Saturday, August 11, 2018

Little Comfort by Edwin Hill

This novel by Edwin Hill is full of life's real moments of fun, fear, loneliness, anxiety, and suspense. Hester Thursby, a Harvard librarian, is left taking care of her best friend's daughter, Katie. She has never had any desire to have children or even be around them, but they soon grow close, along with Morgan who is Hester's love interest (the jury is still out on their future status).

A missing person's case falls into Hester's lap through a woman named Lila. She is looking for her brother, Sam, and his best friend, Gabe, who left Little Comfort, New Hampshire a long time ago. Lila has a collection of postcards she has received from Sam over the years, but that is all the information she can offer Hester.

It doesn't take too long for this novel to turn into a mix of the rich and elite of Boston with the likes of people who would like to take advantage of their money and connections. This is a twisty novel, so I won't say much more except consider this book for a good end of the summer read!

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for an advance copy of this novel.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

The Clock Dance by Anne Tyler

Reading an Anny Tyler novel is like settling back in a comfy chair with an old friend, a friend who told the incredible story of The Accidental Tourist so long ago. We've all grown up, and she still gets us, ordinary women, who are flawed and often in pain with no visible way of getting out. Clock Dance is about Willa, beginning when she was very young and in college. Willa fell into a marriage, not finishing her last year of college. Her husband was from a wealthy family, and it seemed that she fit their idea of a suitable wife for her son. He was ready to graduate and saw no need to wait for her to finish.

It seems almost predictable that Willa would have two sons who paid little attention to her and grew up like their father, self-involved and indifferent to a woman who gave up all she wanted to be, a linguist, to raise them.

Willa's husband dies in a road rage car accident, and Willa gains some freedom to start working on her life and what she always wanted. Willa's sons, Sean and Ian have left home and offer their mother no comfort with communication or visits.

She started back to school. Unfortunately, another hapless male comes along and convinces her to marry and move to Phoenix. The only thing Willa likes about the desert environment is the Saguaro cactus. It thrives on little care, much the same as our dear Willa.

A whole new chapter unfolds when Willa gets a call telling her that her son's ex-girlfriend in Baltimore is in the hospital and needs someone to care for her eleven-year-old child. Willa takes on that challenge, and the enjoyable part of the story happens here with people she doesn't know but learns to love.

The Clock Dance is yet another Anne Tyler novel to love and cherish just like Willa needs love and care.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Feared by Lisa Scottoline

This novel is #6 in the Rosato & DiNunzio series of mystery crime novels. I have not read books 1-5, so I thought it would be a challenge. It wasn't at all. The law firm where Rosato and DiNunzio are partners receives a lawsuit against them while they are celebrating Mary's pregnancy with pink and blue cupcakes. The suit comes from Nick Machiavelli, a foe that Mary beat last time in court. She knows it is a vendetta. How can a mostly female law firm be sued for sexual discrimination?

Welcome to the 21st century where litigation has become a way of life, it's a kind of art form. Nick is suing for male discrimination and even quotes their associate, John Foxman, saying he feels uncomfortable work at the firm, believes he will never make partner, and is looking for a new job.

This novel got exciting fast and kept me glued to the very end, actually on the edge of my seat at the very end. I enjoyed this novel and plan to read more of this series.

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this electronic ARC.

Mr. and Mrs. American Pie by Juliet McDaniel

Juliet McDaniel has written a hilarious novel about hypocritical American society in the sixties. For those of us who were old enough to remember what married couples were like, this is an eclectic walk down memory lane.

Maxine Simmons, the protagonist, begins the novel with a major meltdown at her own Thanksgiving extravaganza done in a tropical style. Maxine disgraces herself in front of the country club hu ha's and her starched, upper-crust husband, Douglas. The next day she is out on the street, relegated to a condo Douglas owns in Scottsdale, Arizona. Gone are her glory days in Palm Springs, California. Despite trying to negotiate with Douglas's attorney and managing to get a relatively small settlement, she is leaving her life of luxury, deleted.

