I Owe You One by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella was one of my favorite authors in high school. I stopped reading her when I went away to college, but recently started reading her books again when I discovered her newest book, I Owe You One.

I Owe You One tells the story of Fixie Farr. For as long as she can remember, Fixie has felt the urgent need to put things right. If a friend needs help, if a shelf is stained, if a picture is crooked, Fixie has to fix it. She starts to fidget, bouncing and moving around until things are back to normal.

This trait is something that her friends and family members often take advantage of, but Fixie has trouble acknowledging this. Ever since her father died, Fixie started to take his motto: ‘Family First’ even more to heart. If any family member asks for help, she is always willing to help for anything.

Stopping at a coffee shop on her way home, a handsome stranger asks her to watch his laptop so he can step out to take a call. Fixie agrees and actually ends up saving the laptop from destruction. As a result, the grateful owner Sebastian writes an IOU on a coffee sleeve, attaches his business card to it, and tells Fixie that he owes her and to let him know how he can help her. Fixie does not believe that this was genuine and laughs off his offer. She would never accept an IOU from a complete stranger.

When she arrives back home, her childhood crush Ryan shows up unexpectedly. Ryan is having a hard time getting a job, believing that he deserves much more than a mediocre job since he used to work in Hollywood. Learning that Seb owes Fixie a favor, they decide to ask Seb to give Ryan a job.

Seb and Fixie begin to have a relationship as IOUs flow back and forth between the two. These range from small insignificant and life-changing ones. Throughout all of these interactions, Fixie finds herself wanting to leave her current ‘family first’ focused life to find a life that makes herself happier. As tensions come to a head and her mother’s return home from a long vacation looms closer, Fixie realizes that she must make a change if she wants her family to start taking her seriously.

I enjoyed listening to this book. Watching Fixie grow throughout this book and seeing her character develop had me rooting that she would get the life that she wanted. Give this a read and let me know what you think.


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The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Ruth Ware is a suspenseful mystery author who has consistently put out a new bestseller every year since 2015. Her newest book, The Turn of the Key,  takes the idea of a ‘smart’ home and juxtaposes that high modernity against the ruggedly beautiful Scottish Highlands.

Rowan Caine wasn’t looking for a new job when she stumbled upon the advertisement online looking for a new live-in nanny. The description made the job sound too good to be true. Being a nanny to a wealthy family living in the Scottish Highlands sounded like a dream, plus the pay didn’t hurt. Heading out to the interview, Rowan becomes increasingly nervous when she arrives at Heatherbrae to see all the technology that essentially runs the home for you. After getting the job, Rowan moves in to Heatherbrae and everything starts to change.

The family is made up of three young girls, an older girl away at boarding school, a father seldom home, and a mother with never-ending boundless energy. Throw in two rambunctious big dogs and a handsome handyman and Rowan can’t comprehend why the family has such a hard time keeping a nanny. As soon as she moves in, Rowan begins to struggle with learning the technology that runs the home. Even the simplest tasks are controlled through hidden panels in each room. Consoling herself with the fact that the mom will be around for a few weeks to help her establish a routine with the girls, Rowan is shocked when both mom and dad take off the day after she arrives, leaving her alone with the children, the dogs, and the increasingly creepy house.

Desperate to show she is capable, Rowan tries to do her best. It doesn’t take long before she begins to question her decision to take this job. Strange noises in the night and notes left around for her to find combined with the house’s technology seeming to revolt against her at every inopportune moment leave Rowan shaky and shattered. The housekeeper doesn’t like Rowan, plus one of the children, Maddie, is becoming increasingly difficult and is acting like it is her life’s mission to make Rowan miserable. The noises from the attic above keep her awake throughout the night, affecting her sleep and her ability to care for the three youngest children. When the oldest girl, Rhiannon, arrives home from boarding school, Rowan’s life slips from bad to worse when Rhiannon starts acting out and disappearing for hours and sometimes all night. Once Rhiannon begins digging into Rowan’s past and finds her secrets, Rowan begins to wonder how and if she will survive her time at Heatherbrae.


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The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem

The Marriage Clock by Zara Raheem is a perfect light and get-your-mind-distracted read to help you get ready for summer and for wedding season(or to just take a break from life). Even though summer is over, I still found this book to be a delightfully fresh debut from a new author.

