Thursday, September 23, 2021

Book Review - The Fortnight in September; B.C. Sherriff


The Fortnight in September;R.C. Sherriff

Simon & Schuster Audio - 2021

 Jilly Bond - narrator - 9 hours 40 min.

Originally written in 1931, The Fortnight in September,  was a wonderful COVID-escape read.

The Stevens family is preparing for their annual holiday returning to the same seaside town where the couple honeymooned 20+ years earlier.  Now the Stevens the clan, as a family, has returned to Bognor Regis year after year.  Besides the mother and father there is Mary 20, Dick 17 and Ernie 10-ish.  The story begins with all the pre-planning that goes on into getting there: packing, leaving the pet, home and garden behind, train arrangements and so much more.  

Mrs. Stevens clearly doesn't even like going to the beach but she does it year after year for her family.  She comes across as a bit of an anxious woman who worries about what people will think about her, afraid of not measuring up or being laughed at, her mind is constantly moving and worrying at full-speed.  Mr. Stevens seems anxious as well; he obsesses about everything in preparing for the trip by checking and double checking.  He is a bit of a nut when it comes to details making sure everything and I mean everything is in place with no room for error.  It is clear that Mr. Stevens is a hard worker and that his family means everything to him.  Once they finally arrive and getting there is full of delightful details, they soon settle into holiday mode. We see the children enjoy themselves, relaxing, swimming and meeting new friends and thinking about their own futures.

The story is told basically from the POV of Mr. Stevens but, we clearly get to see what others are thinking and doing. There is nothing earth-shattering that happens in this story, yet the prose and slower pace makes the reader long for a similar, simpler life and time. What a treat! This would be a terrific book to take along on your own holiday or vacation. I'm happy I had the chance to try it and it was such a different kind of story from anything I've read in a long while.

Thanks go to Simon & Schuster Audio and Edelweiss for allowing me access to both the eGalley and audio book which made for a perfect combo read/listen. The audio was read by Jilly Bond who did a fine job.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Book Review - Where I Left Her; Amber Garza


Where I Left Her; Amber Garza

Mira - 2021

Whitney is a divorced mother to a moody, disrespectful sixteen year-old named Amelia.  As the story begins Whitney is using her GPS to drive Amelia over to the home of Lauren, a newer friend that she is planning an overnight with.  Amelia, like many teens, has a way of making Whitney's life more than challenging lately, so Whitney is looking forward to kicking back and having an evening to herself.

The following morning after Whitney's calls to Amelia's phone go unanswered she drives over to the tract house neighborhood where she dropped her daughter off.  When an elderly couple answer the door and everyone seems surprised, Whitney thinks she could have the wrong house yet, she remembers the red door and rose bushes.  Confused and disoriented she rides around the the connecting neighborhood but ends up back at the home of the elderly couple.  Where is Amelia?

The story is clearly every parent's worst nightmare and it has a somewhat creepy feel at times.  The story backtracks to seven weeks earlier and progresses to the present and the reader gets to speculate about what has happened to Amelia and her friend.  There were also flashbacks to Whitney's own teenage years that makes the reader wonder where the story is headed but, after some unexpected curveballs, it all makes sense in the end - definitely different from anything I've read recently.  

Although I did not love this one as I did the author's previous book, When I Was You,  however, I was still happy I read this one.

Thanks go to Edelweiss and Mira for allowing my early access to the eGalley in exchange for my unbiased review.

Rating - 4/5 stars

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Oh William! ; Elizabeth Strout


Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews
Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.

Oh William!; Elizabeth Strout

Random House - October 2021

I would like to say a few things about my first husband, William. William has lately been through some very sad events--many of us have--but I would like to mention them, it feels almost a compulsion; he is seventy-one years old now.

My second husband, David, died last year, and in my grief for him I have felt grief for William as well. Grief is such a--oh, it is such a solitary thing; this is the terror of it, I think.  It is like sliding down a really long glass building while nobody sees you.  But it is William I want to speak of here.

Elizabeth Strout is a favorite author after Olive Kitteridge and Olive, Again. I hope this is another winner.  What did you think of the excepts I've shared?

Friday, September 17, 2021

Book Review - The Stolen Hours; Allen Eskens

The Stolen Hours; Allen Eskens

Mulholland Books - 2021

Lila Nash is a petite, young woman who has made a lot of progress with anxiety issues after she was drugged and attacked when she was eighteen years old. Both therapy and counting rituals have helped her succeed in law school and she now works in a Minnesota prosecutor's office. Her job isn't easy as Frank Dovey has an axe to grind and wants to see her fail. Lila is determined to succeed and when she is reassigned to work under Andi Fitch we see her confidence slowly building.

Gavin Spencer is a creepy, calculated psychopath and photographer. He has a distinct lisp and gets even with any woman who snubs him usually by doing away with the offender.  His most recent victim, Sadie Vauk, survived her attack and was able to identify him and,  the evidence is building against Gavin.  The more the evidence builds, the more Lila recalls similarities between her attack and the way Gavin operates.  This makes Lila more and more determined than ever to see him prosecuted for what he has done.

Without saying too much, I loved the way this story developed slowly, the details are so finely drawn and the pace was pitch-perfect.  The characters were expertly crafted. I especially loved that the women were so strong and determined. I enjoyed this one so much and did not want it to end so I read a few other books in between to make this story last.  The ending was both unexpected and thrilling.

