REVIEW: THE PERFECT MOTHER, BY AIMEE MOLLOY

 

A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they want a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. 

My Thoughts: The Perfect Mother is narrated by multiple characters, and begins in the first person voice of one of them. She seems to be anonymous, and throughout the story, I thought I knew who she was. But only in the final moments is her identity known.

To say that first-time mothers are often insecure, not knowing the right way to do the various tasks connected to being the “perfect” mother, would be an understatement. Finding the May Mothers group seemed a great way to form their own community to support them and enhance their knowledge.

What each of them brings to the group is her best face, hiding the various secrets in the past.

So when baby Midas goes missing after the mothers take a night out at a local bar, it is only a matter of time until these secrets begin to surface.

Winnie has a glamorous past, so hiding her background makes her seem standoffish…until the truth comes out. But then the media makes so much of it all, turning her into someone who might do something terrible, like hurt her own baby.

The others have faith in her, not believing that she could harm her baby, and they all offer their thoughts to the police when interviewed. Some of them, like Francie, go above and beyond to persuade the police to look elsewhere…until they brush her aside, annoyed with her behavior.

Numerous possibilities are considered, and while the search continues, the other mothers deal with their own lives and their challenges. Francie is struggling from sleep deprivation and also from her obsessive need to help with the search. Collette is ghost-writing a book for the mayor, but finds that he is often unavailable for meetings, so her work is less than stellar. Nell seems to have a lot more to hide, and as her secrets come out, the media attention flickers from Winnie and Midas to her.

I was totally blindsided by what had actually happened, and who was behind everything. As I rapidly turned the pages, I felt breathless from the intensity of it all. A page turner! 5 stars.

***
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RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE GUNNERS”

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 book I just downloaded from the library:  The Gunners, by Rebecca Kauffman, a book that engages us with vividly unforgettable characters, and advances Rebecca Kauffman’s place as one of the most important young writers of her generation.

 

 

 

Intro:  Mikey Callahan discovered something about himself when he was six years old.

Students from his first-grade class were taken one at a time from the classroom and ushered to the gymnasium for standard medical tests.  The woman who barked his name (although she called for Michael, instead of Mikey, as his classmates knew him) held his hand as she walked him down the hall, and her fingers were as dry and cool as a husk.  In the gymnasium, there were rectangular tables, screens, clipboards, grown-ups dressed in white. 

***

Teaser:  Alice and Mikey trudged together through the thick snow.  She unscrewed the cap of the bourbon, took a swig, and handed it Mikey’s way.  He took a swig as well, felt the heat of it like a shock. (59%).

***

Synopsis:  Following her wonderfully received first novel, Another Place You’ve Never Been, called “mesmerizing,” “powerful,” and “gorgeous,” by critics all over the country, Rebecca Kauffman returns with Mikey Callahan, a thirty-year-old who is suffering from the clouded vision of macular degeneration. He struggles to establish human connections—even his emotional life is a blur.

As the novel begins, he is reconnecting with “The Gunners,” his group of childhood friends, after one of their members has committed suicide. Sally had distanced herself from all of them before ending her life, and she died harboring secrets about the group and its individuals. Mikey especially needs to confront dark secrets about his own past and his father. How much of this darkness accounts for the emotional stupor Mikey is suffering from as he reaches his maturity? And can The Gunners, prompted by Sally’s death, find their way to a new day? The core of this adventure, made by Mikey, Alice, Lynn, Jimmy, and Sam, becomes a search for the core of truth, friendship, and forgiveness.

***

I’ve heard good things about this book.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: THE GARDEN OF SMALL BEGINNINGS, BY ABBI WAXMAN

 

Lilian Girvan has been a single mother for three years—ever since her husband died in a car accident. One mental breakdown and some random suicidal thoughts later, she’s just starting to get the hang of this widow thing. She can now get her two girls to school, show up to work, and watch TV like a pro. The only problem is she’s becoming overwhelmed with being underwhelmed.

At least her textbook illustrating job has some perks—like actually being called upon to draw whale genitalia. Oh, and there’s that vegetable-gardening class her boss signed her up for. Apparently, being the chosen illustrator for a series of boutique vegetable guides means getting your hands dirty, literally. Wallowing around in compost on a Saturday morning can’t be much worse than wallowing around in pajamas and self-pity.

