Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

foolmeonceFool Me Once will be released on March 22, 2016. This is a stand alone suspense novel from Harlan Coben, best known for writing the fast-paced, popular Myron Bolitar series. Coben is a master at writing hard-to-put-down novels, and his latest is no different.

Maya Stern, a former special operations pilot, has just buried her husband after he was brutally murdered in what appears to be a robbery gone wrong. Maya is no stranger to loss, having just buried her sister 4 months prior to her husband’s death. A concerned friend, though Maya doesn’t truly trust anyone, has brought her a nanny cam to help her feel at ease while at work away from her 2 year old daughter. One day while viewing the footage, she catches a glimpse of the unbelievable – her husband playing with their daughter. She was there when he was shot and she knows he’s gone; so, how can this be? Is she suffering from PTSD, hallucinating, and imagining things, as her in-laws and friends start to suspect? Or, is Joe still alive? She starts to question the nanny, and realizes that someone is covering up the truth. She is determined to uncover the truth about Joe, and also his younger brother who died in a boating “accident” while the two were in college, despite being warned against such activity by those closest to her. Maya will not give up until she assures that the future is safe for her daughter.

This book will have you on the edge of your reading chair, biting your nails to the quick. It’s trademark Coben, with a major plot twist which throws the reader for a loop, as he or she tries to figure out the truth. This is a quick, suspenseful story with an unexpected ending. Readers will not be disappointed.

Leave Me by Gayle Forman

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Leave Me will be published September 6, 2016 by Algonquin Books.

Leave Me is Gayle Forman’s debut adult fiction novel. I’ve read all of her YA novels and loved them very much, my favorite being I Was Here. As it turns out, she is just as awesome with adult fiction as she is with YA fiction. I absolutely loved the honesty and real-life aspect of this story. This could easily be my story, and the story of so many other working mothers of young children, who are trying to juggle so much with only so many hours in each day. Thank you, Gayle, for writing such a wonderful story.

Maribeth, 45, a working mother of 4 year old twins, is so busy taking care of her children, husband, and household, that she doesn’t even realize that she’s had a heart attack. After coming home from the hospital with strict orders to rest and recover, she finds herself unable to do either. It seems that her unfortunate health problem has become quite the interruption for her husband and children. So Maribeth packs a bag, leaves a note, and takes off alone in search of space to heal and to be herself. She is in such a state of stress, shock, and terror that she later doesn’t even remember what she wrote in the note she left for her husband, Jason. Another dimension added to the story is that Maribeth initiates a search for her birth mother, and as such, the story includes quite a bit of information and details regarding adoption.

It’s amazing how quickly Maribeth meets four very good friends in the short time that she is away from her former life. Janice, Stephen, Sunny, and Todd. All accept her for who she says she is (with very little details she provides), without question. She becomes reliant on them for various things, and I believe these friendships are what allowed her to take a step back and look at her life from a different perspective. Once she is on her own, she realizes that she is no longer making lists, planning things in advance, or keeping a schedule. She feels liberated – she is truly living and letting go.

But what does this say about her as a wife, and as a mother? Has she failed her family? She feels like her own birth mother, her best friend Elizabeth, and even her husband left her at some point. As the old adage goes, one can only truly accept love from others once he or she truly loves and accepts his or herself. She realizes, once the buzz of her crazy day-to-day life quiets down, that maybe no one ever really stopped believing in her or loving her – maybe she just has to keep believing in and loving herself.

I loved the ending, because it leaves the reader happy for Maribeth in anticipation of what is to come, without revealing all the minute details of the reunion.

This story really hit close to home with me, because am very similar to Maribeth in ways. I’m a full time working mother of two little boys, as well. I am also a planner, list maker, and juggler of many things. One passage that really stuck with me and resonates still is the following:

“A year ago, so much uncertainty would’ve killed her. Her lists, her plans – they were her parachute, the thing to keep her from total free fall. She was in free fall now. And it wasn’t killing her. In fact, she was beginning to wonder if she mightn’t had it backwards. All that fixating on the fall…maybe she should’ve been paying more attention to the free.”

So, I’m going to take a lesson from Maribeth and try to “pay more attention to the free.”

Thanks for reading; and I hope you enjoy this story as much as I did.

Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica

 

book coverDon’t You Cry will be published and released on May 17, 2016. This book will surely be a hit summer read!

I’ve read and thoroughly enjoyed all of Mary Kubica’s fast-paced suspense novels. She has a knack for hooking the reader into the story and then throwing a major plot twist in the mix, causing the reader to race to the end of the book with abandon. That is exactly how I read this book, all in one day because I couldn’t put it down. It’s like watching a scary movie; when you have to find out what will happen to the characters in the end.

