Review: Almost Everything

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**5++ Goodreads Stars**

“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”

“Haters want us to hate them, because hate is incapacitating. When we hate, we can’t operate from our real selves, which is our strength.”

Oh Anne Lamott, how do you manage to rip my heart into pieces and then mend it ever so carefully back together? This is what Lamott calls a paradox or conundrum, that life brings both immense joy and heart-wrenching pain, pain that, at times, is unbearable. Take her discussion of having children:

“We are consumed by the most intense love for one another and the joy of living, along with the grief and terror that we and our babies will know unbelievable hurt: broken bones, bad boyfriends, old age…Every day we’re in the grip of the impossible conundrum: the truth that it’s over in a blink, and we may be near the end, and that we have to live as if it’s going to be okay, no matter what.”

Lamott’s Almost Everything: Notes on Hope is meandering and rambling in the most poignant way, a method of writing only Lamott can get away with. It is structured around themes that she wants to share with her grandchild, stories she wants to pass on that she deems critical for one’s survival in a brutal world.

As with Lamott’s other books, I highlighted nearly everything. So many beautiful passages, so much wisdom that has come from the pain that Lamott has known well. This is not a pain she monopolizes. Rather, this book is about how pain is part of the human condition. And because it can happen to any one of us, Lamott believes that we must find peace and happiness every single day. That joy cannot come from a number on a scale or your paystub, though:

“Could you say this about yourself right now, that you have immense and intrinsic value, at your current weight and income level, while waiting to hear if you got the job or didn’t, or sold your book or didn’t? This idea that I had all the value I’d ever needed was concealed from me my whole life. I want a refund.”

“The opposite of love is the bathroom scale.”

Lamott argues that happiness is not found in materiality but something that is omnipresent, waiting to be found in the most mundane places. There is also beauty in grief and beauty in tragedy, though she certainly does not argue that there is a rhyme or reason as to who gets saddled with grief in this universe. Grief is not a lesson to learn, forced upon those who have sinned.

“We do get a taste of the spheres in birdsong, eclipses, the surf, tangerines. In the dark, we see the stars. In the aftermath of devastating fire, the sun rose red. To pay close attention to and mostly accept your life, inside and out and around your body, is to be halfway home.”

How do we cultivate this love of the quotidian? Through play, observing the world around you, through helping others, and, of course, through reading:

“Books! To fling myself into a book, to be carried away to another world while being at my most grounded, on my butt or in my bed or favorite chair, is literally how I have survived being here at all. Someone else is doing the living for me, and all I have to do is let their stories, humor, knowledge, and images – some of which I’ll never forget – flow through me, even as I forget to turn off the car when I arrive at my destination.”

As always, Lamott also has some brilliant things to say about writing:

“Write because you have to, because the process brings great satisfaction. Write because you have a story to tell, not because you think publishing will make you the person you always wanted to be. There is approximately zero chance of that happening.”

“We have to cultivate the habits of curiosity and paying attention, which are essential to living rich lives and writing. You raise your eyes out of the pit, which is so miserable and stifling to be in and which tried to grab you and keep you there, until something sneaky hauled you out and changed you.”

Lamott won’t give you easy answers about life in this book, but she will give you a lot to chew on. She challenges you to be reflexive, to examine what’s holding you back in life and what you need to move forward – that these things are not a one size fits all sort of solution. We need to dig deep and find that with which we struggle: confront it and learn to live with it the best we can.

Above all else, she asks her reader to sit with the world: watch it, learn from it, listen to it, breathe it in. For “God is often in solitude and quiet, through the still, small voice – in the breeze, not the thunder.”

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I loved this book. I love nearly everything Lamott writes (Bird by Bird is one of my all-time favorite books!). Thank you to Edelweiss, Anne Lamott, and Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House for an advanced reader copy of Almost Everything.

Review: Her Final Hour

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

“Her secrets were her secrets. They were nibbling through her flesh like worms trying to eat their way out of an apple, but, as far as she was concerned, the apple could rot and take her with it.”

Carla Kovach’s Her Final Hour is the second installment in the Detective Gina Harte series and is the second book I’ve read by Kovach. I read the first installment earlier this year and my review can be found here. Beyond being great reads, I absolutely love the cover art for both of Kovach’s books.

Kovach’s latest book starts with a terrifying murder in a quiet suburban neighborhood. Melissa Sanderson and her daughter are home alone when intruders break into their house and terrorize Sanderson. Sanderson is murdered in a brutal fashion by a killer (or killers?) who seems to know how to keep a crime scene semi-pristine. Over the course of her murder investigation, Sanderson’s private life, which from the outside appeared idyllic, is revealed. We discover that there were dark secrets she was hiding from the world. Melissa appears to be abused or the victim of longterm sexual violence, placing the spotlight on her husband as the potential killer. We also learn that Melissa was in an incredibly unhappy marriage to the point she had started to see someone on the side, someone who she had tried to leave.

