REVIEW: IT ENDS WITH US, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

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After her father’s funeral in Plethora, Maine, Lily Bloom is back in Boston, sitting on the rooftop of a neighboring building, pondering the events of the day…and her life.

She realizes that her father, the beloved mayor of the town they lived in, was quite different behind closed doors. So in her eulogy, the audience expected something beautiful, instead of what she gave. She stopped herself from saying five good things about him because she couldn’t think of a single one. He was an abusive husband, and her mother did not leave him.

Now as she sits on the roof, fearing how her mother’s reaction will come down on her, she is distracted by someone else on the roof. A young man, quite handsome, who is kicking and throwing the furniture around, in a rage. They start a conversation which takes up a stretch of time, in which they share “naked truths” with one another. He talks about what made him so angry. A child had died. It turns out he is a resident in neurosurgery at Massachusetts General. His name is Ryle Kincaid.

And then they don’t see each other again for a year.

Narrated in Lily’s first person voice, It Ends with Us brought us fully into her world: her childhood trauma, the dreams she had of a different kind of life, and how she met and fell in love with the homeless boy living in the abandoned house behind their backyard. Lily’s relationship with Atlas Corrigan would fill her thoughts in those days. Her Ellen Diaries, inspired by the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and Lily’s feelings of a strong connection to her, reveal how those “written conversations” might have possibly kept her intact emotionally during some tough times. In the diaries, she also describes the unfolding friendship with Atlas. And how it all fell apart.

How do Ryle and Lily reconnect? Does she see Atlas again, and under what circumstances? Who is the rich young woman who befriends her just as she is opening her own flower shop? What happens that triggers a series of events that will derail lives? How does Lily eventually make the right decision for herself?

Sometimes a person has to make a choice that feels wrong when it is the only right thing to do. A beautifully sad and inspirational story about breaking cycles, making hard choices, and loving the one you are meant to be with, even when someone else is also the love of your life. I cried at the end of this book, even as I applauded the course of events that unfolded.

Rating:  cropped again 5

REVIEW: LEAVE ME, BY GAYLE FORMAN

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Maribeth Klein was a multi-tasker. She had to be, juggling her very fast-paced job as an editor at a Manhattan celebrity lifestyle magazine, with her wife and mothering duties. The twins, Liv and Oliver, were four years old, and their preschool demanded a lot of her attention, too.

So when the pain hit Maribeth on a busy afternoon, she rationalized it away. It had to be something like indigestion, or the anger she was feeling toward her husband over something-or-other, or some other possibility. If she hadn’t already had an appointment with her OB/GYN for a mammogram, who knows what would have happened? They sent her to the ER, where she was told she’d had a heart attack and would need a stent. But somehow, that procedure failed, due to a nick in an artery, and she had to have a double bypass.

Home again a few days later, Maribeth is struggling. Those who were supposed to help her are somehow failing in that task, and her frustration leads to an action she could never have imagined she would take. She packed, withdrew cash from her account, the one with her inheritance in it, and took a train. To Pittsburgh.

Her anonymous journey and life in a strange city, in the subsequent weeks, would become a time of reflection, trying out her wings, and exploring the past. And trying to find her birth mother, because Maribeth had been adopted. Suddenly the need for some genetic history seemed necessary.

I loved Leave Me, which I could not put down. When I enjoy the characters in a novel, with their flaws, secrets, and unexplained behaviors, I find it almost impossible to stop reading. At first I decided I didn’t like Maribeth’s husband Jason. He had, after all, not been available to her, physically or emotionally. And then there was that time when they were first together, before they married, when he had just moved across the country. His poor communication skills could easily be misunderstood, of course, so what must happen to make it possible for the two of them to reconnect? And how will Maribeth’s somewhat detached relationship with her former best friend and boss, Elizabeth, start to heal?

I thoroughly enjoyed how someone like Maribeth, used to a life full of lists and technology, found a way to live a less pressured life, with no Smart Phone, laptop, or even a car. Using the library for its computers, and accepting the “kindness of strangers,” like her next door neighbors, became her new normal. A delightfully incredible read with a rating of:

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***My e-ARC came to me from the publishers via NetGalley.

LET’S CURL UP & MUSE ABOUT BOOKS

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It’s Monday, so let’s muse about bookish things, along with Jenn, at Books and a Beat.

Check out these topics:

 

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: Which book do you wish you’d written, yourself?

 

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Currently, I’m reading the NetGalley e-ARC, Leave Me, by Gayle Forman (Release date – 9/6).  Loving it!  When I feel connected to one character and dislike several of the others, I know that I’m in for a delightful journey.

 

 

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Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.

With bighearted characters–husbands, wives, friends, and lovers–who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?

