Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: ‘Success with Stress’, by Jae Ellard

About the Author

After years in senior communication roles crafting content for executives, Jae collapsed from stress-related adrenal fatigue. This life-altering experience propelled her to research human behavior, neuroscience, mindfulness, and organizational relationship systems.

The Five Truths about Work-Life Balance by Jae Ellard on Sahar's BlogIn 2008, Jae founded Simple Intentions and developed the Mindful Life™ Program, which includes four group coaching workshops to generate reflection, awareness and action at the organizational and individual levels. Jae has taught the skill of awareness to thousands of employees at multinational corporations in more than 50 countries including China, Russia, India, Japan, Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Germany, United Kingdom, Norway, and the United States.

Jae contributes to the Awareness at Work column for Mindful Magazine, the Healthy Living section on Huffington Post as well as the Simple Intentions blog. Jae has a master’s degree in Communication Management from Colorado State University and a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communication from Metropolitan State College of Denver. She holds certificates in co-active coaching and organizational relationship systems coaching and is the author of seven books.

About the Book

Success with StressBelieve it or not, stress isn’t all bad; in fact, it’s an important part of the natural world. Stress helps us survive as a species – because of that we want the ability to be stressed. That said, being able to MANAGE STRESS WITH GREATER SUCCESS is the difference between surviving and THRIVING. Success with Stress explores five simple ideas to spark your personal power to change the level, duration, and frequency of the stress in your life. With workplace stress being linked to quality of life, health, and workplace morale, this is a must-read for any team looking to improve morale and individuals looking to improve their quality of life.

Book Review

The previous Jae Ellard book I reviewed, The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance, became (and still is) and notebook of sorts.  While I have only had Success With Stress for a week now and have yet to jot anything down, I know it’s going to become the same thing: an on-going tool that I will use for quite some time to come.

Yet again, despite being void of either a ton of pages (total page count: 85) or a wealth of words on each page (some count only three words!) or of the trappings ones usually associates with a book that needs studying—I’m thinking a thick book with lots of words and maybe even some tables and graphs, covered in colour-coded sticky notes with sections highlighted in different colours and a stack of notecards on the side—Ellard manages to engage readers in a deep study of the stress in their lives, in such a way that they can accept it as a positive thing and mould their way around it, skillfully, gracefully, and almost painlessly.

Because I have experience with her books, I was anticipating the self-explanatory statements, made with the assumption that the reader is not, as is most often the case, a passive recipient of wisdom, but rather an empowered protagonist in his or her own life.  Each of these statements serve as a beginning, tracing the broad direction of the road, but leaving to the reader the responsibility of figuring out its twists and turns.

If you are looking for a magical, quick-fix solution, then don’t bother.  But then again, you shouldn’t be looking for such a thing.  Rather, you should engage in a long-term, thoughtful process of reflection and action, and this book is a great coach of sorts in this regard.  And you will know that you are working well with this coach if your copy ends up covered in notes, preferably jotted at different times during different readings.

It feels like, after being encouraged to see stress as one of the many evils we have to conquer, we, as a North American society, are starting to realise that stress is a great tool—if we don’t overdo it and if we learn how to manage it.  We are also taking a big step back from the understanding that we are meant to be passive recipients and taking our place as active protagonists in our personal development.  Ellard’s Success With Stress, just like The Five Truths About Work-Life Balance, can come in as quite the handy companion in this regard.

More information is available on the Simple Intentions’ website and Facebook page; you can also reach out to the team on Twitter.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘How to Raise a Smart Ass: Parenting That Should Not Be Tried at Home’, by Lucia Walinchus

About the author

Lucia Walinchus is an award-winning journalist, author and ice hockey addict.  She has written more than 500 articles for various publications throughout her career and was recently named to the 2016 Fulbright Berlin Capital Program.  She has been featured as a guest speaker on CNN and is a contracted freelancer for the New York Times.  Walinchus currently lives in Oklahoma because she enjoys wide, flat golf courses that make her think she isn’t actually that bad.  More information about the author can be found on her website; readers can also connect with her through Twitter.

