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:****

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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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Secret Sister by Emelle Gamble

Title:
Secret Sister
Author:Emelle Gamble
PublisherSoulMate Publishing
Publication Date:July 2013
Publisher's Description"If you're looking for a typical women's fiction/romance, don't look here... this story has a twist of the paranormal that will have you willingly stretching your belief in order to enjoy the plot. Emelle Gamble has created a story that will tear your heart out." LONG AND SHORT REVIEWS, AUGUST, 2013

What if everything about you changed in an instant...
Nick & Cathy and Roxanne. Two best friends. One husband. An extraordinary twist of fate.

How much do you really know about your husband? Your best friend? Yourself? Cathy Chance knows she loves her husband, Nick, with the same passion she had when she married him seven years ago, and he adores her. She also knows that she and her best friend, Roxanne, are closer than most sisters. But on a sunny summer day, these three are hurled into an astounding new reality which forces each to reconsider everything they thought was true about themselves, and one another.
My rating:***.5

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Secret Sister is an enjoyable novel about a woman who is killed in an automobile accident, then wakes in the hospital in the body of her friend, who’d been driving the car. Although she initially has no memory of who she was before the accident, she knows that she’s different than all of her visitors expect her to be. She also knows that she’s grieving for someone, despite the fact that she can’t remember anybody. When the accident survivor, who everybody addresses as Roxie, realizes that she’s actually Cathy, she has to figure out how to get her old life back. How does she convince her husband who she is? How does she deal with Roxie’s life?

I liked Cathy. She’s smart and has good instincts, although she doesn’t know that she can trust them until she’s made a few missteps. She doggedly pursues the truth, even when she’s not sure what she’ll learn. Roxie, from the little of her that we see and from what we learn after the accident, is a lost soul who clings to Cathy, even while resenting her doting husband. Nick is a bit of a dark horse; one can’t say for certain where his head is at any given time. I’d give more than a penny to know his thoughts at the end of the book.

The rest of the characters were more hit or miss for me; although I remembered enough about them to spot the red herring (there are some mysteries surrounding both Nick and Cathy’s marriage and also the last year of Roxie’s romantic life), the people in Cathy and Roxie’s school orbit don’t make much of an impact on the story. The secondary characterizations seemed a bit spotty to me; Michael and Zoe were more stereotypical and less interesting than they ought to have been, considering their roles in Roxie and Cathy’s lives. Bradley’s main purpose seemed to be to reveal facts or spout dialogue that the author couldn’t figure out how to introduce in any other way; he’s a bright spot in his scenes, but he functions more like a plot device than a character. Roxie’s mother is great; it seems that every scene she’s in has a much greater emotional impact than the scenes of any other tertiary character.

The ending of this book is interesting and I appreciate that Ms. Gamble felt comfortable with having at least one of her characters living in uncertainty.

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