REVIEW: THE DAUGHTER, BY JANE SHEMILT

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

Alternating narratives take the reader through the past and the present in The Daughter. Jenny struggles to move beyond what has happened to her daughter, but she is unable to do so. Thoughts of her relationship with Naomi and those last fateful days before her daughter disappeared seem to consume her.

She spends her time in the family cottage, isolated, but slowly she begins to reach out to others. Helping an ailing neighbor next door reminds her of her nurturing qualities and what is missing in her life, offering an alternative to focusing on her loss.

As the story continues, we start uncovering more pieces to the puzzle of Naomi’s disappearance, and see beneath the perfect exterior of the characters’ lives. Lies, secrets, and unexpected events kept me reading, although I felt frustrated by the slow unwinding of a tome that could have kept me glued to the pages. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: THE PLAYGROUND, BY JANE SHEMILT

Over the course of a long, hot summer in London, the lives of three very different married couples collide when their children join the same tutoring circle, resulting in illicit relationships, shocking violence, and unimaginable fallout.

There’s Eve, a bougie earth mother with a well-stocked trust fund; she has three little ones, a blue-collar husband and is obsessed with her Instagrammable recipes and lifestyle. And Melissa, a successful interior designer whose casually cruel banker husband is careful not to leave visible bruises; she curates her perfectly thin body so closely she misses everything their teenage daughter is hiding. Then there’s Grace, a young Zimbabwean immigrant, who lives in high-rise housing project with her two children and their English father Martin, an award-winning but chronically broke novelist; she does far more for her family than she should have to.

As the weeks go by, the couples become very close; there are barbecues, garden parties, a holiday at a country villa in Greece. Resentments flare. An affair begins. Unnoticed, the children run wild. The couples are busily watching each other, so distracted and self-absorbed that they forget to watch their children. No one sees the five children at their secret games or realize how much their family dynamics are changing until tragedy strikes.

The story twists and then twists again while the three families desperately search for answers. It’s only as they begin to unravel the truth of what happened over the summer that they realize evil has crept quietly into their world.

But has this knowledge come too late?

Meeting the characters of The Playground happened almost immediately, and the narrative alternated between the women. They were wives and mothers who struggled with their marriages, their parenting duties, and their careers.

Their get-togethers revolved around their tutoring circle connections, and while they seemed to be enjoying themselves, it didn’t take long to notice that the children were up to something. They ran wild, primarily, which worried me. I knew that nothing good would come of the games they were playing, games that went unnoticed by the parents.

What ultimately happened stemmed from their inability to keep track of their children and their activities, but also sprang from their own marital issues. Domestic abuse was another theme that would become crucial to the events that unfolded.

When tragedy struck, the spotlight turned to one of the men and ignored the signs that I could see all along. I had figured out what happened long before the end, but I enjoyed watching how the truth was finally discovered. 5 stars.

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CURLING UP WITH 2019 BOOKS…

Whenever I think about my previous home and all the goodies I had there, I am reminded of moments and special connections.  Books, Disney characters, a special cup and saucer…and my little notes I took whenever I blogged.

I am just grateful for all the photos I snapped that allow me to remember the moments and the trinkets.

Today I am thinking about all the books that I have read in the past year, and those still unread.  Surprisingly, I did pretty well.

Here are the Purchased Books: 101, with one DNF

The Linked Titles that have been read and reviewed: 75

JANUARY 2019:

1.A Simple Favor (e-book), by Darcey Bell

2.Becoming Mrs. Lewis (e-book), by Patti Callahan

3.Best of Us, The (e-book), by Robyn Carr

4.Come Find Me (e-book), by Megan Miranda

5.Her One Mistake (e-book), by Heidi Perks

6.Late in the Day (e-book), by Tessa Hadley

7.Liar’s Room, The (e-book), by Simon Lelic

8.Red Address Book, The (e-book), by Sofia Lundberg

9.She Lies in Wait (e-book), by Gytha Lodge

10.Suspect, The (e-book), by Fiona Barton

11.Untouchable (e-book), by Jayne Ann Krentz

12.Wallis in Love, by Andrew Morton

13.Woman Inside, The (e-book), by E. G. ScottDNF

14.Woman Who Kept Everything, The (e-book), by Jane Gilley

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FEBRUARY 2019:

1.Don’t Wake Up (e-book), by Liz Lawler

2. I Invited Her In (e-book), by Adele Parks

3.I Owe You One (e-book), by Sophie Kinsella

4.Never Tell (e-book), by Lisa Gardner

5.Next To Die, The (e-book), by Sophie Hannah

6.Silent Patient, The (e-book), by Alex Michaelides

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MARCH 2019:

