The Daughters of Ireland
August 15, 2017
Perched majestically atop the lush emerald hills of West Cork, Ireland, Castle Deverill has been the home to several generations of the Deverills. But when the castle fell prey to a devastating attack during the Irish revolt, the ancestral home’s survival was at stake—until Celia Mayberry and her husband buy the estate and vow to restore Castle Deverill to its former glory. For Celia, the castle holds many fond childhood memories when she ran through its vast halls with her cousin Kitty Deverill and their cherished friend Bridie Doyle. But not everyone is elated. Although Kitty is grateful to her cousin for purchasing the manor and ensuring it will remain in the family, she cannot help but be wistful for the days when she was the mistress of Castle Deverill. While she is content in her new life with her husband Robert and her adopted son JP, her heart still yearns for Jack O’Leary—the man she cannot have. As Kitty struggles with her choices, she must make a heartbreaking decision that could bring her the greatest joy, but hurt those closest to her. Now wealthy and the toast of the town in New York City, Bridie Doyle has come a long way since she was a young girl in Ireland and the daughter of one of the maids at Castle Deverill. But all her money cannot ease the pain over giving away her baby. When she finds love, she is tempted to return to her beloved homeland—even if it means she will have to face the woman she still longs to seek revenge against. As Celia wastes no time, or expense, in hiring workers to renovate Castle Deverill—even when the country soon finds itself in the midst of the Great Depression—she has no idea that her world is about to be shattered. Now everything that felt so certain is cast into doubt as these daughters of Ireland must find the inner strength to build a new future.
When I was sent this book by the kind folks at William Morrow to read and review, my first reaction was to look at this stunning cover, but think this is not really my kind of book. Well color me surprised, because this was an excellent read! It centers around three women who grew up together in a castle in West Cork, Ireland. Two of the women are cousins, one is the daughter of a cook in the castle. They are all grown up when we enter this story, and are dealing with grown-up problems like jealousy, adultery, scandals and lies. One of the cousins has purchased the war ravaged castle they grew up in and is restoring it in a grand way, but financial trouble looms. The other cousin pines for a former lover while caring for her adopted son resulting from an affair between her father and, you guessed it, the cook's daughter (and former playmate). The boy's biological mother has moved to the US, and is living the grand life, but wondering if she should go back and claim her son. There is a ton going on in this book, and the writing was on point to keep the pages turning to find out how these lives would all play out. The only real issue that I had was that I did not know going in that this was part of a trilogy. I did not read the first book (The Girl in the Castle), and honestly didn't feel that it hindered me in any way when delving into the story. However, there were lots of loose ends at the end that I'm sure will be carried over to the last book. Trouble is, will I remember the book by the time I get to the next one (this is why I'm not a huge fan of series books).
This is a great family saga taking place in the 20's in Ireland. I'm going to call it a soap opera in book form! Not going to lie, it is a chunkster of a book, but I think you'll be hooked.
August 1, 2017
Hardcover and e-book
Own copy, and publisher via Penguin First to Read
From critically acclaimed and Baileys Prize-nominated author Sara Taylor comes a dazzling new novel about youth, identity, and family secrets I didn t realize my mother was a person until I was thirteen years old and she pulled me out of bed, put me in the back of her car, and we left home and my dad with no explanations. I thought that Ma was all that she was and all she had ever wanted to be. I was wrong. As we made our way from Virginia to California, returning to the places where she d lived as a kid in foster care and as a teenager on the run, repaying debts and keeping promises, I learned who she was in her life-before-me and the secrets she had kept even from herself. But when life on the road began to feel normal I couldn t forget the home we d left behind, couldn t deny that, just like my mother, I too had unfinished business. Sara Taylor brings the American landscape to vivid life in an unforgettable road novel that strikes at the heart of a mother-child bond."
This was an engrossing story of a mother/daughter road trip with some very interesting characters. Not just any short term road trip, but one that lasts for years. The mother decides to leave her husband, and take her thirteen year old daughter on a tour of some of the places in her past. During this time we learn about the mother's former life, and meet many of the significant people (including quite a few Lauras) from that past. As she attempts to reconnect with lost friends, right a few wrongs, and help a few people out, her daughter discovers a whole new side of the person she has always known as just Mom. Other than a side plot toward the end regarding sexuality, which I thought was not really necessary and seemed like it was thrown in to create edginess, I enjoyed this road trip a great deal. I liked seeing inside the mind of Alex's mom, and what she was going to come up with next. She really did have a good heart, and never discounted her role as a mother to accomplish what she set out to do. As a side note, while I read this as Alex being a daughter, the author does a clever job of never really revealing the sex of the child. What conclusion did you make?
A mother/daughter road trip with lots of edgy characters and a mother on a mission. This one will keep you reading to find out where they will go, and what will happen next.
I read and reviewed this book for the Penguin First to Read program. Click this link to find out more about them. As always, my opinions are my own.
