The Girl I used to Be is a roller coaster of a ride

37563646Lately I have been reading a lot of psychological thrillers.  Each one has been slightly different, but all of them have been heart-pounding reads.  Psychological thrillers tend to stay with me.  I dream about the characters and what is happening to them.  I find this is a genre I have a hard time putting down and getting back to real life and I also have a hard time letting go of the characters for days, sometimes weeks.

In The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen, Gemma Brogman is a real estate agent and her husband, Joe, stays home with their little boy Rory.  Gemma works long hours, seven days a week, not leaving Joe much time to have adult time outside of the house.  One day Gemma shows a nice looking man (David) several apartments as he waits for money from the sale of his house to hit the bank.

A few days later Gemma heads to London for a conference.  She decided to go a day early to have alone time away from her busy schedule and her family.  Instead of taking a bath and going to bed with a book, she decides to eat at the hotel restaurant.  While talking to other real estate agents, she sees her client David across the room.  To avoid an annoying acquaintance, Gemma decides to have dinner with David.

After dinner, they both head to their rooms located on different floors.  While on the elevator, Gemma is super tipsy and stumbles all over.  She doesn’t remember drinking that much so David helps Gemma to her room where he kisses her.  Gemma wakes in the morning with a horrible hangover and doesn’t remember the night after the kiss.

Now back home, Gemma starts to receive weird messages and photos that she doesn’t remember being taken while at the conference about situations she doesn’t remember.  Each photo is more horrible than the next.  Who is blackmailing her? And who is David who she can no longer contact?

Part one of the book moves along smoothly, slowly building the story.  We learn about Gemma and her husband and we meet her co-workers.  We learn that Gemma is not happy that Joe stays home all the time instead of going back to work so she can cut back on her work schedule and spend more time with Rory.  She’s jealous of Joe and how Rory goes to him first instead of her.

We learn that Joe wants to get out more with his friends and have more of an adult life. I think he secretly is jealous of Gemma with her work schedule keeping her away from the home all the time.  But Joe doesn’t seem like he wants to go back to work.  He’s almost a little annoying.  Part two really kicks up the psychological warfare.  We quickly learn who is involved with the blackmail and what is really happening.

Think about riding a roller coaster.  The first hill is super big.  It’s a slow climb to the top, making the riders’ nerves increase on what could be on the other side of the crest of the hill.  That’s part one.  Then think of what happens when you go over the crest of the hill and you pick up speed heading down the hill, hair blowing behind you, stomach dropping and you are probably screaming.  That is part two.

I had a really hard time putting this book down.  It was a good thing I had an ebook copy or I probably would have flipped to the back of the book because I couldn’t read fast enough to find out the who and why.  A good stormy day would have been nice so I could have curled up on the couch and read it in one sitting.  If my friends and family ask for a book recommendation, The Girl I Used to Be will be one of the first books I recommend.  Make sure you block off time because you will want to read The Girl I Used to Be in one sitting.

Book Description:
The acclaimed author of Gone Without a Trace returns with a new novel of twisting psychological suspense in which a woman is forced to face down her blackmailer.

Someone’s been sending Gemma compromising photos. Photos she doesn’t remember. She can’t recall much about that night during a work conference–she’d written off her headache the next morning as the result of too much drinking at the hotel bar. But then increasingly disturbing photos start appearing in her email, along with bills and other items she can’t account for. As the blackmailer grows bolder and events start to escalate beyond her control, Gemma fears for her already shaky marriage and worries that the truth of what really happened that night must be more twisted than she imagines.

Unable to go to the police for fear that she will lose her family, Gemma resolves to hunt down the blackmailer on her own. But not everyone in Gemma’s life is who they seem, and as she gets closer to the truth, she discovers just how far the shadows from her past can reach.

Until Next Time, enjoy the view from your passenger seat

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Who is the woman in cabin 10

28187230The Woman in Cabin 10 is the second Ruth Ware book I have read and I enjoyed both of them.  Laura Blacklock (call her Lo) suffers from extreme anxiety and takes medicine to keep it under control.  Lo works at a travel magazine and for the first time she has been given the assignment to spend a week on a ship for a new super-luxury cruise line. Lo needs this assignment to get the promotion she wants and to put the small travel magazine, Velocity, on the map.

