BOOK REVIEW: I AM I AM I AM, BY MAGGIE O’FARRELL

 

I Am, I Am, I Am is Maggie O’Farrell’s astonishing memoir of the near-death experiences that have punctuated and defined her life. The childhood illness that left her bedridden for a year, which she was not expected to survive. A teenage yearning to escape that nearly ended in disaster. An encounter with a disturbed man on a remote path. And, most terrifying of all, an ongoing, daily struggle to protect her daughter–for whom this book was written–from a condition that leaves her unimaginably vulnerable to life’s myriad dangers.

Seventeen discrete encounters with Maggie at different ages, in different locations, reveal a whole life in a series of tense, visceral snapshots. In taut prose that vibrates with electricity and restrained emotion, O’Farrell captures the perils running just beneath the surface, and illuminates the preciousness, beauty, and mysteries of life itself.

My Thoughts: From a brilliant writer comes this beautiful memoir that kept me turning pages and astonished at everything coming forth. I Am I Am I Am reads like fiction, as surely these life moments could not possibly be real.

The author’s own near misses with death are revealed in an anecdotal style, going back and forth in time in a non-linear fashion, and each sequence of events reveals the intensity of those moments in an unforgettable narrative.

From grave illnesses to dreadful accidents, from challenges in her pregnancies to the horrific life-threatening condition of one of her daughters, we are astounded by the overwhelming odds she has faced. But instead of a “poor me” reaction, she gives us her gratitude and the overwhelming fortune she has had to still be alive, and for her daughter to have come through these experiences, also a survivor.

A memorable story that reminds us of all of life’s blessings, even in the face of adversities. 5 stars.

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ADDING TO MY SHELVES…

Halfway through May, I am amazed at the books I am reading.  I usually read thrillers, but last month, I mixed things up a bit.  I’m loving the variety!

I also started borrowing books from the library, which cut down on my “click to buy” activity.

Here is what my book “purchases” pages looked like in April and May (so far):

APRIL 2018:

1.Before I Let You Go (e-book), by Kelly Rimmer

2.Book Club, The (e-book), by Mary Alice Monroe

3.Female Persuasion, The (e-book), by Meg Wolitzer

4.New Neighbors, The (e-book), by Simon Lelic

5.Tangerine (e-book), by Christine Mangan

6.True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness:  A Feminist Coming of Age (e-book), by Christine Lahti

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MAY 2018:

1.My Ex-Life (e-book), by Stephen McCauley

2.Perfect Mother, The (e-book), by Aimee Molloy

3.Smell of Other People’s Houses, The (e-book), by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

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In previous months, I purchased 14 books in January; 13 books in February; and 9 books in March.  My dip in purchases has a lot to do with my library borrowing.  I also relied some on review ARCs:

I received 8 review books in April and 3 in May so far.

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At my other blogs: I am sharing bookish and not so bookish thoughts at my An Interior Journey site.  Today I wrote my post for tomorrow…and saved the draft.  Now I won’t have to struggle to come up with my activities for the week when it is time to post it.

Sometimes Wednesday nights find me scratching my head, wondering what, if anything, I had done that I could turn into a post! 

I’ve done this before:  written a post and saved the draft, so I’m ready to go when the post is due.  I don’t schedule my posts, though, as I don’t really trust the system (LOL), plus I might want to add something on the actual day of the post.

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What books are you curling up with this week?  Are you struggling with the acquisition of your reading material?

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HELLO, MAY! CHECK OUT MY APRIL READING…

Another month bites the dust!  My bookworm’s journey is traveling down a great path, with lots of wonderful book discoveries.  Check in at Book Date, to see how others are doing.

Genres:

     Mystery/Thrillers – 5

     Contemporary/Historical Fiction – 6

     Nonfiction/Memoir – 2

 

Favorite Read for the Month:

Check on my titles to read my reviews:

APRIL 2018:

1.A Nantucket Wedding (e-book), by Nancy Thayer – (300 pages) – (contemporary romance) – 4/17/18

2.A Turn for the Bad (e-book, County Cork Mystery #4), by Sheila Connolly – (294 pages) – (cozy mystery) – 4/7/18

3.Darkness Gathers, The (e-book), by Lisa Unger – (338 pages) – (thriller) – 4/10/18

4.Go Ask Fannie, by Elisabeth Hyde – (291 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – (Amazon Vine) – 4/12/18

5.High Tide Club, The (e-book), by Mary Kay Andrews – (480 pages) – (historical/contemporary fiction) – 4/21/18 -(NG-5/8/18)

6.Let Me Lie (e-book), by Clare Mackintosh – (395 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 4/24/18

