Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Lie Lay Lain by Bryn Greenwood

Title:Lie Lay Lain
Author:Bryn Greenwood
PublisherStairway Press
Publication Date:April 3, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionJennifer has a great job and a go-getter fiancé. She’s on track for success, until she witnesses a fatal hit-and-run. Mistaking Jennifer for someone else, the dying victim extracts an impossible promise. Jennifer’s fiancé wants her to forget the whole incident, but when she closes her eyes, she can still see the bloody face of the woman who asked for her help.

Olivia is in a rut. Burdened with caring for her brain-damaged brother and already feeling like a spinster at 27, she’s desperate to escape. In a moment of weakness, she tells a lie that draws an unsuspecting paramedic into her life. As she struggles to expiate the lie, a horrible act of violence will test her resolve to be honest.

Where Jennifer’s promise and Olivia’s lie intersect, their lives begin to unravel.
My rating:****


Lie Lay Lain is the story of Jennifer and Olivia, and of the  people in their separate and shared orbits. The two know each other at the outset of the book, as they attend the same church, but their lives are completely different. Jennifer is engaged, part of an extended social circle, and has a good job. Olivia is single and lives at home with her parent and older brother, who suffered a brain injury in a motorcycle accident and cannot live independently. She works in the church that her family has always attended and has no life outside of home and church.

I think that people generally expect to be prepared in life for the big decisions that change everything (choosing a career path, who to date, where to live, etc), but neither Jennifer nor Olivia could have imagined the changes that they would experience as a result of the lies that they tell. In doing a kindness for a dying woman, Jennifer feels a sense of responsibility to see that promise through, although only Olivia seems to understand why Jennifer wants to check up on Shani, daughter of the dead woman. Jennifer becomes invested in Shani’s welfare, at times paying less attention to her job and her relationship with her fiancé. Olivia’s sense of guilt over lying makes her turn a small untruth, that she is dating a paramedic, into reality. Asking Rindell out on a date is her first step toward becoming an Olivia she never suspects could even exist. Her new romantic relationship confuses and excites her, but helps her find the courage to be less passive with others in her life.

This book is engaging and gripping, and I skipped working on an this awesome hat that I’m knitting to keep reading it. Respect. Even if the story had been only so-so, I would say that this book is worth reading just for the perspective on truth, lies, and honesty. Who could fault Jennifer for helping to ease a dying woman’s mind, or Olivia for trying to keep people out of her business? While there are some pretty blatant bad lies in this book, most instances of dishonesty are less clear-cut in their right or wrongness. Amazingly, as if encouraging heavy rumination on the nature of truth isn’t enough of an accomplishment, Ms. Greenwood also manages to squeeze in a nuanced perspective on race and identity in the midst of all of the other things happening in this book. Although this book is relegated on Netgalley to the Women’s Fiction ghetto, I would recommend this book to any lover of well-written fiction.


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Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry

Title:Plain Jayne
Author:Laura Drewry
Publication Date:April 8, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionWorn out from the long drive back home, Jayne Morgan can only smirk at the irony: Of course the first person she sees from her old life is Nick Scott. Once best friends, they lost touch when Jayne left town at eighteen, but nothing could keep them apart forever. Jayne has returned to take over her grandmother’s bookstore, determined to put all her bittersweet memories and secret disappointments strictly in the past—until, that is, Nick insists she bunk at his place.

Nick never did care what people thought about having a girl for a best friend—or the “scandal” she caused by showing up to his wife’s funeral four years earlier—so he’s got no problem with the gossips now. Jayne was always the one person he could count on in his life. Now Nick is starting to realize that he never wants her to leave again . . . and that being “just friends” isn’t going to be enough anymore.
My rating:****


This book is, hands down, the best friends-to-lovers book that I’ve read in ages. I started off not feeling too warmly toward Nick, given the details of his and Jayne’s last face-to-face encounter, but his obvious regret, plus their warm relationship, made me realize that it was more of an awful moment in his life than any sort of indicator of his normal behavior. Everybody makes mistakes. Also, this book is set in Canada. It’s possible that my fond feelings toward our northern neighbor translates into an extra half star when figuring out my ratings, but I can’t say for sure; maybe Canadian books are just better.

A lot of romance novels feel to me like those plays that take place in a single setting: claustrophobic and limited in scope. What really worked for me in this book is that the characters do stuff. A lot of non-angsty, not specifically romantic things happen! There isn’t an endless amount of internal dialog, although Ms. Drewry provided a good amount of insight into what each of the main characters was thinking. This title would probably make a good audiobook. A large part of the time you got to see Jayne and Nick working toward something; he has his business, and she is in the process of getting her bookstore up and running.

Jayne is a courageous character and I admired her a lot. At the beginning of the book, she comes back to a town that she’d basically been run out of, first by her cold grandmother, and then by the devastating behavior of her best friend. The fact that she comes back at all and doesn’t hold a grudge is nothing short of remarkable (to me, at least, as I am a champion grudge-holder). She goes out of her way to let Nick know that she was hurt, but there are no lingering hard feelings. Nick is a really dependable guy who tries to do right by everybody. He plays the peacemaker between Jayne and the various people in this book who give her crap, but in a way that is neither off-putting nor overly aggressive.

I found the secondary characters in this book uniformly interesting, even the ones who I didn’t like a ton. It wasn’t difficult to put myself in Lisa’s shoes and see why she would have a problem with Nick and Jayne’s closeness. Nick and Carter’s relationship is a thing of beauty. It’s nice to see male cousins who so shamelessly enjoy each other’s company, and who can communicate using more than grunts and insults. I liked how Jayne’s new female friends help her feel more integrated into the community, even though there were a few rough moments within her new group that I didn’t feel were satisfactorily resolved.

