Saturday, June 16, 2018

Life-Affirming Medical Memoir a Powerful, Inspirational Read

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As a healthy woman who had experienced a normal pregnancy only a year and a half ago, Carol J. Decker had no reason to expect that anything would be different with her second.  Despite having some flu-like symptoms, she entered the hospital on June 10, 2008, expecting nothing out of the ordinary.  Instead, she was rushed to the ER, where an emergency C-section was performed.  Even then, Carol could not have imagined how profoundly and irrevocably her life was about to change.

The 33-year-old mother had contracted an infection which turned into sepsis.  As toxins invaded every part of her body, Carol fought desperately for survival.  Although she ultimately won the war, she endured months of excruciating pain, humiliating helplessness, and overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair.  Left with permanent blindness, painful skin grafts, and three amputated limbs, Carol couldn't imagine how she could possibly go on.  How could she fulfill her roles as wife, mother, and productive citizen without sight?  Without legs?  Without an arm?  Wouldn't it have been better if she had just died on the operating table? 

In Unshattered, Carol J. Decker describes not just the agony of fighting sepsis but also the victory of choosing to live a life of beauty and joy, even in the face of unspeakable tragedy.  As a narrator, she eschews sentimentality and banal platitudes, employing a raw candor that smacks of honesty and hard-won wisdom.  While Decker doesn't pull any punches, she does focus on the greatest lesson she learned from her experience:

"I began to weigh the thought of tragedy versus destiny.  I could not control the tragedy that befell my life, but I could control my destiny.  It was mine to determine by the choices I made.  I chose to believe I could lead a purposeful life." (quote from page 156 of an uncorrected proof)

An inspiring, life-affirming book about hope, faith, and triumphing over challenges, Unshattered is a short but powerful read.  I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a reminder that, no matter what might befall us, living one's best life is about choice, not chance.

For a touching teaser, click below:



(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for descriptions of medical procedures that might be too graphic/scary for young readers

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Unshattered from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you! 

Friday, June 15, 2018

Newest Karen White Novel As Atmospheric and Warm-Hearted as the Rest

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After being humiliated as an 18-year-old, Larkin Lanier fled her Lowcountry home for New York City, vowing never to look back.  Although the women who raised her have kept in touch, their pleas for her return have fallen on deaf ears.  When Larkin receives news that her mother—a free-spirited painter—has gone missing, however, she knows it's time to go back to Georgetown, South Carolina.  At 27, Larkin is a slim, successful businesswoman, not the awkward, overlooked girl she once was, but she's still leery about returning.  She'll stay in the South only long enough to do what needs to be done, then return as soon as possible to her lonely life in the Big Apple.

When Ivy Lanier is found in the ruins of her family's burned-out plantation home, injured and unconscious, Larkin fears the worst for her mother.  As she lingers in the hospital, unresponsive, Larkin can't help but wonder what the older woman was doing at Carrowmore.  Ivy seemed to have been looking for something, but what could she possibly need from the crumbling shell of her former home?  When Larkin questions Ceecee—the 77-year-old woman who raised both Ivy and Larkin—the old lady acts cagey and suspicious.  What is Ceecee keeping from her?  Ivy was trying to tell Larkin something before her accident, something about the past.  Only Ceecee and Bitty, her grandmother's childhood friends, know the truth and it just might be the truth that finally sets Ivy free.  Desperate to wake her mother up, Larkin will stop at nothing until she uncovers the truth about a trio of friends and the secrets that have bound them together for the last fifty years.

I'm always up for a Southern family secrets novel and no one defines the genre quite like Karen White.  Although I like some of her books more than others, I appreciate her atmospheric, warm-hearted stories, and always look forward to a new one.  Dreams of Falling takes place in a typical Lowcountry setting populated by quirky folk who value family, friendship, and foiling nosy attempts to sniff out the skeletons in their closets.  The tale oscillates between narrators and time periods, which makes both the plot and the cast a bit confusing at times.  While I loved Ceecee, Bitty, and some of the other fringe characters, the three women at the novel's core didn't appeal to me at all.  The Darlingtons (Margaret, Ivy, and Larkin) are a selfish, fickle, unlikable lot, which made it tough for me to care what happened to them.  Despite my reservations, though, I found Dreams of Falling compelling and, overall, enjoyable.  It's not my favorite of White's many novels, but it definitely kept me reading.