A few days before her departure date, while asleep in her apartment, a strange man breaks in, sending her anxiety to an all-time high.  Then the night before she leaves on assignment, Lo has a huge fight with her boyfriend and leaves with the relationship on shaky ground.

The Aurora has only 10 cabins with a maximum of 20 passengers and will travel around the Norwegian fjords for a week.  The passengers include several reporters including Lo’s ex-boyfriend.  Lo is assigned Cabin 9 at the end of the hallway.  The first night on board, before dinner, Lo borrows a mascara from the woman in Cabin 10.  She looks for Cabin 10 woman at dinner but never spots her.  Later that night she passes out drunk on her bed.  A scream and a splash coming from Cabin 10 soon wake her from a dead sleep.  On the veranda she sees blood on the neighboring balcony.

Lo calls security and quickly learns that the guest who was supposed to be in cabin 10 didn’t make the cruise.  There are no passengers missing, staff is all accounted for and nothing is amiss other than Lo’s report of what she saw.  Is her anxiety medicine mixed with the lack of sleep and the abundance of alcohol playing tricks on her?  She insists she saw something but no one believes her.

This book has a Murder on the Orient Express feel to it along with Girl on the Train and Gone Girl.  It’s a great psychological thriller that takes the reader on such a roller coaster ride I had no clue what was really going on.  Who is the woman in Cabin 10?  Was there ever a woman in Cabin 10 and what is really going on.

Ruth Ware took me on a journey that made my heart pound, made me second guess myself on what is happening and second guess who is doing it. Was it a mind blowing, nothing can top it book? No, was it entertaining, taking the reader away from their lives and taking them on a journey of murder? Yes. So I enjoyed this book, I recommend it and I can’t wait for Ruth’s next story. She can keep entertaining me as long as she wants.

Book Description:
Lo Blacklock, a journalist who writes for a travel magazine, has just been given the assignment of a lifetime: a week on a luxury cruise with only a handful of cabins. The sky is clear, the waters calm, and the veneered, select guests jovial as the exclusive cruise ship, the Aurora, begins her voyage in the picturesque North Sea. At first, Lo s stay is nothing but pleasant: the cabins are plush, the dinner parties are sparkling, and the guests are elegant. But as the week wears on, frigid winds whip the deck, gray skies fall, and Lo witnesses what she can only describe as a dark and terrifying nightmare: a woman being thrown overboard. The problem? All passengers remain accounted for and so, the ship sails on as if nothing has happened, despite Lo’s desperate attempts to convey that something (or someone) has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

A Million Junes is a magical love story

30763950Two families who hate each other for generations.  I’m sure the first thing you think of is the feud of the Hatfields and McCoys.  But there are two other families that have hated each other for generations – the O’Donnells and the Angerts.

In A Million Junes by Emily Henry, the O’Donnells and the Angerts have held a grudge against each other for generations.  Generations of fathers that worked hard to stay away from each other even though they used to be best of friends.  Enter the younger generation who want to be together despite the feud.

June O’Donnell is the latest in a long list of Jacks and Juniors.  As the daughter Jack O’Donnell, one of the rules she must follow is to stay away from any of the Angerts.  June has been curious of Saul Angets, who lives across the field and through the woods.  She has internet stalked this forbidden guy.  She has seen him from afar.  Then they meet and the pull they have towards each other can’t be denied.  Such a pull it makes them wonder why their families began feuding in the first place.

Besides a love story, this is a magical story.  There are a lot of magical things that happen in June’s world.  Cherry trees grow overnight from a seed.  If you leave shoes in the yard, Coywolves will come and get them so make sure they aren’t your favorite pair.  And there are white floaty, fluffy balls that can soak into your skin and show you a memory, a memory that might not be yours.  The memories will feel real like June is being transported back in time.

This story might not be for everyone.  You have to like magical stories that stretch your beliefs.  But I think if you like a story with a little bit of magic, laughs, family drama, and an enjoyable love story, you will find that Emily Henry will take you on a journey that will make you fall in love with June and Saul and look at dandelion dust floating in the wind differently.

