5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · Literary Fiction · mental health

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib | ARC #BookReview

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The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib

Published: February 5, 2019

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 384

Genres: literary fiction, mental health, domestic fiction 

Rating: 5 stars 

Recommend to fans of: books about eating disorders and mental health, strong women struggling with difficult things

Foodie Vibes: the meal plan set forth by the eating disorder treatment team – designed for weight gain and food challenges

 

Synopsis: 

The chocolate went first, then the cheese, the fries, the ice cream. The bread was more difficult, but if she could just lose a little more weight, perhaps she would make the soloists’ list. Perhaps if she were lighter, danced better, tried harder, she would be good enough. Perhaps if she just ran for one more mile, lost just one more pound.

Anna Roux was a professional dancer who followed the man of her dreams from Paris to Missouri. There, alone with her biggest fears – imperfection, failure, loneliness – she spirals down anorexia and depression till she weighs a mere eighty-eight pounds. Forced to seek treatment, she is admitted as a patient at 17 Swann Street, a peach pink house where pale, fragile women with life-threatening eating disorders live. Women like Emm, the veteran; quiet Valerie; Julia, always hungry. Together, they must fight their diseases and face six meals a day.

Yara Zgheib’s poetic and poignant debut novel is a haunting, intimate journey of a young woman’s struggle to reclaim her life. Every bite causes anxiety. Every flavor induces guilt. And every step Anna takes toward recovery will require strength, endurance, and the support of the girls at 17 Swann Street.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press and Yara Zgheib for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

Like: 

  • Good representation: adults of various ages and stages in life are shown, not just the stereotypical upper middle class teenage girl
  • Each couple of days is punctuated by the staff’s treatment plan update: physiological observations, psychological observations, summary, target calories, meal plans
  • Not a fluffy feel good book, but the realistic ups and downs of getting help for an eating disorder

Love: 

  • The details that go into the world building – In reality it’s only an eating disorder treatment house, but the author makes it seem like a whole different world 
  • The main character: Anna – kind, relatable, vulnerable, courageous
  • The concept and daily life is oddly fascinating — weird?, I know
  • The relationship between Anna and her husband, Matthias
  • Beautifully written

Dislike: 

  • That so many of the characters are missing out on life.
  • Emm: one of the long term patients. It doesn’t seem realistic that she could be at the treatment center for years. Also she didn’t seem to add much to the story, except as one of the many cautionary tales. 

Wish that: 

  • There was more about the psychological aspects of eating disorder treatment such as group therapy, individual therapy, etc.

Overall, a beautifully written book about the brave struggles of a woman working to survive and eating disorder. It’s hard to explain, but there’s something absolutely captivating about this story. 

 

Do you enjoy reading books about characters with a mental illness? 

 

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Twitter: @BooksAndLife1

Instagram: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

Goodreads: Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)

Facebook: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

4.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · mystery · psychological thriller · suspense

Her One Mistakes by Heidi Perks | New Release

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Her One Mistake by Heidi Perks

Published: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Gallery Books

Pages: 320

Genres: mystery, suspense, psychological thriller, domestic fiction

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: great psychological thrillers, characters that you root for

Foodie Vibes: ice cream that your husband tricks your daughter into believing that she doesn’t want 

 

Synopsis: 

It all started at the school fair…

Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.

Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter….

This breathless and fast-paced debut—perfect for fans of Big Little Lies and The Couple Next Door—takes you on a chilling journey that will keep you guessing until the very last page.

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Gallery Books, and Heidi Perks for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review. Sorry about the late review on this ARC. A migraine prevented me from getting the reading done.

Lately the thrillers I’ve been reading have been exceptional. Her One Mistake can be added to that list. The book takes us through the horror of losing a child. The palpable fear is so intense, it’s almost indescribable. The author crafted a complex mystery that’s slowly revealed in perfect timing. The mysteries upon mysteries make for a book that I absolutely couldn’t put down. I think I read it in less than 2 days. 

I also like that the concept of gaslighting is featured. It’s not called as such, but it’s well done. The tension and suspense is perfect. I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy a book about a child being kidnapped, or if it would be too typical. However, I was pleasantly surprised at the complexity, surprise and characters. A wonderful psychological thriller that I highly recommend. 

 

Add to your Goodreads TBR

 

Bookish Question:

What makes a psychological thriller great, for you?

 

Come say hi!

