I did enjoy it, but I wanted a little more emotion and wanted more of the relationship between Darcy and Michael.

Overall, I would recommend this book for those who like reading women’s fiction. It was an enjoyable story about a family and their family drama which I’m sure everyone can relate to. While some label it as a mystery novel, I didn’t feel that it belonged in that category.

OVERALL RATING

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Book of the Week | This Is Me by Chrissy Metz

TITLE: This Is Me

AUTHOR: Chrissy Metz

PUBLISHER: Dey Street Books

RELEASE DATE: March 27, 2018

GENRE: Nonfiction, Memoir

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

An inspirational book about life and its lessons from the Golden Globe and Emmy nominated star of NBC’s This Is Us.

When This Is Us debuted in fall 2016, a divided America embraced a show that celebrates human connection. The critically acclaimed series became America’s most watched—and most talked about—network show, even building on its fan base in the drama’s second season. As Kate Pearson, Chrissy Metz presents a character that has never been seen on television, yet viewers see themselves in her, no matter what they look like or where they come from. Considered a role model just for being her authentic self, Chrissy found herself on magazine covers and talk shows, walking red carpets, and as the subject of endless conversations on social media “I don’t know what you’ve been through to play her,” she is often told by fans, “but it was something.”

In This is Me, Chrissy Metz shares her story with a raw honesty that will leave readers both surprised but also inspired. Infused with the same authenticity she brings to her starring role, Chrissy’s This is Me is so much more than your standard Hollywood memoir or collection of personal essays. She embraces the spirit of Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, and shares how she has applied the lessons she learned from both setbacks and successes. A born entertainer, Chrissy finds light in even her darkest moments, and leaves the reader feeling they are spending time with a friend who gets it.

Chrissy Metz grew up in a large family, one that always seemed to be moving, and growing. Her father disappeared one day, leaving her mother to work a series of menial jobs and his children to learn to live with the threat of hunger and the electricity being cut off. When her mother remarried, Chrissy hoped for “normal” but instead experienced a form of mental pain that seemed crafted just for her. The boys who showed her attention did so with strings attached as well, and Chrissy accepted it, because for her, love always came with conditions.

When she set out for Los Angeles, it was the first time she had been away from her family and from Florida. And for years, she got barely an audition. So how does a woman with the deck stacked against her radiate such love, beauty and joy? This too is at the heart of This is Me.

With chapters that alternate from autobiographical to instructional, Chrissy offers practical applications of her hard-won insights in a series of “Bee Mindful” interstitials. There she invites you to embrace gratitude in “Say Thank You” or to be honest with your partner and yourself in “The Shrouded Supreme.” Blending love and experience, Chrissy encourages us all to claim our rightful place in a world that may be trying to knock us down, find our own unique gifts, and pursue our dreams. (Description from Goodreads) 

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Book Review | Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

BOOK REVIEW | WUNDERLAND

TITLE: Wunderland

AUTHOR: Jennifer Cody Epstein

PUBLISHER: Crown Publishing Group

RELEASE DATE: April 23, 2019

GENRE: Historical Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | INDIEBOUND

East Village, 1989
Things had never been easy between Ava Fisher and her estranged mother Ilse. Too many questions hovered between them: Who was Ava’s father? Where had Ilse been during the war? Why had she left her only child in a German orphanage during the war’s final months? But now Ilse’s ashes have arrived from Germany, and with them, a trove of unsent letters addressed to someone else unknown to Ava: Renate Bauer, a childhood friend. As her mother’s letters unfurl a dark past, Ava spirals deep into the shocking history of a woman she never truly knew.

Berlin, 1933
As the Nazi party tightens its grip on the city, Ilse and Renate find their friendship under siege–and Ilse’s increasing involvement in the Hitler Youth movement leaves them on opposing sides of the gathering storm. Then the Nuremburg Laws force Renate to confront a long-buried past, and a catastrophic betrayal is set in motion…

An unflinching exploration of Nazi Germany and its legacy, Wunderland is a at once a powerful portrait of an unspeakable crime history and a page-turning contemplation of womanhood, wartime, and just how far we might go in order to belong. (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(Before reading, please be aware that this review may contain spoilers)

Where to begin…lets start with I LOVED THIS BOOK! It has history, love, lies, and tragedy. I also really like the cover and was happy it gave me a sense of what the two main characters might look like. I never wanted to put it down.

