RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “A YEAR OF EXTRAORDINARY MOMENTS”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a NetGalley ARC that will be released on October 16:  A Year of Extraordinary Moments, by Bette Lee Crosby, a heartwarming novel about letting go of the past to make way for a brighter future.

 

 

Intro:  (Alice DeLuca)

I’m an old woman now and not long for this world, but I’m not afraid of dying.  What I am afraid of is leaving behind a grandson who will follow in his mama’s footsteps.  I’d like to believe that in the years she’s been gone my Dorothy has straightened herself out, but inside my heart, I fear this may be little more than wishful thinking.

There is an old adage that says a child’s ways can be formed by either nature or nurture.  In Dorothy’s case, it was a bit of both….

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Teaser:  The Appointment

Alice heard the rooster crow but remained in bed.  The pain in her back was excruciating, and her legs felt as if they were weighted with something too heavy to move.  Between the slats in the blinds, she could see the first rays of dawn creeping into the sky. (56%).

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Synopsis:  Tracy Briggs has finally gotten her act together. She’s focusing on her own life and helping her hearing-impaired son learn to talk. With her sister married and exploring a new career, Tracy has begun to run the family’s magazine business and feels her life is pretty much perfect. That is, until her son’s deadbeat dad shows up in Magnolia Grove asking for a second chance.

Now that her son is getting the help he needs and a promising new romance with his teacher is in bloom, Tracy wants to keep her life just as it is. But her ex isn’t taking no for an answer. And when a spirited elderly woman enters Tracy’s life in an unexpected way, she’ll have to work harder than ever to keep her new life on track.

Torn between the past she knows and the uncertain future, Tracy must decide what is best for both her and her son, learning along the way that ordinary choices can bring extraordinary possibilities.

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Do the excerpts draw you in?  Would you keep reading?

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RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE LIES WE TOLD”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a NetGalley ARC for a book to be released on October 9:  The Lies We Told, by Camilla Way, the highly acclaimed author of Watching Edie, who returns with a new novel of dark psychological suspense that explores how those closest to us have the most to hide…

 

 

 

Intro:  (Cambridgeshire, 1986)

At first I mistook the severed head for something else.

It wasn’t until I was very close that I realized it was Lucy’s.  To begin with, I thought the splash of yellow against the white of my pillow was a discarded sock, a balled-up handkerchief, perhaps.  It was only when I drew nearer and saw the delicate crest of feathers, the tiny, silent beak, that I fully understood.  And suddenly I understood so much more:  everything in the moment became absolutely clear.

***

Teaser:  (Cambridgeshire, 1997)

I’d kept the newspaper cuttings.  I don’t know why.  Doug had no idea, of course—he’d have been livid if he’d ever found them.  We were supposed to forget all about it, pretend we’d played no part in the whole horrible tragedy. (62%).

***

Synopsis:  A daughter
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behavior, the apparent delight in hurting others…Sometimes Beth is scared of her and what she could be capable of.

A son
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend, Clara, is desperate to discover what has happened to him.

A life built on lies
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can Clara find him before it’s too late?

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “HUNGRY HEART”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s release is a book I’ve had since 2016!  Hungry Heart:  Adventures in Life, Love, and Writing, by Jennifer Weiner:  Finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay * Nominated for “Best Memoir & Autobiography” by Goodreads Choice Awards 2016 * Named a “Best Book of the Year” by New York Post

“You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll want to read it again.” —TheSkimm

 

 

 

Intro:  The other day, I was walking from the hair salon to pick up my eight-year-old after school.  It was a beautiful February afternoon, unseasonably sunny and springlike, with a sweet breeze rummaging in the tree branches that were just starting to bud.

Also, my hair looked spectacular.

I was feeling really good.  I’d put in a solid morning writing; then I’d done a spinning class, where, according to the computerized rankings that I obsessively checked, I hadn’t finished last.  I was wearing my favorite jeans, which are dark-rinsed, straight-legged, stretchy and forgiving, and the Eileen Fisher cashmere sweater that I’d snagged for 70 percent off at the cash-only sale.  With my UGG boots on my feet and my purse, with its furry purse-charm, slung over my shoulder, I strode confidently down Lombard Street, feeling like I was on top of things, like this was a day when I had it all figured out.

And then I fell.