1.All the Wrong Places (e-book), by Joy Fielding

2.Back Stabbers (e-book), by Julie Mulhern

3,Before She Knew Him (e-book), by Peter Swanson

4.California Girls (e-book), by Susan Mallery

5.Liar’s Child, The (e-book), by Carla Buckley

6.Library of Lost and Found, The (e-book), by Phaedra Patrick

7.Maid (e-book), by Stephanie Land

8. Night Visitors, The (e-book), by Carol Goodman

9.Perfect Girlfriend, The (e-book), by Karen Hamilton

10.Things We Cannot Say, The (e-book), by Kelly Rimmer

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APRIL 2019:

1.A Good Enough Mother (e-book), by Bev Thomas

2.Before She Was Found (e-book), by Heather Gudenkauf

3.Better Sister, The (e-book), by Alafair Burke

4.Editor, The (e-book), by Steven Rowley

5.Girl He Used to Know, The (e-book), by Tracey Garvis Graves

6.I Know Who You Are (e-book), by Alice Feeney

7.Little Darlings (e-book), by Melanie Golding

8.Missing Years, The (e-book), by Lexie Elliott

9.Mother-in-Law, The (e-book), by Sally Hepworth

10.My Lovely Wife (e-book), by Samantha Downing

11.Someone Knows (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline

12.Stone Mothers (e-book), by Erin Kelly

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MAY 2019:

1.Killman Creek (e-book), by Rachel Caine

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JUNE 2019:

1.Dear Wife (e-book), by Kimberly Belle

2.Friends We Keep, The  (e-book), by Jane Green

3.I’ll Never Tell (e-book), by Catherine McKenzie

4.Summer of ’69 (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

JULY 2019:

1.Bookish Life of Nina Hill, The (e-book), by Abbi Waxman

2.Lady in the Lake (e-book), by Laura Lippman

3.Someone We Know (e-book), by Shari Lapena

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AUGUST 2019:

1.Careful What You Wish For (e-book), by Hallie Ephron

2.Favorite Daughter, The (e-book), by Patti Callahan Henry

3.Kennedy Heirs, The, by J. Randy Taraborrelli

4.Last Widow, The (e-book), by Karin Slaughter

5.My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding (e-book), by Wendy Wax

6..Object of My Affection (e-book), by Stephen McCauley

7.Old Baggage, by Lissa Evans

8.Perfect Son, The (e-book), by Lauren North

9.Telephone Line (e-book, #9), by Julie Mulhern

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SEPTEMBER 2019:

1.A Game for All the Family, by Sophie Hannah

2.Dutch House, The (e-book), by Ann Patchett

3.Elevator Pitch (e-book), by Linwood Barclay

4.Grammarians, The (e-book), by Cathleen Schine

5.Inside Out, by Demi Moore

6. Ladies Who Punch, by Ramin Satoodeh

7.Murder List, The (e-book), by Hank Phillippi Ryan

8.Nanaville, by Anna Quindlen

9.Nanny, The (e-book), by Gilly Macmillan

10.Queen Meryl, by Erin Carlson

11.Stranger Inside, The (e-book), by Lisa Unger

12.Testaments, The (e-book), by Margaret Atwood

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OCTOBER 2019:

1.All the Flowers in Paris, by Sarah Jio

2.Book of Gutsy Women, The, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton

3.Family, The, Louise Jensen

4.Good Girl, Bad Girl (e-book), by Michael Robotham

5.John F. Kennedy, Jr.:  America’s Reluctant Prince, by Steven M. Gillon

6,Lying Room, The (e-book), by Nicci French

7.One Little Secret (e-book), by Cate Holahan

8.Poison Garden, The (e-book), by A. J. Banner

9.Takes One To Know One (e-book), by Susan Isaacs

10.Touched by the Sun, by Carly Simon

11.Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off, The, by Gloria Steinem

12. What Happens in Paradise (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

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NOVEMBER 2019:

1.A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller

2.Confession Club, The (e-book), by Elizabeth Berg

3.Family Upstairs, The (e-book), by Lisa JewellT

4.Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry, by Mary Higgins Clark

5.Marilyn Monroe:  The Private Life of a Public Icon, by Charles Casillo

6.Tell Me Everything (e-book), by Amy Hatvany

7.White Palace, by Glenn Savan

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DECEMBER 2019:

1.Delusions of Grandma, by Carrie Fisher

2.Empty Nest, The (e-book), by Sue Watson

3.Christmas Shopaholic, by Sophie Kinsella

4.Girls Like Us, by Sheila Weller

5.Home Truths (e-book), by Tina Seskis

6.Meg and Jo, by Virginia Kantra

7.Normal People (e-book), by Sally Rooney

8.No Place Like Home, by Rebecca Muddiman

9.Playground, The (e-book), by Jane Shemilt

10.Regretting You (e-book), by Colleen Hoover

11.Such a Perfect Wife (e-book), by Kate White

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Now I can check this list for books to read next…or soon, anyway.  How do you track your TBR?

