REVIEW: ALL THE BEST PEOPLE, BY SONJA YOERG

 

Vermont, 1972. Carole LaPorte has a satisfying, ordinary life. She cares for her children, balances the books for the family’s auto shop and laughs when her husband slow dances her across the kitchen floor. Her tragic childhood might have happened to someone else.
 
But now her mind is playing tricks on her. The accounts won’t reconcile and the murmuring she hears isn’t the television. She ought to seek help, but she’s terrified of being locked away in a mental hospital like her mother, Solange. So Carole hides her symptoms, withdraws from her family and unwittingly sets her eleven-year-old daughter Alison on a desperate search for meaning and power: in Tarot cards, in omens from a nearby river and in a mysterious blue glass box belonging to her grandmother.

My Thoughts: All the Best People takes the reader on an emotional journey into one family’s past; into the hidden corners of their lives, with the dark secrets that determined their fates.

Multiple narrators tell the story, a non-linear probe that takes the reader back and forth in time, starting in the present, but then showing the beginning of Solange’s marriage to Osborne, delving into their dynamics. We learn about the dark side of their marriage that led to Solange’s big mistake one night…and which ended up with her spending most of her life locked away in a psychiatric facility.

Discovering the truth might have been too little too late, for by the time the doctors learned the appropriate course of treatment for Solange, she had wasted away most of her life. In the end, however, the major revelations led to healing for Carole and her family. I was sad that it was almost too late for Solange, since most of her life had been spent locked up unnecessarily.

The story offers an awareness of the changes in the mental health system over the years, and fortunately shines a light on the errors that sentenced people to overly medicated lives with no chance of recovery. 4 stars.

***
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REVIEW: SEVEN DAYS OF US, BY FRANCESCA HORNAK

 

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
 
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. 
 
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.   
 
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

My Thoughts: In alternating narratives, Seven Days of Us revealed the Birch family dynamics, showing us how each family member experienced the enforced togetherness.

Olivia, back home from saving lives in Liberia, was my favorite character. She was definitely not that thrilled to be in such close proximity to her family members, since she had been away and following her own path for years.

Emma, the matriarch, was definitely someone used to giving of herself, even to her own detriment. Her secret will change her life and her family going forward.

Phoebe, as the youngest and the only one of the offspring still living at home (at twenty-nine!) was an annoying, entitled brat, IMO. Everything all week long was all about her and her marriage plans. It was interesting to watch how things changed for her when her fiancé made a big and unexpected decision. She started to show a little bit of empathy for others.

Andrew, the patriarch, seemed oblivious to much that was going on, but when the surprise guest arrived, he began to look at life differently, even starting to assess some of his choices.

The setting of the dilapidated cottage surrounded by beautiful countryside brought me right into the lives of this English family, and I could imagine spending a week there in real life. The ending brought some good and some sad moments for the characters. There was something to savor in this story that felt so real, and earned 5 stars from me.

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a NetGalley ARC that will be released on November 21:  The Story of Arthur Truluv, by Elizabeth Berg, an emotionally powerful novel about three people who each lose the one they love most, only to find second chances where they least expect them…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Intro:  In the six months since the November day that his wife, Nola, was buried, Arthur Moses has been having lunch with her every day.  He rides the bus to the cemetery and when he gets there, he takes his sweet time walking over to her plot:  she will be there no matter when he arrives.  She will be there and be there and be there.

Today he lingers near the headstone of Adelaide Marsh, two rows over from Nola, ten markers down.  Adelaide was born April 3, 1897, died November 18, 1929.  Arthur does the math, slowly.  Thirty-two.  Then he calculates again, because he thinks it would be wrong to stand near someone’s grave thinking about how old they were the day they died and be off by a year.  Or more.  Math has always been difficult for Arthur, even on paper; he describes himself as numerically illiterate.  Nola did the checkbook, but now he does.  He tries, anyway; he gets out his giant-size calculator and pays a great deal of attention to what he’s doing, he doesn’t even keep the radio on, but more often than not he ends up with astronomically improbable sums…

***

Teaser:  He coughs, coughs, coughs, all the way to the bus stop.  He’s going to have to go see that robber, Dr. Greenbaum.  Get some antibiotics.  Something.  Sometimes Arthur forgets how old he is.  Sometimes he remembers all too well. (45%).