(Readalikes:  other novels by Karen White as well as those by Dorothea Benton Frank, Joshilyn Jackson, and Anne Rivers Siddons)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, innuendo, and (non-graphic) references to sex and prostitution

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Dreams of Falling from the generous folks at Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cheap Ending Earns Dallas' Newest a Meh From Me

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Ellen's using scraps of heirloom fabric to create a wedding quilt for her granddaughter June when the bride-to-be shows up on her porch declaring the upcoming nuptials have been called off.  With her fiancĂ© shipping off soon for Korea, June's nervous and uncertain about their future.  In an effort to soothe the young woman's worries, Ellen tells her a story about a lady who ran away from marriage three times ...

At the end of the 19th Century, a 22-year-old schoolteacher named Nell strikes out for the New Mexico Territory.  She craves adventure and she longs for love.  Nell finds both at the Rockin' A, a rustic cattle ranch where she becomes a biscuit shooter.  When she falls for a charming cowboy, Nell's over the moon with happiness.  Then Buddy breaks her heart.  Devastated, Nell runs away, vowing never to be so foolish again.  As her traitorous heart starts beating for another, she can't shake off her lingering anxiety.  Can she trust any man's declarations of love?  How will she know if a suitor's sincere and loyal enough to marry?  More importantly, will she ever find true love, the kind that leads to the happy contentment for which she longs?  Nell will have to learn some difficult lessons about life and love before she even comes close to her happily ever after.

Can Nell's hard-won wisdom help June make the most important decision of her life?

With a vivid Old West setting and a story line that's entertaining if not all that engrossing, The Patchwork Bride is the newest historical romance from genre staple Sandra Dallas.  Although the novel's short on plot, it does have a certain charm.  I didn't feel any real connection with its heroine, however, since Nell strikes me as selfish, easy, and fickle.  While the story moves along in a predictable manner, the "surprise" ending feels cheap and sneaky.  In fact, the finale soured the whole tale for me.  The Patchwork Bride just didn't feel like a satisfying read after that!  I wanted to love this one, but in the end, my only feeling is ... meh.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of The Patchwork Bride from the generous folks at St. Martin's Press.  Thank you!

Saturday, June 09, 2018

Moody Broody Mystery a Not Very Satisfying Read

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Blackmore isn't the kind of place that takes kindly to a stranger nosing around asking uncomfortable questions.  The 2500 people still surviving in the gritty, down-on-its luck mining town are as rough and hopeless as their dying village.  As a newcomer, Clare O'Day sticks out like the proverbial sore thumb.  She doesn't look like a cop, but her inquiries into the recent disappearance of Shayna Fowles—a local junkie—make her suspect.  What is Clare doing in Blackmore?  Why is she asking about Shayna?

Clare has her own issues, although she's not about to unload them on anyone in Blackmore.  Her job is to observe, ask questions, find Shayna, and leave.  It soon becomes clear, however, that her task will not be as easy as it sounds.  No one in Blackmore trusts Clare and vice versa, but to solve her own problems, Clare must find Shayna.  What happened to the woman?  Did someone harm her?  If so, who?  With a town chock-full of menacing suspects, Clare hardly knows where to start.  One thing, however, is becoming painfully clear—Clare's in more danger every day she stays in Blackmore.  Can she discover the truth behind Shayna's disappearance?  Or will Clare become the next young woman to vanish from the sinister, dead-end town?

Still Mine, a debut novel by Canadian author Amy Stuart, is a moody, broody thriller that's unsettling and just ... weird.  It's atmospheric, with an eerie vibe that sets the stage for a mystery that could go in any direction.  The characters are a rugged, violent lot who are almost wholly unlikable.  Plotwise, Still Mine is compelling, but its premise is unconvincing and its ending just made the whole novel feel pointless and depressing.  While Stuart's prose is solid, I found almost everything else about this novel unappealing.  I finished it, but overall, Still Mine just wasn't a very satisfying read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Blackmore reminds me of Acker's Gap, West Virginia, the setting for the Bell Elkins series by Julia Keller)  

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (no F-bombs), violence, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Still Mine with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.



Tuesday, June 05, 2018

Eden Delivers Another Warm, Witty Regency Romance

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Note:  Loving Lieutenant Lancaster is a companion novel to Seeking Persephone; Courting Miss Lancaster; and Romancing Daphne.  It also concerns members of the Jonquil Family from Kiss of a Stranger; Friends & Foes; Drops of Gold; As You Are; A Fine Gentleman; and For Love or Honor.  While the books are not technically sequels, reading them out of sequence may result in plot spoilers.  As always, I recommend reading books in a series in order. 

