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review 2017-04-26 04:27
Anything is Possible
Anything Is Possible - Elizabeth Strout

By: Elizabeth Strout

ISBN: 9780812989403

Publisher: Random House

Publication Date: 4/25/2017  

Format: Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars +

 
From the author of My Name is Lucy Barton and the smashing hit Olive Kitteridge the HBO mini-series starring Frances McDormand (I loved) — Elizabeth Strout once again "wows" readers and her avid fans, with her insights into the human psyche — when ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.

Extraordinary novels, deftly combining lyrical prose with heartrending subject matter. A desperate need to be understood and accepted.

Compelling! Nine powerful and emotional stories. Grace and forgiveness. Flawed people who have experienced tragedy and haunting childhoods, abuse, mental illness, injustice, poverty, bullying, regrets, torment, war trauma, imploding lives, marriage problems, and severe loss.

People who hide behind social status. A sense of entitlement. Those who have survived and yet still remain with their own scars. There have been deep fissures in each of these families. The cracks. Some have been pushed to the breaking point, with shattering, unforeseeable consequences.

If you read My Name Is Lucy Barton (highly recommend), you may be rushing back to the title to refresh yourself, as I found myself doing.

Lucy came from a poor and dysfunctional family. She was determined and managed to escape the small town of Amgash, IL. She was diligent and became a successful author. She ultimately forgave her parents.

However, the scars of her past and the people who shaped her life, and the way she was treated by her family, siblings, and people of this town have haunted her.

Strout takes us back to some of the characters, cousins, family members, neighbors, school classmates, and siblings. We learn of the heartaches and fears, the narrow-minded thinking of these people. Where are these people today? Discovering how harsh words and actions stay with people. A profound message.

Even when someone succeeds, there are those who try and tear down the things we are most proud of. Each story sends a powerful message. Who do they blame? Are they accountable for their actions?

Broken people. Such hope for us all if only can learn to communicate. Not only with our families but the people whom we come in contact with on a daily basis. Intuitive. Being able to help those who need someone to care.

We can see from the outside a dysfunctional family can fall prey to those in a small town who do not really understand what's going on with the family as a whole, or those that make up the family (s).

We each have our own favorite stories in the collection. I enjoyed the story of Tommy, Pete, Patty, and Lucy’s return to town which did not go as expected when Vicky (sister) brings up the horrors of the past and Lucy has a panic attack driving her away. I also enjoyed the people from her past which showed up at her book signing.

Family dysfunction, problems, and crossing social classes; people are mean and they are ugly. A cruel world and Strout does not hold back. A reminder to us all. One act of compassion, caring, or kindness can make all the difference in the word.

The characters in the nine stories are shaped and at the same time, haunted by their past. They still feel trapped by the difficulties in their present day relationships and their inability to say how they truly feel. The author is a master at drawing you into the lives of her characters as she weaves in her powerful observations of human complexities and interactions. From anger, frustration, and bullying mixed with fear and cruelty.

I love this stand-out author! Her writing just keeps getting better and betters. Beautifully written, with each book I read, it makes me return to re-read or perhaps one I missed. Strout is authentic, prolific, and has mastered her skilled craft at getting inside her character’s heads, heart, and soul. They come alive on the page. ?

If you come from a small town and you happen to be the one who left and got away (I am) and became successful— you will resonate with these stories. Often those left behind are often bitter and resentful, and lash out in hateful ways and try to destroy another’s happiness when they do not have the facts. Their views are narrow and they do not think big and wide outside the box. They could have made the choice to leave. Everyone has choices. How hard do we want to strive for a better life is the question.

If you have not watched Olive Kitteridge I highly recommend. I want to watch it over and over. It stays with you. I am hoping we will get to see Anything is Possible and My Name is Lucy Barton, will be played out on the big screen. These are powerful stories that people can connect with on many levels.

There is always hope, forgiveness, and love amidst the imperfections. We are reminded that in life Anything is Possible!