The Marriage Clock is Raheem’s discussion of traditional vs. modern marriage customs in Indian families told as one woman’s struggle to keep everyone in her life happy. 26-year-old Leila Abid has always imagined getting married. Her parents want her to get married too and the fact that Leila isn’t married yet is something that they find very concerning. You see, as an East Indian/East Euro-Asian woman, Leila’s parents believe that marriage is half of their religious duty. Arranged marriages happen all the time, but growing up in America, Leila has slightly more give in terms of how early she was married.

At her 26th birthday party, Leila’s parents sit her down and tell her that she has three months to find a husband before they will arrange a marriage for her. Shocked and not happy with this news, Leila agrees as long as her mother backs off from the set-ups. Leila goes on blind dates, online dates, speed dates, ambush dates, and other dates in those three months, but sadly no great love comes to sweep her off her feet.

Leila has great expectations for love. She has always imagined a Bollywood romance with seven pages of what she’s expecting from her future husband. One of her biggest requests: she wants real love before she’s married. This deviates from the norm as with most traditional Indian arranged marriages, love does not happen until after marriage. Leila knows she doesn’t want that.

As her three month deadline looms closer, Leila finds herself wondering what her parents have in store for her. The longer she searches for a husband, the more Leila realizes that an arranged marriage is not for her. But if she doesn’t go through with one, how will her parents ever forgive her? Leila must find a solution that will keep her parents happy and will let her find a man to fall in love with.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Have you ever gone to a health resort? Or even taken a weekend at a spa? As someone whose pampering extends solely to pedicures and manicures, the idea of a spa or health resort sounds heavenly. When I discovered that Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty was set at a health resort with a twist, I decided to give this book a try.

Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty follows the lives of nine people through ten days at a health resort. Each person gathered at the health resort is there for a variety of reasons. Some are there to lose weight, some to fix their marriages, some to figure out a new way to live, while others are there for reasons that they don’t want to tell others. Even the staff have secrets to hide: both about themselves and the health resort. When setting foot into Tranquillum House, guests are told that this health resort may require them to do things that they aren’t comfortable with. This isn’t your traditional health resort, so they are going to have to work hard to get the results for which they are looking. In the end though, it will be worth the effort(or so they are told).

While each characters is presented somewhat separately in this novel and readers are privy to sections from each one’s point of view, Moriarty chooses to lay the bulk of her exposition on the character of Frances Welty. Frances is a best-selling romance novelist whose latest book is not doing so well. Struggling to figure out what she should do career-wise and simultaneously reeling from a disastrous broken heart, Frances has booked herself into Tranquillum House and is unsure of what to expect. Upon meeting her fellow guests, Frances is immediately intrigued. Using her writerly instincts, Frances tries to figure out the reasons that each has come to Tranquillum House. The person who fascinates her the most is not one of the quests though: it is the director and owner of Tranquillum House itself. Frances finds herself wondering if she really can solve/cure/make better/provide all the answers for Frances and the rest of the guests. Doubts continue to niggle throughout Frances’s stay and leave her wondering if she should stick out her stay or voice her concerns to the other guests. Could the other guests have the same concerns or are they content to follow the staff through the activities planned for each day? Frances will have to figure out a way to connect and figure out what is really happening at Tranquillum House.


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The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

What would you do if you found out that your unborn child had a heart defect that could possibly lead to his/her death? In The Dream Daughter  by Diane Chamberlain, Caroline Sears learns her unborn baby girl has a heart defect that might be fatal. Caroline is obviously devastated. This novel follows Caroline and her family’s journey as they work to find a way, any way, to save her unborn daughter’s life.

The Dream Daughter  by Diane Chamberlain tackles the tender topic of what and how far parents are willing to go in order to save an unborn child. Caroline, known to her family and friends as Carly, has had nothing but bad news lately. Carly has recently been widowed by the Vietnam War. Struggling to find a new normal, Carly moves in with her sister and brother-in-law. More life-changing news comes her way. Learning that she is pregnant, Carly is happy, but a trip to her doctor breaks her yet again. Her doctor tells her that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect. In 1970, there is nothing that can be done to help her child. Told that her child may die soon after she is born(if she survives that long), Carly hopes against all hope that the doctors are wrong and she’ll give birth to a healthy baby girl.