An orphan raised by her unfeeling aunt and uncle, Arabella Hampton dreams of being part of a big, loving family.  The Jonquils have always represented the ideal; long has she dreamed of being one of them.  When Lady Lampton, the aging matriarch of the Jonquil Family, approaches Arabella's guardians about hiring their charge as a lady's companion, 23-year-old Arabella can't believe her luck.  Finally, she'll get to live at Lampton Park, residing among the kind-hearted Jonquils.  Arabella hasn't been in her new position long, though, before she realizes she's a charity hire, not really needed at all.  As neither a servant nor a family member, she finds herself feeling useless and out of place.  She finally sees her hopes of being a real Jonquil for what they are—foolish and naive. 

Recently retired from the Royal Navy, 24-year-old Linus Lancaster is finding himself hopelessly bored with his new-found life of leisure.  Lonely and craving a diversion of almost any kind, he agrees to attend an extended house party at the Jonquils' estate in Nottinghamshire.  Cavorting with his siblings, their spouses, and their in-laws should make for an entertaining two weeks.  While Linus expects fireworks (especially between the surly Duke of Kielder and foppish Lord Lampton), he's shocked when a mysterious woman hiding in the shadows unwittingly ignites his passions.  Mesmerized by the lovely Miss Hampton, Linus vows to bring the reluctant young woman out of obscurity—and into his arms. 

Although of differing stations and backgrounds, Arabella and Linus are nevertheless drawn to each other.  Can they find the purpose and belonging they both long for in each other?  Or will their haunted pasts drive them apart forever?

Sarah M. Eden has become known for her warm, witty romances.  They're clean, they're fun, they're sweet, and they're enjoyable.  Her newest, Loving Lieutenant Lancaster, is no exception.  Featuring likable characters, a warm, upbeat tone, and capable prose, it's as entertaining as its fellows.  Because this novel brings together the casts of two of Eden's Regency series, there are a lot of characters in Loving Lieutenant Lancaster.  Those who have read the previous novels will no doubt delight in seeing what's become of their favorites; those who are not acquainted with all the Lancasters and Jonquils will likely be confused.  I, for one, had trouble keeping them all straight.  While their antics kept me reading, this novel definitely started to feel overly long.  Admittedly, I'm not a big romance reader.  When I do indulge, I prefer my love stories to be short and sweet, especially if there aren't any subplots to keep me interested.  Despite those things, I still enjoyed this fun Regency romance.

(Readalikes:  Other books in the Jonquil and Lancaster series [titles listed in Note above] by Sarah M. Eden)

Grade:

If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Loving Lieutenant Lancaster from Covenant in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

-- 



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Friday, June 01, 2018

Grief Novel Poignant and Engaging

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Maddy Starling may have left her family, but she can't quite leave them alone.  Even as a ghost, she worries about her workaholic husband and their grief-stricken 16-year-old daughter, Eve.  Without Maddy there to bridge the gap, to keep the household running and manage everyone's emotions, what will become of her fractured family?  The least she can do is find a replacement for herself, someone who can be a companion to Brady and a loving mentor for Eve.  She thinks she may have found the perfect woman in Rory Murray, an elementary school teacher who's tutoring Eve.  Is Rory, who comes with her own baggage, really a suitable stand-in?  Can Maddy somehow "push" her and Brady together?

In the meantime, Brady and Eve have to learn how to cope without the wife and mother who's always held them together.  Neither one can quite grasp the fact that Maddy—the most put together woman either of them has ever known—committed suicide, purposely leaving them behind.  It makes no sense.  Reading Maddy's diary brings some answers, but also more questions.  Why would someone like Maddy jump off a building, ending what seemed like a perfect life?  In order to rebuild their shattered lives, Brady and Eve must come to terms with what happened on that rooftop and learn to forge a new future for themselves.  Can they find their way, even as Maddy's influence grows more and more difficult to assert?  Can Maddy, Brady, and Eve figure out how to move on, even when all they want is to go back to the way things were?  

