BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SWEET WILLIAM”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is an e-book that has been relaxing on Pippa, my Kindle, since December 2016.  Sweet William, by Beryl Bainbridge, is an ironic investigation into the art of self-deception and the repercussions of sexual freedom, a blend of black comedy and social satire that showcases the wit of award-winning author Beryl Bainbridge, and affirms her status as a mainstay in twentieth-century British literature.
 

 

Beginning:  In the main entrance of the air terminal a young man stood beside a cigarette machine, searching in the breast pocket of his blue suit for his passport.  A girl, slouching in a grey coat, as if she thought she was too tall, passively watched him.

***

56%:  ‘Where do you think he’s gone?  Where’s he gone?’

‘Perhaps he’s looking at graveyards,’ said Pamela.  ‘He likes graveyards, doesn’t he?’

***

Synopsis:  When dull professor Gerald leaves London for the United States, his fiancée, Ann, is a bit afraid and sad to see him go—never has he looked so handsome and masculine as when he’s about to board the plane. But a few days later at a religious service, Ann is beckoned to sit next to a stranger with yellow curls and a nose like a prizefighter’s. Her heart inexplicably begins to race; she feels like she has the flu. This stranger, William McClusky, tells Ann in his Scottish accent that he is a playwright who will be interviewed on TV the very next day. Furthermore, he promises to have a television dropped by her house so she can watch him! From this first bizarre seduction, Ann is infatuated, and in the days following, William begins to take over her life.
 
In the throes of the affair, Ann gives up her BBC job, helps a friend get an abortion, encourages adultery, and writes a break-up letter to her fiancé. Her engagement to Gerald had been rushed, after all, and was designed to serve her mother’s desires more than her own. With William, on the other hand, everything feels different. But is this new man really who he says he is? Is he a genius or a fraud, a compassionate soul or a cheater? Perhaps William is simply a means by which Ann can play out her dangerous fantasies and finally take part in the swinging sixties. Only one thing is certain: Now that she’s with him, there’s no turning back.

***

I’m eager to read this book, and wondering why I’ve waited so long.  What do you think?

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REVIEW: THE HOUSEKEEPER, BY SUELLEN DAINTY

When Anne Morgan’s successful boyfriend—who also happens to be her boss—leaves her for another woman, Anne finds herself in desperate need of a new job and a quiet place to recover. Meanwhile, her celebrity idol, Emma Helmsley (England’s answer to Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey), is in need of a housekeeper, an opportunity which seems too good to be true.

Through her books, website, and blog, Emma Helmsley advises her devoted followers on how to live a balanced life in a hectic world. Her husband, Rob, is a high profile academic, and her children, Jake and Lily, are well-adjusted teenagers. On the surface, they are the perfect family. But Anne soon finds herself intimately ensconced in the Helmsley’s dirty laundry, both literally and figuratively. Underneath the dust, grime, and whimsical clutter, everyone has a secret to hide. And Anne’s own disturbing past soon threatens to unhinge everything…

My Thoughts: In the beginning, The Housekeeper seemed to be a book about one young woman’s love gone wrong, and how she found a way to start over as a domestic helper for a famous blogger and her psychologist husband.

But soon we are swept up into a gradual process of enmeshment, as the Helmsley family come to expect more and more from Anne, while making it seem as though they are doing her a favor by making her feel like family. But Anne does not notice the subtle expectations, since she admires Emma and Rob and the life they have created, and being a part of it all feels so good.

When Anne has some memory flashes, it seems natural that she would ask her boss, the psychologist, for his opinions. What will happen next? Will the horrors of her childhood change everything about the life she has recreated?

I was blown away by how the story played out, and could not stop reading it. I was furious with Emma and Rob, and how they played on Anne’s need for family. They seemingly brought her into the cozy circle that was developing between them, when, in fact, they were using her to carry out the façade of the perfect family/professional couple. She did a good job of glossing over their imperfections by keeping their lives running smoothly, and what they gave her in return was betrayal.

Skillfully wrought, the story aroused emotions, kept me engaged, and left me with much more to think about. In the end, there was a sense of closure that I didn’t see coming, and it felt good. A 5 star read for me.

