We Were Sisters by Wendy Clarke

Description

I turn to where I left my baby in his pushchair and pull up short. With a racing heart, I look around wildly, fear gripping my stomach. I only looked away for a moment. The pushchair and my baby are gone.

Kelly is taking her twin daughters to their first day of school, ushering them into the classroom, her heart breaking to think they might not need her any more, when she turns around and sees that her newborn baby is gone.

As a desperate search ensues, baby Noah is quickly found – parked in front of a different classroom. But when Kelly reaches forward to comfort him, she finds something tucked beside his blanket. A locket that belonged to her sister Freya. A locket Kelly hasn’t seen since the day Freya died.

And then Kelly’s perfectly-ordered life begins to unravel…

We Were Sisters is a heart-pounding suspense thriller that will grip you until the very last page. Fans of Behind Closed Doors, Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train won’t be able to stop reading this incredible book.

I ALWAYS love a suspense-filled book! This one kept me guessing. It was a sad story, in part, because of the abuse and neglect that was involved in the characters’ past, but it definitely kept me guessing until the end!

Highly recommended if you like this genre!

Thank you for my review copy via Net Galley!

THE ROANOKE GIRLS by Amy Engel

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I found this title on Net Galley a while ago, and received an e-copy. It was a compelling and suspenseful read, but also disturbing.

Here’s the overview:

Description

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Trigger warning: disturbing sexual content
This is a well-written mystery novel with a storyline that is (hopefully) a bit hard to believe. I would have liked it better if I hadn’t found it so (wait for it —- ) disturbing! I’d love to hear from others who read it, too. Recommended for those who loved VC Andrews back in the day…

Review: MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON by Elizabeth Strout

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Several years ago I read OLIVE KITTERIDGE and just loved it. It’s hard to describe why – I just did. I was excited to MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON come up on Net Galley and got it to read.

Here’s how Net Galley describes it:

Description
A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, including Olive Kitteridge and The Burgess Boys, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name Is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all—the one between mother and daughter.

Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her escape from her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.

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I just loved this story. Again, it’s hard to explain why. Lucy is a typical woman, though you can see that she has had hardships (unexplained) in her past. She is just trying to get through life. She wants to be (and becomes) a writer. Her illness gives her an opportunity to reconnect with her mother (her entire family was very dysfunctional). Throughout there are hints that Lucy is keeping some parts of her past hidden as they are too painful to think about. What I really liked, though, was that there never was a “big reveal”. We never exactly discovered all there was to discover about Lucy Barton (though one could make some guesses). It was one of the things I liked most about this book — it’s ability to keep the narrator slightly unknown.

This book would be an excellent book club book, giving folks a chance to make their decisions about what they think about Lucy and her family and her life. Some might find this book slow or unexciting (no car chases!), but I thought it was just right. It is short but beautifully written. Elizabeth Strout has the ability to craft a sentence that is so right and so true that it stays with you.

Thank you for my review e-copy, Random House and Net Galley! MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON publishes today – 1/12/16.

Now I’m throwing it back to my earlier review of OLIVE KITTERIDGE – for your reading pleasure:

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Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and felt like they knew you stripped bare of your outer facade?

This is how I felt about the characters of Elizabeth Strout’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, Olive Kitteridge. Olive Kitteridge is a middle-aged woman, living in the small town of Crosby, Maine, and this novel is a series of vignettes depicting the people of the town, their lives, their hopes, dreams, and disappointments. The common thread running through these short stories is the character of Olive. In each story we see a different side of Olive, and by the end come to know her as multi-faceted and deeply human.

Whenever I pick up a Pulitzer, I’m never sure if I’m going to like it. Will it be too deep to get through? Will I feel compelled to love it, and don’t? Will I be able to read it enjoyably, or have to attack it like a college textbook? I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. It is a gem. Strout’s writing is so beautiful and descriptive. She calls on elements of human nature that, as I read, I found myself shaking my head and saying, “Yes, that is exactly how it is in life, isn’t it?” This book portrayed her characters in such a raw state that at times it was a bit painful to read. Yet, each story had a feeling of redemption in it, too. This was a wonderful book. I picked it up on a whim at a local bookstore and purchased it – and I’m so glad I did!

Review: The Forgotten Girls by Sara Blaedel

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I’m a huge fan of Nordic crime novels and when I saw this one come up on Net Galley, I was excited to get it.

THE FORGOTTEN GIRLS starts with a young woman being found, dead, in a forest in Denmark. She looks unkempt – almost feral – but she has no identification on her. Investigator Louise Rick gets a tip that the girl is a twin that used to live in a nearby institution, only thing is, that girl is officially deceased. Other murders and attacks on local women get Louise to thinking that the crimes may all be related and go back for years. However, until she can figure out who this first girl is, and what she was doing in the woods, the key to whole mystery will remain hidden.

I really enjoyed this fast-paced, well-plotted novel. This is my first Sara Blaedel book, but apparently the Louise Rick series is quite popular and there are several other books. This story does have passages of graphic violence and the overall premise, once it’s all figured out, is fairly disturbing; however, I did like it and look forward to reading more books by Blaedel. Rick is a multi-layered character – far from perfect – and I rooted for her as the protagonist.

Thank you, Net Galley and Grand Central Publishing, for my review copy!

