The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

Book Review: The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

The Dilemma by B.A. Paris

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BOOK INFO

Title: The Dilemma
Author: B.A. Paris
Publisher: St. Martin
Publish Date: June 30, 2020
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 4/5


BOOK BLURB

A woman’s birthday party takes a dark turn in a poignant, heart-stopping new novel from the reigning queen of suspense, NYT and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, and Bring Me Back.

Knowing the truth will destroy her. Keeping it secret will destroy him.

It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and her husband Adam is throwing her the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding they never had. Everyone she loves will be there, except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But Livia is secretly glad Marnie won’t be there.

Livia has recently uncovered a secret about their daughter which, if revealed, will shake the foundation of their family to its core. She needs to tell Adam, but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.

Adam, meanwhile, has his own surprise for Livia: he’s arranged for Marnie to secretly fly back for the party. But before Marnie arrives, Adam hears some terrible news. Now he too is faced with a dilemma: Does he share what he’s learned with his wife? Is hiding the truth the same as telling a lie? And how far are Adam and Livia willing to go to protect the ones they love—and give each other a last few hours of happiness?

The Dilemma by B.A. Paris
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MY REVIEW

Livia and Adam have been married for years, but they never had the big wedding or other big celebrations. Livia wants a big party for her 40th, and she’s been saving for years to celebrate the night with friends and family. Adam has the perfect gift for his wife – a visit from their daughter, Marnie, who is studying abroad in Hong Kong. Livia knows a secret about Marnie though, and she’s been waiting until after the party to tell Adam. Before the party, Adam learns some terrible news, and now he has something to tell Livia after the party.

Told from the alternating points of view of Livia and Adam. The novel is primarily set in one day, and follows Livia and Adam as they prepare for the party and struggle with the secrets they are keeping. The reader is aware of the secrets, and it’s frustrating to see how they are keeping important information from one another.

I’ve read three other books by B.A. Paris (Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, and Bring Me Back), and they were all mysteries and thrillers. This one is not. The reader is aware of the events happening throughout the novel, there is no mystery. It’s a contemporary story about a married couple and the secrets they are keeping.

While I was sometimes frustrated with the characters and their actions, I was drawn into the story and couldn’t put it down. An enjoyable read for fans of contemporary domestic drama. Intense and compelling.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: All Adults Here by Emma Straub

All Adults Here by Emma Straub

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BOOK INFO

Title: All Adults Here
Author: Emma Straub
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publish Date: May 4, 2020
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 3/5


BOOK BLURB

A warm, funny, and keenly perceptive novel about the life cycle of one family–as the kids become parents, grandchildren become teenagers, and a matriarch confronts the legacy of her mistakes. From the New York Times bestselling author of Modern Lovers and The Vacationers.

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she’d been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?

Astrid’s youngest son is drifting and unfocused, making parenting mistakes of his own. Her daughter is pregnant yet struggling to give up her own adolescence. And her eldest seems to measure his adult life according to standards no one else shares. But who gets to decide, so many years later, which long-ago lapses were the ones that mattered? Who decides which apologies really count? It might be that only Astrid’s thirteen-year-old granddaughter and her new friend really understand the courage it takes to tell the truth to the people you love the most.

In All Adults Here, Emma Straub’s unique alchemy of wisdom, humor, and insight come together in a deeply satisfying story about adult siblings, aging parents, high school boyfriends, middle school mean girls, the lifelong effects of birth order, and all the other things that follow us into adulthood, whether we like them to or not.

All Adults Here by Emma Straub
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

Astrid Strick, the matriach of the Strick family, is 68-years-old and questions some of her parenting decisions. Her three kids are adults, and each of them is struggling with decisions of their own. Told using multiple points of view, All Adults Here tackles a range of modern topics.

The characters are quirky and intriguing. The writing is engaging, but the story is all over the place. For me, there was too much happening to fully connect with any of the characters. I did enjoy the writing style though, and found this to be an enjoyable book.

