Best Books of 2018

It seems as though every year the caliber of writing only gets better.  The storylines, more gripping.  I am separating my favorites into categories.  This way, if you’re looking for a specific type of book or want to give a gift, it’s easier to sort through the choices.  I wish I had time to read everything, but these are my favorites from what I did read.

You can click directly on the book images to get to their Amazon page.

Literature & Fiction

    

    

    

    

   

 

Mystery & thriller

    

    

 

Historical fiction

   

 

Nonfiction

   

   

Which of these have you read this year and loved?  What are your favorites not on this list?  Please leave me a comment.  Happy 2019!

 

Best Beach Reads of 2018

This summer’s list is a bit longer than normal as it’s been an amazing year of incredible reads.  Here are my most recommended for your 2018 summer!

The Husband Hour by Jamie Brenner

Taking place on the Jersey shore,  Brenner seamlessly tackles many tough subjects ranging from grief to CTE to deployment to guilt.  You will easily lose yourself in this story.

 

Boardwalk Summer by Meredith Jaeger

A story of the 1940s entwined with one of today, Jaeger knows how to grip her audience from the very first page.  I loved the scenes from Hollywood and the sweet underlying love story.

 

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt

Just when you think you know how this one will play out, Hunt pulls the seat out from under you.  Read my full review here.

 

 

The Awkward Path to Getting Lucky by Summer Heacock

I laughed out loud at the situations these friends found themselves in.  Between chaos at their bakery and their attempts at love, this relatable debut is one not to be missed.  Read my full review here.

 

Slider by Pete Hautman

Yes, this is a middle grade novel but adults will find the undertones of the importance of family endearing while the kids will think the antics of competitive eating are hilarious.  A great story for the whole family.

 

Eden by Jeanne McWilliams Blasberg

A multigenerational book that alternates between past and present, this engrossing debut will have you hoping the author is at work on a new novel.  Read my full review here.

 

Say Nothing by Brad Parks

I am all for a breakneck thriller that has me turning the pages and this one delivers.  Full of surprises, Parks masters the tension to make this storyline plausible and fun.

 

Class Mom by Laurie Gelman

Now that school has ended for the summer, you will appreciate the snark in Gelman’s debut even more.  Read my full review here.

 

 

What have you packed in your beach bag this summer?  Please share your favorites.  This post contains affiliate links.

Before I Let You Go Review & Giveaway

Before I Let You Go (Paperback)


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Oh, this book has my heart.  What a compelling, emotional journey I just returned from.

Lexie receives a call at 2:00 am that nobody is prepared to hear.  Her sister, Annie, who she hasn’t spoken to in years, is in trouble.  Lexie rushes to her aid and finds her living in a dirty trailer, addicted to drugs, and pregnant.  Having always rescued Annie in times of trouble, Lexie makes it s point to make sure Annie gets help again.  But with the law working against her, it isn’t as easy this time.

I loved how addiction, while a main focus, wasn’t the only issue brought up in this novel.  Rimmer also confronts abuse, religious sects, death, legal battles, learning to be an adult before you’re ready, and the struggles of balancing it all.  There are so many subjects to foster a great book discussion here, so if your book club is looking for new fiction, this would be a perfect choice.

If you’re a fan of heartbreaking, yet heartwarming fiction and enjoyed books such as Me Before You by Jojo Moyes, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, and Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah, this is one you’ll definitely want to get your hands on.  And I guarantee it will quickly become a favorite

Be prepared to shed some tears.  For me, the cry was a cleansing, and I felt better after having finished it.  Hug your sisters and your brothers and your mothers and your fathers and your children a little tighter today.  And then tell them they need to read this book.

I received an advanced copy from Little Bird Publicity and the publisher.

About the author:

I write contemporary women’s fiction. My novels, Me Without You, The Secret Daughter, When I Lost You and A Mother’s Confession have been published by Bookouture.

You can find some more information about me at www.kellyrimmer.com.

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers Review & Giveaway

Island of Sweet Pies and Soldiers (Paperback)


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Not since Moloka’i have I been transported to Hawaii through a book.  The setting and descriptions were vivid and breathtaking.  Never having been there myself, I imagined I was on the beach as I was reading.  I loved the authentic language and settings and was definitely surprised by the amount of rain!

