THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

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Published Feb 2015 by Amy Einhorn Books
My Rating: 4.5/5

 

“It was the summer everything changed….”

My Sunshine Away unfolds in a Baton Rouge neighborhood best known for cookouts on sweltering summer afternoons, cauldrons of spicy crawfish, and passionate football fandom. But in the summer of 1989, when fifteen-year-old Lindy Simpson–free spirit, track star, and belle of the block–experiences a horrible crime late one evening near her home, it becomes apparent that this idyllic stretch of Southern suburbia has a dark side, too.

In My Sunshine Away, M.O. Walsh brilliantly juxtaposes the enchantment of a charmed childhood with the gripping story of a violent crime, unraveling families, and consuming adolescent love. Acutely wise and deeply honest, it is an astonishing and page-turning debut about the meaning of family, the power of memory, and our ability to forgive.

******

Here’s something I don’t often say…I love that blurb! It evokes such an accurate portrait of the story without giving a single thing away. And that opening sentence completely drew me in. I don’t know about you but I totally judge a book by the opening sentence or two. I can’t say this is a good reading trait to have as I just recently abandoned a very hyped book because the opening sentence bothered me. This could be part of my super picky reading mood lately which thankfully had no impact on this book which has been on my tbr for 2 years!

I just finished this book yesterday and could go on and on as there’s so much I loved about this literary coming-of-age-mystery but in the name of keeping with the TBT short post format bullet points are needed:
  •  The writing was phenomenal…not in a ‘talks over your head, wordy literary prose’ type of way; rather, in a ‘how did he put together such a wonderful sentence that so perfectly evokes just the right feeling’ type of way.
  • The mystery…there are 4 suspects in the crime against Lindy Simpson and I LOVE that the narrator was one of them. The author did a masterful job of making me feel I knew this narrator, I trusted him, I felt for his awkward teenage dilemmas and his  unrequited love for Lindy, though all the while I still had whispers of doubts about his innocence.
  • The 1989 time period….I was a high school teenager in 1989 and this author literally took me back to that time…talking to friends on a phone with a CORD while hoping no one else picked up the second home phone, watching the Challenger explosion at school, banana seat bikes, no helmet bike riding, those certain kids from those certain families that you knew were just “off” but being a kid yourself you didn’t know why.
  • The cliffhanger chapters…brilliant!
  • The unnamed narrator (I swear I didn’t even realize I didn’t know his name until I went to write this!) is telling the story from a point many years in the future, a technique I love and that enables him to provide the hindsight of an adult while still telling the story from a teenager’s perspective
  • The tension the author managed to create in the last 10% took my rating from a solid 4 to a 4.5

If you’re wondering what kept this from being a 5 star rating, it was one minor issue I had with what I’d describe as an odd veering off of the plot when there was an entire chapter devoted to the difference between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. This threw the pace off for me and I found myself skimming to get back to the main storyline. Minor issue but that’s why. In the end, I really enjoyed this book and I’m so glad I’ve decided to incorporate these older reads into my summer reading along with the new releases…there are so many gems from the past still out there! If you’ve read this one I’d love to hear your thoughts…

HAPPY READING! 

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

Cathy at Between the Lines

P Turners at The PTurnersbookblog

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

BLOG TOUR & REVIEW: WOLVES IN THE DARK By Gunnar Staalesen

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for Wolves in the Dark, published by the wonderful Orenda books and available now as an ebook and Oct 1 in paperback

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About the book

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a pedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material . . . and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest—and most personal—case yet. Chilling, shocking and exceptionally gripping, Wolves in the Dark reaffirms Gunnar Staalesen as one of the world’s foremost thriller writers.

REVIEW

Well, this is my second foray into the world of Varg Veum and I have to say I’ll officially follow him wherever he goes! I first met Varg in Where Roses Never Die (review here) and there was just something so compelling about his character that by the end of that book I felt like I’d found a new friend. I know many of you may see that this book is #21 in the series and may think you’re too far behind to give it a try but you can most definitely pick this up as a standalone as the author does a brilliant job of providing enough backstory for new readers as well as enticing established readers with a different side of Varg.

