REVIEW: THE BOOK CLUB, BY MARY ALICE MONROE

 

On the surface, it is a monthly book club. But for five women, it is so much more. For Eve Porter, whose husband’s sudden death cheats her of every security she had planned on, the club is a place of sanctuary. For Annie Blake, a brilliant attorney intent on starting a family late in life, it is the chance to finally let down her guard and dream of other possibilities. For Doris Bridges, it is her support group as she acknowledges her dying marriage and finds the ultimate freedom in her husband’s betrayal. For Gabriella Rivera, the “perfect” wife, mother and friend who offers support to everyone but is afraid to ask for it herself, it is a sense of community. And for Midge Kirsch, an artist who has always lived her life against the grain, it is a haven of acceptance.

They are five women from different walks of life, embracing the challenge of change. And as they share their hopes and fears and triumphs, they will hold fast to the true magic of the book club—friendship.

 

 

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Book Club, I was drawn into the lives of the five women facing life and its challenges, and how their love of books was just a tiny piece of what held them together.

Their stories flow alternately, and we see how their lives intersect, especially when they come together in times of joy and times of trouble.

Set in the 1990s, in suburban Chicago, the author shows us their lives in great detail, from the ordinary moments to the tragic ones. In the very beginning, at Tom’s funeral, something happens that puzzles a few of the characters, and I kept waiting for that secret to reveal itself, for the reader to find out what that was about. I had my suspicions, but they wouldn’t be realized until the story began to draw to an end.

A story of friendship, struggles, transitions, and a celebration of life…at times the tale was tedious, but the emotions and situations were real, spotlighting all the flaws of ordinary people and the choices they make along the way. 4.0 stars.

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REVIEW: THE FRENCH GIRL, BY LEXIE ELLIOTT

 

They were six university students from Oxford–friends and sometimes more than friends–spending an idyllic week together in a French farmhouse. It was supposed to be the perfect summer getaway…until they met Severine, the girl next door.

For Kate Channing, Severine was an unwelcome presence, her inscrutable beauty undermining the close-knit group’s loyalties amid the already simmering tensions. And after a huge altercation on the last night of the holiday, Kate knew nothing would ever be the same. There are some things you can’t forgive. And there are some people you can’t forget…like Severine, who was never seen again.

Now, a decade later, the case is reopened when Severine’s body is found in the well behind the farmhouse. Questioned along with her friends, Kate stands to lose everything she’s worked so hard to achieve as suspicion mounts around her. Desperate to resolve her own shifting memories and fearful she will be forever bound to the woman whose presence still haunts her, Kate finds herself buried under layers of deception with no one to set her free…

 

My Thoughts: In Kate’s first person voice, we follow the story in The French Girl. A mystery, possibly a murder, and suspicion that turns friends against one another as the investigator zeroes in on them all. Set in London, the story takes us to the French countryside as the investigator continues his search for a killer.

Kate is literally haunted by Severine, seeing her in various poses as she goes through her days and nights. Do the hauntings hint that she knows more than she thinks? Can she figure out the truth of what happened? Or will she finally realize that her memories have been hidden from her for a reason?

There were many characters to loathe, like Caro, whose presence in Kate’s life these days is an annoying and disturbing reminder of those feelings.

What about Tom, who seems to know more than he is letting on? And then there is Lara, her best friend, who might be hiding something, too.

And, years after their stunning break-up, Kate has to look again at her relationship with Seb…wondering if there are dark secrets she hadn’t previously considered.

I figured out the perpetrator early on, but couldn’t wait to see how it would all play out. I couldn’t stop turning pages, and I enjoyed how Kate’s world seemed to right itself in the end. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: SECRETS IN SUMMER, BY NANCY THAYER

 

Memorial Day weekend means that seasonal visitors have descended on the glamorous island of Nantucket. For year-round resident Darcy Cotterill, it means late-night stargazing in the backyard of the beautiful house she grew up in and inherited from her beloved grandmother. It’s also Darcy’s chance to hit the beach and meet her new summertime neighbors. But the last person the thirty-year-old librarian expects to see staying next door is her ex-husband, Boyz, along with his wife, Autumn, and stepdaughter, Willow.

Darcy must also navigate the highs and lows of a new romantic relationship with local carpenter Nash Forester even as she becomes smitten with handsome vacationer Clive Rush, a musicologist in town to write a book and visit family. And she finds herself pulled into the concerns of Boyz, Autumn, a charming elderly neighbor, and an at-risk teen.

As the season nears its end, Darcy must decide her next move: retreating to the comforts of her steady and secure island life, or risking it all for a chance at true happiness.


My Thoughts: Swept away by the author’s descriptions of the homes, gardens, people, summer events, and the magic of the island, I savored every page in Secrets in Summer. I felt an immediate connection to Darcy, whose grandmother Penny had raised her, having had a special relationship with my own grandmother. I could understand why she loved the home that had belonged to her, and where she grew up.

I could visualize the backyard gardens that were close together, separated only by hedges, which also lent themselves to unique connections. When Darcy found out that her ex-husband Boyz and his new wife were renting the house next door, I anticipated that there would be awkward moments. And there were, but what I didn’t expect was the relationship that would develop between Darcy and Boyz’s stepdaughter Willow.

In the rental house on the other side of Darcy’s were an elderly woman Mimi and her grandson Clive. Mimi was like a surrogate grandmother, but her vivid personality and her tendency to openly share her thoughts made her a more modern day version of Penny. All the new and old friends shared the delights of the season.