On her way out, smart Maxine changes cars and drives away with hubby's Jaguar. She is delighted with that sweet victory. She drives to Scottsdale and her new life. The condo is tacky, ugly, lonely and on the wrong side of town. Maxine starts putting her new life together and comes up with some bright ideas as she moves along. She meets a bartender, Robert, and finds a dear friend in him. He is handsome and an excellent listener. She adds a young boy, Chuck, to her new circle of friends. Chuck is eleven years old and takes care of his toddler sister since his Mom works a lot and has many boyfriends. Chuck proves to be a great problem solver. These three characters take turns narrating their story. It is delicious.

Maxine decides to put all of them together as a family and enter the Mr. and Mrs. American Pie Pageant, a beauty pageant of sorts but more complicated with husband and kid expectations as well. The show takes place in Palm Springs, and it involves much work and near misses to get them there and into the top twenty.The story is funny and sad and shows the meanness of people and the glorious goodness of most of us. Mr. and Mrs. American Pie is a novel for today as much as it was about 1970.

Thank you, NetGalley and Inkshares for the opportunity to read this e-ARC.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Only Story by Julian Barnes

Julian Barnes once again brings to life the voice of an older man admitting that he regrets some, perhaps all, of the choices he made at a young age. And again, it is about a relationship with a woman, an older woman. It is the sixties in London, and Paul is bored having to spend his summer at home because he has no money to travel like his upper-class buddies. Mom prods him to go to the local tennis club to meet people and attempt to join a social circle, and he agrees. His reward is a partner named Susan Macleod, a 48-year-old married woman.

Paul drifts into Susan's life, into her family. He dines with the family, helps Mr. Macleod with his gardening and often sleeps on the living room sofa. Nineteen-year-old Paul has no idea of where this relationship is going. Paul is afraid of getting old and somehow sees his love affair with Susan as experience for when he finds someone later on in life, the real thing. Paul seems to have a permanent case of boredom and his fixture in the Macleod household works for Susan who has lost the desire she once had for her husband.

There are lessons to be learned from this novel, even though most of them jump out at you when they are happening. Julian Barnes's voice is sharp clarity of how weak, and easy decisions can spread throughout a person's life and family and destroy the roots of a good relationship. JB doesn't hide behind his thoughts and deeds. It is a cold, mean look at the harm a person can, especially a man, bring to a vulnerable human. The writing, as always, is superb and for the skill itself, I will reread this novel.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

Kit Owens and Diane Fleming are exceptionally gifted students. Kit is a shy, bookish girl who has ambitions for achievement in life that takes all her time and effort, even in high school. Her parents have little money, so a scholarship to college is the only path to meet her goals. Diane seems to have everything, money, and an extroverted personality. She is beautiful, and Kit has to work hard not to envy Diane. The two girls bond at a summer camp where Diane divulges a secret to Kit that will eventually change both their lives. When Diane shows up in Kit's chemistry class, the story's tension starts a nice slow burn.

The competitions are between the two girls; they outperform all their peers. The prizes include a Severin Scholarship (named after a famous researcher), a college scholarship, and top place in the graduating class. Kit wins the awards, and her perfect life unfolds before her. After her doctoral studies, Kit earns a spot in Dr. Severin's lab, and she is happy, truly happy. When a new National Institute of Health Grant comes up, Kit isn't worried about her place on the team. Then, Diane arrives. The exciting and wild part of the novel is when these two brilliant women come together. The suspense in this part of the book was phenomenal. I loved it!

Thank you, NetGalley and Little, Brown and Company for giving me the opportunity to read this e-ARC.

Inside the Bone Box by Anthony Ferner

The Anderton's are two professionals that society tends to look up to, a doctor and a lawyer. However, in this story, the doctor is morbidly obese, and the lawyer is an alcoholic. INSIDE THE BONE BOX is a unique novella describing the most private and painful aspects of Nicholas and Alyson Anderton's lives.