***

Synopsis:  For the past six months, Arthur Moses’s days have looked the same: He tends to his rose garden and to Gordon, his cat, then rides the bus to the cemetery to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. The last thing Arthur would imagine is for one unlikely encounter to utterly transform his life. 

Eighteen-year-old Maddy Harris is an introspective girl who visits the cemetery to escape the other kids at school. One afternoon she joins Arthur—a gesture that begins a surprising friendship between two lonely souls. Moved by Arthur’s kindness and devotion, Maddy gives him the nickname “Truluv.” As Arthur’s neighbor Lucille moves into their orbit, the unlikely trio band together and, through heartache and hardships, help one another rediscover their own potential to start anew.

Wonderfully written and full of profound observations about life, The Story of Arthur Truluv is a beautiful and moving novel of compassion in the face of loss, of the small acts that turn friends into family, and of the possibilities to achieve happiness at any age.

***

What do you think?  Does it resonate with you?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: THE SURROGATE, BY LOUISE JENSEN

 

Kat and her husband Nick have tried everything to become parents. All they want is a child to love but they are beginning to lose hope. Then a chance encounter with Kat’s childhood friend Lisa gives them one last chance. 

Kat and Lisa were once as close as sisters. The secrets they share mean their trust is for life… Or is it?

Just when the couple’s dream seems within reach, Kat begins to suspect she’s being watched and Nick is telling her lies.

Are the cracks appearing in Kat’s perfect picture of the future all in her head, or should she be scared for the lives of herself and her family?

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Surrogate, I was worried about Kat and Nick’s plan to use her childhood friend Lisa as their surrogate. There were so many red flags for me, and I thought that Kat should have been more wary. There were the secrets and lies about what happened to Jake, Lisa’s twin; and then there was something between Lisa and a troubled boy Aaron that suggested some kind of conspiracy between them.

Was Lisa lying about being pregnant? Why did she keep demanding more money from Kat and Nick? Why does she keep Kat away from the doctor appointments?

Then there was Nick’s childhood friend Richard, who is cold and secretive, too. What is he hiding? Did he sabotage Kat and Nick’s attempted adoptions?

Kat’s fears grow along with her suspicions. Who, if anyone, can she trust? Can she even trust Nick, who seems to be lying about so many things? Is he having an affair?

When the answers to the questions are finally revealed, it might be too late for any of them. I couldn’t stop turning the pages, and I didn’t see the truth taking the shape that it did. What I had suspected turned into something completely different…and almost unbelievable. 4 stars.

***

 

REVIEW: ODD CHILD OUT, BY GILLY MACMILLAN

 

How well do you know the people you love…?

Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable. But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi can’t–or won’t–tell anyone what happened.

Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident. But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle. Noah is British. Abdi is a Somali refugee. And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol. Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth. Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.

Because the truth hurts.

 

 

My Thoughts: Set in Bristol, a community in the UK, Odd Child Out is a story of friendship, of betrayal, of loss, and of people from very different worlds brought together in unexpected ways.

The author portrays the boys, Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad, through the eyes of their families and also from their own perspectives.

Because of his illness, Noah comes across as a self-absorbed teenager, possibly with a sense of entitlement, but in the end, we see more depth to him. We learn that, in many ways, he is also thinking of others when he takes certain dangerous actions.

Abdi has struggled with life in the UK, and even though he doesn’t remember the country from which they came, his family shows him what that world was like through the years as they carry on despite their struggles. Secrets that will come back to haunt them all drive Abdi to take some risky steps, while struggling with a terrible incident involving Noah and the Feeder Canal. Not knowing the truth lends itself to self-blame and bold actions.

DI Jim Clemo’s narrative added that extra piece to the story, showing the reader how the police deal with the social tensions of a community divided by their fear and fury. His own poor choices in a previous case add to the caution he takes with this one. But in the end, he follows his best instincts and brings in a good outcome.

