It’s that time of year when you look around at your assembled family during your holiday party and decide they look Relatively Normal. At least they will, after you read this laugh-out-loud book.
Cat runs an event planning company in New York City. She meets and becomes engaged to Ethan, an actuary. Ethan is a planner. After Ethan and Cat are engaged and living together for two years, he insists on their two families celebrating Thanksgiving together at Cat’s family farm in rural Illinois.
Cat doesn’t know to explain her family to Ethan. Her mom collects obscure household goods like shortbread pans and various cozies. Cat’s dad is staunchly Scottish. He plays the bagpipes badly and dresses up stuffed mice as Scottish heroes. Her grandmother, Nan, says whatever she thinks. Unfortunately, she is usually thinking with a sailor’s vocabulary due to numerous small strokes. Cat’s brother, Travis, is a 29-year-old clown college dropout living in his parent’s basement.
When Cat, Ethan and his parents get to the farm all hell breaks loose. Cat’s dad has invited Cat’s high school boyfriend and former love of her life, Sam, and his parents. Unfortunately, Dad forgot to mention Cat’s engagement.
The absurdity of the Scottish Thanksgiving dinner is hilarious. Cat’s family never lie so they don’t hesitate to tell her Ethan isn’t her perfect match. When a medical emergency occurs, Cat contemplates her relationship with Ethan and her still fiery feelings for Sam, a feeling that Sam shares.
Relatively Normal starts as a superb farce. When the romance begins to heat up between Cat and Sam, Cat must decide what is important for her. The characters are so believable. You’re rooting for them to make the best decisions and live happily ever after. I recommend this book both to fans of zany humor and non-explicit romance. If you like the Stephanie Plum series, you will also like Relatively Normal. 4 stars!
Thanks to 33 Partners Publishing and NetGalley for a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Humor, Kindle Unlimited, New Books, Romance Tagged with: Family, Nov 20 2018
Everyone Lies in this fast-paced rollercoaster ride of a thriller.
Joe and Mel have an ideal life. Happily married for almost ten years with a perfect young son, William. When Joe and William see Mel turn into a hotel garage, they follow. Joe sees her sitting in the hotel restaurant with her best friend’s upset husband, Ben.
Fearing the worst, Joe waits with William in their car for Mel to emerge. However, she drives away so quickly that Joe misses her. Instead he attempts to talk to Ben. Ben, still angry, pushes the larger Joe against the car. When Joe pushes Ben back, he stumbles and falls unconscious to the ground. Because William has come to see what is taking his Dad so long, he sees the blood seeping from Ben’s ear, which triggers an asthma attack. When Ben rushes back to the car, he can’t find an inhaler and so rushes home to get one.
Mel gives Joe an explanation of a freelance work project for Ben. Joe believes her. Joe decides to return to the hotel to ensure Ben is safe. Both Ben and his car are gone. However, Joe realizes so are his distinct leather bracelet and cell phone. When Joe’s Facebook is hacked, he suspects alpha male Ben. He changes his password, turns off the cell phone and assumes the problem is fixed.
The next day, Ben’s wife, Beth, comes to warn Mel and Joe that Ben came home late the previous night drunk, furious at Joe and vowing revenge. And he took one of the couple’s guns. So starts this mile-a-minute thrill ride.
I tore through Lies as fast as possible because I adored all the quick twists and turns. It’s a great read that is highly recommended to Gone Girl fans. 4 stars.
Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Family, Sep 11 2018
Snake mating balls! Unusual holiday benefits of steroids! The cheap high of the Container Store’s false promises!
We’ve all been there. Okay, maybe not…but we all agree that life is funny especially when someone else is fending off its slings and arrows. Just like life, I See Life through Rosé Colored Glasses has no easily discernible plot. It just kinda rolls over everything in its way. Most of the stories here are only a few pages long making them a perfect choice for grocery queues and doctor’s waiting rooms (and much less frustrating than the high levels of Candy Crush).
First, I love Lisa Scottoline’s thrillers. The only reason I requested this book was because I was curious. I always assumed that mystery/thriller writers are rather glum and constantly thinking of original ways to murder people (hopefully only characters but who really knows). However, this book was hilarious! It reminded of the Erma Bombeck “families are so wacky” style of books from my youth combined with Dave Barry’s “Florida citizens are crazy” books. Except containing large Italian Catholic families that are both wacky and crazy. Despite being nothing like any of those adjectives, it is easy to relate to—or unfortunately relive—many of the scenes from the book.