August 1, 2017
Advanced Reader Copy
Publisher via BookExpo and First to Read
Fiona Davis, author of The Dollhouse, returns with a compelling novel about the thin lines between love and loss, success and ruin, passion and madness, all hidden behind the walls of The Dakota, New York City's most famous residence. After a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she'd make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility--no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one's station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children. In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey's grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won't see a dime of the Camden family's substantial estate. Instead, her "cousin" Melinda--Camden's biological great-granddaughter--will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda's vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell's Island. One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages--for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City--and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side's gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich--and often tragic--as The Dakota's can't hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden--and the woman who killed him--on its head. With rich historical detail, nuanced characters, and gorgeous prose, Fiona Davis once again delivers a compulsively readable novel that peels back the layers of not only a famed institution, but the lives --and lies--of the beating hearts within.
This was a highly enjoyable story about a famous New York City landmark The Dakota. Already an architectural marvel, it came to the forefront of the tourist trade when one of its residents, John Lennon, was gunned down in front of the building. While that may be what most people associate with the building, this story tells a fictional account of two women who have ties to one of the original architects, Theodore Camden. Told in dual storylines, we follow Sara Smythe, hired to be the manager of The Dakota in the late 1800's. Her relationship with Theo takes an interesting turn and she soon finds herself locked up on Roosevelt Island, an insane asylum of the time. We also follow Bailey a hundred years later, whose grandfather was a ward of Camden, but who will not share in the family estate due to genetics. She takes a job redesigning the Dakota apartment of her "cousin" Melinda, while also delving into the gossip that Theo was supposedly murdered by none other than Sara Smythe. The two storylines creep closer and closer to a climax with each chapter, and I was riveted to the book to find out if Sara really killed Theo! Despite feeling that things perhaps progressed a little too tidily toward the end, I still connected to this story and characters. I thought the history of the building and the information given regarding Roosevelt Island, to be fascinating.
An engaging, interesting, and page turning novel about a famous landmark, from the perspective of the people who resided their for over a century. Very good historical fiction from New York City.
I was asked to review this book through the Penguin First to Read program. As always, my opinions are my own.
July 25, 2017
From one of the most accomplished British writers working today, the Man Booker Prize-shortlisted author of The Wolf Border, comes a unique and arresting collection of short fiction that is both disturbing and dazzling. Sarah Hall has been hailed as "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain’s young novelists" (The Guardian), a writer whose "intelligence and ambition are thrilling to behold" (BookForum). Her work has been acclaimed as "amazing . . . terrific and original" (Washington Post). In this collection of nine works of short fiction, she uses her piercing insight to plumb the depth of the female experience and the human soul. A husband’s wife transforms into a vulpine in "Mrs. Fox," winner of the BBC Short Story Prize. In "Case Study 2, " A social worker struggles with a foster child raised in a commune. A new mother runs into an old lover in "Luxury Hour." In incandescent prose, full of rich observations and striking clarity, Hall has composed nine wholly original pieces—works of fiction that will resonate long after the final page is turned.
This is a short story collection, which is not normally in my wheel house, but I like to read them once in a while to change things up a bit. This is one that I was sent by the publisher, so it was the perfect opportunity to give it a go. As with most short story collections, there are some that I loved, and some that I didn't like (or didn't get the point of). The one constant though was the writing. Each story, whether I liked it or not, was beautifully written, and the words flowed across the page. Partly because of the lovely language, and also the short page count, this is a book that can easily be devoured in a couple sittings. The stories cover a wide range of subjects, from a social worker dealing with a child who grew up in a commune (one of my favorites), to a woman who transforms into a fox (which I didn't like, and didn't get?). While I'm not sure how the title relates to the book content, I do need to give a shout out to this glorious cover!
A short story collection with stellar writing! Because of the wide variety of stories, there is something for everyone to enjoy.
The Lying Game
July 25, 2017
Advanced Reader Copy
On a cool June morning, a woman is walking her dog in the idyllic coastal village of Salten along a tidal estuary known as the Reach. Before she can stop him, the dog charges into the water to retrieve what first appears to be a wayward stick, but to her horror, turns out to be something much more sinister... The next morning, three women in and around London—Fatima, Thea, and Isabel—receive the text they had always hoped would NEVER come, from the fourth in their formerly inseparable clique, Kate, that says only, “I need you.” The four girls were best friends at Salten, a second rate boarding school set near the cliffs of the English Channel. Each different in their own way, the four became inseparable and were notorious for playing the Lying Game, telling lies at every turn to both fellow boarders and faculty, with varying states of serious and flippant nature that were disturbing enough to ensure that everyone steered clear of them. The myriad and complicated rules of the game are strict: no lying to each other—ever. Bail on the lie when it becomes clear it is about to be found out. But their little game had consequences, and the girls were all expelled in their final year of school under mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the school’s eccentric art teacher, Ambrose (who also happens to be Kate’s father). Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.
This is the type of thriller that I like best. A slow burning tale with an emphasis not just on the tense or shocking plot twists, but on the characters. A story about four prep school friends who play a game that involves lying to win points. When something goes down and they are expelled from school, three of the four wander off to different places, until they are gathered back together years later, when one of their lies implodes. The story alternates between present time, and the events of the past, which bind these four together. There isn't any slam you over the head plot twist, I kind of figured out the who dunnit, but I was still glued to this one in anticipation of how it was all going to go down. I really took to these characters, even though some were not all that likeable, which is a credit to the author's writing style.