About the book

How to Raise a Smart Ass is a funny, witty, rollicking ride through the joys of early parenthood.  The so-titled “Best Butt Wiper in the World” delights audiences by recounting tales of ninja nurses, naughty knights, and super-duper poopers.  Whether you’re a proud parent or you aspire to populate the world with tiny terrors of your own someday, this book will have you laughing out loud, or at a minimum buying lots of sanitizer.  Kids are messy.

Review

Don’t let the title fool you; this book is not a parenting guide.  This might be the only recommendation I wold have to give the author, actually: to reconsider the title.

Other than that, this auto-biography of sorts, was a quick, easy, and hilarious read.  Between the stories my friends have shared with me over the years and my own experience, I could relate to most if not all of Lucia Walinchus’ stories, be they about pregnancy, labour and delivery, breastfeeding and other early month concerns and issues.  They were told in such a helpless, tongue-in-cheek, and resigned voice that I couldn’t help but burst out laughing quite often.  Because of that, I had to stop reading How to Raise a Smart Ass while the baby was feeding or sleeping or suffer the consequences of startling her out of her peaceful food coma or nap.

While the book is recommended for audiences with children or looking to have children, it comes in most handy to parents who have recently had children.  It was a form of therapy for me; I felt less alone in some of the most tiring moments of my day and felt encouraged in my laugh-it-off attitude.  At times I felt like I had met up with the author and, over a cup of coffee, exchange anecdotes and leave the date feeling reinvigorated.  Because parenting is hard and it’s refreshing to just unapologetically share anecdotes rather than be bombarded with advice left, right, and centre.

A must-read for all new parents struggling through the first months, if not years of the lives of their little bundles of joy.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘The Murders at Astaire Castle’, by Lauren Carr

About the author

Sahar's Reviews 2016 02 15 Book Review Cancelled Vows Lauren Carr 'Cancelled Vows'Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries.  The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder, was released in June 2016.  Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry (WV).  Visit the author’s website or connect with her on Twitter.

About the book

Never tell Mac Faraday not to do something.

Spencer’s police chief, David O’Callaghan, learns this lesson the hard way when he orders Mac Faraday to stay away from the south end of Spencer’s mountaintop – even though he owns the property.  It doesn’t take long for Mac to find out what lies on the other side of the stone wall and locked gate, on which hangs a sign warning visitors to Keep Out!

Sahar's Blog Lauren Carr The Murders at Astaire CastleTopping the list of the 10 top haunted places in America, Astaire Castle is associated with two suicides, three mysterious disappearances, and four murders since it was built almost a century ago – and Mac Faraday owns it!

In spite of David’s warning, Mac can’t resist unlocking the gate to see the castle that supposedly hasn’t seen a living soul since his late mother had ordered it closed up after the double homicide and disappearance of Damian Wagner, a world-famous master of horror novels.

What starts out as a quick tour of a dusty old castle turns into another Mac Faraday adventure when Astaire Castle becomes the scene of even more murders.  Mac is going to need to put all of his investigative talents to work to sort out this case that involves the strangest characters he has run into yet – including a wolf man. No, we’re not talking about Gnarly.

Review

Much like with any good series, picking up The Murders at Astaire Castle was like saying hello to old friends who have been on some sort of unique adventure.  While the book was quite familiar to those who have read the previous installments in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, it was also unique in its setting, its plot, and, of course, its dénouement.

It is also familiar in the amount of sleep I have lost getting through it, and adding onto Carr’s now long-standing caffeine debt.  I believe she has chalked up at least five or six strong mochas to date.

This latest addictive page turner features many of the characters seen previously in, for example, Cancelled Vows and Candidate for Murder.  The mystery this time arises from a place that is typically associated with the genre, that is, a musty old haunted castle in the middle of nowhere.  The book is just as weighty as its predecessors and yet again doesn’t come off as a drag, thanks to Carr’s writing skills and the wit with which she infuses every chapter.  The pace continues to be, even with so many installments under her belt, quick with an uninterrupted, comfortable flow, with thought-provoking conversations peppered throughout.

