REVIEW: HERE & GONE, BY HAYLEN BECK

 

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

My Thoughts: Audra Kinney is almost at her California destination when she is pulled over. The sheriff of the nearby small town states that her car is overloaded, and that he must lighten it. He opens the trunk and finds some marijuana…which stuns her, as she knows it is not hers. She is arrested anyway. Her children are taken from the scene by an assistant to the sheriff.

Hours later, she realizes that they have been stolen, as the sheriff and his assistant are denying that there were any children with her.

Will anyone listen to her protests? Is there anyone at all who believes a word out of her mouth? Her ex-husband has done a good job of painting her as a drug addict/alcoholic with mental health issues. How can she defend herself against the wealthy ex and his mother?

The intensity of Here and Gone kept me captivated as I watched Audra’s efforts to find a compassionate person amongst those in charge. The FBI agent seems the most likely to help her, but she, too, might be persuaded by those who are lying.

Help comes from an unlikely source, but even as I felt the dawning of hope, I couldn’t stop worrying about them all until the final pages. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: CLOSE YOUR EYES, HOLD HANDS, BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN

 

Emily Shepard is on the run; the nuclear plant where her father worked has suffered a cataclysmic meltdown, and all fingers point to him. Now, orphaned, homeless, and certain that she’s a pariah, Emily’s taken to hiding out on the frigid streets of Burlington, Vermont, creating a new identity inspired by her favorite poet, Emily Dickinson.

Then she meets Cameron. Nine years old and with a string of foster families behind him, he sparks something in Emily, and she protects him with a fierceness she didn’t know she possessed. But when an emergency threatens the fledgling home she’s created, Emily realizes that she can’t hide forever.

My Thoughts: Emily’s first person narrative takes the reader back and forth in time, revealing bits of her life before the meltdown, and then shows us what life in shelters and on the street looked like.

At times she was part of a posse, while at other periods of her time on the streets, she struggled to stay out of sight. She learned right away not to use her real identity, as the news commentators had made the name “Shepard” something to vilify.

I liked how Emily shared her experiences and was open about her flaws and bad choices. She revealed a nurturing side when she took 9-year-old Cameron under her wing. But then, the habit of hiding, along with the fear of being caught, led to a disastrous error in judgment that put Cameron at risk.

Because of the non-linear storytelling, I was never quite sure where we were headed, but I was always interested and engaged.

By the end of Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, I could look back on what had happened in the nine months after the meltdown, and then look ahead at what would eventually come to pass for Emily; by then, I was close to tears at times, and I was definitely invested in what would happen to her. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE BOOKSHOP ON THE CORNER, BY JENNY COLGAN

 

Nina is a literary matchmaker. Pairing a reader with that perfect book is her passion… and also her job. Or at least it was. Until yesterday, she was a librarian in the hectic city. But now the job she loved is no more.  

Determined to make a new life for herself, Nina moves to a sleepy village many miles away. There she buys a van and transforms it into a bookmobile — a mobile bookshop that she drives from neighborhood to neighborhood, changing one life after another with the power of storytelling. 

From helping her grumpy landlord deliver a lamb, to sharing picnics with a charming train conductor who serenades her with poetry, Nina discovers there’s plenty of adventure, magic, and soul in a place that’s beginning to feel like home… a place where she just might be able to write her own happy ending.

My Thoughts: When a librarian who loves books is without a library in which to utilize her talents, what can she possibly do?

In coming up with an idea to buy an old van and stash it full of beloved books, a way to surround herself with what she loved most, Nina thought she had the perfect solution.

But obstacles presented themselves over and over, like not being able to get a license to park the van in Birmingham. But since she had bought the van in Scotland, and after researching the rules there, she decided to set up shop, moving from market to market in the surrounding area.

I liked how Nina was determined to make her little bookshop a success, and finding a cottage to rent from the seemingly cross farmer made her daily life a joy for her. But there were also interesting people, some nosy, who soon became friends. Befriending the young teenager Ainslee and her brother Ben helped Nina realize that reaching out to help those in need would make her feel a part of the community.