I think that anybody with longstanding friendships would agree that Ms. Drewry did a good job of capturing the routines and nuances of a 25 year friendship. Nick and Jayne have their own shorthand, and know each other so well as friends that they’re the last two to catch on to their changing/revealed feelings for one another.

In addition to all of this, this book is sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious. I really enjoyed Plain Jayne and would certainly read another book by Ms. Drewry.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review and Bruce Springsteen’s phone number.

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Full Measures by Rebecca Yarros

Title:Full Measures
Author:Rebecca Yarros
PublisherEntangled Publishing
Publication Date:February 10, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionThree knocks can change everything…

"She knew. That’s why Mom hadn’t opened the door. She knew he was dead."

Twenty years as an army brat and Ember Howard knew, too. The soldiers at the door meant her dad was never coming home. What she didn’t know was how she would find the strength to singlehandedly care for her crumbling family when her mom falls apart.

Then Josh Walker enters her life. Hockey star, her new next-door neighbor, and not to mention the most delicious hands that insist on saving her over and over again. He has a way of erasing the pain with a single look, a single touch. As much as she wants to turn off her feelings and endure the heartache on her own, she can’t deny their intense attraction.

Until Josh’s secret shatters their world. And Ember must decide if he’s worth the risk that comes with loving a man who could strip her bare.
My rating:****


I really enjoyed this book. Ms. Yarros did a great job depicting the agony experienced by Ember’s family in the wake of her father’s death, and of showing how each family member coped and moved on. Ember was a great character; she was strong for her family and for herself, and I totally understood why Josh liked her so much. This novel was heavy, but the emotions presented always felt genuine, and not just there to up the novel’s emotional ante. I highly recommend this book to fans of new adult, military, and contemporary romance in general.

I received this book from Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

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Believe by Erin McCarthy

Author:Erin McCarthy
PublisherPenguin Group
Publication Date:January 2014
Publisher's DescriptionRobin used to be a party girl… until she got black out drunk and woke up in bed with her best friend's boyfriend. Now she's faced with being THAT girl, and couldn't be more disgusted with herself. She can't even tell her friends the reason for her sudden sobriety and she avoids everyone until she meets Phoenix—quiet, tattooed, and different in every way that's good and oh, so bad…

Phoenix is two days out of jail when he meets Robin at his cousin's house, and he knows that he has no business talking to her, but he's drawn to her quiet demeanor, sweet smile, and artistic talent. She doesn't care that he's done time, or that he only has five bucks to his name, and she supports his goal to be a tattoo artist.

But Phoenix knows Robin has a secret, and that it's a naïve dream to believe that his record won't catch up with them at some point. Though neither is prepared for the explosive result when the past collides with the present…
My rating:****

believeI found this book totally heartbreaking and ultimately satisfying. I feel that I connected to it in a way that I think a lot of New Adult titles try and fail to reach me, the reader. Robin’s sense of bewilderment at what her life has become and subsequent heartbreak is so palpable that it’s hard to witness, and I kept wishing that she didn’t spend so much of the book feeling alone. Likewise, Phoenix’s criminal record and jail time isolate him from the people that one would expect him to be able to lean on; I’m glad that he and Robin find each other. I like their dynamic, and the cautious but hopeful way that they get to know each other. I love that they are both artists, and are able to connect with and understand each other on that level. I really believed this relationship, and that these characters don’t just need somebody, but that they specifically each fulfill some need in the other person.

I didn’t realize when picking up this book that it was the third in the series, although it became clear pretty early one when other couples appeared. Regardless, this book can be read as a standalone title without losing anything, although I liked it enough that I am going to go back and read the first two books. I’ve read other books by Erin McCarthy, and although I’m sure that I enjoyed them, this is by far my favorite of her works.

I received this book free of charge through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review and my knowledge of Jimmy Hoffa’s whereabouts.

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Perfect Summer by Katie Graykowski

Title:Perfect Summer
Author:Katie Graykowski
PublisherSelf published
Publication Date:October 2013
Publisher's DescriptionHigh school teacher Summer Ames is trapped in the nightmare morning from hell. Her alarm clock didn’t go off, she accidentally backed over the rosebush her grandfather gave her grandmother right before he accepted defeat against prostate cancer, she’s wearing clothes she picked up off the floor, and when she opens the door to her classroom, the lights from the TV cameras nearly blind her. She's won Teacher of the Year. But unlike the past winners, she doesn't get a new car or a Hawaiian vacation or even new school supplies, she wins an over privileged quarterback with a bright smile and questionable intentions.

Clint Grayson is an NFL quarterback in need of a reputation makeover. If he has any hope of landing a hundred million dollar endorsement deal, it will take some pretty impressive PR for the public to forget the photos of his battered and bruised ex-girlfriend. In an attempt to polish his tarnished reputation, Clint agrees to be a high school class mentor.

When these two get together all hell breaks loose and they both learn that all is fair in love and football…and winning is just the beginning.
My rating:***.5


I really enjoyed this book. Summer’s belief that she was fat and unloveable was sad, but while it stained credulity a bit (why is there such a massive disconnect between characters about whether she’s curvy, fat, or obese?), I found her to be sympathetic and was invested in things working out for her and Clint. I liked that Davis and Lilly’s stories were included here as well. It’s good that this particular evil Texan mother repented, although there were things that went unexplained that I would have liked to see resolved (like, why is Lilly holding out on giving Summer her money?). I enjoyed this book enough to pick up Place Your Betts by the same author immediately after finishing this novel.

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