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Teaser:  Hungry women are easy to lead and easy to fool and extremely easy to sell stuff to.  Diets are the tool of the patriarchy.  Also the devil.  And they don’t work. (61%).

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Synopsis:  Jennifer Weiner is many things: a bestselling author, a Twitter phenomenon, and an “unlikely feminist enforcer” (The New Yorker). She’s also a mom, a daughter, and a sister, a clumsy yogini, and a reality-TV devotee. In this “unflinching look at her own experiences” (Entertainment Weekly), Jennifer fashions tales of modern-day womanhood as uproariously funny and moving as the best of Nora Ephron and Tina Fey.

No subject is off-limits in these intimate and honest essays: sex, weight, envy, money, her mother’s coming out of the closet, her estranged father’s death. From lonely adolescence to hearing her six-year-old daughter say the F word—fat—for the first time, Jen dives into the heart of female experience, with the wit and candor that have endeared her to readers all over the world.

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

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REVIEW: NOW THAT YOU MENTION IT, BY KRISTAN HIGGINS

 

One step forward. Two steps back. The Tufts scholarship that put Nora Stuart on the path to becoming a Boston medical specialist was a step forward. Being hit by a car and then overhearing her boyfriend hit on another doctor when she thought she was dying? Two major steps back.

Injured in more ways than one, Nora feels her carefully built life cracking at the edges. There’s only one place to land: home. But the tiny Maine community she left fifteen years ago doesn’t necessarily want her. At every turn, someone holds the prodigal daughter of Scupper Island responsible for small-town drama and big-time disappointments.

With a tough islander mother who’s always been distant, a wild-child sister in jail and a withdrawn teenage niece as eager to ditch the island as Nora once was, Nora has her work cut out for her if she’s going to take what might be her last chance to mend the family. Balancing loss and opportunity, dark events from her past with hope for the future, Nora will discover that tackling old pain makes room for promise…and the chance to begin again.

My Thoughts: I was more than ready to immerse myself in Now That You Mention It. I love a book with all the “feels,” and I was in need of just such a book on a long weekend that could have been a challenge to get through.

Almost immediately, I could feel for Nora growing up in a small town and bearing the brunt of the mean girls and all the others who felt entitled to everything, but who still resented her for earning her own good things, like a full scholarship to college and medical school.

When the book opens, Nora has just been hit by a car, and her precarious situation is another reminder of something that happened earlier, the Big Bad Event, that we don’t learn more about until later in the story.

Nora tells her story in her own engaging first person voice, and I could feel what she was feeling, with each step she had taken. The story moved back and forth in time until all the layers folded together to form a complete picture of what life had been like for her. As a result, I was rooting for her when she went back to the island town where she grew up, and as she faced up to those who were unkind and who bore grudges. Some of them were even dangerous.

I felt like I was right there with her when she rented the charming houseboat, and when she developed a friendship with one of the men in town whose family had been responsible for some of her worst pain. But finding that not only bad things came from that family was another life lesson to enjoy.

There was no smooth path to happily ever after, but there were steps forward, along with the ones that took her backward, until finally, there seemed to be a light at the end of the tunnel. A story that delighted me all the way through. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: AN UNWANTED GUEST, BY SHARI LAPENA

 

It’s winter in the Catskills and Mitchell’s Inn, nestled deep in the woods, is the perfect setting for a relaxing–maybe even romantic–weekend away. It boasts spacious old rooms with huge woodburning fireplaces, a well-stocked wine cellar, and opportunities for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or just curling up with a good murder mystery.

So when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and a blizzard cuts off the electricity–and all contact with the outside world–the guests settle in for the long haul.

Soon, though, one of the guests turns up dead–it looks like an accident. But when a second guest dies, they start to panic.

Within the snowed-in paradise, something–or someone–is picking off the guests one by one. And there’s nothing they can do but hunker down and hope they can survive the storm.

My Thoughts: A beautiful weekend retreat sounds perfect to those in An Unwanted Guest. But no wi-fi or cell phone reception does put a bit of a damper on things for them all.

Then a storm comes and the power goes out. While the owner and his son do everything to make them all as comfortable as possible, they do feel a bit annoyed. So when the first guest turns up dead at the bottom of the stairs, anxiety descends. Shortly afterwards, a second guest is strangled in her room.

As they all search to see if anyone outside has come in without their knowledge, we sense the heightened fear as they find nothing. Then they all look around at one another, with the horrifying thought: it is one of them. Paranoia abounds as the hours pass by, with no way to call the police.

