REVIEW: GO ASK FANNIE, BY ELISABETH HYDE

 

When Murray Blaire invites his three grown children to his New Hampshire farm for a few days, he makes it clear he expects them to keep things pleasant. The rest of his agenda–using Ruth and George to convince their younger sister, Lizzie, to break up with her much older boyfriend–that he chooses to keep private. But Ruth and George arrive bickering, with old scores to settle. And, in a classic Blaire move, Lizzie derails everything when she turns up late, cradling a damaged family cookbook, and talking about possible criminal charges against her.

This is not the first time the Blaire family has been thrown into chaos. In fact, that cookbook, an old edition of Fannie Farmer, is the last remaining artifact from a time when they were a family of six, not four, with a father running for Congress and a mother building a private life of her own. The now -obscured notes written in its pages provide tantalizing clues to their mother’s ambitions and the mysterious choices she once made, choices her children have always sought without success to understand. Until this weekend.

As the Blaire siblings piece together their mother’s story, they come to realize not just what they’ve lost, but how they can find their way back to each other. In this way, celebrated author Elisabeth Hyde reminds readers that family survival isn’t about simply setting aside old rivalries, but preserving the love that’s written between the lines.

 

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Go Ask Fannie, the reader is offered a peek into the squabbles between two adult siblings who are on their way to their dad’s home in New Hampshire.

Ruth, the eldest, an attorney who lives in Washington, D.C., is full of criticism and advice, trying to immediately take control of the situation. George, who is a nurse, gives back his point of view, too, but he shows a bit more empathy. The two are fighting about what should happen to their father, Murray, who is 81 and so far maintaining his independence.

Upon arrival, the third sibling enters the picture, with her own battles to fight. Her much older boyfriend has ruined the family’s Fannie Farmer cookbook, the one legacy they have from their mother, Lillian, who had died thirty-two years ago, along with their brother Daniel.

Between the lines, we learn more about the family dynamics as the author shows us what those interactions look like, while the multiple narrators take us back and forth in time. By the end of the story, we have a clearer picture of the family’s secrets, the untold wishes and dreams, and the mistaken beliefs they each held.

A story with distinct characters one could easily love and hate at the same time, this one offered us a glimpse of what life could look like if each of them shared these hidden truths. 5 stars.

***

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REVIEW: THE PROMISE BETWEEN US, BY BARBARA CLAYPOLE WHITE

 

Metal artist Katie Mack is living a lie. Nine years ago she ran away from her family in Raleigh, North Carolina, consumed by the irrational fear that she would harm Maisie, her newborn daughter. Over time she’s come to grips with the mental illness that nearly destroyed her, and now funnels her pain into her art. Despite longing for Maisie, Katie honors an agreement with the husband she left behind—to change her name and never return.

But when she and Maisie accidentally reunite, Katie can’t ignore the familiarity of her child’s compulsive behavior. Worse, Maisie worries obsessively about bad things happening to her pregnant stepmom. Katie has the power to help, but can she reconnect with the family she abandoned?

To protect Maisie, Katie must face the fears that drove her from home, accept the possibility of love, and risk exposing her heart-wrenching secret.

My Thoughts: The opening portion of The Promise Between Us shows Katelyn MacDonald suffering in the throes of her fearful and anxious thoughts. Fears that she would hurt her baby; dark and frightening impulses that could lead to danger. The terrifying moments were excruciating, and when the story resumes, Katelyn is no longer in the picture, it is several years later, and her father, Callum, shows his perspective.

He and his wife Lilah are expecting a baby, while the two of them are trying to parent Maisie, now a ten-year-old child. Issues have cropped up for Maisie, and the two are struggling.

We then rejoin Katelyn, now Katie Mack, a metal artist. As she voices her thoughts, it is clear that she now has a diagnosis for her fears and anxieties: she is suffering from OCD. Not the kind of disorder that we often think of when we hear the term, but a much harsher, more painful version of the illness. The version that drove Katie away from her family in the fear that she would harm her baby.

I enjoyed learning more about OCD and discovering through the characters that there are strategies for dealing with the illness. Strategies learned in therapy.

How does an accidental meeting between Katie and her daughter Maisie, after nine years, offer up an opportunity for her to help her daughter, now struggling with the same disorder? How does she break through Cal’s fear and anger so that she can help her daughter? How does long-time friend Jake factor into the decision to communicate and learn from one another?

Secrets had kept them all at odds, but communication and help could bring healing.