7.Paper Ghosts (e-book), by Julia Heaberlin – (368 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 4/27/18 – (NG-5/15/18)

8.Paris Ever After (e-book), by K.S.R. Burns (260 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 4/15/18 – (NG – 5/1/18)

9.Saints for All Occasions (e-book), by J. Courtney Sullivan – (353 pages) – (historical fiction) – 4/6/18

10.Sisters Like Us (e-book), by Susan Mallery – (432 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 4/30/18

11.Sometimes I Lie (e-book), by Alice Feeney – (264 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 4/3/18

12.True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness (e-book), by Christine Lahti – (224 pages) – (memoir) – 4/18/18

13.Unexpected Mother, The (e-book), by Susan A. Ring – (301 pages) – (nonfiction/memoir) – 4/14/18

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN APRIL 2018:        13

NUMBER OF PAGES READ APRIL 2018:              4,300

BOOKS READ YTD:                                                               53

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REVIEW: THE HIGH TIDE CLUB, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

 

When ninety-nine-year-old heiress Josephine Bettendorf Warrick summons Brooke Trappnell to Talisa Island, her 20,000 acre remote barrier island home, Brooke is puzzled. Everybody in the South has heard about the eccentric millionaire mistress of Talisa, but Brooke has never met her. Josephine’s cryptic note says she wants to discuss an important legal matter with Brooke, who is an attorney, but Brooke knows that Mrs. Warrick has long been a client of a prestigious Atlanta law firm.

Over a few meetings, the ailing Josephine spins a tale of old friendships, secrets, betrayal and a long-unsolved murder. She tells Brooke she is hiring her for two reasons: to protect her island and legacy from those who would despoil her land, and secondly, to help her make amends with the heirs of the long dead women who were her closest friends, the girls of The High Tide Club—so named because of their youthful skinny dipping escapades—Millie, Ruth and Varina. When Josephine dies with her secrets intact, Brooke is charged with contacting Josephine’s friends’ descendants and bringing them together on Talisa for a reunion of women who’ve actually never met.

My Thoughts: The High Tide Club is a book about friendships, secrets, and the things that happen to tear friends apart.

Brooke, a young lawyer who left a practice in Savannah to set up her own office in St. Ann’s, is struggling to raise her three-year-old son; she has secrets of her own, and keeps them close. When she gets the call from Josephine, she is reluctant to get involved. Especially when she realizes that one of Josephine’s old friends was her own grandmother.

The story goes back and forth in time, with narrators in the 1940s and in the present. Just when Josephine finally has some of the descendants of her old friends around her, telling her story, she dies unexpectedly. Although at ninety-nine, with a terminal illness, it could have happened at any time.

Because of her ill health and age, Josephine’s story unfolded very slowly, in bits and pieces, which frustrated the listeners. If only she had held on one more day!

How did the skinny dipping and occasional pranks change into big secrets and mysteries? What really happened back then? With Josephine gone, how would the rest of the story unfold? How does the discovery of old letters add to the mystery?

I enjoyed the characters and with each turn of a page, I was eager to find out what really happened. So many unexpected twists came at them, and none of the descendants could have seen any of them coming. 4.5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: TRUE STORIES FROM AN UNRELIABLE EYEWITNESS, BY CHRISTINE LAHTI

 

A fiercely intelligent, hilarious, and deeply feminist collection of interrelated personal stories from Academy, Emmy, and Golden Globe Award–winning actress and director Christine Lahti.

For decades, actress and director Christine Lahti has captivated the hearts and minds of her audience through iconic roles in Chicago Hope, Running on Empty, Housekeeping, And Justice for All, Swing Shift, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, God of Carnage, and The Blacklist. Now, in True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness, this acclaimed performer channels her creativity inward to share her own story for the first time on the page.

In this poignant essay collection, Lahti focuses on three major periods of her life: her child-hood, her early journey as an actress and activist, and the realities of her life as a middle-aged woman in Hollywood today. Lahti’s comical and self-deprecating voice shines through in stories such as “Kidnapped” and “Shit Happens,” and she takes a boldly honest look at the painful fissures in her family in pieces such as “Mama Mia” and “Running on Empty.” Taken together, the collection illuminates watershed moments in Lahti’s life, revealing her struggle to maintain integrity, fight her need for perfection, and remain true to her feminist inclinations.

My Thoughts: As a fan of the actress, I’ve enjoyed her humor and her down-to-earth and realistic portrayals of characters I’ve been able to relate to.