Now, to dive right into it…

I’m always drawn to historical fiction that specifically surrounds World War II. It was such a sad and devastating time that I believe it should be written about. We should never forget how terrible this point in history was and should always be reminded of it with books like Wunderland.

It reminded me of a much sadder female focused version of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Wunderland delve more into the details of what it was like when Jewish families and businesses were being destroyed. With Renate’s story, it gave detailed descriptions of how Jewish children were treated in school by both their full German blooded peers and teachers. You can get a sense of how hard and confusing it must have been for children when the friends they were so close to turned on them or when teachers (adults) that are supposed to teach and guide you start treating you like dirt. Then seeing your family and everything around you fall apart.

On the flip side, the character Ilse was a young German girl who got sucked into the Nazi party. Ilse was part of the BDM (Band of German Maidens) which was “the girls’ wing of the Nazi Party youth movement.” So as we follow Ilse’s story we get a sense of what was going through their minds as they wrote about Jewish people and were punishing them. Ilse herself had done some unspeakable things in the name of the Nazi party, but lived with the guilt of all that she’d done. Even though she’s a fictional character, I believe that there were so many young German girls and boys corrupted and their minds manipulated by the Nazi party making them believe what they were doing was right even though it was awful.

Overall, Wunderland is an incredible depiction of the terrors that came from the Nazi party and World War II. I would highly recommend reading this amazing book. As a side note, I feel Wunderland is worthy of becoming a movie one day. I certainly would watch it and probably cry my eyes out.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | TWITTER

I am the author of the forthcoming Wunderland, out April 23 with Crown Publishing. My prior works include The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, winner of the 2014 Asian Pacific Association of Librarians Honor award for outstanding fiction, as well as the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai. I have also written for The Wall Street Journal, The Asian Wall Street Journal, The Nation (Thailand), Self and Mademoiselle magazines, and the NBC and HBO networks, working in Kyoto, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Bangkok as well as Washington D.C. and New York. I’ve taught at Columbia University in New York and Doshisha University in Kyoto, and have an MFA from Columbia, a Masters of International Relations from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and a BA in Asian Studies/English from Amherst College.

I currently live in Brooklyn, NY with my husband, filmmaker Michael Epstein, my two amazing daughters and an exceptionally needy Springer Spaniel. (Bio from Author’s Website)

Thank you to Crown Publishing Group for providing a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book of the Week | I Was Here by Gayle Forman

TITLE: I Was Here

AUTHOR: Gayle Forman

PUBLISHER: Viking Juvenile

RELEASE DATE: January 25, 2015

GENRE: Young Adult, Contemporary

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N

When her best friend Meg drinks a bottle of industrial-strength cleaner alone in a motel room, Cody is understandably shocked and devastated. She and Meg shared everything—so how was there no warning? But when Cody travels to Meg’s college town to pack up the belongings left behind, she discovers that there’s a lot that Meg never told her. About her old roommates, the sort of people Cody never would have met in her dead-end small town in Washington. About Ben McAllister, the boy with a guitar and a sneer, who broke Meg’s heart. And about an encrypted computer file that Cody can’t open—until she does, and suddenly everything Cody thought she knew about her best friend’s death gets thrown into question.

I Was Here is Gayle Forman at her finest, a taut, emotional, and ultimately redemptive story about redefining the meaning of family and finding a way to move forward even in the face of unspeakable loss. (Description from Goodreads) 

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Book Review | Every Breath by Nicholas Sparks

BOOK REVIEW | EVERY BREATH

TITLE: Every Breath

AUTHOR: Nicholas Sparks

PUBLISHER: Grand Central Publishing

RELEASE DATE: October 16, 2018

GENRE: Romance, Fiction, Women’s Fiction

BUY LINKS: AMAZON | B&N | TARGET | INDIEBOUND | BAM! | AUDIBLE

In the romantic tradition of The Notebook and Nights in Rodanthe, #1 New York Times bestselling author Nicholas Sparks returns with a story about a chance encounter that becomes a touchstone for two vastly different individuals — transcending decades, continents, and the bittersweet workings of fate.

Hope Anderson is at a crossroads. At thirty-six, she’s been dating her boyfriend, an orthopedic surgeon, for six years. With no wedding plans in sight, and her father recently diagnosed with ALS, she decides to use a week at her family’s cottage in Sunset Beach, North Carolina, to ready the house for sale and mull over some difficult decisions about her future.