A contemporary novel about family, parenting, siblings, and regrets. Recommended for fans of contemporary novels about family relationships.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey

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BOOK INFO

Title: The Love Story of Missy Carmichael
Author: Beth Morrey
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: April 7, 2020
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 4/5


BOOK BLURB

For readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove, a life-affirming, deeply moving “coming-of-old” story, a celebration of how ordinary days are made extraordinary through friendship, family, and the power of forgiving yourself–at any age.

The world has changed around seventy-nine-year-old librarian Millicent Carmichael, aka Missy. Though quick to admit that she often found her roles as a housewife and mother less than satisfying, Missy once led a bustling life driven by two children, an accomplished and celebrated husband, and a Classics degree from Cambridge. Now her husband is gone, her daughter is estranged after a shattering argument, and her son has moved to his wife’s native Australia, taking Missy’s beloved only grandchild half-a-world away. She spends her days sipping sherry, avoiding people, and rattling around in her oversized, under-decorated house waiting for…what exactly?

The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog named Bob to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. In short order, Missy finds herself in the jarring embrace of an eclectic community that simply won’t take no for an answer–including a rambunctious mutt-on-loan whose unconditional love gives Missy a reason to re-enter the world one muddy paw print at a time.

Filled with wry laughter and deep insights, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is a coming-of-old story that shows us it’s never too late to forgive yourself and, just as important, it’s never too late to love.

The Love Story of Missy Carmichael by Beth Morrey
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

Missy Carmichael is an English woman in her late 70s. She lives in the home she once shared with her husband and children. Now, her husband is gone, her son lives in Australia, and she is estranged from her daughter. Missy is set in her ways, asocial, and somewhat depressed.

Told using flashbacks, Missy’s life story is revealed. The pieces of her past help explain her current life and behavior. Missy is hard to like, but the more of her that is revealed, the more I cared about her.

Missy is lonely, but she slowly opens herself to new friendships. This story may be about an older character, but it is still a story about growth. As Missy becomes more comfortable with herself, she finds her way in the world again.

An delightful contemporary. Bittersweet and emotional.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West

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BOOK INFO

Title: Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes
Author: Kathleen West
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: February 4, 2020
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 4/5


BOOK BLURB

Perfect for fans of Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Small Admissions, a wry and cleverly observed debut novel about the privileged bubble that is Liston Heights High—the micro-managing parents, the overworked teachers, and the students caught in the middle—and the fallout for each of them when the bubble finally bursts.

When a devoted teacher comes under pressure for her progressive curriculum and a helicopter mom goes viral on social media, two women at odds with each other find themselves in similar predicaments, having to battle back from certain social ruin.

Isobel Johnson has spent her career in Liston Heights sidestepping the community’s high-powered families. But when she receives a threatening voicemail accusing her of Anti-Americanism and a liberal agenda, she’s in the spotlight. Meanwhile, Julia Abbott, obsessed with the casting of the school’s winter musical, makes an error in judgment that has far-reaching consequences for her entire family.

Brought together by the sting of public humiliation, Isobel and Julia learn firsthand how entitlement and competition can go too far, thanks to a secret Facebook page created as an outlet for parent grievances. The Liston Heights High student body will need more than a strong sense of school spirit to move past these campus dramas in an engrossing debut novel that addresses parents behaving badly and teenagers speaking up, even against their own families.


Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

Contemporary drama revolving around a high school. Julia Abbott is a helicopter mom who does something dumb at the high school, and, of course, it’s caught on video. She goes viral, causing problems for her and her kids. Meanwhile, the teachers are worried about their jobs since enrollment is down. Isobel Johnson is a teacher that tends to push issues in an attempt to broaden her students perspectives. This makes her a target for some of the parents, who wish she would simply stick with the curriculum.

Told using multiple points of view, the drama of family and school life plays out. Along with Julia and Isobel, other POVs are used, including another teacher and Julia’s kids. The use of multiple viewpoints works for this novel, and allows for a variety of topics to be covered.

