Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine ~ Book Review

The Last Time I Saw You Book

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine
Harper
Release Date: May 7, 2019
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪.5

Before getting into the meat of my review, I have a bone to pick with the authors/editors/marketers for this book. This is the second book by the author team that uses the pseudonym Liv Constantine, and after the wild success of their first thriller, they decided to write another. Makes sense, however, what exactly was going through their minds in terms of the title here? Did they think ‘Hey, The Last Mrs. Parrish did well, let’s just reuse half of that title and call it a day?’ Was there really no better option? I’m still not even sure why this title is relevant to the story, but I digress.

The Last Time I Saw You tells the story of Kate English, whose mother is found murdered in her home. We open with Kate attending the funeral, standing by her distraught father’s side, and suddenly seeing Blaire. Kate and Blaire were best friends growing up until they had a falling out following Blaire voicing her disapproval of Kate’s marriage, which kept them apart for the following fifteen years. Blaire quickly reintroduces herself into Kate’s life, and all is forgiven. (This, in and of itself, seemed unbelievable to me). Kate begins to receive threatening text messages from someone we presume to be her mother’s killer, indicating that she will be the next victim. Additionally, the mysterious someone leaves little ‘gifts’ around Kate’s house — dead mutilated animals with nursery rhymes that have been altered to reference Kate’s impending death. This seemed weirdly extreme but also clichéd to me (all in all, not a good combination).

Blaire quickly becomes Kate’s rock through the whole messy ordeal. We get some insight into their childhood, and witness how Lily, Kate’s mother, also acted as a mother figure for Blaire. As Constantine piled on the ‘Blaire-is-an-overly-concerned-friend details,’ I was quite literally rolling my eyes. Her obvious role as the ‘wronged friend seeking revenge’ was clear from page one, and had me extremely frustrated. After being wonderfully shocked by the twists and turns in The Last Mrs. Parrish, I couldn’t understand why the majority of this story was so predictable.

The ending added a bunch of previously unimportant neighbors and family friends who were suddenly involved in the death of Lily, and that plus the revelation about Blaire’s biological versus adoptive family seemed like way too much. I was utterly unimpressed with this book, and finished it merely to make sure I wasn’t somehow missing an incredible twist that would change my mind — I wasn’t. For a much more satisfying experience, I highly recommend baking yourself a batch of these Sea Salt Caramel Chip Chocolate Cookies.

My Rating: 🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson ~ Book Review

The Other Mrs. Miller with cookies

G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: July 16, 2019
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

The title of this thriller immediately made me think of The Last Mrs. Parrish, and I was definitely getting similar type vibes throughout. It helped that I could see a dark black dividing page right near the middle of my book, so I knew there was going to be some kind of big narrative jump (in hindsight, I think having such an obvious marker was probably a bad call on the part of the publisher, although I did read an ARC, so I suppose that’s still subject to change). In any case, this book pulled me right in, as I was introduced to Phoebe Miller, who spends her days resigned to her home (ah yes, the old reclusive-female-at-home-alone-in-a-thriller trope). Phoebe’s late father Daniel, recently became the center of a sexual assault scandal, and as a result, Phoebe chooses to hide her face for a time, and remain in her home, comfortably surrounded by reminders of the wealth she inherited from her dad. Her relationship with her husband, Wyatt, is clearly strained. Although we don’t get much insight into what their marriage was like when they were happy, they are now sleeping in separate rooms and obviously misaligned in their views about children, and their future.

While Wyatt goes off to work each day, Phoebe looks out her window, voyeur-esque. She notices a blue car stationed outside her house day after day, and becomes increasingly concerned that someone is watching her. That is, until Phoebe notices something across the street that’s more interesting to her: the Napier family, moving in across the street, and specifically, Jake, the hot teenage son of Vicki and Ron. Phoebe, in the throes of a midlife crisis, quickly becomes infatuated with Jake, and makes every excuse to spend time near him. She quickly befriends his mother, and hires him to do odd jobs around her house. Jake, an attractive, uprooted 18 year old, suddenly without any friends and insecure about his plans to go to Stanford at the end of the summer, falls quickly for Phoebe. I didn’t find this totally, completely believable given the frumpy way Phoebe is depicted when the reader is first introduced to her, however, after learning how intensely dysfunctional Jake’s family is, I began to see how the Phoebe’s stability might be appealing to Jake from a mental health standpoint