Don’t You Cry is the story of roommates Quinn Gallo and Esther Vaughn. While Quinn spends free time socializing, bar hopping like most single women her age, Esther is more content to stay at home. Esther is quiet, always willing to help others, and even sings in the local church choir. Quinn comes home late one evening, thinking Esther is already asleep, but in the morning she finds that Esther is gone, her window open and her cell phone left behind. Quinn is worried, and as she begins to search for clues to where Esther could be, she starts to find out some very puzzling things about her roommate. Namely, a disturbing letter addressed to “My Dearest,” large ATM withdrawal receipts, and the truth surrounding the fate of Esther’s previous roommate. Though Quinn was sure that she knew Esther and they were pretty close, she begins to wonder if she ever really knew her at all.

Also intertwined within the story is that of Alex Gallo, a recent high school graduate who turns down a full ride scholarship to take care of his alcoholic father, the only family he has left. Any money he works busing tables at the local diner goes to paying the bills and feeding his father’s alcoholism. Alex just happens to be in the right place at the right time and catch a glimpse of an intriguing, mysterious girl. He becomes obsessed with getting to know her, helping her, and finding out why she turned up in his town. She refuses to tell him her name, so he refers to her as Pearl, because of the pearls on a bracelet around her wrist. Readers will really feel sorry for Alex, who is a genuine nice guy, the type that people like his father and Pearl will walk right over, when given the chance.

This story twists and turns like a roller-coaster, keeping the reader on the edge of their seat and racing to the finish. I loved the story, and the ending was a little bit crazy, but in a good way. Fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Luckiest Girl Alive will be sure to enjoy Don’t Your Cry, as well as Kubica’s other two previously published, psychological suspense novels.

The Song of Hartgrove Hall by Natasha Solomons

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The Song of Hartgrove Hall, written by Natasha Solomons, begins in post-WWII Britain in the 1940’s. The story alternates between 1940s – 1960s Britain and present day, with the same family, the Fox-Talbots, inhabiting Hartgrove Hall. Hartgrove Hall itself has such a pivotal role in this story; the once stately, then crumbling, then restored once more, colonial mansion is a character itself.

The Fox-Talbot brothers, Jack, George, and Harry (known as Fox), have all returned home to Hartgrove Hall after Jack & George fought in the war and Harry was away at college. The only people awaiting them at Hartgrove Hall are their father, the General, his butler and various maids on staff. Their mother passed away when young Fox was only a toddler, leaving the three boys in care of their stern, military minded father. The mansion itself is crumbling, after being used by soldiers as a home base during the war. The home Fox has always loved is falling apart, and he can hardly bear it. The brothers decide to try to save their home, begging the General not to sell, hoping they can make ends meat. Unlike his brothers, Fox has always held a special love for music and his favorite past time is to collect songs, mostly folk songs passed down through the generations in his home country of Britain. He dreams of being a composer, though his brothers and father find it laughable that one of their own be more interested in music than farming or military pursuits.

To celebrate the coming home of the brothers and the end of the war, they throw a New Year’s Eve party at Hartgrove. The eldest brother, Jack, who is loved and treated much like a movie star by anyone he meets, especially ladies, has brought a young Jewish wartime singer named Edie Rose to the party. Everyone is quite taken with the famous, beautiful, young, and talented singer. The problem is, Jack isn’t the only brother who is cast under Edie’s love spell. Young Harry (Fox) is quite taken with Edie, an infatuation which grows into love as they spend time together collecting songs, discussing music, and even performing together over the years. When bonds between brothers come up against bonds of love, herein lies the making of a great romantic love triangle, and this story will not disappoint in that regard.

In present day, fifty years later, Jack is an old man who has lost his wife, Edie, along with his ability or passion for playing the piano. Just when grief and guilt threaten to take him under, his daughter drops off his 5 year old grandson for a few hours out of the blue for Jack to mind. Trying to redirect the young, energetic boy from total destruction of his home, Jack plays a few notes on the piano, and young Robin is enthralled. As it turns out, Robin is quite the piano prodigy, a fact that Jack can hardly believe, but ultimately gives him hope for the future, urging him to live out the rest of his life the best way he can. Is it too late for Jack to seek forgiveness after such a long life together with the one he loved?

Fans of music, historical fiction, family drama, and romance will surely enjoy this novel. It’s a beautiful portrait of a family and how they dealt with the many hardships which life brought them. Readers interested in knowing more about the art of song collecting will find a most helpful notes section about contemporary song collecting and links for more information on the topic at the end of the book.

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys will be published on February 2, 2016 by Penguin.

Below is a must-watch video of Ruta Sepetys describing her book. Many thanks to Penguin Teen for providing it.

 

The first thing I want to say is that I do not believe I can actually do this wonderful, beautifully haunting book justice with my review. I read it so quickly (in just over a day) because I couldn’t put it down. It was written for a young adult audience, but I firmly believe that adults would enjoy it just as much, if not so much more than young adults. I’ve read and enjoyed many works of WWII historical fiction, including (to name my favorites) The Storyteller, The Nightingale, and Sarah’s Key, but this book is now at the very top of my favorites list.