The apparent issue is Nicholas's morbid obesity. He is a surgeon who needs to be clear-headed and physically active to perform the long, delicate brain surgeries he specializes in, but Nicholas has trouble walking from his car to the operating theater. Nicholas is still able to function with his team giving him their full support. At home, the support level is entirely different, and Alyson is disgusted with how Nicholas looks and the lack of attention he gives to anyone but himself and his food. Their two children are loving but barely hanging on with two dysfunctional parents.

A crisis takes the novel to its beautiful denouement, and I applaud this expertly told story of life in that part of society we think is perfect. There is no perfection, we all live with a struggle. The critical factor is how we handle those struggles.

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this E-ARC.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

The Lost for Words Bookshop by Stephanie Butland

Loveday Cardew was always a shy, solitary kid who loved books. Loveday liked being indoors in a cozy nook, maybe with her mom, reading the whole day and night. She had the life she loved, but suddenly, in one day, she lost it all. That tragic day was fifteen years ago. Today, Loveday is working in a second-hand bookshop in York. Loveday's boss, Bruce, is a big burly garrulous man who loves talking with everyone he encounters, sort of the mayor of the corner where he stands outside to smoke his pipe.

Loveday trusts Bruce. He looks after her and even arranged for her to have a lovely small apartment, fresh and painted. Loveday has everything she needs, spending each day sorting out boxes of donated books and continuously organizing the shelves. Most people are kind to Loveday in return for her kindness. Her one mistake seems to be in agreeing to go out with a Ph.D. student, Rob, who turns into a nuisance when she tries to keep their relationship at arm's length. Loveday has no interest in committing to a relationship and Rob is determined to get closer to Loveday. He begins to be a real irritant which makes LD worry about how to get rid of Rob without hurting him.

The sky opens up when Loveday meets a charming poet, Nathan, in a local pub. He isn't overpowering but offers her kind attention, and she finds herself becoming more attached with each Wednesday poetry night she attends. Life is beginning to open up for Loveday, and then strange things start to happen. First, she finds a box of books that are the same set of books as she had when she was a kid. Bits and pieces of her lost childhood begin to appear, and she is sure that someone she trusted is now taunting her and making her life miserable once again.

It was a joy to continue following this character's journey to find the resolution to her suffering and see how it all turns out for our dear, dear Loveday. I enjoyed meeting all the caring people who came together as a loving family in the Lost for Words Bookshop.

Thank you, NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read this e-ARC.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Three Things About Elsie by Joanna Cannon

I find Cannon's newest novel a kind of continuation of her last book, THE TROUBLE WITH GOATS AND SHEEP. In Goats and Sheep, the two young girls made it their business to find out every detail that the adults wanted to keep from them. They were proper little detectives, with a loving friendship that was endearing and loving.

The story is about two extremely close friends who have weathered a long life together and now live in a retirement community called The Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. The residents live independent lives in their flats with meals and cleaning services. The community room arranges ways for the residents to amuse themselves and socialize with each other.

Florence Claybourne, our unreliable narrator, has fallen in her flat and while she waits for someone to find her, she ruminates about her life and her dear friend, Elsie. Elsie and Flo became friends on the first day of school eons ago. Flo gave up her seat to a disabled girl and sat down with Elsie. That small gesture cemented together with the lives of Flo and Elsie. They know each other inside out, can finish each other's sentences even though Elsie seems to have a better grasp of names and dates.

The ladies come from a small town where everyone knew each other's private lives and who made a success of it and who did not. What I learned from M. Cannon was that it is the small things that happen in life that can change an entire life and make it worthwhile, no matter what the world thinks of your status in society. This novel was another favorite of mine from the wonderful novelist. Joanna Cannon.

Thank you, NetGalley and Scribner for the opportunity to read this e-Arc.

