In Five Years by Rebecca Serle

In Five Years by Rebecca Serle
Publisher: Atria books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller, Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Dannie Kohan lives her life by the numbers.

She is nothing like her lifelong best friend—the wild, whimsical, believes-in-fate Bella. Her meticulous planning seems to have paid off after she nails the most important job interview of her career and accepts her boyfriend’s marriage proposal in one fell swoop, falling asleep completely content.

But when she awakens, she’s suddenly in a different apartment, with a different ring on her finger, and beside a very different man. Dannie spends one hour exactly five years in the future before she wakes again in her own home on the brink of midnight—but it is one hour she cannot shake. In Five Years is an unforgettable love story, but it is not the one you’re expecting.

Something strange happens to Dannie, a corporate lawyer. Dannie lives in New York with her fiancé, David, when one night she wakes up five years in the future with a different man. They spent some heated moments together; then Dannie wakes back up in her present. What happened to David? Why weren’t they still together?

Suspense is achieved with this in mind, and it increases when Dannie’s best friend Bella introduces Dannie to her new boyfriend, the man Dannie had woken up next to in the future. Dannie would never betray Bella or David, so she is determined not to allow herself and Bella’s boyfriend to become close, but they do—in a way. Dannie increases her efforts to get closer to David and speed up the time until she marries him, yet she still hesitates.

This story is a good exploration of friendship and being true to oneself. Dannie’s job is an expedient backdrop to the plot and offers a peek into a demanding industry. Dannie makes some hard choices, especially when she receives some shocking news. She discovers more about herself and faces strong emotions.

In Five Years is an entertaining book showing life in New York at its best. It is worth the read.

Miss Memory Lane: A Memoir by Colton Haynes

Miss Memory Lane: A Memoir by Colton Haynes
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Recent Historical, Contemporary, Non-Fiction, LGBTQ
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

A brutally honest and moving memoir of lust, abuse, addiction, stardom, and redemption from Arrow and Teen Wolf actor Colton Haynes.

Four years ago, Colton Haynes woke up in a hospital. He’d had two seizures, lost the sight in one eye, almost ruptured a kidney, and been put on an involuntary psychiatry hold. Not yet thirty, he knew he had to take stock of his life and make some serious changes if he wanted to see his next birthday.

As he worked towards sobriety, Haynes allowed himself to become vulnerable for the first time in years and with that, discovered profound self-awareness. He had millions of social media followers who constantly told him they loved him. But what would they think if they knew his true story? If they knew where he came from and the things he had done?

Now, Colton bravely pulls back the curtain on his life and career, revealing the incredible highs and devastating lows. From his unorthodox childhood in a small Kansas town, to coming to terms with his sexuality, he keeps nothing back.

By sixteen, he had been signed by the world’s top modeling agency and his face appeared on billboards. But he was still a broke, lonely, confused teenager, surrounded by people telling him he could be a star as long as he never let anyone see his true self. As his career in television took off, the stress of wearing so many masks and trying to please so many different people turned his use of drugs and alcohol into full-blown addiction.

A lyrical and intimate confession, apology, and cautionary tale, Miss Memory Lane is an unforgettable story of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled; of a family torn apart and rebuilt; and of a man stepping into the light as no one but himself.

At times, this is a run-of-the-mill autobiography, but at others, it’s heart-rendering and poetic.

I’ve never seen Colton Haynes on television. I guess I don’t watch the shows he’s been on and that’s okay. I didn’t pick this book up because of the star quality. I wanted an autobiography that would make me think and feel. This is one of those books. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t agree with everything that happened and there were times I cringed, but that’s life. It’s not always perfect or sweet. People can be mean to each other, can use each other and it’s up to those people to pick themselves up afterward.

Colton Haynes is a mess, it’s true. He grew up in a bad situation, was treated awfully and went into a profession that tends to chew people up and spit them out. Yet, he’s still here. There are moments of gut-wrenching seriousness and some of humor. I hated the way the author was treated, but I can see how it made him the man who wrote the book today. It made him stronger and appreciate what he has. At least that’s how it seemed in the book.

If you’re looking for something lurid, then this might be it. There’s underage sex, abuse and the like. It’s not an easy read. But if you’re looking for something to make you think and realize your life isn’t so bad, then this might be the one to read. Check it out.

