Posted in book review

REVIEW: THE ORPHAN CHOIR, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

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The sound is loud, coming from the next-door neighbor’s house, and it has jolted Louise Beeston right out of her sleep. It is Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and it is the song that usually starts it all. The weekend music blasting cruelly into her bedroom. No matter how many times she has politely requested that the neighbor, Justin Clay, please turn it down.

Her husband Stuart is nonchalant. He is not even pretending to be supportive. In fact, the noise doesn’t really bother him. He can sleep through anything.

So begins the saga of the noise nuisance that will drive Louise to take drastic steps. But more will transpire before that happens. Louise will call the police, who will refer her to environmental health. A report will be made. And steps will be taken. Or so she believes.

Meanwhile, as time passes, something changes. The music is now that of choir boys singing, and it appears at odd times. And there is no way to prove the sounds are even occurring, as nobody else hears them.

The Orphan Choir is a disturbing story of what happens when one woman desperately misses her seven-year-old son, Joseph, who is a boarder at Saviour College, run by a Dr. Freeman. The story is a mix of madness, despair, and ghostly warnings. Even as I kept imagining one scenario, another would appear. I thought I would discover that the husband and Dr. Freeman were playing cruel tricks on Louise. But I was wrong.

What does Louise do to try to escape the noise pollution next door? How will her new second home at Swallowfield give her the peace she desires? Why does she suddenly realize that the noise is not the issue, but that more is going on, and that there will be no peace to be found anywhere? A surreal set of events unfold, and finally, at the very end, we realize what has transpired. 4 stars.

Posted in book review

REVIEW: ONE TRUE LOVES, BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

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Jesse and Emma fell in love as teenagers. They shared “first love,” a love that they thought would be forever. They married, they traveled, and then he took one last trip that ended in a helicopter crash. He was presumed dead.

Emma grieved, but eventually she went on with her life. She took over Blair Books, her parents’ store in Afton, Massachusetts, something she would never have imagined she would do.

And then she met Sam Kemper again, her friend from high school. Their love was true, too. The kind of love you have as an adult.

Then one day, after the two of them are planning their wedding, they receive the news: Jesse is not dead. He is back!

What will happen to the true love she now has? Will the past love eclipse it? What will Emma do?

They go to the cottage in Maine, the two of them, Jesse and Emma. They explore the past, they look at the present. They remember “the way we were.”

One True Loves made me smile, made me cry a little, and think of movies I loved like “The Way We Were,” when the characters are deeply in love…and then they have to decide what to do about the future. A 5 star read.

Posted in book review

REVIEW: DEATH AT BREAKFAST, BY BETH GUTCHEON

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When Maggie Detweiler and Hope Babbin arrive at the Oquossoc Mountain Inn set in Bergen, Maine, they are eager to begin the master cooking class offered.

Maggie had recently retired from her position as the head of a private school, and Hope was financially secure.

Almost immediately, we meet staff, guests, and assorted individuals that populate the town and work the inn, so it felt as though the reader has joined the melee surrounding a busy, yet charming retreat.

When a wealthy and imposing man, his wife, and his sister-in-law arrive, the setting turns chaotic. Alexander Antippas is one of those annoying people who expects to be waited upon and kowtowed to, as this has apparently been his experience for many years. Further, he is famous by virtue of his daughter Artemis, and basks in the glow of her celebrity. Right away, however, some staff react against his behavior, thus earning the label “rude,” and one of them, a young girl named Cherry, is fired shortly afterwards.

An inn swarming with guests, some of whom are unpleasant, and a few accompanied by yapping dogs, seems to be the perfect cauldron for brewing up disaster. A middle of the night fire turns deadly, and within hours, the state police, brushing aside the assistance of local law enforcement, including Buster Babbin, Hope’s son, rush in and hurry to judgment.