A fun read for fans of family dramas and school politics. A wonderful debut novel. Entertaining, compelling, and relevant.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: The Truants by Kate Weinberg

The Truants by Kate Weinberg

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BOOK INFO

Title: The Truants
Author: Kate Weinberg
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: January 28, 2020
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 3/5


BOOK BLURB

Perfect for lovers of Agatha Christie and The Secret History, The Truants is a seductive, unsettling, and beautifully written debut novel of literary suspense–a thrilling exploration of deceit, first love, and the depths to which obsession can drive us.

People disappear when they most want to be seen.

Jess Walker has come to a concrete campus under the flat gray skies of East Anglia for one reason: to be taught by the mesmerizing and rebellious Dr. Lorna Clay, whose seminars soon transform Jess’s thinking on life, love, and Agatha Christie. Swept up in Lorna’s thrall, Jess falls in with a tightly knit group of rule-breakers–Alec, a courageous South African journalist with a nihilistic streak; Georgie, a seductive, pill-popping aristocrat; and Nick, a handsome geologist with layers of his own.

But the dynamic between the friends begins to darken, until a tragedy shatters their friendships and love affairs, and reveals a terrible secret. Soon Jess must face the question she fears most: what is the true cost of an extraordinary life?


The Truants by Kate Weinberg
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

Jess Walker experiences a lot during her first year of college. She has two main focuses – a love interest and a professor she idolizes. The love interest situation is complicated, and it’s more of a love triangle than anything. The professor is Dr. Lorna Clay, and she’s teaching a class on Agatha Christie that Jess is enrolled in. Jess soon starts to look to Lorna for advice and support.

This is a contemporary novel set on a college campus. There are mysterious happenings in the novel, but I wouldn’t consider this a mystery. It’s an intriguing read with some interesting elements. My favorite parts were those concerning Agatha Christie.

A promising debut novel. Good for fans of The Secret History. Atmospheric, dramatic, and chaotic.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra

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BOOK INFO

Title: Meg & Jo
Author: Virginia Kantra
Publisher: Berkley
Publish Date: December 3, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 3/5


BOOK BLURB

The timeless classic Little Women inspired this heartwarming modern tale of four sisters from New York Times bestselling author Virginia Kantra.

The March sisters—reliable Meg, independent Jo, stylish Amy, and shy Beth—have grown up to pursue their separate dreams. When Jo followed her ambitions to New York City, she never thought her career in journalism would come crashing down, leaving her struggling to stay afloat in a gig economy as a prep cook and secret food blogger.

Meg appears to have the life she always planned—the handsome husband, the adorable toddlers, the house in a charming subdivision. But sometimes getting everything you’ve ever wanted isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

When their mother’s illness forces the sisters home to North Carolina for the holidays, they’ll rediscover what really matters.

One thing’s for sure—they’ll need the strength of family and the power of sisterhood to remake their lives and reimagine their dreams.


Meg and Jo by Virginia Kantra
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Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

A retelling featuring the March sisters – Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. The two older sisters, Meg and Jo, are the focus of this novel. Meg is living a picture perfect life as a stay-at-home mother. Jo is living in New York working as a cook and food blogger. When their mother gets ill, the sisters step in to help out.

Told from the alternating points of view of Meg and Jo. They live completely different lives, but both women want to be there for their family. A modern tale of family, life, romance, work, and sisterhood.

An enjoyable read. Recommended for fans of Little Women and contemporary novels.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: After the End by Clare Mackintosh

After the End by Clare Mackintosh

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BOOK INFO

Title: After the End
Author: Clare Mackintosh
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Publish Date: June 25, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Series: n/a
My Rating: 3/5


BOOK BLURB

Max and Pip are the strongest couple you know. They’re best friends, lovers—unshakable. But then their son gets sick and the doctors put the question of his survival into their hands. For the first time, Max and Pip can’t agree. They each want a different future for their son.

What if they could have both?

A gripping and propulsive exploration of love, marriage, parenthood, and the road not taken, After the End brings one unforgettable family from unimaginable loss to a surprising, satisfying, and redemptive ending and the life they are fated to find. With the emotional power of Jodi Picoult’s My Sister’s Keeper, Mackintosh helps us to see that sometimes the end is just another beginning.

