Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

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Publisher: Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult, Book Club, Feminism, New York

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.

When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.

Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.

Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?

A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?


First Line:

You will already have an idea of me. There are enough of us dead girls out there.

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

I am a huge true crime junkie. I listen to various podcasts, watch ID Discover, and read fictional mysteries/suspense/thrillers. So, when I got the Before You Knew My Name invite, I accepted it. No hesitation, I downloaded this book to my Kindle in record time. I am glad I did because I enjoyed reading this book a lot.

Before You Knew My Name was an exciting book. This was the story of Alice, an eighteen-year-old girl from Wisconsin who had traveled to New York City. Alice was murdered and left for dead on a rocky pier. She is determined to help the woman who discovered her, Ruby, find her murderer and get justice. But this is also the story of Ruby. Ruby, from Australia, had been stuck in a rut for a while when she decided she needed a new start. And for her, it means traveling to New York City. But Ruby is the one who discovers Alice’s body, and Ruby is the one who pushes the police for answers. Will Ruby find herself in New York City? Will Alice get her justice?

There are trigger warnings in this book. The trigger warning is underage sexual contact/situations, cheating, mentions of sexual abuse, suicide, child abuse, and drinking. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

Before You Knew My Name was a medium-fast-paced book set in New York City. It starts fast, slows down in the middle of the book, and then picks up towards the end. The pacing was perfect for this book. Any faster, and I would have had an issue keeping up. Any slower, and the book would have dragged.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Alice and Ruby when they were both introduced. Alice seemed like an unreliable narrator. At the beginning of her story, she glossed over a lot. Ruby was a hot mess, and you know what? I related to her.

  • Alice— As I mentioned above, I wasn’t too sure about Alice at the beginning of her storyline. She was very unreliable and kept glossing over her earlier years. But, as the book went on and she opened up about her life pre-New York City, I started to like her. I did think she was too trusting (mainly with Noah, but he ended up being a teddy bear). When the killer killed her, it did hit me hard. I was a freaking mess. Then I got mad and hoped the police would catch the killer soon.
  • Ruby—I liked her right from the beginning. She was a hot mess but relatable (as I described above). I wasn’t that shocked that she up and left Melbourne. She needed a new start. But her fresh start didn’t exactly go as planned when she found Alice. I loved how her character grew after finding Alice. She became almost obsessed with finding the killer, and she did have a great support system (a found family) in New York. My only quibble with her was Ash. He was like a drug to her, and she needed to let him go.

There were many memorable secondary characters in Before You Knew My Name. They each brought added depth to the plotline. There were some that I wished had more book time (Noah and Tina were two), and others (like Alice’s teacher/lover) needed less book time.

Before You Knew My Name was a combination of mystery and thriller. It fits perfectly into those genres. I think there could have been a tad more thriller, but that’s just me.

Alice’s storyline was poignant. But it also made me unbelievably mad during some parts. Alice had some awful things happen to her, but she dealt with them with a grace that I know I wouldn’t have had. But, once she arrived in New York with that camera and found Noah, she turned into a different girl. She began to see a future. And that is what made me so unbelievably angry when she was murdered. The killer snuffed out her light too soon.

Ruby’s storyline was just as poignant but in a different way. She needed a change. She was stagnating in her life in Australia. So, her going to New York City and starting over was good. And, in a way, finding Alice’s body was a good thing too. Because if she didn’t, she would have never gone to the support group. She would have never met Lennie, and she would have never joined The Death Club. She also would have never met Josh, Susan, or even Noah.

The storyline with Alice’s killer was interesting. The author kept his identity and motive under wraps until almost the end of the book. Ruby had a hand leading the detectives to him when she remembered something crucial about the night she found Alice.

The end of Before You Knew My Name was poignant. The author was able to merge all the storylines, and she ended them in a way that tugged at my heartstrings. From beginning to end, this book will make you think about all the John and Jane Does out there.

Three Reasons You Should Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. It was a true mystery. The author kept Alice’s killer under wraps until the end.
  2. The book had a great pace to it. It made reading and keeping track of the different storylines very easy.
  3. The characters were very relatable.

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. The trigger warnings.
  2. Alice being murdered. I was so angry about that (even though I knew it would happen).
  3. Ruby being a hot mess.

I would recommend Before You Knew My Name to anyone over 21. There is language, nongraphic sexual content, and violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Before You Knew My Name, you will enjoy reading these books:

Big Summer by Jennifer Weiner

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Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: May 5th, 2020

Genre: Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Mystery, Romance, Contemporary, Adult, Adult Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Thriller, Mystery Thriller

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Indigo | Indigo | Kobo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Six years after the fight that ended their friendship, Daphne Berg is shocked when Drue Cavanaugh walks back into her life, looking as lovely and successful as ever, with a massive favor to ask. Daphne hasn’t spoken one word to Drue in all this time—she doesn’t even hate-follow her ex-best friend on social media—so when Drue asks if she will be her maid-of-honor at the society wedding of the summer, Daphne is rightfully speechless.

