Friday, February 1, 2019

Favorite Reads of 2018, Plus What's on My List Next



TGIF, babes, and Happy New Year!

For the past several months I've been posting what I've been reading on my Insta Stories. Many of you will message me asking me for a review on the book and asking me /suggesting I do a blog post on my "Reading List."

I love reading, but like most of us (I'm guessing), I don't get to pick up a book as often as I'd like. Instead, I admit, I pick up my phone, scroll through social media, and have way too much "screen time." No doubt I still continue to do that, but I am consciously trying to be more present, and return to doing things that I love to do, sans phone. One of which is reading.

There's nothing like passing the time on an airplane, by the beach/pool, or relaxing on the couch. than with a good book. Whether it is fiction or non-fiction, sci fi or romance, there's a genre for everybody. I definitely jump around and read lots of different types of books. I love a good thriller, enjoy the occasional tear jerker, and love learning new things from history books and biographies. What I choose to read usually depends on what I'm doing, does that makes sense? I feel like some books are easy, fast reads, and others, although you may not be able to put down, require a lot more time and thought.

The books below are what I read in 2018. I thoroughly enjoy each and every one of them. They were mindless, engrossing, entertaining and addicting. With the exception of "The Last Goodnight," I think I got through each of them in less than a month, making them the perfect "nightstand accessory" or travel buddy.

Since this is my first time doing this, I am going to put the synopsis of the book that the author has provided, as well as my rating and a few comments. I don't want to spill the beans completely of course, in case some of you decide to delve into one of them. If you'd like to see me discuss the books differently next time, let me know! Without further ado {finally} here is my reading list!



Behind Closed Doors
Everyone knows a couple like Jack and Grace. He has looks and wealth; she has charm and elegance. He’s a dedicated attorney who has never lost a case; she is a flawless homemaker, a masterful gardener and cook, and dotes on her disabled younger sister. Though they are still newlyweds, they seem to have it all. You might not want to like them, but you do. You’re hopelessly charmed by the ease and comfort of their home, by the graciousness of the dinner parties they throw. You’d like to get to know Grace better.

But it’s difficult, because you realize Jack and Grace are inseparable.

Some might call this true love. Others might wonder why Grace never answers the phone. Or why she can never meet for coffee, even though she doesn’t work. How she can cook such elaborate meals but remain so slim. Or why she never seems to take anything with her when she leaves the house, not even a pen. Or why there are such high-security metal shutters on all the downstairs windows.
Some might wonder what’s really going on once the dinner party is over, and the front door has closed.

From bestselling author B. A. Paris comes the gripping thriller and international phenomenon Behind Closed Doors.

Rating: 4.5/5. This book was insane! There were twists and turns every page, and the story line was clever, and disturbing. My mom had read it and given it to me, and once I finished, I gave it to my sister - that's a sign of a good book. 

The Couple Next Door
It all started at a dinner party. . .

A domestic suspense debut about a young couple and their apparently friendly neighbors—a twisty, rollercoaster ride of lies, betrayal, and the secrets between husbands and wives. . .

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all—a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night, when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately lands on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.

Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they've kept for years. 

What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family—a chilling tale of  deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

Review: 3/5. To be quite honest, I remember liking this book, but none of the details or really what it was about!!

The Husband's Secret
At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read.

My darling Cecilia, if you’re reading this, then I’ve died...

Imagine that your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not just the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. Imagine, then, that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive...

Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. Her life is as orderly and spotless as her home. But that letter is about to change everything, and not just for her: Rachel and Tess barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they too are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

Acclaimed author Liane Moriarty has written a gripping, thought-provoking novel about how well it is really possible to know our spouses—and, ultimately, ourselves.

Rating: 3.5/5. This book is written by Liane Moriarty, the author of "Big Little Lies." I really enjoyed the book, but didn't like the ending. It was a very "an eye for an eye" type of story line, but a page turner, nonetheless.

The Last Goodnight: A World War II Story of Espionage, Adventure, and Betrayal
The New York Times bestselling author of the acclaimed Dark Invasion, channels Erik Larson and Ben Macintyre in this riveting biography of Betty Pack, the dazzling American debutante who became an Allied spy during WWII and was hailed by OSS chief General “Wild Bill" Donovan as “the greatest unsung heroine of the war.”

Betty Pack was charming, beautiful, and intelligent—and she knew it. As an agent for Britain’s MI-6 and then America’s OSS during World War II, these qualities proved crucial to her success. This is the remarkable story of this “Mata Hari from Minnesota” (Time) and the passions that ruled her tempestuous life—a life filled with dangerous liaisons and death-defying missions vital to the Allied victory.

For decades, much of Betty’s career working for MI-6 and the OSS remained classified. Through access to recently unclassified files, Howard Blum discovers the truth about the attractive blond, codenamed “Cynthia,” who seduced diplomats and military attach├ęs across the globe in exchange for ciphers and secrets; cracked embassy safes to steal codes; and obtained the Polish notebooks that proved key to Alan Turing’s success with Operation Ultra.

Beneath Betty’s cool, professional determination, Blum reveals a troubled woman conflicted by the very traits that made her successful: her lack of deep emotional connections and her readiness to risk everything. The Last Goodnight is a mesmerizing, provocative, and moving portrait of an exceptional heroine whose undaunted courage helped to save the world.

Rating: 5/5. A wonderful piece of historical fiction. I was blown away by the story, and couldn't believe Betty Peck's involvement in so many crucial aspects of WW2.