After recruiting her kids and insanely supportive sister to join her, Lilian shows up at the Los Angeles botanical garden feeling out of her element. But what she’ll soon discover—with the help of a patient instructor and a quirky group of gardeners—is that into every life a little sun must shine, whether you want it to or not…

My Thoughts: The Garden of Small Beginnings reeled me in from the first page, as our first person narrator, Lilian, masks her pain with a comedic tone, describing how her dead husband is useful. Someone she can blame when things go wrong. Her conversations with him set the tone for this story of a thirty-something woman with small children who was so broken by his sudden death that she ended up in a mental health facility for a few months.

But now she is trying to move on. When she isn’t conversing with her deceased husband Dan, she has regular phone calls and texts with her sister Rachel. Her job as a freelance illustrator takes her to unusual places where her latest gig is a book about gardening. She joins a garden class as a foundation for her art, and what an interesting assortment of students show up there. Who knew that an ordinary class would suddenly morph into a life in the midst of an interesting community?

Classes turn into opportunities to create small gardens in backyards, with each character contributing his or her home as the venue each week. Picnics, barbecues, and interesting pairings, like the one developing between Lili and the instructor, Edward, carry us along on the journey to nourishing a garden and a family of friends. Each chapter ends with snippets on growing a specific vegetable.

Lili fights the developing feelings, and tells herself she is not ready. Will she discover that her reluctance has more to do with feelings of betrayal for Dan? Or could there be more going on?

Set in Los Angeles, the story takes us into the lives of the characters…and the emotional situations range from sadness to love and warmth. A 5 star read for me.

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE PEOPLE AT NUMBER 9”

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 book I’ve had for a while:  The People at Number 9,  by Felicity Everett: Envy. Longing. Betrayal.

 

 

Intro:  Sara’s gaze drifted toward the window.  It was dark outside now, and she could see her own reflection superimposed like a hologram on the house across the road.  Their curtains were half-closed but the cold blue flicker of the TV could just be seen.  She imagined Gavin lounging in the Eames chair with a glass of red, Lou lolling barefoot on the sofa.  They might be watching an art-house movie together—or perhaps just slumming it with Saturday night telly.   It was all too easy to conjure—the flea-bitten hearth rug, the aroma of Pinot Noir mingled with woodsmoke.  Even after everything that had happened, the scene still had its allure.

***

Teaser:  The house had a neglected air on their return, as though they had been away for longer than a weekend.  Junk mail had rained onto the doormat, dust had gathered in the corners, the light bulb on the landing had blown. (73%).

***

Synopsis:  Have you met the new neighbors?

Sara and Neil have new neighbors in their street. Glamorous and chaotic, Gavin and Louise make Sara’s life seem dull. As the two couples become friends, sharing suppers, red wine and childcare, it seems a perfect couples-match. But the more Sara sees of Gav and Lou, the more she longs to change her own life. But those changes will come at a price.

***

What do you think?  Would you want to read more?  Get to know these neighbors?

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE PERFECT MOTHER”

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:  The Perfect Mother, by Aimee Molloy, is an addictive psychological thriller about a group of women whose lives become unexpectedly connected when one of their newborns goes missing.

 

Intro: (Prologue, Mother’s Day)

May 14

Joshua.

I wake, feverish.  The skylight above me pulses with rain, and I spider my fingers across the sheets, remembering I’m alone.  I close my eyes and find my way back to sleep, until I’m woken again, engulfed by a deep, sudden pain.  I’ve been waking with a sick feeling every morning since he left, but I know right away this is different.

Something’s wrong.

***

Teaser:  I need to get ahold of myself.  The best thing I can do right now is figure out where we’re going next, and hurry up and leave.  We obviously can’t stay here any longer.

Not with what I’ve just done. (52%).

***

Synopsis:  A night out. A few hours of fun. That’s all it was meant to be.

They call themselves the May Mothers—a group of new moms whose babies were born in the same month. Twice a week, they get together in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for some much-needed adult time.