Drue was always the one who had everything—except the ability to hold onto friends. Meanwhile, Daphne’s no longer the same self-effacing sidekick she was back in high school. She’s built a life that she loves, including a growing career as a plus-size Instagram influencer. Letting glamorous, seductive Drue back into her life is risky, but it comes with an invitation to spend a weekend in a waterfront Cape Cod mansion. When Drue begs and pleads and dangles the prospect of cute single guys, Daphne finds herself powerless as ever to resist her friend’s siren song.

A sparkling novel about the complexities of female friendship, the pitfalls of living out loud and online, and the resilience of the human heart, Big Summer is a witty, moving story about family, friendship, and figuring out what matters most.


First Line:

By the second week of September, the outer Cape was practically deserted.

Big Summer by Jennifier Weiner

I was excited when I saw that Jennifer Weiner had a new book. I had read Mrs. Everything and enjoyed it. I figured Big Summer would be just as good as Mrs. Everything, and guess what? I was right!! Big Summer was a perfect mix of mystery, thriller, and romance.

Big Summer had an interesting storyline. Daphne is an up-and-coming social influencer who has overcome body image/weight issues in high school/college. She is surprised when her ex-best friend, socialite Dru Cavanaugh, asks her to be in her wedding. Ask is not the correct word. Dru begs Daphne to come and offers to pay her. When Daphne agrees, she is immediately thrust back into the role of Dru’s best friend. But things aren’t what they seem with Dru. As the wedding draws closer, Daphne starts to see cracks in Dru’s flawless veneer. And when a murder happens the night before the wedding, Daphne is considered one of the main suspects. Can Daphne find the murderer and prove her innocence?

I liked Daphne, but she got on my nerves during the book. I liked that she had risen above the bullying and comments about her weight and turned it into something positive. But I wouldn’t say I liked that when Dru came back into her life, she immediately fell back into her old role as a sidekick. It made all that progress that she had made go down the drain. Daphne was also blind about Dru. I saw that Dru had something else up her sleeve when she begged Daphne to be in her wedding. It took Daphne until the wedding to realize that maybe Dru was using her again. Other than her willful blindness, I enjoyed Daphne’s character. She was positive, down to earth, and she knew she had come a long way from the girl she used to be.

I was not too fond of Dru as an adult and despised her as a tween/teenager. Let’s talk about Dru as a teenager first. Ever see the movie Mean Girls? She reminded me of Regina (the head of the group, The Plastics). She treated her friends, Daphne mostly, horribly. She would take pictures of kids and post them to an online burn book. She would alternately be all over Daphne or treat her like crap; there was no in-between. I did feel a little bad for her when the author revealed that her home life sucked and that she envied Daphne for her relationship with her parents. But still, it didn’t excuse what she did. Posting that video of Daphne freaking out at the club was unacceptable. Adult Dru was just as bad in my eyes. She used people to further her brand and didn’t care if it hurt them or the ones they loved. Dru was an actress who knew how to reel people in and get them to do what she wanted. She used even her ex-boyfriend (the one that Daphne found).

There are several triggers that I need to let you know about before continuing with the review. The author tackled issues such as fat shaming, online bullying, self-esteem, and body positivity in this book. The author doesn’t hold back regarding Dru’s treatment of Daphne or the video that resulted. It was raw and authentic, and unfortunately, keyboard warriors still think it’s ok to comment/make fun of another person’s weight. If any of these triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

The main storyline, Daphne being in Dru’s wedding and the backstory of their friendship, was well written. I could see why Daphne was so taken by Dru. She was a new girl in a new school and had no friends. I also could see how Dru kept stringing Daphne along until college. When she showed up at Daphne’s nannying job and begged her to be in her wedding, I was shocked by how ballsy Dru was. And I wasn’t surprised with how that storyline ended up. What did surprise me was Daphne’s dedication to finding who and why. At that point, I would have washed my hands of everything.

The storylines with the mystery woman and the little boy were left in the air for 75% of the book. It wasn’t until Daphne was in the Cape for Dru’s wedding that the storyline got rolling again. Once it was revealed who the little boy was and how the police handled the case, I felt awful for everyone involved. I also didn’t blame the officer for telling Daphne what he did. That was the one case he couldn’t solve, and he wasn’t going to allow a 2nd case to go cold either.

The storyline with the murder didn’t start until halfway through the book. I was gut-punched at who the murder victim was and how that person died. Daphne’s reaction was typical, but I loved how she got herself together and decided to investigate the case. Being the main person of interest did have something to do with it. I was shocked at who the murderer was and was sad about the motive. That was a twist in that plotline that I didn’t see coming, and the reason was awful.

There is a romance angle that I wasn’t a big fan of. I was thrilled that Daphne hooked up with someone who liked her for who she was. But that person ghosted her after their night together. Not a great way to start a relationship. Also, figure in Instalove. Daphne was head over heels for this guy, and she didn’t even know who he was!!