Sara Ackerman’s debut has something in it for everyone: a mystery, WWII history, romance, and unforgettable characters.  Violet is a schoolteacher who is reeling at the disappearance of her husband, the school principal.  Her daughter, Ella, hasn’t been the same since he’s been gone.  When Violet’s roommate, Jean, finds out her brother Zach is training for a secret mission along with other Marines, the women learn that friendship will get them through this trying time together.

Even though this tale takes place during the 1940s, many of its themes still ring true today.  Given the current events we’ve been faced with, I still need to hear “love is love,” and I was thrilled to come across it in the book.  Bits of this story, especially Violet’s infatuation, reminded me of Letters from Home by Kristina McMorris.  If you want an endearing story with a sprinkle of sugar, be sure to pick this book up.

I have to say one of my favorite characters was Roscoe.  I’d really love to learn the true story behind his appearance that the author mentions in her note at the end.  I promise you he is one surprise you’ve never come across before in fiction.

My thanks to the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Born and raised in Hawaii, Sara studied journalism and earned graduate degrees in psychology and Chinese medicine. When she’s not writing or practicing acupuncture, you’ll find her in the mountains or in the ocean.

 

Thanks to the author, I have one SIGNED copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Best Books of 2017

It has been such an amazing year for books that I decided to do a little something different this year.  Instead of my short list, I am separating my favorites into categories.  This way, if you’re looking for a specific type of book or want to give a gift, it’s easier to sort through the choices.  I wish I had time to read everything, but these are my favorites from what I did read.

You can click directly on the book images to get to their Amazon page.

LITERATURE & FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MYSTERY & THRILLER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HISTORICAL FICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NONFICTION

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these if you read them and your favorites of 2017.  Leave me a comment.  Here’s to a healthy 2018 filled with loads of good reading!

Mothers and Other Strangers Review & Giveaway

Mothers and Other Strangers (Paperback)


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This book grips you with its first sentence and never lets go: “My father proposed to my mother at gunpoint when she was nineteen, and knowing that she was already pregnant with a dead man’s child, she accepted.”

As the book continues, we are on Elspeth’s journey with her, as she comes to terms with her mother’s death and all the family secrets that are ready to bubble to the surface.  She most eagerly is trying to figure out her mother’s connection to the Seekers, a cult-like religion that is reminiscent of Scientology.

This novel does not let you off easy.  We are dealing with rape, murder, betrayal, and family dysfunction in such a way you will be extremely thankful for your own mother.  In fact, it’s easy to think this could be a memoir in the way the timeline is handled and how real these characters act.

Sorell writes beautifully, but it’s not a case where you will get bogged down in the language.  It’s a fast read, and you’ll want to race through to reach its conclusion.

Sign me up for any future books from Sorell.  I know the prose will be fluid and the story convincing, if it is anything like her debut.  My thanks to Goldberg McDuffie and Prospect Park Books for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

About the author: Born in South Africa and raised in Canada, Gina Sorell now resides in Toronto, and lives in a world of words. Some of those words are: writer, namer, creative director, artist, daughter, sister, wife and mother.
After two decades as a working actor of stage and screen in NYC, LA, and Toronto, Gina decided to return to her first love–writing, and graduated with distinction from UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Gina likes to balance out the long solitary hours of novel writing, with her work as a Creative Director of Eat My Words, a SF based branding firm, where she collaborates all day long with innovators and entrepreneurs whose identity she establishes with only one word, their name.

Thanks to the publisher, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.
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Best Beach Reads of 2017

A lot of best of summer lists have books that release throughout the summer.  I want you to have access to these great reads NOW, so without further ado, here is my list for the best beach reads of 2017.

Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale

This one has it all: heartbreak, romance, mystery, and even several beach scenes.  When you turn the last page and are disappointed it’s over: the sequel releases July 4!  You can preorder it here.  Both books are currently available on Kindle for less than $5!

 

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane Rosen

I blew through this book in less than 48 hours.  It’s a cute and quick read that features a unique cast of characters all with a relation to that little black dress.  You can read my full review here.

 

The Wedding Sisters by Jamie Brenner

I feel like weddings in books make the perfect summer read.  Everyone can remember having or attending a quintessential summer wedding.  This book has that times 3!  3 weddings of 3 sisters  or 3 sisters sharing 1 wedding?  Either way, this one keeps dropping secrets until the end.

