REVIEW: HAVE YOU SEEN ME?, BY KATE WHITE

The key to her missing memories could bring relief—or unlock her worst nightmares.

On a cold, rainy morning, finance journalist Ally Linden arrives soaked to the bone at her Manhattan office, only to find that she’s forgotten her keycard. When her boss shows, he’s shocked to see her—because, he explains, she hasn’t worked there in five years.

Ally knows her name, but is having trouble coming up with much beyond that, though after a trip to the psychiatric ER, she begins to piece together important facts: she lives on the Upper West Side; she’s now a freelance journalist; she’s married to a terrific man named Hugh. More memories materialize and yet she still can’t recall anything about the previous two days. Diagnosed as having experienced a dissociative state, she starts to wonder if it may have been triggered by something she saw. Could she have witnessed an accident—or worse—had something happened to her?

Desperate for answers, Ally tries to track where she spent the missing days, but every detail she unearths points to an explanation that’s increasingly ominous, and it’s clear someone wants to prevent her from learning where those forty-eight hours went. In order to uncover the truth, Ally must dig deep into the secrets of her past—and outsmart the person who seems determined to silence her.

 

Ally’s nightmare trauma has turned into her new reality, as she tries to sort through her actions in the days that went missing. Clues she gathered from the depths of her mind and her memories only led to partial answers until a private detective begins helping her figure out her actions during the missing hours.

Another clue comes in the form of a past traumatic event that might have triggered her break from reality.

But before she finally reaches a resolution, she finds herself in more danger than she could have imagined, and from a totally unexpected source. Along the way, she realizes there are few people she can even trust.

Have You Seen Me? is a captivating book that kept me turning pages until suddenly the pieces fell into place. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE FAVORITE DAUGHTER, BY PATTI CALLAHAN HENRY

 

Ten years ago, Lena Donohue experienced a wedding-day betrayal so painful that she fled the small town of Watersend, South Carolina, and reinvented herself in New York City. Though now a freelance travel writer, the one place she rarely goes is home—until she learns of her dad’s failing health.

Returning to Watersend means seeing the sister she has avoided for a decade and the brother who runs the family’s Irish pub and has borne the burden of his sisters’ rift. While Alzheimer’s slowly steals their father’s memories, the siblings rush to preserve his life in stories and in photographs. As his secret past brings Lena’s own childhood into focus, it sends her on a journey to discover the true meaning of home.

My Thoughts: Colleen and Hallie were as close as two sisters could be until the betrayal that changed everything between them. I was immediately caught up in the family stories that unfolded in The Favorite Daughter, and for most of the book, I was angry with Hallie, on Colleen’s behalf. But then, almost like turning a page and finding a completely different version of reality, another perspective revealed itself.

The pub that was the centerpiece of the family life in Watersend was based on an Irish pub and another family story that was only fleshed out near the end. A journey to Ireland, a travel memoir that incorporates Colleen’s search for home, and the ultimate reunion kept me turning pages until the end. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE RED ADDRESS BOOK, BY SOFIA LUNDBERG

 

Meet Doris, a 96-year-old woman living alone in her Stockholm apartment. She has few visitors, but her weekly Skype calls with Jenny—her American grandniece, and her only relative—give her great joy and remind her of her own youth.

When Doris was a girl, she was given an address book by her father, and ever since she has carefully documented everyone she met and loved throughout the years. Looking through the little book now, Doris sees the many crossed-out names of people long gone and is struck by the urge to put pen to paper. In writing down the stories of her colorful past—working as a maid in Sweden, modelling in Paris during the 30s, fleeing to Manhattan at the dawn of the Second World War—can she help Jenny, haunted by a difficult childhood, unlock the secrets of their family and finally look to the future? And whatever became of Allan, the love of Doris’s life?

 

My Thoughts: I was hooked on The Red Address Book from the very first page. I loved Doris, who at 96, looks back on the life she has led, filling in her memories from names in her address book. Stories she narrated for us in alternating storylines take us to the past and then bring us back to the present. I felt as if Doris was a friend, and that her experiences in the past could have happened to people I knew and loved.

Jenny is her great niece, with whom she Skypes regularly. So when Doris falls, and then later has a medical crisis, Jenny comes to her in Stockholm, bringing along her youngest child, Tyra. The reunion fills in the blanks for Jenny, and also brings closure to Doris about some missing parts of her life. There was a great feeling of joy, as well as sadness, as the book came to a close.

