Friday, February 12, 2016

River Road; Carol Goodman

River Road; Carol Goodman
Touchdown - 2016

In this fast paced thriller Nan Lewis, is a creative writing instructor at a college in upstate New York who has had more than her share of bad days.   Years earlier Nan's young daughter Emma was killed by a hit and run drive on River Road. Although the woman at the wheel was eventually caught and prosecuted, Nan continues to by haunted by the incident and often drowns her sadness in alcohol.

Now on the evening of Nan's Christmas party with coworkers she learns that she has not been granted tenure. She's visibly upset and has had several glasses of wine as she heads home after dark in foggy weather.  As she rounds the corner on River Road at same location where her daughter was killed, Nan hits something herself and drives off the road.  She thinks she's hit a deer, but when she get out to check the area she doesn't see anything.  The following day the police are at her door asking questions as one of Nan's promising students, Leia Dawson, had been hit and killed by a hit and run driver on River Road around the same time and in the area where Nan thought she hit the deer.  When the police check out Nan's car she becomes a suspect.

In an effort to prove her innocence she sets out talking to various people to hopefully get clues to Leia's killer.  She gets herself into more hot water than she bargained for in the process.

Nan is her own worst enemy. Yes, she's had some rough patches in her life, but she drinks too much and doesn't listen to the police either. At times she really bugged me, but it didn't detract from my enjoyment of this thriller.  There are lots of possible suspects, and I found myself changing my mind a few times as I read, and I was still wrong in the end.  Mystery lovers who enjoy well drawn characters, twists and turns along the way will enjoy this one. There were a few slow spots as I read but,  overall a very good story. I loved the cold, snowy environment the author created; this one chilled me to the bones at times.

4/5 stars
(finished copy sent by publisher)

French Leave; Anna Gavalda

French Leave; Anna Gavalda
Europa Editions - 2011

French Leave is a delightful quick read about sibling relationships. The story is just over 100 pages and takes place over a period of just over 24 hours.

The story begins with Simon Lariot and his wife Carine picking up Simon's younger sister for a road trip from Paris to the countryside for a family wedding which is expected to be rather dull. Garance and her SIL Carine are opposites - Garance is bold and a free spirit, while Carine is neurotic, prejudice, a chronic complainer and insecure around Simon's siblings.  Along the way Simon makes a second stop to pick up Lola, another sibling, which only angers Carine more.

The siblings are disappointed that their younger brother, Vincent is unable to attend the wedding so they decide to drop uptight Carine off at the church and take a "French Leave." The threesome heads to Tours in the french countryside where brother Vincent is a tour guide. For a few hours all (4) siblings forget their jobs, kids, spouses and exes and instead drink some wine and recall fond memories of earlier times spent together.  When their time together comes to an end, each feels a since of renewal and appreciation for each other are their current situations.

French Leave is an interesting character study on sibling relationships. The characters while each very different from one another, are well developed.  Although this was a translated work from (French), the translation was great and the conversations, wit and humor felt genuine, but never forced.  This was a great book to sit down with and read from cover to cover in just a little over an hour.  I'll be looking forward to more books by this author and, I already have several on my shelves to look forward to. 

4/5 stars
(my shelves)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Coming Soon to a Bookstore Near You - (3) New Books coming in March

(3) new books that I thought sounded great

Atria - March 2016
(Amazon Description)

Fans of Kate Morton will love this atmospheric and immersive debut novel of a woman who returns to her ancestral home in Scotland and discovers a century-old secret buried in the basement.

Following the deaths of her last living relatives, Hetty Deveraux leaves her strained marriage behind in London and returns to her ancestral home, a crumbling estate in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, with the intention of renovating and reselling it as a hotel, much to the dismay of the locals. As she dives headfirst into the repairs, she discovers human remains beneath a rotting floorboard in the basement, with few physical clues to identify the body. Who was this person? And why the makeshift grave?

Hungry for answers, Hetty sets out to unravel the estate’s secret—and those of its former inhabitants, including Beatrice Blake, a woman who moved there a century ago with her husband Theo, a famous painter who seemed to be more interested in Cameron, a young local man, than his own wife.

Following whispered rumors and a handful of leads, Hetty soon discovers that no one knows exactly what happened to Beatrice, only that her actions have reverberated throughout history, affecting Hetty’s present in startling ways.

The Passenger; Lisa Lutz
Simon & Schuster - March 2016
(Amazon Description)

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.

The Two-Family House; Lynn Cohen-Loigman
St. Martin's Press - March 2016
(Amazon Description)

Brooklyn, 1947: in the midst of a blizzard, in a two-family brownstone, two babies are born minutes apart to two women. They are sisters by marriage with an impenetrable bond forged before and during that dramatic night; but as the years progress, small cracks start to appear and their once deep friendship begins to unravel. No one knows why, and no one can stop it. One misguided choice; one moment of tragedy. Heartbreak wars with happiness and almost but not quite wins.
From debut novelist Lynda Cohen Loigman comes The Two-Family House, a moving family saga filled with heart, emotion, longing, love, and mystery.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell

The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell
Touchstone - 2016

Samantha Whipple, the last living descendent of the Bronte family,  arrives at Oxford where she plans to study English Literature like her father before her. Sam's father, a brilliant but eccentric man, died in a few year's earlier.  Before he passed away he told Sam that she would someday inherit part of the Bronte legacy, however, nothing ever surfaced prior to her heading off to Oxford.