For me the Washington Post article by Susan Scarf Merrell offers the perfect summary of ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE:

. . . “These stories return Strout to the core of what she does more magnanimously than anyone else, which is to render quiet portraits of the indignities and disappointments of normal life, and the moments of grace and kindness we are gifted in response.

Such a simple goal, so difficult to achieve. Each of these stories stands alone, but they are richer in juxtaposition to the others. And that’s because over the years, from angle after angle, Strout has been packing and unpacking how silence works — between people, within a single person, on the page, in the spaces between stories.

Omission is where you find what makes a writer a writer; it is in the silences where forgiveness and wisdom grow, and it is where Strout’s art flourishes. This new book pushes that endeavor even further.” . . . Read More


Well said. I just purchased Amy and Isabelle and Abide with Me audiobooks, I missed along the way. Highly recommend this author.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in." —Leonard Cohen

This book reminds me of a plaque I have on my desk:
"Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people."
I am reminded of this each time I return to my small hometown and family. Fans of Fredrik Backman will enjoy the exploration of small town characters and the examination of the fragile human spirit.

A special thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/01/Anything-Is-Possible
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review 2017-04-18 06:51
Gone Without a Trace
Gone Without a Trace - Mary Torjussen

By: Mary Torjussen 

ISBN: 9780399585012

Publisher: Berkley 

Publication Date: 4/18/2017 

Format: Other 

My Rating: 3 Stars

 
US Blog Tour Host April 18

GONE WITHOUT A TRACE by Mary Torjussen is a twisty suspense of domestic suspense. When things are not always as they seem. Dark secrets are revealed, a learned behavior with a role reversal in play.

Hannah, age thirty-two is all about appearances. Material possessions, status, and seeking her dad’s approval. Underneath, she is insecure. She is a grown woman and has managed to gain a position as a senior manager for a large accounting firm. She knows her dad would be proud.

She has been away at a training conference in Liverpool and on her 200-mile drive home to her live-in boyfriend, Matt to celebrate. However, when she arrives at home with the champagne, Matt is not home, nor any of his belongings. He has stripped everything in their house of his. Her things are still there in the same place.

At first, she thinks it is a burglar; however, the more she investigates, she realizes some of the more expensive stuff is still there. Things she brought into the relationship.

Everything has been removed erasing all existence of Matt. Including emails, phone numbers, social media, photos, etc. She cannot understand why he left without even a note and she is not able to get in touch with him. Hannah unravels with a capital U.

We learn early on Hannah is an unreliable narrator. You know there is something else going on. Is she blocking out something or events leading up to the time she left for her trip? Delusional?

She recruits her childhood friend Katie and boyfriend James and we soon learn these two have a past. Katie and Hannah are always trying out do one another. Plus then she begins receiving texts and strange things occurring. Is someone playing with her, or is she just plain nuts? Move on. He clearly wants away from you.

Hannah, was maddening! No likable characters here unless it was possibly the mom, which did not a strong voice in the novel. An overbearing controlling dad. She soon loses her career-obsessed with her personal life. She is disturbing.

Even though I had high hopes, here is my take: The first 10% was a great set up. It pulled me in. The next 70% was an obsessive Hannah and crazy friend Katie (could have done without all of this). This could have been covered in one simple chapter. It just went on and on. . .

She actually drove me nuts. I was ready to push her out my 15th-floor apartment window. This girl with a so-called career is now a total mess and narcissistic (she possesses all the signs). Ready to give up on the book numerous times and finally just skipped over all this drama, otherwise would have been a DNF. I knew then I did not like this gal. Very self-absorbed. Do not blame the poor guy for leaving.

Nothing changed until we get to the 80% point (I actually looked down) to see where the action actually started. At this point, hooked again. Of course, the very end, not crazy about though. Basically, if you retain the 30% which was good, then remove all the middle drama, and possibly replace those parts with a dual timeline (Hannah’s childhood) POV.

What I would love to have seen: A POV from Hannah’s mom, would have been interesting. Possibly Hannah’s dad, even Hannah’s POV as a child; then switch to Matt POV or James. Possibly some from Hannah in the present (not all Hannah).

