Monday, March 20, 2023

Mad Honey by Jodi Picoult and Jennifer Finney Boylan

 I found myself enjoying this book more than I thought I would.  I have read quite a few of Picoult's novels and some I have loved, while others dragged a bit for me.  This one goes into the "loved it" category.   On Goodreads I tend to give a lot of 4's.  Even if I really liked a book sometimes it is just isn't enough to make me think, "This deserves a 5!", but this one did.

According to the Goodreads synopsis, this book is:

A soul-stirring novel about what we choose to keep from our past, and what we choose to leave behind.

Olivia McAfee knows what it feels like to start over. Her picture-perfect life—living in Boston, married to a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon, raising a beautiful son, Asher—was upended when her husband revealed a darker side. She never imagined she would end up back in her sleepy New Hampshire hometown, living in the house she grew up in, and taking over her father's beekeeping business.

Lily Campanello is familiar with do-overs, too. When she and her mom relocate to Adams, New Hampshire, for her final year of high school, they both hope it will be a fresh start.

And for just a short while, these new beginnings are exactly what Olivia and Lily need. Their paths cross when Asher falls for the new girl in school, and Lily can’t help but fall for him, too. With Ash, she feels happy for the first time. Yet at times, she wonders if she can she trust him completely . . .

Then one day, Olivia receives a phone call: Lily is dead, and Asher is being questioned by the police. Olivia is adamant that her son is innocent. But she would be lying if she didn’t acknowledge the flashes of his father’s temper in him, and as the case against him unfolds, she realizes he’s hidden more than he’s shared with her.

Mad Honey is a riveting novel of suspense, an unforgettable love story, and a moving and powerful exploration of the secrets we keep and the risks we take in order to become ourselves.

Who can you trust and how well do you know even the people you are closest to?  Olivia has done a remarkable job starting over again in her hometown in the house she grew up in.  She loves her son and his girlfriend.  When the unthinkable happens and Asher's girlfriend is found dead and he is brough in as a suspect she starts to doubt both herself and even him.  Could his father's abusive temperament have been passed down?  Did he see enough as a child to rewire his brain?  Who would have wanted Lily dead?

Going back into the past in people's memories and seeing more and more about Lily and her life before coming to New Hampshire starts to paint a much larger picture, but there was a twist that I did not see coming that seemed like it answered the question of why Lily was killed, but at the same time did not.

I read this over the course of just a couple of days because I wanted to see the conclusion of the mystery.  I didn't even realize until I went to write this up that there were two authors for this book.  I listened to the audiobook and the thumbnail was super small for the book.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron


This book has been on my want to read list for quite some time.  One of the book clubs I attend picked it for this month's read and I was excited to dive in, but I didn't like it quite as much as I thought I would based on the star ratings on Goodreads.  I felt a bit like I was in a soap opera, walking along in the present with the main character.  Daniel starts out as a ten-year-old boy and gets to be age 18 in the main part of the story.  The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, where Daniel went with his father was enchanting.  Just the right book was waiting for you among it's stacks and it would speak to you and let you find it.  Each book was there to be preserved for others.  So starts Daniel's desire to find out more about the author of his chosen book, Julien Carax, and to find more of his books.  But someone has been finding the few books there were and destroying them by setting them on fire.

The blurb from the back cover from Goodreads says:
Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julian Carax. But when he sets out to find the author's other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax's books in existence. Soon Daniel's seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona's darkest secrets--an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love.

Barcelona came to life in a dark way, the Barcelona of 1945 did not strike me as a place I would have wanted to visit.  It seemed like in the shadow of recovery from the war there was a lot of fear and darkness, all the homes and apartments that were visited were dark for the most part.  Some of the characters were very believable, but people falling in love in one day to me was not.  Being able to ascertain that a woman was pregnant one day after having had sex was not.

I both read a paperback copy and listened to an audio version and it was interesting that they were two different translations.  The print copy I have is the one the picture above came from, but the translators used different word choices in multiple places.  I wonder how the experience would have been if  I were able to read it in Spanish as it was written.  

