Review: What Lies Below by Barbara Taylor Sissel

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Release: 2018
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Mystery & Thriller

I remember requesting this book because I liked the “psychic” angle when I read the blurb. Having absolutely loved The Gates of Evangeline & The Shimmering Road, I thought this could be a great story too. And What Lies Below was definitely an addictive and emotional book. However, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations.

I loved Gilly, the main character of this book. She hasn’t had it easy because of her “gift” and she’s suffered a lot, but she’s still determined to help other people with her visions. At one point, there were so many villains looking for Gilly that I lost count. Her ex-husband’s killer, the baby’s father, Zoe’s abductor… What a dangerous life you’re living, Gilly!

I liked the small town setting for this story, as I thought Wyatt was rather lovely and the perfect place to start a new life. I would certainly move there as well if I had experienced a trauma like Gilly’s! The story gave me a bit of Practical Magic mixed with Sleeping With The Enemy vibes and that’s what kept me glued to the pages. This is the perfect book to read with a cup of hot chocolate beside you. Especially if it’s raining outside.

In the end, though, my main issue with What Lies Below was that I found the story super predictable. There were no shocking reveals and I ended up feeling a bit disappointed when I realized I had been able to guess the why and the who and there were no surprises left. Sometimes I don’t mind it that much, but this time I really wanted to be wrong.

However, if you read the blurb and decide this looks ideal for you, don’t let my review prevent you from reading this book. If you check out Goodreads, What Lies Below has stellar reviews all around.

Many thanks to the publishers and Netgalley for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review

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Review: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo @tjenkinsreid

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Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career. Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Last year, I saw that a lot of blogger friends were reading a book called The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (x. x, x). I don’t know why, but I wasn’t really interested until I started reading the reviews, perhaps because of the title. However, you all know I’m a big Hollywood fan and every review I read made me more excited about this novel. And it was definitely not what I expected at all. It was better.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was one of my favorite books that I’ve read recently. I hadn’t been so addicted to a non-mystery book in a long time. This was a compulsive read, one of those you can’t put down because it’s so fun, dramatic and completely captivating. A well-written soap-opera that you don’t ever want to finish.

This is the story of famous actress Evelyn Hugo and the relationship between her and her seven husbands. Who was Evelyn’s true love? The narration is told in a pretty unique way, which was one of my favorite aspects of the book. Evelyn Hugo, after decades of silence, decides to give Monique Grant the truth about her life. Monique is a relatively unknown journalist and doesn’t know why Evelyn chose her. Thus begins the story of Evelyn Hugo, who narrates every chapter of her life story, beginning with her first husband.

I loved the structure because you got to judge every one of Evelyn’s husbands and decide who was your favorite. She was a fascinating character, albeit she made some terrible mistakes. Hers seems like an easy life at first sight, but it wasn’t, not really. I loved how every character in this novel (even the ones you hate with all your heart) has virtues and flaws. No one is perfect, and that makes them more realistic in my opinion. This was a book where both the plot and the characters were fantastically crafted.

After finishing the book, I realized I didn’t want it to end. When a great story like this one spans so many years, you can’t help but fall in love with the characters and it’s sad to see them go. This book touched many themes that I didn’t expect… and it tackled them beautifully.

Atria Books, 2017

Review: The Secrets on Chicory Lane by @RaymondBenson @skyhorsepub

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Sixty-one-year-old Shelby Truman, a romance novelist, has received a request to visit her childhood friend, Eddie, who is on Death Row. Though mentally ill, Eddie is scheduled to be executed for the disturbing, brutal murders of his wife and unborn child. As Shelby travels home to Texas for the unnerving reunion, she steps back into memories of her past, recalling her five-decade-long relationship with Eddie in order to understand what led the beautiful but troubled boy who lived across the street to become a murderer. Shelby and Eddie used to visit an abandoned fallout shelter in his backyard, their “secret hiding place” where they could escape Eddie’s abusive father, enjoy innocent playtime, and, later, adolescent explorations. As they grow increasingly close, a tragedy occurs one July fourth, an event that sets in motion a lifelong struggle against an Evil–with a capital “E”–that has corrupted their all-American neighborhood. With only a few days left for Eddie to live, Shelby braces herself for a reunion that promises to shed light on the traumatic events that transpired on her street, changing everything Shelby thought she knew about the boy on Chicory Lane.

I don’t know what I expected from The Secrets on Chicory Lane but it was definitely not what I got. And I don’t really know how to describe this book. Is it a mystery? Not really. But it’s definitely suspenseful. And it’s also sad and memorable and it won’t leave anyone indifferent.

I admit I wasn’t sure I would like it when I started reading. The writing was not what I expected and at first, I didn’t feel I’d enjoy the novel’s structure. This was a weird one. The narration was told entirely from Shelby’s point of view, only she tells us her life story instead of focusing on the present matters. I thought the present would be important, but it was not. Yes, we know that Shelby is traveling to Texas, but what actually matters are her thoughts, as she recalls her relationship with Eddie during five decades, from the time when they were kids until the last time she saw him during the trial.

While I didn’t think much of it during the first chapter, as soon as I started reading about Eddie and Shelby’s relationship, I was hooked. Theirs was one unforgettable tale and I was so immersed in their story that I almost didn’t want to finish the book. Shelby was a character that grew on me as I got to know her better. I definitely thought she made some mistakes (who hasn’t?) but she was a good person overall. Eddie… truthfully, I didn’t like him from the very first moment he was introduced, but I felt sad for him anyway.