I think the different perspectives and dual timeline would have enhanced the overall book and still deliver a nice domestic suspense thriller. As well, as bringing in some good research and facts about domestic abuse and violence in the home, and how this affects children through adulthood, as well as the male/female role reversal.

Mild spoilers here: Especially the learned behavior and the woman being the abuser versus the man. It is not serving our society well to downplay the fact female violence can also be lethal, towards men and towards children: women account for more than half of all murders of children. Most family violence is two-way aggression as well. Given the shame and stigma associated with being a male victim of family violence, it is not surprising that men downplay these experiences in victim surveys. Sure, there are more than we are aware of.

Children witnessing any form of family violence, including couple violence, suffer high rates of mental health problems and the children are more likely to be violent themselves.

As we have discovered through the hit series Big Little Lies, how domestic violence trickles down through our children with bullying and other fatal events in our schools. This would have been a great opportunity to play in the male versus female reversal role, and show both sides. Of course, I did not care for the book, Big Little Lies, either, however, loved the TV series!

Not to take anything away from the author, she is very talented; however, I would have loved this one to take a different route. GONE WITHOUT A TRACE is one which will receive a wide range of reviews due to the way the story plays out, as indicated.

A special thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/09/02/Gone-Without-a-Trace
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review 2017-04-11 12:24
The Night the Lights Went Out
The Night the Lights Went Out - Karen White

ISBN: 9780451488381

Publisher: Berkley 

Publication Date: 4/11/2017 

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars + + +

 

Top Books of 2017

* Join Me. Blog Tour Host April 11 * THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT It’s the first novel Karen has set in her hometown of Atlanta. We are celebrating every day for two whole weeks!


Destined for the Big Screen (see my cast selection on my blog) The queen of the south, Karen White returns following Flight Patterns on my Top 50 Books of 2016 with the highly anticipated THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT.

As sweet as a Georgia peach, and as scandalous as Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, and Big Little Lies. Set aside the time, readers . . . you are going to love Sugar!

The Southern Queen B has created her best yet! Yay Atlanta . . . From the stunning WOW cover and the memorable characters, Karen White grabs you and pulls you into this Southern suburban neighborhood filled with drama, revenge, secrets and lies, while exploring the true meaning of friendship. It is not always as it appears.

Alternating between the 1930s Depression-era Georgia and a modern-day 2016 Sweet Apple, Georgia (fictional) suburb of north Atlanta. Let the games begin.

Meet the 3 leading ladies:
• Merilee Talbot Dunlap, newly divorcée, single mom, mysterious past
• Alice Prescott Bates, Matriarch aka Sugar Prescott, landlady
• Heather Blackford, Socialite, beautiful, perfectionist

An anonymous blogger offers up entertaining essential Southernisms any Yankee in the South should know, sprinkled throughout. “It’s never about the secret itself, but the keeping of it.”

From the wealthy private school, social climbing moms to a young single divorced mom who discover (the hard way) . . . the true meaning of friendship and the dangers of deception.

Against the modern-day scandals, we meet matriarch Sugar Prescott who is at the center of the novel. A grounding force. A courageous woman you want on your side. Sugar is wise, and has had her own share of tragedy and can relate to her new tenant, on more than one level.

Merilee Talbot Dunlap had learned in eleven years of marriage, it was the simple fact that you could live with a person for a long time and never really know him. One day the mask slips. Her husband, Michael has an affair with their daughter’s third-grade math teacher, Tammy. Merilee decides she does not want to stay in the house with all the reminders. She was traded in for a younger woman. She needs to escape from all the gossip.

However, she is unaware, it may be the lesser of two evils. What lies ahead at the new location, may be even more devastating.

Merilee is the mother of ten-year-old old daughter Lily and eight-year-old Colin. They were now moving into a quaint furnished Craftsman historic cottage (with a cellar) for tornados, located behind Mrs. Prescott’s farmhouse in Sweet Apple, GA.

The landlord is a southern matriarch and well-respected in the community. Some say she is harsh. She is known as Sugar. She is widowed (Tom was killed in the war) and no children. A mystery to some. Fascinating and eccentric to others.