Concurrent to this story line runs the story of Carly’s sister and her husband. Carly’s brother-in-law is a physicist with a slightly mysterious past. Desperate to help Carly while knowing her heart-breaking past, he decides to share a secret with her that has the possibility of shattering their entire family. He knows of a way to save Carly’s baby, but the way to do so is mind-bending. Knowing that he needs to find a way to convince her to listen to him, he pulls out all the stops to get Carly to believe his mind-bending proposal. Carly is flabbergasted by what he proposes. She must pull upon the strength and courage she has deep within herself in order to save her daughter. She must take a giant leap of faith and believe in him. Willing to do anything to save her daughter, Carly embarks on a quest that pushes the boundaries of both science and faith.


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All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

I’m finding that a lot of the current books I’m reading contain themes that are very relevant in today’s society and culture. Emily Giffin’s newest novel deals with social media and the broader consequences and societal implications that happen when decisions are made without thinking through the possible  repercussions. In this novel, readers follow three different people as they struggle choosing between their family and their values. The core message present throughout this book is incredibly relevant to people in all walks of life: are you willing to compromise your beliefs, and if so, how far would you go?

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin tells a devastating story from the point of view of three different people: Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina has married into Nashville’s elite. Her husband’s tech business has rocketed them into wealth. Her son Finch is attending Windsor Academy, a prestigious private school, and has just been accepted into an even more prestigious college. Their lives are perfect.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs to help put his daughter through school. While they may not have everything, the life that they are living is nothing to be scoffed at.

Lyla is Tom’s teenage daughter. Her mother left when she was young, a situation she has to deal with on a daily basis. Wanting to give his daughter a better life, Tom works hard for Lyla to attend Windsor. Lyla finds herself going to school amongst all this wealth and privilege, while she attends the school on scholarship. Lyla doesn’t always fit in, but lucky for her, she has some friends that help her along the way.

Everything seems to be working out for Nina, Tom, and Lyla. Nina is happy with her husband and son, Tom’s businesses are providing him with the income and stability he needs, and Lyla is succeeding in school. Everything comes to a crashing halt with a picture taken at a party. Finch takes the offending picture of Lyla passed out,  captions it with an offensive saying, and sends it out to some of his closest friends. Spreading like wildfire, the picture soon makes it way out to everyone in the community, including Finch’s parents while they are at a dinner party.

The aftermath of this life-changing picture works to divide the Windsor community into two separate camps: those rallying behind Finch and those sympathizing with Lyla. Dealing with scandal, shame, and blame, Lyla, Tom, and Nina all have to decide how far they’re willing to go in two areas: support of family or standing by your beliefs. Nina struggles justifying the actions of her husband and son, while reconciling their behaviors with an event from her past that begins to poke through as her moral compass. Tom’s reaction and Nina’s husband’s reaction are at odds, leaving Nina unsure of who to side with and how she wants the rest of her life to go. Lyla wrestles with teenage hormones, her feelings for Finch, and her understated and sometimes missing outrage at what was done to her. Tom is extremely upset, but finds himself trying to reconcile Lyla’s somewhat bizarre reaction to this incident with his immense desire to seek revenge, sympathy, and what he deems is appropriate recompense for the wrong done to Lyla.


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Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky

I’m not going to lie: the cover of this book is what caught my eye and convinced me to read it. I know, I know, we’re not supposed to judge books by their covers. With so many books in print, the options can be overwhelming though! When it comes to picking out my personal reads, if a cover catches my eye, I’ll read it. It’s yet to let me down so far especially with my latest read by Barbara Delinsky.

Before and Again by Barbara Delinsky is a captivating read that kept my attention from beginning to end. There are multiple important current issues discussed throughout this book that can have implications in everyday life. Social media, internet hacking, identity theft, the press, trauma, and secrets are all major themes that the characters in this novel find themselves battling with. This book cautions against becoming too complacent and making sure that we travel outside our comfort zones.

Mackenzie Cooper thought she had it all: a loving husband, a job she loved, a wonderful family, generous friends, and a daughter she adored. In one moment, it was all taken away. Driving her daughter to a play date, Mackenzie took her eyes off the road for just a moment to check the GPS. That glance away changes her life forever. Having lost everything, including her privacy after the intense media coverage surrounding the accident, Mackenzie runs away. She now lives in Vermont under the name Maggie Reid. Living in a small house with her cats and dog, Maggie has a new job and new friends. She just wants her new life to stay separate from her old life. That means that she can’t risk revealing too much. Her work as a makeup artist at a luxurious local spa allows Maggie to spend her day helping clients hiding the things on their skin that they wish would disappear. She’s a master at her job.