Why is Shep Gordon, the blustering state police officer in such a hurry to make his arrest, ignoring anything but the conclusions he has reached, partially due to his own feelings about the individual? What do Maggie and Hope do to bring some real evidence forward? How does Alexander Antippas’s past figure into what happened to him?

Death at Breakfast is the first in a series of new mysteries that will feature the two women stirring up the clues they find wherever they go. I always enjoy books by Gutcheon, and this one is a delightful new beginning. My only complaint: there were so many characters that I had a hard time sifting through them by the end. 4 stars.

Posted in book review

REVIEW: DEAR CAROLINA, BY KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY

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What constitutes a true family? For Frances (Khaki) Mason, a busy interior designer with an antiques store and coffee table book publications, her family with her husband Graham consisted of a son, Alex, from Khaki’s first husband who had died. Their desire for another child had not yet been realized.

Meanwhile, Graham’s cousin Jodi, at nineteen, found herself pregnant and struggling with her addictions. She wanted to try to do better than her own mother had, but after just a few weeks, she made a hard decision.

What Khaki and Jodi decided to do would make some people cringe. But adopting little Carolina, and then allowing Jodi to continue as part of that family, turned into the best solution for all. Jodi had her own little trailer, and visited regularly. Later, she moved in with them for a while. Ultimately, Jodi made her own dreams come true when she enrolled in college.

Dear Carolina is the story of that blended family, and alternate narrators, Khaki and Jodi, reveal the struggles, the victories, and the gifts they found along the way. Eventually, Khaki struck a better balance for her life and her family, selling some of the holdings in Manhattan, and continued to include Jodi as part of the family in some fashion or another.

I enjoyed this book and the characters, and the Southern feel was brought out in the cookbooks and canning that Jodi did, as well as the homespun world they all inhabited. 4 stars.

Posted in curl up and read, Read the Books You Buy Challenge

LET’S CURL UP WITH MY BOOK BUYING/READING

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Good morning!  It’s Tuesday, and because many new books are released on Tuesdays, I have been adding to my Kindle collection as if there were no tomorrow.  And you know what else?  Most of them were not new releases.  I did get one of the new Kindle Prime books…but that was yesterday.

Above, note my little country cupboard which sits in the dining area…those print books are some of the ones left after my various purges.  I do have a few scattered throughout the condo…and some day I will count them.  I’m guessing I still have between 400-500 books.

Here is another cupboard with old favorites:

 

 

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Let’s take a look at this year’s purchases, from May on:

 

MAY 2016:

1.  A Lowcountry Wedding (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe

2.  Blue Bath, The (e-book), by Mary Waters-Sayer

3.  Clouds in My Coffee (e-book), by Julie Mulhern

4.  Dear Carolina (e-book), by Kristy Woodson Harvey

5.   Dear Thing (e-book), by Julie Cohen

6.   Flight Patterns (e-book), by Karen White

7.   I Let You Go (e-book), by Claire Mackintosh

8.   Island House, The (e-book), by Nancy Thayer

9.   Let’s Just Say It Wasn’t Pretty:  Memoir, by Diane Keaton9

10.  My Husband’s Wives (e-book), by Faith Hogan

11.  Some Women (e-book), by Emily Liebert

12. Two-Family House, The (e-book), by Lynda Cohen Loigman

13. Two If By Sea (e-book), by Jacquelyn Mitchard

14.  Unsinkable:  Memoir, by Debbie Reynolds

15.  Wilde Lake (e-book), by Laura Lippman

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JUNE 2016:

1.   Confess, by Colleen Hoover

2.  Death at Breakfast (e-book), by Beth Gutcheon

3.  Deep Dark (e-book), by Laura Griffin

4.  Dinner, The (e-book), by Herman Koch

5.  Drinking Closer to Home (e-book), by Jessica Anya Blau

6.   Exit, The (e-book), Helen FitzGerald

7.   Here’s To Us (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

8.   Mystic Summer (e-book), by Hannah McKinnon

9.   One True Loves (e-book), by Taylor Jenkins Reid

10.  Sunshine Beach (e-book), by Wendy Wax

11. Sweetbitter (e-book), by Stephanie Danler

12. Vinegar Girl (e-book), by Anne Tyler

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JULY 2016:

