And Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell

Rating:                              9

General Rating: I’m on a streak! This is the second thriller in a row that I’ve read and couldn’t put down. Excellent. (Almost a 9.5, but for one factor and if I told you what that was, I’d spoiled the book for you.)

Skip factor:  0% I hung on to every sentence.

Who should read:  Anyone who has ever liked another mystery, whodunit, or thriller novel should read this. Crime fiction lovers, suspense cravers, or common readers who like a good story will enjoy.

Summary: Fifteen-year-old Ellie Mack goes missing in 2005. She’s the youngest of three children, smart, popular, and a good kid, not the type to run away, so her family knows something has happened to her. As the years go by, they are forced to carry on without her. Her disappearance proves too damaging to her parents’ marriage. Paul and Laurel split up, and the story centers mainly on Laurel who understandably cannot mend. Even ten years later when Ellie’s bones are found, Lauren is unable to heal.

The story ping pongs back and forth between 2005 and 2015, giving clues as to who the abductor might be. In the 2005 chapters, what happened to Ellie is slowly revealed.

When a man approaches Laurel in a restaurant and sparks up a conversation, the two begin dating. For the first time in years, Laurel has some happiness. Then she begins wondering if Floyd, her new boyfriend, may have known someone involved in Ellie’s disappearance. Readers follow along as Laurel uncovers the secrets.

Characters:  I did not like the main characters from the beginning to the end, yet I could not put the book down. I had to know what happened to Ellie.

While I liked a few minor characters like Paul, or Ellie’s sister, Hanna, I found Laurel totally unlikeable. I couldn’t bring myself to feel pity for her despite the horrendous tragedy she endured.

Her boyfriend, Floyd, I neither liked nor disliked. If I had any compassion for any character, it was for Ellie’s sister, Hanna, who had little to do with the story, and Floyd’s youngest daughter, Poppy, for her awkwardness.

Storyline:  The chapters jump between characters and between years. In the beginning, I struggled to know exactly where I was. (Readers who don’t like jumping time periods may grow tired.) But the author kept divulging bits and pieces of the story to remind us of the book’s unfathomable premise—Ellie’s gone, so what the heck happened?

Jewell grabs your attention on the first page and holds it until the end. Even when parts of the storyline seem a tad unbelievable, I never once put it away without thinking I couldn’t wait to get back to see what happened.

Writing:  The writing was tremendous as in many best-selling thrillers, but what sets this apart is the author somehow grabs onto your curiosity and won’t let go. In fact, she doesn’t slacken her grip for a second. This, for me, was a can’t-put-down novel.

Read this author again? Yes. This is my first Jewell novel but it definitely won’t be my last.

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake, and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.

The Truth About Forever

Name:                               The Truth About Forever

Author:                              Sarah Dessen

Rating:                              9.5

General Rating:               A perfectly sweet book to make you forget the pandemic.  It ranks as one of my favorite YA books.

Skip factor:        >1% I barely skipped anything. A few times I was so engrossed in the story I speed-read through several paragraphs to find out what would happen. I couldn’t wait to see what was around the bend.

Who should read:           Women, young and old. This is clean and appropriate for any age. Young girls will identify with the main character, and older women will fondly remember days past.

Summary:          No spoilers. This is the story of a high school girl, Macy, whose perfect suburban world is suddenly tainted by the death of her father. She is the youngest of two children and while her older sister is a bit wild and outspoken, Macy is quiet, smart, and sensible. She was close to her dad and after his death, she folds inside herself and tries to become the perfect daughter for her mother. She has a relationship with an intelligent boy, who is driven by his life’s career goals. When he goes away for the summer to “brain camp,” Macy’s mother hires a catering service for an event, and Macy becomes enamored by the owner, Delia, and her employees. She begins working for Delia and hanging around with some of the workers, in particular, a boy named Wes. Macy’s mother believes this is the “wrong” crowd for Macy. But is it? This is a lovely story about life and growing up.