Letters written by Noah and found afterwards evoked great emotion in the characters…and in this reader. There were plodding aspects to the tale, but overall, it was a beautifully wrought story that earned 4.5 stars.***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “SEVEN DAYS OF US”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a new download (and author) for me:  Seven Days of Us, by Francesca Hornak…

 

 

 

 

Intro:  (Prologue – November 17, 2016) (Olivia – Cape Beach, Monrovia, Liberia, 1:03 a.m.)

Olivia knows what they are doing is stupid.  If seen, they will be sent home—possibly to a tribunal.  Never mind that to touch him could be life-threatening.  But who will see them?  The beach is deserted and so dark she can just see a few feet into the inky sea.  The only sound is the swooshing drag of the waves.  She is acutely aware of the tiny gap between their elbows, as they walk down to the surf.  She wants to say, “We shouldn’t do this,” except they haven’t done anything.  They still haven’t broken the No-Touch rule.

***

Teaser:  (Emma – The Attics, Weyfield Hall, 5:30 p.m.)

Emma knelt in the main attic, holding the box of Christmas decorations.  Originally, it had held a gingerbread house kit, bought one Christmas when the girls were small.  On the lid was a photograph of two children in wonderfully retro jumpers, marveling at their perfect gingerbread house (p. 57).

***

Synopsis:  A week is a long time to spend in quarantine with your family.

It’s Christmas, and for the first time in years the entire Birch family will be under one roof. Even Emma and Andrew’s elder daughter—who is usually off saving the world—will be joining them at Weyfield Hall, their aging country estate. But Olivia, a doctor, is only coming home because she has to. Having just returned from treating an epidemic abroad, she’s been told she must stay in quarantine for a week…and so too should her family.
 
For the next seven days, the Birches are locked down, cut off from the rest of humanity—and even decent Wi-Fi—and forced into each other’s orbits. Younger, unabashedly frivolous daughter Phoebe is fixated on her upcoming wedding, while Olivia deals with the culture shock of being immersed in first-world problems. 
 
As Andrew sequesters himself in his study writing scathing restaurant reviews and remembering his glory days as a war correspondent, Emma hides a secret that will turn the whole family upside down.   
 
In close proximity, not much can stay hidden for long, and as revelations and long-held tensions come to light, nothing is more shocking than the unexpected guest who’s about to arrive…

***

What do you think?  Do the snippets grab you?  Would you keep reading?

***

A RAINY DAY FRIDAY…

Rainy sidewalks greeted me this morning.  Now the sun has returned, and the rain has gone away.  But I love that we had a glimpse of rainy days ahead.

I want to go out later today, since I have not gone anywhere this week, except for the spontaneous shopping excursion.  Those occasions were quick and methodical…and back home to read and watch movies.

I want to enjoy a meal somewhere, while reading my book.  Currently, I’m loving Sleep Like a Baby, by Charlaine Harris.

I haven’t read any of this author’s books, but I’ve loved the Aurora Teagarden series on Hallmark.

***

What am I contemplating for the weekend?  No movies that I want to see…so it will be another one watching TV shows, movies, and reading.

What are you eager to do this weekend?

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “LIE TO ME”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is my current read:  Lie to Me, by J. T. Ellison, a stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple…

 

 

 

 

 

Intro:  (Franklin, Tennessee – Now)

Ethan found the note ten minutes after he rolled out of bed that Tuesday, the Tuesday that would change everything.  He came downstairs, yawning, scratching his chest, to…nothing.  Empty space, devoid of wife.

Sutton always began her morning at the kitchen table with a bowl of cereal, a piece of fruit, and a cup of tea.  She read the paper, scoffing at the innumerable typos—the paper was going under; paying for decent copyediting was the least of their worries.  A bowl full of cereal, a glass of milk, and a spoon would be laid out for him, the sports page folded neatly by his seat.  Always.  Always.

But this morning, there was no evidence Sutton had been in the kitchen.  No newspaper, no bowl.  No wife.