 

The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick DeBoard

We can’t get through summer without a psychological thriller to keep you turning the pages eager to find out what happens.  This one reminded me of a horrible car crash where you just can’t turn away.  Not everything in this idyllic neighborhood is as it seems.  Some disturbing characters lead to deadly consequences.

 

The Assistants by Camille Perri

Super excited to find out a movie is in the works for this one!  Imagine Thelma & Louise as office assistants in today’s world and you have this romp of a novel.  Anyone who has ever dealt with office politics will appreciate the humor of this debut.

 

Forks, Knives, and Spoons by Leah DeCesare

Aside from a throwback to the ’80s, this book made me reminisce about my college days.  The lovable characters navigating relationships both in school and the real world made this a hard to put down debut.  You can read my full review here.

 

The Regulars by Georgia Clark

If you enjoy a little magical realism thrown into a story, I hope you will give this book a try.  It is a smart and modern age fairy tale for Generation X and Generation Y.  You can read my full review here.

 

I would love to hear what you thought of these books and what others are on your summer reading list!  This post contains affiliate links.

Best Books of 2016

I know 2016 was a great year for books when all but one of these selections published for the first time this year.  This list contains multiple genres, everything from memoir to YA and even a new one for me, sci-fi.  So grab a cup of coffee and get your holiday gift lists ready!

The Sound of GravelThe Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner: A fascinating memoir about growing up in a polygamist community in Mexico and it’s one of those cases where truth is stranger than fiction.  Beautifully written considering the author’s trials and tribulations and a perfect book for fans of The Glass Castle.

All the Winters After by Sere Prince Halverson: This beautiful and All the Winters Afterhaunting novel is not just words written on paper, but a multilayered story of a family and their grief over time.  At its heart is also a love story, not only between two people, but one between a person and his home.  The setting is chilling and the story is full of hope and promise.

Behind Closed DoorsBehind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris: I truly was holding my breath in spots as I turned the pages of this book.  It had a hold on me that didn’t let up until I finished the entire thing.  For a debut author, that’s quite an accomplishment.  This is the one thriller I’ve recommended to everyone this year.  I guarantee you won’t think of a “perfect marriage” the same way after finishing this book.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner: When I think of outstanding YA, my brain automatically goes to John Green for The Fault in Our Stars or Rainbow Rowell for Eleanor & Park.  Make room on your The Serpent Kingbookshelves for Jeff Zentner.  He had me laughing in one paragraph to crying in the next.  I was so emotionally invested in these characters.  They were extremely well drawn out that I couldn’t help but form a tight connection.  I was sad to see them go as I turned the final page.

Small Great ThingsSmall Great Things by Jodi Picoult: As important as this novel is, so is the author’s note at the end.  Jodi portrays three completely different characters with such grace and credibility.  You know a ton of research went into creating them.  It’s a story of race relations and it couldn’t have come at such an important time in our history.  I applaud her for not shying away from writing this story, which needed to be written, when she knows people will react with hatred.  I know when I pick up one of her books I will never be disappointed.

Aftermath by Clara Kensie: Lots of books have been written about a tragedy, where something Aftermathhappens to a family as they all have to deal with it.  Aftermath takes place when a tragedy is resolved, and the repercussions of a kidnapped child and how the family handles it today.  I loved the short chapters which made it easy to keep reading.  The story itself was compelling and there were plenty of surprises along the way.

The One ManThe One Man by Andrew Gross: Mix historical fiction with a thriller and you have this hard-to-put-down novel.  Gross used to co-write with James Patterson but he clearly deserves the individual accolades for this one.  It is an extremely well-paced story about trying to infiltrate the Auschwitz concentration camp during WWII and then having to break out.  So far, this is the defining book of his career.

Center Ring by Nicole Waggoner: Nicole jokes that she was so homesick when she moved away from her hometown that she invented 5 best friends to keep her company and that’s how this Center Ringstory was born.  I related to multiple characters in this book, especially when they were trying to balance it all, like the circus theme suggests.  It ends with a cliffhanger but happy to report Book 2 in the trilogy, The Act, releases in February!

