When I said that this whole book writing thing had been a wild and crazy experience, I wasn’t joking. People say all the time, “Hey, I had this crazy dream!” Well, that is exactly how this whole thing started. With a dream.
The Universe, Luck, Coincidence, Random Moments of Inspiration… whatever you want to call it, it looks like I’m going to have to rewrite at least a small section of my about page. Continue reading “The Universe Made A Lier Out Of Me”
First let me say—I love you…I didn’t want to leave you…
Luke Richardson has returned home after burying Natalie, his beloved wife of sixteen years, ready to face the hard job of raising their three children alone. But there’s something he’s not prepared for—a blue envelope with his name scrawled across the front in Natalie’s handwriting, waiting for him on the floor of their suburban Michigan home.
The letter inside, written on the first day of Natalie’s cancer treatment a year ago, turns out to be the first of many. Luke is convinced they’re genuine, but who is delivering them? As his obsession with the letters grows, Luke uncovers long-buried secrets that make him question everything he knew about his wife and their family. But the revelations also point the way toward a future where love goes on—in written words, in memories, and in the promises it’s never too late to keep.
Once again, I’m struggling to write a review because a book has left me torn between good writing and a story I just wasn’t fond of.
I expected more of this story to focus on how Luke deals with his loss, raising his kids alone and moving on. Instead you get what starts as a kind of endearing story that moves as expected and slowly turns into this weird, crazy blend of going too far with too many unbelievable twists and kind of ridiculous secrets. Top that off with what amounts to really a non-ending and you kind of have a mess.
This wasn’t horrible, but it was only okay because it just became too much and didn’t offer anything to balance that out in the end. I find that sad because I really thought I was going to like this one.
Author: Erica Lucke Dean
Book Name: Ashes of Life
Genre: Literature/Family Drama/Romance
Rating: Didn’t Like
Blurb: Married for just three months, Alex Barrett is stunned when her husband, David, dies in a tragic accident. And the absolute last thing the pregnant young widow wants is to take on responsibility for his teenage daughter, Maddie. Reeling from loss, Alex struggles to deal with her grief and her troubled stepdaughter, but one question haunts her: why was David with his ex-wife when he died?
All Maddie Barrett wanted was for her parents to get back together, but an icy road took that dream away. Afterward, Maddie is riddled with guilt that she can’t share with anyone. Feeling angry and alone, she lays all the blame on Alex.
Alex and Maddie must find a way to move past their pain—shared, yet separate. Thrown together in an untenable arrangement, they fight through a frozen landscape of sorrow and redemption while redefining love, forgiveness, and family.
I just was not a fan of this. Neither of the two main characters were likable. No matter their situation, they were both pretty self absorbed, bratty and unwilling to look outside of their own bubble of existence. I really wasn’t a fan of the romantic relationships on either of their parts either. Way too much yo-yo action going on. To the point that if these characters existed in real life, they should probably be seeking help for mental disorders.
The writing itself wasn’t bad, but I won’t enjoy a book if I don’t like the characters or the believably of their situations. This just didn’t do anything other than irritate me.
Everyone has one.
Some are bigger than others.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.
Kate Sedgwick’s life has been anything but typical. She’s endured hardship and tragedy, but throughout it all she remains happy and optimistic (there’s a reason her best friend Gus calls her Bright Side). Kate is strong-willed, funny, smart, and musically gifted. She’s also never believed in love. So when Kate leaves San Diego to attend college in the small town of Grant, Minnesota, the last thing she expects is to fall in love with Keller Banks.
They both feel it.
But they each have a reason to fight it.
They each have a secret.
And when secrets are revealed,
Some will heal you …
And some will end you.
I have never once written a review and rated a book that I’ve had to note with an *, yet this is the second one in a very short period of time. This was so hard to figure out how to rate this.
If you are looking for a happy book with a nice happy ending, don’t read this because this is so not that book. This is just incredibly sad. I will say straight up that this is really well written and that it can wring some deep emotions from the reader, and it is for that that I’ve given this the rating that I have.
That said, I struggled with this. I didn’t really know what to expect with this, but it wasn’t what I got. I didn’t expect to struggle to read the last half of the book because I was trying to do so through tears, and not happy tears.
