About Jaclyn

I'm a total bookaholic! Fiction, non-fiction, mysteries, YA, science fiction, I read practically anything and everything. I also love talking about books, and chatting about books with people who love them as much as I do!

Review | Something to Tell You, Lucy Diamond

43788960The Mortimers are celebrating Jeanie and Harry’s golden wedding anniversary when Frankie Carlyle, the daughter from a secret fling Harry had 35 years ago, arrives to meet her father for the first time. From that explosive beginning, Something to Tell You settles down into a collection of disparate narrative threads about various women in the Carlyle and Mortimer families, all dealing with a range of relationship issues.

Jeanie heads off into her second honeymoon alone to deal with the revelation of Harry’s past infidelity. Her daughter Paula is struggling to keep her father afloat and their family together, while also nurturing her own curiosity about her newfound half-sister. Jeanie’s daughter-in-law Robyn finds her husband becoming increasingly distant and wonders if he’s hiding something from her, and Jeanie’s other daughter-in-law Bunny realizes that a horrible secret from her past may be exposed. Frankie’s complex emotions about finally meeting her father are somewhat overshadowed by problems in her current family — the birth mother of her boyfriend’s child is suing for custody. And Robyn’s mother Alison, trying to move on from her grief over her husband’s passing, decides to try online dating.

There’s a lot going on in this novel, and Diamond does a good job in making us care for all of her characters. Frankie’s appearance at Harry and Jeanie’s party sets off a chain of events, but the story of her parentage ultimately has a major impact on only one out of many narrative threads. For the most part, it’s a dramatic reveal that then takes a bit of a back seat to a lot of other events. Which isn’t a bad thing — the discovery of a secret daughter could very well turn the story melodramatic, and by dispersing our attention into various women’s stories, Diamond does a good job of making the stories feel real.

Unfortunately, the stories also felt somewhat detached. I did care for a lot of the characters, but because the stories were so disjointed and the focus switched around so often, I ended up wishing we’d spent a bit more time to really delve into some of the characters. Partly, I think it’s because the main story was clearly Frankie’s, and I personally found Jeanie’s (her husband’s infidelity leading her to rebel), Robyn’s (learning her husband’s keeping secrets from her) and Alison’s (trying online dating as a senior) stories all much more compelling than Frankie’s (custody battle with her boyfriend’s ex).

Still, this is a pleasant and enjoyable read overall. The characters all felt very real and relatable, and the novel tackled some difficult experiences without ever getting too heavy in tone.

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Thank you to Publisher’s Group Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review | I’ll Never Tell, Catherine McKenzie

40201006._SY475_I absolutely love family dramas involving old secrets, and I’ll Never Tell kept me hooked from beginning to end. It starts with the five adult McAllister children (black sheep Ryan, peacekeeper Margo, plain and quiet Mary, and twins Kate and Liddie) and the family groundskeeper Sean all gathering at the family’s Camp Macaw to read the parents’ will. A will reading is dramatic in itself, but this will has an unusual proviso: their father thinks but can’t prove that Ryan may be responsible for an incident twenty years ago that has left Margo’s best friend Amanda in a coma from which she still hasn’t recovered. The other McAllisters must vote about whether or not Ryan should receive his share of the estate. If they vote against Ryan, his share reverts to Sean instead, but more than the money, the will’s proviso forces characters to examine what they really believe happened all those years ago. Is Ryan innocent, and if so, whom among the rest of them was actually responsible?

The book feels like a locked room mystery in that there’s a really small group of suspects. While Amanda’s injury technically happened during camp, the story makes clear that one among the six main characters is responsible. I also really like the timeline that tracks character movements at the end of each flashback chapter, as this really added to the feeling of suspense. There are also some strong thrillerish elements, such as when characters admit that Ryan was low-key being held responsible for the injury all these years, and they realize that their current investigation into the incident may prompt whomever was really responsible to take desperate measures.

I’ll Never Tell is very much a character-driven story, and McKenzie does a great job in exploring the emotions of each character. I love seeing how their current situations shape their motivations (e.g. Ryan wanting to sell Camp Macaw because of his family’s finances, Mary wanting to keep Camp Macaw because of her horses), and I especially love how McKenzie reveals, layer by layer, glimpses into their childhood that also influence their motivations.

The final reveal made me sad, as did the way things unfolded after the reveal. I think this is a testament to McKenzie’s writing and the characters she has created. She has made me care about the characters beyond their roles as potential killers. Rather, I cared about who they were, how what happened to Amanda was shaped by their relationships with each other, and how the event twenty years ago continues to shape who they are, and how they connect with the rest of the family.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an egalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review | The Last Resort, Marissa Stapley

41734709The Last Resort takes place at Harmony Resort, a couples counselling centre on the Mayan Riviera whose name pretty much declares that harmony is the last thing we can expect. I’m a huge fan of soapy dramas and of beach settings, so add in a rather sketchy pair of resort owners and a tropical storm that traps everyone on-site, and I’m all in for a big and juicy summer read.

The novel focuses on two couples at the resort — Johanna and Ben, and Shell and Colin — who all clearly have some deep-seated issues that a few days at the beach will be unlikely to solve. Adding to the mix is the fact that resort owner Dr Miles Markell is a totally domineering egomaniac who flat-out emotionally abuses his wife Grace, also a doctor. Grace and Miles present a facade of a happy and loving marriage, but I absolutely hated Miles throughout. He reminded me of Alexander Skarsgard’s character in Big Little Liesand just like that character, I was hoping the entire time for Grace to escape and Miles to get his just desserts.

Stapley has written a taut and emotionally arresting story, and I couldn’t put the book down. She takes on the perspective of multiple characters, and through that, provides us with a view of the overall situation that is both intimate and comprehensive. Each of the characters has their own trauma to process — Johanna is a social worker who survived a violent episode with a client’s husband, Ben is a loving husband who struggles to forge a connection with his wife, and a family tragedy has led to Shell becoming an alcoholic and Colin becoming a workaholic — and I love how Stapley somehow ties them all thematically and, more important, emotionally. Beyond Miles’ character, this book also reminded me of Big Little Lies because of the friendships between the women characters. I love how, even though these women barely knew each other, they can still somehow find a touch of connection and support each other.

The overt thrillerish aspects of this story happened closer to the end, when the tropical storm descends and the danger to certain characters becomes urgent. But I love how Stapley maintains a low thrum of menace throughout, such that you know something’s wrong and you want to yell at the characters to run while they still can, but there isn’t yet a clear source of this danger.

If you like Liane Moriarty’s fiction and Big Little Lies in particular, I highly recommend checking this book out. It’s a fascinating glimpse into the emotional lives of several couples, an examination of how various types of trauma impact the way we respond to the world, and, quite simply, an overall enjoyable read.

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Thank you to Simon and Schuster Canada for an egalley of this book in exchange for an honest review.