A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell

9780062497772_c19aeA Simple Favor will be released on March 21, 2017.

The story unfolds through the points of view of three separate unreliable narrators. One is Emily, a woman who goes missing and is presumed dead. Two is Emily’s loving, devoted, and distraught husband, Sean. The third is Stephanie, Emily’s best friend, and the mother to Emily’s son Nicky’s best friend, Miles.

Stephanie is a stay-at-home mom and blogger. Her blog is about the everyday excitement (as well as mundane day-to-day happenings) of raising a child, and it has quite a following. Stephanie’s husband was killed a few years prior in an accident, so she has been raising Miles on her own. Upon meeting Nicky’s mother, Emily, Stephanie is instantly drawn to her and soon considers them to be best friends, just like their sons. Stephanie seems jealous of Emily’s marriage and her prestigious career as a marketing manager for a well-known fashion brand. While Emily is wearing the latest fashion and turning heads, Stephanie is playing “Captain Mom.”

As friends and neighbors, Stephanie and Emily often help each other out with childcare, so Stephanie doesn’t think twice about saying “yes” and keeping Nicky as a simple favor for Emily when she has to work late one evening. However, when Emily doesn’t return, text, or call Stephanie after many days, she becomes very worried. Stephanie reaches out to Emily’s husband, a business man who is often away on trips and not too present as a Dad to Nicky. Together, they try to piece together their last conversations with Emily in the hope that they can find her alive and well. When Emily’s body turns up at a cabin in the Michigan woods a few months later, the plot thickens; and soon readers don’t know if any of the characters can be trusted. I won’t give away any more details, because I am a big believer in spoiler-free reviews. However, you won’t want to put this book down once you get started. It is fast paced with surprises and thrills around every corner.

A Simple Favor has many definite, undeniable similarities to Gone, Girl. Fans of The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, and The Luckiest Girl Alive will not want to miss this irresistible psychological thriller from Darcey Bell.

Thank you to Harper Collins for an advanced digital review copy of this title.

 

Advertisements

The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter

9780399171031_d15f1

This is a heartbreaking, raw story of mental illness and how it can systematically unravel the bonds between a family. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the story, but it was so much more than a young adult coming-of-age story. Of course, there is some young romance and dating involved, but poor Cassie was forced to grow up so early in her life, and was therefore wise beyond her years. For these reasons, the plot is more mature than some young adult novels, and adults would enjoy it as much as teens.

I won’t reveal too much of the plot because you will enjoy it much more learning the story as I did – in bits and pieces of Cassie’s past as she remembers them, discovering moments that have been hidden or repressed in her own memory.

Cassie was placed in a mental institution by her mother, out of the blue, and against her will at the age of 15. She spent two and a half years there, with no support from her family and most everyone believing that she was lying. Even the therapist assigned to her, Dr. Meeks, didn’t believe her or support her. When she turns 18, she emancipates herself and leaves the institution to attend college at her mother’s alma matter. Her only regret is leaving the only true friend she has ever had, James, behind at the institution. Readers get the truth behind why Cassie was at the institution in snippets and flashbacks of her life and tumultuous relationship with her mother. At times, it is hard to read, to imagine what Cassie went through all her life. Once I read the full story of what all happened to her, when she finally revealed it to Liz, near the end, tears streamed down my face.I felt so horrible for Cassie, yet so proud of her ability to carry on and try to find herself. This is a beautiful story, and a unique look at mental illness and perception. Not everything is as it seems.

I was intrigued by the title of this book, and after reading it, I couldn’t think of a more fitting title. Drowning doesn’t always have to be in the literal sense of drowning in water. Unfortunately, as young Cassie is well aware, she spent most of her life drowning.

This is a debut novel and it packs a huge emotional punch. I’ll not be forgetting Cassie or her story any time in the near future. I hope Kletter writes many more stories. I highly recommend this book, if for nothing else but a reminder to everyone to have compassion and empathy for others.