Do Let’s Have Another Drink!: The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by Gareth Russell

Do Let’s Have Another Drink!: The Dry Wit and Fizzy Life of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother by Gareth Russell
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

During her lifetime, the Queen Mother was as famous for her clever quips, pointed observations, and dry-as-a-martini delivery style as she was for being a beloved royal. Now, Do Let’s Have Another Drink recounts 101 (one for each year of her remarkable life) amusing and astonishing vignettes from across her long life, including her coming of age during World War I, the abdication of her brother-in-law and her unexpected ascendance to the throne, and her half century of widowhood as her daughter reigned over the United Kingdom. Featuring new revelations and colorful anecdotes about the woman Cecil Beaton, the high society photographer, once summarized as “a marshmallow made on a welding machine,” Do Let’s Have Another Drink is a delightful celebration of one of the most consistently popular members of the royal family.

A woman made of steel wearing a crown and holding her own.

I didn’t know much about the Queen Mother when I picked up this book. I saw the title and thought it’d be a rollicking good time kind of book. It’s so much more, just like the Queen Mother. Sure, she had her faults, but she went through a lot in a long lifetime.

The writing flows along well and kept me entertained. Honestly, the fascination of the woman was plenty. She lived through two wars, bombings, the death of her husband, his rise to the throne and seeing her daughter do the same. She had a lot to handle and seemed to do it with grace. She might have spent a lot of cash along the way and loved her racehorses, but honestly, she was very much of her time. This book showed me that in so many ways.

If you’re looking for a book about the Queen Mother that’s not a run-of-the-mill biography, give this one a try. It’s worth the read.

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn
A Chet and Bernie Mystery, Book 1
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Chet, the wise and lovable canine narrator of Dog on It, and Bernie, a down-on-his-luck private investigator, are quick to take a new case involving a frantic mother searching for her teenage daughter. This well-behaved and gifted student may or may not have been kidnapped, but she has definitely gotten mixed up with some very unsavory characters. With Chet’s highly trained nose leading the way, their hunt for clues takes them into the desert to biker bars and other exotic locales—until the bad guys try to turn the tables and the resourceful duo lands in the paws of peril. Spencer Quinn’s irresistible mystery kicks off a delightful new series that will have readers panting for more.

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I picked up this book because I thought the idea of a mystery from the perspective of the dog might be fun. In that respect, it was. The dog’s point of view is certainly different than that of the human and I liked how the author wove that into the story.

I have to say, though, that this isn’t an easy book to read. The dog goes through some heavy stuff. He’s abused (not by his owner) and injured (again, not by his owner), but it’s hard to read. I don’t want a mystery where the animal is abused. If you don’t, then this might not be the one for you. It’s certainly difficult in spots.

That said, the mystery was intriguing and kept me paying attention to the end.

If you’re interested in a mystery that’s a little different and off the beaten path, then give this one a try.

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan

The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction
Length: Full Length (416 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

The story of Biltmore spans World Wars, the Jazz Age, the Depression, and generations of the famous Vanderbilt family, and features a captivating cast of real-life characters including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Thomas Wolfe, Teddy Roosevelt, John Singer Sargent, James Whistler, Henry James, and Edith Wharton.

Orphaned at a young age, Edith Stuyvesant Dresser claimed lineage from one of New York’s best known families. She grew up in Newport and Paris, and her engagement and marriage to George Vanderbilt was one of the most watched events of Gilded Age society. But none of this prepared her to be mistress of Biltmore House.
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Before their marriage, the wealthy and bookish Vanderbilt had dedicated his life to creating a spectacular European-style estate on 125,000 acres of North Carolina wilderness. He summoned the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted to tame the grounds, collaborated with celebrated architect Richard Morris Hunt to build a 175,000-square-foot chateau, filled it with priceless art and antiques, and erected a charming village beyond the gates. Newlywed Edith was now mistress of an estate nearly three times the size of Washington, DC and benefactress of the village and surrounding rural area. When fortunes shifted and changing times threatened her family, her home, and her community, it was up to Edith to save Biltmore—and secure the future of the region and her husband’s legacy.

A huge house, a wide landscape and a fairy tale in a real place.

I knew when I picked up this book that I’d be transported and I was. I’ve never seen the Biltmore estate, but through this book, I did.

This book tells the story of the Biltmore through the years, the way it’s changed and just how expensive it can be to keep up the house.

One thing about this book, the author not only discusses the house, but the branch of the Vanderbilt family that created it. I got to learn about the people and the home. I liked learning about the peripheral people as well–who were the movers and shakers at the house, who helped make the house fabulous. I can’t imagine my day to day life having so many fascinating people who are historical figures just being part of it. There are a ton of details and this isn’t an easy read, but it is fascinating.

If you want a book about a place you can just about only dream of, then this might be the book for you.

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (369 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Ellie Mack was the perfect daughter. She was fifteen, the youngest of three. She was beloved by her parents, friends, and teachers. She and her boyfriend made a teenaged golden couple. She was days away from an idyllic post-exams summer vacation, with her whole life ahead of her.

And then she was gone.