***

Teaser:  (THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS)

“He’s very believable.  But I also think he knows a lot more than he’s saying.  Something wasn’t right in that house.  Did you see the bloodstain on the counter near the refrigerator?”

“I did.” (22%).

***

Synopsis:  They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her. 

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

***

I’m loving this one so far.  What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

***

REVIEW: HER LAST GOODBYE, BY MELINDA LEIGH

 

Young mother Chelsea Clark leaves the house for a girls’ night out…and vanishes. Her family knows she would never voluntarily leave her two small children. Her desperate husband—also the prime suspect—hires Morgan to find his wife and prove his innocence.

As a single mother, Morgan sympathizes with Chelsea’s family and is determined to find her. She teams up with private investigator Lance Kruger. But the deeper they dig, the deadlier their investigation gets. When Morgan is stalked by a violent predator, everything—and everyone—she holds dear is in grave danger.

Now, Morgan must track down a deranged criminal to protect her own family…but she won’t need to leave home to find him. She’s his next target.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Her Last Goodbye, I was immersed in this newest story in the Morgan Dane Series.

Morgan and Lance have a new client, Tim Clark, whose wife Chelsea has gone missing, and they are concerned because of the Sheriff’s attitude of focusing primarily on Tim as a suspect. Their work is cut out for them; finding Chelsea and smoothing the Sheriff’s ruffled feathers. Tim worked at a company called Speed Net, and checking out the employees was one of their first steps.

Chelsea is an alternate narrator in this story, so we know right away that she has been abducted. From her perspective, we learn that she is chained inside some kind of container with no windows, and that her abductor wears a mask.

Juggling the care of her three daughters with this newest case, and also handling health issues now arising with her grandfather, Morgan is even more stressed than usual.

So when one of their suspects seems to be stalking Morgan, the intensity ratchets up…and even after their investigation moves forward, greater potential harm to Morgan comes out of left field. Who is the perpetrator, and why is he now targeting Morgan? Could he be one of the sex offenders in the area, or someone they had previously overlooked? After running investigations on numerous employees, Morgan inadvertently stumbled upon an omission that could make all the difference.

Rather than risk further run-ins with the Sheriff, Morgan and Lance try something very dangerous…which leads to success.

I literally held my breath through many scenes in this book, so I am definitely giving this one 5 stars.

***

LOOKING BACK: AN HOMAGE TO RAINY DAYS…

With wildfires scorching the Northern California lands, I think fondly of rain.  And how we need it now more than ever.

I created this blog about Rainy Days…and the blues that accompany them, as well as the Monday blues, and back in December 2014, I wrote a post called Rainy Day Friday:  Blissful!

I have excerpted it below:

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Some of you may know that we have a drought going on here in California, so rain is welcome.  Yes, I know that my blog name suggests that “rainy days make me blue,” but that is no longer true when you are in drought country.

And, just as reading takes the blues away, what better kind of day to curl up and read?  With a cup of tea, perhaps?

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I knew I should have cleared the leaves off the patio when the Weatherman kept predicting rain.  He actually said “storms,” though, and that hasn’t happened yet.

So here is my patio now:

 

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Pretty sad, huh?  But now the dust is gone from the patio table, at least.  I am hopeless when it comes to keeping up the patio during the fall and winter, since I don’t go out there to read.

Today I’m reading this book:  Unbecoming, by Rebecca Scherm.

 

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After finishing Walking on Trampolines late yesterday (click for review), I was too tired to read much.  I finished the first chapter and then went to sleep.

 

 

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The Thursday TV line-up is not conducive to staying awake, (Grey’s Anatomy and Parenthood are on hiatus), but I did record Mom and Two-and-a-half Men on my DVR.

Does anyone love Stalker?  I am a big fan.  That one is on Wednesdays, of course.

What do you love to do on a rainy day?  Reading and tea springs to mind for me, but maybe you have other ways to spend those rainy hours?

***

My car license plates read:  IM4RAIN.

This suggests that I love rain, of course, and that’s what most people think when they see the plates.  But there is more to the message.  Can anyone guess?

***