‘The Other Woman’ by Sandie Jones: A Psychological Thriller that Will Keep You Wondering

the other woman

“The Other Woman” by Sandie Jones is the story of Emily Havistock and her new boyfriend, Adam Banks. Emily has had one devastating past relationship, and now has a small group of steadfast friends, but she wants more, and she thinks Adam might be “the one.” When he finally suggests introducing her to his mother, she’s thrilled.

But things don’t go as planned, and while his mother, Pammie, seems like a wonderful woman to the rest of the world, Emily gets the feeling that Pammie wants her gone. The clues are subtle and only noticed by Emily, but she’s positive that they are real. As her relationship with Adam grows deeper, the warning signs get stronger — Pammie does not want her in the family.

In the meantime, things are not all rosy with Adam. He doesn’t care for Emily’s close friend Seb, who happens to be gay. He likes to go out on his regular Thursday night with his chums and often comes back drunk. In fact, he drinks a lot. While the reader may notice these things, Emily does not seem to care much or be bothered by the questionable things Adam does. All of Emily’s wrath and emotion is centered on Pammie.

When Pammie reveals (thanks to Emily’s clumsy questions) that she has cancer just days before Emily and Adam are to be married, Adam calls the wedding off. Emily has her doubts about whether or not Pammie even really has cancer. Is this merely another ploy in her efforts to keep Emily out of the family?

Another complication is Adam’s brother, James, who seems to be everything Adam is, but kinder, calmer, and more sincere. Yet Emily is torn because while she is attracted to James, she also is suspicious of his attentions.

Jones keeps the focus on Emily and Pammie, and the pages keep turning as the reader endeavors to find out who will win — the evil Pammie, soon-to-be-evil-mother-in-law, or Emily. Perhaps, like this reviewer, readers will be expecting a surprise reveal about Emily. The actual ending is not easy to predict and will probably surprise most readers.

This is perfect for a quick vacation or weekend read. It’s a carefully crafted psychological thriller with a suspenseful plot and realistic characters. Enjoy.

Please note: This review is based on the final, hardcover book provided by Minotaur, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘My Father’s Words’ by Patricia MacLachlan: A Simple Children’s Book with Not-So-Simple Thoughts

fathers words

“My Father’s Words” by Patricia MacLachlan is a beautifully written, emotionally wrenching story that had me crying through my lunch as I finished it. It’s a small, 133-page book set in large type with wide spacing. It’s easy to read, but much harder to really appreciate.

This is not a book that one should skim to just get the plot and then move on. MacLachlan includes phrases so thoughtful that the reader is compelled to reread them and think about them. It’s a perfect book for a classroom teacher to use as a read aloud, so that those special paragraphs and moments can be shared and discussed. But be warned, finishing this book without shedding a tear is an almost insurmountable feat.

The story, on its face, is simple. Fiona and Finn’s father, a psychologist and a wonderful dad, dies in a car accident. He swerves to avoid a child who has run into the street and is himself killed. The whole family is bereft.

At the suggestion of Luke, a close friend and neighbor, Fiona and Finn begin to volunteer at the local animal shelter, where they learn that while you comfort a shelter dog (or any dog, for that matter), the dog is also comforting you.

The ending of the book is perfect — so perfect that even if a reader sees the ending coming, it doesn’t matter. It’s beautifully written and extremely touching.

While it’s a simple story that third grade students could read and comprehend, older students will find it easier to understand the underlying truths that MacLachlan shares about life, death, memories, love, healing, and, of course, dogs. MacLachlan knows what most dog lovers know — that to have a dog companion is to never feel alone. Another truth my students know? To pet a dog is magic — it comforts and heals wounds and makes the sun shine on the darkest rainy day.

Please note: This review is based on the advance reader’s edition provided by Katherine Tegen Books, the publisher, for review purposes.

‘Bone on Bone’ by Julia Keller Is a Don’t-Miss Murder Mystery

boneonbone

In “Bone on Bone,” the latest novel in the series about Bell Elkins, author Julia Keller delves deeply into the psyche of the protagonist, Bell, to deliver a novel that is powerful and emotional. Even readers who have read the previous novels (which does help understand motivations and characters) will marvel at Belle’s strength of character and moral resolve to do the right thing.

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‘Little Do We Know’ by Tamara Ireland Stone

little do we know

“Little Do We Know” by Tamara Ireland Stone begins as a typical young adult story about two formerly best friends who are no longer speaking to each other. Emory and Hannah have lived next door to each other practically since they were in diapers, and they have been best friends all that time.

But now, in their senior year of high school, they are not speaking. And the reader doesn’t know why. The story is told in first person narrative through Hannah and Emory’s voices, and it’s riveting. While the girls have been best friends, they are very different.

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‘The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody’ by Matthew Landis

private nobody

“The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody” by Matthew Landis is a lovely story about a seventh-grade-boy learning what is important about life, war, and love. The book might ignite a passion for history in the heart of its readers. It’s obvious that the author has that passion, and he communicates it in each and every page. It’s also obvious that Landis really “gets” middle grade students, especially those who don’t always fit in.

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Middle Grade Novel ‘Strays Like Us’ Lovely Story About Child and Dog in Need of Help

strays

“Strays Like Us” by Cecilia Galante is an often heart-wrenching story of a child and a dog, both in need. Fred, short for Winifred, lived with her mother who had an addiction problem. Although her mother managed to keep a job at a drug store, her behavior and financial problems meant Fred’s life was never predictable. Her mother constantly told Fred how much she needed Fred, and how she relied on Fred.

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‘The Final Six’ by Alexandra Monir Is a Too-Possibly-True to Miss Reading Dystopian Novel

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The world Alexandra Monir creates in “The Final Six” is one that is all too believable. Climate change has caused the sea levels to rise, and tsunamis have devastated coastal cities. Rome is underwater and people live on the top floors of tall buildings. Whole populations in large cities have drowned when tsunamis rushed in to engulf everything.

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‘Lifel1k3’ (Lifelike) by Jay Kristoff is the First Book in a YA Dystopia Series

lifelike

With “Lifel1k3,” author Jay Kristoff takes readers on a wild ride in a bleak (so very bleak!) dystopian future where atomic bombs have destroyed much of the Yousay (USA, get it?) and California has become a barren island because of a huge earthquake. The ocean is filled with plastic and other garbage, and animals and trees are nonexistent.

In fact, robots and humans coexist in a depressing world with gray skies and a desperate struggle for survival. In this world lives Evie, with her grandfather, her best friend Lemon, and her robot best friend Cricket. This family group is wonderful, but Grandpa is dying from cancer, so Evie fights robots in an arena to win money to buy him medicine.

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