Carr makes the case to become a well-known author who can easily rival with some of the big names, and hopefully will never strip out of her stories the weight that makes her books satisfying and memorable, weight that has been removed from most (if not all) mass produced, quickly turned around mysteries and thrillers that are only meant to sell a story without a brand or a set of characters.  You have been warned: picking up just one title from this series is bound to whet your appetite for more.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours
for providing a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘House of Eire’, by June Gillam

About the author

June GillamJune Gillam teaches literature and writing at a Northern California Community College. She describes this series as psychological suspense novels in which Hillary Broome, reporter and ghostwriter, fends off complex villains of many kinds: a berserk butcher, a demented daughter and a haunted theme park developer.  Visit the author’s website or connect with her on Twitter.

About the book

House of Eire by June GillamIn House of Eire, Hillary Broome, a reporter-turned-ghostwriter from Lodi, California, and her detective husband Ed fly to Ireland—Ed for a gang conference in Dublin and Hillary to research her ancestors in Galway. Hillary plans to meet up with her friend Bridget, who’s pushing a greedy developer to include a memorial museum inside his proposed Irish theme park. As Hillary travels through Ireland and learns more about her friend’s crusade, she uncovers secrets and mysterious forces nudging her to fly away home.

Review

Like a spider wrapping its victims one fine thread at a time, June Gillam will manage to do the same to readers.  The layers of the story add on one thin thread at a time until we find ourselves stuck in the middle of it, struggling to figure it all out.  Thankfully though, unlike a spider’s victims, readers are happy to be caught in this situation and the outcome is quite satisfying.

Gillam’s writing style, at the beginning of the book, seemed kind of heavy to me—I struggled past the first few pages, feeling almost burdened by the amount of details bombarding me.  But once I got into the style and rhythm of the book, I got hooked.  Not just that—the details became part of the tools Gillam uses to capture her readers.  While there are some sections that remained a little difficult to wade through, they were few and far in between.

Another great thing about Gillam’s style of writing is that Ireland really comes to life both for those who have and have not been there.  It was an interesting experience to be caught in a description only to be taken by complete surprise by the plot of the story.

Speaking of which, secrets and mysteries abound in House of Eire.  There are details pertaining to the story that clearly were broached in the prequels; however, this didn’t affect the reading experience in a negative way, as Gillam skillfully brought in the necessary information in a way that didn’t seem overbearing or awkward.  Similarly, the characters were brought to light in a natural and easy way, many of them quite relatable despite being very different from me—and, for that matter, from each other!

Word of caution: You might be starting a long term relationship once you have finished reading this book.  I started with House of Eire and now I feel compelled to read the prequels, as well as to give any sequel a try.  Thankfully, there are only two prequels at the moment, because I can’t really afford another couple of days of being trapped in Gillam’s web, what with the beginning of the school year and all.

But there is always the upcoming Christmas holidays…

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

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Book Review: ‘Bossy Flossy’, by Paulette Bogan

About the Author

Paulette Bogan 'Bossy Flossy'Paulette Bogan admits she was bossy as a child. She is the author and illustrator of Virgil & Owen, which was chosen as one of Bank Street Best Children’s books of the Year 2016, Virgil & Owen Stick Together, which won a Mom’s Choice Award Gold Medal for Picture Books, and Lulu The Big Little Chick, which won a Children’s Choice Book Award. She lives in New York City with her husband, three daughters, and two dogs. They ALL think she is STILL bossy. But they’ve never told her to go to her room! More information about Bogan can be found on her website.

About the Book

Paulette Bogan 'Bossy Flossy'Flossy is the bossiest girl around. She’s bossy at home and she’s bossy in school. She’s bossy to her friends and she’s bossy to her cat. Sometimes she’s even bossy to her teacher! Flossy doesn’t understand why no one will listen to her. One day, Flossy meets Edward, a boy who may be just as bossy as she is. Has Flossy finally met her match?

Book Review

Paulette Bogan’s ‘Bossy Flossy’ is a great book in that it offers parents of children, bossy or not, the opportunity to think about what the meaning of that word.