This was an inspirational story, and I couldn’t stop reading it. My only problem was how many disabling disorders were going on within this small group, from the characters with OCD to some with PTSD. It was almost overwhelming, and sometimes I had to put the book down for a while. I did connect with the characters, though, and rooted for them all through their journeys. 4.5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “RIGHT BEHIND YOU”

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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 I am delighted to share excerpts from Right Behind You, by Lisa Gardner, one of my favorite authors.  Lisa Gardner’s latest thriller following her runaway hit Find Her takes her wildly popular brand of suspense to new heights.

 

 

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Beginning:  (Prologue)

Had a family once.

Father.  Mother.  Sister.  Lived in our very own double-wide.  Brown shag carpet.  Dirty gold countertops.  Peeling linoleum floors.  Used to race my Hot Wheels down those food-splattered countertops, double-loop through ramps of curling linoleum, then land in gritty piles of shag.  Place was definitely a shit hole.  But being a kid, I called it home.

***

56:  “Criminologists like to define,” he murmured.  “If we can define, then we can understand.  Hence the proposal of a third label—rampage killer—to cover both spree and mass murderers.”

***

Synopsis:  Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash’s older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah has finally moved on. About to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, Sharlah loves one thing best about her new family: They are all experts on monsters.

Then the call comes in. A double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah’s older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.

As the clock winds down on a massive hunt for Telly, Quincy and Rainie must answer two critical questions: Why after eight years has this young man started killing again? And what does this mean for Sharlah? Once upon a time, Sharlah’s big brother saved her life. Now, she has two questions of her own: Is her brother a hero or a killer? And how much will it cost her new family before they learn the final, shattering truth? Because as Sharlah knows all too well, the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts and the blurb grab you?  Are you as eager to keep reading as I am?

***

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: PRESENT, PAST, & UPCOMING READS

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Today I’m participating in Sam’s WWW Wednesdays Here’s how it works:

 

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

***

Currently Reading:

I  am halfway finished with a very engaging e-ARC from NetGalley:  Cruel Beautiful World, by Caroline Leavitt, a haunting, nuanced portrait of love, sisters, and the impossible legacy of family.   Release Date:  October 4, 2016.

 

 

 

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Blurb:  It’s 1969, and sixteen-year-old Lucy is about to run away with a much older man to live off the grid in rural Pennsylvania, a rash act that will have vicious repercussions for both her and her older sister, Charlotte. As Lucy’s default caretaker for most of their lives, Charlotte’s youth has been marked by the burden of responsibility, but never more so than when Lucy’s dream of a rural paradise turns into a nightmare.

Cruel Beautiful World examines the intricate, infinitesimal distance between seduction and love, loyalty and duty, and explores what happens when you’re responsible for things you cannot make right.

***

I am loving how the story alternates between the various characters, moving from the girls, Lucy and Charlotte, in 1969, and then veering into the backstory of Iris, the girls’ caretaker.  Her story takes us back to the turn of the twentieth century.

The part of the story set in the late sixties and early seventies brings up some reminders of how that so-called peaceful time and existence can turn into mass murder (Charlie Manson’s family).

***

JUST FINISHED:

I loved Book Four in this Ten Beach Road series:  Sunshine Beach, by Wendy Wax. (Click for my review).

 

 

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Another totally engaging story about friendships, conflicts, challenges, and starting over…again.

***

EAGERLY ANTICIPATING:

I just discovered the existence of this new book, the sixth in a series I have loved, a series that features Frieda Klein, a psychotherapist who sometimes works with the police.  Set in London and thereabouts, we often follow some twists and turns to reach a resolution of each case.

Saturday Requeim, by Nicci French, is not available in the U.S. yet, so I ordered it from a third-party seller in the UK.  That’s how much I love this series.

 

 

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Blurb:  It was an open and shut case when eighteen-year-old Hannah Docherty was arrested for the brutal murder of her family; she’s been incarcerated ever since. When psychotherapist Frieda Klein is asked to assess Hannah, she reluctantly agrees. What she finds horrifies her…Frieda is haunted by the thought that Hannah might be as much of a victim as her family. Frieda soon begins to realise that she’s up against someone who’ll go to any lengths to protect themselves…

***

What are you reading and/or anticipating today?

***

WEEKLY UPDATES: CONNECTING….

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Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

 

The weather has been very hot, but what else is new?  I did curl up inside my air-conditioned space, reading and watching movies (saw The Boss, with Melissa McCarthy) and Netflix.  I’ve been watching Doc Martin again.  The folks in that little Cornish town are hilarious.  Finished THREE books this week, and they were all different from one another, while being completely engaging.  I love when that happens.

When I was up in Crescent City, I added Skype to my iPhone, since I didn’t have my laptop with me.  We had hoped to connect with my eldest son in Prague while I was there, so my youngest son could also chat.  But the timing was always off.