***

I have been eagerly awaiting this book, and now that I have it, I am so pleased that it wrapped itself around me and held on, making it a difficult book to put down.

What are you reading or pining for today?

***

REVIEW: THE EXCELLENT LOMBARDS, BY JANE HAMILTON

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Mary Frances (Frankie) Lombard and her older brother William have grown up with a deep love and sense of connection to the Lombard farm. Despite knowing that the partnership between their father and his cousin Sherwood might cause problems with their future legacy, the hope for that future remains strong.

The Excellent Lombards is a coming-of-age tale set in Wisconsin that features young Frankie, and from her perspective, we learn what growing up under these circumstances has instilled in her. We come to understand how she might feel threatened by interlopers like distant cousin Philip, and the ominous presence of his aunt, May Hill, who has some ownership in the property as well.

From her pre-adolescent self to young adulthood, we see how she grows and changes, and observe the various influences on her young life.

The sense of competition flourishes among the various relatives, and at times, it seems like a good thing. Until it isn’t.

How will Frankie eventually resolve her plight? What will her future hold for her, and will she be able to merge her various passions and make a life for herself?

The story unfolded slowly, revealing the emotions, the connections, and what life looked like on a farm that might, eventually, be sold off in order to make way for subdivisions. A changing landscape that mimics how the world in the 21st Century has built upon past versions of a country, a nation.  Rating:

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***

 

 

REVIEW: I LET YOU GO, BY CLAIRE MACKINTOSH

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A rainy night, a moment that will change everything, and a child slips from his mother’s grasp, careening into the road and the pathway of a car. A car moving too fast, a car that does not stop.

Little Jacob Jordan’s death from that hit and run accident would change many lives. Our story begins with the mother’s narrative; the unnamed mother, at least in the beginning.

We then watch the journey, in the first person narrative, of a young woman named Jenna Gray, who seems to be running from something. Is she the mother? Or is she the hit and run driver? Why is she so frightened all the time?

There are numerous points along the way when I knew that nothing about I Let You Go was simple. The case has gone cold, and more than a year has passed, when some evidence comes to light. What will happen, and who will the police bring in for questioning. Who will be accused?

Meanwhile, even after the police believe they have the culprit, a new narrative appears, a first person voice that seems chilling, one that hints at much more to the story. The voice belongs to a man called Ian Peterson, and he seems to be addressing a “you” who turns out to be Jennifer/Jenna.

Themes of violence, loss, secrets, betrayals, and domestic violence add many layers to a story which is now a lot more complex than we originally believed.

I also enjoyed the sections involving the police inspectors. Ray and Kate became familiar to this reader, and I liked glimpsing their personal lives and seeing how they arrived at their conclusions. How, in the last possible moments, they figured out what information had been missing all along.

A chilling and dramatic conclusion left me holding my breath until the final page…and even then, I wasn’t sure that something dark would not appear at the last second. 5 stars.

REVIEW: MY NAME IS LUCY BARTON, BY ELIZABETH STROUT

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From the very beginning of My Name Is Lucy Barton, the reader can sense the emotional neediness of Lucy, our first person narrator. She tells her story in fits and starts, which sweeps back and forth through time.

The impetus for her narrative was Lucy’s hospitalization some time in the 1980s, when an appendectomy resulted in some complications. Unexpectedly, her mother has flown to be by her side, after never having done such a thing in the past. She has come all the way from the farming town of Amgash, Illinois. One could wonder what prompted the visit, but nothing about the mother’s motives are revealed. Theirs is not a loving relationship and never has been. Could the mother have been reaching out, but felt unable to express her need to connect?

The two converse in a rather strange fashion, with Lucy’s mother relaying bits and pieces of information about the townsfolk, as if trying to relate to Lucy in a meaningful way. But everything said between them seems superficial, and whenever Lucy tries to probe for more information, her mother shuts down.

We learn from Lucy’s reflections about growing up as an outsider, looked down upon by other kids in school. Being laughed at for her clothes and where they lived, which was a garage for a while, and then later, a broken down house.

Even now, years later, Lucy’s feeling of being different or less than comes through, although she had a somewhat normal life at the time of her mother’s visit, with a husband and two daughters. She had even attended college on a scholarship…and has a fledgling writing career. A career that takes off later in our story.

The meandering style of the narrative has an autobiographical nature to it, with Lucy trying to make sense of her life, her feelings, and her choices. While I found Lucy’s thoughts and feelings interesting and reflective of a life raised in poverty with the hint of some abuse and neglect, nothing is actually stated clearly. Much is left unsaid. Almost as if the emotional impoverishment of the characters stifled the expression of their experiences. The story left me unfulfilled, in terms of Lucy’s issues, as if more information was just waiting to be brought forth, but somehow was lost in translation. Therefore, 4 stars.