The drawings are great both artistically and educationally speaking.  Each image is eye-catching with plenty of details for children to pour over.  The characters are drawn in a way that makes them very identifiable for children and rather endearing.  Educationally-speaking, there is a lot of information to digest in the facial expressions and body language of each character, be it Flossy, Edward, or the ones around them whom they boss around.  This can and should be used as a way for parents to reflect with their children on the effect of bossiness on those who are bossing others around and those are being bossed around.

I particularly appreciated the different expressions of bossiness portrayed throughout the book.  Well-know sentences are used, such as “You’re not the boss of me” which can really make a child think about his or her own potential bossiness—or that of another.

Another thing I appreciated is the way the bossiness got resolved—Flossy saw her own bossiness mirrored in Edward and realises the consequence of her behaviour on others.  This book therefore not only teaches children not just what bossiness is, but also the act of reflecting on one’s behaviour, which needs to be done quite literally at this age.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing a
copy of this book for me to review!

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Book Review: ‘Candidate for Murder: A Mac Faraday Mystery’, by Lauren Carr

About the Author

Lauren Carr is the international best-selling author of the Mac Faraday, Lovers in Crime, and Thorny Rose Mysteries. The twelfth installment in the Mac Faraday Mystery series, Candidate for Murder will be released June 2016.

Lauren is a popular speaker who has made appearances at schools, youth groups, and on author panels at conventions. She lives with her husband, son, and four dogs (including the real Gnarly) on a mountain in Harpers Ferry, WV.

About the Book

It’s election time in Spencer, Maryland, and the race for mayor is not a pretty one. In recent years, the small resort town has become divided between the local year-round residents who have enjoyed their rural way of life and the city dwellers moving into their mansions, taking over the town council, and proceeding to turn Deep Creek Lake into a closed gate community—complete with a host of regulations for everything from speed limits to clothes lines.

When the political parties force-feed two unsavory mayoral nominees on the town residents, Police Chief David O’Callaghan decides to make a statement—by nominating Gnarly, Mac Faraday’s German shepherd, to run as mayor of Spencer!

What starts out as a joke turns into a disaster when overnight Gnarly becomes the front runner—at which point his political enemies take a page straight out of Politics 101. What do you do when you’re behind in a race? Dig up dirt on the front runner, of course.

Seemingly, someone is not content to rest with simply embarrassing the front runner by publicizing his dishonorable discharge from the United States Army, but to throw in a murder for good measure. With murder on the ballot, Mac Faraday and the gang—including old friends from past cases—dive in to clear Gnarly’s name, catch a killer, and save Spencer!

Book Review

Lauren Carr has put together another addictive page turner.  Featuring many of the characters in “Cancelled Vows”. It is yet another mystery that emerges from an unlikely place, rather than a good old fashioned case, which makes it all the more interesting to read.

The plot this time is entwined with the political life of the town of Spencer.  This provides Carr with the opportunity to delve into various topics related to politics, namely the corruption that is so intimately related with it as well as the frustrations of a populace who doesn’t feel taken care od by those whose job it is to do just that.  Another related topic she touches on is that of gentrification and it’s relationship with corrupt politics.

It is a sign of Carr’s writing and wit that yet again, the weight of the book doesnt become a drag.  Oftentimes it can feel like an author pads his or her book with awkwardly placed and phrased statements that are meant to make a point about a certain aspect of our society that turns out to be an interruption to the flow.  But Carr’s book is packed with thought provoking conversations that are such a natural part od the story that one only notoces them by the number of times one starts reflecting on the points raised and insights shared by the characters.

I have come to accept that Carr’s work will cost me more than a night’s sleep; she now owes me a good, strong mocha (or rather, three) instead.  Unless she finds oit that the sleepless nights were well worth it.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing
a copy of this book for me to review!