After the End by Clare Mackintosh
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

A happily married couple are given the devastating news that their son has a brain tumor, and his prognosis is terminal. His doctors recommend end of life care only. His parents are split on what to do. One agrees with the doctors and the other wants to pursue other treatments. Since the parents cannot agree, the decision is left to the court system.

Told with alternating points of view – Pip (mother), Max (father), and Leila (doctor). The novel is also split between before and after. The “before” part tells the family’s story up until the court’s decision. The “after” story is using alternative scenarios – the court ruling with the mother and the court ruling with the father. Pip and Max both have valid reasons for their decisions, and both believe they are doing what is best for their child.

I have mixed emotions about this novel. I feel the topic is relevant and thought-provoking, but I was not a fan of how the story was told. I enjoyed the alternating POVs of Pip and Max, but Leila could have been dropped. Some aspects of her story were interesting, but, overall, the book could have worked without her POV. My main issue was the alternate scenarios. They were sometimes confusing, and just didn’t work for me.

This novel deals with a controversial topic. In After the End it’s interesting that the parents could not agree on a medical decision, so it was forced into the courts. I imagine this could be a great book club read. Though it may cause some uncomfortable conversations.

An emotional contemporary family saga. This is a difficult book to read, and not one that everyone will feel comfortable reading. Heartbreaking and tragic.

I received a free digital copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause

Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause

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BOOK INFO

Title: Valencia and Valentine
Author: Suzy Krause
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: June 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Series: na
My Rating: 3/5


BOOK BLURB

For readers of Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, debut author Suzy Krause delivers a quirky, colorful story about love, loss, second chances, and what it means to truly live.

Valencia, a timid debt collector with crippling OCD, is afraid of many things, but the two that scare her most are flying and turning thirty-five. To confront those fears, Valencia’s therapist suggests that she fly somewhere — anywhere — before her upcoming birthday. And as Valencia begins a telephone romance with a man from New York, she suddenly has a destination in mind. There’s only one problem — he might not actually exist.

Mrs. Valentine is an eccentric old woman desperate for company, be it from neighbors, telemarketers, or even the funeral director (when you’re her age, you go to a lot of funerals). So she’s thrilled when the new cleaning girl provides a listening ear for her life’s story — a tale of storybook love and incredible adventures around the world with her husband before his mysterious and sudden disappearance.

The stories of Valencia and Mrs. Valentine may at first appear to have nothing in common… but then again, nothing in life is as straightforward as it seems.

Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

Valencia is a 35-year-old debt collector. Mrs. Valentine is an 87-year-old lonely widow. Both are somewhat obsessed with death.

Valencia and Mrs. Valentine’s stories are told with alternating points of view. Valencia is stuck in a job she doesn’t love, has no friends, and struggles with her crippling fears and OCD. She wants to change her life, and starts to make strides in that direction. Along the way, she starts a romance with a man she talks with on the phone at work and she becomes friends with a new coworker. Mrs. Valentine is lonely, and talks to anyone who gives her the chance – neighbors, telemarketers, and her new cleaning lady. She loves to tell her stories, and is excited the new cleaning lady wants to here about her life.

This was my pick for Amazon’s First Reads in May 2019. I wasn’t a big fan of this book. I found the plot too convoluted, yet predictable. The characters both have fairly sad lives, and some parts came off as quite dark. I was expecting something a little more heartwarming and light. A bittersweet novel of love and loneliness.

Book Review: My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite

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BOOK INFO

Title: My Sister, the Serial Killer
Author: Oyinkan Braithwaite
Publisher: Doubleday Books
Publish Date: November 20, 2018
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 4/5


BOOK BLURB

A short, darkly funny, hand grenade of a novel about a Nigerian woman whose younger sister has a very inconvenient habit of killing her boyfriends.

“Femi makes three, you know. Three and they label you a serial killer.”

Korede is bitter. How could she not be? Her sister, Ayoola, is many things: the favorite child, the beautiful one, possibly sociopathic. And now Ayoola’s third boyfriend in a row is dead.

