LET’S CURL UP & ANTICIPATE “THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author I have never read, but I love the sound of this one.  The theme of The Girl in the Red Coat, by Kate Hamer is a familiar one to me lately…a missing child.

 

 

 

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Synopsis:  Newly single mom Beth has one constant, gnawing worry: that her dreamy eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, who has a tendency to wander off, will one day go missing.

And then one day, it happens: On a Saturday morning thick with fog, Beth takes Carmel to a local outdoor festival, they get separated in the crowd, and Carmel is gone.

Shattered, Beth sets herself on the grim and lonely mission to find her daughter, keeping on relentlessly even as the authorities tell her that Carmel may be gone for good.

Carmel, meanwhile, is on a strange and harrowing journey of her own—to a totally unexpected place that requires her to live by her wits, while trying desperately to keep in her head, at all times, a vision of her mother …

Alternating between Beth’s story and Carmel’s, and written in gripping prose that won’t let go, The Girl in the Red Coat—like Emma Donoghue’s Room and M. L. Stedman’s The Light Between Oceans—is an utterly immersive story that’s impossible to put down . . . and impossible to forget.

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I love the idea of the alternating storylines, so we can see what both the mother and the daughter are experiencing.  What are you waiting for?

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REVIEW: THE CROSSING PLACES, BY ELLY GRIFFITHS

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Living in her isolated cottage on the Saltmarsh near Kings Lynn, teaching classes at the university in Norfolk, and communing with nature during her archeology digs…these activities are the core of Dr. Ruth Galloway’s somewhat solitary life.

Her social life is minimal, but she is content. Her two cats keep her company, and there are some nights out with her friend Shona. Her colleagues/friends from early days on digs and at university include mentor Erik Anderssen, and an ex-lover Peter. In her late thirties, she considers herself to be dumpy, but relatively attractive; her outward appearance does not concern her much, as her work is her primary focus.

But Ruth’s life is about to take a dramatic turn as she is swept up in a police investigation headed by DCI Harry Nelson, whose crew has discovered the bones of a child in the marsh. The detective believes the remains might belong to a small girl, Lucy Downey, who went missing ten years before. However, the discovery turns out to be an older burial from the Iron Age.

Bizarre letters with allusions to ritual sacrifices, as well as archeological, Biblical, and Shakespearean references, lead the hunt in a different direction…and then another girl goes missing.

The Crossing Places was a fascinating story that intrigued me mostly because of the characters involved and watching how they processed events and followed clues. Even their everyday lives and routines were fascinating as these ordinary moments added layers to the characters. Other characters were added to the canvas as the story continued, and by the suspenseful end, when catching a murderer became central to the story, I was ticking them off, one by one, as I couldn’t decide which, if any, of Ruth’s associates might be somehow involved. Not knowing who she could trust.

This first book in the series hooked me on the central characters, and by the final pages, I was eager for more as some hints at upcoming events had me checking out Book Two. 4.5 stars.

IT’S A WRAP FOR JANUARY 2016

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January was a pretty good reading month for me, probably due to all the rainy days.  Fifteen books read and reviewed, with plenty of engaging books.

Click my titles to see my reviews.

What did your month look like?

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JANUARY 2016:

1.    A Man Called Ove (e-book), by Fredrik Backman – 353 pages – (literary fiction) – 1/30/16

2.   All Dressed in White, by Mary Higgins Clark & Alafair Burke – 271 pages – (suspense fiction) – 1/1/16 – First Book of 2016

