BOOKISH FRIDAY: “WHEN THE STARS GO DARK”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  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 new book from a favorite author:  When the Stars Go Dark, by Paula McLain

Book Beginning:  (Prologue)

The mother who tore off her dress when the police came to her house with the news and then ran down the street in only her shoes, while her neighbors, even the ones who knew her well, hid behind their doors and windows, afraid of her grief.

***

Friday 56:

The sun is sinking fast now, staining the cloud line.  Gulls draft over the chop below us, buoyed and free.

***

Synopsis:  Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet the day she arrives, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing.

The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with saving the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives—and our faith in one another.

***

Would you keep reading?

***

 

REVIEW: BLOOD ORANGE, BY HARRIET TYCE

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise—she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.

Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.

Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband—she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.

But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything…

 
 
 
 
mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

Blood Orange is a gripping story full of flawed characters that kept this reader glued to the pages.

A brilliant attorney, Alison seems to have it all, but her personal life is a mess.

Her good qualities kept me rooting for her, just as her toxic marriage kept me wishing she could finally let go of her bad actions and be a better mother. Her husband Carl might look like a good guy on the outside, but his snarky judgmental tones put me off from the very beginning.

Patrick, Alison’s lover, wasn’t much better, in my opinion, as he was self-involved most of the time.

Six-year-old Matilda was the best character: loving, cheerful, and hoping for a happy family life. Would she ever have it?

As the twists and turns kept coming, I couldn’t stop reading. In fact, I read past midnight, wanting to know what would happen next. I was intrigued by the little clue that came in the form of a blood orange, but I was still stunned by the intensity of the ending. A 5 star read!

 
***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “MOTHER MAY I”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  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 new book I am hoping to enjoy:  Mother May I, by Joshilyn Jackson.

***

Book Beginning:

I woke up to see a witch peering in my bedroom window.

She was little more than a dark shape with a predator’s hungry eyes, razor-wire skinny but somehow female, staring in through the partly open drapes.

***

Friday 56:

Then I went to Google and typed in “Hypnodorm.”  I scanned the entry, reading about dosage and side effects.  Roofies lowered inhibitions, made people suggestible, and stole their memory.

***

Synopsis: 

Revenge doesn’t wait for permission.

Growing up poor in rural Georgia, Bree Cabbat was warned that the world was a dark and scary place. Bree rejected that fearful outlook, and life has proved her right. Having married into a family with wealth, power, and connections, Bree now has all a woman could ever dream of.

Until the day she awakens and sees someone peering into her bedroom window—an old gray-haired woman dressed all in black who vanishes as quickly as she appears. It must be a play of the early morning light or the remnant of a waking dream, Bree tells herself, shaking off the bad feeling that overcomes her.

Later that day though, she spies the old woman again, in the parking lot of her daugh­ters’ private school . . . just minutes before Bree’s infant son, asleep in his car seat only a few feet away, vanishes. It happened so quickly—Bree looked away only for a second. There is a note left in his place, warning her that she is being is being watched; if she wants her baby back, she must not call the police or deviate in any way from the instructions that will follow.

The mysterious woman makes contact, and Bree learns she, too, is a mother. Why would another mother do this? What does she want? And why has she targeted Bree? Of course Bree will pay anything, do anything. It’s her child.

To get her baby back, Bree must complete one small—but critical—task. It seems harmless enough, but her action comes with a devastating price. 

Bree will do whatever it takes to protect her family—but what if the cost tears their world apart?

***

Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: A MILLION REASONS WHY, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 
When two strangers are linked by a mail-in DNA test, it’s an answered prayer—that is, for one half sister. For the other, it will dismantle everything she knows to be true.

But as they step into the unfamiliar realm of sisterhood, the roles will reverse in ways no one could have foreseen.

Caroline lives a full, happy life—thriving career, three feisty children, enviable marriage, and a close-knit extended family. She couldn’t have scripted it better. Except for one thing:

She’s about to discover her fundamental beliefs about them all are wrong.

Sela lives a life in shades of gray, suffering from irreversible kidney failure. Her marriage crumbled in the wake of her illness. Her beloved mother, always her closest friend, unexpectedly passed away. She refuses to be defined by her grief, but still, she worries what will happen to her two-year-old son if she doesn’t find a donor match in time.

She’s the only one who knows Caroline is her half sister and may also be her best hope for a future. But Sela’s world isn’t as clear-cut as it appears—and one misstep could destroy it all.

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

Alternating narrators tell us the story of two sisters who discover each other via a DNA test.

They carefully maneuver around each other via emails for a while, and then they meet. Finally. What will happen next?

As time passes, we learn more of their individual stories, including the love affair that created Sela. Additionally, we come to realize the secrets held by each of the parents and how they were able to hide everything for many years.