I loved the guessing game of “who among us is the killer?” Since they were all relative strangers before the weekend, they are at a loss about their companions. Even those who were part of a couple are starting to question if they really know that person. Without wi-fi they can’t even Google anyone.

Before the weekend ends, three more will be dead, and the police, finally on the scene, narrow down the search…and arrest one of them. I liked the part where the killer filled us in through an internal monologue after the arrest. We learn the motive and the how of it. One more “killer” shares thoughts at the end. Another piece that might later be solved. 4.5.

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RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THEY ALL FALL DOWN”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a recent download:  They All Fall Down, by Tammy Cohen. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest meets Orange is the New Black in this new psychological thriller, where a new patient suspects that women at her high-risk psychiatric clinic are being stalked by a serial killer . . .

 

 

 

Intro:  (Hannah)

Charlie cut her wrists last week with a shard of caramelized sugar.

We’d made the sugar sheets together in the clinic’s kitchen earlier in the day, under Joni’s beady-eyed supervision.

‘Yours are thick enough to do yourself an injury,’ I’d said to Charlie, as a joke.

***

Teaser Tuesday:  It had been such a relief when Hannah announced they were giving up on the whole idea.  And then she’d got pregnant naturally.  It had seemed like a miracle. (p. 60).

***

Synopsis:  Hannah had a perfect life in London—a loving husband, a great job—until she did something shocking. Something that she doesn’t quite understand herself; and now she has landed herself in a high-risk psychiatric unit.

Since Hannah has been admitted, two women have died, including Charlie, one of her closest friends in the institution. It’s a high-risk unit, the authorities say. Deaths happen. But Hannah knows Charlie wouldn’t have killed herself. She is convinced there’s a serial killer picking off the patients one by one, passing their deaths off as suicides. But why? And who will believe her?

Corinne, Hannah’s mother, is worried sick about her eldest daughter. She hates that she’s ended up in the unit, though she knows it’s the best place for her to get the treatment she needs. At first, Corinne assumes Hannah’s outlandish claims about a killer in the unit are just another manifestation of her psychological condition, but as she starts to uncover strange inconsistencies surrounding the unit’s charismatic director, Dr. Roberts, she begins to wonder if her daughter might have stumbled upon the truth.

But who can Corinne trust, when she doesn’t even trust her own daughter?

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Do the snippets grab you?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: A NOISE DOWNSTAIRS, BY LINWOOD BARCLAY

 

College professor Paul Davis is a normal guy with a normal life. Until, driving along a deserted road late one night, he surprises a murderer disposing of a couple of bodies. That’s when Paul’s “normal” existence is turned upside down. After nearly losing his own life in that encounter, he finds himself battling PTSD, depression, and severe problems at work. His wife, Charlotte, desperate to cheer him up, brings home a vintage typewriter—complete with ink ribbons and heavy round keys—to encourage him to get started on that novel he’s always intended to write.

However, the typewriter itself is a problem. Paul swears it’s possessed and types by itself at night. But only Paul can hear the noise coming from downstairs; Charlotte doesn’t hear a thing. And she worries he’s going off the rails.

Paul believes the typewriter is somehow connected to the murderer he discovered nearly a year ago. The killer had made his victims type apologies to him before ending their lives. Has another sick twist of fate entwined his life with the killer—could this be the same machine? Increasingly tormented but determined to discover the truth and confront his nightmare, Paul begins investigating the deaths himself.

But that may not be the best thing to do. Maybe Paul should just take the typewriter back to where his wife found it. Maybe he should stop asking questions and simply walk away while he can. . . .

 

My Thoughts: Every page of A Noise Downstairs grabbed me, as it recounted mysterious events that could all be in Paul’s mind…or from the supernatural. Or Paul himself could be sleepwalking, doing the things himself. The click-clicking of a vintage typewriter cast an eerie aura upon the events, adding just the right amount of creepiness to the tale.

Every event kept me guessing and wondering, even suspecting the numerous people in Paul’s life. I suspected his wife; I suspected his ex-wife; and even his therapist, at one point. Then there was an odd patient that had done similar things to other people. Could he somehow be sneaking into Paul’s home and doing these things?

