REVIEW: THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE, BY ZOE WHITTALL

The Woodburys cherish life in the affluent, bucolic suburb of Avalon Hills, Connecticut. George is a beloved science teacher at the local prep school, a hero who once thwarted a gunman, and his wife, Joan, is a hardworking ER nurse. They have brought up their children in this thriving town of wooded yards and sprawling lakes.

Then one night a police car pulls up to the Woodbury home and George is charged with sexual misconduct with students from his daughter’s school. As he sits in prison awaiting trial and claiming innocence, Joan vaults between denial and rage as friends and neighbors turn cold. Their daughter, seventeen-year-old Sadie, is a popular high school senior who becomes a social outcast—and finds refuge in an unexpected place. Her brother, Andrew, a lawyer in New York, returns home to support the family, only to confront unhappy memories from his past. A writer tries to exploit their story, while an unlikely men’s rights activist group attempts to recruit Sadie for their cause.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of The Best Kind of People, I felt drawn into the lives of the Woodburys, especially Sadie and Joan. Their reactions to the events that unfolded felt real and spoke to how one might experience being blindsided in such a way.

Multiple narrators, including Joan, Sadie, Andrew, and Kevin brought out the way a community and a family are impacted by an arrest of a beloved individual. How should any of them feel? Should the family give unwavering support to a man who might be guilty? Should all who knew him for years be immediately on his side? Would the media presence affect how they reacted?

Visiting George in prison was another shock to reality for those whose previous experiences did not prepare them for this new normal.

How does Kevin’s new novel change how others view him? Can Sadie find a way to interpret the betrayals she sees all around her? Will she find a way to deal with those who believe that her family is somehow tainted by her father?

The activists were the most disturbing aspect for me, as the tendency to blame feminism for the allegations of the girls struck a wrong chord with me. While I did not necessarily believe the girls, since, despite what the proponents of victims’ rights might claim, teenage girls do occasionally lie, I could not align myself with those who slapped such a label on their cause.

In the end, the trial seemed to happen off stage, just as much of George’s experiences seemed separate from what everyone else was going through. As a result, the outcome felt flat and tepid. I was no longer at all sure about what was true or how to feel. 4.5 stars.


***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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: THE SLEEPWALKER, BY CHRIS BOHJALIAN

51wq2m0fuzl

 

 

 

When Annalee Ahlberg goes missing in the night, her daughters Lianna, 21, and Paige, 12, fear the worst. Their mother is a sleepwalker, and not only does she do bizarre things while in this state, she has put herself in danger.

But Annalee hasn’t had an episode in years, and she has had treatment at the sleep clinic. However, the usual set-up for her disturbance is present: her husband, Warren, an English professor, is away. In the past she has only taken her nightly excursions when he is gone.

Alternative narrators tell the tale of The Sleepwalker, and Lianna is the primary one. An anonymous narrator brings interesting and mysterious pieces to the story at the beginning of each chapter.

Set in small town Bartlett, Vermont, the reader will meet various friends and neighbors along the way, and there will be gossip, and the snippets of speculation that flow through the town will occasionally reach Lianna…and disturb her. The reader will learn more about the condition of parasomnia, which includes sleepwalking, night terrors, and even sleep sex.

In the beginning, the detectives will question each of the family members, focusing on the relationship between Warren and Annalee. They even look at Warren as a person of interest. Our narrator, Lianna, describes for us the occasional “fights” between her parents, and characterizes them as “quiet” skirmishes, “their barbs sharpened on whetstones of condescension and sarcasm.”

One of the detectives, a man a few years older than Lianna, is seemingly drawn into her orbit. What is the story of Gavin Rikert? Why is he so drawn to their family, and why does he seem to know so much about Annalee? Why does Lianna feel such a connection to him?

As the story wends its way through the time after, and some bits from before, we end up even more puzzled until…something quite astonishing happens. And then the final reveal unfolds in waves. First there is one discovery, and then another one, until I had to question everything I thought I knew about that alternate narrator. Another fabulous tale from the author that kept me intrigued throughout…and which earned 5 stars.    I received my e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

cropped again 5***

WEEKLY UPDATES: A GREAT WEEK!

picmonkey-image-nov-overlayv-27

 

 

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.