Book Review: ‘The Wish Rider’, by Barbara Casey

About the Author

Reviews 2016 05 05 Book Review The Cadence of Gypsies Barbara CaseyOriginally from Carrollton, Illinois, author/agent/publisher Barbara Casey attended the University of North Carolina, N.C. State University, and N.C. Wesleyan College where she received a BA degree, summa cum laude, with a double major in English and history. In 1978 she left her position as Director of Public Relations and Vice President of Development at North Carolina Wesleyan College to write full time and develop her own manuscript evaluation and editorial service. In 1995 she established the Barbara Casey Agency and since that time has represented authors from the United States, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. In 2014, she became a partner with Strategic Media Books where she is involved in acquisitions and day-to-day operations and oversees book production.

Ms. Casey’s two middle-grade/young adult novels, Leilani Zan and Grandma Jock and Christabelle (James C. Winston Publishing Co., Trade Division) were both nominated for awards of excellence by the SCBWI Golden Kite Award, the National Association of University Women Literary Award and the Sir Walter Raleigh Literary Award. Shyla’s Initiative (Crossquarter Publishing Group), a contemporary adult novel (occult romance/mystery), received a 2003 Independent Publisher Book Award and also an award of special literary recognition by the Palm Beach County Cultural Council. The Coach’s Wife (ArcheBooks Publishing), also a novel for adults (contemporary/mystery), was semi-finalist for the 2005 Dana Award for Outstanding Novel and listed on the Publisher’s Best Seller List. The House of Kane (ArcheBooks Publishing), released in 2007, was considered for a Pulitzer nomination. Another contemporary novel for adults, Just Like Family, was released at Christmas 2009 when it received “Special Recognition from the 7-Eleven Corporation.” The Cadence of Gypsies, a novel written for new adults, was released in 2011 and was reviewed by the Smithsonian Institute for its List of Most Notable Books. Her novel for adults, The Gospel According to Prissy, received a 2013 Independent Publishers Book Award for Best Book in Regional Fiction. In 2016, Ms. Casey’s biography/true crime Kathryn Kelly: The Moll behind Machine Gun Kelly was released as well as The Wish Rider, the sequel to her young adult book The Cadence of Gypsies.

About the Book

Reviews 2016 07 11 Book Review The Wish Rider CoverSeventeen-year-old Dara Roux and her two best friends, Mackenzie Yarborough and Jennifer Torres, the three collectively referred to as the F.I.G.’s (Females of Intellectual Genius) because each has an intelligence quotient in the genius range, have just returned from Frascati, Italy. It was there that their much loved teacher and mentor, Carolina Lovel, discovered that her birth parents were gypsies, and that she had a connection to the Voynich Manuscript, the most mysterious document in the world.

Now, with graduation from Wood Rose Orphanage and Academy for Young Women behind them, Dara asks her friends to help her locate her birth mother when she learns that she might be living in New York City. Relying on Dara’s gift for speaking and understanding foreign languages, the black and white images that stir musical cadences in Jennifer’s mind, and Mackenzie’s mathematical calculations that normally provide numerical solutions and answers to life’s most difficult questions, the determined young women tirelessly go from one address to another in search of Dara’s mother.

Their determination turns to desperation, however, as they encounter a dark hidden society more dangerous and terrifying than they could have imagined. It is there that Dara hopes to find out why she was abandoned in a candy store all those years ago.

Book Review

Heavy to read at the beginning, a large chunk of “The Wish Rider” goes over what happened in he prequel, “The Cadence of Gypsies”.  Actually, it’s more than going over—there is a lot of repetition, from character description to location description to historical information, at times feeling like a never-ending, redundant synopsis of the prequel more than anything else.  While its great for a first time reader, it becomes quite tedious for recent readers of the prequel.

Just like with “The Cadence of Gypsies”, there is a lot of interesting information to be learned about history as well as about certain locations featured in the book.  This time a lot of the information was based on various locations and historical details pertaining to New York City and its Grand Central Station.  I didn’t look up all this information to check its accuracy, but I’m assuming that author Barbara Casey did a lot of research before writing both books.