This memorable story is one that I will never forget, and it earned 5 stars,

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REVIEW: DREAM OF THE BLUE ROOM, BY MICHELLE RICHMOND

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Jenny, our first person narrator, had been friends with Amanda Ruth Lee since childhood. They grew up together in Alabama, and their days and hours spent in a unique boathouse with a blue room is a time that Jenny often remembers now.

For Amanda Ruth is dead. Murdered 14 years before.

Dream of the Blue Room carries us back and forth in time, with the present tense narration our clue to what is going on in Jenny’s world nowadays. She is on a cruise ship, visiting China, as a last remembrance to Amanda Ruth, whose father was Chinese. She is traveling with Dave, her husband, from whom she has been separated for two months, living on separate sides of Central Park in Manhattan. She is carrying Amanda Ruth’s ashes in a unique tin box. Does Jenny hope that the trip will bring her closer to Dave again? Will Dave’s need to “rescue” those around him help them reconnect?

As we learn more about Mr. Lee and his thoughts and feelings toward Amanda Ruth and her sexual orientation, we have to wonder why honoring her father would have been a wish of hers. But sometimes, the mind is a curious thing.

We also see how Jenny and Dave first fell in love, what drew them together, and what has slowly pulled them apart. Does Dave know the secret life that Jenny and Amanda Ruth shared? Did he hope to rescue her from that life?

On the ship, Jenny meets a man named Graham. Theirs is a unique bond that grows with each day. What will Graham ask of Jenny before they part? What will happen to her afterwards?

The story had a mournful tone, with all the dreams and imaginings…and there were a few answers to some crucial questions as we moved along. But were they really answers, or more imaginings? I couldn’t stop reading this book, but it left me feeling disoriented…and a little sad. 4 stars.

REVIEW: THE HOUSE OF MEMORIES, BY MONICA MCINERNEY

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Arabella (Ella) Fox has learned a lot about loss in her life, beginning in childhood with her parents’ divorce.

But before that happened, while they were still a family living in Melbourne, Ella’s most vivid memories happened in a three-story terrace house in London, near the Paddington Station. The home where she first met her Uncle Lucas and was astounded by his messy house and his treasured fox collection. She was only seven then.

Her connection to Lucas Fox would continue over the years, and included their exchange of various faxes as a way of communicating.

Ella’s life after the divorce would be a time of adjustment, learning to live with a stepfather, a stepbrother, Charlie, whom she actually loved…and then along came Jessica, when Ella was eleven. Jessica would be a thorn in her side for many years. The spoiled child who had both her parents and loved having all the attention focused on just her.

But eventually Ella and Aidan met, on one of her visits to Lucas’s house, and the two married and had a son Felix.

When a tragedy befalls them all, Ella would flee back to London, where she immersed herself in Lucas’s world, and the world of the boarders he mentored…and tried to forget. And struggled with her rage. Her isolation would only increase her pain, however.

House of Memories was a beautifully wrought saga of family, loss, of emotions unacknowledged that grow and fester…and the story unfolds from various perspectives, beginning with our primary first person narrator, Ella. Occasionally, we glimpse Jessica’s perspective in her flamboyant diary entries. And then another narration consists of letters to Felix from an unknown sender…revealed at the end.

How would all of these characters reunite? What would need to happen before healing begins? I know that I cried occasionally throughout this story…and then, at the conclusion, my tears of joy were my way of showing how I felt about the denoument. 5 stars.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: EXCERPTING “THE HOUSE OF MEMORIES”

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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 featured book has been relaxing on Pippa for a while, but now I can’t wait to open it:  The House of Memories, by Monica McInerney.

 

 

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Beginning:  The first time I met my uncle Lucas I tried to steal something from him.  It’s ironic, really, considering what he would ask me to do twenty-six years later.

I was seven, on a visit to London with my mother and my father, Lucas’s younger brother.

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56:  Years later, Charlie told me that he’d thought I was really sad when he first met me.  I said that I thought he was really fat.

“I was fat,” he said.

“I was sad,” I said.

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Blurb:  Months after a tragic accident, Ella O’Hanlon flees to London in an attempt to escape her grief, leaving behind the two people she blames for her loss: Aidan, the love of her life, and Jess, her spoiled half-sister. Taken in by her beloved uncle Lucas, Ella discovers that his extraordinary house holds many wonderful memories for her…and his group of transitory boarders provides a refreshing and welcome emotional tonic. But as Ella settles into a comfortable new role as unofficial cook and housemother, Jess secretly comes to London to pursue her own dreams, precipitating an unexpected family reunion and an exploration of the heart—one famished for love, for healing, and for forgiveness.

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What do you think?  Do these excerpts tempt you to read on?

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