 

What a great week!  Thanksgiving, Gilmore Girls Revival on Netflix, and FOUR books read and reviewed.   89 books read for my Read the Books You Buy Challenge.

I’ve already watched the first Gilmore Girls episode, and there are only three more in this first “Season” (we don’t know if there will be more!); I’ll be done by the end of the weekend.  That’s what binge-watching is all about.

Saturday will be another day of family togetherness.  My second son and his daughter will come through town, to join the few of us who will be here.  We’re meeting at Yard House, a new place for our little group.  Many of our usual young adults are heading back to university campuses.

It is finally cool enough to say it’s fall.  The temperature has been in the 50s and 60s.  Finally!  I like turning the heater on instead of the AC.

The PG&E bill is much lower, too.  Good things all around.  Now we just have to prime for the Christmas holiday…followed by Tax Season…Ugh.

Grab some coffee and let’s chat.

 

 

coffee-and-office-stuff-august-27

***

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  Fighting the Distraction Beast

A Look Back:  A Year Ago Here…

Monday Sparks:  Musings…

Tuesday Potpourri:  “The Murder Game”

Hump Day Potpourri:  Reading, Rainy Days, Etc.

Hump Day Reading:  Some Back & Forth Reading…

Bookish Thursday #38:  Serendipitous Moments

Happy Thanksgiving!

Bookish Friday:  “In a Dark, Dark, Wood”

A Foodie Journey:  Stuffed!

Review:  Hillbilly Elegy (e-book), by J. D. Vancecropped-again-5Review:  Inheriting Edith (e-book), by Zoe Fishmanratings-worms-4-croppedReview:  Two If by Sea (e-book), by Jacquelyn Mitchardratings-worms-4-croppedReview:  The Murder Game (e-book), by Catherine McKenzie writing as Julie Applecropped-again-5

***

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

One book came in the mailbox from Amazon Vine; I downloaded an eARC from NetGalley; I purchased two e-books, and received one freebie from Amazon Prime.

Little Deaths, by Emma Flint (Amazon Vine)

 

 

51dk6sirhcl

***

The 4th Man (e-book, short story), by Lisa Gardner (NetGalley – 1/3/17)

 

 

51rozizuthl

***

Purchases:

The Other Widow (e-book), by Susan Crawford

 

 

29336576

***

The Sleeping Beauty Killer (e-book) (Under Suspicion Series), by Mary Higgins Clark/Alafair Burke

 

 

29984659

***

Amazon Prime Freebie:

The Food of Love (e-book), by Amanda Prowse

 

 

410g8rhsrhl

***

WHAT’S UP NEXT?

Currently Reading:  Echoes of Family (e-book), by Barbara Claypole White

 

 

51cj0yy9zjl

***

Then, maybe:

 

While You Were Sleeping (e-book), by Kathryn Croft

 

 

41ejae0lqml

***

Sting (e-book), by Sandra Brown

 

 

30252042

 

***

That was my week.  What did yours look like?  Let’s chat…and meanwhile, I’ll share this delicious lunch I had today: Pot Roast, mashed potatoes, carrots…and a Pomegranate Martini.

 

pot-roast-post-thanksgiving

***

BOOKISH THURSDAY #34: SERENDIPITOUS MOMENTS

bookish-thursdays

Welcome to Thursday, a day that once seemed lost, with nothing exciting happening anywhere.  But then that changed, and today I am celebrating a couple of the bookish events around the blogosphere, like Lexxie’s Thirsty Thursday & Hungry Hearts; and Christine’s Bookish (and not so Bookish) Thoughts.

***

 

 

unConventionalBookViews_Meme-ThirstyThursdayHungryHearts-1-450x200

 

 

Today’s featured book is one I just finished, and it had so many delightful food portions that it was hard to choose.  In the end, I picked an ordinary one that symbolized the reconnecting of our two lovers.  Family Tree, by Susan Wiggs (click for my review), is the story of dreams, love, past love, and all that life throws at two lovers.