Before that, I seriously struggled to like Kate because she is unbelievably perfect, the stereotypical saint that everyone loves and gravitates to, she is perfect at everything she does and is the kind of person that is just too good for this flawed world we live in. There were several times I came close to not finishing because I just really didn’t like her all that much. Even after the big reveal when you gain a bit of understanding, I still just couldn’t believe her.
In the end, I’m not sure what I got out of this besides a serious crying headache. There really weren’t any feel good kind of feelings by the time the story wrapped up. I have no clue if I I will be reading the other books in this series. I liked some of the other characters that those books would follow, but I’m just not a fan of depressing reading and anyway you look at it, that is what this was. Sure there was love, both romantic and friendship, but it is all lost and that is just depressing.
Blurb: Along the banks of the Neches river, surrounded by the dense piney woods of east Texas, where the humidity makes even the mosquitos go a little soft in the head, there’s a pack of liars, thieves, and fools that Mimosa Mabry reluctantly calls family. After a lifetime spent trying to put the place behind her, the kinfolk have come calling, and they want her home.
Against her better judgement, Mo returns, but finds the answer she’s searching for—the truth about a child named Lucy—slipping further from her grasp than ever. Because in deep east Texas, at the mercy of your kin, truth is relative. As enigmatic as a carnival shell game. And the game is rigged.
Having read The Grave Tender, I had extremely high expectations for this book, which doesn’t usually bode well. While I think this was still extremely well written, it didn’t have that extra layer of “wow” or that sense of being extremely disturbed and enjoying it at the same time that I got from The Grave Tender. Because of that and being unable to not compare the two even though they aren’t related in any way other than being written by the same author, I just didn’t find that I liked this as well as I would have if I’d read this first. That said, this was still a really good book.
They might’ve been a family.
Virginia finally had the chance to explore a relationship with Aaron when he asked her on a date. She had been waiting, hoping that the widower and his young son, Buddy, would welcome her into their lives. But a terrible tragedy strikes on the night of their first kiss, crushing their hopes for a future together.
Nineteen years later, Virginia is engaged, though she has not forgotten Aaron or Buddy. When her dog goes missing and it comes to light that her fiancé set him loose, a distraught Virginia breaks off the engagement and is alone once again. A shy young man has found the missing pet, and although he’s bonded with the animal, he answers his conscience and returns the dog. Before long, Virginia and the young man discover a connection from their pasts that will help them let go of painful memories and change their lives forever.
** Potential Spoilers **
There really wasn’t anything about this that worked for me. All of the characters were incredibly simple minded. I genuinely thought for a while that they had some sort of mental disability before I realized they didn’t.
There is some hazy ground for the Buddy/Jody character to come across that way, but even that never made a whole lot of sense. One moment he came across as well educated and intelligent and the next, you’d think he lived completely secluded from people and the world for his entire life (as in locked in a closet secluded), which is not the case. He went to school. He graduated. It would have worked if the author had managed to come up with some tangible reason for his personality and inability to function in the world, but didn’t, even went so far as to specifically and clearly rule out EVERY rational reason for it. It made zero sense.
Virgina could not rub two brain cells together to form an original thought of her own. Every single thing that came up, she had to have someone tell her the obvious. I’d thought at the beginning of the book, based on the way she acted and needed someone else to think for her, that she was much younger than she actually was. Move forward 19 years and, if anything, she is even worse.
Besides the fact that I didn’t like a single character, this was so slow. Reading the blurb, I expected Virgina and Jody to cross paths much sooner than they did. All the lead up to that point crawled. Even after that, it tended to drag.
As for the emotional aspects of this book, I just didn’t find them. Because of the utter simplicity of the characters, their interactions felt hollow or even somewhat hostile at times. Virginia’s relationship in the beginning with Aaron rang of a crush from a teeny bopper that was flirting for the first time rather than a relationship an adult was in. The author gave no ground at all for the reader to believe that Virginia was in love and later made it worse when should couldn’t come up with a single real thing to tell Jody about. How can you so deeply and desperately love someone you don’t even know the very basics about, like… Oh, say, his child’s real name?
So, no. Nothing about this book worked for me.