Now, her mother Laurel Mack is trying to put her life back together. It’s been ten years since her daughter disappeared, seven years since her marriage ended, and only months since the last clue in Ellie’s case was unearthed. So when she meets an unexpectedly charming man in a café, no one is more surprised than Laurel at how quickly their flirtation develops into something deeper. Before she knows it, she’s meeting Floyd’s daughters—and his youngest, Poppy, takes Laurel’s breath away.

Because looking at Poppy is like looking at Ellie. And now, the unanswered questions she’s tried so hard to put to rest begin to haunt Laurel anew. Where did Ellie go? Did she really run away from home, as the police have long suspected, or was there a more sinister reason for her disappearance? Who is Floyd, really? And why does his daughter remind Laurel so viscerally of her own missing girl?

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What happens to a family after a child goes missing?

In this story the author reveals the break and unravel of the Mack family. The author slowly reveals the unbalance of one mother as she deals with the aftermath of year after year of the devastating impact from the void of her missing daughter Ellie. Unfortunately, the healing wound will be reopened.

You’ll need a “do not disturb” sign because you’ll want to read this book in one sitting. This is a very entertaining book with a well laid out plot. The writing and pacing is excellent with a unpredictable plot twist.

Laurel Mack is Ellie’s mother. Ellie has been missing for 10 years. Since Ellie’s absence from the family her parents have divorced and the relationship between her mother and her sister Hanna is at odds due to the distance between the two. My favorite character is Laurel because her natural instinct is to protect and shelter her home, children and family. Laurel is caring, and has a love for others which is noted on several occasions through out the book. I wanted good things to happen to Laurel, but I know whatever that is it wouldn’t replace her daughter.

How far would a woman go to have a child? When evil shows up it’s sometimes not easy to recognize it. After being in its presence it will eventually show its ugly head. Ellie saw this glimpse of evil and when she tried to be rid of it, it struck back. Without a doubt a reader could very well predict what happened but shouldn’t reward themselves too soon because the full story isn’t told until the very end.

I enjoyed reading the different perspective’s of the characters. The author masterfully weaved the characters’ voices to give a full complete story. Their various perspectives give the story full dimension. The present and past viewpoints helped me fill in the coordinates with the thoughts and voices of Ellie and Noelle.

Highly recommend to readers who enjoy a brilliant plot twist that includes some dark subject matter.

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan

The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Non-Fiction, Historical
Length: Full Length (400 pgs)
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

AT THE HEIGHT OF WORLD WAR II, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, was home to 75,000 residents, consuming more electricity than New York City. But to most of the world, the town did not exist. Thousands of civilians–many of them young women from small towns across the South–were recruited to this secret city, enticed by solid wages and the promise of war-ending work. Kept very much in the dark, few would ever guess the true nature of the tasks they performed each day in the hulking factories in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains. That is, until the end of the war–when Oak Ridge’s secret was revealed.

Drawing on the voices of the women who lived it–women who are now in their eighties and nineties– The Girls of Atomic City rescues a remarkable, forgotten chapter of American history from obscurity. Denise Kiernan captures the spirit of the times through these women: their pluck, their desire to contribute, and their enduring courage. Combining the grand-scale human drama of The Worst Hard Time with the intimate biography and often troubling science of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, The Girls of Atomic City is a lasting and important addition to our country’s history.

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I picked this book up because I’d read Radium Girls and I wanted another book in the same vein.  I’m glad I found this book. I learned a lot about the Oak Ridge facility and Tubealloy. I knew some things about the Manhattan Project, but this brought it all home.

Someone had to make the materials for the bomb. These men and women did, but they weren’t allowed to talk about it. I can’t imagine living and working in a situation where you can’t talk about what you do and if you do talk, you can get into a lot of trouble. Craziness.

The author sticks right to the main players and lets the ladies and men of Oak Ridge do the talking. I was sucked right into the story and couldn’t put it down.

Like I said, I learned things I didn’t know–such as women involved with the creating of Tubealloy and mentioning more than once that the bomb, as well as the ingredients, were dangerous. There were women who should’ve been included on the Pulitzer Prize for that event.

If you want a book that will make you think, remind you it’s good not to have to deal with mud and show the possibilities of Americans during the second world war, then this might be the book for you.

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin

Bruce by Peter Ames Carlin
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary, Biography, Non-Fiction
Length: Full Length (512 pgs)
Rating: 3.5 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Peter Ames Carlin’s New York Times bestselling biography of one America’s greatest musicians is the first in twenty-five years to be written with the cooperation of Bruce Springsteen himself; “Carlin gets across why Mr. Springsteen has meant so much, for so long, to so many people” (The New York Times).