When Breath Becomes AirWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi: A beautiful reflection of living life and living it to the fullest told by this neurosurgeon as he faces his imminent death from cancer.   Yes, the story is heartbreaking, but his words will move you.  This is a tiny book but it sure packs a powerful punch.

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin: I knew I was in for a treat when I saw this debut was recommended and blurbed by both Jodi Picoult and Diane Chamberlain, two of my favoriteThe Forgetting Time authors.  This has one of the most unique storylines I’ve ever read and had me spellbound.  It even has a mystery embedded in the story.  I cannot recommend it enough.

Emmy & OliverEmmy & Oliver by Robin Benway: A sweet and fun contemporary YA.   Oliver is kidnapped by his father and reappears years later in his hometown when all his elementary school friends are now teenagers.  Emmy’s personality is full of wit and snark and just jumps off the page.  A truly heartfelt read that answers the question, “Does absence make the heart grow fonder?”

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch: Sci-fi is not a genre I normally read but when I heard all the raveDark Matter reviews for this one, I knew I had to pick it up.  It is a complete mind warp that has your brain working in new ways.  As I was reading, I was envisioning it playing out as a movie right in front of me.  So even if this isn’t normally your cup of tea, if you like thrillers and fast-paced books, please give it a try.

 

Did you read any of these books and feel the same way?  What were your favorites of 2016?  I’d love to hear and welcome any comments.  Have a Happy New Year!

 

 

Come Away with Me Review & Giveaway

Come Away with Me: A Novel (Paperback)


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This emotional book made my top reads of 2015 list because months and months after finishing it, I still am thinking about it.  It blew me away with the the storyline, especially considering it is a debut by a new author.  I cannot wait to read her newest release this summer.

If you liked the book Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, think of this as a fictional version.  Here is the Amazon synopsis:

An unexpected journey leads one woman to discover that life after loss is possible, if only you can find the courage to let go…

One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined.

Tegan is consumed by grief—not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she’s hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime.

From the bustling markets of Thailand to the flavors of Italy to the ocean waves in Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it. Heartbreaking, hopeful and utterly transporting, Come Away with Me is an unforgettable debut and a luminous celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

If you do not experience complete wanderlust after finishing this book, you didn’t read it correctly.  It’s obvious Karma writes from experience as she describes these amazing cities.

And because I don’t want to give away any spoilers, I don’t want to say much else.  Just keep tissues handy and message me on my Facebook page when you finish because I can’t wait to hear what you think!  Read it with a friend so you can chat about it together.  Thanks to Book Sparks, I have one print copy to give away to one lucky winner.  Click the link below to enter to win.  Giveaway ends 3/28/16 at 12:00 am CST.  Good luck!

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19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads

Oftentimes with the first book of an author, you might not be very impressed and hope that in time their writing and stories improve.  In the cases of these talented novelists, I couldn’t wait for their next release because the debut was incredible.  Here are my 19 Can’t Miss Debut Reads in no particular order.

imageCalling Me Home by Julie Kibler

As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to give it a hug and never let go.  This was the best women’s fiction novel I had read in years.  It broke my heart and comforted me at the same time.  Aside from the main story focusing on race relations, it tells a story of an unlikely friendship between a young and old woman as they take a road trip.

imageThe Magician’s Lie by Greer McAllister

I’ve always been fascinated by illusionists and magicians, so I knew this story of a female illusionist would be a perfect match.  I read this in 24 hours because of how compulsively readable it was.  If you liked The Night Circus, don’t miss this one.  So excited to see a movie in the works too!

imageBeautiful Malice by Rebecca James

Imagine being a teenager and having to move to a new city.  You’re the kind who doesn’t intentionally draw attention to yourself but now you are befriended by the most popular girl at school.  Would you trust her to keep your secrets? This is a true “not everyone is who they seem” story.

imageJulia’s Chocolates by Cathy Lamb

Once I finished this book, I became a lifelong fan of Cathy Lamb.  She puts so much love and personality into her characters.  After leaving her abusive fiancé at the altar, Julia is on the run.  This novel has a hopeful message but is filled with funny and unusual characters and scenarios along the way.

imageOnce We Were Brothers by Ronald H. Balson

A legal thriller and a story of a family torn apart during the Holocaust, this book had me flipping the pages to discover what happens next.  It was originally self-published but came so highly recommended and popular that St. Martin’s Press had to publish it under their imprint.  If the WWII era is a must read for you, don’t miss out on this one.