3.  Behind Closed Doors (e-book), by Elizabeth Haynes – 401 pages – (crime fiction) – 1/12/16

4.  Black Widow, The (e-book), by Wendy Corsi Staub – 366 pages – (suspense thriller) – 1/3/16

5.  Deep End, The (e-book), by Julie Mulhern – 256 pages – (cozy mystery) – 1/8/16

6.   Good Liar, The, by Nicholas Searle – 332 pages – (literary fiction) – 1/23/16

7.   Guaranteed to Bleed (e-book), by Julie Mulhern – 268 pages – (cozy mystery) – 1/22/16

8.   Missing Pieces (e-book), by Heather Gudenkauf – 288 pages – (murder/suspense) – 1/16/16 (NetGalley)

9.   My Life on the Road, by Gloria Steinem – 254 pages – (memoir) – 1/15/16

10. Opposite of Everyone, The, by Joshilyn Jackson – 291 pages – (contemporary/historical fiction) – 1/9/16 (Vine)

11. Secret Sisters (e-book), by Jayne Ann Krentz – 336 pages – (romantic suspense) – 1/15/16

12.  Summer Wind, The (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe – 367 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 1/26/16

13.  Swans of Fifth Avenue, The (e-book), by Melanie Benjamin – 368 pages – (historical fictional events) – 1/6/16 (NetGalley)

14.  What Was Mine (e-book), by Helen Klein Ross – 336 pages – (contemporary fiction/suspense) – 1/18/16

15.    Widow, The (e-book), by Fiona Barton – 336 pages – (psychological suspense) – 1/20/16 – (NetGalley)

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN JANUARY 2016:     15

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN JANUARY 2016:      4,823

BOOKS READ YTD:                                                            15

FAVORITE FICTION BOOK IN JANUARY 2016:      Missing Pieces, by Heather Gudenkauf

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Check in with Kathryn, at The Book Date, to see other wrap-up posts.

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REVIEW: A MAN CALLED OVE, BY FREDRIK BACKMAN

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In the neighborhood where he has lived for many years, Ove is known as a curmudgeon, a cranky old man, and someone around whom to tiptoe carefully. Watching his daily routines, though, one senses that there is much more to the man. He seems almost obsessive as he checks out the neighborhood, issuing warnings to people who are disobeying the rules of the home owners group.

But one can also see that Ove has a larger plan, one that he hopes to carry out…and soon. But something always stops him. Like the neighbors moving in and backing a trailer into his mailbox, or the pregnant neighbor needing a ride somewhere. Or a cat that needs looking after. Pulled more and more into the community, Ove doesn’t seem less cranky, necessarily, but certainly there is more going on with him.

Beneath the bursts of anger and the crankiness lies a story that we are told in bits and pieces until it all begins to make sense. And as we warm up to him, we find ourselves rooting for him and hoping that he decides not to carry out his larger plan.

I found the story slow going, but not because it wasn’t enjoyable. I could only manage it in short spurts, as I found myself feeling deep emotions and wanting to savor the experience. I enjoyed going back into Ove’s life and seeing how he developed the habits and values he owns. We see the sadness of various losses, and we want him to finally find peace and a sense of community.

A Man Called Ove is a character study and a story of community, of compassion, and of reaching out to those around us. A book I highly recommend. 5 stars.

CURL UP WITH “A MAN CALLED OVE”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book is one I hope to read this week, but it’s been on Pippa since July 2015.

A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman, is a feel-good story in the spirit of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand; it is about the angry old man next door, a thoughtful exploration of the profound impact one life has on countless others.

 

 

 

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Intro:  A MAN CALLED OVE BUYS A COMPUTER THAT IS NOT A COMPUTER

Ove is fifty-nine.

He drives a Saab.  He’s the kind of man who points at people he doesn’t like the look of, as if they were burglars and his forefinger a policeman’s flashlight.  He stands at the counter of a shop where owners of Japanese cars come to purchase white cables.  Ove eyes the sales assistant for a long time before shaking a medium-sized white box at him.

“So this is one of those O-Pads, is it?” he demands.

The assistant, a young man with a single-digit body mass index, looks ill at ease.  He visibly struggles to control his urge to snatch the box out of Ove’s hand.

“Yes, exactly.  An iPad.  Do you think you could stop shaking it like that…?”

