The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty

The Fifth Letter by Nicola Moriarty was not what I expected. It was so much more! I was surprised by the elements of both the suspense and mystery the book had. It was a well-written story about secrets, lies and betrayals. The changing narrative made the story even more enjoyable and intense.

Joni, Deb, Trina and Eden have been friends since they were children. Even when Eden had to unexpectedly move away for her father’s job for six months, their bond could not be broken.

As the years passed and the girls became women and their lives began to change what with careers and babies and husbands, although close, they were not able to see each other as much. So when Joni puts a beach weekend together for them just like they use to do everyone is excited and pleased.

During their first night, while reminiscing about the past and drinking way too much a suggestion is made for each to write anonymous letter with a secret they never revealed to the group. The letters would be read and all would have to guess which friend the letter belonged to.

What starts out as a fun idea begins to go terribly wrong when secrets which should never have seen the light of day are exposed. From a hidden pregnancy to a friend’s crush on another friend’s husband, the letters begin to tear the group apart. And of course no one knows whose letters are whose. They can only guess.

Then late one night Joni finds the remnants of a fifth letter in the fireplace which was supposed to have been burned. But it was not, and although the whole letter cannot be seen, the parts which can are extremely disturbing. One of them hates one of the friends so much that they have thoughts of harming them. With this information at hand, how does she proceed?

Best friends tell each other everything right? So when secrets begin to spill out about jobs, children and husbands, how can they reconcile their relationships? Is it too much for their friendships to continue? But more important, who wants to harm one of them and who do they want to harm?

With an explosive ending The Fifth Letter is a wonderfully suspenseful story about friendships and how they endure and change and how past secrets can come back to haunt not only the keeper but everybody else.

Special thank you to Goodreads and William Morrow for the free copy of the book.

Christmas Cupcake Murder by Joanne Fluke

It’s that wonderful time of year again when Joanne Fluke, author of the Hannah Swensen series, comes out with her now annual (it seems) Christmas book. These books always give us Hannah fans a glimpse of Hannah’s life prior to the Hannah we all know and love now. It also gives us a peek as to how certain things became what they are now in the present.

In Christmas Cupcake Murder, Hanna befriends a homeless man who has no memory of who he is or how he even got to Lake Eden. When Hannah and her mother find him unconscious in an empty store, they immediately seek help.

While in the hospital it is discovered that the man does not even remember his name. So it is agreed upon that they give him the name Joe Doe. Although he has no memory of people and places, certain things jog his memory. For example he has a memory of he and his mother going to get a special something to add to her German chocolate cupcakes. It also seems he has a knack for fixing antique furniture.

As they get to know Joe and his kindness, Hannah, her mother and the whole gang decide they must try to find out who Joe really is. Because Joe is not a missing person, the Chief will not allow any investigating, so the crew must depend on other tips and bits of memory which Joe tells them.

Along with the mystery of who Joe is we also learn just how and why Hannah’s mother and her best friend Carrie decided to open the antique store.

And of course while all this mystery is swirling in Lake Eden, Lisa and Hannah are busy creating new recipes for the holiday season, which of course, are included at the end of the chapters.

Can Hannah solve the mystery of who Joe really is? And if so, what really happened to him?

A Hannah Swensen mystery is always a quick, cozy read which will put a smile on your face and perhaps even give you a new recipe try!

Always a yummy read!

Thank you #NetGalley #JoanneFluke #ChristmasCupcakeMurder for the advanced copy. The book will be out on September 29.

Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman

Charlotte and her young daughter Vivi have lived through the occupation of Paris, France during World War II. Her husband killed during the war, Charlotte barely makes end meet as she works in a bookshop in Paris. She desperately tries to live under the radar of the Germans to protect herself, but especially her toddler Vivi. They barely have anything to eat, and Vivi is sickly, probably due to the lack of nutrition.

When a German doctor begins to come into the she shop regularly and begins to show interest, she must make a few hard choices. Does she, for the sake of Vivi, accept his assistance? But is this choice really for the sake of her daughter or for herself?

Fast forward to the 1950’s and Charlotte and Vivi are now living in New York. Charlotte is an editor at a publishing company, having been taken in by the owner who was a friend of her father’s from years ago. Horace is wheelchair bound after an accident during the war which he refuses to talk about. Charlotte and Vivi live in an apartment downstairs from Horace and his wife Hannah. Charlotte is a hard worker who lives for her daughter Vivi.

Suddenly Charlotte’s past becomes her present when she receives a letter concerning her German doctor. At the same time, Vivi begins to question their Jewish heritage and why Charlotte does not want to celebrate the holidays. She also begins to want to find out more about her dead father and his family. It is then that Charlotte must decide how to answer these questions which she knew at some point would come. But then she would also have to explain secrets she has held close to her heart all these years. She had always dreaded telling Vivi these secrets. She just wanted to live in a bubble with Vivi pretending everything would always be just the two of them and perfect.