Fans of We Were Here, Everything, Everything, and All the Bright Places will surely enjoy this novel.

The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens

This is one of those works of fiction that sticks with the reader long after the last page. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and would highly recommend it. It is at its heart a survival story, but also a story of love and selflessness. Wolf is finally telling the story of everything that happened up on the mountain to his adult son. The book begins with a letter from Wolf to his son Daniel, which explains why he waited so long to tell the story and why it was so important for him to know. And so the story begins. After his best friend is in a tragic accident and his deadbeat father is finally imprisoned, 18 year old Wolf Truly decides to go to the mountain on his birthday to take his own life. Nola Devine goes to the mountain to celebrate her anniversary by spreading her late husband’s ashes on the mountain where they once came together. Nola’s daughter, Bridget, has come along for support, as well as Bridget’s daughter, Vonn, who is in a stage of teenage rebellion. When Wolf first meets the three women, he doesn’t realize they are related. However, once they become stranded on the mountain, Wolf becomes a guide as well as a sort of fourth family member to the Devine women. Wolf knows the mountain well, as he and his friend Byrd spent so much time there before Byrd’s accident. Nola is trying to find a certain spot on the mountain and becomes lost, so Wolf steps in offering to act as a guide, not letting on that he actually had other plans in mind once he left the mountain tram station. Ever the kind-hearted soul despite his upbringing, Wolf cannot resist helping the clueless group of ill prepared women who will surely die if they do not make it off the mountain. Also, it doesn’t bother him too much that Vonn, who is his age, is beautiful and mysterious. After a few unfortunate turns and falls, the foursome find themselves in Devil’s Canyon where a helicopter rescue is not possible due to the thin atmosphere and weather patterns. As the hours turn to days, and the days turn to nights more and more quickly, the situation becomes dire indeed. The three who make it off the mountain alive are forever bound together and changed by their shared experience. It could be said that Wolf saved their lives, but in reality the Devine women saved his first. I couldn’t put this book down, because I really found myself worried for the group, and I had grown to love the characters. It is beautifully written and the ending is bittersweet. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nivens

All the Bright Places is at its heart a story of an unlikely friendship and then love between a girl named Violet and a boy named Finch. However, it’s not your average YA romance, and there are richly created scenes and moments. It has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars, but I found it to be so much more than just another story dealing with loss. I chose to read this book after a recommendation from a good friend who loves YA. The story takes place in my home state of Indiana, which is where the author grew up. I appreciated the amount of research the author completed about the different “bright places” of Indiana, as well as the way she wove in so many passages and quotations from famous literature and writers. This was a beautifully written, touching story, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. The story touches on so many important issues which teens unfortunately may face on a daily basis: loss of a sibling, survivor’s guilt, grief, abuse, mental illness, bullying, and suicide. Both Violet’s and Finch’s narration captivate the reader, and both have important stories to tell. After reading, you’ll have a new appreciation for Post-it notes and teenagers. Read it, read it, please read it!

I Was Here by Gayle Forman


I Was Here is a new YA book that will be published Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

I enjoyed this book, much more than Forman’s If I Stay and Where She Went books. The book brings a serious and often overlooked issue on the subject of suicide to light. I can’t spell it out because of spoiler alerts. Cody’s best friend Meg has committed suicide and planned everything out, right down to the last detail of sending emails in advance to Cody and Meg’s parents. Cody saw no warning signs and the suicide came as a complete shock. As she tries to come to grip with extreme grief and guilt for the situation, she also starts to dig and find out what really happened. In the process, she meets Meg’s housemates, who are complete strangers to her, but so much more at the end of the book. Cody’s no-nonsense, harsh perspective as a narrator is a breath of fresh air to the reader. Forman based this story on a true life story of a girl named Suzy, which she describes in more detail in the end notes. This book is really moving, and although extremely sad, it does bring out some ray of hope at the end. I would highly suggest it for adults and teens. Well done, Gayle.