Ove gives the box a skeptical glance, as if it’s a highly dubious sort of box, a box that rides a scooter and wears tracksuit pants and just called Ove “my friend” before offering to sell him a watch.

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Teaser:  She believed in destiny.  That all the roads you walk in life, in one way or another, “lead to what has been predetermined for you.”  Ove, of course, just started muttering under his breath and got very busy fiddling about with a screw or something whenever she started going on like this.  But he never disagreed with her.  (p. 71).

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Synopsis:  Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon—the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell.” But must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

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What do you think?  Does this sound like a book you would keep reading?  I am hoping to be delighted by the curmudgeon that is Ove.

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REVIEW: THE GOOD LIAR, BY NICHOLAS SEARLE

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Roy and Betty met on an Internet dating site, in the final “chapters” of their lives. These two octogenarians seem like an unlikely combination, but they each have an agenda. His, to play his final con, and hers, perhaps, for companionship. Although as the pages turn, I sometimes wonder about that, as she seems perfectly content whenever he is away on one of his “business” trips.

They settle into her cute little cottage and he meets her children, who don’t like him at all. But Betty seems to blithely ignore their concerns.

He has a certain smarmy charm, but it is interesting to watch as the author peels back the layers, and he does this with time periods, too, taking the reader back to the nineties, then the seventies, the sixties, all the way back to the 30s. We see what makes Roy tick.

What is Roy’s endgame? Is it simply a financial situation for him? Or is there more to his plan? Why does Betty seem so passive, when many indicators suggest that she is smart and more aware than she lets on?

As the answers come in The Good Liar, I am stunned by the intricacy of the plot and how it all unfolds. A very satisfying conclusion, although there were a few too many layers to keep my interest all the way through. I did enjoy arriving at the endgame, however. A 3.5 read.

REVIEW: THE WIDOW, BY FIONA BARTON

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Glen and Jean Taylor might have seemed like an ordinary couple at some point, but their lives in this tidy suburb of London have just gone off the rails.

A little girl named Bella Elliott has gone missing, and inexplicably, at least to Glen and Jean, he is the prime suspect. They are now hounded by police, reporters, and angry strangers. Hiding in their home is not even possible, once Glen is arrested and begins to stand trial. He is proclaiming his innocence, and Jean is standing by him.

In order to fully understand his point of view, of course, we have only to watch and wait, as various characters share their perspectives: Detective Bob Sparkes and his associates; reporter Kate Waters; the missing child’s mother, Dawn; and Jean herself.

The story moves back and forth through time, starting in the early years of the Taylor marriage, when the roles were set: Glen, the one in power, with Jean, the housewife and submissive one.

But things shifted at some point, perhaps when their childlessness became an issue. Jean is devastated about not having a baby, and Glen is the infertile one. Could Jean have somehow persuaded Glen to “get” the child for her? Is Bella the baby she has always wanted?

The focus on Glen has come about primarily because of the sighting of his van in the child’s neighborhood around the time she was taken…and his Internet porn addiction.

When we are swept forward in time, to the present, something major has changed. Glen has been struck by a bus and killed. An accident? At any rate, now the police and reporters take a different tack. Maybe they can get Jean to talk. Maybe they can finally find Bella.

The past and the present finally converge and we are moving forward to a moment of enlightenment. What the police have “known” all along but couldn’t prove might finally be forthcoming.

Jean was a puzzling character. Sometimes she seemed like a victim, while at other times, I thought of her as sneaky and manipulative. Glen always felt like a predator, and his behavior seemed creepy and like that of a sociopath; in addition to denial of any wrong-doing, he adamantly maintained the persona of the innocent victim. I liked DI Bob Sparkes, but Kate Waters seemed to push her own agenda with the use of charm and by pretending to befriend her subject. She seemed untrustworthy, wanting to get the story, no matter what the consequences. The Widow was an intriguing story that had very little of mystery about it, except for the details of how it all went down. 4.5 stars.

*** An e-ARC was provided by the publisher via NetGalley.