However, this week, my youngest son Skyped me on my iPhone…and it worked fine.  Just like the laptop version.  He is trying to set up a time to Skype with Eldest One.  We even turned on our pictures and it was fun to see them in their living room, with Auggie (the dog), too. 

In this photo from a while ago, Auggie’s the one on the right….LOL.

 

 

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So…that was my week, and a tidbit from last week….so let’s look at a little bit more…

 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Monday Potpourri:  Musings…

Tuesday Excerpts:  “Leave Me”

Hump Day Reading:  Current, Past, & Future Reading

Bookish Thursday #26:  Serendipitous Moments

Bookish Friday:  “The Things We Wish Were True”

A Journey South of the Border

Review:  The Truth-Teller’s Lie (e-book), by Sophie Hannah

Review:  Siracusa (e-book), by Delia Ephron

Review:  Mystic Summer (e-book), by Hannah McKinnon

 

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles Linked to Amazon)

 

 

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(Above):  These three books (purchased) came in my mailbox this week:

 

My Life, My Body, by Marge Piercy

Rosemary:  The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson

American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin

 

Downloads:  Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Results May Vary (e-book), by Bethany Chase

 

 

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If I Forget You (e-book), by Thomas Christopher Greene

 

 

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WHAT’S UP NEXT? (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Currently Reading:  The Excellent Lombards (e-book), by Jane Hamilton (Purchased in April – long overdue!)

 

 

 

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Even though I haven’t had this one very long…I really must read….

Behind Closed Doors (e-book), by B. A. Paris

 

 

 

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And there are many more on my lovely Pippa!

 

 

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***

 

There will be more iced tea today!

 

 

 

 

What did your week look like?  Come on and share, please!

***

FALLING, BY JANE GREEN

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Emma Montague may be British upper crust, with a boarding school and university education, and she may have done well in the banking world, both in London and later in Manhattan.

But what Emma truly wants and hopes to find in her new life in Westport, Connecticut, is something completely different. A homey and lovely life, with gorgeous interior designs. She starts out designing for local women, and creates a show place of her own in the little cottage she has rented. The cottage next door to her landlord, Dominic Di Franco, a bartender at the Fat Hen, and a sometime carpenter. And the father of six-year-old Jesse.

They become friends fairly quickly, and although Emma insists to her friends, like Sophie, who lives nearby, that he is not her type, something begins to happen between them.

Learning Dominic’s story, about how Jesse’s mother Stacy left them when Jesse was a tiny baby, Emma is drawn into this little family. Yes, there are times that Jesse is jealous and possessive, not wanting to share his father. But he clearly loves and adores Emma.

Falling is a beautifully rendered tale of unexpected love, the way life changes to accommodate that love, and how the past connections sometimes interfere and create conflict.

I loved the author’s descriptions of the developing love and family feeling between Emma, Dominic, and Jesse. I also enjoyed visualizing the before and after creations Emma brought to life. The settings made me feel as though I was visiting the lovely community, almost as if I were a part of it.

The unexpectedly dramatic and sad culmination left me in tears, but I also rejoiced at the way life brought the characters to a place of true discovery. A place of finding what they needed. Not necessarily what they wanted, but just what would feel like home for them. 5 stars.

REVIEW: PARIS RUNAWAY, BY PAULITA KINCER

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In St. Petersburg, Florida, it is summer break for Sadie Ford, a divorced mom and teacher, but before she can even plan her days ahead, her 17-year-old daughter Scarlett has turned her world upside down.

Thinking that Scarlett is at her dad’s house, Sadie is stunned to discover, from one of her daughter’s friends, that Scarlett has taken off for Paris to “lose her virginity” to Luc Rollande, the exchange student she’d had eyes for the previous year.

Sadie isn’t really the impulsive type, but suddenly she finds herself packing a large purse with essentials and a couple of changes of clothes, booking a plane ticket, and heading across the ocean herself.

Meanwhile, her older daughter, Evangeline, is safely ensconced at Tulane University.

As we follow Sadie in her pursuit of her daughter, we learn more about her before the divorce, what life looked like for her when her children were small and controllable, and how this new beginning she is stuck with is suddenly very frightening. In the early hours following her landing in Paris, we see Sadie struggle to navigate the arrondissements, and find her way into the apartment building where Luc lives.

Eventually she connects with Luc’s father Auguste, whose own apartment is down the street from his ex-wife Corinne’s, and despite the slight language barrier, they manage to talk about how to find their missing children. By now, both Sadie and Auguste realize that something more is going on with the teenagers, and between the two of them, they might just be able to bring them home safely.

I liked how, from Sadie’s first person narrative, we see her impressions of Paris, when she isn’t worrying endlessly. How she describes her reactions to the people she meets, like Corinne and her new husband Georges, and how their constant speaking in French around her, even though they knew English, made her feel excluded.