Once Sam arrives at school she's told that there is a shortage of housing and is escorted to what will be her dorm room.  Her room is located in a cold, windowless tower which is reported to have a mysterious history of its own. Built in 1361, the room had at one time been used to quarantine victims of the plague.  Sam hates her room but, doesn't make waves by demanding a transfer. Before long clues, along with bits and pieces of her father's legacy begin to appear outside her room and inside the dorm,  including her father's annotated Bronte books which should have perished in the fire that took his life. Sam college days spin into a literary scavenger hunt of sorts helping her to learn more about her father and the man he really was.

This is a story that blends mystery, literature, history and even romance into a page-turning debut. The novel felt like a modern retelling of Jane Eyre and the lives of Emily, Charlotte and Anne Bronte. There was a lot of commentary about the sisters and, I wasn't sure what was fictionalized or accurate.  The story is written with a lot of wit and humor infused which I loved, even though I wasn't a fan of Sam herself.  Sam came across as someone who disliked literature yet that's what she went to Oxford to study. She also wasn't very assertive and came across as a bit of a ditz at times as well. I did like that there were many references to well known literary works throughout. I think that this is a book that will appeal to literary and mystery lovers alike, even if they are not huge Bronte fans.

4/5 stars

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros - River Road; Carol Goodman

Every Tuesday I host First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros where I share the first paragraph sometimes two from a book I am reading or thinking about reading soon. I'm on chapter 8 of this one and enjoying it.

River Road; Carol Goodman
Touchstone - 2016

Chapter ONE

"She came out of nowhere.

I was driving back from the faculty Christmas party. I'd had a couple glasses of wine but I wasn't drunk.  Distracted, sure, what with Cressida dropping that bombshell and the scene with Ross, but not drunk."

What do you think -- keep reading or pass? 
(Feel free to join in this week by posting your intro below?

Monday, February 8, 2016

American Housewife: Stories; Helen Ellis

American Housewife: Stories; Helen Ellis
Random House Audio & Doubleday - 2016

I wasn't sure what to expect when I began reading this short collection of (12) stories.  Now that I'm done, I can tell you that there are no prim and proper housewives to be found.  In fact, in these stories one housewife seemed more outrageous than the next at times. 

I started this collection of twisted tales in the lives of some very insane housewives on audio and later switched to the eGalley, as the stories somehow felt less bizarre in print.  There's a seemingly perfect Manhattan housewife with a much darker side, a bra fitter whose spouse is having cancer treatments, and another housewife who talks to the dead in their own home, and a story with "Tampax" in its title as well.

Although some of the stories are sharp and funny can make you think about how absurd daily life can be at times I just didn't get what was supposed to be humor of some of the stories.  There was talk of dead husbands and the loss of a child that felt rather flippant and way over the top. Overall, I think I was expecting the humor to be more in the line of how David Seders writes, so it felt a little disappointing in the end.

2.5/5 stars
(audio & eGalley)

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Week in Review and New Books

This was an exciting week here in New England as we experienced our first real snowfall on Friday - 4" of the heavy, wet snow that makes everything look like a winter wonderland outside.  (I love condo living - no shoveling, sanding etc.)  Here's a picture from of living room and a few of the little ones having fun.

I'm still fighting a miserable cold that has kept me at home all week except for a few quick errands. I did get some reading and reviews done so I don't feel like a total slacker.

This week's books read or reviewed were (2) books I really loved:When Breath Becomes Air; Paul Kalanithi (finished the end of January) and Looking Back: A Chronicle of Growing Up Old in the Sixties; Joyce Maynard (finished Thursday).  I do love when a book moves you and these certainly left their marks. I also finished the audio version of American Housewife; Helen Ellis, no review yet, but, I was disappointed by this one.

I have a couple other books in progress or needing to be reviewed. They are, The Madwoman Upstairs; Catherine Lowell - good - fun read.  I am in the process of reading River Road; Carol Goodman and French Leave; Anna Gavalda as well. Our bookclub selection for this month is, The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath (which will be a reread - think I read it about 15 years ago).

Lot's of New Books came in the mail last week - 

Weekend Plans

  • Husband's birthday is on Sunday -  we went to the theater to see a live performance and  Sunday family will be here for food and cake and then we'll lovingly get them out of the house before the Super Bowl begins and it'll be just the (2) of us for that. (Personally we don't care who wins as the NE Patriot's or Philadelphia Eagles are not in it this year.)
Hope you have a nice day and  great week