Book Review: Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson @JoshilynJackson @WmMorrowBooks

Never Have I Ever
Joshilyn Jackson
William Morrow, July 2019
ISBN 978-0-06-285531-2
Hardcover

Amy Whey is a happily married woman. She has a wonderful husband, a newborn son and a teenage step-daughter, all of whom she adores. She also has a group of woman friends in the neighbourhood. Her life is going well until a newcomer in the area joins Amy and her friends on their book club night.

Angelica Roux, or Roux as she insists they call her, charms the group and as the wine flows she suggests they play a fun game instead of discussing the chosen book. It’s a drinking game, a daring game, a game of revealing personal secrets.

At first it seems like harmless fun, but Amy senses something more is happening here and she grows increasingly uncomfortable as it turns serious. And later, after everyone heads home, Roux confronts Amy, telling her she knows all her personal secrets and will reveal them to her husband and friends unless Amy gives her what she wants; what she deserves.

Amy does have secrets and there is little doubt that Roux somehow knows what Amy did in the past, and if that knowledge is revealed, Amy is sure she will lose everything. Shocked and more than a little frightened, Amy is caught in a trap. Roux leaves, but not before telling Amy she’ll be back to let her know exactly what she wants.

Amy can’t imagine how Roux found out, but she is determined to find a way to protect her family and her marriage.

A cat and mouse game ensues. Amy manages to buy herself some time, counter-attacking as best she can, by doing some digging of her own in an attempt to neutralize Roux’s threat. As she’s struggling to keep her life on track, Roux seems to have the upper hand. The tension escalates. Amy feels she’s fighting a losing battle.

All the characters in this novel are well-drawn rounded people, especially Amy and I quickly got caught up in her predicament. I was on Amy’s side from the outset, anxious and eager for her to find a viable solution. There were many twists and turns to keep this reader turning pages. Amy’s determination and resourcefulness seemed to know no bounds, but Roux, a formidable opponent, was not about to give up.

The resolution was as stunning as it was unexpected, but none the less a fitting one.

I look forward to reading more from this author. Give this one a try, you won’t regret it.

Respectfully submitted.

Reviewed by guest reviewer Moyra Tarling, February 2020.

Book Review: Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Best Day Ever
Kaira Rouda
Graydon House, September 2017
ISBN 978-1-5258-1140-1
Hardcover

From the publisher:   Paul Strom has the perfect life:  a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb.  And he’s the perfect husband:  breadwinner, protector, provider.  That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them.  And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.  But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise.  How much do they trust each other?  And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?  Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, “Best Day Ever” crackles with dark energy, spinning over tighter towards its shocking conclusion . . . . a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage . . . or a life.”

 

The novel begins at 9 AM on its fateful day, continues at intervals ranging from half an hour to an hour and a half, on that same day, with the penultimate chapter taking place at 4:45 AM the next morning, and the final chapter one year later, with Mia saying, a few pages before its end, “This day would forever be the start of the rest of my life.  The best day ever, in fact, just not the one Paul envisioned.”

An understatement, to say the least.

Paul and Mia have been together for nearly ten years, their youngest boy now six, and have what Paul deems to be a “traditional suburban household.,” with Paul as the breadwinner and Mia raising the boys and taking care of the house.  They have left their beautiful home in Columbus, Ohio for a somewhat earlier visit to their lakeside home in a town called Lakeside, located on a peninsula, halfway between Toledo and Cleveland, at the edge of Lake Erie, the shallowest Great Lake in the US, we are told, “in a place where nothing bad ever happens.”  And just the two of them, with the boys in the care of their sitter.  Perfection, it seems, until Mia tells Paul she is seriously considering accepting a job she has been offered, something totally unacceptable to Paul on so many levels.  Slowly things begin to disintegrate, and Paul finds himself undertaking “Operation Make Mia Love Me Completely Again Tonight,” something he never anticipated.  At dinner, he makes a toast:  “Happy best day ever.”  But things go downhill from there, including a couple of things the reader never could have guessed.

The book has been called “a riveting psychological thriller about the perfect marriage.”  The writing is gripping and suspenseful, with an ending you won’t see coming.  This is a well-written, fascinating novel, and it is recommended.

Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2017.