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.

At Wave’s End Review & Giveaway

Seeing how the weather has been nothing but frigid in Chicago these past couple weeks, it was a nice escape to head to the beach town of Wave’s End on the Jersey shore in Patricia Donovan’s newest novel.  While a hurricane displaces homes and people, New York City-based chef Faith and her mother, Connie, step in to do what they can to provide food and shelter at their inn, The Mermaid’s Purse.

Relationships between many are broken apart, forged tighter, and even discovered in this women’s fiction novel.  I loved following the different storylines of all the characters that ended up at The Mermaid’s Purse.  Since they all come from different backgrounds and phases of life, you will easily relate to one or more.

And for those looking for hidden secrets, I can promise you a surprise here and there.  One of the best parts of this novel was the food and cooking descriptions as Faith prepared meals at the inn.  Don’t read while hungry because you’ll be constantly licking your lips and wishing the book came with a taste.

While the hurricane left a path of destruction in the town, this sweet story of a town banding together is sure to warm your heart and put a smile on your face.  A great read to start 2018 off right.

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

About the author: Patricia Perry Donovan is an American journalist who writes about healthcare. Her fiction has appeared at Gravel Literary, Flash Fiction Magazine, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable and in other literary journals. The mother of two grown daughters, she lives at the Jersey shore with her husband, with whom she has fond memories of raising their young family abroad in France.  Learn more at www.patriciaperrydonovan.com

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!

Forks, Knives and Spoons Review

Forks, Knives, and Spoons: A Novel (Paperback)


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I miss college.  And not the study for exams, write 12-page papers, ramen for dinner miss college.  But the camaraderie, freedom to explore, and those tight friendships you discover as you enter the world of becoming an adult.  So I was thrilled when I started Leah DeCesare’s debut novel and entered freshman year of college at Syracuse with roommates Amy and Veronica.

Before heading to school, Amy’s father gives her a pep talk about the Utensil Classification System: each boy she meets can be classified as a fork, spoon, or knife.  I’ll let Amy and friends elaborate on the differences but ultimately, they’re all in search of their perfect steak knife.

I loved sharing their college experience with them from the beginning, all the way through graduation, and moving to a big city to start their careers.  What made it more fun was college for them was in the ’80s.  So not only was it nice to see dating life without the world of smartphones, GPS, and email, but I enjoyed all the musical and fashion references to that decade.

Its’s easy to fall in love with Amy and Veronica and root for them throughout the course of the book.  We have all been through their ups and downs, trying to balance academics and first loves and heartbreak.  The characters really are fully cemented and the dialogue is spot on.  Their journey pulled at my heartstrings and made me smile when things went right.

My thanks to Leah DeCesare for a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.  I would love to see these women again in a follow-up story, or even passing their utensil knowledge down to a future generation.  A perfect beach read, too!

About the author:

Leah DeCesare is the author of the nonfiction parenting series Naked Parenting, based on her work as a doula, early parenting educator, and mom of three. Her articles on parenting have been featured in The Huffington Post, the International Doula, and The Key, among others. In 2008, she cofounded the nonprofit Doulas of Rhode Island, and in 2013 she spearheaded the Campaign for Hope to build the Kampala Children’s Centre for Hope and Wellness in Uganda. In a past life, DeCesare worked in public relations and event planning. She now writes, teaches, and volunteers in Rhode Island, where she lives with her family and talking cockatiel.

 

The Clairvoyants Review & Giveaway

The Clairvoyants: A Novel (Hardcover)


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In Karen Brown’s new novel, our protagonist, Martha is born with a unique gift.  She can see spirits of those who have died.  When the time has come for her to go away for college, in an attempt to begin a new and independent life, she moves to an apartment alone.  Until she comes across the spirit of a college girl who had gone missing years before: Mary Rae.

This story is billed as a ghost story, but I found it to be more of a coming of age experience for Martha, who is on her own for the first time, learning to unravel the mystery behind Mary Rae’s disappearance.  While doing so, she has to navigate her first love, her desire to study photography, and deal with the return of her sister.  In many ways, dysfunctional family shapes who Martha has become and how she deals with these situations.

Brown does an excellent job of having the reader question all the characters for their motives and choices.  We are left wondering how well we think we know someone.  They’re all mysterious but are one’s intentions more sinister than others?

If you’re looking for page-turning suspense, you won’t find it in this story.  Questions are answered but at a much slower moving pace.  If you’re looking for an engaging read with complex characters, be sure to pick this one up or enter to win a copy below!

About the author: Karen Brown is the author of a novel, The Longings of Wayward Girls, and two short story collections–Little Sinners and Other Stories, winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize, the John Gardner Book Award, and was named a Best Book of 2012 by Publishers Weekly, and Pins and Needles: Stories, which was the recipient of AWP’s Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has been featured in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, The New York Times, and Good Housekeeping.