***

REVIEW: WOMAN NO. 17, BY EDAN LEPUCKI

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.
 
But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Woman No. 17, I was captivated by each narrative voice: first, we meet “Lady” Daniels, mother, writer, and “separated” wife of Karl, trying to work out her inner angst.

Then we have “S” Fowler, young artist/nanny who has moved into the guesthouse after Lady hires her. There is definitely something off about S and her mysterious artistic project. Meanwhile, she cares for toddler Devin, and seemingly does a good job.

Seth, the mute eldest son, a college student, seems to be playing some mind games, both with his mother and with S.

Seth communicates with both his mother and S via Twitter, and sometimes he plays out vengeful games with this method. His tweets do offer a peek into his perspective.

Themes of motherhood, friendship, and art fill the pages with interesting scenes, dialogue, and other characters, like Marco, Seth’s father, who left when he was a baby and with whom Lady has recently reconnected; and Kit Daniels, photographer, who imagines herself to be the “last word” in all things artistic. I could not stand her.

I loved the LA setting, with its youth-dominated culture, fascination with fantasy vs. reality, and the endless freeway systems.

My feelings for Lady and S were mixed, and by the time we finally realize what each is trying to communicate with one another and with others, the story had reached a crescendo pitch. Secrets come crashing down around us, and we are left in the rubble…watching each of them try to move on. A brilliantly written 5 star read.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “WOMAN NO. 17”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is an ARC from Amazon VineWoman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki, a sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California…

 

Beginning:  (Lady)

It was the end of summer.  The heat had arrived harsh and bright, bleaching the sidewalks and choking the flowers before they had a chance to wilt.  The freeways shimmered, any hotter and they might crack, might explode, and the poor cars would confetti into the air.

***

56:  (Esther)

Karl’s sunglasses were tortoiseshell and he actually took them off when he waved to me.  I wondered if he was the kind of dude who said, “Eyes are the windows to the soul.”

***

Synopsis:  High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. Left alone with her children, she’s going to need a hand taking care of her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In response to a Craigslist ad, S arrives, a magnetic young artist who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s toddler, Devin, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage son, Seth. S performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady.
 
But in the heat of the summer, S’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. And as Lady and S move closer to one another, the glossy veneer of Lady’s privileged life begins to crack, threatening to expose old secrets that she has been keeping from her family. Meanwhile, S is protecting secrets of her own, about her real motivation for taking the job. S and Lady are both playing a careful game, and every move they make endangers the things they hold most dear.
 
Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

***

Do the excerpts grab you?  I am enjoying the alternating narrators, and learning more and more about each character as I read.

***

REVIEW: THE WIDOW’S HOUSE, BY CAROL GOODMAN

When Jess and Clare Martin move from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, to their former college town in the Hudson River valley, they are hoping for rejuvenation—of their marriage, their savings, and Jess’s writing career.

They take a caretaker’s job at Riven House, a crumbling estate and the home of their old college writing professor. While Clare once had dreams of being a writer, those plans fell by the wayside when Jess made a big, splashy literary debut in their twenties. It’s been years, now, since his first novel. The advance has long been spent. Clare’s hope is that the pastoral beauty and nostalgia of the Hudson Valley will offer some inspiration.

But their new life isn’t all quaint town libraries and fragrant apple orchards. There is a haunting pall that hangs over Riven House like a funeral veil. Something is just not right. Soon, Clare begins to hear babies crying at night, see strange figures in fog at the edge of their property. Diving into the history of the area, she realizes that Riven House has a dark and anguished past. And whatever this thing is—this menacing force that destroys the inhabitants of the estate—it seems to be after Clare next…

My Thoughts: Narrated in Clare’s first person voice, The Widow’s House immediately drew me in to her life and her experience, and I was invested in her world. How she viewed her new life in the old mansion, and the people she once knew that she was seeing again became my view.

Clare had grown up in the town, on the old Jackson farm with her adopted parents, who were harsh and strict. She felt isolated and that perspective shaded everything back then. Now she is looking at the world with fresh eyes.