When Wolves in the Dark begins, Varg is in a much better place emotionally and physically than when we left him in Where Roses Never Die. After having been consumed by his grief over losing his love Karin, Varg had sought to drown his sorrows with copious amounts of alcohol, often blacking out and losing large chunks of time. In Wolves in the Dark, he’s in a stable relationship, sober, and feeling like he’s got a reason to be happy again. This new found happiness is short lived, however, as Varg soon finds himself implicated in a web of internet child pornography so intricate that he may never get himself out and clear his name. Who hates him so much they’d set him up in such a despicable way?  I absolutely loved how the author set this all up. In order to sift through possible suspects in terms of who had it in for Varg, he revisits some of his old cases which was a perfect way to help orient new readers to the bad guys from Varg’s past. Needless to say, there are plenty and soon we have many viable suspects. I have to say a quick point here about the subject matter involved in this story: child pornography. Now, part of me dreaded reading this because I didn’t know how I would get through those details and while it was certainly hard to read certain bits and pieces, overall the author kept the details to a minimum, allowing the subject matter to stay on the periphery of the story.

In terms of the pacing, I really loved how Staalesen upped the action in this story, especially about a third of the way in when Varg makes a snap decision to take matters into his own hands, going rogue so to speak! I loved this aspect as it made for suspenseful, action packed reading. Make sure to pay close attention though, as this is an intricate puzzle of a mystery that had me completely in the dark as far as ‘whodunit’ which, by the way, is exactly where I like to be. If you like gritty, noir mysteries with compelling, layered characters I think you should definitely put this book, or any of the other Varg Veum’s at the top of your tbr.

Gunnar Staalesen

 

About the Author

Gunnar Staalesen was born in Bergen, Norway in 1947. He made his debut at the age of 22 with Seasons of Innocence and in 1977 he published the first book in the Varg Veum series. He is the author of over 20 titles, which have been published in 24 countries and sold over four million copies. Twelve film adaptations of his Varg Veum crime novels have appeared since 2007, starring the popular Norwegian actor Trond Epsen Seim. Staalesen, who has won three Golden Pistols (including the Prize of Honour), lives in Bergen with his wife. When Prince Charles visited Bergen, Staalesen was appointed his official tour guide. There is a life-sized statue of Varg Veum in the centre of Bergen, and a host of Varg Veum memorabilia for sale. We Shall Inherit the Wind and Where Roses Never Die were both international bestsellers.

Many Thanks to Karen Sullivan and Anne Cater for my copy and for inviting me on the blog tour! I can’t wait to see what’s in store for Varg in the future

Be sure to stop by the other fantastic blogs on the tour!

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REVIEW: TROPHY SON By Douglas Brunt

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Published May 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Private lessons. Professional coaches. Specialized camps for sports, math, music, and other fields. Today’s children are pushed to achieve excellence—or else.  Trophy Son, tells the story of a tennis prodigy, from young childhood to the finals of the US Open, Wimbledon, and other tournaments around the world.

Growing up in the wealthy suburbs of Philadelphia, Anton Stratis is groomed to be one thing only: the #1 tennis player in the world. Trained relentlessly by his obsessive father, a former athlete who plans every minute of his son’s life, Anton both aspires to greatness and resents its all-consuming demands. Lonely and isolated—removed from school and socialization to focus on tennis—Anton explodes from nowhere onto the professional scene and soon becomes one of the top-ranked players in the world, with a coach, a trainer, and an entourage.

But as Anton struggles to find a balance between stardom and family, he begins to make compromises—first with himself, then with his health, and finally with the rules of tennis, a mix that will threaten to destroy everything he has worked for.
Trophy Son offers an inside look at the dangers of extraordinary pressure to achieve, whether in sports or any field, through the eyes of a young man defying his parents’ ambitions as he seeks a life of his own.