I am not sure if being on a timeline to finish is what took some of the enjoyment out of it, but I do not think I will be hunting down more books in what appears to be a series about the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, though that was the part I most liked about this book so maybe I will change my mind.

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Daisy Darker by Alice Feeney


I listened to this book over the course of 24 hours, I just couldn't seem to walk away from it. It kept pulling me back in. According to Goodreads, "

The New York Times bestselling Queen of Twists returns…with a family reunion that leads to murder.

After years of avoiding each other, Daisy Darker’s entire family is assembling for Nana’s 80th birthday party in Nana’s crumbling gothic house on a tiny tidal island. Finally back together one last time, when the tide comes in, they will be cut off from the rest of the world for eight hours.

The family arrives, each of them harboring secrets. Then at the stroke of midnight, as a storm rages, Nana is found dead. And an hour later, the next family member follows…

Trapped on an island where someone is killing them one by one, the Darkers must reckon with their present mystery as well as their past secrets, before the tide comes in and all is revealed.

With a wicked wink to Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, Daisy Darker’s unforgettable twists will leave readers reeling.

I thought I had the twist figured out a time or two as I could recall the twist in Sometimes I Lie and Rock, Paper, Scissors which were a bit similar in their twists, but this one was not what I was expecting. I got some things right, but others all wrong which to me makes it an even better book, I like when the clues are there, but maybe not enough to come around to the totally correct solution.

I really liked Daisy and Nana, they were probably my favorites. Some of the others seemed a but like caricature at some points, but maybe that was so that I wouldn't feel bad as one by one the family members died at the stroke of the next hour.

The house was cut off from the mainland during high tide and only accessible by boat at that time. It had no cell service and Nana had recently canceled her phone line. The perfect recipe for a murder to come around, during a storm, when everyone is trapped in the house or nearby land and unable to reach anyone else.

It would be the perfect read on a cold winter night with the wind outside, you'd feel like you were inside the book with Daisy and her sisters trying to figure out who was picking them off one by one!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

The Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware

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My thoughts:  This is the fourth Ruth Ware novel I've read.  There are definitely some similarities between books, but somehow the settings and the issues the characters encounter are varied enough to still be interesting.  This one may just be my favorite of the four or else it is just my most recent.

Hal is lost, her mother died a few years before.  She has no friends, still lives in the flat she shared with her mother and runs her Tarot Card reading table at a local pier.  Right after her mother's death she borrowed some money from a loan shark who is now demanding a repayment of 6 times what she borrowed, which she doesn't have.  Then, she receives a notice saying she has an inheritance from a grandmother.  Except the name of her grandmother is wrong, last name is good, but the names her mother told her were different.  But, she is broke and hopes that maybe she will get enough to pay back the loan and maybe take a small vacation or get ahead, so she boards a train to go to the funeral and will reading.

She meets her three uncles, but not uncles as she doesn't believe she is the daughter of their sister as they think, and finds herself in a drafty, huge country house relegated to an attic room with no heat and locks on the outside of the door and bars on the window even though it is on the top floor of the house.  A crusty old housekeeper who hates everyone and some odd events.

When the will is read and she has inherited the whole estate there are issues, guilt on her part and disbelief on the part of the uncles.  Then odd things happen, her light bulb and that in the hallway to her room are smashed.  The housekeeper warns her away.  Her uncle gives her an old  photo that contains the uncles as well as their sister and a distant cousin and her mother is in the picture!  Her mother was there, but it doesn't make sense.

Pieces keep getting put together and it is like you can almost feel her reaching an aha moment as calamities occur and you wonder exactly who is working against her and why. 

I enjoyed the suspense and found myself wanting to keep listing to see what she discovered next!  I owned a copy of this book and had in on my shelf for about a year,  but ended up borrowing the audio version from the library and finishing it in just a few days!