Sugar Prescott (Alice Prescott Bates) is ninety-four years old (what a great character)! She lives alone in an old farmhouse on her family’s land. Her loyal best friend Willa Faye Mackenzie. Willa Faye moved to a senior living facility. While Sugar was staying put as long, as possible. A realtor had found the young mother and her two children as her new tenants.

Not that she had any desire to befriend her new tenants and neighbor, but Sugar had the feeling that Merilee was suddenly on her own and in need of help. Sugar was in a position, to understand that need more than most. She suspected but would deny if anyone asked, that she was getting soft in her old age.

Of course, Sugar did not realize this single mother would be this young and pretty. Mid-thirties. She wonders what happened to her marriage? Surely the woman had flaws. Sugar soon discovers a few. Heaven forbid, the woman does not even know how to cook, nor does she know her proper Southern graces! Sugar must teach her a thing, or two.

. . . “At least by the end of the day, you’ll know how to bake cookies and fry okra. Because it might be against the law for a Southern-born girl not to know how. Along with changing a tire.” . . .

Despite all her attempts to keep her new tenant at arm’s length, a tenuous connection had been formed. They may have more in common that they may suspect. Merilee at first thinks Sugar is a little strange and is judging her. However, soon their bond strengthens.

The best award-winning part Think: To Kill a Mockingbird This is where White always "shines" with the historical past and dual timelines. Sugar begins telling Merilee bits and pieces of her life on the farm as a girl during the Depression, starting from 1934.

Normally she is closed-mouthed about her past (in a world of oversharing), she likes keeping some things to herself. However, somehow, she feels comfortable opening up to this younger version of herself.

Sugar’s dark life during the Depression in Sweet Apple provides a very different look at life compared to the present-day of the same town, especially those in Heather’s world.

A nice edition to the story: Wade Kimball is Willa Faye’s grandson, and he looks in on Sugar. The developer, and handyman. He helps with any of the maintenance issues for Sugar and her new tenant.

As Merilee and her children begin to get settled in, she meets a variety of moms. One, in particular, Heather, which is like “perfection.” The perfect wife, mother, house, children, food, social standing, glamorous, clothes, and home (s) with the good-looking nice husband, Daniel. Merilee feels inferior next to her.

As the kids become involved in their new school and Merilee in carpools and committees. She just wants to be accepted, like a kid at school. Peer pressure is tough. Soon her daughter comes home and tells her about this anonymous blogger.

It is called: THE PLAYING FIELDS BLOG. Observations of Suburban Life from Sweet Apple, Georgia Written by Your neighbor. Who is this person and how does she know so much about their Sweet Apple lives?

The blogger dishes out a variety of gossip and offers a few Southernism tidbits for all the newbies at the end of each installment. No one knows but they think it could be a mom at Windwood since she seems to know a lot about what goes on at school, the community, and their lives. (yes it is spicy, sassy, and oh so funny)!

In the meantime, the perfectionist mother Heather at school is befriending her. Merilee gets pulled in by the attention and her affluent lifestyle. She has taken her under her wing. Merilee grabs on, desperate for new friends and acceptance. Looks can be deceiving. Of course, Sugar does not trust her. A backstory here. Merilee also has a mysterious past; however, she is not so forthcoming, until it all unravels later.

Between Sugar’s stories from the past, Merilee’s own drama with her wealthy friends in the present; the school, her children, her ex-husband, his girlfriend, and a baby on the way, worrying about measuring up to her new friend Heather, and the constant reminders of her life from an unknown blogger and social media; she feels like she is on a reality TV show.

. . . and there are some other strange happenings. Daniel and Heather are acting weird. Plus, Merilee has her own memories and guilt from the past which may be coming back to haunt her.

Then someone is murdered at the lake house (Lake Lanier). The suspicions are pointing to Merilee. Is someone setting her up? How will she prove she is innocent based on her past? What motive do they have for hurting her?

From murder, attempted murder, revenge, and a tornado. It wouldn’t be the South without a little drama and deceit sprinkled with some sugar. Female friendships are at the heart of this page-turner.

