Leaving Haven is a wonderful novel about friendship, family and marriage. Georgia is married to John, a sexy, hardworking chef, and they have teenage...moreLeaving Haven is a wonderful novel about friendship, family and marriage. Georgia is married to John, a sexy, hardworking chef, and they have teenage daughter Liza. Georgia has been trying for years to have a second child, but she has suffered many miscarriages and has just about given up all hope when her best friend Alice offers to donate a egg.
Alice is married to Duncan, a practical, hardworking lawyer who provided a safe haven for Alice, the only child of a single woman who would frequently leave young Alice on her own while she worked and socialized. Their daughter Wren is best friends with Liza.
The novel opens with Georgia, having just given birth to her son, abandoning him at the hospital. John is frantic and calls Alice to help him with the baby, who won't stop crying. Why has Georgia left the baby and her family behind? She had postpartum depression when Liza was born, but what would make her leave this baby whom she so desperately wanted?
The chapters alternate between Alice and Georgia, as well as back in time, as we learn the story behind Georgia's disappearance. Alice and Georgia have two very different personalities. Alice describes Georgia as " open, honest, direct." She was "the quintessential earth mother, with her rambling old Victorian house and the bright colored skirts she wore (which she sewed herself) and her tendency to call everyone "darling" or "sweetie". She even bakes cakes for a living, a nurturing profession.
Georgia lost her mom when she was twelve and became a mother figure to her younger sisters Polly and Chessy. Polly is mom to four youngsters and Chessy is the youngest, still trying to find herself, and the relationship among the sisters was my favorite part of the book; it was the one relationship that rang most true to me. I would love to see more of the sisters, maybe in a later book.
Alice was, according to Georgia, "all the things that Georgia wasn't- confident, organized, practical. Georgia felt reassured by Alice's steadiness, her unflappable common-sense approach to everything." Alice taught economics part-time at a local college, matching her personality.
While Georgia is on bedrest for the baby and going stir crazy, a problem arises between Liza and Wren. Alice would normally go to Georgia with this, but Georgia can't be upset right now. Duncan quit his job and took a much lower paying one without talking it over with Alice, and Alice's unreliable mother is moving to Argentina. All these things combine to make Alice feel unmoored and she makes a bad decision.
I have to admit to having a hard time understanding Alice and what she does, but this paragraph helped. "I've never done anything out of passion in my whole life." Alice said. "I've been mature and responsible since I was four. And the bullying with Wren- it made me so angry; I didn't know what to do with all that feeling." After reading that, I had a better handle on Alice and I'm sure that there will be more than a few people who read that and understand where she is coming from.
I enjoyed the locales that appeared in the book- the Amtrak train to Albany, Rehoboth Beach in Delaware and Kramerbooks in Washington D.C. are all places I am familiar with, and I got a kick out of seeing them here.
The book could have become a little nighttime soap-opera-y, but McCleary makes the reader feel for the people and root for them to work it all out. I liked that the ending is open, as this is a situation that can't be resolved overnight or in a month or a year. (less)
Cindy Thomson's Ellis Island series began with Grace's Pictures, about a young Irish immigrant who comes to New York City at the turn of the 20th cent...moreCindy Thomson's Ellis Island series began with Grace's Pictures, about a young Irish immigrant who comes to New York City at the turn of the 20th century. She finds work as a nanny for a family and a room at a boarding house run by a kind Christian woman, and becomes enthralled by photography.
The second book in the series is Annie's Stories, about another young Irish immigrant who lives in the same boarding house. Annie is the housekeeper at Mrs. Hawkins' boarding house. She was raised by her father, a storyteller called a seanchaithe, in Ireland. When her father died and Annie went to live with her an uncle, who treated her poorly.
Her uncle shipped her off to the Magdalene Laundries, a horrible place for girls who are abandoned by their families. Many of the girls were pregnant and gave birth to babies there. (The Magdalene Laundries have been in the news over the last year, and the Oscar-nominated movie Philomena dealt with this issue as well.)
Eventually Annie was sent to New York to live. Annie's father left her with a small writing desk, filled with children's stories he created for Annie. She treasured these stories, and reading them gave her great comfort.
The local postman, Stephen, has a crush on Annie, but he hasn't worked up the courage to tell her. They both enjoy reading, and Stephen suggests that they read the hottest book in publishing, The Wizard of Oz, so that they could discuss it together.
