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review 2017-03-27 18:14
Almost Missed You
Almost Missed You: A Novel - Jessica Strawser

By: Jessica Strawser

ISBN: 9781250107602

Publisher:  St. Martin's Press

Publication Date: 3/28/2017 

Format: Other

My Rating: 4 Stars

 
Mind-Expanding! Jessica Strawser delivers a thought-provoking, creative, gripping, page-turning mystery and suspenseful debut, ALMOST MISSED YOU.

The what ifs . . . Meant to be. Almost. Destiny. A Chance Meeting. Imagine if . . . ?

Marriage, friendship, motherhood, romance, trust, and betrayal. Pushing life's boundaries. Life is complex yet intriguing. Providence, the stars, chance, luck, serendipity, fortune, kismet, karma.

"What has fate in store for me?" FATE: The development of events beyond a person's control, regarded as determined by a supernatural power.

2016: Violet and Finn are married with a son named Bear. They are on vacation in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida (North Miami). Life was good. Violet was a great mother. They had met six years ago, on this very beach on the other side of the pier. It was an instant electric connection. However, they were interrupted before they had the chance of exchanging information.

Dominoes. How did they end up together? Were they positioned perfectly? Why were they interrupted?

However, now, years later their well-planned getaway, turns tragic. Had her husband planned this all along?

Violet comes in from the beach to her ninth-floor hotel room to check on her son. Horrified, her son is gone. Her husband is not there. All their belongings are gone. Nothing left but her things. How could this have happened? Every trace of her husband and son were done. As if they had been figments of her imagination.

The author takes us back to 2010, a T-shirt, a camp from Pennsylvania, where the couple met in Sunny Isles Beach, FL. An odd coincidence? Their interruption. An emergency on the beach separated them. Was it meant to be, after all?

Finn comes back from meeting this woman whom he thinks he will never see again. Someone from Cincinnati area. How was it possible they had managed to have a real connection and yet find out so little about each other?

Enter: Craigslist’s Missed Connections. Finn drafted his post. “Care to pick up where fate left off?”

However, the person who replied was not Violet. It was Maribel. A stranger. What if he had not placed the ad? Maribel would not be dead. He would not be self-destructing. A life imploding.

Flashing back and forth from the past to the present, Violet is frantic. The police are involved. The FBI. An investigation. No one has found her husband and child.

Their best friends: Caitlin and her husband, George. They had twin boys close to the same age as Bear. Caitlin and Finn were friends since college. Why on earth would Finn do such a thing? How could any wife be as truly blindsided as Violet had been?

Finn’s parents were dead. He had a secret past. Perhaps, PTSD? Things Violet did not know. The investigation brings things to light, about her husband and friend. What would make him do such a drastic thing? She must get her son back. Could Missed Connections be the answer once again?

From Finn, Caitlin, to Violet, the suspense and emotions are high. Violet soon learns Finn was not the husband and man she thought he was at all. He was a kidnapper.

Finn soon blackmails Caitlin. George is a powerful man and comes from prestigious political family. Caitlin knows his reputation is at stake. Finn wants to hide out in their Kentucky remote cabin until he gets his head on straight.

Now Caitlin is caught between her best friend, Violet and sympathizes with her being a mother— to being fearful that Finn could ruin her own marriage and family with a secret. Guilt and fear. The consequences were terrifying.

Dark secrets from the past.

Lined up perfectly, yet so many things crossed their path. The first time they met. Years later. The reconnection. What had happened during all those years in between?

Finn knew he needed to give back Bear to Violet; however, could not stand to let him go. He could no longer see a way for them both to have him together. He could not see a way for Violet to remain in his life at all. Not after everything that had happened.

The metaphor. The dominoes.

“There had been 1,001 chances and reason for them not to end up together. And there was really only one chance, and really only one reason, for it to go the other way.”

Finn’s survivor guilt (Maribel), is at the heart of the story. Caitlin and Violet are secondary.

Wow! Strawser delivers an intriguing debut. Complex, well-written, and unputdownable. Readers will be frustrated, nerve-wracked, and engaged all at the same time. The showdown at the cabin will have you on pins and needles. For fans of mystery, domestic suspense, psychological, and contemporary.

So many questions . . . False or real? Trust. Life, marriage, friendships, love? Do you really know the people you are friends with and the person you are married to? Why do people choose to ignore all the signs? Do we settle?

However, as they say, “Life is like an elevator. On your way up, sometimes you have to stop and let some people off.”

We all have looked back at a job offer in California, New York, Arizona, or a life choice? The what ifs? How would my life be different if I had made a different choice? Taken an alternate path. Two roads. Which one? Will the outcome be the same, or dramatically different?

Whether you have or have not had a chance encounter in your lifetime, a special person, time or place, ALMOST MISSED YOU will make you contemplate. The what if? An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions.

In a recent online interview with the author:
. . . “The idea for ‘Almost Missed You’ comes from my own fascination with the idea of fate and the importance people put on meeting ‘the one,’ and on what’s supposedly meant to be,” Jessica explains. “We place such cultural importance on how couples meet, how paths cross and fates intertwine. I wanted to explore if that’s always for the best.”


