We Were Never Here by Andrea Bartz

Emily and her best friend from college, Kristen are on their annual girl’s getaway. This year they are in Chile, drinking, hiking and enjoying each other’s company. With Kristen now living in Australia for work, this is their only chance to play catch-up in person.

But, on the last night of their vacation, Kristen is charmed by a backpacker she met. She decides to take him back to their room. As Emily relaxes at the bar, she gets a frantic call from Kristen saying something went terribly wrong and she has to come back to the hotel room. There she finds blood and the backpacker dead. Kristen says he tried to get physical with her and she did not know what to do. Emily and Kristen decide they must get rid of the body. But what makes this situation worse is it is a repeat of what happened during last year’s girl’s getaway. Only it happened to Emily when she was violently attacked in their room and Kristen killed him.

During last year’s trip Emily brought someone back to their room and he became physical. Kristen came back to the room and saw what was happening and killed him. It was decided that they should dispose of his body in a remote area and wipe out any existence of themselves being in this area so it would look like they were never there.

So they once again attempt to discard the body and make it look as if they were never there. But Emily can’t believe this has happened again. She also cannot believe Kristen’s attitude toward the murder. She seems calm and collected. During the past year after the other murder, Emily was so traumatized she began having panic attacks. It was with Kristen’s help that she was able to get through the year.

As Emily returns home, back to her life and her new relationship, something she was hesitant to tell Kristen about as she always seemed to point out faults in her boyfriends which Emily would always agree with and end up breaking up with them. But she felt this relationship could be different and did not want Kristen’s input just yet. But as Emily is preoccupied with what happened while they were away, Kristen it seems is quite unfazed. Emily begins to wonder about her best friend.

And then Kristen suddenly shows up. She decided to leave her job and come back to be with Emily and her own family, her grandparents. Her parents had both died in a housefire when she was young. She begins to insert herself into Emily’s life and relationship. Emily starts to look at her best friend in a very different light and begins to dig into Kristen’s background, something she never imagined she would ever do.

Emily begins to discover Kristen has many secrets. She is not the person she thought she was and quite frankly could be very dangerous. But Emily has a bigger problem. She cannot tell anyone about Kristen because Kristen holds Emily’s murderous secrets. Emily is thrown deeper into Kristen’s craziness, while trying to pretend there is nothing wrong. She also is trying to protect her boyfriend from harm. But what may be even worse is Kristen starts to notice a difference in Emily’s behavior, and faced with the fact that she could be losing her best friend begins to go off the deep end. It seems Kristen will use everything in her arsenal to keep her obsessive relationship with her best friend…perhaps even kill again!

The old adage of keep your friends close and your enemies closer collide in We Were Never Here, a nail biter of a read with shocking twists and turns no one could ever see coming. The ending, an explosion of turmoil!

Thank you #NetGalley #BallentineBooks #WeWereNeverHere #AndreaBartz for the advanced copy. The book will be out in early August.

Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau

In this touching Young Adult novel, high school student and hopeful ballerina Mia Jenrow is getting ready to start her senior year. But rather than spend her summer goofing off, she has chosen to take the opportunity to go to Paris and participate in a ballet program in which not only is she able to sharpen her skills, but will also be judged at the end of the 6 weeks by prestigious ballet companies who invite some participants to join them.

Passion for dance runs in Mia’s family. Her mother was a ballerina but quit, without explanation. Family lure even has her great-great grandmother, a ballerina as well, posing for pictures for the painter Degas, although there has never been any actual proof. Her mother is not happy with Mia’s decision to go to France as she is afraid she will be be disappointed and let down. But Mia realizes this could be her last chance. She has been turned down by a prestigious New York Company and thinks if she spends the summer in this program, she may get another chance to audition for them.

On her first day in Paris she sees the one person she was relieved to leave behind…Audrey, her ballet nemesis and the most perfect and elegant ballerina she has ever come up against. She had already been accepted to that New York City Company! Now she realizes she must work even harder and have absolutely no distractions in her quest for perfection.

Enter Louis, a handsome, charming Parisian who catches her eye and he hers. Unfortunately for Mia, Louis has some heavy baggage he carries with him. His father is her ballet instructor whose work ethic is beyond anything she has ever experienced. He cannot know about them. And when she gets a part in the upcoming ballet, not only is Louis on her mind, but keeping up with Audrey is as well.