Soon there are unexpected twists that stir up all the emotions as we ride along with the characters. I thought I had it all figured out until the last-minute reveals stunned me. A Million Reasons Why was an unforgettable novel that earned 4.5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “BLOOD ORANGE”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  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 have had for a while:  Blood Orange, by Harriet Tyce.

 

***

Beginnings:

The October sky lies gray above me and my wheelie bag’s heavy but I wait for the bus and count my blessings. The trial is finished, kicked out at halftime after a legal argument on the basis of insufficient evidence.

***

Friday 56:

“I’m sorry. I had an important meeting out of town, and I was sure my husband was going to make it in time,” I apologize.

***

Description:

Alison has it all. A doting husband, adorable daughter, and a career on the rise–she’s just been given her first murder case to defend. But all is never as it seems…

Just one more night. Then I’ll end it.
Alison drinks too much. She’s neglecting her family. And she’s having an affair with a colleague whose taste for pushing boundaries may be more than she can handle.

I did it. I killed him. I should be locked up.
Alison’s client doesn’t deny that she stabbed her husband – she wants to plead guilty. And yet something about her story is deeply amiss. Saving this woman may be the first step to Alison saving herself.

I’m watching you. I know what you’re doing.
But someone knows Alison’s secrets. Someone who wants to make her pay for what she’s done, and who won’t stop until she’s lost everything….

***

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: THE UPSTAIRS HOUSE, BY JULIA FINE

 

 

There’s a madwoman upstairs, and only Megan Weiler can see her.

Ravaged and sore from giving birth to her first child, Megan is mostly raising her newborn alone while her husband travels for work. Physically exhausted and mentally drained, she’s also wracked with guilt over her unfinished dissertation—a thesis on mid-century children’s literature.

Enter a new upstairs neighbor: the ghost of quixotic children’s book writer Margaret Wise Brown—author of the beloved classic Goodnight Moon—whose existence no one else will acknowledge. It seems Margaret has unfinished business with her former lover, the once-famous socialite and actress Michael Strange, and is determined to draw Megan into the fray. As Michael joins the haunting, Megan finds herself caught in the wake of a supernatural power struggle—and until she can find a way to quiet these spirits, she and her new-born daughter are in terrible danger.

Using Megan’s postpartum haunting as a powerful metaphor for a woman’s fraught relationship with her body and mind, Julia Fine once again delivers an imaginative and “barely restrained, careful musing on female desire, loneliness, and hereditary inheritances” (Washington Post).

 
 
 

A young woman who has interrupted her academic life to give birth, and then struggles to bond with her baby, offers a familiar theme in The Upstairs House. But here the theme veers off into an unusual and fascinating trip into an imaginary life with 1940s authors and poets, so real that our narrator Megan seems to be interacting with them.

Why is Megan hearing strange noises? How does she seemingly connect with what can only be ghost-like images? The forays into the 1940s lives of these characters did not captivate me, as I was more interested in what would happen to Megan in the present.

Despite the surreal elements, I was most amazed by how nobody around Megan seems to notice her struggles. They criticize her and urge her to get out more or even to get “help,” but instead of offering assistance or even compassion, they just seem angry with her. Her obvious break with reality did keep me intrigued throughout.

The backstory includes a mentally ill mother and an indifferent father who has remarried and can’t bother to spend time with her. He is not even interested in the new baby. Megan’s oblivious husband and critical sister were additional frustrating elements for me.

Would Megan find her way back to herself? How would that happen? By the end, I was not surprised by the turn of events. 4.5 stars.

 
***

SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS…

This week I spent time playing around with images until I finally created the one above for my new blog header.

The doll on the left has figured into my headers here for quite a while; she seems to remind me of serendipitous moments, since I accidentally discovered her one day in Barnes & Noble.  After I brought her home, I always seemed to place her next to books on my shelves.  She fit there.

When I moved almost two years ago, I was not in charge of what came with me…thanks to being ill at the time, and I hadn’t placed her on the list “to bring.”  Something I later regretted, but I was glad to have many photos of her, so she could still reign in my blog life.

I needed another doll to balance her out, I decided, so finally I found the one on the right.  It was time to create a blog banner featuring them both.

I have a lot of images of the new doll in various poses.  The one below is next to a Mary Engelbreit banner that always makes me smile:

 

Then there is this one, on the entry way table under which I stack my TBR print volumes, and next to my little Jelly Cupboard (and the little Mary Engelbreit cottage on the right).  The banner is topped by a little sign that reads “When all else fails, ask Nana.”

And now for another one, which offers a full length glimpse of the cupboard and its treasures:

 

So…those are some serendipitous moments I am enjoying on this Friday. What brings delight to your days?