In True Stories From an Unreliable Eyewitness, Lahti described how memory is subjective, and that events are sifted through our personal filters. Individual family members would thus have very different memories of events they shared. I had seen this occur in my own family, with siblings experiencing quite different versions of events.

As she talks about growing up in Michigan in the 1950s, I felt a kinship with that picture perfect upbringing that could hide a multitude of frustrations, anxieties, and the quest for perfection.

Topics ranged from the counter-culture to aging, and in each stage of her life, she described her struggles to achieve her goals. In all parts of her journey, she has tried to find her authentic self, and fight against the demands of the male directors who expected sexual favors from female performers, and how sometimes she had to turn down roles that would erode her self-respect.

Back and forth in time, the author takes us along on her journey, sharing heart-felt moments and traumatic family episodes that could destroy someone without her strength and determination.

An engaging book that kept me interested throughout, I am awarding 4.5 stars.

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MY BOOKISH JOURNEY THROUGH REVIEW BOOKS…

My Bookish World consists of books I purchase, borrow from the library (recently), and ARCs provided by Amazon Vine, Authors, and NetGalley.

Below, note the review books on my stacks for 2018, with links to the reviews of those I’ve read.  (I still have one left over from 2017, Paper Ghosts, by Julia Heaberlin,  which will be released on May 15, 2018).  I’ll be reading it soon!

JANUARY 2018:

1.After Anna (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline – (NG-4/10)

2.Alternate Side (e-book), by Anna Quindlen (NG-3/20)

3.Family Next Door, The (e-book), by Sally Hepworth (NG-3/6)

4.Flight Attendant, The (e-book), by Chris Bohjalian (NG – 3/13)

5.Not That I Could Tell (e-book), by Jessica Strawser – (NG-3/27)

6.Other People’s Houses (e-book), by Abbi Waxman (NG-4/3)

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FEBRUARY 2018:

1.Before and Again (e-book), by Barbara Delinsky (NG- 6/26)

2.High Tide Club, The (e-book), by Mary Kay Andrews – (NG-5/8/18)

3.Paris Ever After (e-book), KSR Burns (NG – 5/1/18)

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MARCH 2018:

1.How to Walk Away (e-book), by Katherine Center – (NG-5/15/18)

2.Our House (e-book), by Louise Candlish (NG -8/7/18)

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APRIL 2018:

1.Bring Me Back (e-book), by B. A. Paris – (NG – 6/19/18)

2.Dream Daughter (e-book), by Diane Chamberlain – (NG-10-2-18)

3.Go Ask Fannie, by Elisabeth Hyde – (Vine Review)

4.Lies (e-book), by T. M. Logan – (NG – 9/11/18)

5.Not Her Daughter (e-book), by Rea Frey (NG – 8/21/18)

6.Shadow Dancing (e-book, Country Club Murders), by Julie Mulhern – (NG – 6/19)

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Loving my Bookworm Journey!  What does yours look like?

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REVIEW: THE DARKNESS GATHERS, BY LISA UNGER

 

Fresh from a tour promoting her last case, reclusive true crime writer Lydia Strong receives an anonymous cry for help, begging her to find and protect Tatiana Quinn, “and all the other girls in need of rescue.” Maybe the plea strikes close to her heart; maybe her investigator’s intuition starts buzzing. She takes it on.

But this simple case of a missing teenager soon becomes much more. Someone wants Lydia to drop the case, someone powerful, someone anxious enough to engineer the reappearance of one of Lydia’s first–and most dangerous–adversaries. Now, in addition to tracing the roots of Tatiana’s disappearance on a trail across the country and eventually overseas, Lydia must find the man who wants her dead, his unfinished business from years ago.

My Thoughts: A page turner with strong and intriguing characters, The Darkness Gathers brings the reader the same strength and ingenuity we find in the author’s later novels. As we trail Lydia Strong and her partner Jeffrey Mark in their quest to find a missing girl, we soon realize that so much more is at stake. Especially when so many agencies and individuals are trying to stop them, no matter what.

Following the money turns out to be their best way to uncover the truth and lead to the evil hidden in powerful organizations.

Will Lydia and Jeff find Tatiana? Who is behind her kidnapping? What evil lurks within her family?

Chasing down connections to the Albanian mob, sexual slavery, and snuff films keep their lives on a chaotic path, hurling toward danger in the darkness and the shadows.

As a final horror for the two of them, the release from prison of serial killer Jed McIntyre brings them to a terrifying conflict. This novel was a page turner that was intense and interesting, albeit with a few confusing elements. 4.5 stars.

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MONTHLY WRAP-UP: MARCH IS GONE!

Another great month flew by!  Check out my titles (click for reviews), then head over to Book Date to check out others.