I'm known for writing honest reviews, but Jenny over at Alternate Readality takes the art to a whole new (and often hilarious) level, so when she raves about a book, I pay attention.  She recently recommended I Liked My Life, a debut novel by Abby Fabiaschi, which I also ended up enjoying.  While I didn't love the book quite as much as Jenny did, I agree that it features solid writing, intriguing characters, and a plot that kept me turning pages.  The story feels raw and real, but it's also funny and hopeful.  All of the main characters are complex, sympathetic, and interesting, which makes it easy to root for their happiness.  Fabiaschi even throws in some plot twists to keep things interesting.  All in all, then, I Liked My Life makes for an engaging, thought-provoking read that I thoroughly enjoyed.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, mild sexual content, and depictions of underage drinking

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Close to Home Intriguing Start to Promising New Series

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DI Adam Fawley knows that most domestic crimes are committed by people the victim knows, often those with whom he or she lives.  So, when 8-year-old Daisy Mason goes missing after a costume party at her Oxford home, he focuses first on her family.  With an obsessive, appearance-obsessed mum, a cold, distant dad, and a strange, moody older brother, Daisy's family certainly seems off, if not flat-out guilty.  One thing is for sure—they're all hiding something.  Did one of them kill the little girl?  Fawley is determined to find out.

While Fawley's got his own problems to deal with, rifling through the Masons' dirty laundry is bringing all kinds of disturbing secrets to light.  Questioning neighbors and acquaintances isn't helping make the Masons look any more innocent.  Still, the evidence isn't coming together quite enough to convince Fawley that he's found his killer.  What really happened to Daisy Mason?  If a family member didn't kill her, who did?  As puzzling as the mystery has become, it's going to get a lot twistier before the case is closed ... 

Close to Home is a debut novel by English mystery writer Cara Hunter and the first in her series featuring DI Adam Fawley.  Although it's not exactly pulse-pounding, the novel is tense, well-plotted, and suspenseful.  The Masons and their associates are almost wholly unlikable, but Fawley is sympathetic if not super original or exciting.  While I figured everything was not quite as it seems, the "unexpected" twist at the end of the book caught me at least a little bit by surprise. I enjoy a mystery that keeps me guessing; overall, this one did that.  I'm not exactly chomping at the bit to get my hands on In the Dark, the next installment (which comes out in July), but I'll definitely read it.  If the books get better as they go, I'm all in for this promising new author and series.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of British domestic thrillers by Gilly Macmillan, Erin Kelly, etc.)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Close to Home at Barnes & Noble with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Never That Far Tells a Poignant, Powerful Story of Loss and Love

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I usually craft my own plot summaries, but Never That Far, Carol Lynch Williams' newest, isn't the easiest novel to describe.  The publisher's version says everything that needs to be said in one succinct paragraph, so I'm going to go with it:

After her grampa dies, the last place Libby expects to see him is sitting on the edge of her bed.  But that's what happens the night after his funeral.  Even more surprising is that Grampa has three important things to tell her: first, that she isn't alone or forgotten—"The dead ain't never that far from the living," he says; second, that she has "the Sight"—the ability to see family members who have died; and third, that there is something special just for her in the lake.  Something that could help her and her father—if she can find it.  Libby and Grampa try to help her father heal from his grief, but it will take all of Libby's courage and her gift of Sight to convince her father that the dead are never truly gone.  

Set against a lush central Florida backdrop, Never That Far tells a poignant, powerful story about loss and love.  Libby's heartbreak and yearning are so palpable that it's impossible not to root for her happiness.  Her actions and reactions feel authentic, making her a very real character.  This, plus an atmospheric setting; a rich, mystical vibe; and some important messages about faith, family, and friendship, make Never That Far a compelling read.  I enjoyed it.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't really think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for difficult subject matter and scenes of peril

To the FTC, with love:  I received an ARC of Never That Far from the generous folks at Shadow Mountain.  Thank you!


Saturday, May 26, 2018

Odd, Disquieting The Doll Funeral a Meh For Me

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Ruby Flood is thrilled when the couple who has been raising her make a stunning announcement—they are not her birth parents.  Relieved not to share blood with the cruel, abusive couple, the 13-year-old runs away from their home, determined to find her real parents.  Ruby sets off into the Forest of Dean armed only with a suitcase and the otherworldly protection of Shadow Boy, her imaginary—and only—friend.  