Who is the killer? Melissa’s husband? A man with whom Melissa was having an affair? Or someone else lurking in the shadows, tormenting other women?

While the murder investigation is underway, we are introduced to additional characters who are suffering or have suffered at the hands of a cruel man. Is this man somehow connected to Melissa’s murder? This story occurs in between narratives about Detective Harte’s investigation of Melissa’s murder. It acts like a carrot dangled in front of the reader, taunting you to make connections between the several intertwined stories of women suffering at the hands of abusive men.

I love Kovach’s ability to create three-dimensional, relatable characters. She makes you truly care about the fate of the characters and makes the reader want to know what will happen to them at the end of the story. My only critique of the book is that I would have liked to have a bit more backstory/parallel story with Detective Gina Harte. Her story was very compelling and kept me engaged in the first book of the series. Detective Harte’s story is what will also keep me reading this series. Thank you to Bookouture, Carla Kovach, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of Her Final Hour.

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Description

Do you really know the family next door?

Melissa Sanderson is the perfect wife and mother. She dotes on her daughter, and lives in her dream home in a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburbs.

But looks can be deceiving. 

Something is amiss in that house – all the neighbours think so. Some say Melissa is having an affair. Others say she’s been drinking too much.

Then one night, sirens wake up the whole neighbourhood.

Melissa Sanderson is dead.

AN ABSOLUTELY UNPUTDOWNABLE THRILLER WITH A BRILLIANT ENDING YOU WON’T SEE COMING – if you like Lisa Gardner, Robert Bryndza or Clare Mackintosh, Her Final Hour will keep you reading well into the night.

 Carla Kovach

Author Bio

Carla Kovach was born in Birmingham, UK and now resides in Redditch, Worcestershire. Author of supernatural drama ‘Flame,’ psychological thriller ‘To Let,’ crime thriller ‘Whispers Beneath the Pines,’ and holiday comedy, ‘Meet Me at Marmaris Castle.’ Carla also writes stage and screenplays, some of which have been produced in the Worcestershire area. Her feature film ‘Penny for the Guy’ is being made and is set for release in 2019.

Her latest book, Her Final Hour, has been published by Bookouture. It is the second in the DI Gina Harte crime series.

Author Social Media Links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarlaKovachAuthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CKovachAuthor

Website: https://griffbuck.wordpress.com/

Review: Keep You Safe

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**4 Goodreads Stars**

Natasha finds herself in a world of trouble in Rona Halsall’s Keep You Safe (formerly titled Guilty Little Secrets) with few friends or family to help her out. Her picture-perfect life of comfort, wealth, and new motherhood is ripped away from her when the police arrest her for embezzling. Taken complete off-guard, she is confused and destitute, her only potential help a solicitor (lawyer for American readers) who seems disinterested in Natasha’s case and doubtful of Natasha’s innocence.

Natasha is encouraged to plead guilty to the crime to lessen her sentence so that she can get out in 2 years to see her son. Seeing no hope, she does it. She is immediately sentenced to prison for 3 years. When incarcerated, the prison doctor discovers she has opioids in her system. She has no recollection of ever taking them and believes her husband, a businessman who comes from old money, was drugging her. Her husband immediately files for a divorce from her, leading Natasha to believe that he may have been involved in both shady business practices that went unnoticed by her and an affair. He never writes or visits her in prison, leaving her to sort out the truth alone in prison – so far away from her baby son and the life she once knew.

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The story seesaws between the past and present. The current timeline picks up with Natasha’s unexpected early release from prison due to overcrowding. She is on the hunt for her husband in the hopes of finding her son. She gets in touch with an old friend, Sasha, who Natasha hopes will help her find her baby boy. We also hear the voice of an unknown predator, someone who is following Natasha’s every move with malicious intent. Is it Natasha’s ex-husband or someone associated with her prison time?

The story unfolds methodically. It’s clear the author took great care in writing the story, pacing it so that only certain parts of the story were revealed to the reader as to avoid spoiling the mystery. It was fun to guess what may be going on. Is Natasha a reliable narrator? Is she telling the reader the truth? And who is this person stalking her? What parts of the story has Natasha left out? Why, for instance, hasn’t her friend Sasha regularly visited her in prison? Why does Natasha’s mother despise her so much that she, too, refuses to visit her in jail and doubts her daughter’s innocence?

What also drew me into this story was the author’s writing. She writes beautifully composed sentences that paint a vivid picture of what is going on in the characters’ heads and what their surroundings look like. Here’s one example of Halsall’s writing:

“My first clenches around the phone, my patience a thin veneer.”

Halsall takes the most ordinary, mundane parts of life and makes them come to life with her prose. That’s what kept me turning the pages on top of wanting to know what was happening with Natasha.

Thank you to the author, Rona Halsall, the publisher, Bookouture, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of this thrilling book!

Keep You Safe - Blog Tour

Buy Link: mybook.to/KYSCover

Description

What if trying to protect your child only put them in danger?