Twitter: @BooksAndLife1

Instagram: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

Goodreads: Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)

Facebook: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · mystery · psychological thriller · Uncategorized

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

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After Anna by Lisa Scottoline

Published: April 10, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 388

Genres: domestic fiction, mystery, psychological thriller

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: other Lisa Scottoline books, family drama, books filled with twists and turns 

Foodie Vibes: homemade spaghetti – dinner as a family 

 

Synopsis: 

Nobody cuts deeper than family…

Noah Alderman, a doctor and a widower, has remarried a wonderful woman, Maggie, and for the first time in a long time he and his son are happy. But their lives are turned upside down when Maggie’s daughter Anna moves in with them. Anna is a gorgeous seventeen-year-old who balks at living under their rules though Maggie, ecstatic to have her daughter back, ignores the red flags that hint at the trouble that is brewing. Events take a deadly turn when Anna is murdered and Noah is accused of the crime. Maggie must face not only the devastation of losing her only daughter, but the realization that her daughter’s murder was at the hands of a husband she loves. New information sends Maggie searching for the truth, leading her to discover something darker than she could have ever imagined.

 

Review:

After Anna is another great book from Lisa Scottoline. Whenever I pick up one of her books, I know I’m in for a quality entertaining read. After Anna didn’t disappoint. 

I like that the book kept me highly entertained and guessing about the killer throughout. I was sure I knew who had done it, early on, but it turns out I was wrong. One of these days I’m going to get it right! I also enjoyed the drama that manipulative teenage girls can bring. There’s something special the author does with her mysteries that keep me captivated. 

The one thing I didn’t like was that for a long time you don’t know if someone is a pervert or not. It made me feel uneasy.

Overall, another great novel from Lisa Scottoline. Definitely makes me want to keep reading her books!

 

Add to your Goodreads TBR

 

Have you read books by Lisa Scottoline?

What’s your favorite book of hers?

 

Come say hi!

Twitter: @BooksAndLife1

Instagram: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

Goodreads: Amanda (Books, Life and Everything Nice)

Facebook: @BooksLifeAndEverythingNice

 

4 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · suspense · thriller

ARC Review | The Au Pair

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The Au Pair 

Published: January 8, 2019

Publisher: Berkley Books

Pages: 368

Genres: thriller, suspense, domestic fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: the Roanoke Girls, unsettling families, books about houses that take on a story of their own, twin mysteries 

Foodie Vibes: apricots fresh off the trees

 

Synopsis:

Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother Danny were born in the middle of summer at their family’s estate on the Norfolk coast. Within hours of their birth, their mother threw herself from the cliffs, the au pair fled, and the village thrilled with whispers of dark cloaks, changelings, and the aloof couple who drew a young nanny into their inner circle.

Now an adult, Seraphine mourns the recent death of her father. While going through his belongings, she uncovers a family photograph that raises dangerous questions. It was taken on the day the twins were born, and in the photo, their mother, surrounded by her husband and her young son, is beautifully dressed, smiling serenely, and holding just one baby.

Who is the child and what really happened that day?

One person knows the truth, if only Seraphine can find her.

 

Review:

I won this book for free through Goodreads Giveaways. Thank you to Goodreads, Berkley Books, and Emma Rous for an ARC copy. As always, an honest review from me.

The Au Pair is an almost other worldly tale of a family who lives at Summerbourne, the massive infamous property. One summer they hire Laura to be the au pair to Edwin, their young son. We soon learn that there is something odd about the family. Twins are common at Summerbourne, but twins never last. Myths, creepy stories, and tall tales are spread by the towns people about the happenings at the house. It makes for a creepy, suspense filled and almost cultish read. I love it! The property and strong family matriarch, Vera, set up the entire story. There is a certain undeniable, almost indescribable feel to the book. It gets under your skin and doesn’t let up, forcing your to keep turning the pages.

The book starts out in 2017 right after the adult childrens’ father has died. After some strange happenings and unanswered questions Seraphine, the daughter, decides she will get her answers about her mysterious family once and for all. The chapters alternate between present day and 1993, right before Seraphine and her twin brother are born. It’s an effective way to tell the story. 

However between the changes in time and confusion about identity, I had a bit of trouble distinguishing between a few non central characters. Eventually I figured it out, but it was frustrating. Also, I wish Laura was a more well defined character. She’s meant to be a more submissive personality, compared to all the Summerbournes. However, Laura plays such a vital role in the story that she needed more depth and influence. 