5 Stars +++ Top books of 2017! Move this one to the TOP of your list. You are going to love it! (cover obsession) Karen White just keeps getting better and better.

From southern "grit lit", a murder mystery, historical, women's fiction, domestic suspense, family drama, motherhood, social media, bullying, friendship, romance, humor, contemporary, to psychological and suspense! THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT has it all!

Grab a hammock, a swing, head to the beach, or a front porch rocking chair. Mark out the time and sit back and be prepared to be entertained Southern savvy style!

For my movie cast wishlist and more about this exciting book and author, Visit my Blog

A special thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an early reading copy. I also purchased the audiobook for an outstanding Southern performance.

JDCMustReadBooks 

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Karen White is one of my favorite southern writers. As a Southerner, myself, (NC/SC, GA, FL), she makes us proud. BTW, now I know where she gets her beauty . . . from Mississippi, of course.

Book Giveaway Contest
Congrats to the winner: Amy Sullivan, Prescott Valley AZ! In celebration of upcoming blog tour:Book Giveaway April 4-11 Flight Patterns  now in paperback format, in time for beach weather.  Thanks for all the participation and entries.


I enjoyed the inspiration behind the book and Author Q&A
of what's coming next. Atlanta Magazine

Audiobook: I am currently listening. So good. Listen to Clip
Narrated by: Carolyn Cook , Susan Larkin, Tiffany Morgan.

Driving Tour with Karen Watch Video From Rena Olsen.

For more Blog Tour author tidbits

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/20/The-Night-the-Lights-Went-Out
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review 2017-04-09 05:52
The Widow of Wall Street
The Widow of Wall Street: A Novel - Randy Susan Meyers

By:  Randy Susan Meyers

ISBN: 9781501131349

Publisher:  Atria Books

Publication Date: 4/11/2017 

Format:  Hardcover

My Rating: 5 Stars 

 

Randy Susan Myers returns following Accidents of Marriage (2014) with her latest riveting domestic suspense, THE WIDOW OF WALL STREET bold and edgy an inside look at betrayal in a marriage.

The blind love, lies, dark secrets; the unraveling, devastation, and the need to rebuild a life after the fallout of Wall Street and a fraudulent husband's Ponzi scheme. Was the wife living in denial?

Phoebe and Jake met when they were teens. Jake and Phoebe come from different backgrounds. Jake is obsessed with money and success. He wants and needs a different future than his childhood. He thinks this will earn him the respect he craves.

Phoebe makes a wrong decision, leading her to guilt and loyalty to Jake. They marry, despite her overbearing mom’s warning.

He soon excels and opens a brokerage house. Things go well. However, soon greed, power, and money get in the way. He is dishonest. He thinks it is temporary. He has a private fund. A Ponzi scheme. A crime soon to be uncovered. The time bomb. Fraud.

Phoebe is blind to it all. The money is flowing – wealth, prestige, homes, and power,

Starting from Nov 2009, we learn Jake is now in prison. They have lost everything. Phoebe takes a Greyhound bus to the upstate NY correctional prison. She despises him. He still has her under his thumb, worrying about what she is wearing and appearances. He still has not acknowledged his part in the disaster.

However, Phoebe is struggling. She has taken her husband’s side over her children, causing a huge strain. Her children are strangers to her now. She must face Jake’s crime. The wife of a demon.

Her entire marriage had been a battle against being known only as Jake’s wife—now she feared the battle could be over for good. She had become a widow to a living man and a childless mother.

How did they get to this place? People wondered if she knew. Was she this naïve? She trusted this man. Her life is shattered. How many people has he fooled? A monster.

The author takes us back to the early days to the 1960s, where we hear from two points of view: Phoebe and Jake. The roller coaster ride from mansions, and wealth to prison.

When yet another tragedy occurs, Phoebe is forced to make a decision. She has to cut Jake free, even though he felt he could straddle the world on other’s people’s legs. Love and loss. Survival. He had squandered and cheated people and fooled millionaires, and lessons never learned.

