Tuesday, November 12, 2019

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

4 Star

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own.

Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn't live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod's family...

Kathryn - 4 Star

Completely outside of my usual genre this was an interesting read and I'm glad I'm in a book club that will push my boundaries!   Firstly I don't often read stories that delve into the fantastical (apart from Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings) as I often spend half the novel getting my bearings on the new world and not focusing on the characters.  However this book didn't require too much brain reconfiguration at first so I was able to focus on people and plot.  It's a bit alarming that this tiny child finds himself being raised by a load of ghosts, but they are good ghost people and obviously care for their charge very much.  

I wish we had had more details on the living accommodations and the practicalities of how they actually fed an alive child when they were dead.. but likely that was just my inability to just accept things as they were.  The novel is a touch creepy, not because of the ghosts but because someone is clearly after this small child and there is a scene where he is chased by some foul creatures that made me feel very uneasy. 

Despite my misgivings and nitpicking about the practicalities I was quite touched by this story.  The kindness of strangers and the sense of community was very hopeful.

All opinions are our own.

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Monday, November 4, 2019

The Orphan Sisters by Shirley Dickson

2 Star

1929: Four-year-old Etty and eight-year-old Dorothy are abandoned at Blakely Hall orphanage by their mother, never to see her again. With no other family to speak of, the sisters worship their beloved mam – confused and heartbroken to be deserted by her when they need her the most.

1940: Etty and Dorothy are finally released from the confines of Blakely Hall – but their freedom comes when the country is in the grip of World War Two and its terrors. Amidst a devastating backdrop of screaming air-raid sirens and cold nights huddled in shelters, the sisters are desperate to put their broken childhoods behind them.

But trouble lies ahead. Dorothy must bid goodbye to her beloved husband when he’s sent to war and Etty must nurse a broken heart as she falls in love with the one man she can never be with.

Etty and Dorothy survived the orphanage with the help of one another and neither sister can forget the awful betrayal of their mother, which has haunted them their whole lives. But when a shocking secret about their painful childhood comes to light, will the sisters ever be the same again?

Kathryn - 2 Star

In truth I was expecting more from this book. The premise was there to give a gritty account of the two sisters lives but in reality each period of their lives seemed incomplete for me.  I wanted more from their time in the orphanage and more of their jobs once they grew out of the system.  I wanted to know more about their daily lives as adults before we reached the point where they were dealing with more tragedy.  And though I loved Dorothy's husband, I was unimpressed with the back and forth with Etty's love interest.  The romance bored me and made the rest of the book less interesting. 

There were some interesting moments such as the girls arrival and time at Blakely Hall and I liked the mystery surrounding their mother.  I also did enjoy the relationship between the sisters.   I'm not sure quite where it went wrong for me, likely Etty's love life, but it just didn't keep me engaged as I had hoped.  

Thank you to Bookouture for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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Monday, October 28, 2019

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

4 Star

For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.

Madison - 4 Star

I had been hearing a lot of praise about this novel and thankfully it did not disappoint. Where the Crawdads Sing is set in Barkley Cove, a small quiet town on the North Carolina coast. The protagonist is Kya Clark, known by the townspeople as “Marsh Girl”. When she is six years old her Mother walks away and slowly the rest of her family leaves until she is left to fend for herself.

There are several heartbreaking moments in this novel as Kya deals with being abandoned by her family, though the author does a good job of exploring the reasons behind this abandonment. Kya is a refreshingly strong female protagonist that even when being stubborn you find yourself always rooting for.

I found myself completely immersed in the descriptive nature writing in this novel with elegant prose and sweeping descriptions of the marsh and its wildlife. It felt fitting in light of the current climate crisis to have a main character that is literally raised by Mother Nature, and who is deeply grateful for her surrounding environment. Parallel to Kya's story of survival is also a mystery around the death of a town legend and golden boy Chase Andrews.  I don't know that this novel would satisfy hardcore mystery fans, it is definitely a great combination of mystery, nature writing and historical fiction.

All opinions are our own.

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Monday, October 21, 2019

The New Beginnings Coffee Club by Samantha Tonge

4 Star

Everyone deserves a second chance…don’t they?
Jenny Masters finds herself living the modern dream. Wife to a millionaire, living in a mansion and mother to Kardashian-obsessed ten-year-old April, there isn’t anything missing. Until, her whole world comes crashing down, forcing Jenny and April to leave behind their glittering life and start over with nothing.

With village gossip following her wherever she goes, she finds refuge and a job in the new coffee shop in town. As the days pass Jenny fears she doesn’t have what it takes to pick herself back up and give April the life she always wanted to. But with the help of enigmatic new boss Noah, and housemate Elle, Jenny realises it’s never too late to become the woman life really intended you to be!

Kathryn - 4 Star

This is a sweet novel full of things to restore feelings of friendship and faith in humanity.   I appreciated though that Jenny's daughter April was a typically self centered pre-teen with attitude I could recognize.  There was certainly an element of reality injected into this novel mingled with the loveliness.   A good start was Jenny's decision to get herself a new life as soon as she realized that she could not salvage her marriage.  I adored that she didn't feel her new abode was beneath her recent status nor did she shy away from hard work, making friends with people she would not have known in her prior life and she didn't give her daughter any leeway in getting on with it.

I often find myself a bit annoyed with leading ladies in stories of this nature but Jenny was different and I loved her and her colleagues.  They were the best kind of people and she was so lucky to find them. I was also pleased that April wasn't left out of the story line, we are given her story even though the focus was on Jenny and I gleaned a little insight into my own children by reading about her.

A good story with some different takes and I enjoyed it.