Book Description:

For as long as Jack “June” O’Donnell has been alive, her parents have had only one rule: stay away from the Angert family. But when June collides—quite literally—with Saul Angert, sparks fly, and everything June has known is thrown into chaos.

Who exactly is this gruff, sarcastic, but seemingly harmless boy who has returned to their hometown of Five Fingers, Michigan, after three mysterious years away? And why has June—an O’Donnell to her core—never questioned her late father’s deep hatred of the Angert family? After all, the O’Donnells and the Angerts may have mythic legacies, but for all the tall tales they weave, both founding families are tight-lipped about what caused the century-old rift between them.

As Saul and June’s connection grows deeper, they find that the magic, ghosts, and coywolves of Five Fingers seem to be conspiring to reveal the truth about the harrowing curse that has plagued their bloodlines for generations. Now June must question everything she knows about her family and the father she adored, and she must decide whether it’s finally time for her—and all the O’Donnells before her—to let go.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Light We Lost asks the question: is a first love your one true love

33637339When I first started reading The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it. I didn’t understand why Lucy Carter was telling Gabe Samson about their relationship from when they first met. It felt weird to me. I thought maybe it was a look back at what their life was like.  But I soon got used to the narration and was pulled into Lucy’s life.

Lucy first met Gabe on September 11, 2001 while they are in college.  On a rooftop under a grey cloud of ash, she kissed him for the first time and lost her heart forever. They move in together and start planning their life.  But Gabe is unfulfilled living in New York and being in a relationship. As he pursues his photography, he realizes he needs to go abroad and capture the struggles and political turmoil.  He wants to head to the Middle East and asks Lucy to go with him. But Lucy loves her job and knows following Gabe around the world will only make her resent his pursuit of his passions while she suppresses hers. So Gabe leaves and they move on living separate lives.

Lucy eventually meets Darren and even though she keeps comparing him to Gabe, she loves him differently but just as much as Gabe. They marry and soon have their daughter Violet. Even though Lucy has a wonderfully supportive husband and a good marriage, she seems to be connected to Gabe. She looks for his photos, she emails with him and she takes his phone calls. When he is in town, she drops everything to see him.

There were times I wanted to smack Lucy for what she was doing to her marriage. There were times I wanted to smack Darren for his jealousy even though Lucy was with him and I wanted to smack Gabe for always pulling Lucy back into his life making it hard for her to leave him in the past where he belonged.  The character I loved the most was Violet.  What an adorable little girl.

This book made me smile but it also made me cry and it broke my heart in so many different ways. As the book progressed and things were revealed, I never would have expected the revelation at the end. It really made me change my view of Lucy’s narrative. This book snuck up on me. I almost abandoned after about 50 pages and I’m so glad I stuck it out. This was such a good book. If you pick this book up, give it a chance because it won’t disappoint.

Book Description:
Lucy is faced with a life-altering choice. But before she can make her decision, she must start her story—their story—at the very beginning.

Lucy and Gabe meet as seniors at Columbia University on a day that changes both of their lives forever. Together, they decide they want their lives to mean something, to matter. When they meet again a year later, it seems fated—perhaps they’ll find life’s meaning in each other. But then Gabe becomes a photojournalist assigned to the Middle East and Lucy pursues a career in New York. What follows is a thirteen-year journey of dreams, desires, jealousies, betrayals, and, ultimately, of love. Was it fate that brought them together? Is it choice that has kept them away? Their journey takes Lucy and Gabe continents apart, but never out of each other’s hearts.

This devastatingly romantic debut novel about the enduring power of first love, with a shocking, unforgettable ending, is Love Story for a new generation.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

Geekerella is a fun modern-day twist on Cinderella

33224718Growing up, Cinderella was and still is one of my favorite Disney stories.  I love when an author takes an old story and puts a new twist to it.  Geekerella by Ashley Poston is a fantastic young adult story about Elle Wittimer who grew up watching an old popular sci-fi series with her father – Starfield.  She’s a huge fan and blogs about the show.  One morning her dreams come true when a new adaptation is announced.  But the excitement doesn’t last long when she finds out Prince Carmindor will be played by Hollywood’s up and coming ‘it’ boy Darien Freeman.  Elle quickly rants about casting on her blog (she doesn’t hold back how she feels) and overnight becomes an internet sensation.