All in all, the intensity, suspense, and family secrets make The Au Pair an undeniably good read.

 

If you could have a home anywhere in the world, where would it be located?

4.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Chick Lit · Chronic Illness/Disabilities · contemporary fiction · Domestic Fiction · drama · Literary Fiction · mental health · Women's Fiction

New Release | The Secrets We Keep by Kate Hewitt

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The Secrets We Keep by Kate Hewitt

Published: September 4, 2018

Publisher: Bookouture

Pages: 356

Genres: women’s fiction, literary fiction, mental health, domestic fiction, chick lit, drama

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: moms with psychological struggles trying to keep it all together, validating books about mental health and self harm

Foodie Vibes: pina coladas, takeout pizza and marshmallows roasted over an open fire pit

 

Synopsis:

‘Is her life as easy and effortless as it seems from the outside? Or is she feeling lonely, all by herself in that big house, an evening stretching out in front of her just as it is for me?’

When Tessa arrives at the little house by the lake with her two children Ben and Katherine, it is an escape. For all of them. Never mind that the rental house is a bit small – it’s theirs for the summer. A place to hide…

Their isolation is disrupted when they meet the family from the big house next door. Three children Charlotte, Zoe and Max and their glamorous mother Rebecca – who seems absolutely determined to invite Tessa in to their lives.

But Rebecca is harbouring a dark secret of her own. One that will put not only her family at risk, but Tessa’s too. And when she discovers she has no option but to leave her children for several weeks, Tessa feels like the only person she can trust.

Suddenly Tessa finds herself living a life she could only have dreamed of. Wealth, a large brood of children, and Rebecca’s handsome husband Josh visiting at weekends.

But even as powerful bonds are forming between them, secrets have a way of catching up with people. And as the summer comes to an end, who will learn to love again and who will risk losing everything?

 

Review:

Thank you to NetGalley, Bookouture, and Kate Hewitt for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

First of all, Trigger Warning for self harm and child sexual abuse.

Keeping yourself safe is most important, so make sure you’re in a healthy place before reading, my lovelies.

Feel free to send me a message on here, or a DM on Twitter for more privacy, if you want to know more about content that may trigger you.

Now onto the book review.

It seems as if everyone is keeping secrets from those around them. Pretending that they’re okay, when they’re anything but. I think we all can relate to this.

Over summer vacation 2 moms, Tessa and Rebecca, take their kids to summer vacation cottages. They didn’t know each other before the summer, but they end up neighbors, friends, and changing each other’s lives forever. They say it’s because their kids need playmates, but both moms know they need each other’s help more. Tessa has 2 kids, is in dire need of a makeover, constantly doubts herself, and has enough money but still must live by a budget. Rebecca has 3 kids, a glamorous lifestyle, a seemingly perfect life, more money than she can spend, and some serious issues going on. Hence the trigger warning. People are jealous of how well put together she seems, but inside she’s a wreck, just trying to get through the day.

I appreciated that self harm in adults is discussed. And not as a one off conversation. As a legitimate mental health concern that is featured throughout the novel. If you’re looking for good representation of self harm in adults, this is your book. 

The overall story the author tells of moms as people first that also care fiercely for their children is refreshing. And you can’t go wrong with a summer cottage on the lake story.

The only caveat that I have is the weird situation that is thrust upon one of the moms about halfway through the story. I can’t give away any spoilers, but it’s kind of a you need to go with the flow story line and not critique that it probably isn’t realistic. Oh, also the ending completely wrecked me. So I can see how some people might have an issue with it. 

Overall, The Secrets We Keep featured some truly broken adults who are trying to hold it together to care for their children. A wonderful authentic representation of adult self harm. I highly recommend, as long as you won’t be too triggered.  

 

If you want some helpful information or support about these serious topics, click the links below

RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network)

Self-Harm Crisis Text Hotline

NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)

 

Do trigger warnings help you to choose a book?

Everyone has different triggers. Which ones would be helpful to you, that I mention in my future reviews?