******

This book came along at the perfect time as I wanted and needed a break from the mystery/thriller genre after being so disappointed in 3 of my recent reads. To say I’m surprised I liked this as much as I did would be an understatement because I actually really loved this book! I read it in 2 sittings only because I read late into the night when I started it and finally had to go to sleep. I think some people may read the blurb and disregard this book because they don’t like tennis or sports etc. but it’s really about so much more than that although tennis does play prominently in the storyline.

At its core this is a very unique coming of age story told from the first person perspective of Anton who’s narrating the story from some point in the future. I thought this was a brilliant narrative technique that enables the reader to get to know Anton through many ages of his life but with the wisdom of his older self highlighting the way. This narrative structure can be tricky to pull off but Anton was such a likable character who I immediately connected with…I mean how could you not feel for a little nine year old kid who’s being made to spend HOURS in the ninety degree heat doing tennis drill after tennis drill with his dad yelling at and berating him?? As a parent, I felt such a range of emotions for Anton who was missing out on being a kid; he had no friends, his social skills were lacking, and his loneliness was so deep and ingrained it really broke my heart. And don’t get me started on my feelings about his dad and mom. I have nothing nice to say about their characters.  Anton’s saving grace in his family was his brother Panos who, despite being a secondary character, was very multidimensional and my second favorite character after Anton. As you can see, the author did a wonderful job creating characters I became thoroughly invested in and a storyline I just couldn’t stop reading until I found out how it all turned out for Anton. Needless to say, I was rooting for him to defy his father, find his own way in the world and possibly even experience a sliver of happiness.

A major reason I think this book will resonate with so many people is because we’re seeing this specialization of youth sports and extreme focus on achieving excellence in sports and academics with young children play out everywhere in our society these days. Tiger Wood’s story is just one recent example. I’ve seen it firsthand in my own community time and time again, and quite frankly it’s sad.

In the end, you don’t have to love tennis to enjoy this book although I really like the game – playing and watching – so I found the tennis matches (as well as the whole story) to be riveting. Douglas Brunt writes in a literary way that’s concise and well-paced, yet still manages to be compelling and almost conversational in its tone…can you tell this is 5 star read for me?! If you’re in the mood for something a little different I think Trophy Son may be just what you’re looking for.

Many thanks to Meriah Murphy at St. Martin’s Press for inviting me to read this via Netgalley. I’m happy to provide an honest review

BUY HERE

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it.

My PICK this week is:

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Published 2011 by Arcade Publishing 

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

Narrator of Favorite Sons Hutch Van Buren is fifteen years old, playing sports and searching for arrowheads in a small industrial town in Ohio with his three closest friends when an altercation between the comrades and a troubled seventeen- year-old, leads to an accidental death. Together, Hutch and his friends become ensnared in a web of secrets and moral dilemmas. Each boy shoulders the burden of truth in his own way as each attempts to leave the past behind.

Thirty-three years later, in 2004, Van Buren is the prosecuting attorney in Summit County, Ohio, and a candidate for state attorney general when he learns that he and his boyhood friends weren’t the only ones keeping a secret about the death.  Van Buren must decide between his political career and the duty of the office he has sworn to uphold. 

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I have to say I’m on a roll lately with these older reads that I’m managing to squeeze in between new release reads. Favorite Sons is another fantastic read by Robin Yocum, an author I hadn’t heard of a year ago, yet I now consider an auto buy!  Over the last few months I’ve read (and loved) A Brilliant Death ( review here) and A Welcome Murder (review here) and Favorite Sons, although published before both of those, was just as good. This story again takes place in a small, southeast Ohio river town and Yocum really nails the setting because I literally felt like I was there watching the events unfold. I’m an Ohioan so I really love the fact that he sets his books in my home state.

The story begins in 1974 when four teenage boys who’ve been friends since they were young kids find themselves involved in a death and make a spur of the moment decision that will alter the course of all their lives. Yocum has created the ultimate moral dilemma  and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what consequences would befall the boys. Because you just know there’s going to be consequences at some point in time, right? Especially since someone else, an “innocent” someone, ends up paying the price for the death. How all this plays out as well as how each boy’s life changes is the basis for the rest of the story which about the halfway mark moves to present day 2004 and we get to see how each boy’s life has faired after that fateful summer day and that one split second decision.