Allen Eskens is a go-to author for for me.  One character, Joe Talbert who has been involved with Lila for six years has appeared in a few earlier offerings but, he played a minor role in this one so I feel this would work perfectly as a standalone novel.   If you haven't read this author previously, do yourself a favor an add him to your list. 

Thanks go to Mulholland Books and NetGalley for allowing me access to the pre-pub eGalley.

Rating - 5/5 stars

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Book Review - The Heron's Cry; Ann Cleeves

The Heron's Cry; Ann Cleeves

Macmillan Audio - 2021

In Book #2 of the Two River series, Detective Inspector Matthew Venn returns to the North Devon coast to investigate a murder that took place at at an artist's studio.  Dr. Nigel Yeo is the victim and he was stabbed in the neck with a jagged shard of blown glass from his own daughter Eve's workshop and art studio.

The previous evening the deceased approached Matthew's homicide partner Jen Rafferty telling her there was something he wanted to discuss with her in private but, Jen had a little too much to drink so she gave him her number and asked if they could talk in the morning.  When her phone wakes her the next morning,  it is Matthew giving her the bad news and asking her to meet him.  Apparently, the late doctor was a patient advocate who had concerns regarding some suicides of patients with mental health issues. He was planning on voicing his concerns about the NHS and the way certain groups of patients were being handled.  When a second person is murdered under similar circumstances, the reason for the murders as well as the suspect pool widens.

Less than a month ago I read, The Long Call (Book 1 of this series) and I was quite impressed. In this sequel we see further development of each of the returning characters both professional as well as Matthew's marriage  and relationship with his husband Jonathan. I loved seeing how Jonathan is trying very hard to have Matthew rebuild his estranged relationship with his mother. I love the character driven style of this author and also the unique way in which her crime procedurals and investigations proceed.  There are lots of details and clues to take in and quite a few characters as well.  This was a very good sequel.  Someone mentioned that the Two River series will become a 4-part series for television.

Thanks go to Macmillan Audio and NetGalley for allowing me to download this audiobook in exchange for my unbiased review. The audio was narrated by Jack Holden who did a very good job.

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

Book Review - Made in China: A Memoir of Love and Labor; Anna Qu


Made in China; A Memoir of Love and Labor; Anna Qu

Penguin Random House Audio - 2021 - (5 hours 41 min)

Made in China, is rather sad memoir about what it was like growing up unloved and feeling like an outcast.  The author was born in Wenzhou China in the mid 80's. Her father died when she was young.  Her mother decided that if she stayed in China, with the one-child rule at the time, it would be unlikely that any man would want to marry her so she made a decision to leave her daughter behind with grandparents in China and go to America.  In New York her mother got a job at a Queens sweatshop and eventually ended up marrying the owner and having two more children.  In 1991 when Qu was seven, her mother brought her to live her new family which she had never met.  

In America, Qu was not treated like her half-siblings, and never shown any love or attention. She had a room in the basement.  Unlike her half-siblings, as a teen she was forced to work 40+ hours a week in the sweatshop. Her mother was beyond strict, she was down right abusive and eventually Qu files a report with The Office of Children & Family Services, a decision which affects her later on.  An excellent student she was determined to succeed despite little encouragement and without her mother's help. While her mother wore designer clothes, Qu wore sweatshop clothes which made her stand apart from her classmates even more. Although she manages to go to college without her parents help there are more issues to contend with as an adult.

This was an eye-opening memoir that makes you think about the immigrant experience.  We learn about generations of struggles for women in China and the need for mothers to be tough.  Qu's bitterness, loathing and resentment is difficult to read about at times as you learn more about the complicated mother-daughter relationship here.  This memoir showed the darker side of a journey from China to life in America to what one would always hope to be a better life.

I downloaded this audio book from the public library. It was narrated by Catherine Ho who did a very good job with this memoir. Recommended.

Rating -  4/5 stars

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - Where I Left Her; Amber Garza


Welcome to First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Yvonne @ Socrates Book Reviews
Each week readers post the first paragraph (or 2) of a book we are reading or plan to read soon.

Where I Left Her; Amber Garza

Mira - August - 2021

Friday, 5:00 pm, drop off

Whitney wanted to get rid of her daughter.

How awful is that?

Not forever, of course, but for the night. She was weary of the fifteen-year-old attitude. The rolling of eyes, stomping of feet, the judging glances and biting remarks. 

That's why she wasn't paying as much attention as she should've been when dropping Amelia off at Lauren's.  Her mind was back in their apartment, her butt planted on the couch, bare feet propped on the table, a pint of ice cream in her lap.

"The destination is on your right."

She turned the steering wheel, following the instructions given by the disembodied voice of the GPS in her daughter's phone. Amelia held it up, giving the illusion that her palm was talking

The house in front of them was  nondescript. A tract home, painted beige with dark brown trim, a cream door, two large windows overlooking the narrow walkway. The only thing that set it apart from the others was the row of rose bushes lining the left perimeter of the yard, scarlet red petals and thorny jagged stems.

 What do you think?  I loved this author's previous book, When I Was You so I've really been looking forward to her new one.  It sounds perfect for the RIP Challenge as well.