REVIEW: ALL YOUR PERFECTS, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

 

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

My Thoughts: They met on what could have been the worst day of their lives. In a hallway outside an apartment that would reveal a betrayal for each of them. But they turned those moments into a beginning. Of something more. Something better.

Quinn and Graham did connect after that horrible day, and what started in those moments would turn into something wonderful. And sad. Could they rise about the imperfections? Would all that was perfect between them lose its luster as they forgot the good they still could have?

I enjoyed how All Your Perfects flipped back and forth between “then” and “now,” and how a traumatic event that would definitely bring an end to one of their biggest dreams could be a turning point. Something that would take them back to the beginning and to a special box that contained treasures from times before. I came to care about these characters and how they managed to change the course of their relationship. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE WIFE BETWEEN US, BY GREER HENDRICKS & SARAH PEKKANEN

 

When you read this book, you will make many assumptions.
You will assume you are reading about a jealous ex-wife.
You will assume she is obsessed with her replacement – a beautiful, younger woman who is about to marry the man they both love.
You will assume you know the anatomy of this tangled love triangle.
Assume nothing.
Twisted and deliciously chilling, The Wife Between Us exposes the secret complexities of an enviable marriage – and the dangerous truths we ignore in the name of love.

Read between the lies.

 

My Thoughts: My initial experiences in The Wife Between Us felt like looking through a kaleidoscope, the images shifting and surreal. The story seemed to tell different versions of reality from the perspectives of the wife and the girl friend. But as I turned the pages, I could see that nothing was shaping up the way I had imagined it to be. Through my confusion, I slowly began to glimpse the many ever-changing layers of the story, constantly in flux.

What do we really know about Richard? How could someone who seemed to be caring and loving one minute turn dark and dangerous? How do Vanessa’s experiences inform what happens to Emma, and how did their choices come about because of Richard’s actions? Then I wondered if I could be wrong. Should I go back and start again, with a fresh perspective? The authors have a way of keeping the reader slightly off-balance throughout, thinking one thing is true, only to discover the subtleties of reality.

Would Vanessa risk everything to bring out the truth? How would she manage to turn the tables on Richard, keeping him in the dark until she had finished what she’d set out to do?

Veering between the past and the present, the story is like a giant 1000 piece puzzle with numerous intricacies and deliberately shifting borders. Just when you have it all pieced together, another player dumps it out and you have to start again. This pattern continued through the final page, when still another shocking surprise popped up and I was thrown back to the beginning, awed by the serendipitous events that had transpired. 5 stars.*** My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: A SEPARATION, BY KATIE KITAMURA

This is her story. About the end of her marriage. About what happened when Christopher went missing and she went to find him. These are her secrets, this is what happened…

A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love.

MY THOUGHTS:  In the mind of the unnamed woman who goes to Greece to search for her husband are the conflicting thoughts about their lives together and about what broke them apart.

She is propelled forward by the insistent voice of her mother-in-law, Isabella, but once she arrives in Greece, she is puzzled by the state of her husband’s hotel room. While he was not a neatnik, he was also not the sort of man who would leave this kind of disarray. After she has the staff box up his things, she stays on at the hotel for a while longer. She asks some questions, she ponders what she does know, and she considers the possibilities.

Then Christopher’s body is found. He had died due to blunt force trauma.

Now she is not quite sure how to feel, since they were unofficially separated, and there were issues of infidelity.

Why does she not tell anyone that the two were separated? What does Isabella say and do that will somehow make her decision for her?

My thoughts had me wondering why the story is told from the perspective of the unnamed wife. Does the fact of her namelessness reflect how unimportant she was to him? Could there be more to the story? By the end, we never find suitable answers to these questions, nor do we see a satisfactory resolution. We see characters adrift in a state of limbo.

The writing style, with the passive voice and the absence of quotation marks, kept me detached and uninterested in what might unfold as the days and weeks went by. A Separation could have been a compelling story, but for me, it was only okay. 3 stars.

***

REVIEW: ALMOST MISSED YOU, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 

 

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My Thoughts: From the very first pages of Almost Missed You, I felt a connection to the character of Violet, and her serendipitous first meeting with Finn. I was reminded of occasions in my own life when events happened in such a way that they seemed “meant to be,” so I could totally relate to Violet’s feelings about her missed connections with Finn, and how happy she was that they finally connected. It did seem fated.But as we soon find out in this back and forth storyline, the fault might have been “in their stars.” Or in their overly persistent push to make these connections happen. Finn’s secrets were the huge stumbling block for them, once they did connect. And when events began to unravel, with secrets revealed in a most hurtful way, I was sure that his past would be too much for them to overcome. But could they find a new starting point?

Of course, Violet’s share of the responsibility lay in her failure to probe more into Finn’s past. Did she really ever know him?

Then there were the two “best friends,” Caitlin and George, and how their own actions and lack of transparency had contributed to it all.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, hoping for some kind of resolution, eagerly waiting to see if Violet would reunite with her child. The fate of the other characters seemed less important to me, as I definitely rooted mostly for her. A book worthy of 5 stars.

