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The Salt House Book Cover The Salt House
Lisa Duffy
Fiction
Simon and Schuster
June 13, 2017
Paperback
304
Free copy from publisher via SheReads

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.

My review:

What a lovely novel, with such great characters you just want to wrap them up in a big hug and tell them it's going to be ok. The book centers around a family torn apart by the death of the youngest child. Both parents and the two remaining sisters tell the story in alternating chapters. We explore how this tragedy has impacted each of them, and how they are trying to go on with their lives. The writing was lovely, especially the characters. They were so real, and so raw with emotions, that they leapt off the page! I loved the setting of coastal Maine (a yearly vacation spot for me while growing up in Vermont), the first romance of sixteen year old Jess, the pain and guilt of the mother, and the innocence of the now youngest sister. While I liked the initial response mechanism of Jack, I wasn't as interested in the whole rivalry sub plot. Putting that small opinion aside, this books packs a whallop of a punch in terms of how does a family come back from a devastating event, or do they?

This is a book that I highly recommend for the writing, the emotional punch, the wonderful characters, and the ways we attempt to battle back from tragedy.

This was a monthly pick of the SheReads book club. To read more about them clink this link and follow all the reviews and discussion about this book on social media using #shereads.

 

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Map of the Heart Book Cover Map of the Heart
Susan Wiggs
Fiction
William Morrow
August 8, 2017
Hardcover
320
Free copy from publisher

An accomplished photographer, widow, and mother, Camille Palmer is content with the blessings she’s enjoyed. When her ageing father asks her to go with him to his native France, she has no idea that shes embarking on an adventure that will shake her complacency and utterly transform her.

Returning to the place of his youth sparks unexpected memories—recollections that will lead Camille, her father, and her daughter, Julie, who has accompanied them, back to the dark, terrifying days of the Second World War, where they will uncover their family’s surprising history.

While Provence offers answers about her family’s past, it also holds the key to Camille’s future. Along the way, Camille meets a handsome American historian who stirs a passion deep within her she thought she’d never experience again.

My review:

I had a love/hate relationship with this book. There was some great plot material to enjoy, and made me want to delve in further. I'm going to talk about that first, and leave my semi-rant for later 🙂 I really enjoyed the mystery of Henry's past, which takes the characters to France to explore what happened to his family in the midst of World War II. It was riveting to see things unfold, mostly through the aid of old family photographs. I also really liked the sub plot involving the teenage daughter of the main protagonist. It was lovely to see the transformation of this girl, from body image self loathing, to being comfortable in her own skin. I thought she was well written and was really rooting for her. I was very satisfied, and loved the endings for both Julie and Henry. Where things fell apart for me was the obligatory romance. I could see it coming within the first twenty pages. Man and woman meet and instantly dislike each other, but then can't stop thinking about each other, then end up having to work together, yada yada yada, YAWN! I'm not really a fan of romances in books, but if there has to be one, please let it happen naturally and not have me know what is going to happen before I've gotten twenty pages in. Phew, rant over 🙂

If you are a fan of romance books, I think this book will definitely fit the bill. It is well written, with characters to root for, and a mystery on the side. I found myself rolling my eyes over the romance, but I thoroughly enjoyed the other aspects. If you like a predictable romance along with some great sub plots, by all means read this one.

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Best Intentions Book Cover Best Intentions
Erika Raskin
Fiction
St. Martin's Press
August 15, 2017
Hardcover
288
Publisher

"Marti Trailor--social worker on hold, mother of three, wife of a successful obstetrician, daughter of a Congressman--is ready to go back to work. She's thrilled when the perfect opportunity falls in her lap. The catch? The job is at her husband's hospital and he seems not to share her enthusiasm. Undeterred, she takes the position counseling vulnerable young women as they prepare to give birth. Marti quickly begins to feel like she is making a difference in the lives of her clients. Soon, though, she finds herself caught up in the dark side of the medical center--with its long hours, overworked doctors and entrenched practices. When she witnesses something she can't unsee, Marti, who has always done her best to keep a low-profile, finds herself thrust under a dangerous spotlight with all of Richmond, Virginia watching. In her captivating domestic suspense novel Best Intentions, Erika Raskin weaves together high stakes hospital politics, the pressures of family life, and the consequences of trying to do the right thing"--

My review:

I was excited when I read that this story revolves around a hospital setting, since I worked in hospitals before my "Mom life". Not surprisingly those aspects were what I enjoyed the most about the book. I was captivated by the work that Marti was doing as a social worker, responsible for helping at risk new moms. I enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the stress of hospital workers, the ways that certain hospital mishaps are glossed over (or covered up), and the seedier side of some of the higher ups in command. What I wasn't as interested in was the character of Marti herself. Parts of her I really liked (the social worker), but parts of her annoyed me (her dealings with her husband, and some of her over the top behavior). Also, all of the aberrant behavior of the hospital staff didn't work for me, even though it ultimately did figure into the plot.  The little snippets at the beginning of each chapter that threw you into present time took a while to get used to, and kind of upset the flow of the book for me. I thought the trial at the end was a nice way to add drama and climax to the plot, and I did enjoy it.