Blurb: Hannah Cooper’s daughter is leaving for college soon. The change is bittersweet. A single mother since the age of eighteen, Hannah isn’t eager to confront the pain of being alone, but she’s determined not to let her own hang-ups keep Ellen from the future she deserves. As Ellen’s high school graduation approaches, Hannah decides it’s time to return to her roots in Cooper’s Hollow along Virginia’s beautiful and rustic Cub Creek.
With the help of longtime friend Roger Westray, Hannah devotes her energies to building a new house on the site of the old family home, destroyed in a fire more than a decade ago. But Hannah’s entire adult life has revolved around one very big secret. And her new beginning comes with unanticipated risks that will cost her far more than she could have imagined—perhaps more than she can survive.
When a confrontation forces Hannah to expose her secret, the truth may destroy her beloved daughter. Hannah is prepared to sacrifice everything to protect her family, but can their lives and their bond withstand the seismic shift that’s coming?
There are two specific things that kept me from liking this book more. First, this just dragged in the beginning. It took forever to get to a point where I could feel like there was going to be anything of interest going on. I came very close to giving up before I got to the 1/3 mark. It did nothing to grab me and drag me into the story.
The second is partly just me, but I’m sick of seeing stupid lies that could very easily be found out being used as the main premise behind a story. Lies have their place in stories and can do a whole lot of things to move a story and give it a depth you wouldn’t have otherwise. But when the lie is created with zero base in reality, it falls apart with very little effort when someone pokes at it. You do that with your main character, then all of the work you’ve done to create this emotional, deep, layered personality crumbles and all that is left is, “Damn! How stupid can you be?”
That is where I ended up by the time I finished this. I did not like the main character because she came across as just being brainless by the end. I didn’t hate this because I do think the author wrote it well, but I didn’t like the backbone of the story.
Blurb: Endless questions from a shadow-filled East Texas childhood haunt Hadley Dixon. People said her mother, Winnie, was never quite right, but with one single, irreparable act, life as Hadley knew it was shattered. The aftershocks of that moonlit night left her reeling, but the secrets and lies had started long before.
When a widowed and pregnant Hadley returns years later, it’s not the safe harbor she expects. The mysteries surrounding a local boy’s disappearance remain, and the townspeople still whisper about Hadley’s strange and reclusive Uncle Eli—whispers about a monster in their midst.
But Hadley’s father and grandmother, the cornerstones of everything safe in her world, avoid her questions. If Hadley stays here, will she be giving her children the family they need, or putting their lives in danger?
The hunt for answers takes a determined Hadley deep into the pine forests, in search of sunlight that will break through the canopy of lies long enough to reveal the truth.
This was truly beautifully done. It explores the darker side of humanity, but still threads it through with touches of warmth. It isn’t light. It isn’t happy, but it is just good.
You do not get a few answers to some secondary, lesser parts to this story, but for this, I was really good with that. Normally, that would irritate or frustrate me, but we rarely ever get all the answers or have things tied up neatly in a bow in real life, so it fits for this.
Every one of the characters feels real. They all have that perfect blend of imperfection and humanity without dropping off into something that feels contrived or forced.
I think one of the reasons why I’m struggling so hard to articulate what I liked about this is that it wasn’t any one single thing or group of things. It was just incredibly well written, on all levels.
Author: Sinéad Moriarty
Book Name: This Child of Mine
Genre: Literature, Family
Rating: Didn’t Like
Blurb: Single mom Anna and her eighteen-year-old daughter Sophie have always got along like two peas in a pod. Anna would do anything for Sophie but what if, years ago, she went too far to protect her?
Teenager Mandy has always worried about her fragile mom, artist Laura. Mandy knows she has never come to terms with the loss of her first child, but her mom won’t speak about it. Is she hiding something, and how much does Mandy want to find out?
When Sophie makes a chance discovery about her mother’s past, her whole life is turned upside-down. And, as she begins a search for the truth, her world collides with Laura’s and Mandy’s. What is the secret that connects their lives? And is the mother-daughter bond strong enough to withstand the devastating truth?
I was a little shocked after reading the last Sinéad Moriarty book to find that I genuinely didn’t like this one. Normally, if I like a book from an author, I will find I like others. Maybe to differing degrees, but still within a similar range. Not so in this case.