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CURLING UP WITH NEW YEAR TASKS…

As I prepare for 2020 Reading, I could just curl up and begin.  But first…I had to prepare my pages here, and that is a task that does take a while.

For the New Year, I created a page for Bookshelves – 2020, and under this parent page, there is one for Books Purchased in 2020; another for Books Read in 2020; and finally, Review Books – 2020.

Of course, there are stacks of books just waiting, including the First Book of 2020, which I will write about tomorrow on An Interior Journey.

This year will begin the Nonfiction Reading Challenge, hosted by Shelleyrae at Book’d Out.  For that challenge, I already have a pretty good stack to tackle.

One of my goals for the New Year is to fill up my Growing Shelves, since I am starting from scratch after my move.

 

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What are your special tasks for the New Year?  Do you have routines you follow?  Or do you just curl up and read?

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GOODBYE TO DECEMBER & HELLO TO JANUARY 2020…

It’s time to look back at the month…and the year. Let’s curl up and take a peek.

Here are three favorites for the month:

 

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Genres:

Nonfiction:  4

Historical Fiction:  2

Contemporary Fiction:  2

Suspense:  1

Literary Fiction:  1

Now for my ten books read.  Click titles for my reviews.

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1.All the Flowers in Paris, by Sarah Jio – (291 pages) – (historical fiction) – 12/30/19

2.A Life on the Edge, by Sheila Weller – (358 pages)- (memoir) – 12/5/19

3.Big Lies in a Small Town (e-book), by Diane Chamberlain – (400 pages) – (historical fiction) – 12/13/19 – (NG – 1/14/20)

4.Confession Club, The (e-book), by Elizabeth Berg – (304 pages) – (literary fiction) – 12/9/19

5.Delusions of Grandma, by Carrie Fisher (280 pages) – (fictionalized autobiography) – 12/25/19

6.Empty Nest, The (e-book), by Sue Watson – (290 pages) – (suspense thriller) – 12/28/19

7.Marilyn Monroe:  The Private Life of a Public Icon, by Charles Casillo – (317 pages) – (biography) – 12/16/19

8.Meg & Jo, by Virginia Kantra – (371 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 12/23/19

9.Tell Me Everything (e-book), by Amy Hatvany – (307 pages) – (contemporary fiction) -12/19/19

10.Truth Will Set You Free, The, But Then It Will Piss You Off,  by Gloria Steinem – (161 pages) – (memoir) – 12/9/19

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN DECEMBER 2019:    10

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN DECEMBER: 3,087

BOOKS READ YTD:  117

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What did your month look like?  How many books did you read during the year?

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REVIEW: THE EMPTY NEST, BY SUE WATSON

 

 

Kat remembers the days when her only daughter Amy wouldn’t leave her side. Amy was the baby who cried when you walked out of the room, the toddler who was too shy to speak to strangers, the small child who clung to Kat’s legs in the school playground.

But now Amy is grown up, and Amy is gone—to university in a town several hours away. Kat’s house—which once felt too full, too noisy, too busy—is deathly quiet, and Kat awaits the daily phone call to tell her that her beloved daughter is thriving and happy.

Until the day Amy doesn’t call, sending Kat into a panic. Her husband and friends say she’s being paranoid—surely Amy is just out, having fun? But Kat feels sure something is very wrong—she knows her daughter, and she would never just disappear.

As the hours turn into days, her fears are confirmed: Amy is missing. But there are secrets about her daughter that Kat doesn’t know about yet. And the truth about Amy’s whereabouts may be closer to home than Kat could ever imagine…

 
 
 

My Thoughts: Kat Ellis is the first-person narrator of The Empty Nest,and she is clearly overly involved in her daughter’s life, so much so that Amy’s choice to attend a university in Wales might just be a way to finally create her own life.

But then Amy goes missing. For a while, nobody believes she is really gone, blaming Kat’s overly obsessive need to control her life.

Kat’s husband Richard, best friend Zoe, and even Jodie, who is Zoe’s daughter, all seem to bend over backwards to help Kat search for Amy—once they convince themselves that she is truly gone. All along, however, there are clues, red flags, and little pieces that don’t add up.

So many red herrings kept me off track, making me suspicious of everyone. Even Richard and Amy’s biological dad Tony are persons of interest. Every time I turned another page, there were more suspects.

Then we finally learn what happened to Amy…and I didn’t see it coming. I rapidly turned pages until the hidden truth was revealed. A twisty story that earned 4.5 stars.

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CURLING UP WITH STACKS OF BOOKS…

Today I curled up on my bench to read; I’m eager to work my way through the stack of hardcover books I have recently acquired.  On the left, I have fiction versions, and nearby on my nightstand, I have these nonfiction ones.