 

 

27999250

In this excerpt, Annie and Fletcher are finally together for a special weekend.  A weekend at his comfortable old home, the one they both fell in love with when they first met in high school.

 

After the old-fashioneds and the porch swing, she’d raided the mostly unfortunate supplies in his kitchen—boxed mac and cheese, white wine, a handful of cherry tomatoes and basil from his garden—and put together a dinner from his humble ingredients.  Afterward, they curled up in bed together with bowls of maple-walnut ice cream and listened to Serge Gainsbourg songs drifting from a hidden speaker.

***

I love the sound of the maple-walnut ice cream!

***

 

 

 

picmonkey-collage-textured

  • The week has been much cooler (80s, with the occasional 90), but it is even cooler in the mornings and in the evenings.
  • I’ve been restless, and took my reading with me to lunch on Monday at Marie Callender’s:

 

shepherds-pie-in-oct

 

  • On Tuesday, I participated in a bookish meme, sharing an excerpt from The American Girl.  I plan to read it next.

 

30298775

 

 

heathers-latest

  • I’ve written a post about Cherishing My Interior World:  Balance? ;  I also reexamine the books I continue to add to my stacks.
  • Last week, I was planning to visit my stylist (my daughter), but at the last minute, we rescheduled.  Tomorrow is the day!

***

So…that’s my week so far.  What are you sharing today?

***

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: PRESENT, PAST, & UPCOMING READS

b-n-on-july-20-logo

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.

 

 

 

51zv3sung0l

 

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).

 

 

28926996

 

***

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.

 

 

51yhz5yxzsl-_sx323_bo1204203200_

 

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: BLOGGIESTA IS COMING!

PicMonkey Image-AUGUST FRAMEDST 25 UPDATE

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 temperatures have consistently stayed in the 90s this week, with 80s predicted for the weekend.  Hooray!  Could fall be coming soon?  Knowing our history in these parts, however, I am sure there will be more hot weather before autumn is truly here.

I had a busy week, with lots of errands and beginning-of-the month activities.  On Wednesday, I had a relaxing “stylin’ session” with my daughter at the salon.

My Netflix obsession right now is LongmireOne of the characters I love to hate:  Branch Connally!

My books this week were engaging, with three read and reviewed.  I was going to post this later today after finishing the fourth book, but I decided to go ahead and share where I am so far.  In my Read the Books You Buy Challenge, I am totaling 57 to-date!

For those who participate in Bloggiesta:  it is coming again mid-month.  September 15-18.  Ready, Set, Go!

This past week, one of my blog posts spotlighted some of the books I have purchased for reread…if the time for them ever comes.  Have some coffee and let’s chat!  And for those in the States:  Happy Labor Day Weekend!

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Let’s Curl up and Muse About Books

Tuesday Sparks:  “This Must Be the Place”

Hump Day Reading:  Current, Past, Future Reads

Bookish Thursday #28:  Serendipitous Moments

Wrapping up August

My Interior World:  Vintage & Quirky Tidbits

Bookish Friday:  “I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places”

Review:  The Girls of August (e-book), by Anne Rivers Siddons

ratings worms 4-croppedReview:  Leave Me (e-book), by Gayle Forman (NetGalley – 9/6)

cropped again 5

Review:  This Must Be the Place (e-book), by Maggie O’Farrell

ratings worms 4-cropped

***

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty mailbox!  I did, however, download a couple of e-books.

***

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things (e-book), by Bryn Greenwood

 

 

29480865

***

The Silver Linings Playbook (e-book), by Matthew Quick

 

 

11327145

***

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

Currently Reading:  I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline/Francesca Serritella

 

 

 

29341309

***

Currently Reading:  It Ends with Us (e-book), by Colleen Hoover

 

 

27362503

 

***

Then…more books from Pippa: So Many Possibilities!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

***

Today you’ll find me here in my Cozy Nook…join me for a chat!  What did your week look like?