This isn’t just another WWII historical fiction based upon the Holocaust, but instead it is about a little-known disaster which affected over 10,000 people as they tried to desperately leave war-torn homelands in a race for survival. Much like the Holocaust, the sinking of the Wilhem Gustloff is horrifying and devastating. Unlike the Holocaust, however, history has chosen to keep this disaster quiet, even though it is the single greatest maritime disaster in history, much larger in terms of lost lives than the Titanic or the Lusitania.

Here are the facts: The Wilhem Gustloff, a former cruise ship, set out into the frigid waters of the Baltic Sea on the evening of January 30, 1945. The ships capacity was 1,463, but there were actually 10,573 passengers on board. Of these, it is estimated that there were over 5,000 children. Other large groups of passengers on board included injured German soldiers and pregnant or new mothers with infants. The ship was equipped for 22 lifeboats, but only 12 were actually on the ship when it set sail. Around 9:15 PM, about 25 nautical miles offshore, the Wilhem Gustloff was struck by 3 Russian torpedoes and completely sunk within 1 hour after being hit. A total of 9,343 people perished, either on the ship or floating in the dark, icy waters of the unforgiving Baltic Sea.

It’s very clear that the author extensively and thoroughly researched the historical events retold in the story. She stayed true to historical fact. There are author’s notes and research & sources sections at the back of the book which are interesting and also heartbreaking to read. They give details from actual survivors, as well as stories from family members of those who didn’t survive the tragedy.

The pace of the book is quick, with short chapters, switching back and forth between 4 different young character’s points of view. Joana, a young nurse from Lithuania, Emilia, a young Polish girl, Florian, a young Prussian art restorer and forger, and Alfred, a German sailor with high regard for himself, but little regard for others. Each of these young people have a past haunting them and a future completely based upon trying to survive the war and evacuate before it’s too late. Their paths cross on the way to the Wilhem Gustloff. All but Alfred have suffered great loss at the hands of Hitler and the war. The characters are all from different nations, youth who have had to leave everything behind and suffer great loss, though they held no part in causing such catastrophe and strife. Joana, Emilia, Florian, along with an old shoemaker known as Poet, a 5 year old orphaned boy named Kraus, a blind girl named Ingrid, and a large, loud woman named Eva form a makeshift family, as they stick together on their way to the port. Each has only a tiny shred of hope, but together they are capable of loving and caring for one another, even when they thought they had nothing left to give. The relationships between the characters is heartbreaking, real, and so very beautiful. I will never forget them or their stories.

I cannot say enough about this wonderful book. I would encourage you to read it and pass it on to as many people as you can, so that those affected by this tragedy are never forgotten. As Ruta Sepetys says, “When the survivors are gone, we must not let the truth disappear with them. Please, give them a voice.”

 

Two If By Sea by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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Two If By Sea will be published March 15, 2016 by Simon & Schuster.

This book was intriguing, and while it kept my interest for the most part, at times I almost gave up on finishing it. In the end, I’m glad I finished it, but at times I wasn’t sure where the story line was going as the plot went through some very slow periods. The premise of the story is a bit haunting, and the characters surely make a lasting impression on the reader, with their unique abilities and personalities.

The story begins on Christmas day in Brisbane, Australia, with former police officer turned horse trainer, Frank Mercy, stepping out onto his patio in the middle of the night just before a tsunami crashes the coastline, killing his young wife Natalie, their unborn son, and Natalie’s entire family in one fell swoop. A grieving, and mostly in shock, Frank joins his fellow volunteer rescuers, working nonstop to try to save others, even though he wasn’t there to save his own family. He stumbles upon a van, just about to be swallowed up by water, where he saves a young boy. Something about the boy flips a switch in Frank, and he decides that he will do anything to keep the boy safe.

Instead of taking the boy to the Red Cross station, Frank decides to go against the law (even as a former police officer), asking a friend to forge travel documents so that he can leave with the child, to move back to his family horse farm in Wisconsin. Though nervous that he could be caught, Frank is happy with the young boy and the boy seems happy to be with Frank, living at the family farm with Frank and his mother Hope, and helping Frank with chores. Then, strange events start to happen, and Frank suspects there is a group trying to find the boy, Ian, because of his unique abilities. Frank has already realized by this point that Ian has a telepathic gift which allows him to influence other’s actions and steer them in a positive direction.

To thicken the plot a bit, along comes Claudia, a young psychiatrist and horse jockey who catches Frank’s eye. And, it turns out that Ian does have a bit of family alive back in Australia, which makes things interesting as well. You’ll have to read it to find out what else happens, because I will not give away any spoilers.

Like I mentioned, there were times when I wasn’t sure how the author was going to really finish this story, and I wondered what kind of outcome I would prefer for closure sake. I did enjoy the book, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I didn’t really like the ending. I think it was too happy of an ending for such a dramatic book. Fans of Oprah’s Book Club picks would surely enjoy this book. The book has family drama, romance, a bit of comedy, and suspense at times, which is appealing for a wide range of fiction readers. Give it a try. Let me know what you think!