As much as I liked The Secrets On Chicory Lane, I can’t say I was surprised by how the story progressed. I thought I knew what had happened and eventually, I was right. It was still heartbreaking and it definitely made me feel uneasy, but I believe it was the right way to finish the story.

This is not a happy book by any means and it touches several themes that make it a tough read sometimes. This book makes you reflect on how childhood experiences can affect our life paths, and how easily things could’ve been different.

Netgalley, Skyhorse Publishing, 2017

 

Review: The Wardrobe Mistress by @MeghanMasterson @StMartinsPress

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It’s Giselle Aubry’s first time at court in Versailles. At sixteen, she is one of Marie Antoinette’s newest undertirewomen, and in awe of the glamorous queen and her opulent palace life. A budding designer, it’s a dream come true to work with the beautiful fabrics and jewels in the queen’s wardrobe. But every few weeks she returns home to visit her family in the Parisian countryside where rumors of revolution are growing stronger. From her position working in the royal household, Giselle is poised to see both sides of the revolutionary tensions erupting throughout Paris. When her uncle, a retired member of the secret du roi, a spy ring that worked for the old King, Louis XV, suggests that she casually report the Queen s actions back to him as a game, she leaps at the chance. Spying seems like an adventure and an exciting way to privately support the revolution taking the countryside by storm. She also enjoys using her insight from Versailles in lively debates with Leon Gauvain, the handsome and idealistic revolutionary who courts her. But as the revolution continues to gain momentum, and Giselle grows closer to the Queen, becoming one of the few trusted servants, she finds herself dangerously torn. Violence is escalating; she must choose where her loyalty truly lies, or risk losing everything…maybe even her head.

I knew as soon as I started this book that it was unlike anything I’d read before. Maybe because of the times (late XVIII) or the fact that it was set in Paris, France. However, I’ve recently loved books based on real characters and the early reviews of this one helped me decide to read it. I was convinced.

The first thing you’ll notice when reading this novel is that Meghan Masterson’s writing feels both lyrical and easy to read. Based on the setting, I was afraid it was going to take me a while to get into the story, but instead I was quickly captivated by Giselle, the revolution, and her castle life. It is so different from what we’re used to that I simply wanted to know more and more.

This was my first book about the French Revolution and I must say I actually learnt a lot, something I always appreciate, especially if I’m enjoying myself at the same time. The Wardrobe Mistress was a thoroughly entertaining book and it certainly had a bit of everything: mystery, friendsip, love… And in addition, it was fun and sad when it had to be.

My only concern was that I thought the novel had its dose of cheesy moments, which I’m not really a fan of. Don’t get me wrong: I absolutely wanted Giselle and Leon to be together, but that included plenty of eye-rolling moments from my part. Oh boy, they could be saccharine. Despite those “harlequin-romantic-scenes”, I want to say I LOVED both characters and they were really well-written, as their actions made complete sense at all times. Giselle was strong and vulnerable and even though she made some mistakes, I think I would’ve done the same. It’s so easy to judge if you’re just an outsider. On the other hand, I have a weakness for the rebellious revolutionary type, so Leon was pretty much perfect from my point of view.

If you’re looking for a quick-paced, entertaining historical novel featuring some romance as well, this is the ideal book for you. The Wardrobe Mistress proves that you can learn about history and enormously enjoy yourself at the same time.

Netgalley, St Martin’s Press, 2017

Review: Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan

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After the catastrophic destruction of the Middle East and the United States, Europe has become a utopia and, every three years, the European population must rotate into different multicultural communities, living as individuals responsible for their own actions. While living in this paradise, Max meets Carys and immediately feels a spark of attraction. He quickly realizes, however, that Carys is someone he might want to stay with long-term, which is impossible in this new world. As their relationship plays out, the connections between their time on Earth and their present dilemma in space become clear. When their air ticks dangerously low, one is offered the chance of salvation—but who will take it? An original and daring exploration of the impact of first love and how the choices we make can change the fate of everyone around us, this is an unforgettable read.

Sometimes, you need a book that is different from your usual genre. A book outside your comfort zone. And that is what Hold Back The Stars was for me. I’ve stated multiple times that I watch plenty of sci-fi films and I love them. However, when it comes to reading, sci-fi it’s not a genre that I find particularly appealing, maybe because I prefer to watch the story take place on a screen. Still, every now and then, there are some titles that catch my attention and Hold Back The Stars was one of them. It came highly recommended, part Gravity, part One Day, two stories that I quite enjoyed back in the day. And this book ended up being quite a unique read for me.

This is a love story, plain and simple. It’s basically like the Gravity film, but with romance and a lot of flashbacks. I know it will sound weird because I usually love flashbacks, but in Hold Back The Stars, their present scenes were my favorite part. There were tension and great dialogue, and I couldn’t wait to know what happened next.

At times, I wish I could have read two different books, one focused on Carys and Max in space and another one dedicated to exploring Europia’s world. I find utopian/dystopian realities fascinating and the universe created by Katie Khan was incredibly attractive, but I felt like we were never given enough of it. I enjoyed both Carys and Max’s perspectives, as they were really likable characters and I wished the best for them. So yes, of course I wanted them to be together, but I didn’t fall in love with them or their relationship.

The ending is probably what made the whole story more meaningful for me. I had no idea of what was going on and I was confused but fascinated at the same time. I know some of you disagree because it’s a risky technique and it won’t be for everyone, but I love to be surprised and Hold Back The Stars managed just that.

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Netgalley, Gallery Books 2017