USA publication is expected on August 7th, 2018

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Eden by Andrea Kleine

Hope is the protagonist of this new novel by award-winning writer, Andrea Kleine. Eden is the driving force behind the questions, the loneliness, and the unachievable success in Hope's life. Hope is a playwright with proper university credentials, starting out strong with a play production in London. Since then, she hasn't been able to move anything else into the art world.

Hope comes from Virginia, outside of Charlottesville, where she grew up with her half-sister, Eden. Their father divorced Hope's mother, and he and Eden's mother were never married. Dad is a writer and a professor, living an alternative life in the countryside southwest of Charlottesville. When the girls were growing up, they took the bus to their father's town every Friday after school where he picked them up. When Eden was sixteen and Hope was fourteen their dad didn't show up at the bus stop to get them. They wound up with someone named Larry who said he was a friend of their dad and he sent him to get them. Larry said the dad was having trouble with his camper van. This day was the beginning of the hell that both of them would live in for much of the rest of their lives.

It is never clear in the novel if either girl suffered a rape, but they were kept against their wills, tied up outside in only their underwear. Their escape isn't as important as what happened to them afterward. The dysfunctional family of one father, two mothers, and a stubborn Eden set all their lives on end. Eden went to a boarding school, and Hope never really saw her again.

The story moves twenty years forward to a turning point in the story and Hope's life. The D.A. wants to interview both of them as Larry, their abductor, is up for parole. Hope decides to try to find Eden to talk to her about what happened and see if she can help make a case against Larry.

The trip takes her from New York to California, searching for Eden, but in more significant ways, searching for what created a massive hole in her soul, one that no one and nothing seems able to repair. This was a difficult novel to process. Hope's lonely journey through life is painful to witness. Ms. Kleine's insightful portrait of real-life pain makes it an excellent story.

Thank you, NetGalley and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for the opportunity to read the e-ARC.

The publication date for Eden is July 10th 2018.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Terrible Country by Keith Gessen

Andrei Kaplan, a perpetual student of Russian literature, succumbs to his brother pleas to return to Moscow for a short time to take care of their grandmother and help him settle some real estate issues. Andrei, becomes Andryush, an affectionate name given to him by his grandmother, Seva Efraimovna. Seva was well educated in Russian literature, and she and Andrew had lively conversations in addition to playing anagrams where Seva always beat Andrew. Eva taught Andrei Pushkin.

Andrew, still working at a university in NYC, taught 3-4 sections of online students in the MOOC program (Massive Open Online Courses offered by top schools to anyone who wanted to participate online). Andrew had barely enough to live on but gingerly went about trying to find the Russia he left when he was a child when he moved to Boston with his family. Just traversing the widely spaced open streets of Moscow was a huge challenge and it took Andrew a good enough amount of time to find people to socialize with and to play hockey with, his great love. He had trouble finding Wi-Fi, but coincidentally he stumbled on a place across from the KGB building, called The Grind and he spent time there working on communication with his students and reading their work.

Everyone Andrew came across was worried about the USA financial collapse and if electing Barack Obama was the right thing to do in those perilous times. With some like-minded students and his hockey friends, Andrew created a life that seemed to work. He never had any money and finding food for him, and his grandmother was always foremost on his mind, along with a young woman named Yulia who Andrew developed a lovely relationship. He fell in love.

After a year in Mosco and many adventures, Andrew begins to think clearly about where Putin is going with his power plays and that leaves Andrei with some big decisions to make. This brilliant novel gave me an excellent look into a world I would like to know better.

Thank you, NetGalley, and Viking for allowing me to read this advance galley.

Publish date is July 10th 2018.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Snap by Belinda Bauer

The thought of three children being left in a car while the mother goes for help is a perfect set up for a chilling novel. The mother never came back, and the life of those children went downhill immediately. Jack who was eleven at the time was required to take on the care and custody of the children who never told anyone what their circumstances were. The dad fell apart and littered the house with newspapers detailing the mother's murder. He didn't recover.