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “EVERY VOW YOU BREAK”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  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 56D 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 another new book: Every Vow You Break, by Peter Swanson

***

 

Beginning:

She first spotted him at Bobbie’s Coffee Shop on Twenty-Second Street. He was at a window seat, idly looking at his phone, a white mug in front of him. Abigail was on her way to the office for her half day, dodging pedestrians on the sidewalk, thinking about the wedding, wondering if maybe she should have invited her cousin Donald and his wife, whose name she always forgot.

***

Friday 56: 

She washed her face and got out of her dress.  She’d brought a sheer nightdress in baby blue that had puffed sleeves and ruffles along the hem and put it on.

***

Synopsis: Abigail Baskin never thought she’d fall in love with a millionaire. Then she met Bruce Lamb. He’s a good guy, stable, level-headed, kind—a refreshing twist from her previous relationships.

But right before the wedding, Abigail has a drunken one-night stand on her bachelorette weekend. She puts the incident—and the sexy guy who wouldn’t give her his real name—out of her mind, and now believes she wants to be with Bruce for the rest of her life.

Then the mysterious stranger suddenly appears—and Abigail’s future life and happiness are turned upside down. He insists that their passionate night was the beginning of something much, much more. Something special. Something real—and he’s tracked her down to prove it.

Does she tell Bruce and ruin their idyllic honeymoon—and possibly their marriage? Or should she handle this psychopathic stalker on her own? To make the situation worse, strange things begin to happen. She sees a terrified woman in the night shadows, and no one at the resort seems to believe anything is amiss… including her perfect new husband.

***

Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: UNFAITHFUL, BY NATALIE BARELLI

 

When I arrive unannounced at my husband’s studio in need of a shoulder to cry on after hearing that my best student, Alex, has died, I see a pair of wine glasses drying by the sink and my deepest fear is confirmed: my husband is having an affair.

Most women would fall to their knees in tears and throw him out of the house–but I just can’t bring myself to do it.

Instead, I go home and cook a healthy dinner for our children, walk the dog and unload the dishwasher without complaint. I will make him see that I’m still the woman he married; attractive, successful, the glue that holds our perfect family together. I need this marriage to work to protect a terrible secret of my own, something that would destroy everything I’ve already sacrificed so much for.

But when the police arrive at my door asking questions about Alex’s death that I can’t answer, and threatening text messages start appearing on my phone, I know that someone close has been watching me very carefully.

The truth is, there are three people in my marriage, but only one of them is deadly…
 
 
 


Anna has had such a complex and layered life that I expected the story to take us down one path, but as more secrets are revealed, I am shocked by what we eventually learn.

There were so many tricky aspects to Unfaithful that I kept turning the pages until the final and stunning conclusion, wondering how I could have anticipated a different set of events when the complexity of Anna’s life could only have gone the way it did.

As she was our primary narrator, I believed in Anna, although she appeared unreliable at times. When we finally learn all the intricacies of the past and the present, everything finally falls into place. Twisted and compelling, this book earned 4.5 stars for me.
 
***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “ARE WE THERE YET?”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  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 56D 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 recent download:  Are We There Yet?, by Kathleen West.

***

Book Beginning:  (Alice Sullivan)

Alice scrolled through the latest posts on the Next Door app as she waited for Nadia, who was, as usual, several minutes late for their twice-monthly coffee. Meredith used to join them, but she’d announced a year ago that she’d rather see them on Sundays for power walks than lounge in a Starbucks.

***

Friday 56:  (Alice Sullivan)

Alice had hoped she’d perk up that night after seeing her friends, but a leaden feeling had settled in her gut.  Despite Nadia’s assertions that there were “a million ways to fix Teddy,” there seemed to be just two:  Call a therapist and apologize to Tane.

***

Synopsis:  Among fake Instagram pages, long-buried family secrets, and the horrors of middle school, one suburban mom searches to find herself in a heartfelt and thought-provoking novel from the author of Minor Dramas and Other Catastrophes.
 
Alice Sullivan feels like she’s finally found her groove in middle age, but it only takes one moment for her perfectly curated life to unravel. On the same day she learns her daughter is struggling in second grade, a call from her son’s school accusing him of bullying throws Alice into a tailspin.  

When it comes to light that the incident is part of a new behavior pattern for her son, one complete with fake social media profiles with a lot of questionable content, Alice’s social standing is quickly eroded to one of “those moms” who can’t control her kids. Soon she’s facing the very judgement she was all too happy to dole out when she thought no one was looking (or when she thought her house wasn’t made of glass).
 
Then her mother unloads a family secret she’s kept for more than thirty years, and Alice’s entire perception of herself is shattered.  
 
As her son’s new reputation polarizes her friendships and her family buzzes with the ramification of her mother’s choices, Alice realizes that she’s been too focused on measuring her success and happiness by everyone else’s standards. Now, with all her shortcomings laid bare, she’ll have to figure out to whom to turn for help and decide who she really wants to be.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts and blurb call to you?

***