In Bruce, acclaimed music writer Peter Ames Carlin presents a startlingly intimate and vivid portrait of a rock icon. For more than four decades, Bruce Springsteen has reflected the heart and soul of America with a career that includes twenty Grammy Awards, more than 120 million albums sold, two Golden Globes, and an Academy Award. Peter Ames Carlin masterfully encompasses the breadth of Springsteen’s astonishing career and explores the inner workings of a man who managed to redefine generations of music.
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A must read for fans, Bruce is a meticulously researched, compulsively readable biography of a man laden with family tragedy, a tremendous dedication to his artistry, and an all-consuming passion for fame and influence.

Fans of the Boss, take notice. This book delivers the details.

I’ve loved Bruce Springsteen, aka the Boss, since I can remember. I have a special affinity for Born to Run. So when I saw this book, I had to read it.

I have to admit, the story is great. I learned about the life and times of Bruce Springsteen. He’s the embodiment of the working man. He really did put in his time to get where he is. That said, the author, while telling a fantastic story, gets bogged down sometimes in the details. I don’t mind a few footnotes, but this one is peppered with them. I’m the type, I just want to read the story. But the footnotes do help.

I’ve read other biographies of Springsteen and this was by far the most complete. I learned new things and felt like I was there when Springsteen wrote his iconic albums. I was engrossed, despite the moments I had to reread because of the footnotes.

If you’re looking for a biography of Bruce Springsteen that’s high on details and story, then this is the book for you. Grab a copy today.

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson

A Talent for Murder by Andrew Wilson
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (320 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Review by Rose

Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.
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“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.

I am a big fan of Agatha Christie’s work and, indeed, of the author herself, so when I had the chance to read this book pre-release I jumped at. The disappearance of Ms. Christie has always intrigued me, and this novel presents a well-thought out explanation for what might have occurred. The author takes events that actually happened, and he has spun a tale to fit them. He even gives us the true facts in an afterword. We can never know what truly happened during those ten days, but who is to say that this story might not be far from the truth.

Mr. Wilson has obviously done his homework and captures not only the essence of Ms. Christie’s character, but of her work. One could almost forget she was not reading the story of what happened as written by the author herself!

One element I particularly liked was the appearance of a character in the book, “…a small birdlike woman I knew I had been introduced to but whose name eluded me….”. This brief mention reminded me of one of Ms. Christie’s best loved characters, Miss Jane Marple, who coincidentally did not appear in any of Ms. Christie’s works until AFTER her disappearance. Kudos to Mr. Wilson for that.

A sequel to the book is planned for next year, and I’m anxiously awaiting the release of A Different Kind of Evil which takes Ms. Christie on another adventure.

Jane’s Melody by Ryan Winfield

Jane’s Melody by Ryan Winfield
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (336 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Gardenia

What boundaries would you cross for true love?

That’s the question a grieving mother must answer when she takes in a young street musician she believes can shed light on her daughter’s death—only to find herself falling for him. A sexy but touching love story that will leave you both tantalized and in tears, Jane’s Melody follows a forty-year-old woman on a romantic journey of rediscovery after years of struggling alone.
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Sometimes our greatest gifts come from our greatest pain. And now Jane must decide if it’s too late for her to start over, or if true love really knows no limits.

The loss of a child to drugs and alcohol is beyond imagination. Being a mother myself, I cannot conceive the pain of burying my child in her early 20’s due to a drug overdose. This book deals with the impact a situation like this has on our main character Jane.

Living and breathing, as normal as that is to anyone, can seem impossible once you have lost your child. Thoughts of suicide are normal when you are going through this type of loss. The hardest thing to do is pull yourself by your “boot straps” and find a reason to continue living.

Our author weaves this story masterfully. He places Jane in a position where, as she is trying to reconstruct the last days of her daughter’s life, she physically runs into someone who can both give her a glimpse of her daughter as well as give her a new beginning. It is not common to read a book where the love interest is 15 years younger than the heroine. In this case, Caleb is an old soul in a young body. Having lived through some horrific situations and living on the streets since age 16, he has been exposed to situations a person his age would not normally know about.

The meaning behind this book is perhaps multifaceted. I think it makes us think about loss from a different angle. It makes us realize once again that tomorrow is promised to no one and you must make the most of what you are offered right now. Friendships are to be cherished. You can only do your best to morally support those you love, the rest has to come from them and they have to work at improving their lives. Finally, and most of all, love knows no boundaries of age. If you are lucky enough to find your “other half”, kindred spirit, whatever you want to call the love of your life, you must grab love with both hands and have the courage to cherish that love regardless of what others might think. The ultimate loss is to not have had the courage to live life with your whole heart.

This book is an “experience”. Be prepared…I kept my box of tissues close and my heart open.