So in this beautiful City of Love, Mia must carefully navigate high standards of practice, being in love, listening to her mother’s disappointment at her decisions and if that was not enough, she and Louis have decided to try and confirm or debunk the family myth that her relative was in a Degas painting. When in Paris… what could possibly go wrong?

Well, Mia’s dreams may come crashing down around her if she does not get her priorities straight. But one thing is for sure, this summer will change Mia’s life forever!

Kisses and Croissants is an adorable, entertaining and funny young love story, filled with crushes, insecurities, jealousies, misunderstandings and many lessons to be learned.

Thank you #Goodreads #DelacortePress #Anne-SophieJouhanneau #KissesandCroissants for the advanced copy.

The Comfort Food Diaries by Emily Nunn

When professional food writer Emily Nunn’s life fell apart when her brother committed suicide, her relationship crumbled and she found herself suddenly homeless, and with her drinking increasing again she decided to check herself in to rehab. It was then Emily was able to begin to see how she became the person she was and how she could change and become a person she could love.

As Emily began to look back on her life, especially her childhood which was turbulent to say the least with two parents who could barely take care of themselves, and did not want to take care of the many children they had. Nothing was ever talked about, like her father moving out and another man moving in, or the narcissistic personality her mother had or her father’s drinking or her brother being gay. It was all left for them all just to speculate.

She also began to understand her rocky relationships with her siblings and how they too had been impacted by the lack of care their parents showed. Many had not spoken to each other for years, while others fled to another country just to get away. She too would learn that their treatment of her would trigger her low self-esteem issues and she would always blame herself for the arguments, most of the time not understanding what she had done to provoke the anger.

When asked what comforted her in times of stress, Emily realized it was food. It was the actual cooking, creating and the enjoyment of eating. It was especially satisfying to cook with others, be it friends or family.

So she goes on a quest to find not only herself, but to also reconnect with family she has not seen in years as well as friends, some of whom the relationship had not ended well, and spend time with them, learn from them and cook with them. Thus begins Emily’s journey of healing herself. With this comes a new understanding of what her life was like but what her life could be like when you let go all of the annoyance and hostility she had held in for so many years and she begins to find an inner peace as her travels continue. She also learns the word “family” means many things and you sometimes have to accept some relationships are just not meant to be.

Throughout her memoir while she gives us glimpses of her unusual past, she also tells stories of recipes and how they came about and the impact they had on her life and the memories they invoke. Some mouthwatering recipes, and yes they are in the book for the reader to enjoy if they choose were her Aunt Mariah’s Pot Roast, Father Tray’s Bran Muffins and Bea’s Magic Salad Dressing.

As this unexpected journey came it its conclusion, Emily learned many lessons about living. But her curiosity about food literally saved her life.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

One Last Stop is a tender, unique, magical look at love. It goes well beyond your regular love story and into a realm of unknown which will keep you riveted until the very last word of the beautiful story.

August has moved many times. She is trying to complete her college education. But as a loner, she never really bonds with anyone or anything so there is never anything to keep her in one place. So when she gets bored, she just ups and finds another college.

Having had a difficult life, her mother lost her brother Augie years ago. They have never been able to find any record of him either alive or dead. August’s whole life has been taken up with files…her mother’s obsession of finding out just what happened to Augie. Needless to say her home life was nothing spectacular.

Now, August finds herself in New York City living with three very quirky roommates whose main goal in life is to get to know her and get her to open up. Not happening. They are able to help her get a job at a 24 hour pancake diner which will help her pay her rent and tuition, but will do nothing for the smell she seems to emit no matter how many showers she takes! Pancakes, syrup and bacon.

So as August gets use to her once again very lonely life, on her first day going to her new college as she is heading towards her train in the subway station she is pushed and coffee is spilt all over her shirt. And this shove will change August’s life forever. An adorable girl sees August in distress and hands her a scarf to cover her stains. She even loves the smell of pancakes and syrup! She thanks her not even knowing her name.

Now smitten, August looks for her mystery hero and finally find her on a train. Her name is Jane. She has everything, beauty, personality and cool clothes. Their relationship begins to grow. But there is one serious problem. Jane is stuck on the train. She does not remember her past but believes it is the 1970’s. And for some reason she cannot leave the train. August promises her that she will find a way to get her home, wherever that may be.