Btw, I just refuse to use FaceTime or Skype, even at work—problem solved! Again, this book is gloriously absurd and, I know this is judgey Lisa, fully earns 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Humor, Non-fiction Tagged with: Family, Jul 8 2018
Page-turner is so overused that it has become trite. Here is how I felt about Obscura by Joe Hart. I…COULDN’T…PUT…IT…DOWN! Literally! I was reading my kindle at stop lights, during boring parts of a telephone conference call at work (with my office door closed of course) and when I should really be sleeping. The plot is completely different from what I usually read. It is a mystery but set in the future that included copious comingled science fiction and science fact.
Humans are increasingly becoming victims of a vicious type of dementia that resembles quick onset Alzheimer’s. Dr. Gillian Ryan’s husband falls victim to it. When their daughter also catches it, Dr. Ryan, a neurologist, tries to find a cure using rats. When her funding is cut, she takes a wild gamble on a six-month trip into space to try to find a cure for an even more virulent version of the disease by using human subjects in her trials.
Unfortunately, revealing any more of the plot would be a spoiler. The best part of Obscura are the wild twists in the plot. What is causing the disease to become more intense in space? Will Dr. Ryan find a cure? What will happen to her daughter?
This book is superb. It is recommended to anyone who wants to read an intriguing rollercoaster ride with a scientific bent and a near future setting. 5 stars! At the time of this review, this excellent read was available on Kindle Unlimited. It is definitely worth picking up!
Thanks to the publisher, Thomas & Mercer, and NetGalley for an advanced copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Kindle Unlimited, Mystery & Thrillers, Science Fiction Tagged with: Family, May 8 2018, science, space travel
The Wife Between Us is the whiplash-inducing thrill ride of 2018!
Nellie is about to marry the man of her dreams, Richard a hedge fund manager in New York City. Vanessa is jealous of her ex-husband Richard’s new fiancée and attempts to stop the wedding. The Wife Between Us starts as a classic triangle with alternating chapters narrated by the two women. In this simple shell hide many secrets and mysteries. What caused Vanessa’s marriage to crumble so abruptly? What happened to Nellie in college in Florida that makes her so fearful? Is Vanessa inheriting her mother’s mental illness possibly making her an unreliable narrator (like Girl on a Train)? Is Richard’s seemingly perfect personality just a facade (like American Psycho)? There are many clues to the plot twists to come hidden in plain sight for observant readers to find.
Many books have been called the next Gone Girl but this book gets this reviewer’s vote. Both a psychological thriller and a mystery, The Wife Between Us is highly recommended as the best twisty pulse-pounding thrill ride of 2018. Beware that sleep will be lost as the book propels the reader to finish it in one sitting! 5 stars!
Thanks so much to the publisher, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced review copy.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Family, Jan 9 2018, twisty
Captivating character study of what happens when two young sisters disappear one morning.
Kylie is 10 and a fire-cracker who back-talks her mother and uses her makeup. Bailey is 8 and loves school especially vocabulary. Jamie, their mother, needed to pick up a quick kid’s birthday gift for a party for which they were already late. Jamie decided it would be faster if she ran into Kmart by herself. It shouldn’t take more than 5 minutes. When she looks out of the store a few minutes later the girls are no longer in the car. She searches the nearby businesses but can’t find the girls. They are gone.
Jamie’s aunt, a local real estate agent, hires private detective Alice Vega. Vega is famous for solving several other missing children cases. Vega hires a local private investigator, Max Caplan, to help her get access to the local police files. Caplan quit his job with the department five years earlier in a messy scandal after a kid died in lockup. Both Vega and Caplan have heavy emotional baggage but are intent on finding little Kylie and Bailey before it is too late. The girls’ family also have an interesting dynamic.
Two Girls Down is a thriller but more thought-provoking viewed as a character study. The characters are all distinct and authentic. The resolution is unexpected and unlike a typical thriller. 4 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Doubleday, and Netgalley for an advanced review copy. Two Girls Down will be published on January 9, 2018.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Child abduction, Family, Jan 9 2018, PI, Police procedural
A Hundred Small Lessons is a haunting discourse about life wrapped around two families’ stories within a single house.
Elsie and Clem buy a newly built house soon after World War II is over. They have eight-year-old twins and Elsie finds the reason for her existence in motherhood. Sixty-one years later, the twins are almost seventy themselves and Clem is dead. After a bad fall at home, Elsie is shuttled quickly into a nursing home and the house is sold to a new family.