My Reading Genres:

        Mysteries/Thrillers – 9

      Contemporary/Historical Fiction – 3

      Literary Fiction – 2

Choosing my favorite was especially hard this month, as there were so many.  But the winner is:

Favorite Book:  The Good Liar, by Catherine McKenzie

Books Read and Reviewed:

MARCH 2018:

1.After Anna (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline – (400 pages) – (mystery/thriller) – 3/30/18 – (NG – 4/10)

2.Alternate Side (e-book), by Anna Quindlen – (304 pages) – (literary fiction) – 3/11/18 (NG-3/20)

3.An American Marriage (e-book), by Tayari Jones – (306 pages) – (literary fiction) – 3/8/18

4.An Early Wake (e-book, County Cork #3), by Sheila Connolly – (304 pages) – (cozy mystery) – 3/3/18

5.Bad Daughter, The (e-book), by Joy Fielding – (350 pages) – (mystery) – 3/20/18

6.French Girl, The (e-book), by Lexie Elliott – (294 pages) – (mystery) – 3/17/18

7.Good Liar, The (e-book), by Catherine McKenzie – (373 pages) – (mystery/psychological thriller) – 3/25/18 – (NG – 4/3/18)

8.Her Every Fear (e-book), by Peter Swanson – (355 pages) – (psychological thriller) – 3/29/18

9.Map of the Heart (e-book), by Susan Wiggs – (368 pages) – (contemporary/historical fiction) – 3/24/18

10.My Absolute Darling (e-book), by Gabriel Tallent – (428 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 3/15/18

11.Not That I Could Tell (e-book), by Jessica Strawser – (336 pages) – (domestic thriller) – 3/19/18 – (NG – 3/27)

12.Other People’s Houses (e-book), by Abbi Waxman – (384 pages) – (contemporary fiction) – 3/27/18 – (NG – 4/3)

13.Perfect Nanny, The (e-book), by Leila Slimani – (235 pages) – (literary fiction/thriller) – 3/22/18

14.Sunburn (e-book), by Laura Lippman- (304 pages) – (psychological suspense) – 3/9/18

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN MARCH 2018:        14

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN MARCH 2018:    4,741

BOOKS READ YTD:                                                                  40

FAVORITE BOOK IN MARCH 2018:    The Good Liar, by Catherine McKenzie

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REVIEW: THE GOOD LIAR, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

 

When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.
A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?

My Thoughts: A story told by multiple narrators, and with occasional flashbacks, The Good Liar gripped me and held on tight. Intensity grew even as more tidbits about the secrets in the lives of the women kept building.

Cecily seemed the one most “normal,” and then a photographer catches the look on her face right after the explosion and it soon circles the globe and makes her secrets even more hard to contain. The photographer, Teo Jackson, begins a documentary with Cecily as the “Poster Child,” and as he interviews her and others, what she is holding back niggles and turns her world more precarious. How can she continue while her own losses could be questioned? Why was she headed to that building on the fatal morning, and how did her lateness protect her?

A memorial a year later features those who died as well as those left behind. A compensation fund for the losses helps some, but also brings one woman out of hiding. What is the significance of the date of the event, soon labeled Triple Ten? Its occurrence on 10/10 at 10:00 a.m. has a secret meaning, but we won’t find out its significance until the end.

What is Kaitlyn hiding that kept her thousands of miles away…until she saw via the news what was happening with her family? What is going on with Franny that leads to Kaitlyn’s secret return, hoping to send Franny out of their orbit? What will she do to change everything?

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, twisting in the winds that symbolize Chicago…and breathless as more and more pieces were revealed. A stunning 5 star read for me.


***My eARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: MY ABSOLUTE DARLING, BY GABRIEL TALLENT

 

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.

My Thoughts: As I turned the pages of My Absolute Darling, I felt a sense of urgency, of hope for this young girl to escape a violent life. Nothing good could come of her life with the father who regularly abuses her and creates in her a perspective that shuns all that is good in the world.

How can she keep staying with him? Why does she not even try to escape when small connections with others show her an alternative to what she experiences with him?

Perhaps it is the years I spent saving children from abuse and neglect that kept me turning pages, longing to protect this girl.

But despite these concerns and the longing to see the character take another path, I found myself discouraged and frustrated. Parts of the story revealed the tedious details of living off the grid, and how Turtle continued to give in the demands of her father.

But then something happened that turned the tide, and Turtle suddenly and intensely fought for her life and the lives of others. Those pages saved the book for me, earning three stars; I could not give more due to the darkness of a book littered with violence and excessive verbal abuse. I had to keep reading, though, in order to see how it all ended.

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