Tru Walls has never visited North Carolina but is summoned to Sunset Beach by a letter from a man claiming to be his father. A safari guide, born and raised in Zimbabwe, Tru hopes to unravel some of the mysteries surrounding his mother’s early life and recapture memories lost with her death. When the two strangers cross paths, their connection is as electric as it is unfathomable . . . but in the immersive days that follow, their feelings for each other will give way to choices that pit family duty against personal happiness in devastating ways.

Illuminating life’s heartbreaking regrets and enduring hope, Every Breath explores the many facets of love that lay claim to our deepest loyalties — and asks the question, How long can a dream survive? (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(Before reading, please be aware that this review may contain spoilers)

Once again, it didn’t take me long to finish a Nicholas Sparks book. I can never put them down. I did my usual walking while reading whenever I could and was disappointed getting to the door at work and having to put the book away. Then I’d pick it back up at lunch and at home. My poor husband can’t get a word in when a good book grabs all my attention. Anyway, I’m rambling and want to share a bit about my thoughts on this newest Nicholas Sparks book.

This book was inspired by true events and real people. This is the first book of Sparks’s that he explained what went into writing this book and it started with him visiting Bird Island in Sunset Beach, North Carolina. On that island there’s a mailbox called Kindred Spirit. As Sparks explains it, “anyone can leave a letter or postcard; any passerby can read whatever has been placed inside. Thousands of people do so every year.” This place is an important part of the book and it somehow revolves around the relationship between the characters Tru and Hope.

Tru Walls and Hope Anderson are two people from completely different parts of the world and meet at Sunset Beach in North Carolina. Tru is from Africa and works as a safari guide. He’s worked at many camps and has lived in Africa his whole life. Hope is a trauma nurse from North Carolina and has never been to Africa. She has a boyfriend of six years, but are on a break because well…he’s a jerk. Not how she put it, but that’s how I’m putting it. So completely different worlds.

After a few days together, they both knew they had fallen in love and eventually told each other. But their lives were on completely different paths and there were things Hope wanted that Tru just wouldn’t be able to give her. There’s a lot more to this that I don’t want to give away, but they had a heartbreaking parting and never spoke again until decades later when Hope was trying to find him.

I’m glad they found each other again after so long, but I’m very sad that they didn’t have that time together and unfortunately, the remaining time they have is clearly going to be short (I won’t spoil that part for you). Both Hope and Tru regret not trying hard enough to find each other again, but the Kindred Spirit finally brought them together. Hope even mentions in a letter she placed in Kindred Spirit that, “I was the one who ended it, for reasons I have agonized over for decades. It was the right decision at the time; it was also the wrong decision”.

While it’s not my favorite book Sparks has ever written, he still is able to write characters and stories to make you emotionally connected to them. Knowing that this book was inspired by a true story made me more sad to read the ending and to know they spent so much time apart. After reading this I still want to know what happened to them, but that’s probably best kept with the real people this book is inspired by.

Overall, I enjoyed the book a lot and it has a lot of what Nicholas Sparks is known for, but it had a slightly different feel in the sense that I didn’t think the ending was a happy one. Usually I feel uplifted in some way after reading one of his novels, but this one left me feeling sad and wanting more. I would recommend this if your a Nicholas Sparks fan like me and you want to read a love story that has more sadness to it than most.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | GOODREADS

With over 100 million copies of his books sold, Nicholas Sparks is one of the world’s most beloved storytellers. His novels include 12 #1 New York Timesbestsellers. All his books have been New York Times and international bestsellers, and were translated into more than 50 languages. Ten Sparks novels have been adapted into major motion pictures, with The Choice coming in February 2016. (About the author found on Amazon.com)

Sparks wrote one of his best-known stories, The Notebook, over a period of six months at age 28. It was published in 1996 by Warner Books. He followed with the novels Message in a Bottle (1998), A Walk to Remember(1999), The Rescue(2000), A Bend in the Road (2001),Nights in Rodanthe (2002), The Guardian (2003), The Wedding(2003), True Believer (2005) and its sequel, At First Sight (2005), Dear John (2006), The Choice(2007),The Lucky One (2008), The Last Song (2009), Safe Haven (2010) and The Best of Me(2011), as well as the 2004 non-fiction memoir Three Weeks With My Brother, co-written with his brother Micah. His seventeenth novel, The Longest Ride, was published on September 17, 2013. (Found on NicholasSparks.com)

You can see his full bio here: Nicholas Spark Biography

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