This is a compelling coming-of-age story filled with mystery, drama, and complicated moral/ethical questions that beg the reader to think about ‘what would I do’ in that situation. I think it would be a perfect pick for book clubs as there’s so much to discuss and I have a feeling opinions would vary greatly in terms of the moral questions.  If you like well-plotted mysteries with a small town, coming-of-age backdrop and you haven’t yet read Robin Yocum, I hope I’ve encouraged you to pick up one of his books, I think you’ll be happy you did!

HAPPY READING!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

Abby at Crime By the Book

Cathy at Between the Lines

Delphine at Delphines Publications

 

REVIEW: THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK BY Kristen Lepionka

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Published June 13, 2017 by Minotaur Books

Sarah Cook, a beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton – black and from the wrong side of the tracks – was convicted of the murders and sits on death row, though he always maintained his innocence. With his execution only weeks away, his devoted sister, insisting she has spotted Sarah at a local gas station, hires PI Roxane Weary to look again at the case.

Reeling from the recent death of her cop father, Roxane finds herself drawn to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she thinks she’s linked Sarah’s disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl. Despite her self-destructive tendencies, Roxane starts to hope that maybe she can save Brad’s life and her own.

******

I’ve come to terms with the fact that I’m a sucker for books, podcasts, movies, etc where someone in prison, especially death row, is claiming their innocence. For me, that’s the perfect ‘what if’ set up, so I couldn’t wait to dive into this read. An added bonus is the setting…I knew so many of the streets and locations where this book takes place! From  the get go I liked Roxane. She came across as competent and determined to do a good job despite being her own worst enemy in terms of drinking and relationship drama with both a man and a woman. The author did a fantastic job of weaving Roxane’s personal life into the narrative by having her dig into her dad’s old case files. This enabled us to get to know her brothers as well as her mom and really brought an extra dynamic to the story, especially as all the characters were very well developed.

I have to say, the mysteries had me completely stumped and I’m extremely happy about that. On the one hand, Brad seemed to be hiding something but nothing you could quite put your finger on and then there was the other missing girl who was found murdered from the past…could they be connected and if so, does that mean the killer is still out there? So many unanswered questions and suspects equals a wonderful read for us mystery lovers! That’s not to say I didn’t have a couple minor issues with the story. For me, I sometimes felt that Roxane’s drinking binges became a little repetitive. I understood she had a drinking problem and didn’t necessarily need so many repetitive scenes of binging and blacking out; sometimes, in my opinion, less is more for readers. I also felt that Roxane’s continued jumping back and forth between 2 separate relationships detracted a little from the storyline. As I said, minor issues. As for the ending, I didn’t have it figured out which is always a bonus. I look forward to seeing what the author has in store for Roxane in the future.

Thanks to Minotaur Books via Netgalley for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review

REVIEW: THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER BY Karen Dionne

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Published June 13, 2017 By G.P. Putnam’s Sons

When notorious child abductor – known as the Marsh King – escapes from a maximum security prison, Helena immediately suspects that she and her two young daughters are in danger.

No one, not even her husband, knows the truth about Helena’s past: they don’t know that she was born into captivity, that she had no contact with the outside world before the age of twelve – or that her father raised her to be a killer.

And they don’t know that the Marsh King can survive and hunt in the wilderness better than anyone… except, perhaps his own daughter.

****** 

I was very intrigued by the premise of this book. I’m usually always on board for a good game of cat & mouse and this seemed like the ultimate game…daughter verses father. We are first introduced to Helena when she’s grown and the married mom to two little girls. When she hears on the news that the identity of a local prison escapee is her father, her carefully crafted life with her new identity and family explodes. Very quickly she decides she’s the only one who is cunning enough to track down and take on her father; after all, he taught her everything she knows about hunting and killing prey.