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

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “A SEPARATION”

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 relatively new download for me:  A Separation, by Katie Kitamura, who, with exquisitely cool precision, propels us into the experience of a woman on edge, with a fiercely mesmerizing story to tell.

 

 

Beginning:  It began with a telephone call from Isabella.  She wanted to know where Christopher was, and I was put in the awkward position of having to tell her that I didn’t know.  To her this must have sounded incredible.  I didn’t tell her that Christopher and I had separated six months earlier, and that I hadn’t spoken to her son in nearly a month.

***

56:  Later that afternoon, I hired a taxi and drove to one of the small villages inland.  I imagined Christopher must have done the same at some point—there was only so much time you could spend on the terrace, by the pool, or otherwise within the confines of the hotel before tedium set in.

***

Synopsis:  A young woman has agreed with her faithless husband: it’s time for them to separate. For the moment it’s a private matter, a secret between the two of them. As she begins her new life, she gets word that Christopher has gone missing in a remote region in the rugged south of Greece; she reluctantly agrees to go look for him, still keeping their split to herself. In her heart, she’s not even sure if she wants to find him. As her search comes to a shocking breaking point, she discovers she understands less than she thought she did about her relationship and the man she used to love. 

A searing, suspenseful story of intimacy and infidelity, A Separation lays bare what divides us from the inner lives of others.

***

What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

***

SERENDIPITOUS WEDNESDAYS: WAITING FOR “SIRACUSA”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we search out upcoming book releases…and then gather around the blogosphere, sharing our thoughts and blurbs. Today’s spotlight is shining on Delia Ephron’s Siracusa, an electrifying novel about marriage and deceit from bestselling author Delia Ephron that follows two couples on vacation in Siracusa, a town on the coast of Sicily, where the secrets they have hidden from each other are exposed and relationships are unraveled.   Release Date:  July 12, 2016.

 

 

 

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Synopsis:  New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn, his wife Taylor, and their daughter Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present.  Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. With her inimitable psychological astuteness, and uncanny understanding of the human heart, Ephron delivers a powerful meditation on marriage, friendship, and the meaning of travel. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea, Siracusa unfolds with the pacing of a psychological thriller and delivers an unexpected final act that none can see coming.

***

I am a fan of all the Ephrons, so this book is one I’m very eager to get my hands on.  What are you sharing today?  Please comment and leave your links.

***

REVIEW: LOSING ME, BY SUE MARGOLIS

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From the very first pages, I was engaged with the MC Barbara Stirling, a woman approaching her 60s, satisfied with her teaching job, a bit less satisfied with her marriage…a woman with good friends and enough money to get along.

Just as she grew more involved with one of her more troubled students, the axe fell. Barbara was being made “redundant.” Suddenly, all the other aspects of her life seem more troubling, and her husband’s weeks and months away, making documentaries, begin to feel like abandonment.

These feelings remind her of her childhood and her emotionally unavailable parents. Rose, her mother, is in her eighties, and still seems to be demanding and ungiving.

A series of panic attacks bring these long-ago issues to the forefront…and Barbara must look into her soul to confront them. What will she do now? How can she change her marriage? What, if anything, can she do about her relationship with her mother?

Barbara’s narrative was engrossing, and I could relate to some of her issues. I enjoyed the dialogue and her thoughts about her grown children: Ben, who is unemployed, and still living at home; and Jess, married to Matt and the mother of two, who has embraced a “hippie” lifestyle that includes some questionable practices. Some of these moments were hilarious, and while I empathized with Barbara—who doesn’t want to knock some sense into their adult children?—I also could relate to the children wanting to do things their way.

Soul searching and some attitudinal changes made Losing Me a thoroughly compelling read. Set in and near London, I felt as though I were right there, along with the characters, several of whom were like people I wanted to know. I will be searching for more books from this author. 4.5 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAY: INTROS/TEASERS – “DAUGHTERS-IN-LAW”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today I am featuring one of my newer books from a favorite author:  Daughters-in-Law, by Joanna Trollope.

 

 

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Intro:  From the front pew, Anthony had an uninterrupted view of the back of the girl who was about to become his third daughter-in-law.  The church had a wide aisle, and a broad carpeted space below the shallow chancel steps, where the four little bridesmaids had plopped themselves down, in the pink silk nests of their skirts, during the address, so that there was a clear line of sight between Anthony and the bridal pair.

The bride, tightly swathed in ivory satin, seemed to Anthony to have the seductively imprisoned air of a landlocked mermaid.  Her dress fitted closely—very closely—from below her shoulders to her knees and then fanned out into soft folds, and a fluid little train, which spilled carelessly down the chancel steps behind her.  Anthony’s gaze traveled slowly from the crown of her pale cropped head, veiled in gauze and scattered with flowers, down to her invisible feet, and then back up again to rest on the unquestionably satisfactory curves of her waist and hips.  She has, Anthony thought, a gorgeous figure, even it is improper for her almost father-in-law to think such a thing.  Gorgeous.