As Phoebe’s relationships with both Jake, and Vicki grow stronger, Dickson includes alternating chapters titled ‘Interlude’ that are narrated by Nadia, the driver of the car that idles outside Phoebe’s house. Nadia slowly unveils her interest and intent with the Millers, but her real involvement in the story doesn’t come until the second half of the book (remember that black page I told you about?), when she and Wyatt become an unlikely team, as they struggle to convince the Napiers that life at the Miller’s house is fine, after a series of unfortunate incidents. In the interest of not giving away the entire twisted narrative, I will just say that the second half of this book was a whirlwind. The depth of the characters and their issues (think medical malpractice, blackmail, murder, identity theft…) was intense and unexpected, and kept me ripping through pages while frantically yelling at my roommate to pop some frozen cookie dough into the oven for me, because you don’t have time to bake when you’re dealing with the insanity that is the Napier household. The continuation of the ‘Interlude’ chapters in the second half of the book with a different, unknown narrator, kept me guessing until the very end, and the final pages had the classic, good-thriller feel, when you still have no idea how the story will conclude. All in all, a very solid read.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib ~ Book Review

https://cookiesandcups.com/insane-peanut-butter-cup-cake/

The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: February 5, 2019
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

This book was written in a style that I’ve never come across before. The thoughts of the main character, Anna, flowed almost seamlessly through the narrative, allowing the reader to see the paradox between her internal monologue and her external emotions, a poignant and powerful way to illustrate her struggle with anorexia. The subject of the book’s title, a big pink house at 17 Swann Street, is a residential treatment center that Anna is checked into by her husband, Matthias. Anna is introduced to the other girls there, each battling with her own demons, and the rules they have in place to survive as comfortably as they can: they rejoice in their daily walks and the days they get animal crackers, and they share all mail as a group. Anna exchanges notes with the other girls and falls into a quiet camaraderie. Matthias visits her every night, the two of them making light of the juvenile nature of the arrangement, as they ask permission for him to go up to her room. As the two of them recap their days, we see the pain of Anna’s struggle as she depicts each meal she had to eat, and the parallel fight that Matthias battles as he tries to understand why she would not try to eat while she was home, despite his best effort. The disconnect between this couple that was still so in love, but unable to understand each other’s pain, was heartbreaking, and a symptom of eating disorders that is rarely discussed. Amidst the present day narrative, we additionally learn the story of the couple’s past. We see them sharing ice cream cones and wandering the streets of Paris as they get to know each other, we see the little things that come to define their relationship, like Anna always finishing Matthias’s pizza crusts, and we see the two of them moving to America. The juxtaposition of the way they were able to interact in the past, with the trepidation they face in the present was incredibly well illustrated.

The evolution of Anna’s eating disorder is also explored. In her youth, she was a dancer, involved in an emotionally abusive relationship during which she was convinced that she was not thin enough for her profession. After an injury, she was forced to take time off, and once she and her husband move to America, she is unable to find work. As she stays home alone, day in and day out with no one there to monitor her, she stops eating.

Flatlay of cake with book

The way that each of these pieces of Anna’s tale are woven together made for an incredibly compelling read. The story of Anna, her relationships, both with food and with her family, and the cycle of commitment to recovery and subsequent relapse made my heart ache, and my hands keep flipping pages. The level of emotion Zgheib was able to withdraw through her succinct style of writing was impressive and powerful. This is definitely a worthy read, the topic is heavy, but I think that this type of depiction of anorexia is so important for people to understand. It contrasts completely with the enormity of this homemade Funfetti Layer Cake, packed full of rainbow sprinkles, and covered with a rich chocolate frosting (stolen from a separate cake recipe).

