Monday, January 22, 2018

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah





What They Say......Alaska, 1974.


Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.
Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: he will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier. 
Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown. 
At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources. 
But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in eighteen hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: they are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves. 
In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska—a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night story about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.


What I Say....This was one of my favorite Kristin Hannah books.  I wasn't quite sure what to expect, and I'm no nature lover so the thought of moving not just to Alaska, but to off the grid Alaska, had me grinding my teeth.  What kind of parents do that to their child?  The answer is crazy ones.

Ernt has come back from the Vietnam war changed.  His wife is still madly in love with him and goes along with the frequent moves that come with the frequent job losses, and the paranoia that leads to quick anger and lack of sleep for the whole family.

When Ernt receives a letter from the family of a dead Army buddy, he doesn't hesitate to uproot his entire family to move into a house sight unseen.  No running water, no bathroom, no electricity, no nothing.

But Leni and her mother Cora make the best of a bad situation.  This was crazy to me, it's like it never occurred to the that there was any other option.  Although this was during a time when a woman couldn't have a credit card unless her father or husband co-signed for her.   Complete madness.

The years pass, and Leni develops an attraction to Matthew Walker, the richest boy in town, an attraction that is reciprocated.  But her father's paranoia has continued to grow, and his envy towards the Walker family is all consuming.  The means that Leni has to sneak around, not an easy task in a tiny town.

The best part of Kristin Hannah books is that they usually follow a large span of their character's lives, which I find immensely satisfying.  Every life has good times, bad times, births, deaths, and messy, messy relationships.  This book covers all of these chapters of life, set in the wilds of Alaska, where the landscape presents as much danger as the people who proclaim to love you.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.2



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Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Sisters of Glass Ferry by Kim Michele Richardson





What They Say.....Spanning several decades and written in an authentic voice both lyrical and wise, The Sisters of Glass Ferry is a haunting novel about small-town Southern secrets, loss and atonement, and the unbreakable bond between siblings.

Glass Ferry, Kentucky, is bourbon country. Whiskey has been a way of life for generations, enabling families to provide and survive even in the darkest times. Flannery Butler’s daddy, Beauregard “Honey Bee” Butler, was known for making some of the best whiskey in the state, aged in barrels he’d take by boat up and down the Kentucky River until the rocking waters turned the spirits smooth and golden. Flannery is the only person Honey Bee ever entrusted with his recipes before he passed on, swearing her to secrecy as he did so. 

But Flannery is harboring other secrets too, about her twin sister Patsy, older by eight minutes and pretty in a way Flannery knows she’ll never be. Then comes the prom night when Patsy—wearing a yellow chiffon dress and the family pearls—disappears along with her date. Every succeeding year on the twins’ birthday, Flannery’s mother bakes a strawberry cake, convinced that this is the day Patsy will finally come home. But it will be two tumultuous decades until the muddy river yields a clue about what happened that night, compelling Flannery to confront the truth about her sleepy town, her family’s past, and the choices she and those closest to her have made in the name of love and retribution . . .

What I Say.....The setup for this book seemed very promising.  Flannery and Patsy are twins growing up in Glass Ferry, Kentucky, daughters of a whiskey bootlegger.  They've been inseparable growing up, but now they are growing apart.  Patsy is interested in boys and the idea of escaping Glass Ferry, and Flannery is interested in everything staying the same.

The book goes back and forth in time.  From the time Patsy goes missing, to 20 years later, and then even fast forwards to present day.  The mystery is solved early on in the book, but then it turns into a character study.  The characters were all a bit cardboard, and I never got attached to any of them.  

You could see the outline of a great story, but none of them were given the attention they deserved.  They touched on a rape, domestic abuse, female imprisonment in an asylum, sterilization without consent, murder and then a ghost thrown in for good measure.  I think the author could have cut about  half of these out, and then explored what remained in greater detail. 

The overall storyline was good, it just needed a little more fleshing out.  It almost felt more like reading a really long synopsis.

Current Goodreads Rating 3.82


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Sunday, January 7, 2018

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin





What They Say.....Here is a truth that can't be escaped: for Mia "Rabbit" Hayes, life is coming to an end . . .