Lucy and Ben are just starting out with their young son. After finding the former owner’s overlooked family photos, Lucy begins to imagine Elsie’s life within the house.
A Hundred Small Lessons alternates between Elsie’s and Lucy’s stories. The language is languorous practically poetic. It feels as if the reader is dreaming, rather than reading, the story. The setting of Brisbane Australia, with its unbridled nature encroaching into everyone’s attempt at order, is a perfect and subtle metaphor for how life can never be controlled.
The holidays and the start of a new year are the time for reflection about the meaning of life and our place within it. Elsie and Clem’s life juxtaposed with Lucy and Ben’s depict one such meaning. Sometimes a book’s plot is just a starting point for thinking about one’s own life. While there is melancholia here, there is also something rather sweet about how life moves through its cycle regardless of our petty triumphs and struggles. As Clem so eloquently says,
All these moments, he thought as the boat edged away from the riverbank. They added up to something, but he could never quite see to what.
A Hundred Small Things is a book to slowly savor. Its evocative setting and thought-provoking plot are perfect starting points for deeper self-reflection. 5 stars!
Thanks to the publisher, Atria Books, for sponsoring the Goodreads giveaway that gave me this wonderful book.
Posted in Diane's Favorites, Literary Fiction Tagged with: Dec 12 2017, Family
Evocative psychological thriller set in a dysfunctional family (aren’t they all) by a brand-new author.
This is a story of two sisters, Corinne and Ashley. Ashley is happily married with a teenage daughter, a primary school son and a baby girl. Corinne is desperately trying to have her first child with her live-in boyfriend Dominic using in-vitro fertilization. Corinne receives an anonymous gift that looks like an item from the doll house that her father built the sisters when they were children. As the book continues, more doll house items mysteriously appear at Corinne’s work and on the kitchen counter inside her apartment. Is this really happening or is Corinne an unreliable narrator due to her mental health issues with coping after her father’s recent death. Her boyfriend, Dominic, doesn’t believe Corinne and instead thinks that Corinne’s hormones from the IVF are negatively impacting her judgement. Even Corinne begins to doubt herself,
It must a coincidence. I haven’t seen the house in years, we don’t even know where it is. I’m imagining things, the way I do when I’m anxious.
The Doll House is narrated alternately by the sisters and occasionally by a secondary character. In addition, at the end of most chapters, the “villain” narrates in italics. There were not many options for the villain making the a-ha moment at the end rather underwhelming.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for a good psychological thriller that also contains dysfunctional family dynamics. The Doll House is much better than some of my favorite author’s first novels. I am looking forward to many more novels in the future from Ms. Morgan. 4 stars!
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers Tagged with: Family, Sept 14 2017
Hilarious novel about a family just like yours.
Nuclear Family is a collection of letters and emails to Julie from her teenage years to her 30s from her loved ones. There are letters from her over serious father, her oversharing mother and her free-spirited sister. More unusual are letters from her boyfriend’s dog, her teenage Nordic Track and her IUD.
It took me about an hour to find this book funny. I think you have to be familiar with the characters first. However, after that I found myself frequently laughing out loud. I particularly liked the two very different grandmothers and the creepy peer of Julie’s father.
Overall, this is a short funny book about family that would be a good vacation read.
I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway but that has not impacted my review.
Posted in Humor Tagged with: Family
Young Adult Family Drama more than a Mystery/Thriller
How would you feel if your father’s murder was being covered in a non-fiction podcast? Would you be grateful that someone was looking further into his murder or would you be upset that all the old information is being dredged up once again? That is the premise of this novel. The podcast in this book has a remarkable, and author acknowledged, resemblance to the popular podcast, Serial, in its first season.
Josie, the good twin, and Lanie, the bad twin, are both in the house during the crime. Lanie testifies that she saw Wesley, a goth teenage neighbor, commit the crime. After the murder, Josie and Lanie’s mother left the girls with their aunt and joined a cult. Wesley was convicted of the murder. His mother contacted the podcast in the hopes of getting more information to prove her son’s innocence.
This is categorized as a mystery/thriller but it was easy to guess whodunit. It seemed almost a Young Adult read because so much of the story was flashbacks to the twin’s youth. There are many twists and turns and as many red herrings as there are subplots. It also has complex family dynamics underlying its other themes.
Overall, I think this novel would appeal to older teens or readers that like to read about how families interrelate. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to mystery/thriller readers that are looking, like I am, for the next Gone Girl.
I want to thank the publisher, author and netgalley for an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Posted in Mystery & Thrillers, Teen & Young Adult Tagged with: Family