The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

9780316375191_91b3aThe Identicals will be released on June 13, 2017. It’s definitely going to be a hit summer beach read, as are most of Elin’s novels.

Elin Hilderbrand’s novels have a way of transporting me into the story with such force that I can think of nothing else but the characters. I’ve no shame in admitting that my mind was wandering during the sermon on Sunday, thinking about Harper and Tabitha, looking forward to finishing the book during naptime. I look forward to her books with such intense anticipation, but then I read them too fast. Then, I am left wishing that I would have savored them at a slower pace.

Twin sisters Tabitha and Harper are as different as can be, even though they look identical. It’s fitting for Hilderbrand to write this story, as she is also a twin, though not an identical. Readers will appreciate her authentic voice as the author, fully aware of the unique relationship between twins. The story unfolds in alternating points of view between Harper and Tabitha, but also between the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket themselves.

Harper lives with her father, Billy, on Martha’s Vineyard and Tabitha lives with her mother on Nantucket. Where Harper is laid back and reckless, her twin sister Tabitha is dignified and methodical. Harper is often the subject of gossip on the island, and her current love interest happens to be Billy’s married doctor. She’s made a few mistakes, but she could care less what people think of her. Their mother, Eleanor Roxie-Frost, a famous fashion designer, owns clothing boutiques which carry her brand and designs. Tabitha works for her mother in the Nantucket boutique, and caters to Eleanor’s every whim, while also trying to ride out the moods and rebellion of her teenage daughter, Ainsley. Though the twins only live 11 miles apart on separate islands, they haven’t seen each other for more than a decade. Since they were teenagers and the fateful day they were forced to split up, one moving to Martha’s Vineyard with Billy and one staying on Nantucket with Eleanor, Harper and Tabitha have avoided each other at all costs.

The drama escalates when the twins decide to switch islands in order to handle matters for their parents in the best possible way. Billy’s house needs remodeled and sold, a task which Tabitha is best fit. What she discovers over in the Vineyard may change her outlook on the future, at least where her love life is concerned. Over in Nantucket, however, the boutique needs a fresh outlook and Ainsley needs some adult supervision and encouragement. Will Harper be able to handle her sister’s matters, or will she disappoint her and drive them further apart? Her love life is a hot mess, so she figures that getting a little distance from the Vineyard and all the gossip won’t hurt.

You will not be disappointed with this story. It is full of humorous moments, tender family situations, heartbreak, love, and even a few (sorta) steamy romantic scenes. It has everything readers would want for a summer beach read. I read the book in one evening! Elin also compares and contrasts Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket as sister islands which are unique, much like Harper and Tabitha.

The Identicals ripped my heart out and pieced it back together with the final chapter, narrated by Fish (a dog), Harper’s faithful companion and best friend. This was a clever and fitting way to end such a beautiful story. I can hardly wait for her next summer novel to be released!

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.

 

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.

A Million Miles Away by Lara Avery

A Million Miles Away is a heartbreaking but awesome story. I’m so glad to have read it, even though I knew from the synopsis that there would be quite a bit of sad parts. The author has a knack for capturing the raw feelings of the character, including feelings of grief, anger, loss, guilt, betrayal, and love. Kelsey Maxwell and her sister, Michelle, may be identical twins, but that is about all they have in common. Michelle is artistic and spends her time being creative and quiet. Kelsey is a dancer who enjoys being the life of the party with her boyfriend and friends. Michelle is pretty tight lipped about any romantic interests, especially to her twin sister. Kelsey happens to meet Michelle’s current boyfriend, Peter, the weekend he is due to be deployed to Afghanistan. Tragically, Michelle is in a fatal car accident on her way home from the airport, leaving behind Kelsey and her parents to pick up the pieces. No one in the family but Kelsey knows about Peter, and she has no way to find him to tell him about Michelle. One day she happens to see a Skype call coming in from Peter (meant for Michelle, of course) and she picks it up. Talking to Peter (as her sister) somehow helps her cope with her grief and sadness, and seems to help Peter get through the stressful days in battle in Afghanistan. She plans to tell Peter the truth, but finds herself falling for him and soon she cannot bear to break his heart. As you can imagine, such a sticky situation cannot end well. The author did a great job of ending the book, however, without tying everything in a neat little bow. I would highly suggest this book for teens and adults alike. It’s a very sweet story which shows that even from a tragedy, love can and will endure. I’m a big fan.

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

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I loved this psychological thriller. It was packed full of suspense and kept me guessing until the end. The reader can’t help but feel for the main character, despite her many flaws and turns in the wrong direction. Often compared to Gone Girl, the book does have some similarity, but I felt it was much better written with more plot twists than Gone Girl. The chapters switch back and forth between different character viewpoints, which help keep the suspense momentum going until the very last page. The story is well written and engaging. I would recommend this book without a doubt to fans of any type of novel.