When the women go out for drinks at the hip neighborhood bar, they want a fun break from their daily routine. But on this hot Fourth of July night, something goes terrifyingly wrong: one of the babies is taken from his crib. Winnie, a single mom, was reluctant to leave six-week-old Midas with a babysitter, but her fellow May Mothers insisted everything would be fine. Now he is missing. What follows is a heart-pounding race to find Midas, during which secrets are exposed, marriages are tested, and friendships are destroyed. 

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: THE NEW NEIGHBORS, BY SIMON LELIC

 

Londoners Jack and Syd found their dream home: lots of space, a great location, and a friendly owner who wanted a young couple to have it.

Everything is exactly what they hoped for when they move in–except Jack makes a disturbing discovery in the attic, and Syd begins to wonder about the girl next door. And they each keep the other in the dark.

A mistake.

Because someone has just been killed outside their back door, and now the police are watching them.

This is their chance to prove they’re innocent–or to get away with murder.

Whose story do you believe?

My Thoughts: Alternating narrators tell the story of The New Neighbors. Jack and Syd have reasons to keep secrets. Now the past is creeping up on them, but what will happen before they are finally free?

The story goes back and forth in time, and just when we think we know what is happening, more of the past is revealed…and we are suddenly unsure of both Jack and Syd. Neither appears reliable, and the reasons for their secrets and lies add complex layers to the tale.

Syd has taken the young neighbor girl Elsie under her wing. When she sees how Elsie’s father treats her, she is reminded of her own terrible father, and about how she needed someone to step up for her. Being a protector feels like finally escaping the past.

Themes of controlling and violent fathers hover throughout the story; from Syd’s father to Elsie’s, we can see the damage that a bad father can do. Damage that will affect the daughters moving forward. But it is also possible for at least one damaged daughter to show strength and courage, finding a way to extricate herself from what might seem like a permanent nightmare.

Until the very end, I kept vacillating, trying to decide the truth. Even as the author threw different possible scenarios into the mix, I kept hoping that, finally, all would be revealed. 4.5 stars.

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “NIGHT MOVES”

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 an Alex Delaware mystery:  Night Moves, by Jonathan Kellerman: The master of the psychological thriller makes all the right moves in this new novel of spellbinding suspense.

 

 

 

Intro:  Nice house.  If you put aside reality.

Sunset Boulevard, Sunday at ten thirty p.m., was an easy ride, cool April air sweetening the Seville’s interior.  To get here from my place in Beverly Glen, I’d driven through Bel Air and Brentwood, turned south a quarter mile into Pacific Palisades, continued through tree-lined stretches of architectural revivals:  Colonial, Spanish, Mediterranean, Greek, Unidentifiable.

***

Teaser:  When he collided with people, one eye winked and popped and drool dribbled from his slack mouth, a secretion often followed by copious productions of other body fluids. (p. 56).

***

Synopsis:  Even with all his years of experience, LAPD homicide detective Milo Sturgis knows there are crimes his skill and savvy cannot solve alone. That’s when he calls on brilliant psychologist Alex Delaware to read between the lines, where the darkest motives lurk. And if ever the good doctor’s insight is needed, it’s at the scene of a murder as baffling as it is brutal.

There’s no spilled blood, no evidence of a struggle, and, thanks to the victim’s missing face and hands, no immediate means of identification. And no telling why the disfigured corpse of a stranger has appeared in an upscale L.A. family’s home. Chet Corvin, his wife, and their two teenage children are certain the John Doe is unknown to them. Despite that, their cooperation seems guarded. And that’s more than Milo and Alex can elicit from the Corvins’ creepy next-door neighbor—a notorious cartoonist with a warped sense of humor and a seriously antisocial attitude.

As the investigation ensues, it becomes clear that this well-to-do suburban enclave has its share of curious eyes, suspicious minds, and loose lips. And as Milo tightens the screws on potential persons of interest—and Alex tries to breach the barriers that guard their deepest secrets—a strangling web of corrupted love, cold-blooded greed, and shattered trust is exposed. Though the grass may be greener on these privileged streets, there’s enough dirt below the surface to bury a multitude of sins. Including the deadliest.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: SISTERS LIKE US, BY SUSAN MALLERY

 

Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies.