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
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Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty ~ Book Review

Nine Perfect Strangers with Pocky

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty
Flatiron Books
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5

I’m still utterly shocked that the concept behind this narrative was somehow able to stretch to fit nearly 450 and not feel onerous. The story follows (shocker) Nine Perfect Strangers, who all travel to Tranquillium House, a health retreat run by the green eyed, Amazonian Masha, and her right hand helpers, Yao and Delilah. Each of the individuals, or family units, is there for a different reasons; some are health retreat junkies, while others were persuaded to visit Tranquillium House by friends or family. The main narrator is Frances, a lovable, middle aged writer of romance novels, who is going through a bit of a career slump while fighting a daily battle with menopause. You can’t help but feel for Frances. She’s been divorced twice, has no children (and no interest in them), and is just trying to keep up with the changing world around her. Her biggest concern going into her ‘cleansing’ experience seems to be missing out on her daily glass(es) of wine.

The other visitors at Tranquillium House include the Marconi Family (Napolean, Heather, and their daughter Zoe), Tony, Carmel, Ben and his wife Jessica, and Lars. There are a whole host of difficulties these visitors are trying to reconcile, from grief over the loss of a family member, to body dysmorphia, and marital struggles. Each chapter focuses on a different one of these guests, so, although their retreat begins with several days of complete silence, we get an in-depth understanding of their thoughts and feelings regarding not only the retreat itself, but the fellow participants, and their pasts. In fact, I thought that starting the journey with the characters being unable to speak with one another was a very innovative way to let the reader get to know the minds of these nine strangers.

Then there’s Masha. Masha used to be a high powered corporate worker (I’m not sure we ever find out exactly what she did– for some reason there was a lot of focus on her being somehow involved in toothpaste sales). In any case, she was ‘reborn’ one day after a heart attack when she was legally dead for a period of time. This enlightening experience inspired her to open her own health retreat and begin a personal health journey that included losing weight, quitting smoking, and kicking her habit of eating entire bags of Doritos in one sitting. Masha is all about finding cutting edge processes to help her guests experience transformation to the fullest of their abilities. So much so, that she implements a brand new protocol for these nine guests that includes ‘micro-dosing,’ aka, putting tiny amounts of LSD in their daily smoothies to ‘heighten their mental awareness,’ and then (spoiler alert) giving them ‘magic mushrooms’ and locking them in a yoga studio for several days. Honestly, Masha is the reason this book kind of lost me towards the end. I found all the other characters very interesting, multidimensional, and believable, but she was just weird. Towards the close of the book, we find out more about the trauma in her past, and how that may have shaped her, but at that point it kind of just seemed tacked on to me.

Similar to my notes on the book The Dreamers, this book was enjoyable to me because of the characters. There was not a ton of plot (although there were some weird, far-fetched twists, as mentioned above, that I didn’t think about too much because they definitely lessened my enjoyment of the story). All in all, I did like the concept of this book. It was incredibly unique, and, coming from someone who generally shies away from anything over 400 pages, it definitely didn’t seem as long as it was. I’m not sure I would go so far as to recommend this story, but it was an enjoyable, and very different type of read for me.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid ~ Book Review

Cookies and 7 Husbands

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Atria Books
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5

Man did this book exceed my expectations! Or, more accurately, my lack of expectations. I’d seen glowing reviews floating around linked to this elegant emerald covered story, and in a moment of FOMO, decided I should give it a try. Despite having come out a couple years ago, there was quite a hold for this guy at the library, which I suspect has to do with the sudden explosion of Taylor Jenkins Reid as a result of her most recent novel, Daisy Jones & the Six (which is also on my list).

When I first started The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, I was not immediately impressed. The storyline of the narrator, Monique, seemed kind of bland and clichéd. She and her husband had recently split up, she was struggling to make it big in the publishing industry in New York, life is hard, we get it. Her boss Frankie, calls her into her office one day to tell her that Evelyn Hugo, a hugely famous star now getting on in age, has agreed to an exclusive interview with their magazine, Vivant, if, and only if, Monique is assigned to the piece. Monique, a junior writer with no big stories at the magazine under her belt. I was a little exasperated, but also intrigued as to why this woman was chosen so specifically.

From there we meet Evelyn, who refuses to explain her choice of writer to Monique, but does tell her that rather than the fluff piece Vivant was expecting, she wants Monique to write Evelyn’s biography to be published post-mortem. Although immediately concerned for her job security, Monique sees the immense value writing the piece would provide to her, and is able to leverage Evelyn’s need for her in order to give Vivant a little of what they are expecting as well. The majority of the rest of the novel depicts Evelyn’s life, starting as a young Cuban immigrant leaving home to try to make it as an actress in Los Angeles. At first, Evelyn utilizes her good looks and maturing body to get roles, and is eventually rebranded as a blonde bombshell, and begins to book roles based on her own fame.

