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My Progress:

12 / 30 books. 40% done!

2024 Literary Escapes Challenge

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My Progress:

28 / 51 states. 55% done!

2024 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

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23 / 50 books. 46% done!

2024 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

23 / 50 books. 46% done!

Booklist Queen's 2024 Reading Challenge

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48 / 50 books. 96% done!

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40 / 52 books. 77% done!

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27 / 40 books. 68% done!

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10 / 25 books. 40% done!

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12 / 26.2 miles. 46% done!

Mount TBR Reading Challenge

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26 / 100 books. 26% done!

2024 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

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64 / 104 books. 62% done!

Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge

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43 / 52 books. 83% done!

Disney Animated Movies Reading Challenge

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69 / 165 books. 42% done!
Saturday, February 13, 2016

Warm-Hearted White Novel Familiar Fare—With a Twist

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Two years ago, Merritt Heyward's firefighter husband died while on the job.  His sudden death left her fighting a slew of emotions, among them sadness, regret, guilt, and relief.  When the 33-year-old widow receives shocking news from Cal's family lawyer, she's hit with another one: confusion.  Although they were married for seven years, Cal never spoke of his past.  Not a word.  Merritt's stunned to find out that he hailed from a small Lowcountry town, where his ancestral home—built in 1791—still stands.  Not only that, but upon the recent death of Cal's grandmother, the historic structure now belongs to Merritt.  

Needing a change of scenery, Merritt packs up her life in Maine and heads to tiny Beaufort, South Carolina, with the intention of making her home there.  It matters little to her that her inheritance is a crumbling mansion, barely habitable and stuffed with the possessions of an elderly recluse, who perished on the premises.  Merritt's intrigued by the place, especially knowing that the secrets to her husband's mysterious past cower somewhere in the dusty corners of his childhood home.  Desperate to understand the man she married but hardly knew, Merritt vows to uncover the truths he kept hidden deep within the confines of his broken, embittered heart.  

Although Merritt desires only to be left alone, she soon realizes that's impossible in a tiny Southern town like Beaufort.  First, there's Gibbes.  Handsome and kind, Cal's younger brother is nothing like her deceased husband.  In spite of herself, Merritt finds herself drawn to the sensitive pediatrician.  Then, there's Loralee Connors, who shows up out of nowhere with every intention of staying.  Merritt can't stand to be around her chirpy 36-year-old stepmother for an hour, let alone months on end.  She doesn't care how down-and-out Loralee must be, there's no way Merritt's letting her stay.  If it weren't for Owen, Merritt's pitiful 10-year-old stepbrother, she would have kicked Loralee to the curb weeks ago ... 

Even with these newest complications, Merritt pushes forward with her investigation of the Heyward Family.  What she discovers is as enlightening as it is shocking and devastating.  As she fits together the pieces of her husband's dark history, she finds some surprising truths about herself as well.  With her own heart thawing, Merritt realizes that the hurts of the past don't have to dictate a painful future.  In fact, forgiveness may be the key to the kind of happiness she's only ever dreamed about having ... 

I've enjoyed a number of novels by Karen White.  They usually involve Southern settings, family secrets, and plots that flip flop between the past and the present—my favorite literary devices.  So, when the good folks at Berkley/NAL offered me a copy of White's 2015 release, The Sound of Glass, I enthusiastically accepted.  The story gave me everything I've come to expect from this author—an atmospheric setting; a compelling mystery; and an engaging, warm-hearted reading experience.  I didn't care as much for the characters in this one, however; they felt cliché.  Merritt especially annoyed me with her whiny selfishness.  Still, I enjoyed the book overall.  While similar to White's other unexpected-news-brings-woman-home-to-make-peace-with-her-family/past books, The Sound of Glass has an intriguing subplot that gives it a unique spin.  It's not my favorite of White's novels (that would be The Memory of Water), true, but it definitely kept me engaged.  In the end, it's an uplifting story about healing, surviving, and clinging to what matters most.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of other novels by Karen White, including Falling Home; A Long Time Gone; The Beach Trees; The Memory of Water; and The Lost Hours)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for brief, mild language (no F-bombs) and violence

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Sound of Glass from the generous folks at Berkley/NAL (an imprint of Penguin).  Thank you!

Despite Compelling Set-Up, The Gates of Evangeline Leaves Something to Be Desired

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Still grieving the sudden loss of her young son, journalist Charlotte "Charlie" Cates begins dreaming of children in danger.  Haunted by the vivid images, the 38-year-old realizes they're not caused by the desperate longings of her broken heart—the kids she's seeing are real.  And they need her help.  Of course, it's not that easy to figure out the confusing dreams, nor to convince others she's not completely insane.

When Charlie sees visions of a young boy in a boat on the bayou, she knows he's reaching out to her from the past.  A little research leads her to Evangeline, a Louisiana plantation owned by the illustrious Deveau family.  On the pretense of writing an article about their historic home, Charlie stays on-site, interviewing family members but secretly looking into the case of Gabriel Deveau.  The 2-year-old disappeared from his locked-from-the-outside bedroom almost 30 years ago.  Charlie's dreams indicate that someone in the present knows what happened to the toddler.  The more she gets to know the Deveaus, the more she sees the cracks and fissures that mar their relationships with each other.  She doesn't want any of them to be involved in whatever happened to Gabriel, but one of them knows exactly what happened.  It's just a matter of getting them to talk ...

While she's sifting through the skeletons in Evangeline's closets, Charlie's growing closer to Noah Palmer, a divorced landscaper who's working on the plantation's grounds.  Although she still aches for the child she lost, she realizes that maybe it's finally possible for her to start rebuilding her life.  But the closer she gets to the truth about Gabriel, the more danger stalks her every move.  Will she live long enough to find happiness again?  Or will she, too, disappear behind the gates of Evangeline?

You've probably noticed that I'm a sucker for a premise which involves a Southern town, an old house, and some juicy family secrets.  A set-up like that is always going to draw me in.  The Gates of Evangeline, the first book in a planned trilogy by Hester Young, did just that.  While I found the mystery at its center compelling enough, the characters (who seemed mostly flat and cliché) left something to be desired as did the plot (which felt a bit too obvious).  I guessed some of the story's "twists" (though not all) too early, which left me wanting a storyline with more depth and nuance.  Overall, though, I enjoyed the book.  It didn't blow me away or anything, but I'm definitely up for reading the next installment in the series.  

(Readalikes:  I feel like I've read a million books like this one, but nothing's coming to my sleepy mind.  Suggestions?)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (two F-bombs plus milder expletives), violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find
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