The narrative alternates between the present game of cat & mouse and Helena’s childhood , starting when she was born to a mother who was herself a young teenager. Her mother had been kidnapped by Helena’s father, who’s known as The Marsh King. There are very long, detailed descriptions of Helena’s growing up years in the wilderness with her father being the person she spent the most time with. Very long. Very detailed. While I appreciate the exceptional literary skills of the author in these sections, I found that my mind wandered and many times I found myself skimming through to get back to the present. Another reason I skimmed these past sections, and something I wish I would’ve known going in was the very graphic and for me disturbing scenes of hunting and killing many wilderness animals. I know many people hunt but for me, I just don’t have a desire to read scenes like that and that caused me to skip large portions of the text.  In the end, the back and forth of time frames led to a lack of the much needed suspense I was looking for in a book billed as a thriller. I’m very much in the minority in terms of this book not being for me so I’d urge you to try it for yourself and decide.

Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons via Netgalley for my copy, I’m happy to provide an honest review

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it.

My PICK this week is:

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Published 2011 by Scribner

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

Life can turn on a dime—or stumble into the extraordinary, as it does for Jake Epping, a high school English teacher in Lisbon Falls, Maine. While grading essays by his GED students, Jake reads a gruesome, enthralling piece penned by janitor Harry Dunning: fifty years ago, Harry somehow survived his father’s sledgehammer slaughter of his entire family. Jake is blown away…but an even more bizarre secret comes to light when Jake’s friend Al, owner of the local diner, enlists Jake to take over the mission that has become his obsession—to prevent the Kennedy assassination. How? By stepping through a portal in the diner’s storeroom, and into the era of Ike and Elvis, of big American cars, sock hops, and cigarette smoke… Finding himself in warmhearted Jodie, Texas, Jake begins a new life. But all turns in the road lead to a troubled loner named Lee Harvey Oswald. The course of history is about to be rewritten…and become heart-stoppingly suspenseful.

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I can’t believe I haven’t featured what might be my very favorite Stephen King read! Whether you’re looking for your next summer read or want to put this on your fall tbr,  this would be THE PERFECT read for anyone looking to be swept away by amazing storytelling but don’t want the traditional horror that is associated with Stephen King. In my opinion, no one tells a story better than King and what makes this one so fantastic is there’s literally a little bit of everything….time-travel, suspense, thrills, and yes a love story! Of course, nothing in this story is as simple as I just made it seem and really isn’t that what we’re all hoping to find when we pick up a book? To be transported to another time and/or place, to be entertained and maybe to just contemplate the ‘what if’ of a significant part of history? You’ll get all that and more with 11/22/63, I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!!

HAPPY READING! 

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Nicki at The Secret Library

Stephanie at Stephanie’s Novel Fiction

 

REVIEW: THE BRIGHT HOUR By Nina Riggs

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Published June 6th by Simon & Schuster

An exquisite memoir about how to live—and love—every day with “death in the room,” from poet Nina Riggs, mother of two young sons and the direct descendant of Ralph Waldo Emerson, in the tradition of When Breath Becomes Air.


“We are breathless, but we love the days. They are promises. They are the only way to walk from one night to the other.”

Nina Riggs was just thirty-seven years old when initially diagnosed with breast cancer—one small spot. Within a year, the mother of two sons, ages seven and nine, and married sixteen years to her best friend, received the devastating news that her cancer was terminal.

How does one live each day, “unattached to outcome”? How does one approach the moments, big and small, with both love and honesty?

Exploring motherhood, marriage, friendship, and memory, even as she wrestles with the legacy of her great-great-great grandfather, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nina Riggs’s breathtaking memoir continues the urgent conversation that Paul Kalanithi began in his gorgeous When Breath Becomes Air. She asks, what makes a meaningful life when one has limited time?

Brilliantly written, disarmingly funny, and deeply moving, The Bright Hour is about how to love all the days, even the bad ones, and it’s about the way literature, especially Emerson, and Nina’s other muse, Montaigne, can be a balm and a form of prayer. It’s a book about looking death squarely in the face and saying “this is what will be.”

Especially poignant in these uncertain times, The Bright Hour urges us to live well and not lose sight of what makes us human: love, art, music, words. 

