Friday, October 21, 2016

The Girls in the Garden by Lisa Jewell

What They Say....Imagine that you live on a picturesque communal garden square, an oasis in urban London where your children run free, in and out of other people’s houses. You’ve known your neighbors for years and you trust them. Implicitly. You think your children are safe. But are they really?
On a midsummer night, as a festive neighborhood party is taking place, preteen Pip discovers her thirteen-year-old sister Grace lying unconscious and bloody in a hidden corner of a lush rose garden. What really happened to her? And who is responsible?

Dark secrets, a devastating mystery, and the games both children and adults play all swirl together in this gripping novel, packed with utterly believable characters and page-turning suspense.

What I Say....I've read a few of Lisa Jewell's books, and I always love the complicated family dynamics that are her hallmark.  The Girls in the Garden definitely shows her mark.

The story starts out with Pip finding her sister unresponsive, with her clothing pulled off of her in the middle of the park after dark, but then quickly backtracks into the months prior to the attack.

Pip and Grace's father has had a schizophrenic break, burning their house down before he was committed to a mental health facility.  This leads to them moving into a small home backed up to the communal park shared by many families.  

The girls quickly befriend the hippie family with three strange, homeschooled daughters who roam the park freely - kind of like free range parenting.   Add in another little girl, who is jealous of the attention the new arrivals are receiving and a cute boy, and you are set up for pre-teen hormones and drama.

Adding to the weirdness is the fact that most of the kids parents also grew up in these houses, and one of their friends was killed when they were all teens.  The mystery was never solved, and they all still seem to suspect each other's involvement in some latent way.

Adele and Leo have his father staying with them while he has a foot amputated due to diabetes, and he is a perv, and just a generally awful human.  Leo is a bit of a question mark, you wonder how far the apple falls from that tree, and he has a history of liking pretty young girls.  And Adele seems to live in lala land, so you can't be sure she has a solid grasp on anything happening right under her nose.

I enjoyed the book and it was very complicated, as all relationships tend to be, but I do feel that at the end, it was all wrapped up too quickly and too neatly.  

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Sunday, October 16, 2016

Weekly Book Haul......October 16, 2016

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've been a terrible blogger lately.  I haven't posted my weekly round up for two weeks, with fall upon us, I feel like I've been so busy that I haven't had time.  Not that I'm doing anything remarkable, just errands, hiking, chores, etc.  I've just had one of those time periods where opening the laptop seems overwhelming.

The holidays are coming up quickly, which can be both joyous and stressful.  Although it seems like everyone elses family loves getting together, in my family, it seems like it magnifies any discord or broken bonds, bringing added stress to the time where it seems like everyone else has the picture perfect holiday.

But I've been reading a lot, which is a lot more enjoyable than writing.  I just finished The Next by Stephanie Gangi which was maddening and Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Levitt which was amazing.  Reviews to come....

I haven't added much, but a few looked too good to resist.

Pretty Little World by Elizabeth LaBan and Melissa DePino.....On a cozy street in Philadelphia,
three neighboring families have become the best of friends. They can’t imagine life without one another—until one family outgrows their tiny row house. 

In a bid to stay together, a crazy idea is born: What if they tear down the walls between their homes and live together under one roof? And so an experiment begins.

Celia and Mark now have the space they need. But is this really what Celia’s increasingly distant husband wants? Stephanie embraces the idea of one big, happy family, but has she considered how it may exacerbate the stark differences between her and her husband, Chris? While Hope always wanted a larger family with Leo, will caring for all the children really satisfy that need?
Behind closed doors, they strive to preserve the closeness they treasure. But when boundaries are blurred, they are forced to question their choices…and reimagine the true meaning of family.

Solo by Jill Mansell.....It all starts at a party, as these things often do...

A one-night stand with far-reaching consequences 
Momentarily enamored guests going home with all the wrong people
An unfaithful wife struck by jealousy and getting a dose of her own medicine
A shocking family secret revealed at the worst possible moment 
One fling follows another, and now the whole community is embroiled in a great big web of deceit, the untangling of which will charm you, amuse you, make you laugh and make you cry. 
Whatever's going on in your life, Solo by Jill Mansell is the perfect distraction right about now...

The Other Sister by Dianne Dixon....Morgan’s twin sister has everything, and she hates her for it. A
terrifying crime reveals that those who know us best can either destroy us…or save us.
Ali and Morgan are sisters, fraternal twins who from the moment of their birth share a strangely intertwined existence. But then their connection is abruptly fractured by a series of startling changes that begin when Ali suddenly moves from Rhode Island to Los Angeles. Almost immediately she is raped, by a man wearing a very peculiar set of clothes. Then, years later, in ways that are both harrowing and transcendent, Ali’s life (and Morgan’s) is sent spinning into chaos by a bizarre discovery: the rapist’s clothing, neatly packed away in a small, brown suitcase. The suitcase is hidden in the attic of a house that Ali has only recently moved into.

How could this be? How, and when, did that suitcase get into that attic?

The startling answer to this question has its roots in a place of guilt, and of love—in the need to belong and the need to be free—in small accidents and dark crimes—and in an elusive search for atonement. 

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Monday, October 10, 2016

The Story of Our Life by Shari Low

What They Say.....Unwind, laugh, cry ... but feel uplifted with this bittersweet love story. Perfect for the fans of Jo-Jo Moyes and Marian Keyes.

So what would you do if your husband slept with another woman?

Colm strolled into my life fifteen years ago. If there's ever such a thing as love at first sight, that was it for us both.

A few weeks later we married, celebrating with those who cared, ignoring the raised eyebrows of the cynics.

We knew better. This was going to be forever. The dream come true. The happy ever after.

Until it wasn't.