4.5 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · contemporary fiction · Domestic Fiction · fiction · mental health · psychological drama

New Release | The Girl In His Eyes by Jennie Ensor

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The Girl In His Eyes by Jennie Ensor

Published: September 18, 2018

Publisher: Bloodhound Books

Pages: 353 

Genres: fiction, domestic fiction, mental health, contemporary fiction, psychological drama 

Rating: 4.5 stars

Recommend to fans of: Law & Order SVU, karmic justice, validating books about surviving sexual abuse

Foodie Vibes: warm cup of tea with sugar ~ to soothe your soul and keep your energy levels up during this difficult time

 

Synopsis: 

Her father abused her when she was a child. For years she was too afraid to speak out. But now she suspects he’s found another victim…

Laura, a young woman struggling to deal with what her father did to her a decade ago, is horrified to realise that the girl he takes swimming might be his next victim. Emma is twelve – the age Laura was when her father took away her innocence.

Intimidated by her father’s rages, Laura has never told anyone the truth about her childhood. Now she must decide whether she has the courage to expose him and face the consequences.

Can Laura overcome her fear and save Emma before the worst happens?

 

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, Bloodhound Books and Jennie Ensor for an ARC ebook copy to review. As always, an honest review from me.

First of all, a major trigger warning for the entire book. There are many mentions and fairly graphic descriptions of child sexual abuse and rape. So please be sure you’re in a good head space while reading the book.

With that being said, I really enjoyed The Girl In His Eyes. The book gave a fairly accurate representation of the horrors and difficulties of dealing with the aftermath of surviving child sexual abuse. Both for the individual survivor and the family as well The novel gives a voice to the voiceless. It also makes it easier to understand how and why these pedophiles and perverts can manipulate children, entire families and societies into believing they’re good people. There were so many times when people suspected something was “off” about Paul, but brushed off their concerns because he seemed like a nice guy. Always trust your gut, people! These life lessons are so relevant.

There wasn’t anything that I really disliked about the book. However there was a lot that disgusted me, which given the general book topic was bound to happen. Some chapters are from Paul, the pervert’s, point of view. We hear all the disgusting horrifying things he thinks. It adds to the suspense and explains a lot. Also some of the reactions of people seem a bit too cookie cutter at times.

Overall, a really worthwhile read to further understand the topic but done in a fictionalized manner.

 

Who can relate relate to this story? 

4 Star Books · Book Reviews · Domestic Fiction · fiction · mental health · Uncategorized

Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

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Saving Phoebe Murrow by Herta Feely

Published: September 2, 2016

Publisher: Upperhand Press, LLC

Pages: 425

Genres: fiction, domestic fiction

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: Lifetime Movies, over the top parents, Law & Order SVU, books about family dynamics

Foodie Vibes: carrot juice and French fries ~ oh, the contradictions of being a teenager

 

Synopsis: 

A story about the timeless struggle between mothers and their teen daughters with a razor-sharp 21st century twist. This heart-wrenching, harrowing debut novel for fans of Big Little Lies (Liane Moriarty) and Reconstructing Amelia (Kimberly McCreight) will make you question what’s needed to keep your children from harm.

Phoebe’s mother, Isabel, is precariously balancing her career and her family. Hard-working and caring, worried but supportive, all Isabel wants, in a world of bullies and temptations, is to keep her daughter Phoebe safe. With her busy schedule, though, she fails to recognize another mother’s mounting fury and the danger Phoebe faces by flirting with a mysterious boy on Facebook. A cyber-bullying episode aimed at Phoebe pushes her to the edge with horrific consequences. In her search for justice, Isabel, a DC lawyer, sets out to find the culprit behind this cruel incident.

Saving Phoebe Murrow, set amidst the complicated web of adolescent relationships, tells a story of miscommunication and malice, drugs and Facebook, prejudice and revenge.

 

Review: 

Thank you to NetGalley, the author and publisher for an ebook copy for review. As always, an honest review from me.

Trigger warning: many fairly graphic mentions of self harm and suicide. Please do not read this book if you’re not in a mentally healthy place, especially if you’re sensitive to these topics in particular.

That being said I enjoyed the whirlwind of drama and incredibly serious topics. It reminds me of a mix between a Lifetime movie and episode of Law and Order SVU. Kind of a perfect combo. We get an in depth look at the challenges and drama of teenage girls lives from the perspective of them and their parents. 

I really liked reading about Phoebe and her mother. I wish the story focused more on them. I disliked the amount of focus put on Phoebe’s dad and Sandy, the mother of Phoebe’s classmate/friend. The difference between the parenting styles was both horrifying and interesting. 