As someone who loves to read, I really enjoyed the role that books and the publishing industry played in the story. Stephen lives above a publisher's offices, and we get to glimpse how publishing worked in the early 1900s.
Thomson does a great deal of research for her books, and because of that, the reader feels dropped right into the middle of this fascinating era in New York City. There is a subplot that involves the Pinkerton Detectives and another boarder, and the steely resolve that Mrs. Hawkins shows in dealing with an unpleasant situation is impressive.
Annie's faith is a very important part of her life, and it informs everything she does. Mrs. Hawkins is a deeply religious woman as well, and their strength of faith is inspirational to readers.
I so enjoyed catching up with Grace as they all prepare for her wedding to Sgt. McNulty, a policeman. Perhaps we might see another wedding in a future Ellis Island book?
Anyone who wants to add to their reading list will have some new suggestions too, from Jules Verne's Facing the Flag to H.G. Wells First Man on the Moon and of course, Frank L. Baum's The Wizard of Oz, which plays such a big role.
If you enjoy historical fiction and Christian fiction, Annie's Stories is a must-read for you. I felt like I was catching up with old friends, and made some new ones that I hope to meet up with again the near future. (less)
The issue of domestic violence is at the forefront of many conversations today, in part due to the horrific video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice...moreThe issue of domestic violence is at the forefront of many conversations today, in part due to the horrific video of Baltimore Ravens player Ray Rice knocking his fiancee out with a punch. Randy Susan Myers' timely novel Accidents of Marriage investigates what happens when a man who loses his temper too frequently finally loses control and it costs those he loves a great deal.
Maddie is a social worker married to Ben, a public defender celebrated for his passion and intelligence in his work. He is looked up to by his colleagues and worshipped by his female intern. But Ben has a terrible temper, one that only his wife and three children- 14 year-old Emma, 9 year-old Gracie and 7 year-old Caleb- have seen up close.
Ben verbally abuses his family and they live in fear of his outbursts, where he occasionally throws plates crashing into the wall. The slightest thing out of the ordinary- dirty dishes in the sink, clothes on the floor- send him into an uncontrollable rage.
Funny thing about people who say they can't control their rage; they seem to be able to control it just fine at the office. They never scream at colleagues or clients; they save that for their family.
Maddie has to call Ben to pick her up when her car gets towed for having an expired registration. Ben is late for a meeting, furious at Maddie for not taking care of the registration, and on a rain soaked road, he gets into a road rage incident and while speeding has an accident that leaves Maddie fighting for her life.
Ben is injured, but Maddie is in a coma. Her family, her parents and sister Vanessa, who doesn't like Ben, are all there. The children are there too, but they are not allowed in the ICU area, so the three young children are in a separate waiting area- all alone.
That really bugged me. There are several adults waiting, any one of whom could have gone and sat with these frightened children, who had no idea what was going on with their mother. The judgement of the adults in this situation left me dumbfounded. How could no one comfort those children?
The story is told from three perspectives; Maddie, Ben and Emma all get to tell their stories. It is heartbreaking to see this family torn apart, and difficult to see Maddie try and put her life together after a serious traumatic brain injury. She has to start from the beginning and learn how to do everything from walking to talking to cooking, and her frustration comes through clearly on the page.
Much of the day-to-day care of the house and the other children is left to Emma. Poor Emma gets overlooked, and so much is dumped into her lap, again without the adults thinking about how she is doing. I felt most deeply for Emma.
Meyers does a wonderful job making us feel what this family is going through. Ben still has his anger issues, Maddie is trying to pick up the pieces of her life and figure out just what happened, and the children are struggling too. There is no miracle cure for Maddie, she must fight everyday and it exhausts her.
The characters are realistic, and some even unlikable (and not just Ben, I didn't like Vanessa either). The Wednesday Blues Club, made up of women who live with domestic violence in their lives, is a support group that Maddie started in her job and when she returns after her injury, she has a new understanding and it causes her to rethink her own life choices.
Accidents of Marriage is a terrific book club pick; there are so many meaty things to discuss in this book. (less)
Kelly Kittel's book, Breathe, is subtitled A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief and Family Conflict, so you know before beginning it that you'd better have t...moreKelly Kittel's book, Breathe, is subtitled A Memoir of Motherhood, Grief and Family Conflict, so you know before beginning it that you'd better have the tissues ready.