All Maggie wants with her new life is to stay under the radar and keep her probation officer happy. With less than a year left, she is so close to being completely free. Things are going slightly too well for Maggie though when she realizes that she isn’t the only one in this quiet Vermont town with secrets. A local teenage boy, the only son of one of Maggie’s friends, is thrust into the national spotlight when he is accused of hacking a powerful man’s Twitter account, numerous other Twitter accounts, and the local school’s system as well. Maggie has no idea what to do: should she protect herself and pull away or step up to help since she has experience dealing with this type of situation? Either decision will have far-reaching implications for Maggie. As the truth behind this teenager’s actions begin to come to light, Maggie increasingly finds her own newly constructed life unraveling at her feet. She knows that her friend probably just needs to be comforted amongst this sea of chaos, but Maggie truly has to decide how far she is willing to go to help.


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Our House by Louise Candlish

Have you ever read a book you loved and found yourself wishing that the ending was different? That’s how I felt during Louise Candlish’s Our House. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this book, but the ending felt to me like there could have been more. Maybe there will be a sequel! One can only hope.

Our House by Louise Candlish tells the story of Fiona and Bram Lawson. This married couple have lived together with their two young boys at 91 Trinity Avenue for years. Fiona has poured her heart and soul into this house, working hard to make it a home that fits their unique family style. This safe haven is tested when Fiona discovers Bram cheating on her. Banishing him from the house, Fiona works hard to figure out how to keep her children’s lives as normal as possible. Deciding to draw up a modern coparenting arrangement with Bram called bird’s nest custody, Fiona thinks she has discovered the perfect solution. Instead of shuffling the kids between two different houses, Fiona and Bram will each spend a few nights a week in the house in order to have as little of an impact on the children as possible.

This perfect system ends up backfiring colossally when Fiona comes home early from a romantic weekend away with a new beau to discover a new family moving into 91 Trinity Avenue. This surprises Fiona because that is her house and she certainly didn’t sell it. The new couple has all the necessary paperwork with payment confirmed out to her estranged husband, Bram. What follows is massive confusion as Fiona is confident that there has been a mistake.  Alas upon talking to multiple agents, the disastrous truth is realized: Bram has sold the house out from underneath the family and has absconded with the proceeds from the house sale. Fiona is utterly devastated.

Working hard to figure out the truth, Fiona digs into Bram’s past and discovers that the bird’s nest custody agreement that she was so proud of allowed Bram access to all the necessary documents he needed in order to sell the house out from underneath her and the boys. Even with access to those documents, Fiona also realizes he would have needed the help of others in order to carry out a crime of this magnitude. Fiona is stumped about how he would come into contact with those type of people. Events continue to spiral out of control as Fiona uncovers all the lies Bram was weaving through their lives and how little she actually knew about her husband. Why would he do this to them? Where has he gone?

This story is told through a word document written by Bram while he’s on the run and through transcripts of a podcast on which Fiona tells the whole sordid story of Bram’s betrayal. I really liked the method that Candlish chose to present this book as it allowed readers to pretty much simultaneously see both Bram and Fiona’s points of view and their reasons for behaving the way they do. I was fascinated with the severity of Bram’s crime and how seemingly easy it was for him to sell the house without his wife’s knowledge.


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The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman

I’m fascinated with stories that seem like they could be realistically true. A lot of realistic fiction sometimes pulls me out of the story, but The Home for Unwanted Girls kept me engaged in their realistic explanation of a pregnant young woman in 1950s Quebec and the subsequent expectations of her parents and society.

The Home for Unwanted Girls by Joanna Goodman is a suspenseful novel that spans decades filled with love, lies, and many secrets. In 1950s Quebec, both the English and French find themselves living in uneasy and unsteady civility. Maggie Hughes is stuck in the middle of this issue with an English-speaking father and a French mother who seem to barely tolerate each other despite their large family. Maggie has grown up with high expectations thrust on her by her father. She’s expected to take over her father’s business and marry a good man, NOT the poor French boy named Gabriel who lives on the farm next door. Readers can practically predict on their own what will happen next because fictional young women live to defy their father’s wishes. Maggie soon finds herself enamored with Gabriel. When she becomes pregnant at fifteen, Maggie’s parents tell her that she has to work to get her life back on track and that means she has to put her baby up for adoption.