The end of Big Summer felt a little rushed, but the author did a fantastic job with the reveal of the killer. She also tied up the remaining storylines and gave them all great endings.

I would recommend Big Summer to anyone over 21. There is moderate language, moderate violence, and some explicit sex scenes. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph above.


If you enjoyed Big Summer, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

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Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: May 10th, 2022

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, LGBTQ+

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of That Summer comes another heartfelt and unputdownable novel of family, secrets, and the ties that bind.

When her twenty-two-year-old stepdaughter announces her engagement to her pandemic boyfriend, Sarah Danhauser is shocked. But the wheels are in motion. Headstrong Ruby has already set a date (just three months away!) and spoken to her beloved safta, Sarah’s mother Veronica, about having the wedding at the family’s beach house on Cape Cod. Sarah might be worried, but Veronica is thrilled to be bringing the family together one last time before putting the big house on the market.

But the road to a wedding day usually comes with a few bumps. Ruby has always known exactly what she wants, but as the wedding date approaches, she finds herself grappling with the wounds left by the mother who walked out when she was a baby. Veronica ends up facing unexpected news, thanks to her meddling sister, and must revisit the choices she made long ago, when she was a bestselling novelist with a different life. Sarah’s twin brother, Sam, is recovering from a terrible loss, and confronting big questions about who he is—questions he hopes to resolve during his stay on the Cape. Sarah’s husband, Eli, who’s been inexplicably distant during the pandemic, confronts the consequences of a long ago lapse from his typical good-guy behavior. And Sarah, frustrated by her husband, concerned about her stepdaughter, and worn out by challenges of life during quarantine, faces the alluring reappearance of someone from her past and a life that could have been.

When the wedding day arrives, lovers are revealed as their true selves, misunderstandings take on a life of their own, and secrets come to light. There are confrontations and revelations that will touch each member of the extended family, ensuring that nothing will ever be the same.

From “the undisputed boss of the beach read” (The New York Times), The Summer Place is a testament to family in all its messy glory; a story about what we sacrifice and how we forgive. Enthralling, witty, big-hearted, and sharply observed, this is Jennifer Weiner’s love letter to the Outer Cape and the power of home, the way our lives are enriched by the people we call family, and the endless ways love can surprise us.


First Line:

For forty years, the house had stood, silvery cedar and gleaming glass, on the edge of the dune, overlooking the waters of Cape Cod Bay.

The Summer Place by Jennifer Weiner

Ruby has announced her upcoming marriage to her pandemic boyfriend. This throws her family into a tailspin. When the dust settles, lives will never be the same. Can everyone and their relationships survive what is going to happen?

I wasn’t a big fan of how the author wrote this book and almost DNF’d it a couple of times. The author took us down memory lane with all of the characters. If there were two POVs and it jumped from past to present, I would have been fine. But every single character. Nope. By the time the author was able to bring everyone to a single plotline (the wedding), I was struggling.

I wasn’t a fan of the characters either. I know that the author was trying to make them more realistic but having them all cheat (at one point or the other) or make them do stupid things (like sleeping with a guy to get money for an abortion that didn’t happen) was just too much. The only one I liked was Sam, and his arc was excellent.

I also wasn’t a fan of a total recap of the pandemic during the book’s first half. I lived it; I know what happened. I didn’t need it shoved down my throat. But I get why the author did it. She wanted to show how pandemic relationships got serious, and they soured just as fast.

I loved Ronnie. She was feisty, and she intensely disliked the Pond People. Every time I saw those words, I giggled. She also gave up so much for her kids. So much that they didn’t understand or care. So, when she got that news in the middle of the book, my heart sank, and I began a countdown before she told Sarah and Sam.

I also loved Sam. His journey to self-discovery was one of the better storylines. He didn’t cheat, and he loved his wife. He was raising his stepson alone after her death. There was a point in his storyline where I did wonder about him. I wondered if he was asexual until he discovered hobbit fan fiction and then realized something about himself. His journey from then on was one of the best things about this book.

I was not too fond of Sarah. Instead of talking to Eli and asking him what’s up, she chose to go the other path. She ASSUMED that he was cheating on her and used that as the reason to get her apartment. When she hooked back up with Owen, I rolled my eyes. I could see where this was going. But, I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did. That surprised me.

I was on the fence with Eli. Like Sarah, I didn’t understand why he didn’t call Rosa and ask her what he was assuming of her. I laughed when he had Ari try to lift the toothbrushes and got the wrong one. I could think, “Well, at least he knows for sure about that one.” But, he was so involved with what was going on with him that he didn’t see what was going on with Ruby or Sarah until it was almost too late.

I didn’t blame Rosa for doing what she did when she found out she was pregnant. She had no clue that it would backfire the way it did. I got why she was embarrassed to face Eli. But to read her side of that weekend was a little disappointing. I expected more from her since Eli remembered her as this vibrant, sensual woman.