Because a couple of months ago everything changed. We discovered a devastating truth, one that blew away our future and forced us to revisit our past, to test the bonds that were perhaps more fragile than they seemed.

So now I ask you again, what would you do if your husband slept with another woman?

Because this is what I did.

I'm Shauna.

And this is the Story of Our Life...

What I Say......I really enjoyed this book, but I have to say what I walked away remembering is how much the description was completely inaccurate.  Honestly, I'm not sure who wrote it, or if they even read the book.  That's how weirdly off it was.

I started this book thinking that the story would be about a wife trying to come to terms with her husband's affair.  After reading the description, surely I wouldn't be alone in assuming that.

As I kept getting further and further into it, I kept looking for who the other woman was going to be.  And that became almost a distraction for me, because I felt confused when the story didn't follow what I expected.

Shauna and Colm meet and have an instant connection, along with a pretty drama free relationship in the beginning.  They have friends who are making a mess of their own love lives, and it only solidifies their belief in their own fairy tale romance.

However, as they grow older, and fertility, starting new businesses and the mundaneness of  life start getting in the way, they find that they aren't the perfect couple anymore.  Life becomes increasingly hard for Shauna, and Colm's laid back demeanor, something she once admired,  now becomes an irritant.  Sound familiar to anyone in a long term relationship???

So if you totally ignore the description and go into this book knowing that it's a story of one couple's relationship from start to finish, you won't be disappointed.  It kept me up, made me cry, and left me satisfied.

If you liked Jojo Moyes's "Me Before You", you'll like this book.  I can see how it drew comparisons, similar and yet very, very different.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.3
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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Dear Mother by Angela Marsons

What They Say......Three sisters. Three childhoods ruined. One chance to heal the scars of the past. 

After their death of their cruel and abusive mother, estranged sisters Alex, Catherine and Beth reunite once again. 

Alex, the youngest, is a bitter, unhappy woman who refuses to face the horrors of her childhood. Finding solace in a bottle, her life is spiralling dangerously out of control. 

Eldest child, Catherine, has strived for success, despite her difficult upbringing. But behind the carefully constructed world lies secret pain - and if her secret comes out, her world could shatter forever. 

Beth, the middle child, bore the greatest burden. But having blocked out the cruelty they suffered, she remained with their mother until her death. Now she must confront the devastating reality of the past. 

Brought together as strangers, the sisters embark on a painful journey to heal themselves and each other. Can they finally put their terrible childhoods to rest and start over? 

What I Say....So, so good. So, so raw.  Three sisters, fully grown now and not close anymore after a horribly dysfunctional childhood.  The abuse that they suffered at the hands of their mother has affected each of them in very different ways.

Catherine has married and had two children that she is terrified of becoming close to, unconsciously repeating some of her mothers behaviors without any conscious knowledge of her part.  Successful in career, failing at her family.

Alex is an alcoholic, she's lost her partner because of her drinking and promiscuity.  And Beth has blocked everything out, having stayed and cared for their mother until her death.  

As they slowly try to reconnect with each other and make their peace with the death of their tormentor, they realize exactly how damaged they all are, and they have to decide whether they want to do the hard work of getting better.

My one complaint - why is the long suffering, perfect sister always called Beth.  It's so Little Women.

This wasn't an easy book to read, but it was a riveting book to read.

Current Goodreads Rating 4.41

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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weekly Book Haul.....September 25, 2016

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.

What a weird week.  Last weekend I took a few trips to the County Animal Shelter, just to "look".  There are so many dogs there.  In all breeds and sizes, in varying degrees of health and appearance.  I really had not concrete thoughts about adopting, but then i came across this little mess.

She is quite possibly the ugliest dog that I had ever seen.  She weighs in at a solid 5.4 pounds, and looks like a cross between Chewbacca and a large rat.  She had goopy eyes, she was dirty and covered in ticks and too shy to even come forward until she saw a treat.  Of course I had to have her.  I couldn't adopt her or even hold her until Wednesday because they have to give the owner three days to come forward and claim her - even though she had obviously never had an owner.  Then she had to stay until Thursday to get spayed.  I paid for extra testing and found out that she has brown tick fever.   So we took a trip to my vet Friday and started meds for pretty much everything.  

But she is a total sweetie.  She wants to be near me at all time - and since she can't be groomed for two weeks post op, she let me spray her with detangler and comb her for an hour.  She's so skinny, you can feel every bone in her body. But in a few months, she will look like a new pup.

I've read some good books lately, and some not so good books.  I'm always torn on the not so good ones.  I hate to insult anyone's work - because I sure don't have the patience to write a book, but at the same time, I want to be honest.  How do other bloggers handle this?

In the midst of all this craziness, I've only added one book from NetGalley, but I did get the first box of books from Booksparks for the Fall University.

Here's my add for the week.

The Survivor's Guide to Family Happiness by Maggie Dawson.....Three women, three lives, and one chance to become a family…whether they want to or not.

Newly orphaned, recently divorced, and semiadrift, Nina Popkin is on a search for her birth mother. She’s spent her life looking into strangers’ faces, fantasizing they’re related to her, and now, at thirty-five, she’s ready for answers.
Meanwhile, the last thing Lindy McIntyre wants is someone like Nina bursting into her life, announcing that they’re sisters and campaigning to track down their mother. She’s too busy with her successful salon, three children, beautiful home, and…oh yes, some pesky little anxiety attacks.
But Nina is determined to reassemble her birth family. Her search turns up Phoebe Mullen, a guarded, hard-talking woman convinced she has nothing to offer. Gradually sharing stories and secrets, the three women make for a messy, unpredictable family that looks nothing like Nina pictured…but may be exactly what she needs. Nina’s moving, ridiculous, tragic, and transcendent journey becomes a love story proving that real family has nothing to do with DNA.

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