Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison

Every year, I save the mystery books on my to-be-read list for the cooler, crisp months. This year, I picked up Lie To Me by J.T. Ellison as the first mystery thriller of the season (cheers to fall!).

Sutton and Ethan Montclair are both successful authors and they’ve had a hard year. After losing a child, working through an affair, and both of their careers taking a bit hit – they’re feeling the pain. One day, Ethan finds a note in their kitchen from Sutton saying that she has left and doesn’t want to be followed. Unsure what to do, Ethan waits. And waits. And waits until the hours pass by and something feels off. It doesn’t feel like Sutton is taking a few days for herself, it feels like something more.

With Sutton missing and the police asking tough questions, Ethan starts to lose his sanity. What happens next is a chase to find Sutton before it’s too late.

At first, I thought that this book was trying too hard to be like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn with the whole wife-frames-the-husband situation. Turns out that it’s a different story entirely! Overall, I enjoyed this layered story (with unexpected twists) and it’s definitely gotten me in the mood for more thrillers.

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This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

I read and review many wonderful books, but it’s not often that I want each and every one of you to read one book in particular. What’s this stunning, eye-opening novel that I think everyone should read? This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel!

Before I dive into why I think this book is so important, I’ll share an overview of the story. Rosie and Penn live in the Midwest with their five lively, adorably chaotic and curious boys. Meet Claude, the youngest son who loves to bake and listen to fairytales. When he grows up he wants to be a girl. Claude’s parents and siblings are supportive and want him to be happy. However they’re not sure how to support him in a world that doesn’t seem to understand. To protect their family, a secret unfolds and grows until it becomes so large that it threatens to suffocate them all.

One of the most important impacts of reading (besides enjoying the stories) is how it fosters empathy. This book makes that very clear. In a heartwarming tone, This Is How It Always Is discusses a topic that a lot of people aren’t familiar with in a very eye-opening and relatable way. I wholeheartedly recommend this book and would love to hear your thoughts if any of you have read it!

First We Were IV by Alexandra Sirowy

“First we were four. Now we are three.”

What a line! Could there be a better way to begin a book? I was immediately caught up in Alexandra Sirowy’s young adult thriller, First We Were IV, when I read this opening passage.

A group of teenagers, best friends, form a secret society. They are outsiders and want revenge for the girl they found dead 5 years earlier. The police looked away back then, but not this time. This time, the police and the town itself will pay attention because the society will make sure of it.

Before starting the society, Izzie, Graham, Harry and Viv felt powerless and unheard. Now they’re taking the power back. By fighting the authority, getting revenge, and making an unbreakable vow to one another they feel more alive than they ever have. Unsurprisingly, it goes too far. The power of IV grows as others adopt the symbol.

I haven’t read a young adult book in awhile and I almost forgot how quick the pace can be. I really liked First We Were IV and the focus on relationships, what it means to be a teenager, and the danger of too much power.

“Still, those kids, those snakes, whispered stories and secrets in the way the dying confess, anticipating forgiveness.”

American Gods by Neil Gaiman

America is a bad place for gods in American Gods by Neil Gaiman. In modern day, a war has broken out between the old gods and the new. This is where Shadow finds himself – standing in the middle of a troubling war he doesn’t fully understand.

Shadow has been in jail for the last three years and as soon as he’s about to be released, his wife Laura dies in a car crash. Unexpectedly, Shadow meets the odd and all knowing Mr. Wednesday, a leader of the old gods, who offers him a job. With nowhere to go and nothing to do but grieve, he accepts Mr. Wednesday’s offer.

We soon learn that Wednesday is rallying the old gods to join him in the battle. Shadow plays a larger role in this than he could have ever imagined.

Through this story, Gaiman shares a vivid history of America. It’s a really interesting idea, this war of the gods, and it’s very fantastical and full of mythology. The story is definitely thought-provoking, but the pace was slow for me and some of the transitions from one scene to the next were difficult to follow.

I loved Gaiman’s book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and while American Gods was also good, it was very different. It’s clear that he’s a very talented writer!

These quotes stood out to me:

“’This is the only country in the world,’ said Wednesday, into stillness, ‘that worries about what it is.’”

“Religions are places to stand and look and act, vantage points from which to view the world.”

Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

What would you do if your best friend called you the F word? In Fitness Junkie by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza, F refers to Fat. One morning, Janey is ambushed by her best friend and business partner when he tells her that she needs to lose weight to stay in her position as CEO of their wedding dress business. Understandably Janey is hurt (and pissed).

Over the next three months, Janey goes to great lengths to lose weight. $50 (or more) workout classes. $30 juices. The clay diet. A weeklong fitness retreat. You name it, Janey tried it. It’s clear that this “healthy” lifestyle is anything but being healthy.

Fitness Junkie is entertaining and ridiculous at times, but underneath the silly exterior are very real issues like eating disorders, poor body image, and unrealistic expectations. I appreciate a book that can shine a light on important issues in a way that’s easy to absorb.

Janey’s (fictional) wealth allowed her to take part in all of these extreme and expensive health trends, but many times it veered too far towards the excessive. The fact the Janey could pay for all this extravagance (in NYC no less) without much consideration was a little bit too unrealistic (at least for the majority of people) for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading Fitness Junkie and recommend it!

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

Imagine a cruise ship sailing in the middle of the ocean, no land visible in any direction. It’s a dark and dreary night. There’s a small cramped cabin on the boat. This is where Lo Blacklock finds herself staying on the inaugural sailing of the Aurora.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware shares the story of Lo, a travel journalist about to set off for her first big story covering a high-end cruise. Just before the trip, her apartment is broken into and she’s left very shaken. While on the ship she’s still very anxious and wakes up in the middle of the night to a mysterious sound from the cabin next to hers, cabin 10. Then, unbelievably, she hears a large splash… No one on board believes her – could she be losing her mind? Lo is determined to find out what happened in cabin 10.

I liked the pace of The Woman in Cabin 10 and the eerie cruise ship setting. The thought of being trapped below water is horrifying! I also thought that this book is better than Ware’s first book, In a Dark Dark Wood, because the storyline was more unexpected. At the same time, there were aspects of the book that felt disconnected and too coincidental, i.e. unlikely to happen.

Overall, I recommend this one for a quick, engaging mystery read!

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo

“‘You say this is a man’s world, sir, and I am not so naïve as to disagree with you. But’ – here Kay leaned forward, staring the man straight in the eye- ‘if the world of men ever tears itself apart again, it will take an army of nurses to put it back together.’”  

The Fire by Night by Teresa Messineo shares the stories of two American nurses during World War II – one stationed in France and the other imprisoned in a Japanese POW camp.

Jo McMahon is trapped in a field hospital with 6 critically wounded patients under her care and the Germans are approaching. Very much on her own, Jo goes to extremes to save these men. It turns out that one of them may be more than just a patient to her.

Across the world, Kay Elliott was stationed in Hawaii and until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, everything in her life seemed perfect. She had met the love of her life and her heart was filled with hope for the future. Soon, Kay was imprisoned in a terrible Japanese POW that sucked her dry of any hope.

I appreciate that The Fire by Night shares the perspectives of nurses during the war – it was unique from other books I’ve read that are based during this time. Nurses not only experience their own horrors, they also experience the tragedies of their patients and carry those burdens. Both Joe and Kay are lively, strong characters who are pushed far past the brink.

While The Fire by Night is well written and compelling (and I do recommend it!) I didn’t think it was better than other World War II historical fiction novels out there like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.