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review 2017-02-26 09:34
The Nearness of You
The Nearness of You: A Novel - Amanda Eyre Ward

By:  Amanda Eyre Ward

ISBN:  9781101887158

Publisher: Random House 

Publication Date: 2/21/2017 

Format: Hardcover  

My Rating: 4 Stars

Storyteller, Amanda Eyre Ward returns following (2015) The Same Sky with another thought-provoking and gripping tale of four wounded characters in THE NEARNESS OF YOU. (Beautiful cover ).

What does it take to be a real mother? With highly charged topics, Ward delves deeply into the emotions of the human psyche and what it takes to be a family. A surrogate young girl goes missing, disrupting the lives of all that are near and dear to the unborn child.

Set in Houston, Texas –Hyland and Suzette Kendell are married and celebrating their anniversary. It is the year, 2000 and the couple have been married for fifteen years and approaching forty years of age.

Suzette is a successful heart surgeon and Hyland an architect. He came from a horrific childhood and he would love to have children and a family. His parents had been killed in a car accident when he was eleven and grew up in the foster care system. He now works from home and desperately wants a family.

However, workaholic Suzette had been upfront from the beginning, she did not want children. Her mom was mentally ill and in an institution. She most likely would always remain there until she died.

Her father had died years earlier and her mom went a little crazy- erratic and paranoid, causing serious trauma for Suzette during her childhood. She too was sick in college; however, controls it with her meds. They continue to keep her mother in a nice facility and sometimes she tells herself her mom is really dead.

Suzette does not want to pass this sickness to children. She wants it to end here. She could not be the easy, breezy, fertile wife Hyland might have wanted; however, she would not be made to feel that she was lacking.

They are now ready for surrogacy. Hyland would sire a child. He was delighted with the opportunity of becoming a father. He would medically impregnate someone younger who would carry the baby to term. Suzette could keep working without interruption. It was a win-win. Or so she thought.

Suzette panicked and was scared, similar to PTSD, due to her own childhood dramas. They find what they think is the perfect candidate and was going to pay her $35,000 to cover the cost. However, the gal backs out due to Suzette being busy with work. She was not going to apologize for doing her job.

In the meantime, Suzette deals with life and death daily. Giving life after ending life with tragedy at the hospital. She cared deeply for her patients and she connected better with the babies than the adults. Each was a reminder.

Months pass and there is another candidate. This girl was much younger and inexperienced. She had never been married and never had a child, like the first candidate.

As a last resort, they decide on Dorrie (age 21). She gets pregnant quickly. We hear from different POVs. She worked at Sea-o-Rama feeding penguins. She wanted to escape her life and get off Galveston Island. She could finally move away from her mother and her dull disappointment—away from the stories about her deadbeat dad. It meant a bigger life: college, and a chance to succeed. When she had seen the ad, she knew this was the only way to attain money for college. A way out.

However, could she lease her body, and then hand over her child? She would trade nine months of her life. She earned less than $10.00 hour at her current job. The gift of life. It was love versus money. Which would win out in the end? Could she go through with it? Or escape?

She could drive away from Texas and make a life on Grand Isle, Louisiana. She needed to escape her own sad mom’s depression and alcoholism. However, without money, how would she live and support herself and her unborn child? How will Suzette and Hyland go on knowing their child was out there somewhere?

Dorrie is a dreamer and wants to wrap herself around books and living in a seaside cottage. She dreams of a life with her baby. She is immature and not thinking of how. She cannot live in a motel with no money, especially when this couple had money and would have the cops or PIs after her.

On the run, she meets another lonely girl, Jayne taking care of her own disturbed junkie prostitute mom. Another young girl, trying to escape her surroundings for a better life. Will they find solace in one another? Jayne is intrigued by the girl in room 29. They hit the road together.

Later when an illness arrives, and more problems, things change. However, there are still some secrets which are not revealed until the end.

The author takes us on a hauntingly beautiful emotional heartfelt journey. Told with compassion - from tragedy, pain, loss, and love. What it means to be a mother. A family. When matters of the heart are conflicted. From “The Nearness of You" an old Ella Fitzgerald song, to a desperate search for a mother.

Can a woman who fixes hearts mend one close to her own? Fast forward fifteen years later.

Every character is searching for a mother’s love and acceptance. Guilt. A yearning for atonement. Courage. Your heart goes out to all the flawed characters (they do make some poor choices); a situation when there seems there is no easy way out. Someone will be hurt. What it takes to be a family. They are not always the traditional ones.

I loved the quote: “The mother is the one who stays in the room.” (no matter how difficult, when she wants to run and hide).

I read two moving and beautiful books in a row about motherhood. They come in all shapes and sizes each with their own set of struggles. Highly recommend both: Amanda Eyre Ward’s THE NEARNESS OF YOU and Sally Hepworth’s The Mother's Promise.