The train engineer whose path crossed with hers was a distraction, and in the end, she realized that finding a special connection closer to home would be the answer for her. A surprising turn toward her romantic dreams.

The Bookshop on the Corner was a story about bookish love, romantic dreams, and making your own way in a new community. 4.5 stars.

***

MONTHLY WRAP-UP: HELLO AUGUST!

Where did July go?  In fact, what happened to summer?  Despite the fleeting months, there have been some great books read and savored.  Click on over to Book Date to enter your Monthly Wrap-Up Post.

There were so many great books for the month, that I had a tie for favorite fiction, and a favorite nonfiction as well.

Fiction:

The Marriage Pact, by Michelle Richmond

 

Emma in the Night, by Wendy Walker

 

Nonfiction:

The Best of Us, by Joyce Maynard

 

***

Here is my list for the month.  Click my titles for my reviews:

JULY 2017:

1.Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson – 170 pages – (literary fiction) – 7/8/17

2.Bad Housekeeping (e-book), by Maia Chance – 304 pages- (cozy mystery) – 7/27/17

3.Best of Us, The (e-book), by Joyce Maynard – 432 pages – (memoir) – 7/18/17 – (NetGalley – 9/5)

4.Bookshop at Water’s End, The (e-book), by Patti Callahan Henry – 352 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 7/4/17 – (NetGalley – 7/11)

5.Child, The (e-book), by Fiona Barton – 364 pages – (suspense thriller) – 7/14/17

6.Comfort of Others, The, by Kay Langdale – 230 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 7/13/17

7.Comfort of Secrets, The (e-book), by Christine Nolfi – 318 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 7/7/17 – (NetGalley – 7/18)

8.Emma in the Night (e-book), by Wendy Walker – 320 pages – (suspense thriller) – 7/29/17 – (NetGalley – 8/8/17)

9.Every Wild Heart (e-book), by Meg Donohue – 304 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 7/21/17

10.Girl in Snow (e-book), by Danya Kukafta – 368 pages – (thriller) – 7/25/17 – (NetGalley – 8/1/17)

11.Girl, The:  Life in the Shadow of Roman Polanski, by Samantha Geimer – 273 pages – (memoir) – 7/9/17

12.Love Letters, by Debbie Macomber – 320 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 7/5/17

13.Marriage Pact, The (e-book), by Michelle Richmond – 432 pages – (suspense) – 7/17/17 –(NetGalley – 7/25)

14.Mrs. Fletcher (e-book), by Tom Perrotta – 320 pages- (family drama) – 7/23/17 – (NetGalley – 8/1/17)

15.My Life to Live, by Agnes Nixon – 234 pages – (memoir) – 7/16/17

***

NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN JULY 2017:         15

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN JULY 2017:     4,741

BOOKS READ YTD:                                                      103

***

CORRECTING AN OVERSIGHT: OBSESSIVELY…

I did it again!  Changed up the blog header.

Maybe I will stay with this one for a while, but when the “restless feeling” attacks, I’ll be checking my blogs and seeing what needs a shake-up.

Meanwhile, it is almost time for a Monthly Wrap-Up, and in preparation, I was looking at my list of Books Read.  The numbers didn’t match what I felt I had read…so I double checked.  And guess what?  Three of the books I had read this past week hadn’t made it to the list!

Usually I am obsessive about entering those books, with links on the titles.  So what happened?

Well, I’m going to blame it on my daughter and those martinis she and her friend made last Sunday at the barbecue.  After that event, I became more forgetful, apparently.

So…I have fixed the oversight.  So far, I’ve read and reviewed fifteen books this month, and a number of them were NetGalley ARCs, leaving FIVE remaining.  My release dates on those are:

8/22, 9/12, 9/26, 10/3, and 10/10.  Whew!  I think I’ve got this!