Monday, January 20, 2020

Chances Are by Richard Russo


My thoughts: I read this book for an upcoming book club and when I checked it out of the library I wasn't sure I was looking forward to reading it.  I would read a bit before bed each night, but never felt like it was hard to put down and even mixed up the three main characters a bit.  The beginning was a lot more telling than showing and letting you get to know the characters in their own time, but then I got into it.  I know a lot of people wouldn't have pushed past the beginning, but I am glad I did.  Three men in their sixties meet on Martha's Vineyard for the weekend at the end of the summer in 2015, which is how they ended their time at college at the beginning of the summer in 1971, except that time the woman they were all in love with was there with them.  The college friend who was a part of their group of Musketeers, but also the one they all hoped to be with.

After that weekend she disappeared and no one knew what had become of her and her memory haunts the men more than it has in years because it feels like her ghost is there, maybe actually there if some theories are to be believed.

Going into this I did not realize  it was going to be a mystery that they were going to be unraveling.  Each of them had crystal clear memories of some things and had forgotten others, but together they worked to put the pieces together.  Each of the chapters is written from one of the men's pov, so you get to see how they think and what their inner life is like.

I had a lot of questions about how the women of their mother's generations had lived their lives and if it was by choice or due to the habits and attitudes of the time they were born and grew into. 

I went from easily putting this book down to reading the second half over the course of a day because I wanted to find out what really happened and put all the pieces together.  I've never read one of Russo's books before and I see in other reviews that some readers feel like this is different than his other books,  but I may give another one a try.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Happy New Year!

You know how we all set goals for the new year and then you hear that most people stop attempting to meet them by the fourth day of the year?  I must miss that memo every year, because I keep working all the way to the end of the year.  I don't always make the goal, there are times I fall short or have set backs, maybe I make it half way and then somehow turn the other direction, but I am still working towards the goal even with the back sliding.  This year I set a goal to read 75 books and to also keep better track of my reading.  In 2019 I read at least 55, but I think it was more and my tracking methods were off.  I have a new way of tracking on paper and two apps so we'll see if I am able to keep up this year!  As of this morning I reached 10 books finished in 2020.  10 out of 75!  So, right now it is looking to be an achieveable goal.  Who knows, maybe I will get busy and barely have time to read or maybe I will read so much I will exceed my goal.  So along with that goal, I also want to actually make the time to share what I've read and what I think about it.  This is a goal I've set and fallen short of quite a few times, but again, maybe this time is the time it will stick!

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

From the authors website:
THE BLOCKBUSTER HIT—A #1 New York TimesUSA Today, Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller
Memphis, 1939. Twelve-year-old Rill Foss and her four younger siblings live a magical life aboard their family’s Mississippi River shantyboat. But when their father must rush their mother to the hospital one stormy night, Rill is left in charge—until strangers arrive in force. Wrenched from all that is familiar and thrown into a Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage, the Foss children are assured that they will soon be returned to their parents—but they quickly realize the dark truth. At the mercy of the facility’s cruel director, Rill fights to keep her sisters and brother together in a world of danger and uncertainty.
Aiken, South Carolina, present day. Born into wealth and privilege, Avery Stafford seems to have it all: a successful career as a federal prosecutor, a handsome fiancé, and a lavish wedding on the horizon. But when Avery returns home to help her father weather a health crisis, a chance encounter leaves her with uncomfortable questions and compels her to take a journey through her family’s long-hidden history, on a path that will ultimately lead either to devastation or to redemption.

Based on one of America’s most notorious real-life scandals—in which Georgia Tann, director of a Memphis-based adoption organization, kidnapped and sold poor children to wealthy families all over the country—Lisa Wingate’s riveting, wrenching, and ultimately uplifting tale reminds us how, even though the paths we take can lead to many places, the heart never forgets where we belong.

My thoughts:
This family really tugged at my heart and made me wonder if this was based on real events.  This family is fictional, but the Tennessee Children's Home Society was real and really did procure children through all sorts of methods to adopt out for a fee.  Some were kidnapped, some coerced from poor families, some taken when parents signed papers they didn't understand.

I like how the story unfolded, while part of me just wanted them to spill who was who and what had happened to them,  it unfolded in just the fight way.  

What kind of mark does it leave on children to be treated as they were in that home and to wonder for years what had happened to siblings?  Why did they feel the need to hide the truth from even their families?  Did the stigma still linger?

This book and this family were so real I wanted to find out more about the real survivors of the TCHS.