But when events take off at the estate, and when she overhears Jess talking on the phone to mysterious individuals, her paranoia intensifies and she is back there, on the outside looking in.

I really hated Jess from the beginning. He was charming, but then cruel. He criticized Clare and made her feel crazy. So when some strange things happened, it started to feel as though he wanted her to unravel.

Final revelations came one after the other, and most I didn’t see coming, even though nothing Jess did would have surprised me at this point.

A riveting tale in which nothing is as it seems, I was glued to the pages, reading long past a reasonable hour. 5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE WIDOWER’S WIFE”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a book I just finished reading.  The Widower’s Wife, by Cate Holahan (click for my review), is a story about a marriage, a cruise, and deadly secrets.

 

Beginning:  (November 16)

Ryan Monahan liked liars.  Not the three-times-a-conversation fibbers, who prettied up the truth to appear less pedestrian at parties and would swear to God they’d had just one, Officer.  Those average assholes weren’t even trying.  No, Ryan liked the real deal, the kind of folks who weaved falsehoods into the very fabric of their lives until they wore their fictions like fine-knit sweaters, feeling safe and warm, wrapped in their bullshit.  They were the challenge.

***

56:  She shook her head like a petulant teenager.  “No way.  He’ll just deny it and I’ll be out the best paycheck of my life.”   She again lowered her voice to a whisper.  “But I do think that he should be held accountable if he did anything to drive some woman to…Well, you know.”

***

Synopsis:  “In this chilling cat-and-mouse tale… Holahan keeps the action going.”
Publishers Weekly

Ana Bacon, a beautiful young wife and mother, tumbled off a cruise ship into dark and deadly waters. Ana is gone–leaving behind her wealthy husband and adorable daughter–but not everything about her disappearance adds up. What secrets did she leave behind?

Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, which could net a ten-million-dollar payout, Monahan doubts that her death is just a tragic accident. But the husband has a substantial alibi and a number of witnesses claim to have seen Ana fall, and the official ruling seems to hold up.

Still, the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the odds grow that he, too, will take a fatal fall.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts grab you?  Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: THE PERFECT STRANGER, BY MEGAN MIRANDA

Confronted by a restraining order and the threat of a lawsuit, failed journalist Leah Stevens needs to get out of Boston when she runs into an old friend, Emmy Grey, who has just left a troubled relationship. Emmy proposes they move to rural Pennsylvania, where Leah can get a teaching position and both women can start again. But their new start is threatened when a woman with an eerie resemblance to Leah is assaulted by the lake, and Emmy disappears days later.

Determined to find Emmy, Leah cooperates with Kyle Donovan, a handsome young police officer on the case. As they investigate her friend’s life for clues, Leah begins to wonder: did she ever really know Emmy at all? With no friends, family, or a digital footprint, the police begin to suspect that there is no Emmy Grey. Soon Leah’s credibility is at stake, and she is forced to revisit her past: the article that ruined her career. To save herself, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

My Thoughts: The Perfect Stranger was one of those books that had me taking voluminous notes, not sure which details I uncovered that would help me later, as it was clear from the start that many secrets and lies would shake out as we followed the various threads to the end.

First, I was intrigued by the character of Emmy Grey, who may have been someone else entirely. Or perhaps she only existed in the mind of Leah Stevens, through whose eyes we saw most of the events of the story. After all, she leaves no evidence of her existence behind when she goes. Everything is in someone else’s name: in Leah’s name.

How did the attack of a woman who resembled Leah connect to Emmy Grey or even to Leah?

Finding out more kept me reading, and even as each twist and turn led me to still another theory, I knew that the identity of Emmy Grey would be at the heart of it all. Themes of trust were also at the center of the mystery. Who could Leah trust, from her old lover in Boston to Emmy herself?

And what about Detective Kyle Donovan, who seems so forthcoming in the beginning, and then shuts down? Will he finally trust Leah enough to help her?

Twisted threads take us back and forth, with bits and pieces revealed until a startling connection leads us to the very beginning and to the moment of truth. To the place where we finally discover who Emmy is…and to the secrets she had hoped to outrun. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.