******

I love everything about this very long blurb; I think it tells you all you need to know in terms of what this book is about. And Nina’s writing absolutely delivered on sharing with us her very poignant, thought provoking, often laugh out loud funny answers to every single question listed in that blurb. Now that you’ve read the blurb and know what this phenomenal book is about, let me attempt to share with you why I loved it so much. I only hope I can do it justice.

When I pick up a memoir, which arguably isn’t often, it’s usually always something true crime. Last year I decided to branch out and read When Breath Becomes Air which was a truly remarkable story and challenged me to think about mortality for maybe the first time. So, The Bright Hour is being likened to When Breath Becomes Air which is possibly good and bad. Good because so many people LOVED WBBA (it made my top 10 reads of 2016 list) but bad because no one should for one second think…’Oh I’ve read one book about death and dying, I don’t want or need to read this one….’ This book is completely unique and I have to say struck me on a level that WBBA didn’t. I’m not sure if it’s because Nina was a mom of 2 boys who was dealing with life, marriage, dogs, female friendships, etc and I’m also at a similar point in my life, although my boys are older, but I just immediately connected with her voice and writing. From page one I felt like we were sitting having a glass of wine and she was telling me her story. Here’s just a sample of her down to earth yet gorgeous writing from page one…

   “Dying isn’t the end of the world’, my mother liked to joke after she was diagnosed as terminal…I never really understood what she meant, until the day I suddenly did….There are so many things that are worse than death: old grudges, a lack of self-awareness, severe constipation, no sense of humor, the grimace on your husband’s face as he empties your surgical drain into the measuring cup…”

Nina not only had her own diagnosis to come to terms with but she also had her mother’s. I really, really liked her mom! I laughed about some of their book club discussions and then cried when they questioned whether there’s book clubs in heaven…man, I really hope so! For me, this was the ultimate page turner that I never expected to be a page turner because once I started reading I didn’t stop until the last page was turned. And then I spent the next hour crying. And going back in my kindle and trying to find passages I may have forgot to highlight. So yes, tissues will be needed but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. I was sad in the end, yes, but I was also changed and inspired. When I pick up a book I do so in the HOPE I will in some way be moved and Nina Riggs achieved this with The Bright Hour, a heartfelt book about family, love, the power of words, living and dying.  This is absolutely going on my 5 star reads bookshelf at home and I can guarantee you it will be one of my top 5 reads of 2017.

Huge thanks to Simon & Schuster for my copy via Netgalley. I’m so happy to provide an honest review 

BUY HERE

 

         

REVIEW: THE SALT HOUSE By Lisa Duffy

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Publication Date June 13, 2017 by Touchstone 

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.

******

I was completely taken in by this cover and title, it was just perfect for my summer tbr.  When I read the description I was even more intrigued. While I’m a die hard mystery lover, some of my all time favorite books have been drama filled, character driven novels, so I was excited to give this one a go. It’s really no spoiler in the blurb that the family is dealing with the aftermath of the grief involved with losing one of their children…you find that out basically on page 1 and the novel begins a year after her death. I think it’s pretty accurate to say this is an in-depth look at grief and how it effects each member of a family.

I want to focus first on what worked for me. First and foremost, the setting was fantastic! The author did a wonderful job of bringing this small coastal town to life. I could picture the boats, marina, and most importantly The Salt House…the view sounded phenomenal. Speaking of The Salt House, this was the family’s dream house and renovations were almost complete when their daughter died. Hope and Jack had poured their love and time into getting the house ready for their family to move into when tragedy struck with Maddie’s death. Now, it literally stands at a crossroads along with each member of the family. Will they be able to move past their grief and continue on with their dreams of living in The Salt House or will Hope and Jack self-destruct bringing their daughters down with them? This central premise is what intrigued me initially and kept me reading after the fifty percent mark where I feel the plot started to meander and the pace somewhat lulled for me.