I liked Gabe, but I wish he had been more open with Ruby about getting married. I get that he was a go-with-the-flow guy, but this was almost too much. He should have told Ruby that he didn’t want to get married and ended it. Then that would have made what happened next much more palatable to me.

Ruby was alright. She was used to getting what she wanted when she wanted it. So, when she wanted to marry Gabe, she went for it. I did feel bad for her when she finally realized she couldn’t marry Gabe. I would have done the same thing if I were in her shoes.

The end of the book was alright. I liked how everyone came together, and I got misty-eyed when the author recapped what had happened in the year since that night.

I would recommend The Summer Place to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

Circus of Wonders by Elizabeth Macneal

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Publisher: Atria Books, Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: February 1st 2022

Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance, Magical Realism

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | WorldCat

Goodreads Synopsis:

1866. In a coastal village in southern England, Nell picks violets for a living. Set apart by her community because of the birthmarks that speckle her skin, Nell’s world is her beloved brother and devotion to the sea.

But when Jasper Jupiter’s Circus of Wonders arrives in the village, Nell is kidnapped. Her father has sold her, promising Jasper Jupiter his very own leopard girl. It is the greatest betrayal of Nell’s life, but as her fame grows, and she finds friendship with the other performers and Jasper’s gentle brother Toby, she begins to wonder if joining the show is the best thing that has ever happened to her.

In London, newspapers describe Nell as the eighth wonder of the world. Figurines are cast in her image, and crowds rush to watch her soar through the air. But who gets to tell Nell’s story? What happens when her fame threatens to eclipse that of the showman who bought her? And as she falls in love with Toby, can he detach himself from his past and the terrible secret that binds him to his brother?

Moving from the pleasure gardens of Victorian London to the battle-scarred plains of the Crimea, Circus of Wonders is an astonishing story about power and ownership, fame and the threat of invisibility.


First Line:

It begins with an advertisement, nailed to an oak tree.

Circus of wonders by elizabeth macneal

It is not every day that a book about English circuses in the late 1860s comes across my email. When I read the blurb for Circus of Wonders, it immediately caught my attention. I am glad that I read this book, even if it made me uncomfortable in places.

Circus of Wonders had an exciting storyline. Nell is a nineteen-year-old girl living in a village on the coast of England. Nell is an outcast because she is covered in brown birthmarks, including a big one that covers the side of her face. Because of that, she keeps to her cottage. Her everyday life is mundane, packing flowers dipped in sugar and shipping them to London. But then the circus comes to town, and Nell’s life is turned upside down. Sold by her father to Jasper Jupiters Circus of Wonders, Nell finds love and fame. But, Jasper (the circus owner) is jealous that her fame goes beyond his and vows to take her down. Will Nell be able to hold onto her values and her love? Or will she be left in worse straits than when she joined the circus?

Circus of Wonders had a medium-paced storyline that did pick up steam in places. The pacing of the book did it justice. It was a nice, steady pace from beginning to end. It took me around two days to finish Circus of Wonders.

Nell was powerful in this book. She went from this meek, timid girl afraid to show her face to a powerful woman who wasn’t scared to fight for what she wanted. Her character’s growth throughout the book was terrific.

I wasn’t that big of a fan of Toby. I didn’t see what Nell saw in him except that he was safe because he was so big? He was also abnormally close to Jasper, his brother. It creeped me out how close they were. I did like that his character did show some growth during the book. By the end, he was becoming his own person. I wish he had made the right choice (if you read the book, you know what I mean). He would have been so much happier.

I was not too fond of Jasper. He was overconfident, took too many risks, and was cruel. You don’t see how evil he was until his chapters when he was in the Crimean War. After those chapters, his cruelness was more apparent. Also, I wouldn’t say I liked how he treated Toby. From the beginning, he used Toby’s secret to keep him around and constantly reminded him about it. He disgusted me with how he treated his “attractions” (the animals and humans).

I did like the look into how circus life was in the 1860s. I liked the peek behind the big top that the author gave me. I wasn’t surprised at what she described when talking about the human attractions. They were treated as subhuman, like monsters (as Queen Victoria and her Ladies in Waiting described Nell). I like that they showed how everyone became a family unit and protected their own. Even when Brunette ran, they didn’t tell Jasper until he discovered she was gone.

The romance between Nell and Toby seemed a little forced to me. It didn’t do anything for me. I also wasn’t surprised by how it ended. I called it when they first met (not even when they had sex when they first met). Toby was too damaged, and Nell, well, she was a force to be reckoned with.

The end of Circus of Wonders was “blah” to me. I wish that the storyline with Jasper went the way I thought it would. I also wish that Toby had made a different choice when it came to Nell. I liked that the author went 11 years into the future to show where everyone ended up. It was interesting how the tables had flipped. And I loved that dreams were realized!!

I would recommend Circus of Wonders to anyone over 16. There is mild violence, nongraphic sex scenes, and no language.

