RAINY DAY EXCERPTS: “LITTLE BROKEN THINGS”

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 recent download:  Little Broken Things, by Nicole Baart.   An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl.

 

 

Intro:  The little girl’s hair is fine as cornsilk.  It pours through the scissors like water and spills to the floor, a waterfall of white.

“Beautiful,” I breathe, squeezing her narrow shoulders with hands that tremble.  My voice wavers, too, and I swallow hard.  Not now.  “You look like Tinker Bell.”

“I don’t want to look like Tinker Bell.”  One small hand reaches up and up, searching for the fountain of curls that cascaded down her back only moments before.  Now ringlets frame her ears, perfect curlicues that tickle the nape of her neck and flirt with the greening Hello Kitty earrings she’s been wearing day and night for at least a month.

***

Teaser:  He ignored her.  “Where is her mother?  Her father?  She didn’t just appear out of thin air.  I think we should check the news for a report of a missing child.” (p. 56).

***

Synopsis:  I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn’s house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

***

What do you think?  Do the snippets capture your interest?  Would you keep reading?

***

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BOOK REVIEW: MERRY & BRIGHT, BY DEBBIE MACOMBER

 

Merry Knight is pretty busy these days. She’s taking care of her family, baking cookies, decorating for the holidays, and hoping to stay out of the crosshairs of her stressed and by-the-book boss at the consulting firm where she temps. Her own social life is the last thing she has in mind, much less a man. Without her knowledge, Merry’s well-meaning mom and brother create an online dating profile for her—minus her photo—and the matches start rolling in. Initially, Merry is incredulous, but she reluctantly decides to give it a whirl.

Soon Merry finds herself chatting with a charming stranger, a man with similar interests and an unmistakably kind soul. Their online exchanges become the brightest part of her day. But meeting face-to-face is altogether different, and her special friend is the last person Merry expects—or desires. Still, sometimes hearts can see what our eyes cannot. In this satisfying seasonal tale, unanticipated love is only a click away.

 


My Thoughts: From the first page of Merry and Bright, I was swept away into this romantic tale of finding love in the 21st Century, with online dating sites proliferating all around.

I also enjoyed the play on the characters’ names: Merry Knight works for Jayson Bright…and their worlds could not be more different. At work, he seems cranky and stressed and a little bit annoying, with his stick-to-the-rules regime.

After her mother and brother create an online profile for Merry, she finds herself connecting and regularly chatting with someone named Jay…who, coincidentally, also shows his dog as his profile photo.

What will happen when the two decide to meet? Merry can’t believe what she discovers as she approaches the Starbucks meeting place. How could she have been so naïve?

In the rest of the story, we see how misunderstandings, near misses, and unexpected events bring them to a point of reexamining what they thought they knew. Delightful holiday feels in a setting I love: Seattle. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: THE STORIED LIFE OF A. J. FIKRY, BY GABRIELLE ZEVIN

 

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. He lives alone, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. But when a mysterious package appears at the bookstore, its unexpected arrival gives Fikry the chance to make his life over–and see everything anew.   

My Thoughts: When I downloaded The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, I was looking forward to reading it…and expected to do so very soon. But life got in the way…and other books seemed to take precedence. So here I am, three years later, wondering what possessed me to let this charming book languish on my shelf.

But timing is everything, and when I did pick up this book, I fully immersed myself in it and felt a deep connection to the characters, the setting, and the feeling of being surrounded by books in one’s daily life.

I loved the idea of getting on a ferry and going to Alice Island to a charming bookstore, and I felt myself joining the character Amelia Loman, a publisher’s representative, as she made her first journey out there. Her first reactions to A.J. Fikry, a gruff and somewhat blunt character kept me turning the pages, happily enjoying the growing connection between Amelia and A.J.

And then there was Maya, a baby left in the bookstore with a note for A.J.

The story followed the characters over a period of years, and I couldn’t wait to see what each of them would do with their lives. Books were always the centerpiece, and when obstacles arose, or sadness came calling, the books carried them all along. The books helped them connect to characters, but also to others with whom they could talk about books. Definitely a sentiment to which bookish people can relate. 5 stars.

***

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.

***

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?

***