A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for a complimentary reading copy in exchange for an honest review.



Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/05/The-Nearness-of-You
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review 2017-01-30 20:33
Review: "Gives Light" (Gives Light, #1) by Rose Christo
Gives Light - Rose Christo

"He broke away from my mouth and trailed his lips down the front of my throat. I felt his lips close around my scars. He kissed away their ugliness. His lips parted in tingling butterfly kisses that drained the strength from my knees. I realized he was mouthing words against my skin.

Not words. Just one word.



Even though I'm WAY past my teen years (*insert heavy sobs GIF here*), I'm still such a sucker for a good YA or NA novel. I think every gay man is. The thought of "How would it have been to meet your one and only, your true soulmate at the age of 16?" has the potential for endless daydreams.



Give me a YA novel with a unique setting (this one's set in an Indian reservation), a first love-story between two teenage boys with a dark history and each of them with their own demons to fight, then add to that some truly beautiful writing (seriously guys, check out my latest updates!) and I'm in book heaven.



I would have given this wonderful and gorgeous story of Skylar and Rafael 5 stars, but I really missed a dual POV. Now I know that I will get Rafael's POV in a later book, but I wanted NEEDED at least a glimpse of his thoughts and inner turmoil in this book, too. Otherwise, this would have been the perfect YA book for me; I was so happy while I was reading it.


A thousand thanks to my friend Trisha who steered me towards this series with her relentless raving. You were absolutely right, love: I LOVED SKYLAR AND RAFAEL! I can't wait to see how their relationship progresses in the next books.



PS: I know this isn't the most coherent or elaborate review in the history of reviews, but I promise I'll do a better job during the next installments of this series. All you need to know at this point is that this book was all that I hoped for and more.


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review 2016-12-25 15:55
Review: "Fierce & Fabulous" (Sassy Boyz, #1) by Elizabeth Varlet
Fierce & Fabulous - Elizabeth Varlet

*** DNF at 61% because of CHEATING! ***


Note: the cheating wasn't completed, but only because Ansel's hookup freaked out when he realized that Ansel was a guy. Ansel would have totally gone through with it though.


So fuck this shit!


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review 2016-12-05 17:28
Review: "Empty Net" (Scoring Chances, #4) by Avon Gale
Empty Net - Avon Gale

"For the first time in his whole life, Laurent played the game out of love instead of hate. But it wasn’t his love of hockey that kept him focused in net.

Every time a puck came toward him and he made a save, he thought, “This is for Isaac.”


This was the best book in this series for me. Mostly because there wasn't a dumbass MC around this time.


And yet, I once again couldn't really connect to either of the MCs. And that's mostly due to the fact that when it comes to the important parts, the writing is more "telling than showing", like Isaac's discovery of Laurent's eating disorder.


Also, this once again felt more like a story about two 17-year-olds rather than two guys in their mid-twenties. I honestly think I would have enjoyed this series WAY more if it would have been set in college, and not in a professional hockey league.


All in all, this was just another "Ok" read for me. I won't hold my breath for the fifth book though.

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review 2016-11-02 20:13
The Other Sister
The Other Sister - Dianne Dixon
ISBN: 1492633542
Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark
Publication Date: 11/1/2016
Format: Other
My Rating: 5 Stars +++  


A special (big) "thank you" to Sourcebooks Landmark and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.  Sooooo Good!

Life is the process of becoming. "It starts with your first breath and stays with you until your last. Just think of the power of it being able to continually reach toward the light. The possibilities are infinite.”

Talented storyteller, Dianne Dixon returns following (2013) The Book of Someday with her best yet, THE OTHER SISTER!. The puzzling, the beautiful concept of forgiveness.

Action-packed, beautifully written, compassionately told, and relentlessly suspenseful!

From saints to sinners, narcissists to decent and caring, love and hate—a wide range of emotions and contrasts; with one of the most profound and stunning journeys of two sisters and the people who come in and out of their lives. Evil versus good. Violence to peace.

A page-turner with all the ingredients to become a bestseller and a box office smash hit!. An emotional, thought-provoking, chilling psychological thriller.

Set in Providence, Rhode Island, a disturbing glimpse into the darkness that can cling to the underside of love. The opening, a mysterious Newport cliffside mansion. A wedding.

In years to come, seemingly random events taking place in the mansion that night would lead to brutal, unexpected violence—and to the discovery of something so bizarre it would be heart-stopping. No one could have known.

Someone would shatter Ali’s life. What would be less painful—to find out it was a stranger or someone close? Someone she loved. Ali was stuck with a lifelong guilt of her sister Morgan’s loneliness.