Review: A MEDICAL AFFAIR by Anne McCarthy Strauss

My friends at Booktrope sent me a kindle copy of this book to review. In this riveting story, Heather Morrison is a thirty-something professional in NYC who has worked hard to be professionally successful in life. She has not been lucky in love, however, and she has spent months going through the process to adopt a baby girl from China. Heather seems to have it all together until she lands in the ER one night with a surprise asthma attack. There she meets Dr. Jeff Davis who becomes her pulmonologist, and then her lover. Heather and Jeff’s relationship has disaster written all over it right from the start. Jeff, while seemingly caring and very attractive, is married and (as if that wasn’t enough) her doctor. Heather, though, almost cannot control her attachment to him and the affair develops. As things progress, Heather’s insecurities surface, along with some serious emotional vulnerabilities and issues which were screaming out for her to get help from a trained therapist or psychiatrist. Instead Jeff treats her with his own techniques and a virtual smorgasbord of pills. When Jeff unceremoniously dumps her (of course that was coming – the guy is a serial cheater), Heather decides to fight back by taking him to court.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

As I read this book I wanted to think that stuff like this couldn’t/wouldn’t/doesn’t happen, but I’m sure it does. Jeff was just sleazy and arrogant enough to think he could break the law and get away with it. Heather was just frail enough to go along and pretty much lose her sense of rational thought (until after the break up). By the time Heather regains her senses (and it is even doubtful to me if she has by the end), her life is a mess: she has lost her job and lost the baby she was in the process of adopting, and she is popping valium, sleeping pills, and more like they are M&M’s, all the while she is chain-smoking. This book spends much time covering legal issues and ethical/medical issues. Sometimes it felt like a lot of “telling” – such as when Heather would meet with her lawyer – but a reader needed that information in order to understand and believe the story (someone might have instead thought “hey – they are consenting adults; what’s the issue?”). Poor Heather is pretty much put through the wringer and while the ending is hopeful, I can’t say it’s completely happy.

This was a really interesting read to me, and I could barely put the book down because I wanted to make sure Heather would get justice. I could see this story being made into a Lifetime movie! I know these characters weren’t real, but that little baby Lin who missed getting adopted really weighed on my mind at the end. Alas, I do take my books seriously!


Review: GARDEN OF STONES by Sophie Littlefield (releasing at the end of Feb., 2013)

Another recent Net Galley find for me was “Garden of Stones” by Sophie Littlefield. This story starts with a murder in modern-day Los Angeles with an unlikely suspect (an elderly and humble Japanese American women) and then travels to the past.

Fourteen-year-old Lucy Takeda is taken with her mother to the Manzanar internment camp at the outbreak of WWII. Lucy has recently lost her father and has the huge adjustment of going from being a confident and pampered child of privilege to a camp resident. Lucy’s beautiful mother, whose emotions and moods are both vulnerable and unstable, suffers from the harshness of camp life and the unwanted attentions of the male camp guards. Lucy is determined to adapt and make the best of their situation and to continue her studies. She befriends Jesse, another young internee, and finds her feelings growing for him. Then tragedy strikes and Lucy must learn to cope and to survive in the ever-changing and harsh world.

I enjoyed reading this novel, though there were several story lines in it (which all eventually come together). The present day focus is on the murder and the suspicion of Lucy as the murderer. Her daughter Patty is determined to prove her mother’s innocence, but first she must come to learn about and discover her mother’s true self and her past. Then we have the camp storyline, with Jesse’s story and Lucy’s mother’s story and a murder woven in. Next there is the “after camp” storyline of Lucy making a way for herself as a chambermaid in a motel. Eventually all the storylines converge in the present and all the questions are answered.

I’ve read several stories of internment camps, most of them as first person memoirs and often written for YA readers. Ms. Littlefield has done her research here as many of the harsh aspects of the camps are included. To me, the story would have stood by itself with just the storyline of the camp, and Lucy’s journey from being a protected child, to a camp refugee, to remaking herself after the war. I really didn’t need the murders or mysteries included, though I’m sure many readers will enjoy them. It was enough for me to read of the resiliency of the people who lived through these times.

Due to themes of abuse I wouldn’t say this is one for the kids, but I think adults will enjoy it. I just have to say, too – I love, love, love the cover!

Thanks to Net Galley and Harlequin for my copy .

Review of a $0.99 Kindle Find: The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan

I always enjoy browsing through my Kindle for good, cheap reads. This book was listed in the top sellers, but cost only 99 cents, so I figured it was a good deal.

“The Mill River Recluse” tells the story of beautiful Mary McAllister, an elderly woman who has not left her house high on a hill in Mill River, Vermont for over sixty years. Alternate chapters tell the story of Mary in the present (she actually passes away near the beginning of the book) and Mary in the 1940’s, when she, the only child of a horse farmer, meets and marries her charming and rich, but secretively abusive, husband. Mary, always shy by nature, has suffered a horrific abuse at the hands of her high school teacher, and she puts her faith in her new husband, though he turns mean and evil, damaging Mary irreparably. Her only friend and confidant is the town’s Catholic priest, and he stays as her anchor to the outside world until her death.

I enjoyed reading this novel, especially the years that were in the past. The ending had a bit of a twist to it and was happy and uplifting, though a bit far-fetched. I guess the question that remained for me throughout this book was: “Hello, People?! Can someone do SOMETHING for that poor abused woman who has not left her house in 60 years???”

All in all, this was a good “beach read” for me – an end of summer, positive, not-too-mentally-taxing tale that kept me coming back to see how it would end. I would have loved this book when I was in high school.

And at 99 cents, the price was right!