 

Thanks to Henry Holt, I have one copy to give away to a lucky reader.  U.S. and Canada only, please.  Enter on the Rafflecopter.

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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!

 

 

Book Spotlight: So Close

So Close (Paperback)


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Synopsis from Amazon:

From international #1 best-selling authors Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus comes a story about a girl from the trailer parks of central Florida and the two powerful men who shape her life―one of whom will raise her up to places she never imagined, the other of whom will threaten to destroy her.

Amanda Beth Luker has spent her whole life desperately looking for someone who can show her the way out of her trailer park Florida town. And then, finally, help arrives―in the form of Tom Davis, a successful lawyer with political aspirations who grew up just a few towns over from Amanda. But it’s his wife, Lindsay, who really captures Amanda’s imagination. Strong, smart, and determined, she gives Amanda something she’s never had―a role model. Meanwhile Amanda is introduced to the wealthy, charismatic, and deeply troubled Pax Westerbrook. He clearly desires Amanda, but if she gives in will that move her closer to the life she’s always dreamed of―or make it impossible?

Amanda rides Davis’s political success all the way to Washington, where he becomes Senator and will later be tapped for president and even make a bid for the White House. But when Amanda starts to suspect, and later confirms, his moral indiscretions, her loyalty is tested. Will a girl from a trailer park even be believed if she goes public with damning information? Will she be willing to risk losing everything she’s gained?

image About the authors:

Newsweek declared McLaughlin and Kraus’s The Nanny Diaries a ‘phenomenon.’ It is a #1 New York Times best-seller and the longest-running hardcover best seller of 2002. In 2007 it was released as a major motion picture starring Scarlett Johansson, Laura Linney and Alicia Keys. They are also the authors of three other New York Times bestsellers, Citizen Girl, Dedication and Nanny Returns. And the soon to be released Between You & Me, and Over You.

They have appeared numerous times on CNN, MSNBC, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Tonight and The View. Their work and partnership have been covered in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, TIME, Elle, Town & Country and Harper’s Bazaar.

They have contributed to The London Times and The New York Times as well as two short story collections to benefit The War Child Fund: Big Night Out and Girls’ Night Out. In addition to writing for television and film, they travel around the country speaking to young women about gender issues in American corporate culture.

Thank you to BookSparks for allowing us to share this book with our readers.

Untethered Review

Untethered (Hardcover)


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I have to say, after reading a lot of new domestic dramas, it was nice to see one presented in a new way, one dealing with a step-parent trying to find her footing in her family after the sudden death of her husband.

Untethered tells the story of Char, a professor whose husband, Bradley, suddenly dies, leaving her a widow and his daughter, Allie, a high school student, alone in their Michigan home.  Allie’s biological mother Lindy is a wedding planner in California and can’t make the time to be there for her daughter.  However, she sure likes to make her opinion known and to tell Char how Allie is her child, not Char’s.

After Bradley’s death, Char begins to question herself as a mother, since she’s only mothered Allie with her husband at her side.  Allie is struggling to remain stable amongst a group of friends but she does have one constant in her life, her relationship with Morgan, a young girl who she tutors.

The drama of this book really starts to pick up in the second half.  With Morgan and her family dealing with a crisis of their own, you’ll be turning the pages eagerly, hoping it all comes to a solid and safe resolution.

If you are really looking for Julie Lawson Timmer at her best, I strongly urge you to read her first novel, Five Days Left.  Either of these choices would be good picks for a book club, as they both pose lots of discussion-worthy subject matter.  The characters’ motivation and decisions will be highly debated amongst members.

Thank you to BookSparks and their #BestSummerEver campaign for a copy in exchange for an honest review.

All Is Not Forgotten Review

All Is Not Forgotten: A Novel (Hardcover)


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Wendy Walker sure knows how to hook a reader.  I don’t remember any chapter from this book that did not leave me hanging, ready to find out what happens next.

All Is Not Forgotten is a new psychological thriller dealing with the subject of rape.  Please be aware of this when deciding whether to read this novel because I know it may bother some.  The main character, Jenny, is a student who is brutally attacked at a high school party.  Her parents decide to try a new drug that erase her memories of what happened.  Trouble starts in that she is experiencing stress, fear, and panic but has no idea of how to connect those feelings to a memory.

Enter Alan, Jenny’s therapist, who tries to work with the family in helping her recover and find her attacker.  What I truly enjoyed about this novel is Alan narrates the entire thing, even before we initially meet him as a character.  I found that to be unique because this traumatic tale is told from an outsider’s look in, so we get a bigger picture.

If you liked Defending Jacob, this novel should definitely go on your summer reading list because they share a few similarities.  Throw in some family dysfunction and plot lines encouraging you to quickly turn pages and you have the makings of a perfect summer read.

Thank you to BookSparks for a copy as part of their #SRC2016 #bestsummerever campaign in exchange for an honest review.