Paris Runaway, an intensely engaging novel, kept me rapidly turning pages, losing sleep, and eagerly trying to figure out what would happen in the end. Would Sadie and Auguste find the kids and extricate them from disaster? What would happen with the developing connection between them afterwards? I definitely wanted to know, so I very happily kept reading…and now I’m awarding 5 stars to this novel.

REVIEW: BETTER OFF WITHOUT HIM, BY DEE ERNST

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It was just a normal April when Mona’s husband of twenty years, Brian, announced rather casually that he was moving out and wanted a divorce. He has fallen in love with a younger woman.

Their three teenaged daughters, Miranda, 16, and 14-year-old twins Lauren and Jessica, had just left for school, and Mona had settled in to think about writing her next novel. A best-selling romance novelist with the pen name Maura Van Whalen, she had decided to switch from historical romance to something contemporary.

Brian’s announcement and actions swept her off course a bit, but even after considering what a divorce would mean in her life, and not liking the upheaval, she had to admit that she wasn’t actually broken-hearted. In fact, wouldn’t it be a perfect novel to write about a woman in her forties who is dumped by her husband, and finds her happily-ever-after without a man?

Better Off Without Him was a delightful book about starting over, making better choices, and learning how to be who you want to be. Some of those choices included dating again, but with men who were already friends. Practice dating, as her daughters called it. A summer at the Long Island Shore house, which Mona had bought years before with her own money, would offer some opportunities to find men to date. And back at home in New Jersey, there was Ben the plumber, who was handsome, a good friend, and surprisingly available. So even though Mona plans to design her life to suit herself, does that mean she can’t fall in love again…someday?

I enjoyed the story, the dialogue, which was full of funny tidbits and movie references, and Mona’s humorous first person narrative. Brian was a despicable character who, predictably, thought he could still come and go in the house whenever he wanted. I liked how Mona was able to put him in his place. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE CHILDREN, BY ANN LEARY

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Lakeside Cottage in Harwich, Connecticut, had been a part of the Whitman family for generations. Whit Whitman, whom we met early on in The Children, when he was just a child, would figure largely in the story, but primarily as a legendary character. His marriage to Joan, who had two young daughters, Sally and Charlotte, would launch a whole new blended family that included Whit’s sons from his marriage to Marissa: Perry and Philip (Spin).

His death would set events in motion and unleash issues that would stay buried for years, but in one long hot summer, all would surface with a vengeance. Could the division of trusts and the cottage figure into the trouble? Whit had left Lakeside Cottage to his sons, a trust fund to Joan, as well as to his sons, with the understanding that Joan would stay in the cottage as long as she wished to do so. But maybe everything wasn’t as smoothly settled as they thought.

Our first person narrator is Charlotte, who some believe is agoraphobic, but she simply feels more comfortable in the cottage attic room writing her “fictitious” mommy blog. She makes quite a bit of money from advertisers, and all is well on that front…until it isn’t.

The first ripples of trouble appear when Spin brings his fiancée Laurel Atwood home to the cottage. She seems wonderful on the surface. Charming, in fact, and clearly she is beautiful. But Sally, who has some mental health issues, can seemingly see below the surface. Why does nobody believe her? But who would believe Sally when she “gets like that”? Frenetic and manic, she escalates quickly.

I loved this story. I wanted to stay with the characters well beyond the final pages, and I held my breath while experiencing the story as it unfolded, only releasing my breath when I finally learned the fate of the characters. A 5 star read for me.

*** My e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: LIES & OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, BY KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY

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For Annabelle, her grandmother Lovey was the voice in her head, the spiritual mentor who guided her with her inspirational messages, like “it is not the truth that sets you free. The truth is the thing that destroys lives, that shatters the mirror…”

Growing up in Raleigh, NC, Annabelle was also surrounded by a bevy of female cheerleaders, from her mother, Jean, the mayor, to her aunts: Laura, Martha, Louise, and Sally. Of course, there was also D-Daddy, her grandfather.

Alternately narrated by Annabelle and Lovey, Lies & Other Acts of Love wraps itself around us in the cozy comforts of a family of nurturing supporters. But as we meander along the pathways of the past with Lovey, or join Annabelle in her journey toward a true kind of love, we learn about the secrets, the lies, and even the almost lethal deceptions that live behind the curtain of each family. And we realize that sometimes you have to forgive the flaws of those you love.

I felt sad for Annabelle’s missteps, and could feel the angst of her emotional pull toward a man who turned out to be wrong for her. When she almost passed by the one who would be the perfect match, I was shouting from the sidelines. The characters were flawed, but fascinating, and the settings felt so real I could have been there in the flesh. 4.5 stars.