Everything We Left Behind

everything we left behindAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Series: Everything We Keep #2

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: July 4, 2017

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Filling in the gaps from Everything We Keep. This is a terrific series!

James Donato has just woken up to find himself in a strange room in Mexico with two young boys that speak only Spanish. When they realize that he is only speaking English and appears afraid and confused, they bring him a book full of journals and other information where he discovers that he has been living the last six years of his life as Carlos Dominguez, a talented artist who has two children and his wife died five years ago.  He also discovers that his fiancée Aimee has left him and is now married to someone else and they have a child together.  Crushed, he takes his sons back to California to see his brother Thomas and move into his childhood home when he learns that his other brother Phil is about to be released from prison after he attacked James in Mexico, which is believed to have caused the memory loss.  In an effort to keep his sons safe, James takes them to Hawaii to see his sister-in-law to try to understand what happened during the last five years.

This was a much needed book to finally understand what happened to James to make him Carlos and what happened to Carlos to switch him back to James. The epilogue of Everything We Keep matches the beginning of this book with James suddenly waking up to his alternate reality.  However, we as readers didn’t know what happened during that five-year period.  Now we do.  With an alternating story line between Carlos during the past and James in the present, the pieces begin to fit together and we find that James family is more screwed up than we thought possible.

James uses a lot of harsh language throughout this book, but he is very angry and confused and was believable. I felt that the romance in this book was a little more predictable.  During the previous, it was intense trying to figure out what Aimee was going to do.  However, this one played along really well.  The big question is would James and Raquel be able to find each other again after his switch.  However, I did not guess what was going to happen with Phil.  That was a surprise that I didn’t see coming.  I can’t wait for the next installment.

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Gypsy Moth Summer

Gypsy mothAuthor: Julia Fierro

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Reviewer: Jennifer S. Roman

We all remember those summers of our youth, especially the ones in which we try to appear grown up while trying to fit in with the cool kids.  Maddie Pencott LaRosa tries to do just that the summer of ‘92 on a small island that is overwhelmingly white and divided by social class.  On the West side are the laborers of Grudder Aviation Factory, and on the East are the rich upper crust who run the factory.  Maddie’s mother comes from the East side, but after marrying Maddie’s abusive husband from the West side, they live in a small cottage off her grandparents’ estate with Maddie and her brother Dom.  Maddie wants more than anything to fit in with the rich girls at school, and she finally has an in.  When the prodigal daughter, Leslie Day Marshall moves back “home” after her parents’ deaths, she brings with her a black husband and mixed-race children.  Maddie immediately falls for Leslie’s son, Brooks, and invites him to hang out every night with her new friends.  Trouble starts happening for everyone involved as a historic gypsy moth “plague” invades the island and threatens to remove every bit of green within eyesight.

Told in six different perspectives, the story unfolds as each person brings secrets and revelations to the mix.  Maddie is hiding the fact that her mother is slowly killing herself with pills and alcohol, while her abusive father cheats on her mother.  Brooks, Leslie’s son, is not happy to be away from the city, where he is accepted and well-liked.  He feels uncomfortable around all the white people and is very careful.  Leslie has a mission of social justice now that she has her parents’ money and power.  Jules, Leslie’s black Ivy League-educated husband, is a botanist and works to revive the fabulous gardens at Leslie’s parents’ estate.  He doesn’t understand how Leslie can do the air-kiss socialite party thing when she is so quickly angered by these people’s actions towards the “help,” especially when they think Jules is the help.  Dom, Maddie’s brother, is a bit of an outcast and lives on the fringe of the island.  He drinks whenever he can and suspects he is gay, which makes him feel even worse about himself.  Veronica, Maddie’s grandmother, is hiding her terminal breast cancer diagnosis while keeping track of her dementia-riddled husband Bob, AKA the Colonel, as he wanders their property with a gun in tow.  Veronica has lived her life as a society woman and now realizes how fake her life is, so she vows to make some life-changing decisions that will hopefully benefit her grandchildren before it is too late.

There is so much going on in this 400-page book so I was glad I started it way before this review was due.  It brought back a lot of memories as I also was a teen (albeit a bit older) during the 90s and experienced many of the same world events as these people did.  The characters were appealing and interesting, and while not all were likeable, they were as the author intended.  It was easy to feel empathy for Dom and Maddie living the lives they did, and although at first Veronica was unbearable, she evolved into a person I was rooting for until the very end.  Brooks and Jules were quickly likeable, and one had to feel for them as they entered a very challenging world that would eventually make them miserable.  Each character had good traits and bad ones to make them interesting.