Soon, Ruby comes upon a ragged group of siblings living on their own in a crumbling mansion in the forest.  Although not all of them are keen on having another mouth to feed, they take her in and make her part of their unconventional family.  The situation suits Ruby just fine, but it's not long before she begins to realize that not everything is what it seems in her surrealistic new life.  It's difficult to tell what is real and what is not in the woods; all Ruby desires is the truth.  Can she trust her new family to help her on her quest?  What secrets are they hiding from Ruby?  She's about to find out ...

It's tough to describe The Doll Funeral, an odd and disquieting novel by Welsh author Kate Hamer.  While it's compelling and lyrical, it's also dark, depressing, hopeless, and sad.  Although I appreciate its lesson about family not always being about blood, I didn't end up loving this story.  It was a pretty meh read for me.  Bummer.

(Readalikes:  Um, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, depictions of illegal drug use, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Friday, May 25, 2018

Perfect Set Brings All That Mel Does So Well to the Net (with a Giveaway!)

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As a sports reporter, Bree Mercer has embraced a hard-earned truth—pro athletes do not make good dating material.  She sees enough of their inflated egos, childish temper tantrums, and slick-as-ice moves in her professional life; she wants none of that in her personal one.  So, when a pro beach volleyball player in her new singles ward starts chatting her up, Bree shuts him down.  Hard.  Athletes—even incredibly hot ones, especially incredibly hot ones—are simply not an option.  

It's only when she's assigned to write a feature article on the very guy she dissed that Bree begins to regret her rashness.  Kade Townsend is famously press-adverse; Bree's likely just screwed up her big chance to get the story out of him that she needs to prove her worth at her new job. 

Bree isn't about to give up, no matter how tough the assignment.  She knows Kade's career and golden-boy reputation took a big hit when a reporter "friend" betrayed him by selling photos of Kade partying to a tabloid magazine, but she's not interested in tawdry gossip.  Bree wants the truth. Who is Kade, really?  A reformed man, who now takes his testimony as seriously as his athletic training?  Or an unrepentant playboy who'll say anything to fix his tarnished image?  The more time Bree spends with Kade, the more desperately she needs to know, and not only for her article.  Allowing herself to fall for the handsome jock means risking not just her career but also her heart.  Is she willing to put everything on the line in a match she might not win?  When the truth about Kade comes out, she'll have to decide if it's game on or game over ...


Perfect Set, the newest LDS rom-com from Melanie Jacobson, sparkles with the author's trademark warmth and wit.  All the things that Mel does so well are here—a fun, upbeat setting; smart, spunky characters; bright, humorous banter; and a sweet, swoony romance.  Add in a singles ward full of faithful new adults who do real things like watch sports on Sunday, drink Coke (gasp!), flirt shamelessly, judge each other unfairly, even stab each other in the back (figuratively, of course), and you're pretty much guaranteed an entertaining read.  Perfect Set is certainly that.  Although I didn't love Bree and Kade could have used a stronger personality, I definitely felt the chemistry between the couple.  Jacobson always delivers a satisfying HEA, so although the plot is predictable, it's still exciting.  This isn't my favorite Jacobson novel (that would be Southern Charmed), but Perfect Set remains a light, enjoyable romance, the kind of well-written fluff that's made for beach reading and poolside indulging.  If you're a fan of clean, engaging love stories, then you're definitely going to want to dip in. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other rom-coms from Melanie Jacobson, especially Second Chances.  It also reminds me of romances by Brittany Larsen, Tiffany Odekirk, and Jenny Proctor)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for mild innuendo and references to illegal drug use

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of Perfect Set from the generous folks at Covenant in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

--


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Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Abduction Novel Quietly Suspenseful, Unsettling

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Keeping track of her "dreamy" daughter has always been something of a challenge for Beth Wakeford.  Now that she's newly divorced, she's even more worried that something will happen to Carmel, an 8-year-old who's easily distracted.  When her nightmare comes true during a trip to an outdoor festival, Beth is frantic with worry.  Has Carmel just wandered off in a daze?  Or has something sinister happened to the capricious child?  As hours, then days and months, go by without a sighting of the little girl, the police assume the worst.  Undeterred, Beth vows to find her missing child, in whose death she refuses to believe.  

When Carmel is first led away from the fairgrounds, she's delighted at the prospect of a novel adventure.  Soon, though, she realizes that things are not what they seem and that the likelihood of her being returned to her mother is slim to none.  As Carmel slowly comes to grips with her new reality, she longs desperately for her mum.  But as the years pass, memories fade, and some children forget who they really are ...