Natalie is desperate to find her little boy. It has been more than three years since she saw Harry. Three long years in prison for a crime she knows she didn’t commit.

But her husband believed the police, and took their son.

Who has gone to such great lengths to destroy Natalie’s life? Everyone she once trusted – friends, family, all the people close to her – what secrets do they hide?

If Natalie finds the truth, will she get Harry back, or lose him forever?

A totally gripping psychological thriller – perfect for fans of Big Little LiesThe Girl on the Train and C.L. Taylor.

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Author Bio

Rona’s debut psychological thriller, Keep You Safe is out on 17th August and her second novel will be out in November 2018.

Rona lives on the Isle of Man with her husband, two dogs and three guinea pigs. She has been a bookworm since she was a child and now she’s actually creating stories of her own, which still feels like a dream come true.

She is an outdoorsy person and loves stomping up a mountain, walking the coastal paths and exploring the wonderful beaches on the Island while she’s plotting how to kill off her next victim. She also makes sure she deletes her Google history on a regular basis, because… well, you can’t be too careful when you spend your life researching new and ingenious ways for people to die.

She has three children and two step-children who are now grown up and leading varied and interesting lives, which provides plenty of ideas for new stories!

Social Media Links

To find out more about Rona’s novels, go to www.facebook.com/RonaHalsallAuthor or follow @RonaHalsallAuth on Twitter.

 

 

Review: The Thinnest Air

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**5 Goodreads Stars**

Newlywed Meredith Price seems to have it all: a sprawling mansion in a highly desirable mountain resort community; an older, but insatiably attractive husband whose wealth knows no end; and any and everything that money can buy.

But Meredith’s infatuation with her husband and the lavish lifestyle he lives begins to dissipate when the reality of marriage sets in.

There’s the obnoxious, spoiled stepchildren Meredith has to entertain, children who resent her for breaking up their parents’ marriage. There are the cliquish older women in the neighborhood who gossip about her and her husband, Andrew, and who think she is just the newest flavor of the month for him. And then there’s Andrew, whose behavior as of recent seems to confirm the neighbors’ speculation that Meredith is just a new plaything for him to admire until he tires of her and moves on to a younger version of her.

Meredith feels as though there is so much more to life than wealth and comfort. Meredith starts to feel trapped by Andrew, who expects her to play house and keep up appearances for the neighbors. Bored with the life foisted upon her, Meredith ventures outside of her home, enrolling in self-defense classes taught by a local detective. Soon, she finds her heart straying from Andrew and becomes entangled in several relationships, one of which may lead to her demise.

When Meredith goes missing, her sister, Greer, must face some hard truths about her baby sister. Greer learns that her sister and family members kept secrets, some of which may provide clues as to what happened to Meredith. Did Meredith take off and abandon everyone for a reason? Is she safe, or in serious danger? Did Meredith’s husband find out about her infidelities and harm her? Or is something else going on?

This book is a heart-pounding page-turner perfect for the beach or vacation. I liked how the narrative switched between Meredith and Greer, which gave the reader insight into how two very different people can have different versions of the “truth.” I highly recommend this book to fans of suspense and psychological thrillers.

Thank you to the author, Minka Kent, the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Thinnest Air.

Review: The Death of Mrs. Westaway

**5 Goodreads Stars**

I was so very lucky to win an autographed copy of The Death of Mrs. Westaway, Ruth Ware’s newest mystery, earlier this year. I am a huge fan of her books and have devoured every single one of them in a day or two!

Hal is struggling to make ends meet after her mother’s sudden death has left her poverty-stricken. She takes up her mother’s trade, which is reading Tarot cards to her mother’s former clients. Amid a heap of past due bills and a shady debt-collector threatening bodily harm, Hal finds a letter addressed to her naming her as a recipient of an inheritance from Mrs. Westaway. Confused, she thinks the attorney who signed the letter must have made a grave mistake, a mistake, she thinks, that she just might consider capitalizing upon.

She is invited to a grandiose mansion to claim her inheritance. With nowhere to turn for help, Hal decides to accept the invitation and see where it leads. When she shows up, she finds herself drawn into a murder mystery, one that puts Hal’s life in danger, too.

This book was brilliantly paced. Unlike many thrillers and murder mysteries out there that often feature pretty questionable twists, Ware’s book offers subtle hints and allusions that assists readers (and Hal) in solving the mystery of Hal’s inheritance. The plot and prose reminded me of classic Agatha Christie novels (And Then There Were None, in particular); it’s a traditional murder mystery where the killer picks off characters who know too much, leaving those still standing to decipher the truth before they are next on the chopping block.

What I especially love about Ruth Ware’s books is that her characters, who are messy and imperfect like all human beings, find newfound strength and courage amid absolute terror and chaos. Her characters evolve and become better people despite the tragedies surrounding them. They are strong women who dig deep within themselves to confront their worst fears.

Thank you so very much to Ruth Ware for the advanced reader copy of The Death of Mrs. Westaway. This book will have a special place on my book shelf. I am looking forward to her next read!