Darien is also a huge Starfield fan but doesn’t want to let on that he was a big geek growing up.  In fact, when his casting is announced on a national morning show, he blows an answer to a trivia question even though it was a no brainer.

Elle’s father who has passed away, used to run a Comicon type convention called ExcelsiCon.  Darien has been committed to attend the convention but he hate them as he is supposed to meet fans and small when he really just wants to let his geekiness come out.  After texting the phone number he thinks is for the organizer of ExcelsiCon, he ends up texting Elle.  This soon turns into a constant text conversation between the two.

Staying true to the Cinderella classic, Elle lives with her terrible Stepmother and stepsisters.  Elle decides to enter the Cosplay contest at ExcelsiCon in hopes to win the prize money and move to California, away from her evil Stepmother.  Just like the original Cinderella story, there is a “fairy Godmother” who is actually Sage, her young supervisor in the Food truck painted like a huge pumpkin and called what else, The Magic Pumpkin.

I loved this story!  This is such a fun twist on the Cinderella story with very modern day characters and modern situations.  The characters are fun and a little nutty.  I enjoyed Elle with her hopes and dreams and fandom of a sci-fi TV show.  I enjoyed Sage who doesn’t really give a crap and I liked Darien who you kind of wonder if some child stars or any celebrities have issues like he does.

I thought this was a lot of fun to read and it definitely can be read over a weekend because you won’t want to put it down.

The one thing I had an issue with is Elle and Damian talking to a stranger through text messaging.  With online pedophiles, I found this a little creepy as you don’t know who is on the other side.  Other than that, I recommend this book.  If I read books more than once, this would be on my rotation.

Book Description:
Cinderella goes to the con in this fandom-fueled twist on the classic fairy tale.

Part romance, part love letter to nerd culture, and all totally adorbs, Geekerella is a fairy tale for anyone who believes in the magic of fandom. Geek girl Elle Wittimer lives and breathes Starfield, the classic sci-fi series she grew up watching with her late father. So when she sees a cosplay contest for a new Starfield movie, she has to enter. The prize? An invitation to the ExcelsiCon Cosplay Ball, and a meet-and-greet with the actor slated to play Federation Prince Carmindor in the reboot. With savings from her gig at the Magic Pumpkin food truck (and her dad’s old costume), Elle’s determined to win…unless her stepsisters get there first.

Teen actor Darien Freeman used to live for cons—before he was famous. Now they’re nothing but autographs and awkward meet-and-greets. Playing Carmindor is all he’s ever wanted, but the Starfield fandom has written him off as just another dumb heartthrob. As ExcelsiCon draws near, Darien feels more and more like a fake—until he meets a girl who shows him otherwise.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

I will Send Rain reveals the many layers of a family

28514471I Will Send Rain by Rae Meadows introduces us to the Bell family who live in Mulehead, Oklahoma in 1934.  What is significant about this family, place and time is that it is the height of the dust bowl.  A horrible time when rain disappeared for months, making the ground so dry that dust storms were normal.

Dust was everywhere, in the hair, lungs, food, there was no escaping it.  This time was very devastating for families farming the land.  Their crops died, their animals starved and families were struggling to put food on the table.  It was so bad, they were shooting cows for a dollar to make money.  Lots of families couldn’t take it anymore and moved west or south without a word, they would just disappear.  Other families tried to survive hoping one day soon rain would arrive.

Samuel Bell is determined to stay on the land he acquired in the 1920’s during the great land grab when the federal government parceled Oklahoma farmland to individuals.  Some people in the small community think Sam has lost his mind as he builds a boat like Noah in anticipation of the great flood he has been dreaming about that is coming very soon.  His wife, Annie, questions if she should go back to her family in Chicago and leave Sam behind because he is no longer the man she married or stick it out because he is her husband.

The Bells have two children: Barbara Ann “Birdie” aged 15 and Fred aged 8, who is mute.  They had a daughter named Eleanor who died as an infant.  Eleanor’s memory still haunts Annie, which chips away at her self-esteem and affects her ability as a wife and mother.  Birdie secretly becomes engaged to Cy whose family disappears in the night headed for California leaving Birdie heartbroken and obsessed with following Cy and his family but she needs to finish school.  Fred is always exploring and soon becomes swept away in his father’s obsession and helps with the construction of the boat.