I so disliked the character of Sandy. She was so psychologically unbalanced and awful. She meant well, for her daughter, so at least she has that going for her. The focus was on her too much, when I felt it should have been more on Phoebe. Also the trope of parents providing teens with alcohol and getting in legal trouble has been done a lot before. But it’s still something that people could be reminded of. 

All in all, Saving Phoebe Murrow is highly entertaining, drama filled, and a warning for parents and teens alike.

 

If you could turn a TV show into a book, which show would you choose? 

4 Star Books · ARC Book Reviews · Book Reviews · Chick Lit · contemporary fiction · Domestic Fiction · Southern Fiction · Women's Fiction

ARC Book Review | Rush by Lisa Patton

 

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Let’s start off with the Bookish Question of the Review:

How many of you were in a sorority/fraternity in college? What were your favorite experiences? 

 

Rush by Lisa Patton

Published: August 21, 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Pages: 416

Genres: contemporary fiction, southern fiction, domestic fiction, chick lit

Rating: 4 stars

Recommend to fans of: books about the college experience, sororities, modern day southern charm, young women making the world a better place

Read with food: sweet tea, fried chicken, collard green, mac & cheese, and everything to complete a proper southern meal 

 

Synopsis: 

When Lilith Whitmore, the well-heeled House Corp President of Alpha Delta Beta, one of the premiere sororities on campus, appoints recent empty-nester Wilda to the Rush Advisory Board, Wilda can hardly believe her luck. What’s more, Lilith suggests their daughters, both incoming freshman, room together. What Wilda doesn’t know is that it’s all part of Lilith’s plan to ensure her own daughter receives an Alpha Delt bid—no matter what.

Cali Watkins possesses all the qualities sororities are looking for in a potential new member. She’s kind and intelligent, makes friends easily, even plans to someday run for governor. But her resume lacks a vital ingredient. Pedigree. Without family money Cali’s chances of sorority membership are already thin, but she has an even bigger problem. If anyone discovers the dark family secrets she’s hiding, she’ll be dropped from Rush in an instant.

For twenty-five years, Miss Pearl—as her “babies” like to call her—has been housekeeper and a second mother to the Alpha Delt girls, even though it reminds her of a painful part of her past she’ll never forget. When an opportunity for promotion arises, it seems a natural fit. But Lilith Whitmore slams her Prada heel down fast, crushing Miss Pearl’s hopes of a better future. When Wilda and the girls find out, they devise a plan destined to change Alpha Delta Beta—and maybe the entire Greek system—forever.

Achingly poignant, yet laugh-out-loud funny, RUSH takes a sharp nuanced look at a centuries-old tradition while exploring the complex, intimate relationships between mothers and daughters and female friends. Brimming with heart and hope for a better tomorrow, RUSH is an uplifting novel universal to us all.

 

Review:

I won this book for free in a Goodreads Giveaway. Thanks to Goodreads, St. Martin’s Press and Lisa Patton for an ARC copy of the book. As always, an honest review.

With sorority and fraternity life as popular as it is in this country, I’m surprised there aren’t more books surrounding Greek life. Rush perfectly fits this niche. We start off right before the school year begins following Ellie, Cali and Annie Laurie. They’re all college freshman from different walks of life hoping to pledge a sorority at Ole Miss. The chapters alternate points of view, which I really liked. It gave so much added perspective, and different stories were able to be told. The chapters’ POV include Cali, Wilda (Ellie’s mom) and Miss Pearl (a fabulous woman who works for a sorority on campus).

I like all of the main characters, which for me, is essential to enjoying a book. There are also a few love to hate, but redeemable characters, to keep things interesting. I really enjoyed Rush, because it’s fun, sweet, and poignant. Beyond just the fun process of sorority life, the author gets into tough topics such as living wages, health insurance, legacies, family money, racism, and micro aggressions in southern culture. We learn with the girls the unfairness that can be in the Greek life system. It certainly opened my eyes to things I really hadn’t thought about before.

However, without giving away any spoilers, the girls’ revelations are just the beginning of a fix to a much larger problem. The start of a conversation, not the end of one. I think the author does want it to truly be the start of larger discussions and change. Also, some of the behavior by the adults is appalling but contextually appropriate.

Rush seems like a fun, sweet, slightly catty book, but the depth of important topics makes it an important read. A great book for a book club or anyone looking to get a discussion going in a light hearted manner.