Evelyn talks Monique through her marriages to each of her seven husbands. In fact, Reid chooses to separate her story into segments for each husband, which I found very effective. Throughout each marriage, a couple people remain constant in Evelyn’s life: Harry, her best friend, who works behind the scenes on many movies with her, and Celia, a fellow actress who we soon learn to be the one true love of Evelyn’s life. In fact, much of the novel focuses on the lack of LGBTQ rights, and the consequences of being outwardly gay in the society Evelyn grew up in. We come to learn that each of her husbands served a purpose, either to appease fans, or act as a cover so she could be with Celia without raising suspicion.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of Evelyn’s life, although there were times when it felt a little bit repetitive with all the marriages and descriptions of them falling apart. Ultimately, though, I was very impressed with Reid’s storytelling abilities, and I was on the edge of my seat to find out where the connection between Evelyn and Monique would fit in. The suspense towards this reveal built up wonderfully towards the end of the novel, and the follow-up to Monique’s shock provided a satisfying ending. I’m excited to jump on the Taylor Jenkins Reid bandwagon, and can’t wait to see what she has in store next.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris ~ Book Review

Behind Closed Doors Flatlay with Cake

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: August 9, 2016
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪🍪.5

I had a lot of free time when I was reading this book. For that reason, I flew through it, which made me falsely believe, at first, that I loved it. However. After a little internal reflection, I realized that I think I really just kind of missed reading thrillers. I’ve been trying to branch out more in my genre selection this year, so it’s been a minute since I read one of my classic picks (honestly not much more than a minute, but it feels like a long time to me). I recently read my first B.A. Paris book, and although that was a flop for me, I thought I’d give her a second chance. My main issue with this book, was that it felt forced, like the classic tropes of the genre were being hammered into my brain. The perfect husband? Who wants his wife to marry him quickly and then stop working and give up everything she loves? Who manipulates her friends and family until they truly believe she no longer cares about them? This is the story of Grace and Jack. And a thousand other domestic thriller couples.

Despite this somewhat scathing introduction, the story was well written. I was sucked in, and couldn’t wait to see how Grace ultimately triumphed as I knew she would based on the predictability of this plotline. I liked the classic approach to a domestic thriller, and the addition of Grace’s sister, Millie, added an interesting twist. Millie has Down’s Syndrome, and is ultimately the one who Jack is after. He hopes that by pretending to be doting friends to Millie, he and Grace will ultimately obtain custody of her when she turns 18 and he will thus have someone he can wholly control. I’m not sure how you get into such a twisted mindset, but Paris writes it with sickening clarity.

I also appreciated how everything tied together in this book. When we initially meet the couple as they host a dinner party, we know that Grace is acting peculiar, but it’s hard to tell why. Why does everything need to be perfectly cooked? Why does her husband dote over the painting she created that is hung on their wall? Why does she need to finish all the food on her plate? Each detail comes back later, as Grace walks us through the depth of Jack’s abuse, and the ways she has tried to either fight, or acquiesce to him.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cake with Book

Although there wasn’t really much action in this book, I liked the way it slowly built on itself, offering the reader more and more insight into Grace and Jack’s relationship. It is first depicted as the fairytale Grace believe it is, and then we delve deeper and deeper into just how manipulative and terrifying Jack really is.

All in all, I would not recommend this book, but it was a decent thriller. The depth and detail was well written, but it was predictable, and not terribly unique to the genre. Read it if you feel like it, but don’t rush out to buy it. Maybe instead, use your reading time to bake a cake, like this crowd-pleasing Insane Peanut Butter Cup Cake. It may be time intensive, but it will never disappoint.

My Rating: 🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker ~ Book Review

The Dreamers Novel Flatlay

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker
Random House
Release Date: January 15, 2019
Genre: Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5

I whipped through this book much faster than I anticipated. From the first few chapters, I was thoroughly intrigued. The plot is like nothing I had ever read before, a sort of dystopian tale that didn’t hit you over the head with typical genre tropes. The story opens by depicting the beginning of a strange illness in a college dorm. Mei, a freshman, is the character the reader is connected with most right off the bat. Her roommate is the first to fall ill with the sleeping sickness, which is just that — individuals fall asleep and simply don’t wake up.

