Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding

The temperature outside is going down {bit by slowly, glacier-moving bit}, and I thought that it would be a good time to mention the book that kept me cold through those hot, hot {HOT} nights.

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Title: Her Pretty Face {352 pages}

Genre: Mystery

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Summary:

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart…because one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunick. And she’s a murderer.

Review:

Man, poor Frances. Her son is her main job, and sometimes she just does not have the patience for her job anymore. Marcus is accepted into Forrester Academy, where he is bullied and promptly gets revenge on his bullies…except it leads to him being completely ostracized by the entire Forrester student – and parent – body. Frances feels the cold shoulders, too, until Kate Randolph walks into her life, taking Frances under her wing and shunning the cool mommies. Frances and Kate develop the kind of friendship that borders on dependency, But when new information  comes to light, both women know that their friendship will never be the same.

This book is told through three different voices: Frances, Kate’s teenage daughter Daisy, and DJ, a boy from the past who lives through his sister’s torture and murder by an older man and his girlfriend, Amber Kunik. In the flashback scenes, DJ weaves the story of his family: how they must sit through the trial and listen to Amber play the jury; how DJ wants to believe Amber, but knows that he can’t; how his family falls apart as Amber goes to jail and then gets out, only to marry her lawyer and continue to play America’s Sweetheart. When we jump into the future, we see Frances’s fragile life, and we learn about Daisy’s resentment for a mother who does not seem to love her. It’s the kind of resentment that drives Daisy to try dangerous stunts: drinking, drugs, going to a strange older man’s apartment by herself.

Yeah, I may have yelled at Daisy one or two or a million times.

Family drama, in the hands of Robyn Harding, is truly something to behold. She takes the mundane – like a party, like a friendship – and turns it completely on its head. Those little secrets and lies that have been stored up through the years? Yeah, none of those are safe. The look that your friend gave you when she was angry, that look that sparked her entire face? Yeah, that wasn’t just because she was angry; she’s probably a sociopath, too. Even though I had an inkling of who Amber Kunik was, I still had to learn the secret about the other woman and why she was so terrified to reveal all to her friends and her family.

And you thought you had problems with your life.

I think the only thing that bothered me about Her Pretty Face was David. He was…kind of random. Maybe I’m just angry at myself for thinking that David was someone else the entire novel, and then when it turned out he wasn’t who I thought…Well, I felt tricked. But isn’t that the sign of a good mystery? People aren’t always who they seem to be? Sure, but I’m allowed to be angry because David wasn’t who I wanted him to be. It didn’t make the book any less great and it didn’t make me want to throw the book {in this case, Kindle} against the wall {thank goodness}. But I am going to plan a reread soon to see if it makes more sense to me.

Lucky everyone, because this book is out today and now you can go read it and get the same chills that I did . And if you don’t get those chills, well, maybe you share some traits with Amber Kunik.

Just saying.

I’m Not Missing by Carrie Fountain

Oh, remember when summer meant carefree days and absolutely no responsibilities? When can I have that back? It’s been a crazy June, and now we’re in July, so fingers crossed that everything slows down, because I’ve read some awesome books and I need a minute to share them!

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Title: I’m Not Missing {336 pages}

Genre: YA Mystery

Publication Date: July 10, 2018

Summary:

When Miranda Black’s mother abandoned her, she took everything—the sun, moon, and stars—and Miranda found shelter in her friendship with Syd, who wore her own motherlessness like a badge of honor: Our mothers abandoned us. We won’t go begging for scraps.

When Syd runs away suddenly and inexplicably in the middle of their senior year, Miranda is abandoned once again, left to untangle the questions of why Syd left, where she is—and if she’s even a friend worth saving. Her only clue is Syd’s discarded pink leopard print cell phone and a single text contained there from the mysterious HIM. Along the way, forced to step out from Syd’s enormous shadow, Miranda finds herself stumbling into first love with Nick Allison of all people and learning what it means to be truly seen, to be finally not missing in her own life.

Review:

First off, that cover. Wowee, is that thing gorgeous or what? I saw it on NetGalley and knew I had to get it, whether that meant on NetGalley or waiting patiently at my bookstore every day until July 10. Luckily, NetGalley was nice enough to provide a copy for me {doesn’t mean I’m not waiting for my pre-order to come in to my bookstore!}.

Miranda has learned to live without her mom, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss her every day. Her dad helps relieve the pain somewhat, but not more than Miranda’s best friend Syd does. Syd brings Miranda into life, making Miranda feel like she belongs somewhere. When Syd runs away, Miranda feels like a boat without a captain and she’s been pushed out into the ocean. With the help of Nick Allison – the same boy who no-showed prom the year before – they discover the secrets Syd left behind. Miranda must decide if Syd is a friend worth having, or if she can let her go like their mothers let them go.

I’m Not Missing reminds me of a Sour Patch Kid: there’s a sweet side to the story and then a very sour side to it. The sweet: Miranda befriends Nick and they discover each other in a way that only first loves can. They help each other navigate this new world without Syd, because they’re both affected by her leaving, and never once do they question each other’s devotion to the cause. The sour: Syd left behind A LOT of secrets, secrets that have the potential to destroy people in their little community. Syd, with all of her talk about moving on from her mother’s abandonment and going to Stanford, seemed hellbent on staying on a path that could hurt her, too. Through both the sweet and the sour, the two girls must learn to understand each other, and Miranda must learn what a true friend is.

As weird as it might sound, my favorite relationship in this book was that between Miranda and her father Peter. Miranda’s mother left them both to join a “religious group” {read: cult}, and the two are trying to rebuild their lives as best as they can without a matriarch. Peter and Miranda love each other, and they make mistakes along this bumpy path, but that love never once wavers. Peter trusts his daughter, and he knows that she’s making the choices that are right for her. He has to be the mother and father, and he does so well, even when he tells Miranda that he’s messing up. Being a daddy’s girl myself, it was so lovely reading a relationship between a father and daughter that was healthy and open. It relieved some of the anxiety I felt whenever Miranda dug herself into a hole, because I knew that she could always go to her father for help, even if she took the long way round.

Okay, Miranda and Nick are adorable, too. Like, too adorable. I could read an entire book about those two going on dates and having a good time. I could read an entire series of those two being dorks together. They’re disgustingly cute.

I’m Not Missing is such an excellent mystery. There are red herrings and twists and turns, and I was never frustrated with any of the false leads. There are also so many little mysteries wrapped inside the bigger mystery, and each question seems to lead to another question. It’s the kind of mystery that had me saying, Okay, last chapter, and then for reals, I’m going to bed, and then it’s morning and holy cannoli, what did I do with my life?

Yeah, it was that good.