We hear from alternating POV: Morgan, Ali, Matt There is also another mysterious evil voice sprinkled throughout; however, the reader is kept in the dark until the identity is unveiled with the explosive conclusion (in a highly creative manner).

Ali, the pretty one- marries Matt. There were parts of him that he kept private. Hurts that she assumed were connected. Places no one would ever be allowed to go. Places that were closed and locked. She wanted to own a restaurant to carry out her grandmother's wishes. A husband, family, and a baby.Life gets complicated. An ex-boyfriend Levi. A tragedy. A professional hockey athlete. A dreadful past.

Morgan, an art curator at a museum. A devious selfish miserable witch, living in her sister's shadow. Full of insecurities, blame, spite, bitterness, and evil. She was ordinary. Ali and Morgan were not identical. Fraternal. Two people who shared a womb. Living in her sister's shadow. She seeks justice, revenge, and thinks this will bring balance.

Two sisters. Now age twenty-seven. A complex relationship. Morgan loves her sister. She would kill and die for her, and at the same time furious she even exists because she makes her invisible. Soulmates; thorns and comfort.

Ali has always carried Morgan. However, by Ali turning her back on Morgan, could Morgan possibly see her mistakes and view their relationship from a different perspective? When there is more to show the world than the injuries.

Morgan receives a mistaken text from a mysterious sender. She now calls Sam. He is like a therapist on call. She has never met him; however, his words will change her life. Sometimes the wrong person can turn out to be the right person. Sam was unlike anyone she had ever talked to. Never judgment or criticism.

From Maine, a place called BerryBlue Farm, where two young girls had spent the best time of their lives when they were kids. Not far from the quaint town of Kennebunkport, a loved grandmother’s death.

Memories. Love of cooking. Passions. Family. A sister’s relationship of love and hate. Secrets. Grudges. Guilt. Always a dance between exasperation and delight. From Rhode Island to California—an unleashing; a chain of events spiral out of control. Readers meet a variety of characters, connecting the twin sisters. The mysterious brown suitcase.

There is SO much here beyond the surface. Not only is this a mysterious, domestic suspense, and delicious crime thriller; it is deeply psychological, thought-provoking, and soul-searching. There is tremendous growth from the characters from the beginning of the book to the ending. Wisdom. Faith. Forgiveness. Atonement.

“The place where you don’t forget the hurts, but you let go of them and hold on to the love.”

What sets THE OTHER SISTER apart, is the HOOK! It is bold, engrossing, spellbinding. Character and plot-driven! Dixon never strays with needless side stories. The entire book is heart pounding, not knowing what is coming next. You are glued from page one to the final ending.

Engrossing! An emotional roller coaster of suspense that will keep you guessing until the final page is turned. Even at 94% to the Epilogue, Dixon continues to add compelling twists and turns and many surprises. There is nothing ordinary here, and cannot adequately describe the uniqueness of her writing.

I loved the texting, which again continues the theme of contrasts: revenge texts which destroyed. Mistaken texts, which come to heal.

"Life is a test and we are not here primarily to be happy. Maybe happiness isn't about never having problems. Maybe it's about learning from them."

I would encourage readers to review Dianne Dixon’s blog post-"the inspiration" behind THE OTHER SISTER. My New Book Solved an Old Mystery. (thanks for sharing). It is powerful and a takeaway message for all. An ideal choice for book clubs!

There are many red herrings; however, each and every one was worth the ride. Matt and Sam were the most mysterious of all with the unknowns. (I could almost see another novel featuring Sam's life; intriguing). You root for Ali, and despise Morgan; however, Dixon allows readers to view these characters from the "inside out," and below the surface. The heart of the matter.

Unforgettable characters captivate as they confront their hidden pasts and build upon their futures with faith, love, and grace. People can grow and change. They can keep on giving to each other, no matter what life throws at them. Every moment is a new opportunity to grow and change—the possibilities infinite.

If you appreciated this story of forgiveness, recommend reading Charles Martin’s (2016) Long Way Gone. “The Prodigal Son” retelling with a modern-day twist and Water From My Heart (2015).

THE OTHER SISTER is absolutely amazing! Brilliantly crafted, crossing many genres, making "My Top Books of 2016." Move this one to the "Top" of your list! Trust me, when I say, "it is like no other book I have ever read." Blown Away and stays with you, long after the ending.

Fans of Heather Gudenkauf, Diane Chamberlain, Jodi Picoult, Lisa Scottoline, and Mary Kubica will appreciate the writer's ability to cross several genres, with highly charged emotional topics.

A suspenseful, yet moving tale of lost dreams, unending love, truth seeking and in the end, inspiring redemption and discovery. This one is not to be missed!



Photo credit:
Bill Youngblood Photography




Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/09/04/The-Other-Sister
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