As the story progresses, we are introduced to more and more characters, and come to understand their background and how they may have been, or may be exposed. There’s a set of young sisters, whose father has been preparing them for the apocalypse for their whole lives– with the basement stocked full of all the supplies the girls end up needing when he falls ill. There’s a young couple with a brand new baby, a nurse with a toddler at home, and always, Mei and Matthew, who escape the quarantine their entire dorm floor is put into, and set about helping transport the sick to the hospital. Slowly, one by one, almost every single character falls asleep.  

What I enjoyed most about this book was the abundance of characters. Walker did an incredible job making each little family or friend unit believable, unique, and interesting and with each one, I was left waiting for the other shoe to drop. Who would fall sick, and when? I also appreciated that there wasn’t a lot of medical focus within these pages. Although there are plenty of scenes at, or focused on the hospital, the story doesn’t get caught up in details of what the doctors or nurses are thinking about the sickness, or what they’re doing to look for a cure.

The Dreamers at an angle

I can definitely see how this story could be polarizing. Despite my general enjoyment, and the speed at which I finished it, it was a slow burn plot-wise. In fact, there’s really not much that happens. You get to know characters, and then slowly see how the sickness makes its way to them. There aren’t any real plot twists or surprises, and I was left thinking something along the lines of what was the point of reading that? But at the same time, I did like it. Overall, if you’re looking for something fast-paced and plot-driven, this is not the book for you. If you are looking for more of a character driven narrative that’s a little different, Dreamers is definitely worth a try.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪.5
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Book Review, Fiction, Uncategorized

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens ~ Book Review

Crawdads book with cookies

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪

I finally get the hype about this book! ‘Coming of age’ stories usually aren’t my thing, and after skimming the back of my copy I was pretty sure that’s what I was in for, but man was I pleasantly surprised. Owens’ beautifully descriptive prose and characteristic writing style sucked me in from the beginning. The way the setting was constructed was impeccable, I could intricately picture the marsh, and felt like I was experiencing and appreciating it through the main character, Kya.

The book truly covers the entire life of Kya, an unbelievable impressive feat for under 400 pages. She begins as a very young girl, watching her mother, and subsequently each of her older siblings walk out on her, away from her drunk and abusive father. Her ignorance and lack of understanding of what she is experiencing comes through so clearly in Owens’ writing. I truly felt Kya’s struggle and determination as she tries to catch mussels and smoke fish to make a few cents to feed herself. She befriends Jumpin’ and Mabel, who run a little store she can boat to, and take her under their wing, while making sure not to bruise her pride. They accept her meager offerings, and keep her dressed and fed. Although the story primarily focuses on Kya, these two characters truly captured my heart.

As Kya grows up, we witness incredible growth, as she first learns how to take care of herself, and then is taught to read and write by a boy named Tate who lives nearby. Kya and Tate’s relationship quickly grows beyond that of a student and teacher, and they ‘date’ (in an untraditional manner) until he goes away to college to study Marine Biology. Once Tate leaves, Kya becomes involved with Chase, who never really seems to have her best interest at heart, and strings her along for years until she discovers that he is engaged to someone else in town.

The second half of the book takes a sharp turn, as Chase is found dead at the bottom of the local fire tower, and Kya is put on trial for his murder. Although very different from the lyrical marsh life that fills the first half of this story, I found this plot twist no less enjoyable. We witness Kya’s intense discomfort in the public eye, and her struggle to survive away from her home.

The end of this tale sees Kya reunited with Tate back in the marsh. Although the majority of the book was like a calming boat ride, the ending was a bit of a surprise, which was refreshing and obviously unexpected. The way Owens was able to weave mystery and suspense into the second half of this book without if feeling jarring or out of place was very well received, and I will definitely be recommending this book for a long time to come. I was so engrossed in this book that I didn’t even have time to bake, although I did stop by Panera to snag a couple of their chocolate chip cookies.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪🍪
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Book Review, Fiction, thriller, Uncategorized

Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare ~ Book Review

Call Me Evie book

Call Me Evie by J.P. Pomare
G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Release Date: March 5, 2019
Genre: Thriller
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪

What a page turner. This book flip flops back and forth between past and present, or rather ominously, ‘Before’ and ‘After.’ During the earlier segments, Kate is living her life as a relatively normal high school student, dealing with catty friendships and her first real relationship. She lives alone with her overly protective (too the point of it being unacceptable) father since her mother died when she was very young. (I definitely enjoyed these parts of the story more than those set in the present). The ‘After’ segments chronicle Kate’s life as she is trapped in a cabin with a man named Jim who forces her to go by Evie and pretend he is her uncle. He explains to her that they can’t go home because the police are waiting to arrest her there.