1. Coincidence of Coconut Cake, The (e-book), by Amy E. Riechert

2.  Girl You Lost, The (e-book), by Kathryn Croft

3. In Twenty Years (e-book), by Allison Winn Scotch

4.  Melody Lingers On, The (e-book), by Mary Higgins Clark

5.  They May Not Mean To, But They Do (e-book), by Cathleen Schine

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As you can see, I haven’t read that many of them…yet.  If you’ve been following this blog, you also know I’m participating in the Read the Books You Buy Challenge, and have read 40 so far this year.  Some of them are obviously from the last half of 2015, which counts for the challenge.

On the positive side, I have read 22 books I bought from January through April. 

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I’ve also been catching up on review books, and have no unread Vine books on my stacks at this moment.  Of my NetGalley ARCs, I have one to be released in August, and two in October.  So it’s all good.

I also have an author review requested book to complete…soon.

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Out of boredom, I changed the theme here yesterday.  Some of you might recognize the look from my Serendipity and Snow Sparks blogs.

What are you reading, buying, or reviewing lately?

 

 

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Posted in Blogging

AN UPCOMING CHANGE: MOVING WEEKLY UPDATES

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Good morning!  Friday is here already, and it feels as though I blinked and the week flew by.

Here’s a little heads-up for those who visit my Weekly Updates.  This coming week, and for the foreseeable future, I will be returning to my Serendipity blog for that post.

I like to change this event around, just so readers can see my other blogs.

I’m on my third book this week, which is not as great as last week (with four books), but I’ve been loving all my books, and savoring this one, The Beauty of the End, by Debbie Howells.

 

 

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I try to avoid the Amazon Vine page, since I don’t want to over stuff my stacks with review books, but today I found a book that I was going to buy anyway…so, of course I requested it.

Falling, by Jane Green, is  a novel about the pleasure and meaning of finding a home—and family—where you least expect them…

 

 

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So now I’m curling up with my current read…and hoping to finish by day’s end.  Enjoy your weekend!

 

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Posted in book review

REVIEW: CLOUDS IN MY COFFEE, BY JULIE MULHERN

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Autumn in Kansas City, Missouri, is the time for auctions, galas, and get-togethers. Ellison Russell’s home is overflowing with house guests, from her Aunt Sis to her sister Marjorie.

Marjorie seems to have left her husband Greg, and in her attempt to feel better about the situation, is conducting herself in a very flirtatious manner, while showing a lot of cleavage.

Aunt Sis is hiding something, and hints of a big secret come out when Frances, mother to Marjorie and Ellison, makes some remarks.

The first of many attempts on the unknown target’s life begins at the auction when a bust falls over the rail and almost strikes Ellison. But nobody is sure she was the intended victim. However, when someone firebombs her house later, it is beginning to look like she is.

At the gala, place cards have been switched around for various reasons, so nobody is sure who was supposed to be sitting in the seat Ellison has taken…and even stranger is the fact that Hammie Walsh, who just happened to grab Ellison’s “water” glass, dies from some kind of poisoning.

Anarchy Jones is front and center in the investigation, and as more deadly episodes occur, the mystery ratchets up. Secrets are revealed, and strange alliances form. Clouds in My Coffee was an engaging book that drew me into the world of the 1970s and to the connections between the characters.

As always, I loved watching the attraction grow between Anarchy and Ellison. I also liked seeing the sisters argue and one-up each other. First, the older generation of sisters: Frances and Cecelia (Sis); and then Marjorie and Ellison.

I didn’t figure out who was the target and who the perpetrator until the end, so I was pleased with how the story unfolded. A definite 5 star read.