I thoroughly enjoyed this slow burning thriller, and as long as you are not looking for something jaw dropping in intensity, I think this one would be a great choice.
B. A. Paris
St. Martin's Press
July 18, 2017
Advanced Reader Copy
Publisher via BEA
If you can't trust yourself, who can you trust? Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside--the woman who was killed. She's been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It's a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she'd broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she'd stopped. But since then, she's been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn't have a baby. The only thing she can't forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt. Or the silent calls she's receiving, or the feeling that someone's watching her... You won't be able to put down B. A. Paris's The Breakdown, the next chilling, propulsive novel from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors"--
This was a page-turner of a novel that I devoured in 24 hours! Even though I had my suspicions about a certain character and their involvement, the why and how kept me engrossed well past my bedtime! And my suspicions, while partly correct, were still blown out of the water when more twists were revealed layer upon layer. I really felt empathy for the plight of the main protagonist Cass, as she grapples with her guilt over not stopping in a less than safe situation to help a person in need. The plot moves along at pretty warp like speed, and the writing, while not worthy of any literary awards, was sufficient to move the story forward and make you believe in Cass and her story. I did feel that the end got a bit fantastical, although I give the author credit for dotting all the i's and crossing all the t's with regard to explaining what the heck was going down!
A legit, can't put-downable book that will have you escaping reality and devouring its storyline. Put this on your list of books to keep you guessing and on your toes.
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen
Grand Central Publishing
July 11, 2017
Hendrik Groen may be old, but he is far from dead and isn't planning to be buried any time soon. Granted, his daily strolls are getting shorter because his legs are no longer willing and he has to visit his doctor more than he'd like. Technically speaking he is...elderly. But surely there is more to life at his age than weak tea and potted geraniums?
Hendrik sets out to write an exposé: a year in the life of his care home in Amsterdam, revealing all its ups and downs--not least his new endeavor the anarchic Old-But-Not-Dead Club. And when Eefje moves in--the woman Hendrik has always longed for--he polishes his shoes (and his teeth), grooms what's left of his hair and attempts to make something of the life he has left, with hilarious, tender and devastating consequences.
The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen will not only delight older readers with its wit and relevance, but will charm and inspire those who have years to go before their own expiry date.
I'm not always big on books being compared to other books (Gone Girl anyone? Ugh). When this came to me as a comparison to A Man Called Ove and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, I was hesitant. I can see some similarities between these books, but Hendrik definitely stands on his own! Told in diary form, completely in Hendrik's voice, we hear about a year in the life of a man in an assisted living facility in the Netherlands. Groen is candid about the living conditions, his fellow "inmates" (as he calls them), the day to day boredom, as well as the occasional sparks of fun (largely created by him and his squad of Old But Not Dead club members). There is humor, there is friendship, there is mischief, there is sadness, there is compassion and there is certainly distain for the whiners and complainers amongst his fellow residents. I absolutely fell in love with Hendrik, as well as several of the other residents. I've heard that there is another diary coming, and I can't wait to see what the characters continue to be up to while trying to remain positive and upbeat in their twilight years.
One of my favorite quotes (about his fellow inmates): "We lose some capacities as we age, but being a busybody isn't one of them."
An absolute must read for anyone who knows of someone in an assisted living facility (my father was in one for years, and my mother-in-law is currently a resident). I laughed until I cried at several points when he described something happening such as the assigned seating for meals, and the problem with all the mobility devices on elevators! I can only hope to be like Hendrik (or at least have someone like him as a friend) when I grow old.
The Almost Sisters
July 11, 2017
Publisher via She Reads
With empathy, grace, humor, and piercing insight, the author of gods in Alabama pens a powerful, emotionally resonant novel of the South that confronts the truth about privilege, family, and the distinctions between perception and reality---the stories we tell ourselves about our origins and who we really are. Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman. It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood. Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
I've read many of Joshilyn Jackson's books, and have really enjoyed them all. However, I think this is my favorite of the bunch! Jackson has a way of writing the south that is spot on, without being fake or like she is trying too hard. The premise for this novel made me giggle before I even started reading it (pregnant from a one night stand with Batman at a comic con......priceless idea for a novel!). But lest you think that this is a comedic novel, it is not. You may chuckle along the way, but there are also some serious and real time struggles going on with the various characters. There is her sister's marital troubles, her niece's coming of age trials, her grandmother's hidden senility, and that big secret looming in the trunk in the attic. Add to all that the issue of race, and the perception of the south vs. being brought up and living there. The writing was fabulous, the characters were ones that you cared about seeing through to the end, and the descriptive setting all came together to make for a wonderful read. The only thing that would have made this better is if I could have listened to it on audio, since the author narrates her books (and if you ever get the chance to listen to one of her titles, be sure to do so!).
I ate up this story of family, with all its built in drama (and humor). Ms. Jackson is one of the best southern writers out there, and this novel just solidifies that point.
This book was a summer selection for the SheReads blog network. Click the link to read more about them, and follow along on social media with #shereads for more reviews of all the books chosen this summer.