Over the course of the book, the reader gets insight into what happened back at Kate’s home, but is left largely in the dark. We learn that there was a scandal surrounding Kate’s boyfriend Thom, who leaked their sex tape, and there was also some sort of inappropriate relationship between Kate and her friend Willow’s father. We get to see the slow and very natural seeming progression of Kate and Thom’s relationship as well as the fallout between Kate and Willow, spurred by jealousy between the new threesome. The depiction of teenage life and discontent was very well played out throughout this narrative.

In the ‘After’ sections of the story, it slowly becomes clear that Thom has been killed, and Kate is convinced that it was Jim’s doing, although her memory of the night is impaired and confused. She finds notes she left for herself in a book in her room with warnings not to trust Jim, but she cannot seem to trust herself either. (Side note, what was up with that book? I was waiting for an explanation of when she wrote those notes and what they referred to but just… never got it…). Jim asks her repeatedly to explain to him what she remembers about the night of the ‘incident’, but it is hard to tell if he is intentionally manipulating her memories as she suspects.

Chocolate cookies with Call Me Evie

During Kate’s time trapped in the cabin, she makes a few friends around town who she desperately tries to convince that Jim is trapping her. With her word against him however, he is always able to frame things to make her look unstable. I was constantly flip flopping back and forth with wondering who should be believed.

The last third or so of this book had me completely sucked in. I had no idea who to trust, and couldn’t predict how the story would end. The final plot twists were very well integrated, and unexpected. Overall, it was a very original plot, and a thoroughly enjoyable thriller. There were a few pieces that felt unfinished, like the relationship between Kate and Willow’s dad (It seemed like suddenly everyone knew about their interactions, but there was no real explanation as to how), but for the most part this was a great read! (Also great– this batch of Death By Chocolate Chip Cookies with mini mint Dove bars folded inside!)

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪🍪
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Book Review, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Uncategorized

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton ~ Book Review

Next Year in Havana with Cookies

Next Year in Havana by Chanel Cleeton
Berkley
Release Date: February 6, 2018
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪

Next Year in Havana is one of those books I picked up purely because I was seeing it all over the place and I needed to know why. Book FOMO, if you will. Unfortunately for me, it didn’t quite live up to my expectations. I do generally enjoy historical fiction, but the political components of this book made it harder for me to get into. The story switches back and forth between two different points of view. The first, set in 1958, is that of Elisa Perez, who lives with her sisters, largely sheltered from the political unrest in Cuba because of her family’s wealth. The second, is Elisa’s granddaughter, Marisol, who travels to Havana in 2017 to scatter her grandmother’s ashes, although she is not legally allowed to do so. As a journalist, she is able to play her trip off as an opportunity to write an article.

While in Cuba, Marisol meets Luis, the grandson of a close friend of her late grandmother. He acts as her tour guide, and helps her begin to understand an insider’s perspective on the political history and present-day state of the country. Marisol struggles to see his point of view entirely, but feels herself emotionally drawn to him. This romance seemed unbelievable to me, too much too fast, and definitely took away from my enjoyment of the book.

Elisa’s storyline chronicles her love affair with a young revolutionary, as she and her sisters are forced to leave their home and face the reality that their lives will never be the same. I think that Elisa’s part of this story was more interesting to me, but I felt as if I got to know her much less than Marisol.

The descriptions and overall writing style were quite lovely, and the overall takeaway was nice, but for some reason this one just didn’t live up to the hype for me. Some of my disappointment was fixed by devouring a plate of these Death By Chocolate Chip Cookies that I added mega M&Ms to for some extra flair.

My Rating: 🍪🍪🍪
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