Saturday, May 21, 2022

Brief Book Reviews - The Lost Apothecary; Sarah Penner - The Shore; Katie Runde and The Kind Worth Killing; Peter Swanson and Healing: When a Nurse Becomes a Patient; Theresa Brown

 

The Lost Apothecary; Sarah Penner
Park Row - 2021
Book Group Read 

The Lost Apothecary was our book group pick for May (discussion this week).  I thought the premise sounded really good. Set in 1791 London, Nella Clavinger took over an apothecary after her mother's death.  Her mission was to help women with their illnesses, afflictions and other more personal issues like providing them with poison when the men in their lives have done them wrong.  There is also 12 year old Eliza Fanning, who helps her mistress/employer Mrs Armwell but, when Eliza enters the picture and frequents the apothecary, Nella wonders how long the secret of what she has been doing will be safe.  

In the present day, Caroline Parcewell who has been married to James for ten years, but James is a cheater - she'll deal with him later.  She is also a woman who loves history. and after finding a mysterious blue vial in the Thames River (yes suspend belief here) with the help of a research librarian who Caroline develops a friendship with, she realizes the vial may be tied to the apothecary murders.

Told between (3) POVs, I really only enjoyed Nella's storyline. Caroline's melodrama was and the way her storyline was written was way too over the top at times.  I had never read about the terms "mudlarking/mudlark" ( the name given in the 19th century to children and adults who scavenged the banks of the River Thames in London.) I alway love when I learn something new when I read even though in this case it did not help with my overall opinion on the book.

Rating - 3/5 stars

(NOTE: An eGalley was provided to me by the publisher and Edelweiss in exchange for my unbiased review.)

The Shore; Katie Runde
Simon & Schuster - 2022

The Shore was a debut novel that takes place over the course of one summer in Seaside, New Jersey.  It's the story of the Dunne family: Brian (father), Margot (mother) and teenage daughters Liz and Evy.  The family has made a business of renting summer cottages along the shore to vacationers.  When Brian is diagnosed with a brain tumor, the family is forced to shift their focus while trying to maintain at least a little sense of normalcy while struggling to care for Brian as well.

The story is told from MPOV and this ended up being a much heavier read than what i had anticipated from the lovely cover art and title.  I alway struggle about reading the descriptions provided by the publishers which often reveal too much of the story. Unfortunately, in this case I wished I had.  As it turns out I was not a good a fit for this book.  I kept wishing the story stayed more focused on the family unit but, oftentimes it seemed to meander to details about the teens and their friends which caused me to lose interest.  There were several audio book narrators: Andi Arndt, Priya Ayyan, Dan Biltner and Ines del Castillo.  The ones portraying the adults were good, the ones who portrayed the teens seemed to irk me at times. Although this book was not a good choice for me, I can see how others might enjoy this story a bit more.

Rating - 3/5 stars

(NOTE: An audio download and eGalley were provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.)


The Kind Worth Killing; Peter Swanson
Harper Audio -2020 - 10 hours and 17 min.
(Narrators - Johnny Heller, Karen White, Kathleen Early, Keith Szarabajka - very good)


Peter Swanson is one of those author's I'm always drawn to.  I like the fact that most of his books are set in New England and tend to have a riveting storyline that makes it hard to put down.  The Kind Worth Killing was such a story.

In a Heathrow (UK) airport lounge to strangers, Ted Stevenson and Lily Kintner strike up a conversation after their Boston bound flights have been delayed.  Their conversations get quite personal after a few drinks and, Ted confesses that he thinks his wife of three years, Miranda has married him for his money and believes she is having an affair and even knows who she is involved with.  He also tells Lily that he has thought of killing her to avoid a messy and costly divorce.  Lily, stuns him by saying that she thinks he should kill her and even offers to help him get rid of his problem.

Why would a complete stranger get involved? Well, it seems Lily has her own reasons.

This is a story built on deceit and revenge. The characters are all detestable but, it was hard to stop listening to this one.  Flashbacks into Lily's past give the reader insight into just what a nut job she is. A good story with several unexpected plot twists. The audiobook was read by (4) different narrators - all did a great job.)

Rating - 4.5/5 stars

(NOTE: I downloaded this audiobook from my public library)

Algonquin Books - 2022 (library book - hardcover)

Theresa Brown was an oncology and hospice nurse when she found herself on the other side in the role of patient - newly diagnosed with breast cancer.  Although she had non cancerous lumps removed at the age of 16, she did have relatives who died of breast cancer.  She tells her story of being diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, her surgery, follow up care and treatments.  She speaks about how healthcare professionals failed her at times and she has quite a bit to say about why compassionate care and positive attitudes are so important.  One thing she mentioned was that while she was in treatment, she felt she was doing something meaningful to avoid future recurrence but, added that once her treatment was finished those previous fears had a way of resurfacing. It seems once you are diagnosed with cancer, it never is truly gone from your mind.

In alternating chapters the author speaks of some of her unnamed patients during her time as an oncology and hospice nurse, recognizing how she, as well, had failed some of her patients.

I was drawn to this memoir for personal reasons and while I was happy I read it, I wished it had felt a bit more personal (I don't even think she mentioned her age when she was diagnosed). I can't describe it accurately but, I felt a little bit distanced by the way the author shared her breast cancer journey; it left me wanting more. 

Rating - 4/5 stars

NOTE: I borrowed the print edition of this book from my public library.