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

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The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: August 17th, 2021

Genre: Mystery, Thriller

Purchase Links: Amazon | B&N | Google Play | WorldCat

Format Read: Unedited ARC

Received: From Publisher


Goodreads Synopsis:

At twenty-six, Dahlia Lighthouse has a lot to learn when it comes to the real world. Raised in a secluded island mansion deep in the woods and kept isolated by her true crime-obsessed parents, she has spent the last several years living on her own, but unable to move beyond her past—especially the disappearance of her twin brother Andy when they were sixteen.

With her father’s death, Dahlia returns to the house she has avoided for years. But as the rest of the Lighthouse family arrives for the memorial, a gruesome discovery is made: buried in the reserved plot is another body—Andy’s, his skull split open with an ax.

Each member of the family handles the revelation in unusual ways. Her brother Charlie pours his energy into creating a family memorial museum, highlighting their research into the lives of famous murder victims; her sister Tate forges ahead with her popular dioramas portraying crime scenes; and their mother affects a cheerfully domestic façade, becoming unrecognizable as the woman who performed murder reenactments for her children. As Dahlia grapples with her own grief and horror, she realizes that her eccentric family, and the mansion itself, may hold the answers to what happened to her twin.


First Line:

My parents named me Dahlia, after the Black Dahlia – that actress whose body was cleaved in half, left in grass as sharp as scalpels, a permanent smiled sliced into her face – and when I first learned her story at for years old, I assumed a knife would one day carve me up.

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

Review:

The Family Plot centers around an eccentric family, the Lighthouses. The parents named the children after famous victims of killings (Charles Lindbergh (Charlie), Sharon Tate (Tate), Andrew Borden (Andy), and The Black Dahlia (Dahlia)). They were kept isolated from the island community and were homeschooled on a….different….curriculum. It all consisted of true crimes, their victims, and their murderers. It was an unconventional upbringing.

The book starts with the death of Dahlia’s father, which brings her, Charlie, and Tate home. Andy has been missing for ten years. Dahlia, Andy’s twin, is hoping that he will show up. But that hope is dashed when the groundskeeper finds a body buried in what will be her father’s grave. That body ends up being Andy, and finding his body opens up Pandora’s box for the entire family.

Dahlia is determined to find out what happened to Andy. But her investigating uncovers a more profound and more disturbing mystery. That mystery is connected to a serial killer operating on the island. The more Dahlia digs, the more evidence she uncovers that Andy’s death is somehow connected to that serial killer. But how and why? What is revealed at the end of the book will shock even the most hardened person.


As I mentioned above, the main characters in The Family Plot are the Lighthouses. Charlie, Tate, Dahlia, and Andy with their mother, father (in spirit), ex-police chief, current police chief, Dahlia’s best friend, Andy’s girlfriend, and the groundskeeper being major secondary characters. Each one of these characters was written beautifully and had their voice that was heard.

Now, saying that I do want to touch on how messed up the Lighthouse family was. Each person had their issues. I will say that I thought Dahlia was the most “normal” person in the family. Tate had social problems. Charlie was an alcoholic (among other things), Andy had anger and cruelty issues (told through mini-flashbacks), and the mother, well, I am not going to say what they were because her problems are critical to the plotline. As the book goes on, the dysfunction in this family doesn’t lessen. Instead, it gets worse. I have never read a book where this happened, and I loved it.

As much as I loved the characters, I didn’t exactly like the lack of depth. The book is told in 1st person, through Dahlia’s eyes, but I felt that I didn’t get to know her. Same with Charlie, Andy, and Tate. This is the one time that I think that multiple POVs would have helped.


The plotline for The Family Plot was fast-moving and well written. But it did lag in the middle. While the lag wasn’t enough to derail the plotline, it was enough to bog it down. Plus, I felt that there was too much extra at that point in the book. Honestly, I didn’t care about the stalkerish ex-police chief or his son, the current police chief. I also didn’t care for Ruby’s smothering grandfather. I get why the author did but still. It was a distraction. I wanted to know more about Dahlia’s upbringing. I would have loved to read a snippet of a murder report.

The mystery angle of the book was on point. The author threw out so many red herrings that I second-guessed myself over who the serial killer was. I also couldn’t figure out who killed Andy and why.

I do want to touch on the true-crime angle. I thought it was well written and inventive for the author to have it used as part of a homeschooling curriculum. I am a true crime fanatic, and I recognized several of the names used in the book (aside from who the kids were named after). But, there were also names that I didn’t recognize, and I had to google.

I was shocked at the events that led to Andy being killed than who killed him. I can safely say that I didn’t see it coming. I had to put my Kindle down to process the revelation and then keep on reading. My only complaint is that the confession and the aftermath seemed a little rushed.

The end of the book didn’t sit right with me. Like I mentioned above, there was a huge reveal, and then it just tapered off. I was expecting another twist or something like that to happen. That drove me nuts!!! I would have loved to see something bigger happen than what did.