Kelly always wanted to have a big family. She and her husband Andy have three young children, Hannah, Christiana and Micah, when she happily discovers that she is pregnant with their fourth child. They rent a home from Andy's older sister Cody and her husband, who live across the street from them.
Andy is the youngest of eight children, and his siblings and parents are never shy about telling Andy and Kelly how to live their lives. They are particularly adamant in telling Andy that four children are enough and encourage him to get a vasectomy, even if he has to go behind Kelly's back to do it.
Kelly's East Coast, Mayflower ancestor family is very different from Andy's raucous, emotional family, and anyone who is married may understand how difficult it can be learning to get along with people so dissimilar from your own family.
Baby Noah is born, and all is well. Kelly and Andy are happy with their family, though Cody's constant need to control everyone around her is grating on Kelly. Cody's teenage daughters' disrespectful attitude towards them is also a problem.
While attending a family reunion at Andy's parents, Cody's daughter Cally accidentally runs over 15 month-old Noah and he has a traumatic brain injury. He is helicoptered to a nearby hospital, but when Andy and Kelly arrive, they are told that Noah was being kept alive with machines only long enough for them to say goodbye.
Noah's death devastates the family. Kelly and Andy wait for an apology from Cally, but it never comes. They try to get Cally and Cody to come with them to counseling to try and get through it, but Cody refuses. Kelly asks Cody to please sell the Tahoe that ran over her son because it pains her to see it sitting in the driveway across the street, but Cody refuses.
Kelly finds herself pregnant again and hopes that new life with bring the family some joy. While her first four pregnancies were uneventful, she has problems with her blood pressure this time and has to see a specialist.
Kelly chose a women's practice that has many midwives on staff, and she seems to see a different one every time. Her blood pressure is frequently measured, and she sees the doctor or midwife at least once a week, and even every day near the end when she is put on bed rest.
There comes a time when Kelly is at the hospital and has to decide whether to induce labor or wait a little longer to allow the baby's lungs to grow more mature. She is not given all the information she needs and decides to wait.
That decision cost her baby Jonah his life. Kelly has a placental abruption and Jonah dies in utero. Kelly and Andy have to tell their young children that they have once again lost a brother, and this second death in nine months is almost more than they can take.
Andy's family seems to want to blame Kelly for Jonah and Noah's deaths. They treat her horribly, and eventually Kelly convinces Andy to move away from his family in Oregon across the country to Rhode Island where her family lives.
Kelly becomes pregnant again, and is shocked when her new doctor reviews her previous medical history and tells her that Jonah never should have died. Her doctors and the hospital were negligent. Kelly and Andy decide to sue the doctor.
This decision causes a permanent rift in Andy's family, with his sisters siding with the negligent doctor. This floors Andy and Kelly. The courtroom scenes are as riveting as any John Grisham novel, but all this is true.
Cody actually testifies for the defense, and it is so hard to believe that anyone could do that to their own flesh and blood. Her behavior is appalling. Cody's daughters, including Cally, sit daily in the courtroom, taunting Andy and Kelly with their smirks and looks and reporting back to Cody what was happening in the courtroom.
Kelly suffers many more miscarriages, and I don't know where she has the faith to keep trying. I could never do that. Reading Breathe I was struck by Andy and Kelly's strength, by what loving, wonderful parents they are to their children and how deeply committed they are to their family. The fact that they were abandoned by Andy's family makes that hurt so much more.
I took away a few important things from Kelly's book; one is the importance of doing your research when it comes to choosing doctors and understanding your medical options. You cannot rely only on what your doctor tells you.
The other is that if you are in a toxic relationship, no matter who it is with, you must get out of it. You cannot change other people, you can only change your reaction. Don't let unhappy people take you down with them.
Breathe is such an incredible story, if you told me it was fiction I would say you had quite an imagination. The fact that this is all true makes it all the more remarkable. That Kelly Kittel lived through it is amazing, the fact that she lived it all over again writing a book about it is astonishing. (less)
Sometimes a book evokes a time and a place so well, the reader feels like she's been dropped into it. That is the feeling I had reading Marjorie Reyno...moreSometimes a book evokes a time and a place so well, the reader feels like she's been dropped into it. That is the feeling I had reading Marjorie Reynold's The Starlite Drive-in.
Set in the hot, dusty summer of 1956 in a small Indiana town, I felt like I had to turn on the air conditioning to cool off, even though it was a cold winter day in New York City where I was reading the novel.