Themes of friendships, even those transitory summer connections, kept me interested throughout, as did the drama from Willow, who turned out to be a more likable teen than we usually see in fiction…or real life. Would Darcy find a permanent love connection with her lover, Nash, or might she choose someone new? A delightful story that made me long to visit Nantucket and find some summer friends that might even last through the seasons. 5 stars.

 ***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “DOMESTIC SECRETS”

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Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

It’s been a couple of weeks since I last participated, so I am eager to share one of my newer books today:  Domestic Secrets, by Rosalind Noonan.

 

 

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Beginning: (Early May)

The salon was hopping with all the music and conversation and laughter typical of a Saturday afternoon when his text came.  The ambient noise was so loud that Rachel Whalen would have missed the message if she hadn’t seen the screen of her cell light up on the counter as she swept up her station.

***

56:  One of Tootsie’s well-painted eyebrows lifted at the prospect.  Perhaps she hadn’t considered that her son might find a replacement girl.  (56%).

***

Blurb:  Rachel Whalen and Ariel Alexander have been friends for more than a decade. Despite their differences–down-to-earth Rachel owns a local hair salon; Ariel is a vivacious former TV star determined to hold on to her looks–they’ve helped each other navigate single motherhood, banding together against the soccer moms of Timbergrove, Oregon.

Yet lately, Rachel wonders about Ariel’s increasingly erratic parenting and her clandestine love life. And Rachel can’t reveal to anyone, even Ariel, how much she worries about her sullen, distant, younger son. When an unthinkable tragedy separates the two families, Rachel desperately tries to understand what went wrong. But as her assumptions are ripped away one by one, she must confront shattering revelations about the people she trusted and the suburban world that once seemed so safe.

Rosalind Noonan explores both the bonds and the gulfs that exist between parents and children, friends and neighbors, in a suspenseful novel that is honest, intelligent, and thought provoking.

***

I am definitely intrigued by the hint of secrets in any book…and secrets that can shake up friendships always seem so true to life.  What do you think?

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE GIRLS OF AUGUST”

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Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I enjoy sharing excerpts from books…and connecting with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is an e-book I recently downloaded because it seemed like a great nod to summer, and even though summer is almost over, I can still feel it in the air.  The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons, is a story about four women and the rituals that kept them together…for a while.

 

 

 

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Beginning:  Of all the fifteen summerhouses, the first one was the best.  That’s what we all agreed on, for a while, anyway…until we grew wiser, more measured in our joy, more careful with the doling out of praise.  Funny, we rarely agreed unanimously on anything, but for years there had been no doubt about the Colleton house.  At first glance it had seemed designed—brick, board, and shingle—for the girls of August.

***

56:  (Madison) Barbara hung on to the counter and said, “Woooo.  I think I’ve had too much bubbly.”

“Listen!” I said, happiness coursing through me like a sparrow on the wing.  “I think Teddy told me he loved me!”

Rachel took a drag and blew the smoke in a roiling stream, angling it so that it missed her eyes.  “Really?”

***

Blurb:  Every August, four women would gather together to spend a week at the beach, renting a new house each year. The ritual began when they were in their twenties and their husbands were in medical school, and became a mainstay of every summer thereafter. Their only criteria was oceanfront and isolation, their only desire to strengthen their far-flung friendships. They called themselves the Girls of August. But when one of the Girls dies tragically, the group slowly drifts apart and their vacations together are brought to a halt. Years later, a new marriage reunites them and they decide to come together once again on a remote barrier island off the South Carolina coast. There, far from civilization, the women make startling discoveries that will change them in ways they never expected.

***

What do you think?  Have you read this one?  Do the excerpts captivate you?  Come on by and share your thoughts.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: EXCERPTS FROM “ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS”

BOOKISH FRIDAY LOGO

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I enjoy sharing excerpts from books…and connecting with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What better way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is All the Summer Girls, by Meg Donohue, a rich and detailed novel about women, relationships, and forgiveness.

 

 

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Beginning:  (Kate)

In Philadelphia, Katherine Harrington stands in front of the bathroom mirror, waiting to see if her life is about to change.  It has been a while since she stopped and really looked at herself—not to smooth the frazzled antennae of fine brown hair along her part or to brush away the taste of her morning coffee or to apply the mascara she swipes on each and every day before work, but to just stand completely still and look.

***

56:  (Vanessa)

Lucy is in love with Vanessa’s mother, and Vanessa doesn’t blame her:  her mother is the sort of woman who seemed born to mother, as in the verb “to mother,” the way some seem destined “to lead.”  Her parents met at an antinuclear protest in D.C. in 1979; Vanessa’s mother, a white woman raised by a history professor and a sculptor, had been drawn to Vanessa’s black father because of his funny tweed beret and clear singing voice and what she called “his warm, calm, mauve-hued aura.”

***

Blurb:  All the Summer Girls by Meg Donohue is a riveting coming-of-age tale set on the New Jersey shore. Donohue, the author of the bestselling novel How to Eat a Cupcake, is a master of literary fiction; her skill is demonstrated in this absorbing and moving second novel.
Set among the sunsets and dunes, All the Summer Girls
is the story of how three former best friends, their lives rapidly unraveling, are reunited at the beach town of their past–where the ambiance of summer encourages them to explore new experiences they would never otherwise attempt.
When dark secrets threaten to surface, Kate, Vanessa, and Dani begin to realize just how much their lives–and friendships–have been shaped by the choices they made one fateful summer night years ago. In the hope of finally moving forward, the women turn to one another for forgiveness–but how can they forgive each other when they can’t forgive themselves?

***

What do you think?  I am eager to find out more; I love stories about friendship, especially when there is a rift and some dark secrets to unveil.

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