***

Teaser:  Luke took Charlotte to Venice for their honeymoon.  The man who had preceded Luke in Charlotte’s life had worked in the City, on a busy and hugely successful trading floor, and his taste in holidays ran to Thailand and the Maldives, just as his leisure tastes had included cross-dressing and cocaine (p. 35).

***

Blurb:  As Anthony and Rachel Brinkley welcome their third daughter-in-law to the family, they don’t quite realize the profound shift that is about to take place. For different reasons, the Brinkleys’ two previous daughters-in-law hadn’t been able to resist Rachel’s maternal control and Anthony’s gentle charm and had settled into their husbands’ family without rocking the boat.

But Charlotte—very young, very beautiful, and spoiled—has no intention of falling into step with the Brinkleys and wants to establish her own household. Soon Rachel’s sons begin to think of their own houses as home and of their mother’s house as simply the place where their parents live—a necessary and inevitable shift of loyalties that threatens Rachel’s sense of herself, breaks Anthony’s heart, and causes unexpected consequences in all the marriages. Then a crisis brings these changes to the surface, and everyone has to learn what family love means all over again.

***

What do you think?  Does it pique your interest?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: THE LAST FIRST DAY, BY CARRIE BROWN

17288602Ruth and Peter van Dusen have stood together for more than fifty years, and on the first day of the term in the Derry School for Boys in Northern Maine, they are still together, but facing what lies ahead for them, now that Peter will likely retire soon. Will this be his final year? And, if so, what will become of them? They have lived in the headmaster’s cottage for forty years. Where would they go?

We meet Ruth first, in this story that weaves the past and present together, but begins in the year that Ruth and Peter are in their late seventies. They have been childless all their married lives, and despite Ruth’s own university education at Smith, Peter has mostly been the primary breadwinner.

As we follow them into the past, we learn more about how their lives became intertwined, almost serendipitously, in their childhoods.

Was it love at first sight for the two of them, in the small Massachusetts town where they first met? And were they drawn together because it was forbidden? Or was there an explosive spark that was inevitable?

When something tragically alters their lives going forward in that year when they were in their seventies, they are forced to move on….and perhaps, to look backwards, to find the core of strength that has sustained them.

In their younger years, as Ruth struggled to find her own place, she returned regularly for many of those years to Dr. Wenning, the psychiatrist for whom she worked back then, but who has remained a confidante and support system for Ruth, helping her make sense of her past. The secrets she carried with her always would inform her present and future, but she seemed to make peace with them.

I enjoyed the back and forth flow of The Last First Day: A Novel, as it helped me understand more about this couple, who could seem, in their twilight years, to be just an ordinary husband and wife facing retirement. They are so much more…and at the end, I was sad to say goodbye to them. I liked how, in the ending, the author took us back again to reveal additional details about them. I wanted to know more about the past secrets that were never revealed, however, but perhaps the mystery was more like real life. A journey through the years from 1945-to the twenty-first century, the story centers on themes of family, careers, and women’s issues. Four stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS – HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Today’s feature is one of my books for this week:  How To Be a Good Wife, by Emma Chapman, an ARC from Amazon Vine.

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Intro:  Today, somehow, I am a smoker.

I did not know this about myself.  As far as I remember, I have never smoked before.

It feels unnatural, ill-fitting, for a woman of my age:  a wife, a mother with a grown-up son, to sit in the middle of the day with a cigarette between her fingers.   Hector hates smoking.  He always coughs sharply when we walk behind someone smoking on the street, and I imagine his vocal cords rubbing together, moist and pink like chicken flesh.

I rub the small white face of my watch.  Twelve fifteen.  By this time, I am usually working on something in the kitchen.  I must prepare supper for this evening, the recipe book propped open on the stand that Hector bought me for an early wedding anniversary.  I must make bread:  mix the ingredients in a large bowl, knead it on the cold wooden worktop, watch it rise in the oven.  Hector likes to have fresh bread in the mornings.  Make your home a place of peace and order.

***

Teaser:  The glow of the shop emerges out of the lowering fog.  My headlights make it swirl, the light losing itself in the opaque white air.  When I turn off the engine, the silence is total.  (p. 136).

***

Blurb:   In the tradition of Emma Donoghue’s Room and S.J. Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep, How To Be a Good Wife by Emma Chapman is a haunting literary debut about a woman who begins having visions that make her question everything she knows

Marta and Hector have been married for a long time. Through the good and bad; through raising a son and sending him off to life after university. So long, in fact, that Marta finds it difficult to remember her life before Hector. He has always taken care of her, and she has always done everything she can to be a good wife—as advised by a dog-eared manual given to her by Hector’s aloof mother on their wedding day.

But now, something is changing. Small things seem off. A flash of movement in the corner of her eye, elapsed moments that she can’t recall. Visions of a blonde girl in the darkness that only Marta can see. Perhaps she is starting to remember—or perhaps her mind is playing tricks on her. As Marta’s visions persist and her reality grows more disjointed, it’s unclear if the danger lies in the world around her, or in Marta herself. The girl is growing more real every day, and she wants something.

***

What do you think?  Haunting?  Eerie?  Crazy?  I know I can’t wait to read it.