I loved reading The Family Plot. It was an engaging mystery/thriller that kept me guessing who did it until the end.

I would recommend The Family Plot to anyone over the age of 21. There are numerous mentions of true crime stories. There are reenactments of how people died, often gruesome. There are descriptions of a serial killer and how the victims were killed. There are scenes of extreme grief.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

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4 Stars

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: February 4th, 2020

Genre: General Fiction

Where you can find Things in Jars: Barnes and Noble | Amazon | BookBub

Book synopsis:

In the dark underbelly of Victorian London, a formidable female sleuth is pulled into the macabre world of fanatical anatomists and crooked surgeons while investigating the kidnapping of an extraordinary child in this gothic mystery—perfect for fans of The Essex Serpent and The Book of Speculation.

Bridie Devine—female detective extraordinaire—is confronted with the most baffling puzzle yet: the kidnapping of Christabel Berwick, secret daughter of Sir Edmund Athelstan Berwick, and a peculiar child whose reputed supernatural powers have captured the unwanted attention of collectors trading curiosities in this age of discovery.

Winding her way through the labyrinthine, sooty streets of Victorian London, Bridie won’t rest until she finds the young girl, even if it means unearthing a past that she’d rather keep buried. Luckily, her search is aided by an enchanting cast of characters, including a seven-foot tall housemaid; a melancholic, tattoo-covered ghost; and an avuncular apothecary. But secrets abound in this foggy underworld where spectacle is king and nothing is quite what it seems.

Blending darkness and light, history and folklore, Things in Jars is a spellbinding Gothic mystery that collapses the boundary between fact and fairy tale to stunning effect and explores what it means to be human in inhumane times.


First Line:

As pale as a grave grub she’s an eyeful.

Things in Jars by Jess Kidd

My Review:

When I read the blurb for Things in Jars, I knew that I needed to read the book. A mystery set in Victorian England that had a paranormal/fantasy bent to it. Another thing going for this book is that I had read Himself by the author and loved it. So, yes, I was excited to read the book. I am glad that I did because Things in Jars were fantastic!!

Things in Jars had a great storyline. Bridie Devine is a female detective who takes on a case that she thinks will be easy. A 6-year-old girl has been kidnapped, and her father is frantic to get her back. But, as Bridie starts to investigate this story, she notices that things aren’t adding up. Then Bridie’s past collides with her present in a way that could derail her investigation. What is so special about that girl? Why are so many people after her? And what will happen when Bridie is forced to face her past?

The plotline for Things in Jars was lightning fast. That surprised me because when a book goes from past to present, there is always some lag. But not in this case. The author was able to keep up the pace of the plotline and seamlessly go from past to present. There are also no dropped characters or storylines. It made reading this book absolutely a joy!!

I am not a massive fan of when books got back and forth in time. But in this case, the author made it work. As Bridie investigated Christabel’s kidnapping, the author showed what it was like for Bridie growing up. It wasn’t pretty. There were parts of her childhood that made me want to hug her. The time spent in the Eames household, and what Gideon put her through was awful. But, it showed where she got her medical skills and how it shaped her into the woman she was in the present day.

The storyline with Christabel’s kidnapping was interesting. I liked it because I had to figure out if Christabel being a freak of nature was true or not. For a time, I did think that Christabel was an innocent child. But, then there was a crucial scene that involved snails and feet that changed my mind.

I liked that the author took the Irish myth of the Merrow and ran with it. I wasn’t familiar with that myth and spent some time reading about it after I finished the book. I loved it!!

I also loved how the author tied Bridie’s past and present together. There were a couple of people from her past that showed up, not including Ruby Doyle. I was surprised at how they were tied in.

I loved the paranormal angle of the book. I did feel that Ruby’s storyline was dragged on, and I did think, for a time, that his connection to Bridie was forgotten. But, it wasn’t, and the reveal was heartbreaking. I’ll admit, I cried.

The end of Things in Jars was nothing short of amazing. The author did a fantastic job of wrapping everything up. My heart broke a few times when reading the ending. I was wondering if there was going to be another book, but I don’t think so. If I’m wrong, that’s great. But the vibe I got was no.


I would give Things in Jars an Adult rating. There is no sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread Things in Jars. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White

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4 Stars

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of Publication: August 6th, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction

Where you can find We Are All Good People Here: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookBub

Book Synopsis:

From the author of A Place at the Table and A Soft Place to Land, an “intense, complex, and wholly immersive” (Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times bestselling author) multigenerational novel that explores the complex relationship between two very different women and the secrets they bequeath to their daughters.

Eve Whalen, privileged child of an old-money Atlanta family, meets Daniella Gold in the fall of 1962, on their first day at Belmont College. Paired as roommates, the two become fast friends. Daniella, raised in Georgetown by a Jewish father and a Methodist mother, has always felt caught between two worlds. But at Belmont, her bond with Eve allows her to finally experience a sense of belonging. That is, until the girls’ expanding awareness of the South’s systematic injustice forces them to question everything they thought they knew about the world and their places in it.

