Saturday, December 09, 2017

Review: Christmas on the Coast

About the Book:

Christmas is approaching on the island of Jersey, but Libby is feeling far from festive. Her police work and duties as vicar’s wife weigh heavily on her, she’s anxious about her troubled children, and now her best friend, Stella, has suddenly turned against her, citing a mysterious family grudge.

Libby is devastated by Stella’s unexpected coldness. But then her father shows her a diary written by her great-aunt Queenie, which sheds light on a long-hidden secret—one rooted in love, loyalty and betrayal. Writing during the Nazi occupation of Jersey in the winter of 1941, Queenie reveals a community torn apart by illicit romance, heartbreak and revenge—and by dark acts of fear and desperation.

The more Libby immerses herself in Queenie’s journal, the more she understands why its secrets still haunt her family and Stella’s. Christmas is a time of forgiveness, but is the treachery of their shared past too shameful to be forgotten?

My Comments:

This is one of those book I always thought would be better than what it turned out to be.  I loved the setting--the island of Jersey, in between England and France.  I loved the dual time lines--part of the book was set during WWII and part of it was in 2016.  I liked the way the WWII story was told via journal entries.  

What didn't I like?  Well, the whole story about Stella turning away from her because of a family grudge.  These women had been friends through thick and thin since they were kids (now they have grown kids) and they knew there had "always" been problems between the families and now that she knew the reason (something that obviously had nothing to do with their generation) Stella was going to leave a close friend?  Sorry, I don't buy it.  

Other than that, it was a feel-good Christmas read and just the thing for a cold afternoon.  Grade:  B-

I'd like to thank the publisher for making the book available via NetGalley.  I was not obligated to write a positive review.  If you have Kindle Unlimited, this book is part of it.  

Friday, December 01, 2017

The Only Girl In the World: My Review

About the Book:

Maude Julien's parents were fanatics who believed it was their sacred duty to turn her into the ultimate survivor - raising her in isolation, tyrannizing her childhood and subjecting her to endless drills designed to "eliminate weakness." Maude learned to hold an electric fence for minutes without flinching, and to sit perfectly still in a rat-infested cellar all night long (her mother sewed bells onto her clothes that would give her away if she moved). She endured a life without heat, hot water, adequate food, friendship, or any kind of affectionate treatment.

But Maude's parents could not rule her inner life. Befriending the animals on the lonely estate as well as the characters in the novels she read in secret, young Maude nurtured in herself the compassion and love that her parents forbid as weak. And when, after more than a decade, an outsider managed to penetrate her family's paranoid world, Maude seized her opportunity. 

By turns horrifying and magical, The Only Girl in the World is a story that will grip you from the first page and leave you spellbound, a chilling exploration of psychological control that ends with a glorious escape.

My Comments:

Most of the time when I think of child abuse I think of adults who cannot control their tempers or who sexually abuse children or who neglect them.  I don't think of people who purposefully set out to conceive and raise a child who knows no tenderness or care.  Showing emotions such as fear or love--or even showing that you had a preference about things was considered a weakness in her family and weaknesses were things to be eliminated.

Maude was removed from school when she was four and the family moved to a large estate.  Her contact with outsiders became less and less frequent until she was a teen.  She managed to "escape" because a tutor realized how bad things were and convinced her parents that things would be worse at his school.  

Surprisingly, Maude made it out alive, and with her sense of humanity intact.  My heartstrings tugged as a read what happened to her as a child and I kept wondering how many people had any idea what was happening to her.  I kept wondering what could have been done to help her.  As a volunteer who works with children in my Catholic parish, I have to attend "Safe Environment" training regularly and one of the topics is recongizing characteristics of abused children.  Hopefully, if I ever have an abused child in my groups I will recongize it and be able to help the child.  

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B+

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Snow Country Christmas: My Review

About the Book:

Raine McCall would take snow-covered mountains over a star-studded premiere any day. But when hotshot movie executive Mick Branson arranges dinner on Christmas Eve to discuss a work opportunity, she's intrigued—by the offer and the man. She's a no-makeup, no-frills single mom, who's happy with her quiet life. Sharing chili cheeseburgers and sizzling kisses with Mick is sure heating up her holiday, but country girl and power player don't mix… 

It's not just work that's brought Mick back to Mustang Creek. Since he first visited to oversee a documentary, free-spirited graphic designer Raine has been in his head. Her approach to life is as unconventional as her quirky holiday ornaments. Their attraction is undeniable—and so are their differences. Putting down roots in the Wild West wasn't in the script. But there are some Christmas gifts you can't walk away from, even when they turn your whole world upside down…

My Comments:

What's not to like?  She's the mother of a precious little girl, and while she and the father get along, they were never married and she likes her single life, most of the time.  He met her when he had business with the father of her child and he hopes this business trip turns into more.

The setting is beautiful--ranch country with mountains and snow, horses and dogs.  Everyone looks great in their jeans and family is everything.  With some Christmas love in the air, what more could you want? 

If you are looking for a book with intricate plot turns, lots of symbolism and an ambiguous ending, this isn't it.  It's a Christmas romance and things happen pretty much as expected, and sometimes, that's a good thing. 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Book Review: Little Broken Things

About the Book:

An engrossing and suspenseful novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Amy Hatvany about an affluent suburban family whose carefully constructed facade starts to come apart with the unexpected arrival of an endangered young girl.

I have something for you. When Quinn Cruz receives that cryptic text message from her older sister Nora, she doesn’t think much of it. They haven’t seen each other in nearly a year and thanks to Nora’s fierce aloofness, their relationship consists mostly of infrequent phone calls and an occasional email or text. But when a haunted Nora shows up at the lake near Quinn's house just hours later, a chain reaction is set into motion that will change both of their lives forever.

Nora’s “something” is more shocking than Quinn could have ever imagined: a little girl, cowering, wide-eyed, and tight-lipped. Nora hands her over to Quinn with instructions to keep her safe, and not to utter a word about the child to anyone, especially not their buttoned-up mother who seems determined to pretend everything is perfect. But before Quinn can ask even one of the million questions swirling around her head, Nora disappears, and Quinn finds herself the unlikely caretaker of a girl introduced simply as Lucy.

While Quinn struggles to honor her sister’s desperate request and care for the lost, scared Lucy, she fears that Nora may have gotten involved in something way over her head—something that will threaten them all. But Quinn’s worries are nothing compared to the firestorm that Nora is facing. It’s a matter of life and death, of family and freedom, and ultimately, about the lengths a woman will go to protect the ones she loves.

My Comments:

I love Nicole Baart's writing.  I love her word choice, the pictures she paints with her writing, the way her writing sounds when read aloud.   Reading what she writes is an absolute joy, and she is one of only a few authors who get that type of accolade from me.  Most of the time, the words are a medium, a way to get the story across--nothing more or less.  I don't notice them unless the writing is, in my opinion, extraordinarily good like Baart's or extraordinarily bad (like many of the free/cheap ebooks on Amazon). 

Unfortunately, as has been the case with some of her other books, I don't like the ending of this story.  It just didn't seem realistic.  Too many things had to happen just the way they did for everyone to get the happily ever after that they got.

One of the characters is a woman in her 50's, and while perhaps our social classes are different, and that accounts for the different lifestyle, I found the things she did and the life she led to be more typical of women in my mother's generation than of women in mine (I'm in my mid-50's). 

I'd like to thank the publisher for making a review copy available via NetGalley.  Grade:  B.  

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