The emotions driving the story were tougher to get into than they were in “The Cadence of Gypsies” mainly because the context of the story wasn’t well fleshed out.  For example, at one point in the book, the main characters go somewhere dark and dangerous (which I am purposefully not describing in more detail for fear of spoiling the story).  But because the context wasn’t well-described, I didn’t get a feel for why the place was dark and dangerous and even just how dark and dangerous it was.  For that reason, the section of the book in question didn’t affect me emotionally as it should have.

Add to Bookshelf?

The previous tome was interesting enough and the next one has enough to potential to warrant adding to your bookshelf.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing a
copy of this book for me to review!

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Book Review: ‘Freshly Brewed’, by Pamela Ford

About the Author

Reviews 2016 07 11 Book Review Overwasy Pamela FordPamela Ford is the award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She grew up watching old movies, blissfully sighing over the romance; and reading sci-fi and adventure novels, vicariously living the action. The combination probably explains why the books she writes are romantic, happily-ever-afters with plenty of plot – and often lots of laughter.

After graduating from college with a degree in Advertising, Pam merrily set off to earn a living, searching for that perfect career as she became a graphic designer, print buyer, pantyhose sales rep, public relations specialist, copywriter, freelance writer – and finally author. Pam has won numerous awards including the Booksellers Best, the Laurel Wreath, and a gold medal IPPY in the Independent Book Publisher Awards. She is a Kindle Book Awards finalist and a two-time Golden Heart Finalist. She lives in Wisconsin where she is working on her next novel.

About the Book

Fresh BrewedBreanna Mitchell is on her way to a relaxing vacation at the ocean. Maybe she’ll even have a beachside fling to help her get over a recent breakup.

ut when a tropical storm makes her destination hotel uninhabitable, a chance encounter at continental breakfast delivers a fabulous option—with a catch. She and her friends can stay at a privately-owned, three-story oceanfront home—if she pretends to be the girlfriend of the owner’s heartbreaker grandson, Ethan. Since he won’t even be there, how hard could it be?

Everything is going swimmingly until Bree drinks too much wine and regales the family with romantic tales about her relationship with Ethan. His adorable brother Adam gets suspicious. His marriage-minded grandma gets engagement fever. The beautiful woman next door gets teary-eyed.

And then, Ethan unexpectedly arrives. Suddenly Bree is about to get everything she’s ever wished for—but is it what she really wants?

Book Review

More believable than its predecessor, Pamela Ford’s “Fresh Brewed” brings back the characters from “Overeasy” with a small switch in roles.  This time the story focuses on Bree while Allie takes a back seat to the action.  Bree’s story is quite different and a little more believable than Allie’s, which makes this series all the more readable—nothing like an obvious copy-paste to discourage me from reading the second book in a series!  But not only the story is different, the main character is also quite different, although she and Allie share one major thing in common that kept both their stories going: the ability to make the wrong decision again and again.

A cute, fun, well-written and engaging quick read, Bree’s story is that of a series of unfortunate decisions, not a series of unfortunately events like Allie’s was.  Although I chuckled my way through the book, I have to admit that I also rolled my eyes a few times and groaned a many others as well.  I can’t help but wonder: do people like this actually exist?

There are two complaints I have, but they are not major enough for me to not recommend this book.  The first is that lack of deep enough realisation like Allie had; long time readers of my blog know how I like me some sort of deeper level understanding to emerge from any book that I read.  The second complaint is that although we get to meet a fun new character who will be featured in a future book, we don’t get to see Allie or Megan, Bree’s sidekicks who were also present in the first book featuring Allie’s adventure, as much as I’d like to.  But, again, these are minor quibbles that don’t take much away from the reading experience.

Add to Bookshelf?

If you are looking for an easy, fun, unrealistic read, then yes.

Thank you to iReads Book Tours for providing a
copy of this book for me to review!

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Book Recommendation: ‘Life Unaware’, by Cole Gibsen

Happy Sunday! As you ready yourself for another great week, are you wondering what book to take along with you on your commute? Take a peek at this week’s recommended commute companion!

‘Life Unaware’, by Cole Gibsen

Review here.

Purchase here.

Author website here.

Synopsis:

Life Unaware by Cole GibsenRegan Flay has been talking about you.

Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother’s “plan” for high school success: cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she’s ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.

Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.

The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend’s hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan’s going through, but what nobody knows is that Regan isn’t really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she’s barely holding it together under her mom’s pressure. But the consequences of Regan’s fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched…

Especially Regan Flay.

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Book Review: Shadow of Your Smile by Mary Higgins Clark

I have been a fan of Mary Higgins Clark for many years now, and a new book release is always cause for celebration. In Shadow of Your Smile, her newest one, Mary Higgins Clark manages yet again to flawlessly weave a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

Monica Farell’s father spent his life searching for his biological parents, but to no avail; he passed away without ever finding them. Thirty-one year-old Monica isn’t particularly concerned with her biological heritage; after all, her own family is everything she could have asked for. On top of that, the demands of her job as a beloved and successful pediatrician don’t leave much time for anything else.

But her biological heritage catches up with her. Her biological grandmother, Catherine, told only a handful of people about her pregnancy, which occurred right before she entered a convent to become a nun. Since that fateful day, Catherine and most of the secret holders have passed on. The only secret holder left is Olivia, Catherine’s cousin and adoptive sister. Olivia has in her possession letters proving the latter is Monica’s grandmother. She has kept this knowledge safe throughout her life but now, the 82 year-old is on her deathbed. Faced with at best two to three weeks, she has to decide: will she share what she knows with Monica, or take it with her to the grave?

The situation is delicate for many reasons. Telling Monica who she really is entails Olivia betraying Catherine’s wishes by revealing the story behind Monica’s ancestry. As a nun, Catherine has served the cause of children as a nun during most of her life and is being considered for beatification by the Catholic Church when a four-year-old boy diagnosed with terminal brain cancer is miraculously cured after his desperate mother organized a prayer crusade to Catherine. Curiously enough, this little boy’s pediatrician is none other than Monica Farell. While there have been rumours of this child before, Catherine’s good name had, up to then, kept the gossips at bay.

There is also the fact that Monica Farell would stand to inherit all of her grandfather’s holdings — or whatever is left of them. After his adventure with Catherine, Alex Gannon became a internationally renown doctor, a scientist at the cutting edge of his field and the inventor of numerous hip & knee prosthetic replacements. Alex Gannon knew about the child Catherine carried and gave away, but was never able to find out the identity of said child. However, in the hopes that, one day, his fortune would return to his rightful heir, a stipulation in his will and testament clearly states that were his biological child ever to be found, the Gannon fortune will go to it or it’s descendants.

But while Alex Gannon and his direct biological descents are hardworking, honest people, the inheritors of his estate certainly are not. Alex Gannon’s nephews have been squandering their uncle’s fortune, and there is almost nothing left of it. Greg and Peter Gannon hid their inclination towards extravagance with philanthropy, but their carefully constructed public image is falling apart. Thankfully, no one knows about Gannon’s biological child and the one who did know had no intention of sharing the information — until Olivia found out she was dying.

Unfortunately, Olivia confides in the wrong person. Since there is no money left, and since their public image would be ruined were the truth to come out, neither nephew wants anyone to come poking around in their finances — something that would certainly happen were Monica to be identified as Alex Gannon’s descendant.

How do you solve a problem like Monica? You get rid of both the cause and the source, i.e. Monica and Olivia — permanently.

It’s not for nothing that Mary Higgins Clark is known as the Queen of Mystery. The author of twenty-eight previous suspense novels, all of which have been best-sellers, she once again delivers a flawless book that bit by bit builds tension, bringing together a collection of people who would have otherwise never met. And the years have been kind to her writing, as its quality been steadily increasing. Not only has the level of intricacy of her stories increases, but the number of themes covered in her stories has also been increasing. In Shadow of Your Smile, Monica struggles with the seeming conflicting concepts of religion and science, in particular medical science, as well as the definition of what one’s identity is and entails.

Another great piece of literature, a great travel companion that is bound to make summertime traveling a lot easier, since you won’t notice the time passing while you read it.

Just make sure you don’t miss your flight.

First published here on Blogcritics.
First publishing on Sahar’s Blog on 8 June 2013.