Characters:        Dessen creates simple characters, some who immediately win you over, and some who take the normal route of progression and capture your heart over time. I loved most—actually—all of them. Helplessly. I was a quarter through the book before I realized certain characters brought a smile to my face every time they walked onto a page.

Here they are in the order I liked them:

Kristy – My favorite character had a scar on her face that never inhibited her. The personality Dessen creates in Kristy is clever and vivacious. She has an extraordinary attitude and is witty. Her take on life will make you smile.

Wes– He’s cute and doesn’t know it, a talented artist and doesn’t flaunt it, and he is unimpressed with the scads of girls who “swoon” over him. Unrealistic, I know. But despite his impeccably perfect personality that seems unlikely, his simple nature has you loving him almost the moment he appears. Dessen is that good.

Macy – Macy is the type of character you want to pull out of the book and wrap your arms around. She is quiet, kind, and never speaks her mind. She is painstakingly shy, even afraid to show anger toward her mother. I routed for her from the beginning.

Minor characters – I liked the minor characters more in this book than any other novel I’ve read.

Delia – Delia is my favorite minor character. She owns the catering business. An old soul with a good grasp on life, Delia lacks the organizing skills of a normal business owner. Still, somehow, things always work out for Delia in the end. She is positivity, kindness, and chaos wrapped in one. If her charm doesn’t make you love her, her pregnancy will. She’s the perfect minor character who jumps in, flaws and all, with a perfect splash.

Caroline – Macy’s sister flits in and out. Macy mentions her “sneaking out” as a teenager so the reader gets the impression, she is a bit wild. For me, I wasn’t sure about her at first, but when she reappeared later in the book, I loved her. You see Caroline from Macy’s perspective only, which is how it should be. However pulling this off is sometimes hard for an author. Not Dessen. Caroline is one character (as is the mother) whom I learned to love over time.

Monica – This is the sister of my favorite character, Kristy. So how could Dessen make her stand out when Kristy has such a magnanimous personality? Dessen made her painfully laid back—the total opposite of Kristy. People could barely get more than an uh-huh or umm from her. It worked. I loved Monaco, too. When she finally spoke, I felt like applauding.

Bert – Brother of Wes is a nerd. He has a silly little game that he plays with his older brother, is forever awkward, and is enamored by some Sci-fi group waiting for the world to end. He adds flavor to the story. You’ll be saying, “oh boy, here he comes.”  AND. He makes you like his big brother, Wes, even more for putting up with and loving him.

The mother – You see Macy’s Mom through Macy’s eyes. She, too, evolves throughout the book, adding an unusual, almost silent, side-story to the coming-of-age plot. The woman has lost her husband and Macy doesn’t quite understand her. The mother doesn’t understand herself. She progresses in the background until she finds her own truth.

Storyline:            There are no slow parts. This story flows, page after page, flawlessly. Even the middle, which I usually struggle with, kept my attention. This is an old story dressed up by unique minor characters. Not my usual genre, but I loved.

Writing:              Dessen’s writing is superb. Not much else to say. Her plot and characters keep your attention. This is the first novel I’ve read by this author and honestly, I googled her to find out where she went to school. How she learned to write so well.

Read this author again? Yes. Three-fourths of the way through this book, I realized I would be done soon, panicked, and took out another Dessen book from my library online. I can’t afford to buy them all!

Read on!

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CJ Zahner is the author of The Suicide Gene, a psychological thriller, Dream Wide Awake and Project Dream, two thrillers that carry a sixth-sense paranormal element, and Friends Who Move Couches, women’s fiction. These last two novels were inspired by Zahner’s own experiences. See the video of her own paranormal experience, a premonition of 9/11 here. Download her Beyond Reality Radio podcast here. Follow her on InstagramTwitterFacebookGoodreadsBookBub, or LinkedIn. Purchase her books on Amazon.