The book opens in the 1990s, where human remains are found at the old drive-in that Callie Anne's dad ran in the 1950s. Callie Anne, her dad Claude, and her mom Teal lived in a house on the drive-in property, and practically their entire lives revolved around around the drive-in.
For Teal, her entire life revolved around her house. Something happened to Teal a few years back; she became severely agoraphobic, unable to leave her home. This also meant that Claude and Callie Anne were stuck there too, something for which Claude resented Teal. He treated his wife and daughter poorly, yelling at them, talking down to them, calling them names; they walked on eggshells around Claude.
One day, a drifter named Memphis got a job working at the drive-in. Callie Anne, just beginning adolescence, fell hard for the good-looking, mysterious man. Memphis was a quiet man, but he had a connection with Teal. He didn't like the way Claude treated Teal, and began to fall in love with her. His presence at the drive-in changed everything for Callie Anne's family that summer.
Reynold's novel cast a spell on the reader. The characters are fleshed out and interesting, from the major ones like Callie, Memphis, Teal and Claude to the minor ones, like Teal's strong-willed sister Bliss, and Virgil, the young man who worked at the drive-in and with whom Callie begins a tender relationship. I liked how most of the characters were good at heart, but people with flaws, desires and hopes.
Although the story is told from Callie Anne's point of view, it was Teal's journey that moved me most. She went from a timid, lonely woman to someone who blossomed as she attempted to overcome her agoraphobia and open herself up to love. I loved her inner strength.
There is some action in the book, even a few scenes that will make you hold your breath. The story reminded me of The Last Picture Show (the movie, as I have never read the book), even down to the movie reference in the titles. It has a small 1950s town, characters with secrets, illicit love and a languid pace.
I think Callie summed it all up best when she said "I didn't know how to express what was really bothering me. It was tied up with loving Charlie Memphis and losing a dream and thinking life was too complicated and hard on people. There was even something to do with responsibility, but I couldn't make sense of it."
Life was hard on the people on The Starlite Drive-in, just like it is on many people. I have a feeling I won't soon forget them. (less)
Firefly Lane was the breakout novel for Kristin Hannah. It was the first novel she wrote in an all-female point of view, and the book she says where s...moreFirefly Lane was the breakout novel for Kristin Hannah. It was the first novel she wrote in an all-female point of view, and the book she says where she found her voice.
It's 1974 and Kate Mularkey lives with her family in a Seattle suburb. She is not a popular eighth-grader, wears all the wrong things, gets picked on in school. All that changes when cool girl Tully moves in across the street with her hippie, drug-addicted mother.
Tully is basically raising herself, trying to care for her mom and run a house on her own. She hides her mother from everyone, telling Kate her mom has cancer. Tully lives on the wild side, and one night things go too far and it is Kate who is there to help her cope.
They become inseparable best friends forever, and everyone refers to them as one word-TullyandKate. Kate's mom finds out about Tully's mother's drug issues, and opens her home to Tully. She gives Tully the confidence to believe that she can have a bright future as a journalist, and Kate reluctantly is dragged into this plan.
The girls go to college together, and while Tully is dogged in her pursuit of her dream, Kate dates and looks to balance school with a dating life. Tully lands a job with a small local television station and gets Kate a job there as well. Kate falls in love with Johnny, the boss, who only has eyes for the gorgeous, vibrant Tully.
We follow Tully as she climbs the career ladder and Kate as she marries and raises her children. Their paths diverge, but they remain best friends, even though they have less in common.
Tully becomes a media superstar, but she thinks of Kate's family as her own. She dates, but she is lonely. Kate is a great mom, but as her daughter Marah becomes a teenager, Marah rebels and puts Tully in the middle.
Marah's rebelliousness leads to Tully making a big mistake and hurting Kate, destroying their friendship in the process. After years of estrangement, can Kate and Tully come together when they need it most?
I was about the same age as Tully and Kate were in 1974, and so all of the references are a touchstone for me. The songs (Billy, Don't Be a Hero is now permanently stuck in my head), the TV shows (Luke and Laura's wedding on General Hospital), Tiger Beat magazine, the clothes and hairstyles- it all came rushing back to me as I read it. Any woman aged 45-50 or so will be transported back to her teen years reading this.
The characters are interesting, and I especially loved Kate's mom, whom I suspect is based on Hannah's mother. She took in Tully and loved her, even when Tully did things that I found almost unforgivable, Kate's mom was there for Tully too.