She indeed accomplishes her goal.

From Cincinnati, OH, a remote cabin in Kentucky to some of my familiar places I have lived and worked: Asheville, NC, Sunny Isles (North Miami), and St. Augustine, FL . . . the author takes us on a journey. How these places, people, things . . . connect and bring together the story of memories, what happened and what did not.

Cannot wait to see what comes next!

For fans of Kimberly S. Belle, Paula Treick DeBoard, Renee Carlino, Colleen Hoover, Kate Moretti, Laura McNeill, and Emilie Richards. Some of my favorites.

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

JDCMustReadBooks

 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/03/Almost-Missed-You
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review 2017-03-26 19:48
It Happens All the Time
It Happens All the Time: A Novel - Amy Hatvany

By: Amy Hatvany

ISBN:1476704457

Publisher: Atria

Publication Date: 3/28/2017

Format: Hardcover

My Rating:  5 Stars

 

One of my all-time favorite authors, Amy Hatvany returns following Somewhere Out There (2016) with her most emotional and timely book yet: IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME — an exploration into two different experiences of rape.

View the author's powerful video. Author, wife, mother, friend, rape survivor.

A girl. A guy. Childhood friends. Consent. Rape. Their families. A tragedy which changes everything. A desperate need for justice and revenge.

There is one thing (well, more than one) you can come to expect from Amy Hatvany: She is not afraid to tackle tough issues of the heart, with honesty and superbly researched topics —critical for today’s contemporary woman, no matter the age.

Amber Bryant and Tyler Hicks have grown up together. Best friends from an early age through teen years. Their parents were friends. Ty comes from and abusive father. The Bryants took Ty and his mom under their wing and have always included them in family activities.

Amber has had food and self-esteem issues throughout her life. Tyler battles his self-esteem issues with his father. Amber always thinking she is fat, to the point she almost lost her life. It is a topic her parents to this day are sensitive about when they note her eating habits.

Tyler has always been her very best friend. He has always been in love with her. The feeling has not been mutual. From Amber’s side, it is more friendship, not love. Now Amber has graduated from college and is engaged to be married. She returns home to visit with her family and runs into Tyler. Tyler stayed in town and become a local paramedic.

Both Amber and Tyler are experiencing things in their own individual lives. Both are troubled in different ways. Even though Amber is engaged to med student Daniel, Tyler is excited to have his old friend back in town. Deep down he always hopes he has a shot. Amber starts second guessing her decision to get married.

They go out and have too much to drink, which leads to a sexual encounter. Things get out of control and Amber says, “no.” Tyler does not stop. This devastating experience changes the dynamics of this couple and everyone close to them, including their family, forever.

Hatvany explores both sides of the story, combined with her own raw emotion and personal tragedy. A sense of powerlessness and self-destruction behavior.

Amber doubts herself. How could this have happened? Her best friend. How could not remember the events and how they unfolded? What happened to consent? She soon becomes obsessed with taking the matter into her own hands. She will force him into admitting what he had done. Was he more like his dad than he wanted to admit?

The characters grapple with themselves as well as one another. Exploring healthy and unhealthy ways people respond to and recover from trauma, including revenge, therapy, obsession, denial, eating disorders, drug abuse, sex, support groups, social withdrawal, exercise, legal action, and violence.

 

A compelling look at a topic of rape; which is brushed under the radar more often than we may expect. Especially when the victim knows the other party.

Furthermore, when the parents are friends and the person is someone you have trusted your entire life, and now has betrayed you. Shattered lives. Someone will have to pay for the injustice.

Often the law fails the victim. More than one will have to possess the courage to step up and admit their mistakes and be prepared for the consequences. When events are not always black and white. Moral lines are crossed.

Powerful storytelling. Emotionally gripping. Struggling with the aftermath of rape, and domestic violence.

For fans of Diane Chamberlain, Heather Gudenkauf, Jodi Picoult, Liane Moriarty, Jennifer Weiner, and Sarah Pekkanen. An ideal choice for book clubs and further discussions. Another winner by Hatvany!

On a side note: When posting a review, I often link to the previous book, read by the author. However, when I scrolled back to reference all the books I have read by Hatvany, I noticed each book was a "5-star rating!" How often does an author consistently deliver quality, high-charged absorbing and timely issues?

It is rare. Why I wanted to include all the book reviews here by the author, for those of you which may be new to Amy Hatvany. An author you will soon move to the "top" of your favorite author list. Each book one is uniquely different with a critical takeaway message.

2011 Best Kept Secret
2012 The Language of Secrets
2012 Outside the Lines
2013 Heart Like Mine
2014 Safe With Me
2016 Somewhere Out There

A special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an early reading copy. Stunning cover. Would make a great movie.

JDCMustReadBooks

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/08/19/It-Happens-all-the-Time
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review 2017-03-14 12:58
Never Let You Go
Never Let You Go - Chevy Stevens
ISBN: 9781250034564
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Publication Date:  3/14/2017 
Format:  Other
My Rating: 5 Stars

 

Chevy Stevens returns following Those Girls (2015), with yet another top notch Sleeping with the Enemy psychological domestic suspense thriller on steroids!