Baby Elodie is put up for adoption and grows up in Quebec’s orphanage system which is impoverished, dirty, and rife with issues. Elodie is bright and determined to survive the horrible treatments the nuns put her through all while anxiously waiting for her mother to swoop in, find her, and adopt her. With this precarious existence, Elodie survives, but things only manage to get worse when a law is passed that says that psychiatric hospitals will earn more funding than orphanages. Thousands of orphans in Quebec are now declared mentally ill, are shifted to other orphanages-turned-psychiatric-hospitals, and are forced to take care of legitimate psychiatric patients that are bused into the newly minted psychiatric hospitals. Elodie is finally released when she turns seventeen, but her freedom is a difficult adjustment. This new normal is an alien experience, but luckily Elodie has friends that are helping her adjust.

Maggie has never been able to forget the daughter that she was forced to give up when she was fifteen despite her family’s repeated wishes to move on with her life. Maggie married a businessman desperate to start a family. Living with him has been easy, but when he keeps pushing her to have a baby, Maggie is forced to confront him on their different wishes. Around the same time as the rocky part of her marriage comes to a head, Maggie unexpectedly reconnects with Gabriel after years of separation. Maggie is forced to choose between Gabriel and her husband.

As this novel progresses, Maggie and Elodie’s stories intertwine in unexpected ways, leaving readers to hope that each time circumstances will result in their meeting. Maggie hopes to find Elodie and quickly realizes that she needs to make a better, more focused effort to do so. Throughout this novel, Maggie works to figure out how to balance multiple life truths. The truth that was taken from her and Elodie when Maggie was fifteen haunts her. Maggie yearns for her family to be together and for everything to be out in the open.


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Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

I had read Celests Ng’s first book, Everything I Never Told You, when it first came out and it captivated me. The story of a family torn apart by the disappearance and death of the middle child, Lydia, captures the rifts and examines the ways that family members struggle to try to understand each other. When I saw that Ng was coming out with another book entitled Little Fires Everywhere, I knew I needed to read it because Ng has the ability to craft domestic fiction that is both engaging and realistic that I simply can’t put down.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng tells the story of the residents of Shaker Heights. Shaker Heights is a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, that prides itself in its ability to plan. This progressive suburb has rules for everything: the colors of the houses, the layouts of the roads, the types of houses, the schools, etc. Every little thing is laid out, even the jobs and lives that residents are expected to lead.

This highly structured, yet surprisingly calm and tranquil, community is normal to the residents that live there, especially longtime resident Elena Richardson. Leaving for college, coming back with a husband, raising four children, and working at the local paper are all things that were expected from Elena. The order and sense of community are both major appeals for Elena in Shaker Heights. She believes that the rules are there for a reason and lives her life making sure everyone around her follows the rules.

Elena’s sense of security is shaken when Mia Warren and her teenage daughter Pearl move into town. Mia is a single mother who makes a living as an artist. She and Pearl move around every couple months, but Mia promises Pearl that Shaker Heights is the place they will stay forever. Arriving in town, Mia rents a house from the Richardsons and soon both families become tangled together. All four Richardson children find Mia and Pearl to be mysterious and are quickly drawn to the pair. The closer the two families become, the more questions come to the surface.

Mia’s arrival in Shaker Heights begins to unsettle the delicate balance of rules and order that the community relies on to survive. To start, Mia has an untraditional job, a very mysterious part, and a disregard for the standard of living that Elena holds dear. Mia keeps part of her past hidden for good reason and some of the Richardson family members take it upon themselves to figure out why.

Mia’s disruption of the status quo comes to a head when Mia and Elena find themselves at opposite sides of a custody battle that’s splattered all over the news. An old family friend of Elena’s is trying to adopt a Chinese-American baby. Mia finds herself championing the biological mother, while Elena is firmly on the side of the adoptive parents. Elena is determined to do anything for her friend, even if that means digging into Mia’s past to discover her secrets and motives. Little does she know that her obsession will quickly unravel her life and the lives of everyone around her in abrupt and unforeseen ways.


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