Eve veers toward radicalism—a choice pragmatic Daniella cannot fathom. After a tragedy, Eve returns to Daniella for help in beginning anew, hoping to shed her past. But the past isn’t so easily buried, as Daniella and Eve discover when their daughters are endangered by secrets meant to stay hidden.

Spanning more than thirty years of American history, from the twilight of Kennedy’s Camelot to the beginning of Bill Clinton’s presidency, We Are All Good People Here is “a captivating…meaningful, resonant story” (Emily Giffin, author of All We Ever Wanted) about two flawed but well-meaning women clinging to a lifelong friendship that is tested by the rushing waters of history and their own good intentions.


First Line:

Daniella’s father steered the Dodge Pioneer up the serpentine drive of Belmont College, home to more than five hundred girls renowned for their Beauty and Brains, or at least that wsa what the boosterish tour guide who had shown Daniella around the previous spring had claimed.

We Are All Good People Here by Susan Rebecca White

We Are All Good People Here was an interesting read. I usually don’t like books that follow characters over the decades. Often, I find myself getting confused with what is going on and losing track of the plotline. Not in this book. We Are All Good People Here was an interesting, character-driven book that had me engrossed the entire time.

What I liked the most about this book was how the characters changed with each decade. Each decade showed a different side to Eve and Daniella. I enjoyed seeing the different sides of Eve and Daniella. I liked seeing how they related to each other in those periods of their lives. I loved seeing how their friendship evolved during the 30+ years the book covers. It made for a fantastic read.

I liked how the author had Eve and Daniella be on opposite ends of the Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War protests. It was interesting to read about Daniella’s time in Mississippi. I was interested in how Eve was immersed in a radical group. It fascinated me.

We Are All Good People Here covers so much that this review would be forever if I wrote about them all. Racism and discrimination were two of the main things discussed. Also discussed where same-sex couples, date rape, drug use, and radicalism. All these issues combined into one book made for a great read.

What I didn’t like was how Eve changed. It didn’t sit right with me. She was immersed in the culture of the underground radicals. So, for her to marry a lawyer and become a “perfect” wife was a hard pill to swallow.

I wasn’t a fan of Eve and Daniella’s kids taking over the book. But, I understood why the author did that. She wanted to introduce the issues that my generation had to deal with growing up.

The end of We Are All Good People Here was almost anticlimactic. I figured that Eve would end up doing what she did. Daniella, I didn’t expect her life to take the course that it did. It was an excellent ending to a great story. The talk that Daniella and Sarah had at the end of the book touched me.


I would give We Are All Good People Here an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I would reread We Are All Good People Here. I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner

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4 Stars

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: June 11th, 2019

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Where you can find Mrs. Everything: Amazon | Barnes and Noble | BookBub

Book synopsis:

From Jennifer Weiner, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Who Do You Love and In Her Shoes, comes a smart, thoughtful, and timely exploration of two sisters’ lives from the 1950s to the present as they struggle to find their places—and be true to themselves—in a rapidly evolving world. Mrs. Everything is an ambitious, richly textured journey through history—and herstory—as these two sisters navigate a changing America over the course of their lives.

Do we change or does the world change us?

Jo and Bethie Kaufman were born into a world full of promise.

Growing up in 1950s Detroit, they live in a perfect “Dick and Jane” house, where their roles in the family are clearly defined. Jo is the tomboy, the bookish rebel with a passion to make the world more fair; Bethie is the pretty, feminine good girl, a would-be star who enjoys the power her beauty confers and dreams of a traditional life.

But the truth ends up looking different from what the girls imagined. Jo and Bethie survive traumas and tragedies. As their lives unfold against the background of free love and Vietnam, Woodstock and women’s lib, Bethie becomes an adventure-loving wild child who dives headlong into the counterculture and is up for anything (except settling down). Meanwhile, Jo becomes a proper young mother in Connecticut, a witness to the changing world instead of a participant. Neither woman inhabits the world she dreams of, nor has a life that feels authentic or brings her joy. Is it too late for the women to finally stake a claim on happily ever after?

In her most ambitious novel yet, Jennifer Weiner tells a story of two sisters who, with their different dreams and different paths, offer answers to the question: How should a woman be in the world?


My Review

Her cell phone rang as they were on their way out of the movies

I wasn’t too sure if I was going to like Mrs. Everything. I have had bad luck with novels that follow families over the years. I either lose interest halfway through the book or the book goes off the rails. I am happy to say that I did not lose interest in Mrs. Everything. The book also didn’t go off the rails.

The plotlines for Mrs. Everything were terrific. They were well written. I loved that the author chose to have certain events as the background to Jo and Bethie’s lives. That added enough realism to the book.