In terms of the narrative structure, the novel alternates between each family member’s perspective so we get an up close look at what Jack, Hope, Jess and Kat are all thinking and feeling. On one hand, this worked for me because surprisingly (to me) the character I most connected with was sixteen year old Jess. Initially, I thought it would be Hope but I really thought Jess’s voice came across better to me. I may be in the minority when I say this but I couldn’t connect at all with Jack. I understood him channeling his grief in a different way than Hope but there were so many parts that I just felt fed up with him. He often completely seemed to be lacking common sense and his withdrawal from the family somehow made me feel unsympathetic to him. Finally, the drama with Ryland Finn left me feeling underwhelmed; whereas when I started, I expected the second half to be drama FILLED. Not the case for me. I do want to say I think the author’s writing is top of the line and I’ll gladly read whatever she publishes next, this one just missed the mark overall for me. If you enjoy alternating perspectives without the flashback factor, an amazing setting, and can hang in there with characters feeling, at times, heavy grief I think you should definitely give this a try.

Many thanks to Touchstone Books via Netgalley for my copy. I’m happy to provide an honest review 

 

 

 

THROWBACK THURSDAY PICK OF THE WEEK

throwbackthursday

I began this Throwback Thursday meme as a way to share some of my old favorites as well as sharing books that I want to read that were published over a year ago. You know, the ones waiting patiently on my TBR list while I continue to pile more titles on top of them:)! I like that these older books are usually much easier than new releases to get a hold of at libraries and elsewhere. If you have your own Throwback Thursday recommendation feel free to jump on board, you’re welcome to use my pic as well. If you’d just link back to me I’d so appreciate it.

My PICK this week is:

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Published Aug 2005 by William Morrow 

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Annabelle is tired of being the lone failure in a family of overachievers. She’s endured dead-end jobs and a broken engagement. Even her hair’s a mess! But that’s going to change now that she’s taken over her late grandmother’s matchmaking business. All Annabelle has to do is land the Windy City’s hottest bachelor as her client, and she’ll be the most sought-after matchmaker in town. Nothing is going to stand in her way — not the drunk lying comatose under her car, not her family’s disapproval, and certainly not the lingering effects of a broken heart.

With his money green eyes and calculated charm, Heath Champion is the best sports agent in the country. He’s wealthy, driven, and gorgeous, so why does he need a matchmaker, especially a red-haired screw-up like Annabelle Granger? True, she’s entertaining, and she does have a certain quirky appeal. But Heath is searching for the ultimate symbol of his success — the perfect wife. And to make an extraordinary match, he needs an extraordinary matchmaker, right?

******

Every few months I need to change things up in terms of my dark reads and this weekend I was on the search for a fun, light ,yet well written chick-lit/romantic comedy   and my good friend Google came up with this book. I was specifically searching for books similar to Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie which I read last year and absolutely loved…so much so that it made my Top Reads of 2016! I seriously love Google because this was exactly what I needed and ticked all the boxes I was looking for. You’ve got Annabelle, a wannabe matchmaker who’s fun, witty and spunky but also…and this is a must for me in my chick-lit….LIKEABLE! I immediately connected with her humor and imperfectness and just plain liked her. When she meets dark and dreamy Heath, I was all smiles because I really liked him and better yet, I could PICTURE him😍. Chalk that up to the snappy, realistic writing of the author.

I honestly would’ve been happy with just their storyline but the author adds to that with Portia, Annabelle’s type A matchmaker competition, Bodie, Heath’s “supposed” bodyguard and really good friend as well as Annabelle’s overbearing family and her book club. There’s characters aplenty and every one is well-developed! Another factor that I look for in outstanding romantic comedies is excellent dialogue that flows and is realistic and this book had it in spades. Needless to say, I enjoyed this so much I stayed up super late to finish it. Add this to your TBR if you’re looking for an entertaining, feel good read for summer…now I need to head over to Goodreads and check out Susan Elizabeth Phillips other books.

HAPPY READING!

More Throwback Thursday Picks Around the Blogosphere 

Cathy at Between the Lines Book Blog

Jill at Jill’s Book Cafe

Deanna at DeesRadReads and Reviews

Rebecca at BoofsBooks

Nicki at The Secret Library

Amanda at Literary Weaponry

Susan at Susan Loves Books

Julie at Novel Thrills and Chills

Caryl at Mrs. Bloggs Books

Ann Marie at Lit Wit Wine Dine