REVIEW: DOMESTIC SECRETS, BY ROSALIND NOONAN

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Can close friendship win out over the secrets, lies, and betrayals of those who would threaten them?

Rachel Whalen and Ariel Alexander, both living in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, have enjoyed the bonds of friendship for years. They have had each other’s backs…and been there for their children as well. Or so they have thought.

Rachel’s second husband, Jackson, died a few years before, so she has been struggling. But she has managed to be there for her two sons, Kyle James and Jared, and also runs her styling salon.

Ariel thrives giving voice lessons, but secretly dreams about a return to Hollywood…and her four children get short shrift, according to the perspective of some. Her oldest, Cassie, away at college, is her biggest critic and the voice of reason. Younger children Remy, Trevor, & Maisy appear to be okay…but all will change when Ariel’s inability to stop from seducing every man in sight, including some inappropriate ones, takes her to a dark place. Is she still grieving the loss of her husband Oliver, or is something more going on? What predatory acts will lead to inexplicable violence, and will anyone survive the emotional storm?

Domestic Secrets is the kind of tale that keeps the reader wondering what will come along next, and how the characters will figure out a way through it all. I could not stop reading, and despite the warning signs, I was stunned by how it all played out. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: A LONG TIME GONE, BY KAREN WHITE

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When Vivien Walker Moise returned to her childhood home in Indian Mound, Mississippi, she had been gone a long time. She brings with her a nine-year legacy of pain and loss, with emotional scarring that needs to heal. Can she find healing in this old yellow house? In LA, she has left behind her cruel ex-husband Mark, but she has also lost her step-daughter Chloe, whom she loves. Mark has taken out a restraining order to prevent contact between them. Vivien developed a pill habit, partially with Mark’s help, as he prescribed the pills, but he has used it all against her.

As she arrives back home, she sees a group of people standing around the old tree, and she finds out that a skeleton has been discovered beneath it. Who could it be? What secrets have been hidden here for all these years?

A Long Time Gone is a beautifully wrought story of family, of secrets, and about the pain that drives them away, and the strength within each of the women that keeps bringing them back home.

They have a long tradition of leaving, these women, starting back with Vivien’s great-grandmother. Her grandmother Bootsie also left for a few years; then her own daughter, Carole Lynne, Vivien’s mother, spent years going back and forth, like a boomerang. Now Carole Lynne is home to stay, but her memories are going. She has been diagnosed with dementia, but sometimes she seems almost normal. Will Vivien find the lost connection between them, finally?

Our story is narrated by three women whose stories weave together a rich tapestry of secrets and loss. Adelaide, whose story begins in the 1920s; Carole Lynne, whose time in the 60s and beyond was all about trying to rid herself of the pain of being without her own mother for years. And finally, Vivien’s story, and how she strives to make up for her own mistakes by taking on Chloe, who has run away from her father. With the help of her childhood best friend/boyfriend, Tripp Montgomery, she searches for the answers to some burning questions: who is the skeleton in the garden? What happened to the women in this family that made them keep leaving? And what finally brought most of them back home again?

The canvas is full of richly drawn characters, from those in the 1920s to the present. With each of them, we learn how the stories fit together, and we finally discover the answers. I loved this book, which earned 5 stars from me.

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.

***

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?

***

CURL UP WITH “WHAT WAS MINE”

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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.

What Was Mine, by Helen Klein Ross, is the story of a woman who kidnaps a baby in a superstore…and gets away with it for twenty-one years.  This book was actually released today, January 5, 2016...and I can’t wait to get it.

 

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Lucy Wakefield is a seemingly ordinary woman who does something extraordinary in a desperate moment: she takes a baby girl from a shopping cart and raises her as her own. It’s a secret she manages to keep for over two decades—from her daughter, the babysitter who helped raise her, family, coworkers, and friends.

When Lucy’s now-grown daughter Mia discovers the devastating truth of her origins, she is overwhelmed by confusion and anger and determines not to speak again to the mother who raised her. She reaches out to her birth mother for a tearful reunion, and Lucy is forced to flee to China to avoid prosecution. What follows is a ripple effect that alters the lives of many and challenges our understanding of the very meaning of motherhood.

Author Helen Klein Ross, whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, weaves a powerful story of upheaval and resilience told from the alternating perspectives of Lucy, Mia, Mia’s birth mother, and others intimately involved in the kidnapping. What Was Mine is a compelling tale of motherhood and loss, of grief and hope, and the life-shattering effects of a single, irrevocable moment.

***

What do you think?  Does this story grab you?

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