Jack carried on trying to feed the kids. They didn't go to school, living in a sorely neglected state. Somehow, this fact went unnoticed by the authorities and life carried on for a good long while.

Another story unfolds in the novel about a burglar who breaks into houses when the owners or tenants are away. He eats their food, steals some valuable things and sleeps in their beds. The cops call him Goldilocks, and they can't catch him.

This novel is sad and chilling to the core. BB ingeniously unfolds the mysteries, telling multiple stories of people who no one cares about. Jack is a hero, a teenager hero.

Thank you, NetGalley and Transworld Digital for offering me this e-ARC.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, Ginny Tapley Takemori (Translator)

In a society where people conform to gender, class, personal, and professional roles, Keiko Furukura stands out for her inability to blend in. Keiko is thirty-six and has been working part-time in a convenience store for eighteen years. This brilliant short novel describes her life and her long traveled path to reach acceptance in a role as a valued employee, working hard to perform at the level of excellence. Keiko trained herself to speak loudly and cheerfully to each customer and give them what they need with a smile, in the exact manner in which she received her training so long ago. She re-stocks the store perfectly and knows every minute detail about the running of the business. It is her pride and joy.

As a child. Keiko did not fit in, starting in elementary school, with acting in a somewhat aggressive way when she saw something done against another child. Some people might suggest that Keiko is on the autistic spectrum, but that is not a part of the story. Keiko doesn't get better as she grows up, she rarely socializes and depends on her younger sister to help her with social cues. When she is in college and finds a part-time job in the store, Keiko seems to have found her niche.

Keiko has seen workers come and go and even managers who leave after a relatively short time. She knows that certain new employees probably won't make it and most often, she is correct. Her work peers realize she is different but depend on her and respect her knowledge of the job. I enjoyed learning about all the various snacks served in the store and was so happy that Keiko's path led her to the exact place she needed to inhabit.

Thank you, NetGalley and Grove Press for the opportunity to read this ARC.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

In this new novel by Catherine Steadman, the protagonist begins the narration by describing what a difficult time she is having trying to bury her husband with just a shovel. Erin, a documentary filmmaker, is married to Mark, an investment banker. After the burial prologue, the story goes back to explaining the life of the narrator and her husband. The couple was planning their wedding and honeymoon. It was supposed to be a first-class affair with a deluxe class honeymoon in Bora Bora.

The expensive wedding gets downgraded when Mark loses his job. The couple decides to continue with their trip to Bora Bora, down to two weeks, from three.Even though there is a beautiful home waiting for the couple when they return, they begin to make questionable decisions based on money. The relationship takes a quick turn, and the reader must buckle up for a brush with criminals, police, and mysterious people who are following Erin. She never seems to doubt her actions because she wants the life she expected to have and is determined to get it, no matter what she has to do. The key to destruction here is the money. Erin followed the money.

Thank you, NetGalley and Ballantine for this E-arc.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Possible World by Liese O'Halloran Schwarz

Liese O'Halloran Schwarz describes the interior life, the struggles of loss, pain, and recovery of characters of different ages in different time spaces. The drama of the plot comes immediately when there is a mass murder at a child's birthday party. Ben is the only survivor, his mother was one of the adults killed. Ben meets an E.R. doctor, Lucy, who was acquainted with his mother, a resident in another department. Ben is severely traumatized and admitted to the psychiatric department.

Lucy works long, exhausting hours in the E.R. and as a result, begins to see the deterioration of her marriage. Her husband actually presents an ultimatum on one particular night and her trauma of losing the man she thought she could depend on adds to her difficult life.

Other interesting characters come into the picture. Claire is a resident of a nursing home and about to win the trophy as the oldest resident at 100.She is quiet, keeps to herself, and the unfolding of her story is worth the reading.

LOS writes knowledgeably about both the physical and mental health of all the characters and does and a heartwarming job of bringing people together with great compassion and empathy.

Thank you, NetGalley and Scribner for the opportunity to read this e-ARC.