The main thing for me was that I could not, in any way like ANY of these characters. Anna was this perfect, infallible person but she never really truly admits to any wrong doing. Laura is a joke, horribly messed up, knows she is horribly messed up, but again it feels like she never takes takes any actual responsibility, not in any real way. Sophie’s reactions just all feel extreme and off for what her history has been. Yes, I could see justification and motivations and all of that. I understood it, but none of it came off as truly believable.
The other thing, and one that nearly killed this book for me, was the constant confusion of which character’s perspective I was reading. Each chapter started with one of the three main characters, as a heading, indicating that chapter was dedicated to that person’s perspective. Then, you are suddenly reading from a different character’s perspective, without warning or obvious shift, sometimes even getting little glimpses from the secondary characters like Mandy or Holly. It was seriously confusing at times. Normally I enjoy multi-perspective books, but when you are expecting one and are suddenly thrust into another it is not only confusing, but it is distracting and takes away from the story.
Between the confusion and the serious lack of likability of any of the characters, I just did not like this one.
Author: Sinéad Moriarty
Book Name: Never Let You Go*
Genre: Literature, Family
Blurb: Still reeling from her marriage breakdown, Kate’s world falls apart when her twelve-year-old daughter Jessica is diagnosed with cancer.
As her family struggle with the devastating news, Kate’s resilience is put to the test. She has an eighteen-year-old son consumed with hatred of his father, a seven-year-old who is bewildered and acting up and an ex-husband who won’t face up to his responsibilities. And in the middle is a beloved child who is trying to be brave but is getting sicker by the day.
Kate knows she must put her own fear and heartbreak to one side and do right by all of her children, particularly Jessica. But sometimes doing the right thing means making a decision that no mother should ever have to make.
Holy crap! This was an amazing book. Do NOT read unless you want to cry and have a full box of tissues handy. Or maybe two. Seriously.
At the very beginning, I struggled to get into this, but I’m honestly not sure if that was the book or just me as I was feeling incredibly antsy when I started this. It took a bit of getting tossed from one character’s perspective to another without warning before I was able to sink into the flow. But once I was there, I did not want to put it down, even for the needed tissue grabs.
As much as I loved this and am giving it a full rating, I can say that it was so emotional that I don’t think I could handle reading it a second time. It kind of ripped my heart out, probably because my daughter is only about a year older than Jess is in the story. It was way too easy to see my girl in that same place and that isn’t something any mother wants to imagine, so that part was hard.
This has it’s quirky moments and a little fun, but there is just an overwhelming amount of heavy that flows through the entire thing. I loved it, but it was hard to read. I cried from about a third of the way in all the way to the end, giving me the kind of headache you only get after hours of hard crying.
There were things that I liked and didn’t like about all of the characters, but those are all the things that made them so realistic and human. The things that I would like or dislike about any person I would meet in real life. Nick especially. I didn’t like him because he’s a jerk. But… he is supposed to be a jerk. It isn’t a story about perfect people in a perfect world. Far from it. So having these characters that are so imperfect makes this story so much better. They are so well crafted, it was easy to see them come to life.
That said, this is not the kind of book to pick up if you are looking for light and happy. It is heartbreaking. Beautiful, but heartbreaking.
*I read this under the title Never Let You Go, but it was apparently published previously as The Good Mother. Goodreads only has the second one listed.
Blurb: A hungry, stray dog is the last thing Cara Butter needs. Stranded in Georgia with only her backpack and a few dwindling dollars, she already has too much baggage. Like her twin sister, Hana, who has broken Cara’s heart one too many times. After a lifetime of family troubles, and bouncing from one foster home to another, Cara decides to leave it all behind and strike out alone—on foot.
Cara sets off to Florida to see the home of her literary hero, Ernest Hemingway, accompanied only by Hemi, the stray dog who proves to be the perfect travel companion. But the harrowing trip takes unexpected turns as strangers become friends who make her question everything, and Cara finds that as the journey unfolds, so does her life—in ways she could never imagine.
I think I expected a lot more from this than what I got. The story was good, but almost every single important issue was resolved in a way that was pretty anticlimactic and what emotions that surrounded those issues fell apart. The ending felt rushed and a bit too neat and perfect.