But with the memories of her German doctor flooding back and all she has carried from her time in Paris and in the camp they were liberated from, Charlotte must begin the process of letting go of her past demons and guilt and setting herself free. But also fearful of what others will think if she reveals them.

With love and tenderness, Feldman weaves a beautiful story of a strong woman who would do anything to protect and save her daughter, who would repress the love she felt guilty of having and can barely think about to try and make peace with her past so she can once again live and love in the present.

Thank you #NetGalley #Griffin/St.Martin’sPress #ParisNeverLeaveYou #EllenFeldman for the advanced copy.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Author Jenny Lawson has multiple anxiety disorders and depression. Rather than keep her mental illness in a dark and secret place, she started a blog about it awhile ago. Her blog became so popular that she decided to write a book which became a number one best seller called Let’s Pretend This Never Happened.

Furiously Happy is her second hysterically funny book of essays on how handling her many issues although can be debilitating, the situations they pose can be laugh out loud funny!

And laughter IS one of the best medicines for anxiety and depression. Lawson’s ability to take a simple thought and create a whole comical scenario is a talent I have never seen. In the essay, I’ve Found a Kindred Soul and He Has a Healthy Coat tells the story of how Lawson went to the pharmacy to pick up her meds and while waiting in line saw a box of dog biscuits behind the pharmacy counter. Whose could they be? Does the pharmacist eat them on break? Can you eat dog biscuits? Should I eat dog biscuits?

Another essay which some of us can relate to…I know I can, is titled, Things I May Have Accidentally Said During Uncomfortable Silences. In the essay she lists thoughts she has said out loud at possibly the most inappropriate times. One such thought was during an office visit during one of her psychology appointments she remarks during a lull, “On the way in here I saw a cloud that looked like a skull. My first thought? Death Eaters.”

There are a few funny stories she tells about going on a vacation (something her anxiety usually will not let her do) to Australia with her girlfriend and they decide to dress up as koalas while visiting the zoo to see the koalas only to find they have gone to the wrong zoo while dressed as said koalas. When they finally find the correct zoo they find out you are not allowed to hold the koalas. Hence pictures of them NEXT to the koala in a koala costume.

The pictures which Lawson provides in the book are proof positive that although she struggles, she certainly tries to push the envelope and have a bit of fun. My favorite photo is of her laying in an unfinished pool which they had been trying to complete only the contractors kept bailing on them. It says quite a bit about a book when not only do the words make you laugh, but the pictures are even hysterical.

Although this book does try to show that there can be a little light at the end of the tunnel, Lawson does not in anyway sugar coat her mental illness. What she can do and does is not only empathize with those who suffer minor or major anxiety or mental illness, but explains that even though there are crazy fun moments, there are still weeks which she spends in bed being unable to get up her depression so severe. Or feeling guilty that she is unable to go see her daughter in her dance class because of her social anxiety or the newest, now that she has to go on book tours…hiding under tables when she knows she has to speak. But she has a terrific husband, Victor who can talk or argue her down from the ledge when need be.

With all that said, the most important lesson I believe Lawson wants us to take away from her book is YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I am here. I understand your distress. I know what you mean. Now, laugh about it!

The Love Scam by MaryJanice Davidson

When super wealthy Rake Tarbell wakes up in a very bad state in Venice…Italy, not California, unable to remember how on earth he got there and missing his wallet and cell phone he thinks perhaps he may have a problem.

Thus begins The Love Scam where love is all in the family! And so is hilarity! Rake wakes up only to meet a mysterious woman named Claire Delaney who immediately introduces him to his (gulp) young daughter Lillith, whose mother he does not really remember!

And in true comedic flair we begin to learn Claire has secrets she does not want Rake to know and Rake has secrets he does not want Claire to know and both have secrets they don’t want Lillith to know and Lillith is keeping her own set of secrets, while all rooming together in a shabby, not up to Rake’s standard, hotel room.

Rake, whose accounts seem to have no money in them anymore must work for Claire by putting together Easter Baskets in order to make enough money to buy a cell phone in order to call his twin brother Blake to find out what is actually going on.

When he finally reaches Blake and finds him without any money, Rake decides to use the never used before “nuclear option” which Rake and Blake have saved for a major crisis. Unfortunately for the reader, we must wait to find out exactly was this option is and when we do the fun continues!

In the meantime, Blake and Claire seem to be getting along a little too well, Lillith has pulled on Rake’s heart and oh, there are men who are trying to kidnap them!

This is a fast-paced clever, witty story about love and family and nuclear options worth triggering! It is the second book of a series, the first being Danger Sweetheart, but no fears, I had no idea there was a first book and it made absolutely no difference to how much I enjoyed The Love Scam!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #MaryJaniceDavidson #TheLoveScam for the advanced copy.