It is then that August opens up to her roommates about what is happening to Jane and thus begins a complex plan to try and help Jane return to her life from year’s ago. Although August knows Jane needs to return to where she belongs, she realizes that she may never again see who she believes is the love of her life. But August loves Jane enough to let her go.

Throughout this journey, August becomes with Jane’s help the person she never knew she could ever become. But with her renewed confidence in life, comes a sadness for her soulmate. Will there plan work? We won’t know until Jane gets off at the last stop.

The Last Stop has heroines and heroes, fairytale and intrigue, laughter and most of all love.

Thank you #NetGalley #Griffin #OneLastStop #CaseyMcQuiston for the advanced copy.

Yoga Pant Nation by Laurie Gelman

In this third installment of Laurie Gellman’s hysterical series we find Jen Dixon, class mom extraordinaire eagerly awaiting her last year in the elementary school system. It has been two years since Jen has given us an update and in that time so much has happened.

She is now a certified spin instructor looking for a job. Her son Max will be graduating elementary school and is eagerly awaiting the right of passage overnight class trip to Topeka . Her daughter gave birth to a daughter and has decided to be a single parent. Jen helps out by babysitting while her daughter works. Her parents seem to be having some mental issues…and not the usual ones. She has reluctantly committed to heading up a school fundraiser which hopes to raise $10,000. Oh and yes, she is once again the class mom of her son’s class!

So much for some Jen time!

But in this hilarious, incredibly relatable story we empathize as Jen sarcastically, comically plods her way through life. As she tries to hold herself together and keep control of her uncontrollable family, she does encounter some obstacles. And of course there is drama. Someone is bullying Max and he will not tell anyone why. Jen’s daughter’s baby daddy who found out late he was a dad, and his mother who lives in India are trying to take her granddaughter away for an extended trip back to India.

Her parents are acting strange. Staying in their pajamas all day. Forgetting to eat. Forgetting to get up from the kitchen table all day. It may be time to look for an assisted living facility, something Jen is dreading.

The school fundraiser group which Jen has aptly named We Fundraise Until Kingdom Come Team or WeFuckT for short has three women with the exact same name with one who does not do social media anything. Sadly, they are out of ideas as to how on earth to raise so much money.

With Jen’s cornucopia of problems, and her best friend now living in another state, can she push through and get everything done? But of course! And she craftily solves her dilemmas with love, empathy, anger and of course humor. My only wish would be we get to continue to read more of Jen’s misfortunes. I am addicted.

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHoltandCo. #LaurieGelman #YogaPantNation for the advanced copy. The book will be out in July.

The Husbands by Chandler Baker

Nora Spangler is on track to become partner at her law firm this year. Although a woman, with a child, (which is frowned upon at work), another on the way (which no one knows about yet) and a husband who pitches in when he is told, she sucks it all up and attempts to do it all. Every day seems to be an uphill battle, juggling her young daughter Liv’s school and activities, making meals, demands at the office no matter what time of day, while practically begging her husband Hayden to help her. She is exhausted.

Until the couple begin to go house hunting for a bigger house and receive a call about an open house in a complex called Dynasty Ranch where it seems most of the women are CEO’s, authors, and doctors. When they arrive for the walk through Nora notices how engaged the husbands are to all their wives requests. Without even being asked. She begins to ponder her own relationship with her husband.

While there they discover that a recent accidental fire at the complex destroyed a house and killed the husband of one of the women, a famous author. She has asked Nora to look into the fire because she wants to file a wrongful death claim. Reluctantly she agrees.

As Nora begins her investigation and begins spending time with the women of Dynasty Ranch she starts to feel inadequate about herself and her relationship with her husband. She mentions this to one of the women and she suggests counseling with one of the neighbors who is a counselor. But nothing is really as it seems at the complex. As Nora delves deeper into the fire/death she finds she has more questions than answers. What if the fire was not really an accident? But what she does know is the husbands at the complex seem to make their wives lives so much easier. Now if only she could get Harley to be more helpful.

And that is what begins to happen! Harley begins to really take initiative. Nora has never been so happy! Until she finds out that not everything is really the way it looks. And now she has a dilemma. Does she choose the perfect life? Or does she go back to the exhausted, beaten down wife, mother and lawyer she use to be.