All opinions are our own.

Connect with Samantha Tonge:
Website     Twitter     Goodreads

Monday, October 14, 2019

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

4 Star

When an impoverished school district loses its accreditation and the affluent community of Crystal Ridge has no choice but to open their school doors, the lives of three very different women converge: Camille Gray--the wife of an executive, mother of three, long-standing PTA chairwoman and champion fundraiser--faced with a shocking discovery that threatens to tear her picture-perfect world apart at the seams. Jen Covington, the career nurse whose long, painful journey to motherhood finally resulted in adoption but she is struggling with a happily-ever-after so much harder than she anticipated. Twenty-two-year-old Anaya Jones--the first woman in her family to graduate college and a brand new teacher at Crystal Ridge's top elementary school, unprepared for the powder-keg situation she's stepped into. Tensions rise within and without, culminating in an unforeseen event that impacts them all. 

Kathryn - 4 Star

No one ever asked by Katie Ganshert was a big surprised to me.  Not only was I fully engrossed by the story but I was impressed with the tackling of such diverse points of view.  This is my first read of this author and I was impressed.   

The three women come from different backgrounds and face different obstacles but all are affected by the same district reorganization of their schooling system. It was a tough subject to tackle and I think Ganshert did it with grace.  I'm not completely sure all voices could be considered one hundred percent authentic but I found each one fascinating as I'm not in a position to relate to any of them.
I tend to be inclined to give anyone the benefit of the doubt but even I had a lot of trouble warming to Camille.  She epitomized everything that made me and still makes me nervous about the "cool" kids.  The teacher, Miss.Jones, had me much more comfortable though I am not of the same background.  I loved her attitude, her empathy towards all her students and her strength.  And I related most to Jen who had finally realized her dream of being a mother and yet found herself floundering.   The three  stories overlapped but not in a way that seemed unnatural. 

My only issue with the book was the "climax" which I found a bit contrived and obvious.  I wish it had been a more subtle event.

The novel is worth reading for it's examination of the three very different lives which are tackled with great genuineness.

Thank you to Waterbook for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

Connect with Katie Ganshert:

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Monday, October 7, 2019

Fake Like Me by Barbara Bourland

4 Star

After a fire decimates her studio, including the seven billboard-size paintings for her next show, a young, no-name painter is left with an impossible task: recreate her art in three months-or ruin her fledgling career.

Homeless and desperate, she flees to an exclusive retreat in upstate New York famous for its outrageous revelries and glamorous artists. And notorious as the place where brilliant young artist Carey Logan-one of her idols-drowned in the lake.

But when she arrives, the retreat is a ghost of its former self. No one shares their work. No parties light up the deck. No one speaks of Carey, though her death haunts the cabins and the black lake, lurking beneath the surface like a shipwreck. As the young painter works obsessively in Carey's former studio, uncovers strange secrets and starts to fall--hard and fast--for Carey's mysterious boyfriend, it's as if she's taking her place.

But one thought shadows her every move: What really happened to Carey Logan?

Sabrina-Kate - 4 Star

Another thriller that gripped my attention, I quite enjoyed Fake Like Me, despite not being into the art scene. I feel like if I was, I would have enjoyed it even more because it would have had that much more meaning.

The book had a lot of things that I wondered about, like were they things that were just added to the story, or were they actual facts? It did somewhat add to the overall mystery of the plot and I suspect that they had a basis in reality for those immersed in that scene.

The title could not have been more apt; but, as I think it over, it meant so many things in the book! A big, recurring theme was the authenticity of art and what that means. I can say I certainly learned a lot as far as those things go and how they are viewed.

An eye opening novel that taught me many things, Fake Like Me also surprised me in many ways, including how very much things can be changed to appear differently and the long lasting and numerous effects.

Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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Monday, September 30, 2019

The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth

3 Star

From the moment Lucy met Diana, she was kept at arm's length. Diana is exquisitely polite, but Lucy knows, even after marrying Oliver, that they'll never have the closeness she'd been hoping for.

But who could fault Diana? She was a pillar of the community, an advocate for social justice, the matriarch of a loving family. Lucy had wanted so much to please her new mother-in-law.

That was ten years ago. Now, Diana has been found dead, leaving a suicide note. But the autopsy reveals evidence of suffocation. And everyone in the family is hiding something...

Kathryn - 3 Star

I am a big fan of Sally Hepworth. It began with The Secrets of Midwives and I've read everything she's written since.  I like that she puts challenges into relationships that seem like they should be fairly simple to solve- but never are.

I enjoyed The Mother in Law simply because I was still doubting my assumptions right until the very end.  Though one could assume certain things is valid, but that didn't take away from the suspense for me. 

Poor Lucy is so desperate for a mother figure and I felt so much empathy for her because Diana is very much surface supportive of the relationship even though she obviously is devoted to Oliver - in a slightly distant sort of way.  The frustrating thing is that in hearing both sides there are missteps and misunderstandings that could likely have been cleared up if Oliver had sat them down or they'd gone to some therapy on how to communicate.  Diana obviously is not an unkind person, she devotes much of her life to helping others.  But she's tough on her daughter as well as Lucy. The mother daughter bond seemed to be fractured for her also.   

Once you get into the history of Diana there is a lot of clarity about her upbringing that helps to show us why she is the way she is but it doesn't help make the end any better, except maybe for the reader! 

On the whole the suspense was there for this book but I did find it more frustrating that their problems could have been solved with a bit more listening- hindsight indeed.  I enjoyed it but it's not my favourite from this author.

Thank you to St Martin's Press for our review copy.  All opinions are our own.

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