                                                              This Week's Reading Plans

Father's Day; Simon Van Booy
Harper Audio - 2016
6 hours 58 min - Bronson Pinchot narrator


Klara and the Sun; Kazuo Ishguro
Random House Audio - 2021
(Sura Siu - narrator - 10 hours 16 minutes)

(almost done with this one - so very good)

The Foundling; Ann Leary
Simon & Schuster Audio - 2022
(12 hours 40 minutes - Laura Benanti narrator)


I'm so excited about 20 Books of Summer and have just about finished compiling my list.  I'll be posting next weekend and looking forward to what I've picked. Are you making a summer reading list?

Share your week by posting a link on Deb's Blog HERE

35 comments:

  1. Several good ones, thanks for the reviews.

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  2. I probably wouldn't like the present-day story in The Lost Apothecary either.

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  3. Interesting list. I am a big fan of Ishiguro and loved "Klara." Reviewed here:
    https://maefood.blogspot.com/2021/03/klara-and-sun-new-from-ishiguro.html

    best, mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Everyone has seemed to enjoy Klara & the Sun ; such a unique story.

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  4. So many books this week. I've never Peter Swanson, but your review sounds so intriguing! Glad you're enjoying Klara and the Sun as I hope to get to that one eventually. I've enjoyed at least a couple of Ann Leary's books and plan to read her latest, too. I'll wait for your review before deciding whether to read or listen. Hope you have a good week, Diane.

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    1. Klara and the Sun is delightful. I enjoyed the audio a lot as well - no review yet.

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  5. I thought the premise of The Lost Apothecary sounded interesting as well, but read mixed reviews and decided to skip it. Healing sounds really good, I love medical memoirs. I look forward to your 20 Books of Summer list! Have a good weekend!

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    1. Hi Gretchen, I love participating in 20 Books of Summer, especially the selection process. I hope you've have a good week.

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  6. I have thought about joining in on the summer reading...but that is as far as I have gotten, LOL.

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    1. LOL - It is always a fun challenge for me. Half the fun is the selection process.

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  7. Looks like a bit of a mixed bag reading wise this back week. Still, some that you really enjoyed, which is always nice.

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  8. Too bad a couple of these didn't work out for you, but the Peter Swanson book sounds really good.

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    1. Peter Swanson is very good. The only book I didn't enjoy was Every Vow You Break.

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  9. You have some great books here - I particularly like the sound of Healing. Sorry some of these weren’t what you were hoping for. Have a wonderful week ahead!

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    1. I love a good memoir and Healing was good but, I was expecting more about her breast cancer journey - it didnt feel personal enough.

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  10. You've been a busy reader and reviewer. I'm glad you are enjoying Ishiguro's book. It is a favorite of mine. I look forward to your review.

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    1. It was such a nice story; I needed that - no review yet.

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  11. Some interesting looking books. I enjoyed The Lost Apothecary - maybe the ending could have been better 🤔 I saw about this 20 Books of Summer. I go on a lot of Blog Tours so don't know what I will be reading too far in advance. I will have to see!

    Hope you had a good weekend!

    Emily @ Budget Tales Book Blog
    My post:
    https://budgettalesblog.wordpress.com/2022/05/22/sunday-salon-5/

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Emily. I loved the beginning of Lost Apothecary but the current day story wasn't working for me.

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  12. Hi there Diane! You have such great reads done and coming up. I still want to read The lost Apothecary and I am glad to see you have also enjoyed The Kind worth Killing so much. I loved that book and need to read more by Peter Swanson.

    Hope you are doing well and that you will have a good week ahead!

    Elza Reads

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    1. The reviews are mixed on Lost Apothecary so you may love it. I like Peter Swanson's books as well. So glad you have a nice holiday.

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  13. That's a shame about Apothecary, I was curious about that one.

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    1. Some have loved it but, it just wasn't a good fit for me overall.

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  14. I liked many of the books in this post. Thanks for the reviews. Quite comprehensive.

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  15. I have been thinking about reading The Lost Apothecary and The Shore, but I think I will pass on these after reading your reviews. I know you really enjoyed The Kind Worth Killing, but books with those sorts of plots are often too scary for me.

    I'm glad Klara and the Sun is working for you. Klara is such a fascinating character and the plot is quite novel, I think.

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    1. Klara and the Sun was a very unique story and so tender at times as well (no review yet). My only minor complaint was the over use of "Melania Housekeeper" which if I never hear that name again, it will be okay with me LOL

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  16. That's the trouble with these double timeline books, one is often far more interesting than the other. Rarely does an author manage to make both interesting. Yes, mudlarking is scouring the Thames shoreline for interesting bits. I think you have to have a license to do it these days. There's a quite a well known non-fiction book about it, just called Mudlarking I think.

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    1. Interesting - people are always looking for a new treasure in the water or the sand it seems.

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  17. Too bad about Lost Apothecary. That cover is gorgeous and the premise was really intriguing. Peter Swanson is an author I've been really wanting to read and I'm glad to see how much you enjoyed this book. Hope you are having a wonderful week!

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    1. I loved the historical portion but, the modern day not so much.

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  18. I've been curious about Lost Apothecary so I'm glad to read your review. The Kind Worth Killing remains as one of my favourite Swanson books. I hope his next book will surpass this as his recent ones are only so-so.

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    1. The Kind Worth Killing was addictive - he is a good writer.

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