The story itself was interesting, but at times it either plodded along or had so much going on that it was difficult to follow.  For example, without giving away spoilers, first this would happen, then this happened, then something else happened, then another thing happened.  It was almost as if the author could not decide which challenge to throw at the characters, so she threw several of them at her.  Considering the book was long, there were plenty of opportunities to throw some wrenches into the system, yet they all seemed to happen at the end of the book and really didn’t do much for the story.  I did enjoy the overall premise of the book, but again, these wrenches thrown into the system detracted from how great it could have been.  I would have loved to have seen a little bit more focus on Leslie’s family and its story and how it related to her return to the island.  I would still recommend this book to friends, but would let them know my reservations about the second half.

This is a book that touches on a variety of hot topics and therefore contains violence, sex, and foul language.  For this reason, I recommend this book for mature readers.  Fans of coming of age stories, the 1990s, and family dysfunction will enjoy this book.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Runaway

The RunawayAuthor: Claire Wong

Publisher: Lion Fiction

Release Date: February 17, 2017

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

One small move of defiance can send a full village out of control.

Seventeen-year-old Rhiannon Morgan has finally had her fill of her aunt. She’s tired of her small village’s hypocrisy, especially from her Aunt Diana.  So, she takes matters into her own hands and sets off to live in the woods a short distance from the village.  Once there, she begins to craft her own imaginary world full of stories of heroes that she learned from the village storyteller.  But back in the village, life begins to unravel for many of its occupants.   A dark secret from the past begins to reveal itself causing a chain reaction that could ensure that history repeats itself.

This was a fascinating debut novel. Wong really brought the character of Rhiannon to life in a relatable way.  Being essentially orphaned and having to live with her Aunt’s family and the uncle that she actually made a connection with died a few short years later.  Now she has developed a thick skin, she pushes people away rather than being accepted by them.  Diana too developed a habit of pushing people away, but also bullied others into getting her way as a leader.  The story is ultimately about forgiveness in many different fashions.

I liked that the stories that the children were told were actually based on fact rather than myth, but isn’t that always the case? Just because something seems farfetched or not attainable doesn’t mean that it is true.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Allie and Bea

AllieAuthor: Catherine Ryan Hyde

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing

Release Date: May 23, 2017

Rating: 5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

I always forget how much I enjoy Catherine Ryan Hyde books until I pick them up. This might just be the best I have read by her.

After Bea’s husband died, she was able to get by, but just barely. That is, until she falls for a telephone scam that takes everything she has.  She leaves her small trailer behind and sets of in her van towards the Pacific Ocean with only her cat and easy chair in the back of the van.  After a short while on her journey, she runs into fifteen-year-old Allie who is on her own after her parents are put in jail for tax fraud and she was put in a group home.  Things in the group home are worse than she could have imagined, but not as bad as other places she could, and almost does, end up.  Fate throws the two together and they have to learn to trust each other.  As they journey up the Pacific Coast, they find that even though they were thrown together under unusual circumstances, maybe things won’t be as bad as they thought.

Allie and Bea is a very heartwarming novel on several levels.  If at first you think you are not going to enjoy this book, I encourage you to give it a little time.  Divided up into sections, one following Bea and the other following Allie, we get to see the story from the viewpoints of both characters and what they go through in order to end up in the place that ultimately throws them together.  At first it didn’t seem logical that their paths would cross, but Hyde did a beautiful job of bringing them together in a way that flowed with the story.  It took each of their life experiences to be able to help the other.  If Bea hadn’t gone through what she did, she never would have been there to help Allie when she desperately needed help. And if Allie hadn’t been through what she had, she wouldn’t have been able to help Bea in the way she needed also.  The way Hyde wove these characters together and the relationship they had was done in a way that I didn’t once question if this was what the characters would naturally do, it just made sense.  I felt for both Allie and Bea with what they went through and rejoiced in their triumphs and even had a few laughs. This book is full of life lessons and showing that family is not all about being related by blood, sometimes it is about so much more than what is in our DNA.

I have found with each new Catherine Ryan Hyde novel I read, I am continually adding her to my list of favorite authors.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read that will help them think about how they view those around them and even restore a little faith in humanity at times.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Eggshells

EggshellsAuthor: Caitriona Lally

Publisher: Melville House

Release Date: March 14, 2017

Rating: 3 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

An interesting debut novel that explores loneliness even when you don’t know you’re lonely.

Vivian just doesn’t fit in. Never really has.  She now lives in a house that was willed to her by her late Great Aunt in Northern Dublin.  She was raised to believe that she was a changeling and could travel to other worlds, which she now attempts to access by walking around new neighborhoods and mapping them out, just in case.  She isn’t very close with her sister, also named Vivian, but tries all the same.  She is a society misfit.  One day she places an ad for a friend named Penelope just to find out why it doesn’t rhyme with antelope.  She takes adventures all the time even when those around her don’t understand what is going on.