Dynasty Ranch is a perfect oasis for career women with families, but what happens when you discover the secrets which lie beneath the surface? If you are not careful, you could be its next victim.

The Husbands is The Stepford Wives on steroids. A fast paced thriller which many women readers will be able to relate to, trying to do it all and do it all well without guilt and with little support. The question is what would you rather have? The perfect husband or the messy life. You decide.

Thank you #Goodreads #FlatironBooks #TheHusbands #ChandlerBaker for the advanced copy. The book will be released in early August.

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok

Searching for Sylvie Lee is a heartbreaking mystery which not only touches on racial stereotyping and immigration, but has incredible drama, secrets and misunderstandings which tear an extended family apart.

When an Asian couple immigrate to New York City, they have high hopes of all their dreams coming true. They believe this country to be the greatest place to raise a family, But as they get settled, they discover they are pregnant. Unable to care for a baby and try and work, they send their daughter Sylvie to a cousin’s house in The Netherlands where their grandma is taking care of another of the cousins. They believe they will be able to send for her when they get settled.

But seven years later, when they have a second child, Amy, Sylvie is still in The Netherlands. They now decide it is time for Sylvie to come to America and help with their new child. Sylvie is then sent to New York, leaving the only home she has really ever known. But she seems to adapt to the change easily, taking care of her sister Amy and excelling at whatever she does. Her young sister Amy not only looks up to Sylvie, but aspires to be just like her, always feeling as if she has fallen short of what Sylvie has accomplished. But both sisters adore each other.

When the family gets a call from their family in The Netherlands telling them their grandmother is near death, they decide it should be Sylvie who goes to be with her. They had the closest bond and felt she would want to be with her. Sylvie, married with an incredible job departs to be with her grandmother. But after her grandmother’s death, Sylvie disappears. At first they feel she just needed time to process the passing, but as time elapses, Amy realizes something is terribly wrong.

It is decided that Amy will travel to The Netherlands to help search for her sister. Not only is this totally out of Amy’s comfort zone, but Amy realizes this could be the opportunity to help her sister as she has helped her for all these years. As Amy traces Sylvie’s steps during her time in The Netherlands and her interactions with her cousins, she realizes Sylvie had many secrets. Although always seeming perfect on the outside, she was hiding feelings of extreme insecurity, sadness and regret. The fight begins as to how far the family should go to find Sylvie, worrying about how it would look to people if perhaps they find something, because everybody should have perfect lives, at least on the outside. Where IS Sylvie?

This moving story which opens up a floodgate of family secrets is both compelling and tragic. Not only is this family searching for Sylvie who is lost in so many ways, but they are searching for their own souls hoping to find their own way back to each other before it is too late.

Home Stretch by Graham Norton

British television host Graham Norton has written a beautifully touching coming of age story about a group of families whose lives become intertwined after a horrific accident occurs in their small Irish town. As lives are torn apart from the accident, it’s the intertwined secrets kept buried which seem to cause even more damage.

A group of young adults decide to go to the beach the day before two of them will be married. But the marriage will never occur. A terrible car accident will destroy all their lives. Three of them die. And as the town mourns the dead, their wrath turns to the driver of the car, Connor. Unable to bear this terrible burden on their family and their son, Connor’s parents decide to send him away to Liverpool to work in hopes he will return when the shock subsides. Little do they know it will be years before they even know he is still alive.

Connor, who has secrets he can never share, is thrown into a job and apartment with strangers. Then something happens to him and he is tossed onto the streets, a lost, guilty boy who feels he does not deserve to even be alive. He then spends many years of his life running. Running away from the accident, his life, himself and the embarrassment he thinks he is to his family.

As Connor’s parents give up hope of ever seeing their son again, their daughter Ellen has married one of the survivors of the accident. This marriage she realizes is very tangled. Connor has no idea of the situations back home as he has found his way to residing in New York. But a chance meeting with a stranger will once again change his life forever. Those secrets he has kept buried for years once again will surface and he must decide what to reveal and what must be taken to his grave.

Home Stretch examines the true love of family as well as the forgiveness we have to not only absolve someone of mistakes, but liberate oneself from the horrible burdens some carry. But for others, their ego is too great and they would rather feel nothing rather than be free to live the life they truly want.

Norton’s novel deals with love, loss and pain. But in the end his most important lesson is that the truth will always set you free.