Who could Paul trust? Who would have the most to gain by gaslighting Paul? Or was Paul so far off the rails that he needed to be locked up? Just when I thought I had it all figured out, every twist and turn afterwards stunned me, as the pieces finally came together rapidly, leaving me shaking my head. It turned out that nothing was as it seemed, and there were so many unexpected curve balls that I was breathless by the end. A brilliant 5 star read.

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RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THREE DAYS MISSING”

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, originally hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea and now hosted by I’d Rather Be at the Beach; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by The Purple Booker.

Today’s feature is a recent download.  Three Days Missing, by Kimberly Belle:  When a child goes missing, two mothers’ lives collide in a shocking way in this suspenseful novel from the bestselling author of The Marriage Lie.

 

 

Intro:  KAT

My phone is already buzzing with work email as I rush Ethan through his morning routine.  Get up.  Get dressed.  For the love of God, brush your teeth and hair.  In none of his eight short years has my son ever been a morning person, and I’ve never been the most patient of mothers, not even when I didn’t have a boss clocking the second I step off the elevator.

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Teaser:  My blood tingles with equal parts anger and disappointment.  What kind of rinky-dink journalist is this guy? (68%).

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Synopsis:  It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night. When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing–vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight class trip. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground, but she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance has earth-shattering consequences for Stef, as her path crosses with Kat. As the two mothers race against the clock, their desperate search for answers reveals how the greatest dangers lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

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What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: THE PERFECT COUPLE, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

 

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect.

 

My Thoughts: Against the backdrop of the gorgeous fairytale setting of Nantucket, The Perfect Couple offers romantic moments and promises of happily-ever-after.

But for the wedding couple, the promises do not come off as planned. Slipping back and forth in time, we learn the secrets behind the facades of the wealthy Winbury family, and we only begin to see what Celeste Otis wants and needs as the wedding date approaches. Her true heart will be revealed as the clock ticks toward the exchange of vows. A tragedy then takes everyone off course, and in the midst of chaos, self-examination must take place.

What makes a happily-ever-after couple? Will Celeste’s dreams of perfection, based on what she sees between her parents, the original “perfect couple,” guide her toward her own true love? Or will the trappings of wealth and privilege owned by the Winbury family misdirect her, forcing a focus on security and comfort? How does a last-minute attraction push her off course? Will she acknowledge her true feelings before it is too late?

Solving the mystery of the body in the harbor keeps everyone a bit off balance for the duration. Meanwhile, the vision of a perfect couple, and what that looks like, haunts each of the characters. Taunting them, reminding them of what others have, and what somehow eludes them. In the end, answers come, but they seem sad and anticlimactic. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: CLOCK DANCE, BY ANNE TYLER

 

Willa Drake can count on one hand the defining moments of her life. In 1967, she is a schoolgirl coping with her mother’s sudden disappearance. In 1977, she is a college coed considering a marriage proposal. In 1997, she is a young widow trying to piece her life back together. And in 2017, she yearns to be a grandmother but isn’t sure she ever will be. Then, one day, Willa receives a startling phone call from a stranger. Without fully understanding why, she flies across the country to Baltimore to look after a young woman she’s never met, her nine-year-old daughter, and their dog, Airplane. This impulsive decision will lead Willa into uncharted territory–surrounded by eccentric neighbors who treat each other like family, she finds solace and fulfillment in unexpected places. A bewitching novel of hope and transformation, Clock Dance gives us Anne Tyler at the height of her powers.

 

My Thoughts: In our journey through Clock Dance, we leap ahead to those defining moments in Willa’s life, from preteen years to the current time. What we learn about Willa and what she needed is how hopeful she always felt, while being basically unsatisfied. Her first husband, Derek, seemingly hijacked her life and her decisions, and even in his death, he was thinking only of himself as he made some fatal choices.

Motherhood was also a time of meeting the needs of others, while ignoring her own. The realization of what she had given up for family and for husbands would later come to awaken her to those unmet needs and how very important they suddenly were to her. Her second husband could have been someone to fill in those blanks in her life, but again, he was someone who met his own needs first.

I liked how Willa finally started making choices based on what she wanted and needed. Would she finally start to feel that fulfillment? Would an unexpected trip to Baltimore to help out her son’s ex-girlfriend offer the opportunity to surround herself with a collection of people who would begin to feel like an extended family? Could she learn that just when she thought she had to pick up her same old life, she could visualize a very different kind of life? One with room for the people and activities she longed to enjoy. 5 stars.

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