A long-time Stevens fan, reading every book she creatively crafts, and anxiously awaiting the next — Stevens once again showcases her highly creative plotting skills, an engrossing narrative, and her "signature ingredient" of keeping readers surprised, with her famous twists, while moving seamlessly between timelines.

Starting in November 2005, we meet Lindsey, married to Andrew and daughter Sophie. She knows one thing: She had to leave her husband. There was no more time. No matter what it took, no matter how risky it was, she had to get Sophie away from him. She needed to protect her daughter. She is terrified.

As with all domestic abusers, they remove all their victim's friends and financial resources, to keep them under their thumb.

Flash forward to 2016. Lindsey and Sophie are now living in Dogwood Bay. She has started a new life. She hopes the past is in the past. Or is it? Andrew has spent time in prison. He wants her to suffer. He was going to make her pay for every year he spent behind bars. He was now a free man and he was going to find her.

Is someone watching? Is Andrew back to act out his revenge?

Stevens flashes back and forth from between these two timelines and even further back to 1997 when the couple met. We hear from Lindsey and Sophie’s POV. The master manipulator. Is there more than one? Who can be trusted?

When she left him years ago, after drugging him, to enable their escape—there was a car accident. A young woman was dead. Someone had to pay.

From Sleeping with the Enemy, The Perfect Guy, Fatal Attraction and more, we always love the intensity of unfortunate protagonists finding themselves stuck with Mr, Crazy. Intense. The man masked behind the chilling monster inside. Unfortunately, not until too late, does he reveal his true self. Then the victim finds themselves risking their lives and others to escape.

As always, a master storyteller, Stevens adds her own clever twist. There is nothing ordinary or similar to this tale. A cautionary tale screaming “Do not trust anyone.” When you least expect someone, crosses your path. When you are most vulnerable, most trusting. They may seek you out for their own revenge.

Stevens delivers her most riveting grip-lit yet. The brutality of domestic violence. Frighteningly real, and all too familiar for many. In addition, it is among the hardest to witness, as for why many are free to continue on their destructive path, until it is often, too late.

The author knows how to build suspense, and keep readers on the edge of their seat From the darkest obsessions, the entrapment, control, and evil.

By adding Sophie’s POV, she reaches outside the couple to hear the fear of a child, a sense of loyalty, the consequences, and strong pull between the troubled parent's abusive relationship.

If you enjoy the TV series, Big Little Lies —you will be thinking of Celeste (Nichole Kidman) and Perry Wright (Alexander Skarsgård). This guy totally gives me the creeps. He reminds me of my ex-husband. Rich, powerful, and crazy.

Highly recommend. For all my Chevy Stevens' GR Book Reviews. Trust me, you will want to read this one. Mark out the time. Unputdownable.

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

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/09/30/Never-Let-You-Go
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review 2017-03-10 10:09
Ill Will
Ill Will - Dan Chaon

By: Dan Chaon

ISBN: 9780345476043

Publisher:  Random House  

Publication Date: 3/7/2017 

Format: Other 

My Rating: 4 Stars 

 

Psychologically complex Dan Chaon’s ILL WILL is a dark, haunting, and twisty suspense thriller full of madness, tragedy, murder, grief, and despair. Cancer, drugs, addictions, and satanic evil.

"We meet our destiny on the road we take to avoid it." —Jean De La Fontaine.

Dustin Tillman is a suburban Cleveland psychiatrist. Father of two teenage boys, Aaron and Dennis. His wife, Jill dying of cancer, and one of his patients is now recruiting him to help investigate the drownings of young men that seem to match a pattern. He is struggling with his own past. He is the survivor.

In 1983, when he was thirteen years old, his mother, father, aunt, and uncle were murdered. Dustin accused his adopted older brother, Rusty (attracted to Satanism) of the crime. Rusty was incarcerated.

What really happened with the violent murder during a summer holiday in 1983? Two unsolved crimes. Past and Present.

 



"In the end it is the mystery that lasts and not the explanation."—Sacheverell Sitwell, For Want of the Golden City.

Now he has been exonerated and released. Thirty some years after Dustin’s testimony put him away for murdering their parents, aunt, and uncle. Now DNA evidence clears him of the crime.

From dark family secrets and deceit, this is one creepy grisly disturbing book. Unnerving, moody and atmospheric. Emotionally wrenching and complex.

Plot-driven, the author uses impressive skill and control, as he crosses multiple narratives with different perspectives— for a mind-bending saga which will leave your head spinning. An exploration of memories, delusion, and self-deception.

". . . Every memory he thinks of now is discolored and ugly. The past suddenly has vanished from underneath him, distorted, memories turned into something he doesn't recognize, something malevolent."

The author keeps the evil, despair, terror and suspense high. Exploring humanity’s darker side. If you are looking for a relaxing read, move on. However, you if like crossing over to the darker side, and enjoy well-written complex literary/pulp fiction thrillers, you may enjoy the scary intense ride.

A special thank you to Random House, LibraryThing Early Reviewers, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/02/08/Ill-Will
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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.

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2016/10/05/The-Nearness-of-You
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