Spending half her life in school hasn’t prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn’t inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey’s husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad…assuming Stacey can first find the courage to tell Mom she’s already six months pregnant.

Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings. Sisters Like Us is a delightful look at sisters, mothers and daughters in today’s fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery’s trademark warmth and humor.

My Thoughts: Sisters Like Us is a family story. One that shows the reader how the mother/daughter/sister bonds could be very challenging, but could also lead to the chance to watch the characters grow and change.

Harper is a fascinating woman who has taken on the task of single mother/business woman, and even tries to stand up to the criticism of her mother, Bunny, who seems to believe that she is the only one who knows the right way to be a woman.

Sixteen-year-old Becca feels ignored due to her mother’s full schedule, and as a result, she sulks and closes herself off instead of accepting her own part in the relationship issues.

Stacey is a brilliant scientist, pregnant at 40, with an unusual parenting plan ahead of her. She is terrified of her mother’s critical nature, and as a result, she is keeping a very big secret.

I liked the setting of Mischief Bay, and enjoyed how the characters interacted with one another.

Issues of abandonment, loss, and starting over kept me engaged until the last page. 5 stars.

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “SISTERS LIKE US”

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 library book I’m about to read:  Sisters Like Us, by Susan Mallery,  a delightful look at sisters, mothers and daughters in today’s fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery’s trademark warmth and humor.

 

 

Intro:  There wasn’t a holiday on the calendar that Harper Szymanski couldn’t celebrate, cook for, decorate, decoupage, create a greeting card about or wrap in raffia.  There were the biggies:  birthdays, New Years,  Fourth of July.  But also the lesser celebrated:  American Diabetes Association Alert Day, Auntie’s Day, National Massage Therapy Awareness Week.  Why weren’t there greeting cards to honor that?  Didn’t everyone need a good massage?

***

Teaser:  She grinned.  “Please don’t tell me you know someone who could take out the bride.  I might not be happy about the way Terence has acted, but I don’t want to do her harm.” (57%).

***

Synopsis:  Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can’t afford and a teenage daughter who’s pulling away. With her fledgling virtual-assistant business, she’s scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper’s fresh-baked cookies.

Spending half her life in school hasn’t prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn’t inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey’s husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad…assuming Stacey can first find the courage to tell Mom she’s already six months pregnant.

Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***

RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “THE FEMALE PERSUASION”

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 book I’m eager to read:  The Female Persuasion, by Meg Wolitzer, an electric novel not just about who we want to be with, but who we want to be.

 

 

 

Intro:  Greer Kadetsky met Faith Frank in October of 2006 at Ryland College, where Faith had come to deliver the Edmund and Wilhelmina Ryland Memorial Lecture; and though that night the chapel was full of students, some of them boiling over with loudmouthed commentary, it seemed astonishing but true that out of everyone there, Greer was the one to interest Faith.  Greer, a freshman then at this undistinguished school in southern Connecticut, was selectively and furiously shy.  She could give answers easily, but rarely opinions.

***

Teaser Tuesdays:  There was a dreadful suspension of time and a quick sequence of facial expressions he’d never seen on Greer before, and then she said, “You have got to be kidding me.”

***

Synopsis:  Greer Kadetsky is a shy college freshman when she meets the woman she hopes will change her life. Faith Frank, dazzlingly persuasive and elegant at sixty-three, has been a central pillar of the women’s movement for decades, a figure who inspires others to influence the world. Upon hearing Faith speak for the first time, Greer- madly in love with her boyfriend, Cory, but still full of longing for an ambition that she can’t quite place- feels her inner world light up. And then, astonishingly, Faith invites Greer to make something out of that sense of purpose, leading Greer down the most exciting path of her life as it winds toward and away from her meant-to-be love story with Cory and the future she’d always imagined.

Charming and wise, knowing and witty, Meg Wolitzer delivers a novel about power and influence, ego and loyalty, womanhood and ambition. At its heart, The Female Persuasion is about the flame we all believe is flickering inside of us, waiting to be seen and fanned by the right person at the right time. It’s a story about the people who guide and the people who follow (and how those roles evolve over time), and the desire within all of us to be pulled into the light.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***