Meadows does a great job weaving a story highlighting how a family can become so wrapped up in their own personal lives and projects that they don’t see their entire family unraveling.  Since I grew up on a farm, I found this a fascinating story.  We had times when it wouldn’t rain for weeks and the dust from the gravel road next to our house would coat everything.  It would come into the house, it would turn the grass white.  It was everywhere.  So I found this a very interesting story.  Very well written.  I found myself right next to the characters as they each struggled with whether to stay or leave.

Book Description:
A luminous, tenderly rendered novel of a woman fighting for her family’s survival in the early years of the Dust Bowl; from the acclaimed and award-winning Rae Meadows.

Annie Bell can’t escape the dust.  It’s in her hair, covering the windowsills, coating the animals in the barn, in the corners of her children’s dry, cracked lips. It’s 1934 and the Bell farm in Mulehead, Oklahoma is struggling as the earliest storms of The Dust Bowl descend. All around them the wheat harvests are drying out and people are packing up their belongings as storms lay waste to the Great Plains. As the Bells wait for the rains to come, Annie and each member of her family are pulled in different directions. Annie’s fragile young son, Fred, suffers from dust pneumonia; her headstrong daughter, Birdie, flush with first love, is choosing a dangerous path out of Mulehead; and Samuel, her husband, is plagued by disturbing dreams of rain.

As Annie, desperate for an escape of her own, flirts with the affections of an unlikely admirer, she must choose who she is going to become. With her warm storytelling and beautiful prose, Rae Meadows brings to life an unforgettable family that faces hardship with rare grit and determination. Rich in detail and epic in scope, I Will Send Rain is a powerful novel of upheaval and resilience, filled with hope, morality, and love.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat

The Life of a Vaudeville Star

30320011I think Nicola Italia has become my new favorite romance writer.  This time in The Vaudeville Star, we are introduced to Ruby Mae Sutton, a southern belle from Mississippi who is sent off to finishing school in Connecticut when she is 15.

Ruby has been madly in love all her life with Ford Rutledge, who is engaged to her sister.  Ruby doesn’t want Ford to marry her sister.  She thinks her cold-hearted sister is very wrong for Ford.  So she decides to convince him, putting him in a compromising position, hence sending Ruby to finishing school.

While at the finishing school, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides she wants to be a vaudeville singer.  Ruby builds fans including the King of New York who becomes obsessed with Ruby.  This is also where Ruby meets Ford again and finds her love for him still exists.

The characters are well developed and their personalities came through strong.  As I was reading, I felt invested in the characters’ lives and was cheering for them.  At almost 300 pages, I thought there was more to tell.  I wanted more of Ruby, Ford, Bessie and the other Vaudeville performers.  This book was well worth my time and it will be well worth your time.  Pick it up today.

Book Description:
On a Mississippi Plantation, Ruby Mae Sutton throws herself into the arms of the only man she has ever loved, Ford Rutledge.  At fifteen years old, she has given her heart away and is not ashamed to brazenly declare her love to the twenty-five-year-old man, who is also the fiancé of her sister.

But Ford has no intention of taking advantage of the blond beauty, even though her reckless behavior causes his engagement to be broken.  Ruby is sent off in disgrace to a boarding school in Connecticut, where she remains for the next three years.

Once in Connecticut, Ruby discovers her singing voice and decides to leave after graduation for the bright lights of New York and the vaudeville stage.  Ford also decides to make his home in New York and suddenly finds himself face-to-face with Ruby Sutton, the very grown and very beautiful rising star of the vaudeville stage.

As Ruby’s star ascends, she makes a huge conquest with the King of Manhattan: William Parker.  King Parker begins to take an interest in Ruby’s career, and more importantly Ruby herself, as Ford finally realizes he is in love with her.

King finances a tour to Europe as his interest in Ruby takes a turn toward the more obsessive.  Ruby finds herself torn between her true love for Ford and the obligation she owes King.  She must tread carefully between the two men, and the brutal murder of someone they all know causes everyone to wonder who had the motive.

Until next time…enjoy the view from your passenger seat