 

coffee and office stuff - august 27

***

HUMP DAY READING: CURRENT, PAST, FUTURE READS

b & n ON JULY 20-LOGO

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:

This Must Be the Place, by Maggie O’Farrell, has kept me engaged so far.  Daniel Sullivan is the MC, but there are numerous other characters: family members and relationships from the past, as well as the present, and so far, we are diving into them one by one, which makes it hard to really connect to any one character.  Short snippets about each of his kids, from whom he has been separated for years, and moments in the present that spotlight his challenging life with his reclusive actress wife, are what I’m discovering so far.  I hope to finish it today.

 

 

51iDNZinA8L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_

 

***

Finished This Week So Far:

 

The Girls of August, by Anne Rivers Siddons (click for my review) was an enjoyable read about friendship, loss, and finding ways to heal the broken bonds.  Not my favorite from this author, but I gave it four stars.

 

 

 

16131115

 

***

Leave Me, by Gayle Forman, was a NetGalley read that will be released on September 6.  Can I just say I LOVED it?  Click the title for my review of this book that earned 5 stars from me.  A multi-tasking woman with a fast-paced career, active home life with four year old twins, and a husband who always works late and does little around the house.  Now imagine that woman having a heart attack…and needing help for once. 

 

 

28819239

 

***

What Am I Eagerly Anticipating?

I have become a Robyn Carr fan only recently, so I am always eager to read more from her back list…but also every upcoming release.  Therefore, when I found The Life She Wants is coming on September 27, I had to bookmark it.

 

 

514zjwHbiKL

 

Synopsis:  In the aftermath of her financier husband’s suicide, Emma Shay Compton’s dream life is shattered. Richard Compton stole his clients’ life savings to fund a lavish life in New York City and, although she was never involved in the business, Emma bears the burden of her husband’s crimes. She is left with nothing.

Only one friend stands by her, a friend she’s known since high school, who encourages her to come home to Sonoma County. But starting over isn’t easy, and Sonoma is full of unhappy memories, too. And people she’d rather not face, especially Riley Kerrigan.

Riley and Emma were like sisters—until Riley betrayed Emma, ending their friendship. Emma left town, planning to never look back. Now, trying to stand on her own two feet, Emma can’t escape her husband’s reputation and is forced to turn to the last person she thought she’d ever ask for help—her former best friend. It’s an uneasy reunion as both women face the mistakes they’ve made over the years. Only if they find a way to forgive each other—and themselves—can each of them find the life she wants.

***

This one has the ingredients I love in a book.  A tragedy, rediscovering friendships, starting over, and moving beyond betrayal.

That’s my week so far.  What does yours look like?

***

REVIEW: FLIGHT PATTERNS, BY KAREN WHITE

cover resized

 

 

 

A story with themes about journeys beginning and ending, the patterns of flight innumerable, the destination always being home, Flight Patterns takes us along for the ride. We find out more than we ever hoped to know about bees, we learn about loss and those who choose to stay apart rather than to forgive. And finally, we learn about how healing can begin.

Georgia Chambers, living her life in New Orleans, has stayed away from the family home in Apalachicola, Florida, ever since something happened between her and her sister Maisy Sawyers ten years before. Between the two of them, they are keeping the secrets and hanging onto the pain.

Meanwhile, their mother Birdie has not spoken a word for all that time, and the past is suddenly churning up, threatening to explode, right when Georgia returns to Apalachicola with a client in tow. James Graf is hoping to find out about a unique china pattern that belonged to his mother, a Limoges pattern with a unique design of bees circling it. And Georgia happens to be an expert in antiques. She also recalls seeing a soup cup in her own family home, one that might be part of the set.

What will Georgia discover in her quest for the china’s history? How will it take her to a family secret in France, one that might just have something to do with Birdie’s silence? How will a stolen truck only recently recovered help them all sort out the puzzle? And what will finally bring Georgia together with her sister Maisy, her niece Becky, and start the forgiveness process?

What a great story! I must admit that Georgia was my favorite character, with Becky my second favorite. I never warmed up to Maisy, really disliking her tendency to blame everyone else and not acknowledge her own faults. But in the end, she started to grow on me. James was delightful, and I kept rooting for him and his own healing. 5 stars.

FALLING, BY JANE GREEN

28110094

 

 

 

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.