The Girl in the Red Coat, a debut novel by Welsh author Kate Hamer, tells a quietly unsettling story about every parent's worst nightmare coming to pass.  It's a compelling tale that kept me riveted throughout.  Although the reader knows what's happening (sort of) to Carmel from the get-go, the plot remains suspenseful because of its over-arching question:  Will Beth and Carmel ever be reunited?  As mother and daughter are both sympathetic narrators, the reader can't help but root for them ... but will they get the happily ever after they both desire?  Nothing is for certain in this disquieting novel.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Disappearance of James by Anne Ursu)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language (a few F-bombs, plus milder expletives), mild sexual content, violence, and disturbing subject matter

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

Monday, May 21, 2018

Flight Patterns Another Compelling Southern Family Saga From An Old Favorite

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After fleeing the small tourist town of her birth ten years ago, Georgia Chambers swore she'd never return to Apalachicola, Florida.  The 35-year-old has made a life for herself as an antiques expert in New Orleans, where no one knows about her wild child youth or the estranged family members she left behind.  Her past comes calling, though, when a customer brings Georgia an heirloom teacup with a unique pattern she knows she's seen before.  Although the bee motif doesn't appear in any antiques catalogs, Georgia recognizes it instantly—her mother owns a matching piece.  The item has always been shrouded in mystery and suddenly, Georgia is intent on finding out why.  Since "Birdie" no longer speaks, Georgia can't exactly call her mother up on the phone.  As much as she hates to admit it, a trip to Florida is the only way she can get the answers she needs.

To Georgia's surprise, her client—a handsome New York City real estate developer named James Graf—insists on coming along to investigate the history of his teacup.  Irritated, Georgia vows to make the road trip as quick as possible.  Of course, fate has other plans.  

As Georgia hunts for her mother's missing piece of china, she unintentionally uncovers a dark secret from her family's past.  Although she's warned to leave well enough alone, Georgia won't stop until she gets the answers she seeks, even if it means shattering her mother's fragile psyche and breaking the already-frail bonds that still tie her to her family.  When the shocking truth finally comes to light, Georgia will have to decide what to do with the newfound knowledge that could forever change everything, for all of them. 

I've long been a fan of Karen White's Southern novels, but some of them definitely appeal more than others.  Although it is compelling, Flight Patterns falls into the latter camp.  Since I know nothing about beekeeping or antique china, I found those aspects of the story intriguing.  The characters less so.  They are sympathetic certainly, but I didn't feel a strong connection to any of them.  Plot wise, the novel kept my attention, even though certain aspects of it seem contrived and far-fetched.  I appreciate, though, the story's themes of forgiveness and redemption and the fact that Georgia's life doesn't wrap up in a perfect, unrealistic way.  Overall, then, I liked Flight Patterns, but I didn't love it. 

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other Southern novels by Karen White; also of books by Joshilyn Jackson and Dorothea Benton Frank, although theirs tend to be more R-rated than White's)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for violence, scenes of peril, and innuendo

To the FTC, with love:  I bought a copy of Flight Patterns from Costco with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Cambridge Mystery/"Thriller" Just ... Odd

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Drawn together while studying at Cambridge University, Americans Polly Bailey and Liv Dahl become friends.  They're both enamored of Nick Frey, a 24-year-old grad student in paleobiology.  The trio bond over a shared job, which entails helping a blind professor sort the papers of her novelist mother.  When Nick suddenly vanishes, however, it throws the friends' cozy relationship into a tailspin.  What happened to the charismatic Brit?  

When D.I. Morris Keene and his partner, DS Chloe Frohmann, start digging into Nick's strange disappearance, a tangle of secrets about all of the students start coming to light.  And they aren't the only ones with something to hide.  Gretchen Paul, the blind professor, will make startling discoveries about her own past, which will irrevocably change her future.  As the detectives strive to sort it all out, all the players will realize how little anyone can ever really know another.

I'm not sure what to say about The Whole World, the first installment in the Keene and Frohmann series by Emily Winslow.  It's a strange novel, in many ways.  The characters are almost wholly unlikable, the story plods along very slowly, and when plot "twists" do come, they seem outrageously far-fetched.  Unfocused and dull, The Whole World is just an odd, odd book.  I finished it, but I'm not really sure why I bothered.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, nothing is coming to mind.  You?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I (regrettably) bought a (cheap) copy of The Whole World from Amazon with a portion of the millions I make from my lucrative career as a book blogger.  Ha ha.
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