The Girls with No Names by Serena Burdick

Years ago I watched a movie on a flight to Paris. It was “The Magdalene Sisters” and it was about three girls who lived and worked in a laundry run by nuns in Ireland. It was absolutely terrifying and horrific and based on the real Magdalene laundries of the mid-1900’s. In The Girls with No Names, the main character, Effie, gets herself put into one of these places as she seeks to find her sister who has run away. Effie also has a heart condition, which makes her situation all the worse. This story takes place in New York City around 1910, and apparently there really were Magdalene-type laundries here at that time.

All in all it was a heart-breaking read that told the sad story of a marriage gone wrong, a family that was destroyed, and the lasting effect of betrayal. But I couldn’t put it down until the last fulfilling page.

Thank you for my review copy through Net Galley, Harlequin Books!

Here’s the overview:

Description

INSTANT INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER

A beautiful tale of hope, courage, and sisterhood—inspired by the real House of Mercy and the girls confined there for daring to break the rules.

Growing up in New York City in the 1910s, Luella and Effie Tildon realize that even as wealthy young women, their freedoms come with limits. But when the sisters discover a shocking secret about their father, Luella, the brazen elder sister, becomes emboldened to do as she pleases. Her rebellion comes with consequences, and one morning Luella is mysteriously gone.

Effie suspects her father has sent Luella to the House of Mercy and hatches a plan to get herself committed to save her sister. But she made a miscalculation, and with no one to believe her story, Effie’s own escape seems impossible—unless she can trust an enigmatic girl named Mable. As their fates entwine, Mable and Effie must rely on their tenuous friendship to survive.

Home for Unwanted Girls meets The Dollhouse in this atmospheric, heartwarming story that explores not only the historical House of Mercy, but the lives—and secrets—of the girls who stayed there.

“Burdick has spun a cautionary tale of struggle and survival, love and family — and above all, the strength of the heart, no matter how broken.” — New York Times Book Review

“Burdick reveals the perils of being a woman in 1913 and exposes the truths of their varying social circles.” — Chicago Tribune

This Tender Land by William Kent Krueger

Description

INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER!

“If you liked Where the Crawdads Sing, you’ll love This Tender Land…This story is as big-hearted as they come.” —Parade

A magnificent novel about four orphans on a life-changing odyssey during the Great Depression, from the bestselling author of Ordinary Grace.

1932, Minnesota—the Lincoln School is a pitiless place where hundreds of Native American children, forcibly separated from their parents, are sent to be educated. It is also home to an orphan named Odie O’Banion, a lively boy whose exploits earn him the superintendent’s wrath. Forced to flee, he and his brother Albert, their best friend Mose, and a brokenhearted little girl named Emmy steal away in a canoe, heading for the mighty Mississippi and a place to call their own.

Over the course of one unforgettable summer, these four orphans will journey into the unknown and cross paths with others who are adrift, from struggling farmers and traveling faith healers to displaced families and lost souls of all kinds. With the feel of a modern classic, This Tender Land is an en­thralling, big-hearted epic that shows how the magnificent American landscape connects us all, haunts our dreams, and makes us whole.

I absolutely loved this tale of Odie and his friends as they tried to make a new life away from the orphanage that had mistreated them. It reminded me so much of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn! However, there is a lot of mistreatment in this story, and part of Odie’s journey is coming to terms with the cruelty and unfairness that they have been dealt in life. The ending came with a sense of redemption, and I once again was enthralled with William Kent Krueger’s beautiful writing. Highly recommended!

I would also recommend this novel for high school English classes – so much to talk about and think about in it!

Thank you for my ARC via Net Galley!

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!