imageWhat Was Mine by Helen Klein Ross

This novel asks the question, What defines “motherhood”?  Is it the act of giving birth or raising a child?  Can it be one or the other?  Book clubs will have lively discussions surrounding those questions as they learn a 4-month-old baby is kidnapped from a shopping cart and raised by a woman eager to have a baby.

imageBefore I Go by Colleen Oakley

Have tissues handy.  The protagonist in this novel, Daisy, beats cancer once only to find out it has returned and she only has months to live.  In her short time left, she wants to make sure her husband is taken care of, so she sets out to find him a wife.  Oakley sprinkles some humor throughout so the book isn’t a complete downer and had me thinking of what I would do in a similar situation.

imageThe Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Another great read for book clubs, this thought-provoking novel is a ripped from the headlines story and has you questioning your beliefs.  Sibley is a former nurse and writes from experience.  As a family is torn apart dealing with an ethical dilemma, the reader is left wondering how it will play out.

imageStill Missing by Chevy Stevens

This disturbing thriller put Stevens on the map for page-turning mysteries and now I won’t miss one.  If you want an easy to read book, the short chapters make for one that won’t take you forever.  If you like shows like CSI and Criminal Minds, be sure to give this author a try.

imageA Paris Apartment by Michelle Gable

Art, antiques, love, Paris.  That was enough to win me over.  But I loved how Gable combined two storylines, one historical and one in the present to unearth the truth.  So much of that reminded me of a favorite author, Sarah Jio.

imageShelter Me by Juliette Fay

I was worried a book about a widower and her young children wouldn’t be able to hold me captive but I was glad I was wrong.  You will find yourself cheering for this flawed mother as she takes the year to reflect on heartbreak and forgiveness and realizes you don’t have to do it all alone.

imageLetters from Home by Kristina McMorris

In this day and age, when we so commonly communicate with emails and texts, reading this historical fiction told through handwritten letters was refreshing.  The story is based in part on the love story of her grandparents. So if you need a book to pull you out of your fast-paced and hectic life into a romance of an earlier generation, this is it.

imageThe Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

As soon as I finished reading this one, I started recommending it to friends.  It is absolutely going on my best reads of 2016 list, as it had the most unique storyline I’ve ever read.  I was completely caught up in this spellbinding premise and loved how Guskin was even able to incorporate a mystery.

imageRoses by Leila Meacham

Roses is a saga in every sense of the word, one that spans three generations of three families over the 20th century.  Even though it’s hefty at over 600 pages, it reads quickly because you’ll be eager to learn the fates of these families.  Gone with the Wind fans will especially enjoy this one.

imageThe Good Girl by Mary Kubica

When you see a psychological thriller debut being compared to Gone Girl, you are likely to be skeptical.  But Kubica really hit it out of the ballpark with this novel and did it with such ease.  New writers will be having their books compared to hers in the future.  Read more about this book and Kubica’s writing process in my interview with her here.

imageA Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

I did not know what to expect when I received this book. Hailed as an international bestseller, this novel from Sweden didn’t seem like it was up my alley. It follows Ove, a grumpy widower not sure how to spend his days other than doing daily neighborhood inspections. As the book quickly grew on me, so did Ove. I dare you to read this and not feel good when you’re done.

imageA Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

This is a beautifully written story about an extremely ugly topic, human trafficking.  Addison seamlessly weaves an important message throughout this story.  With a background in law and activism, his books always teach me something new.

imageFive Days Left by Julie Lawson Timmer

When a new book is blurbed by Jodi Picoult, I know I’m in for a treat.  And sure enough, this didn’t disappoint.  Told in two separate storylines of two characters with five days left before the world they know is changed forever.  This novel constantly had me asking myself, what would I do in their situation?

imageHush Little Baby by Suzanne Redfearn

This emotionally charged story of domestic violence had me so captivated that I neglected my responsibilities while reading it.  It was one of those books where you know what’s going to happen, but you don’t know when or how, like a car crash you can’t turn away from.  All the characters felt so real to me.  It’s impressive when fiction reads like it could be nonfiction.

What debut novels did you love that didn’t make the list?  I would love to hear your recommendations and your reviews on the ones I loved.

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