January 1 launches a Nonfiction Reading Challenge, and I hope to finish these and a few more, some of which are tucked away in other cupboards, hiding behind photos and trinkets…like this one:

Before I start the Nonfiction Challenge, however, I’ll be participating in First Book of the Year.  My chosen tome is ready to go.  I’ll be writing about it on January 1.

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I have plans to read more fiction, too, so next week I will be downloading a preordered book that sounds tempting:  The Playground, by Jane Shemilt.

Big Little Lies meets Lord of The Flies in this electrifyingly twisty follow-up to Jane Shemilt’s breakout debut The Daughter.

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What are your reading plans for 2020?  Will you be joining challenges, or reading whatever you find on Amazon, in bookshops, or in the library?

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CHALLENGING MYSELF WITH NONFICTION – 1/1 – 12/31/20

The 2020 Nonfiction Challenge is hosted by Shelleyrae, at Book’d Out. 

The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st 2020. Participants may join at any time up until December 1st 2020

My Goal is: Nonfiction Nibbler : Read 6 books, from any category

Categories

1. Memoir

2. Disaster Event

3. Social Science

4. Related to an Occupation

5. History

6. Feminism

7. Psychology

8. Medical Issue

9. Nature

10. True Crime

11. Science

12. Published in 2020

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Each time you read and review a book as part of this challenge, make sure you identify it by adding either a direct statement and/or the challenge image badge to the post. Use the hashtag #2020ReadNonFic and/or tweet @bookdout

Share your review with other challenge participants by posting your name/blog name and title of the book with a direct link to your review in the monthly Linky, which will be posted on the first Saturday of every month. Please take the time to visit a few links and leave a comment after adding yours!

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I have a stack of hardcover nonfiction already…and plan to add to that stack.

Let’s have fun with it!

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OBSESSIONS ON A HUMP DAY…

Here I am on a Hump Day, the one that comes one week before Christmas, and I am avoiding the TV networks with the hearings, and even procrastinating with my reading…just so I can fiddle away at my blogs. (The TV is on, however, muted, with closed captions, so I glance up now and then, assessing how things are going).

I’ve re-posted something from a year ago on my An Interior Journey site...and now, here I am at this site, changing my header (and my background)…again.

I have some favorite images from my previous residence, and feeling nostalgic for that space, I have used a couple of them in today’s header changes:  on the left, I have captured a photo of a favorite doll, mug, and some books; and on the right, you can see my once-loved bookshelf, with my wicker bench at its foot, below an image of more books and favorite Disney characters.

The bench came with me here; I’ve shared a few of those images from my new space, with the bench at the foot of my bed, below.

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Shall we move on to other obsessions?  I think I will go back to the book I started yesterday: Tell Me Everything, by Amy Hatvany.

A juicy and insightful look into the shifting definition of modern marriage and the limits placed upon female sexuality, TELL ME EVERYTHING will make you question everything you thought you knew about what constitutes marital bliss, and keep you turning pages into the night.

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What is keeping you engaged on this winter day?  Are you shopping, reading, or following some obsessive path like me?  Come on by and share…

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REVIEW: THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE…, BY GLORIA STEINEM

For decades—and especially now, in these times of crisis—people around the world have found guidance, humor, and unity in Gloria Steinem’s gift for creating quotes that offer hope and inspire action. From her early days as a journalist and feminist activist, Steinem’s words have helped generations to empower themselves and work together.

Covering topics from relationships (“Many are looking for the right person. Too few are trying to be the right person.”) to the patriarchy (“Men are liked better when they win. Women are liked better when they lose. This is how the patriarchy is enforced every day.”) and activism (“Revolutions, like trees, grow from the bottom up.”), this is the definitive collection of Steinem’s words on what matters most. Steinem sees quotes as “the poetry of everyday life,” so she also has included a few favorites from friends, including bell hooks, Flo Kennedy, and Michelle Obama, in this book that will make you want to laugh, march, and create some quotes of your own. In fact, at the end of the book, there’s a special space for readers to add their own quotes and others they’ve found inspiring.

The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off! is both timeless and timely. It is a gift of hope from Steinem to readers, and a book to share with friends.

 

My Thoughts: Whenever I read a book by Gloria Steinem, I feel inspired, motivated, but even more, I feel understood. My first knowledge of her came when I was in college, and by then, I had already been exposed to other Second Wave Feminists, like Betty Friedan, but what Gloria brought to us was a sense of belonging, of being heard, and of connecting. We enjoyed talking circles like our
consciousness-raising groups and the process of listening and speaking out. We were finding our voices for perhaps the first times in our lives.

I always recommend Steinem’s work, but The Truth Will Set You Free, But First It Will Piss You Off is more than a series of essays or thoughts: the quotes are also cleverly illustrated in such a way to make the reader smile. 5 stars.

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