Out of the two storylines, Jo’s touched me the most. She grew up with a mother who didn’t understand her. Jo was a lesbian who was forced to marry to keep up appearances. She gave up her dreams to help Bethie. But she wasn’t perfect. That is what I liked the most about her character. She wasn’t perfect, and she owned it.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Bethie but I did feel bad for her. What happened to her as a young teenager was awful, and should have never happened. Her rebellion was a direct result of that. I didn’t like her holier than thou attitude when she was visiting Jo. It left a bad taste in my mouth. She did redeem herself in the latter half of the book. She more than redeemed herself in my eyes.

I liked how the author chose to address Jo’s sexuality. Instead of making everything sunshine and unicorns, she decided to portray everything Jo went through realistically. I loved it.

I did not like Lila, but I understood her. She was suffering from her parents’ divorce, moving, and her mother coming out. She acted out. She was unlikable. Again, I loved it.

The end of Mrs. Everything had me in tears. I was a blubbering mess. And the epilogue. Oh, my poor heart. But, I wouldn’t have had the book any other way.


I would give Mrs. Everything an Adult rating. There is sex. There is language. There is violence. I would recommend that no one under the age of 21 read this book.

I an on the fence if I would reread Mrs. Everything I am on the fence if I would recommend it to family and friends.

**I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book**

Holding by Graham Norton

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Title: Holding

Author: Graham Norton

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: August 1st, 2017

Genre: General Fiction

Number of pages: 272

POV: 3rd person

Where you can find Holding: Barnes and Noble | Amazon

Book synopsis (from Goodreads):

Graham Norton’s masterful début is an intelligently crafted story of love, secrets, and loss.

The remote Irish village of Duneen has known little drama, and yet its inhabitants are troubled. Sergeant PJ Collins hasn’t always been this overweight; mother of­ two Brid Riordan hasn’t always been an alcoholic, and elegant Evelyn Ross hasn’t always felt that her life was a total waste.

So when human remains are discovered on an old farm, suspected to be that of Tommy Burke – a former­ love of both Brid and Evelyn – the village’s dark past begins to unravel. As the frustrated PJ struggles to solve a genuine case for the first time in his life, he unearths a community’s worth of anger and resentments, secrets and regret.

Darkly comic, touching and at times profoundly sad. Graham Norton employs his acerbic wit to breathe life into a host of loveable characters, and explore – with searing honesty – the complexities and contradictions that make us human.

Trigger Warning: Child Death, Alcoholism, Cheating

Himself by Jess Kidd

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Title: Himself

Author: Jess Kidd

Publisher: Atria Books

Date of publication: March 14th, 2017

Genre: General Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Fantasy

POV: 3rd person

Number of pages: 368

Series: No

Where you can find this book: Amazon

Goodreads synopsis:

When Mahony returns to Mulderrig, a speck of a place on Ireland’s west coast, he brings only a photograph of his long-lost mother and a determination to do battle with the village’s lies.

His arrival causes cheeks to flush and arms to fold in disapproval. No one in the village – living or dead – will tell what happened to the teenage mother who abandoned him as a baby, despite Mahony’s certainty that more than one of them has answers.

Between Mulderrig’s sly priest, its pitiless nurse and the caustic elderly actress throwing herself into her final village play, this beautiful and darkly comic début novel creates an unforgettable world of mystery, bloody violence, and buried secrets.

My review:

Told in 3rd person, Himself is a book about a young man trying to find out what happened to his mother in a small village in Ireland. With supernatural, mystery and crime-woven into the book, Himself is a book that will suck you in and not let you out until you finish it.

I was truly surprised at how much I liked this book. I couldn’t get enough of it and found myself reading it while waiting for my kid’s bus while cooking supper, eating supper and at night in bed. It was literally book crack for me. I couldn’t get enough of Mahony’s story and of all the other secondary plotlines going on.

I really liked Mahony and definitely felt for him while he was searching for answers for what happened to Orla and who his father was. He had so much opposition but also had so much help, if that makes sense.

The mystery of who killed Orla was a true mystery to the end. The author did a great job of hiding his identity. It was only when the dog was killed and then showed up by the killer’s side was I clued in. Well, that and the other two murders in the village.

I loved the supernatural elements of the book. The ghosts, the storm, the pagan stream in the priest’s house (which was ironic and funny to me), just added more depth to the book. I like that the ghosts were not who they were in real life and they kept their secrets as well as they did when they were alive.

What I really liked about this book was that not all the storylines were resolved in a way that was satisfactory or not at all. One storyline, I do think I figured out who it was ( read the book if you want to know what I am talking about….haha).

How many stars will I give Himself: 5

Why: A great book that had so many layers to it, it resembled an onion in my mind. Once I peeled one layer back, another one appeared. The characters were multi-dimensional (hence the layers) and the storylines were not all happily resolved.

Will I reread: Yes

Will I recommend to family and friends: Yes

Age range: Older teen (16+)

Why: Violence

**I chose to leave this review after reading an advance reader copy**

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