One Perfect Lie

Chris Brennan is ready to start his new job as an AP Government teacher and baseball coach at Central Valley High School in rural Pennsylvania.  However, Chris is not a teacher or a coach, and it quickly becomes clear that his real profession has nothing to do with education.  He studies the students in class and pays particularly close attention to the boys who are also on the baseball team.  He performs social experiments both during and outside of class to further analyze the personality traits of his students which will help him accomplish his undercover mission which is both secretive and dangerous.  As he gets to know the students, their families, and other members of the community, he finds it increasingly difficult to maintain the necessary distance required between an undercover federal agent and the life in which they must become immersed.  As lines between his personal and professional life continue to blur, tragedy strikes the community.  Chris must decide whether to keep his undercover persona in hopes of getting to the bottom of a complicated and dangerous mystery or reveal himself and risk losing everything.  It’s a race against time as Chris tries to save lives, including his own.

Trigger warnings: mild language, suicide, murder, mild sexual content

Why I read it: recommendation in online book club

My thoughts (may contain spoilers)

We are the light

Need some light?  Be the light!  And, never deny the presence of your guardian angel.

Lucas Goodgame is a high school counselor who survived an unthinkable tragedy that rocked the small town of Majestic.  A disturbed teenager, someone who Lucas had counseled at school, opened fire in a crowded movie theater assassinating movie theater patrons in an “every other” pattern as they sat in their seats.  Months after the unthinkable tragedy that took the life of his beloved wife, Lucas notices a camping tent go up in his backyard that is inhabited by none other than Eli, the younger brother of the killer (I know, it’s a weird premise…but oh so good!  Bear with me).  As they begin to rely on each other to mentally heal from intense trauma, both Lucas and Eli come up with the idea to bring together not only the survivors of the Majestic Massacre but the entire town through a collaborative project in a showing of strength and solidarity.  As they unite in their grief, they also unite in their commitment to move on and reclaim their friends, their city, and their emotional stability.  It is only when Lucas grasps the idea of his future beyond the haze of trauma that he realizes his grasp of the past is just as muddled, confused, and uncertain.

Trigger warnings: Violence, suicide, details involving a massacre, mild language, mild sexual content

Why I read it: It was my Book of the Month pick

My thoughts (may contain spoilers)

Home Front

Jolene was no stranger to tough times and heartache.  She was left to fend for herself when her alcoholic parents were killed in a car crash when she was 17, and the wounds from that traumatic time never fully healed; however, she was left with a certain sense of personal responsibility when it came to choosing happiness over despair moving forward in life.  All day, every day, Jolene chose happiness.  What once was an endearing quality that attracted Michael (her husband) to Jolene turned redundant and…essentially annoying…as the years passed by in their marriage.  They had hit a new low as a couple.  Their pre-teen daughter was struggling to survive middle school growing pains and friendship betrayals, Michael’s case load as a lawyer was growing by the second and, to top it all off, the spark that had once ignited their relationship eventually burned-out leaving Michael angry and Jolene hurt.  Amid her personal woes, Jolene served her country as a military helicopter pilot, but was currently in the Reserves when she received the call to serve alongside her best friend, Tami (also a pilot in the Reserves) in Operation Iraqi Freedom half a world away from her family.  As nobody in her family supports her and her chosen career, Jolene reluctantly leaves her family in turmoil as she serves her sworn military duty in fighting for freedom.   Michael is hardly prepared for life as a single dad, and his world is further turned upside down when the unthinkable happens.  It will take changes of heart, forgiveness, acceptance, and an unimaginable amount of strength and commitment to repair the damage of a broken resolve as well as a broken heart.

Why I read it: Recommendation from a friend

Trigger warnings: PTSD, substance abuse, mild language, war/battle scenes

My thoughts (may contain spoilers)

Nine Perfect Strangers

A group of strangers struggling in various aspects of life are voluntarily locked inside a wellness retreat that uses risky and unprecedented emotional and psychological healing techniques to reach an advanced stage of enlightenment.  What could possibly go wrong?

This book follows the experiences of nine people; some are related to each other, and the rest are single. Each character brings their own backstory, complication, mystery, and drama.  The one thing they all agree upon is trusting Masha, a corporate woman turned health guru, and her two young proteges with their collective journeys toward healing and enlightenment over a 10-day period at the Tranquillium House.  What starts as junk food detox meals and morning yoga sessions turns into highly emotional therapy sessions.  Things then take a very weird turn when Masha requires them to participate in truly disturbing activities all in the name of trying to achieve mental clarity, acute understanding, and universal acceptance.  When they realize their healing retreat is more dangerous than any of them could ever imagine, it may be too late.

Why I read it: Recommendation in a Facebook book group

Trigger warnings: language, sexual content, drugs, suicide

My thoughts (may contain spoilers)