I guess I was thinking this was going to be quite a bit heavier emotionally. In reality, while some of the issues brought up are heavy, the emotion that should have added weight to them just wasn’t there for me. Because I was expecting heavy and got something much softer, I was a bit disappointed and that keeps me from rating this higher.
Blurb: A story about three sisters brought together by the death of their cruel and abusive mother.
Alex, the youngest, is a bitter, unforgiving woman who refuses to face the events of her childhood. She hides in a bottle and destroys any chance of happiness that comes her way. Her life is spiralling dangerously out of control but she doesn’t have the strength to stop it.
Catherine, the eldest, has strived to achieve everything her mother said she would not. She has everything she ever wanted but appears to be more like her mother than she thought. One single act brings her carefully constructed world tumbling down around her.
Beth, the middle child, suffered the worst of them all. She has no memory of the cruelty and remained with their mother until she died. But eventually the memories must return.
When they are brought together as strangers, the sisters must embark on a painful journey to the past to discover themselves and each other.
But will all of them make it back safe?
This is NOT a Kim Stone book. And I don’t mean just that it isn’t a part of the series. It is not written the same and feels entirely different than any of those books. If you are a fan of those, then this may end up being a disappointment.
It’s hard not to compare this book to the Kim Stone series because they are written by the same author. I had expected a similar level of writing even though the genres were entirely different, but I didn’t get that.
For me, it just felt like something was missing. Something that added just the right element to create depth or allowed me to connect to the characters a bit better. Considering this should have been an incredibly emotional read with the subject and events in this story, I just didn’t ever really get strongly emotional with this. It felt… flat? Again, like it was missing something.
The characters felt emotionless even though they were expressing emotions in the story. Like that part just didn’t exist and they were going through the motions. Kind of like listening to someone else talk about yet another person and how that person felt about things, discussing those emotions, but not actually connecting with them.
So, even though I really enjoyed the premise of this story, I just didn’t get into it in the way I expected to.
Janelle Decker has happy childhood memories of her grandma’s house, and even lived there through high school. Now she’s back with her twelve-year-old son to look after her ailing Nan, and hardly anything seems to have changed, not even the Tierney boys next door.
Gabriel Tierney, local bad boy. The twins, Michael and Andrew. After everything that happened between the four of them, Janelle is shocked that Gabe still lives in St. Mary’s. And he isn’t trying very hard to convince Janelle he’s changed from the moody teenage boy she once knew. If anything, he seems bent on making sure she has no intentions of rekindling their past.
To this day, though there might’ve been a lot of speculation about her relationship with Gabe, nobody else knows she was there in the woods that day…the day a devastating accident tore the Tierney brothers apart and drove Janelle away. But there are things that even Janelle doesn’t know, and as she and Gabe revisit their interrupted romance, she begins to uncover the truth denied to her when she ran away all those years ago.
When you get to the end of a book and you are asking yourself “What exactly just happened?” then something isn’t quite right.
As always, Megan Hart does an incredible job of creating very real, flawed, human characters. They are the best part of the book. I didn’t necessarily like who they were, but not because of the way they were written. Gabe in particular was a jerk, intentionally, but still a jerk.
What I wasn’t a fan of was the fact that you have this dramatic story that should be deeply emotional, and is to an extent, but she chose to go with a level of vagueness on some of the details towards the end when the reader should be getting answers. Sure, you can make assumptions based on what you are given, but you don’t know that those assumptions are right. You do not get any specific or even vague reasons for much of what happens in the book or why the characters interact the way they do. That vagueness shifted me from emotional towards analytical, so it looses much of its impact.
There were a couple of places where events that really should have held some significance towards resolving some of those issues for the reader, points that would have given much clarity, were glossed over and reduced down to barely a mention. I’m talking maybe a sentence or two. It felt like the book had taken all of those chapters to build this drama only to completely fizzle out to almost nothing. It was odd.
I liked the story, I just don’t like how little feeling of wrapping up lose ends or explanation and clarity were given. Normally when I finish a book I have a feeling of completion and satisfaction, even books I don’t like. With this, I just felt left wanting.