The Last Mrs. Parish
Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn't have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. 

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

Rating: 4/5. This was a fun, tantalizing read. I read it in less than a week, and enjoyed the "looks can be deceiving" theme. 

A Simple Favor
She’s your best friend.

She knows all your secrets.

That’s why she’s so dangerous.

A single mother's life is turned upside down when her best friend vanishes in this chilling debut thriller in the vein of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train.

It starts with a simple favor—an ordinary kindness mothers do for one another. When her best friend, Emily, asks Stephanie to pick up her son Nicky after school, she happily says yes. Nicky and her son, Miles, are classmates and best friends, and the five-year-olds love being together—just like she and Emily. A widow and stay-at-home mommy blogger living in woodsy suburban Connecticut, Stephanie was lonely until she met Emily, a sophisticated PR executive whose job in Manhattan demands so much of her time.

But Emily doesn’t come back. She doesn’t answer calls or return texts. Stephanie knows something is terribly wrong—Emily would never leave Nicky, no matter what the police say. Terrified, she reaches out to her blog readers for help. She also reaches out to Emily’s husband, the handsome, reticent Sean, offering emotional support. It’s the least she can do for her best friend. Then, she and Sean receive shocking news. Emily is dead. The nightmare of her disappearance is over.

Or is it? Because soon, Stephanie will begin to see that nothing—not friendship, love, or even an ordinary favor—is as simple as it seems.

A Simple Favor is a remarkable tale of psychological suspense—a clever and twisting free-fall of a ride filled with betrayals and reversals, twists and turns, secrets and revelations, love and loyalty, murder and revenge. Darcey Bell masterfully ratchets up the tension in a taut, unsettling, and completely absorbing story that holds you in its grip until the final page.

Rating: 3/5. I found this book hard to put down, but also slightly annoying at times. The story was interesting, albeit a bit bizarre in my opinion, but made for a fast read. Plus, it's just been made into a major motion picture with Blake Lively and Anna Kendrick. 

Everything You Want Me To Be
No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Evocative and razor-sharp, Everything You Want Me to Be challenges you to test the lines between innocence and culpability, identity and deception. Does love lead to self-discovery—or destruction?

Rating: 3.5/5. This book was like a lifetime movie - interesting, predictable, but also enjoyable. You felt compelled to love and hate both the main characters, and it had some fun twists and turns. 

After the Darkness
Blessed with the face of an angel and the guileless, trusting nature of a child, Grace Brookstein is the prized wife of the king of Wall Street, Lenny Brookstein. A billionaire many times over, with estates around the world, a fleet of yachts, and a life that is the stuff of fantasies, the revered financial wizard made his fortune tending the nest eggs of ordinary people—the elderly, blue-collar workers, small charities, and working families struggling to make a better life for themselves and their children. The embodiment of America itself—ambitious, hardworking, generous, and warmhearted—Lenny is a fixture of the business pages and the society columns, where he and Grace are celebrated for their philanthropic contributions and their lavish annual fund-raising ball.

Despite the stock market's terrifying collapse, the Brooksteins' glamorous lifestyle of Palm Beach polo tournaments and G5 jets remains untouched—until the day Lenny goes sailing from their Nantucket beach estate and never comes home. When his abandoned yacht is found far out at sea, Grace is devastated. Lenny was her world. She has no idea that his disappearance is just the beginning of a dark, terrifying nightmare of murder, lies, greed, and betrayal that will shatter her life and destroy everything she has ever known. . . .

Before she can begin to grieve, the shocking news breaks that the $75 billion invested in Quorum, Lenny's hedge fund, is gone—and everyone believes that Grace has stolen the money. Overnight, the delicate beauty who was once the toast of moneyed society has become a reviled modern-day Marie Antoinette, alone and power-less to stop her infamous fall.

Grace is certain someone is framing her, and she'll do whatever it takes to prove it, even if it means taking the law into her own hands. Surrounded by enemies, with no one to turn to, Grace must learn to rely on herself—a bold, dangerous journey that will transform her in ways she never thought possible and lead her to a startling new life.

Filled with the passion, glamour, twists, and driving suspense that made Sidney Sheldon a bestselling legend, Sidney Sheldon's After the Darkness is an entertaining thrill ride that continues the grand tradition set by the master himself.

Rating: 5/5. This book was great. Every time I thought I knew what was going to happen next, I was surprised. Great, compelling story! 

Beautiful Ruins 
The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio's back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives. From the lavish set of Cleopatra to the shabby revelry of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Walter introduces us to the tangled lives of a dozen unforgettable characters: the starstruck Italian innkeeper and his long-lost love; the heroically preserved producer who once brought them together and his idealistic young assistant; the army veteran turned fledgling novelist and the rakish Richard Burton himself, whose appetites set the whole story in motion—along with the husbands and wives, lovers and dreamers, superstars and losers, who populate their world in the decades that follow. 

Gloriously inventive, constantly surprising, Beautiful Ruins is a story of flawed yet fascinating people, navigating the rocky shores of their lives while clinging to their improbable dreams.

Review: 4/5. This book made me lust to be on vacation. I enjoyed the plot, as well, and enjoyed looking up what parts were fact and what were fiction once I was finished. 


Next up I am reading "A Well Behaved Woman," which is a piece of historical fiction on the Vanderbilts. My girlfriend's and I have started a book club, so I can't wait to review it with them, and you! 


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