Korede’s practicality is the sisters’ saving grace. She knows the best solutions for cleaning blood, the trunk of her car is big enough for a body, and she keeps Ayoola from posting pictures of her dinner to Instagram when she should be mourning her “missing” boyfriend. Not that she gets any credit.

Korede has long been in love with a kind, handsome doctor at the hospital where she works. She dreams of the day when he will realize that she’s exactly what he needs. But when he asks Korede for Ayoola’s phone number, she must reckon with what her sister has become and how far she’s willing to go to protect her.

Sharp as nails and full of deadpan wit, Oyinkan Braithwaite’s deliciously deadly debut is as fun as it is frightening.

My Sister, the Serial Killer Oyinkan Braithwaite
Purchase Links:
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MY REVIEW

Ayoola and Korede are sisters. Ayoola is the beautiful sister, and has always been the favorite. She also has a history of her boyfriends dying while they are with her. Korede is the responsible sister that’s always there to help Ayoola. Korede wants some of the positive attention her sister always seems to get. Korede especially wants a doctor she works with to notice her. Unfortunately, the doctor is more interested in Ayoola than Korede.

Told from Korede’s point of view, this is a darkly humorous book about sisters. Korede is smart and practical. She has always looked out for her sister Ayoola, and continues to do that in spite of her sister’s killer tendencies. Ayoola is used to having everyone love her and always getting her way. On the rare occasion when things do not go her way, it does not end well.

This is not a mystery or thriller. It’s satirical contemporary fiction, where one of the characters happens to be a sociopathic serial killer. Mostly, this book is about the relationship between the sisters. Dark, disturbing, and complex.

Book Review: I’m Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagán

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan

This post contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. For more info, read my Disclosure Policy.


BOOK INFO

Title: I’m Fine and Neither Are You
Author: Camille Pagán
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publish Date: April 1, 2019
Genre: Contemporary
Series: na
My Rating: 4/5


BOOK BLURB

Honesty is the best policy… except maybe when it comes to marriage in this brilliant novel about the high price of perfection from bestselling author Camille Pagán.

Wife. Mother. Breadwinner. Penelope Ruiz-Kar is doing it all—and barely keeping it together. Meanwhile, her best friend, Jenny Sweet, appears to be sailing through life. As close as the two women are, Jenny’s passionate marriage, pristine house, and ultra-polite child stand in stark contrast to Penelope’s underemployed husband, Sanjay, their unruly brood, and the daily grind she calls a career.

Then a shocking tragedy reveals that Jenny’s life is far from perfect. Reeling, Penelope vows to stop keeping the peace and finally deal with the issues in her relationship. So she and Sanjay agree to a radical proposal: both will write a list of changes they want each other to make—then commit to complete and total honesty.

What seems like a smart idea quickly spirals out of control, revealing new rifts and even deeper secrets. As Penelope stares down the possible implosion of her marriage, she must ask herself: When it comes to love, is honesty really the best policy?

I'm Fine and Neither Are You by Camille Pagan
Purchase Links:
Amazon | Books-a-Million


MY REVIEW

Penelope is working hard to keep her family together. She’s also beyond stressed with her work and home life. When her best friend dies, Penelope realizes other people’s lives aren’t as perfect as they appear. Penelope and her husband agree to make a list of things they want from the other. Despite the problems and secrets, they work to improve their relationship.

Penelope is faced with some harsh realities when her best friend, who seemed perfect, is gone. Her best friend had a lifestyle blog, and seemed to have a great marriage, the most well behaved child, and a perfectly decorated home. This has a ring of truth in the picture perfect lifestyle that is prevalent in our current culture. Penelope soon learns everything is not as it seems, and she reflects on her own life.

Contemporary women’s fiction. Penelope has a hard time balancing marriage, kids, and work. Something a lot of women can relate to. And I imagine a lot of the target audience for this book has been guilty of saying “I’m fine” rather than be vulnerable to their real thoughts and feelings. An emotional story that touches on some timely topics.