This was a very different kind of book. I’m not really sure if Vivian has a bit of mental illness or just absolutely no understanding of society, even though she is in her twenties.  I can honestly say that I’ve never personally met anyone like her, but it would be interesting if I did.  I had the same reaction as the people around Vivian when she often opened her mouth because it was surprising what would come out.  Even so, it was still interesting to see where the story led.  It was literally just a snapshot in time of her life and didn’t really end.  It just didn’t continue even though we know that Vivian is out there somewhere on holiday with Penelope.

It was humorous at times and confusing at times. There was some pretty harsh language with some of the characters, but it was pretty believable based on their characters.  I recommend this book to mature audiences.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

All the Breaking Waves

all-the-breaking-wavesAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: December 6, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Sophomore novel from Kerry Lonsdale is another must read!

 

Molly Brennan has a secret. She is able to emphasize with other people and even has the gift of compulsion to make others do task she commands them in their mind.  In fact, all of the women ancestors have been able to do something as well.  Unfortunately, this gift has led to a tragic accident that caused her family to be torn apart, causing Molly to leave the town of Pacific Grove, California for good.  Now ten years later, Molly has discovered that her eight year old daughter also has abilities, but they are even more dangerous.  Cassie has premonitions of events five days before they happen and each day the premonitions get more vivid and Cassie experiences the events, including the pain and potentially even death.  Molly must now return to her grandmother at Pacific Grove to help train Cassie to not let her abilities destroy her, but she will be thrust back into the crowd from ten years ago including the soulmate she left behind.

 

Everything We Keep was a tremendous breakout novel that was extremely thought provoking.  This of course meant that I must read Lonsdale’s second novel with nervous anticipation that it wouldn’t be as good as the first.  Not to worry, it was just as good, if not better. All the Breaking Waves continued Lonsdale’s trend of a young female lead character in her upper twenties who is really coming into her own.  Molly is a very strong character who has been raising her daughter as a single mother.  She is a very different character than Aimee Tierney in Everything we Keep in that she is already used to doing things herself, but she isn’t really realizing her true potential in life.  Of course there is also some romance thrown in at just the right times.  Lonsdale is truly a master of her craft.  She has a unique way of blending a little bit of sci-fi into a contemporary setting that the reader finds completely believable.  It may also help that the Monterey peninsula is one of my favorite areas, so getting to visit there alongside Molly was a beautiful thing.  Needless to say, I am awaiting the next awesome read from Kerry Lonsdale!

There is some mild language throughout the book as well as two scenes that include some mild sexual dialogue. I recommend this book to mature young adults and up!

 

 

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. The views and opinions expressed throughout are mine.

Everything We Keep

Everything we keepAuthor: Kerry Lonsdale

Publisher: Lake Union

Release Date: August 1, 2016

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Reviewer: Jessica Higgins

Suspenseful, thought provoking, and just a good overall book!

Aimee Tierney has just had her life turned upside down. She just buried her fiancée.  On her wedding day.  If that weren’t bad enough, after the funeral a woman came by claiming to know that her fiancée, James, was still alive.  Aimee doesn’t believe her, but after realizing that she never saw the body, doubts begin to build in her mind.  A week after this, her parents announce that they have sold the family restaurant that Aimee grew up in and is currently sous chef.  With her world crumbling around her, she has to figure out what she wants to do and how to move on.  Eventually, she decides to open her own restaurant, which she uses the money given to her by her late fiancée’s brother.  In the process, she meets Ian, a photographer who is exhibiting his photos in a local gallery.  There is instant electricity between the two of them, but Aimee just can’t bring herself to act on it.  As the doubts begin to build and she continues to receive clues that James might be alive in Mexico, Aimee decides to go find out for herself.  Maybe she can finally either get James back or move on.

This summer I have been blessed with books that have made me think. This one was no exception.  Every time that I thought I have it figured out, the author kept pushing me in another direction.  I’m so glad that she did because it gave me a great ride.

Even though Aimee is twenty-seven, I would still consider this a coming of age novel. She has always been dependent on somebody her entire life and she is finally coming into her own.  She has to make her own decisions and then she finally makes the decision that affects her life from that point forward.  Along the way there is plenty of humor and tense romance to keep it interesting.

There was some occasional strong foul language and a couple of love scenes that weren’t explicit, but pretty easy to get the point of what was going on. I wouldn’t recommend this book to YA.  More to the twenty something crowd!

I received a complimentary copy of this book through the TLC Book Tours. The views and opinions expressed throughout are mine.