Can Phoebe survive this disaster and come out whole once again? A different person perhaps?

The author does an outstanding job with the couple's journey from both perspectives. What a ride. The dark secrets of a husband and his scheming. A financial empire crumbling. The betrayal. From domestic suspense to psychological.

If you enjoyed the Madoff miniseries, (good), assured to find THE WIDOW OF WALL STREET engaging. Of course, in Palm Beach we hear his name often; however, Trump has taken over the spotlight here on the island.

Randy Susan Myers tackles highly charged topics, telling deeply personal stories of women. Their complexities, fear, pride and despair are woven brilliantly into the absorbing narrative.

Fans of Jodi Picoult, Diane Chamberlain, (A Stolen Marriage) Kimberly S. Belle (The Marriage Lie) and Liane Moriarty (Big Little Lies) will appreciate the complex relationships and the emotional inner lives of women in crisis.

Read the backstory.

A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/09/01/The-Widow-of-Wall-Street
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review 2017-04-05 22:59
One Perfect Lie
One Perfect Lie - Lisa Scottoline

By: Lisa Scottoline

ISBN: 978-1250099563

Publisher: St. Martin's Press

Publication Date: 4/11/2017

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 4 Stars

 

Lisa Scottoline returns following Most Wanted landing on my Top Books of 2016 with her latest, ONE PERFECT LIE. A mysterious new teacher lands at a high school. Is he a fraud?

A twisty suburban crime thriller, keeping you on the edge-of-your-seat, classic Scottoline style.

“Lying to ourselves is more deeply ingrained than lying to others." — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Chris Brennan is applying for a teaching job at Central Valley High School, but he is not forthcoming about his past. He had scoped out the school and the teachers in advance.

After all, everyone liked a clean-cut guy, and they tended to forget that appearances were deceiving.

 



Even a fake resume. His resume says he went to Northwest College in Wyoming. He even picked a housing development nearby, Valley Oaks.

The small town is located in south-central Pennsylvania, known for its outlet shopping. No one would imagine what he was up to. His story was his parents passed away five years earlier in a car crash (drunk driver). An only child he says, so he decided to come to the area for higher pay and he loved kids.

Chris led the officials at school to believe he wanted to be accessible to his students on email, social media and believed in personal contact and mutual respect. He also said he coached. He even applied for the assistant baseball varsity coach position.

What better way to get connected? He was setting up a plan. Chris is not who he pretends to be.

What is his motive?

Chris bonds immediately with students. Can he fool the other teachers? Can he be trusted?

We meet a variety of moms, students, and teachers. Susan, Raz, Heather, Justin, Mindy, and Evan. The baseball team. Chris keeps abreast all the families and all the activities. Will he accomplish his mission? He puts his plan in place.

Mr. Y (Abe Yomes) gay, African American who teaches eleventh grade. He also lived in the town with his partner Jamie who owned a realty company. He is from Wyoming (for real).

Soon enough, however, Mr. Y is dead, an apparent suicide, and Chris is ready to move forward with his plan. There are certain people he needs to befriend. They are all part of his plan. Chris targets three teenage boys.

Absorbing and entertaining, you never know what is going on in suburbia. Domestic terrorism? Justice? Take a walk down Wisteria Lane. Domestic suspense is all the rave today. What goes on "behind closed doors" in normal neighborhoods. The lies we tell ourselves as well as each other.

Action-packed family drama, a thriller complex ride with lots of twists, turns, secrets, cover-ups, and suspense. Scottoline once again surprises her readers with contemporary issues and topics which filter into our lives.

A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an early reading copy.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

Praise  

 

"Scottoline keeps the pace relentless as she drops a looming threat into the heart of an idyllic suburban community, causing readers to hold their breath in anticipation." –Booklist
 
"Readers can be assured that the author nails the high school milieu, from athletic rivalries to sexting...they're in for one thrilling ride." –Kirkus Reviews
 
"Entertaining...This fast-paced read culminates in a daring chase that would play well on the big screen." –Publishers Weekly
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/11/04/One-Perfect-Lie
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