Rabbit Hayes loves her life, ordinary as it is, and the extraordinary people in it. She loves her spirited daughter, Juliet; her colorful, unruly family; the only man in her big heart, Johnny Faye. But it turns out the world has other plans for Rabbit, and she's okay with that. Because she has plans for the world too, an only a handful of days left to make them happen. 

Here is a truth that won't be forgotten: this is a story about laughing through life's surprises and finding the joy in every moment.


What I Say.....So I have had this on my shelf for a loooonng time.  And it just kept getting put aside for other books, not because I didn't want to read it, but because it just didn't seem to be the right time.

But I have recently joined a book club and December was my month to choose the book.  As I looked through my TBR shelf, The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes jumped out at me.  I chose it and we will be discussing it on December 16, so I can't publish this review until after then.

I will say straight off, there were a lot a tears shed reading this book.  I thought it was going to be more uplifting, and it was in many ways, but there was no escaping that a daughter, sister and mother was ending her life way too soon.

And as we begin to go back over Rabbit's life, we learn that her relationships are solid and loving and utterly ordinary but no less important.  

I don't want to offer any spoilers, and it turns out about as you expect even though I had moments where I thought this is one of the perks of writing a book, the ability to change the story, creating a happy ending where there isn't one possible in real life, but it wasn't to be.

It ended as happily as it could and I shed a lot of therapeutic tears for Rabbit.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.25

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

Weekly Book Haul......December 31, 2017








Stacking the Shelves is a weekly book meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews, The Sunday Post is another great site hosted by The Caffeinated Book Reviewer.  The Sunday Salon is a Facebook page where great readers share what they've read this week and Mailbox Monday is a weekly roundup of the new books people have received.

I always struggle with blogging in December.  There just seems to be so much that needs to be done between end of year work and then getting ready for the holidays.  So I didn't add to much to my TBR file, but I read a TON and now I'm devoting today to catching up on all the blogging.  So I'm on the couch, tucked into a blanket, with my laptop fired up.

2018 will be a year of change.  One of my best friends moved to Utah, my daughter and son in law are relocating to Texas, and I'm trying hard to deny both of these facts.  But February will feel very different to me.  And I think I'll be flying a lot more next year.

On a positive note, I was chosen to be a Karen White ambassador - which I probably got a little too excited about since I got the email at work during a long meeting.  Oops.  I'll get more information about what exactly that means in the new year but as a devoted fan, I'll do whatever I can!  Have you read The Night the Lights Went Out?  It was one of my favorites of 2017.

Fittingly, my only add these past few weeks was.....

Dreams of Falling by Karen White.....From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night the Lights Went Out comes an exquisite new novel about best friends, family ties and the love that can both strengthen and break those bonds.

New York Times bestselling author Karen White crafts evocative relationships in this new contemporary women's fiction novel about best friends who share a devastating secret, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina.

It's been nine years since Larkin fled Georgetown, South Carolina, vowing never to go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she knows she has no choice but to return to the place that she both loves and dreads--and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home. Ivy, Larkin's mother, is discovered in the burned out wreckage of her family's ancestral rice plantation, badly injured and unconscious. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly 50 years. Secrets that lead back to the past, to the friendship between three girls on the brink of womanhood who swore that they would be friends forever, but who found that vow tested in heartbreaking ways.

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Sunday, December 10, 2017

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner




What They Say....Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women—past and present—in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides—and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.


What I Say....I started this book on vacation, and I thought it was something else.  I was about a quarter way in when I realized it wasn't the book I thought I had chosen and then I realized I didn't care.

Brette has always known that she has a gift, she sees and hears people that others don't.  However, she's spent her whole life trying to hide her abilities in an effort to have a "normal" life.  But she is asked to visit the Queen Mary in an effort to help a young child who has lost their mother, so she puts her own concerns aside in an effort to help.

Brette's story was interwoven, but as it so often happens with novels that go back and forth in time, I was much more interested in the story set during the end of WWII.

There are two women who appear to be on very different paths collide on the Queen Mary in order to come to America to join their husbands.  Not everyone is who they appear to be, and I found myself irritated when the storyline would switch time periods, but that's a good thing because I was so interested in the storyline.

This was a great read, and the way the stories all came together at the end was entirely satisfying.  Highly recommend this book.

Current Goodreads Rating 3.81
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