As for my Purchased Books:

January:  19 Purchased, 3 Still Unread

February:  13 Purchased, 7 Unread

March:  11 Purchased, 4 Unread

April:  13 Purchased, 5 Unread

May:  13 Purchased, 6 Unread

June:  12 Purchased, 7 Unread

July:  7 Purchased, 7 Unread

***

The Total Purchased Books I’ve Read So Far:  64, which also includes some from July-December, 2016.

***

With only five reading months in the year, let’s hope I manage to read more books and never forget to add any to my lists!

What do your numbers tell you about your reading?  Do you find it helpful to keep tabs on your reading?

***

REVIEW: MRS. FLETCHER, BY TOM PERROTTA

 

Eve Fletcher is trying to figure out what comes next. A forty-six-year-old divorcee whose beloved only child has just left for college, Eve is struggling to adjust to her empty nest when one night her phone lights up with a text message. Sent from an anonymous number, the mysterious sender tells Eve, “U R my MILF!” Over the months that follow, that message comes to obsess Eve. While leading her all-too-placid life—serving as Executive Director of the local senior center by day and taking a community college course on Gender and Society at night—Eve can’t curtail her own interest in a porn website called MILFateria.com, which features the erotic exploits of ordinary, middle-aged women like herself. Before long, Eve’s online fixations begin to spill over into real life, revealing new romantic possibilities that threaten to upend her quiet suburban existence.

Meanwhile, miles away at the state college, Eve’s son Brendan—a jock and aspiring frat boy—discovers that his new campus isn’t nearly as welcoming to his hard-partying lifestyle as he had imagined. Only a few weeks into his freshman year, Brendan is floundering in a college environment that challenges his white-dude privilege and shames him for his outmoded, chauvinistic ideas of sex. As the New England autumn turns cold, both mother and son find themselves enmeshed in morally fraught situations that come to a head on one fateful November night.

My Thoughts: Mrs. Fletcher is a story that delves into the lives of ordinary people, situations that could happen to anyone, and I love how the author often takes us to places that we don’t expect to go.

At first I wasn’t that interested in what was happening to Brendan, the college son, who was kind of a jerk, IMO. But then I started to see his perspective, probably because he was the only first person narrator throughout the novel. Could some of his actions stem from inexperience? Was he really as crude as he seemed, or had he simply had poor role models?

Then there was Eve, the attractive mother who was still struggling after her divorce, and now had an empty nest to ponder. As she starts spreading her wings, finding new people and situations to explore, I just knew that where she was going might end up being regrettable. Could her new addiction to porn lead her down questionable pathways? I also enjoyed how a middle-aged woman like Eve was navigating dating life for the first time after her divorce via social networking.

Supporting characters like Margo, the transgender professor; Amanda, the young woman who worked for Eve at the Senior Center; and Julian Spitzer, the young guy who had been bullied by Brendan in high school…all kept my interest as I followed along with their adventures and how their lives connected with Eve. A 5 star read.***An e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

INTERNET TROLLS, ETC.: OUT OF THE SLIME…

Good morning!  I’ve been playing around with my blog header here…and I’m not sure that I’ve settled on this one.  But time will tell.

Meanwhile, I was reading e-mails and got one of those comments on an Amazon review.  I should change the notifications so I don’t get those, but then again, I like to know what the trolls are saying.  LOL.

The person said that my review should be ignored, since I was a “paid reviewer,” and gave away too much info.

Of course I had to respond and point out that the description written before “my thoughts” came straight from the product page…and BTW, I am not a paid reviewer.

I don’t usually let comments unsettle me, and mostly I ignore them.  But I had to correct her assumptions about my review being “paid.”  If only!

I know that some book reviewers have opted not to post on Amazon…trolls seem to linger there and come out of the slime occasionally.  I should be grateful that it doesn’t happen a lot.

 

***

So…now that I’ve vented about that, I can go back to reading Mrs. Fletcher, which I’m really enjoying.  A mother (Eve Fletcher) whose nest is now empty; her college age son who is struggling with his first year, mostly the social aspects; and a group of interesting new friends that Mrs. Fletcher has discovered in an unexpected place.

 

***

Do you find yourself venting occasionally at comments on the Internet?  What do you do about them? 

***