Thank you #NetGalley #HarperCollinsPublishers #GrahamNorton #HomeStretch for the advanced copy. The book will be coming out in late June.

Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder by Mikita Brottman

Couple Found Slain is the true sad story of a family who was torn apart after the youngest son shot and killed his parents. But the tragedy had started long ago, with parents who were verbally and physically abusive to their children. But that unfortunately was not the end of this story. Quite honestly, it was only the beginning.

In 1992 a 22-year-old named Brian Bechtold walked into a police station and informed the police officer that he had killed his parents over two weeks prior in another state after hearing voices and believing them to be the devil telling him to kill them.

Brian was judged criminally insane and diagnosed with schizophrenia. He ended up at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a 250 in-patient facility. But Brian’s journey was far from over. As a matter of fact, unbeknownst to him it was only the beginning of a fight for his life.

Brian’s childhood was not the happiest. He and his siblings were constantly abused by non-caring parents who mentally and physically abused them almost on a daily basis. But for outsiders looking in that just was not the case. They saw a quiet husband who went to work as an engineer and a wife who took care of their growing family. As the years passed and Brian’s siblings moved out, their wrath, especially his father’s began to increase. With his mother ailing from a bout with breast cancer and continued failing health, Brian just snapped.

After his sentence he was placed in a maximum psychiatric hospital. As the years went by and through therapy and medication, Brian seemed to improve. He had begun to see other patients who had done similar or even far worse crimes being released back into society. But when he asked why he was not allowed to be released he was never really given a reason that made sense.

The Perkins Center was not exactly a proficient facility. Patients were improperly medicated, there were clashes with guards, nurses and even administrators, and there were confrontations with patients which included patients murdering each other. There was even an episode of a psychiatrist who worked at the center stalking an administrator.

When Brian questioned why he could not leave, they labeled him paranoid and just drugged him more until he began to refuse the medication. He was accused of trying to hurt guards and other patients. It seemed they wanted to keep insisting he was mentally ill. So when Brian heard from other patients that prison was actually a better facility than the Center, he decided to plan an escape in the hopes that he would end up in prison, thinking he would get a definite sentence and a release date would finally be possible. But that would not be the case.

Since then his mental state has remained stable and he has been trying to get himself released, even going to court and representing himself, something a mentally unstable person would certainly not be able to do.

This is not only the story about a mentally ill person killing his parents, but of how the system treats these individuals, even when they become a recovery story. What Brian did was reprehensible. But did he have some sort of psychotic break and through the years has fully recovered? If so, why are there no provisions put in place. Why should a patient who is no danger any more live in a facility where there is danger not only by other patients, but from the people who are suppose to protect them. Hopefully this book will shed some light on the problem and perhaps begin a series of changes.

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHoltandCo. #MikitaBrottman #CoupleFoundSlain for the advanced copy. The book will be out in early July.

How Y’All Doing? by Leslie Jordan

Emmy award winning actor, Leslie Jordan, known for his outlandish character Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace and his stints on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story series has been constantly working, minding his own business for many, many years. But that all changed when during the pandemic he became bored and discovered Instagram. And with one single tweet, “Well, shit. How y’all doing.” he became an instant hit on the social media platform and now has millions and millions of followers.

In his most recent book, How Y’All Doing, Jordan, in his perhaps long-winded, now where was I, funny tale teller way, writes essays about his life, family and acting career. From his love of ponies from a young age, the death of his father when he was very young and of his travels with some eccentric friends, he has mastered the art of storytelling.

In one essay he writes about meeting Carrie Fisher at an AA meeting and after having a discussion with her about his drinking and how it has affected his mother, it unbeknownst to him, led to a call from Debbie Reynolds to his mother, who of course thought the call was a joke!

He spends some of the book writing about the gossip and stories while he was working on the set of The Help with Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer. He also dishes the dirt on other acting gigs such as American Horror Story.

But, as in all lives, he also draws on his darker side as a young gay man trying to find himself and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. He explains that after his father was killed in the war his mother struggled to keep the family which included his twin sisters as well as himself together.

He writes with a sense of flair and sarcasm which he also exhibits while doing his Instagram posts. His stories might begin somewhere and veer, but they always come back to his main points and moral of the story. Although a short book, it is filled with sentimental, funny stories and gossip which are enjoyably interesting.