All in all, this was a decent read. It's short, has some parts that were great and some parts that I could have done without, but a good story with an even better setting. Check out some of the other reviews on Goodreads, I have bookish friends who really loved this one.

The Daughters of Ireland Book Cover The Daughters of Ireland
Deverill Chronicles
Santa Montefiore
Fiction
William Morrow
August 15, 2017
Paperback
576
Publisher

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.

My review:

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.

Thank you to author Anne Montgomery for sending me this free copy for review. 📖 📖 📖 Another of those sleeper books that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. This is a young adult novel, but can easily cross into adult fiction. The descriptions of the fundamentalist Mormon life was chilling, and the attempt of Rose to escape was intense! Alongside her is her new found friend Adan, himself trying to escape the foster care system. Figuring out who to trust was a wild ride for Rose and Adan as well as the reader. Other than the end being a bit too tidy, this was an engrossing read that I highly recommend! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 📖 📖 📖 Rose Madsen will do anything to keep from being married off to one of the men in her Fundamentalist Mormon (FLDS) community, even endure the continued beatings and abuse of her mother. But when her mentally handicapped baby sister is forced to strangle the bird she loves at the behest of the Prophet, Rose frees the bird and runs away. Adan Reyes will do anything to escape the abusive foster care system in Phoenix, even leaving his good friends and successful high school athletic career behind him. Ill-prepared for surviving the desert, Adan hits the road only to suffer heat stroke. Found by a local handyman, he catches a glimpse of a mysterious girl--Rose--running through town, and follows her into the mountains where they are both tracked and discovered by the men of the FLDS community. With their fates now intertwined, can Rose and Adan escape the systems locking them into lives of abuse? Will Rose be forced to marry the Prophet, a man her father's age, and be one of dozens of wives, perpetually pregnant, with no hope for an education? Will Adan be returned to the foster home where bullying and cruelty are common? Is everyone they meet determined to keep them right where they belong or are some adults worthy of their trust? 📖 #bookblogger #thescentofrain #annemontgomery #treehousepub

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Thanks to @williammorrowbooks for this free copy for review. This book released August 1, 2017. 📖 ⭐️⭐️⭐️💫 My first @hazelgaynor book, and it will not be my last. I thoroughly enjoyed this historical fiction foray into the world of cousins who create a distraction to the years after the war in England, when they set up photos of themselves with fairies. Of course things go wrong when people believe the fairies are real, and at this point the girls don't want to reveal their prank for fear of repercussions. Concurrent with this story is one 100 years later, when a woman inherits her grandfather's bookshop and finds an old manuscript written by one of the cousins. She then goes on a quest to figure out the whole story. I loved the bookshop aspect, and the two girls coverup was so typical of young children at play. Considering that I am not a fan of fairies in books, the fact that I liked this book says a lot for the writing, plot, and character development. 📖 1917… It was inexplicable, impossible, but it had to be true—didn’t it? When two young cousins, Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright from Cottingley, England, claim to have photographed fairies at the bottom of the garden, their parents are astonished. But when one of the great novelists of the time, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, becomes convinced of the photographs’ authenticity, the girls become a national sensation, their discovery offering hope to those longing for something to believe in amid a world ravaged by war. Frances and Elsie will hide their secret for many decades. But Frances longs for the truth to be told. One hundred years later… When Olivia Kavanagh finds an old manuscript in her late grandfather’s bookshop she becomes fascinated by the story it tells of two young girls who mystified the world. But it is the discovery of an old photograph that leads her to realize how the fairy girls’ lives intertwine with hers, connecting past to present, and blurring her understanding of what is real and what is imagined. As she begins to understand why a nation once believed in fairies, can Olivia find a way to believe in herself? 📖 #bookblogger #williammorrow #bookreview #thecottingleysecret

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So, how did I do this month?

Books I purchased = 8

Books acquired from publishers = 5

Books read = 22 (13 physical, 9 audio)

Total incoming = 13
Total outgoing = 22
Total for July = minus 9 (yay!)

Last month = plus 77 minus 9 = new total of plus 68.

I feel pretty good that I managed to knock some off my total. As I've said from the beginning, baby steps 🙂

How did your month of July go?

The Lauras Book Cover The Lauras
Sara Taylor
Fiction
Hogarth
August 1, 2017
Hardcover and e-book
304
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."

My review:

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.

The Address Book Cover The Address
Fiona Davis
FICTION
Penguin
August 1, 2017
Advanced Reader Copy
368
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.

My review:

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.

Madame Zero Book Cover Madame Zero
Sarah Hall
Fiction
HarperCollins
July 25, 2017
Hardcover
192
Publisher

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.

My review:

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.