Besides the theme of friendship, we see how women dealt with issues of work versus family life and what that means to their identity. The difficulties of parenting teenagers will hit home with any parent, but I am curious to see how women who chose to have a demanding career view the character of Tully.
Hannah writes a novel that has an ending that will emotionally devastate the reader, just like she did in Home Front. I don't know of any writer today who can make me cry as much as she does in her books. If you enjoy reading books that pack an emotional punch, Firefly Lane is a must-read. (less)
The third Maisie Dobbs novel, Pardonable Lies, is a bigger book, and delves more deeply into Maisie's past and her personal life. When a man asks Psyc...moreThe third Maisie Dobbs novel, Pardonable Lies, is a bigger book, and delves more deeply into Maisie's past and her personal life. When a man asks Psychologist/Private Investigator Maisie Dobbs to help him fulfill a deathbed promise to his wife to find out if their son, who was declared killed during World War I was really dead, Maisie takes the case.
Coincidentally, Maisie's friend Priscilla has come for a visit and asks Maisie to find out the circumstances behind her brother Peter's wartime death in France. Maisie and Priscilla both served in France during the war, and Maisie was wounded in an incident that caused her boyfriend to become brain damaged. He now lives in a permanent vegetative state in a hospital.
All this shakes Maisie, and she reluctantly takes the cases, and heads back to France to face her demons. The scene where Maisie is in the cemetery where so many men lost their lives during the war is emotionally powerful, and reveals a new level of depth to Maisie. All the horrors of war come rushing back, and Maisie is overcome with emotion.
I think many people who have faced trauma will understand Maisie's experience. Maisie has been presented as a character so in control of her emotions, this incident makes her more vulnerable.
Wisnpear ratchets up the tension in this novel as it appears that someone is trying to kill Maisie. Who and why this is happening is a puzzle, as there is more than one suspect.
The title, Pardonable Lies, refers to a few things. Maisie and her mentor Dr. Maurice Blanche have a falling out when Maisie discovers that he hid from her some aspects of his intelligence work during the war. This rift is important, and I wonder if it will permanently affect their relationship.
Maisie is very scrupulous, and her integrity is paramount to her. When she discovers two secrets related to Priscilla's brother and her client's son, she has to decide which is more important- protecting someone or telling the truth. Her internal struggle makes for a powerful story.
I'm enjoying getting to better know Maisie through these novels. In this one, we see Maisie struggle more with her emotions, having to face her past. I liked her friendship with Priscilla, unique because Maisie doesn't seem to have many friends her own age.
I also like getting historical context. Following World War I, when ships were no longer needed for battle, many of them were converted for pleasure travel. Although the world financial depression hurt the economy, travel to the Riviera, Africa and the Mediterranean became cheaper and easier. This opened up the world to many people who hadn't traveled much before.
Pardonable Lies gives us a deeper look at Maisie's life and I found it the strongest of the series so far. This series would be great for high school girls, Maisie is a terrific role model. (less)
When you hear the title of Allison Pearson's new novel, I Think I Love You, you know right away that David Cassidy plays a role in the story.
Petra and...moreWhen you hear the title of Allison Pearson's new novel, I Think I Love You, you know right away that David Cassidy plays a role in the story.
Petra and her best friend Sharon are thirteen years old in 1974, and David Cassidy mania is in full bloom. They live in Wales, and when they find out that he will be playing a concert near them, they buy tickets for the show. Of course, Petra will have to lie to her very strict mother about where she is going.
Pearson does a terrific job taking the reader right back to her teen years, wanting desperately to belong in the popular girls' crowd, being insecure about her looks, whether she has the right clothes, will a boy ever want to date her? All those feelings come rushing right back.
Petra has to deal with Queen Bee Gillian, whom every girl will recognize right away, with her manipulative ways and hurtful, cutting comments. Gillian does her best to cause problems between Petra and the sunny Sharon. And when a boy whom Gillian likes likes Petra, the claws really come out.
While that story is familiar, it is the David Cassidy angle that makes this story unique. Petra and Sharon know EVERYTHING about David, and when a David Cassidy fan magazine offers a trip to California to meet him on The Partridge Family TV show set, they team up to win the trivia contest.
The novel also follows Bill, who wants to be a rock magazine journalist, but ends up writing for the David Cassidy fan magazine, in the voice of David himself. A pivotal section of the story occurs at the concert, which Bill has to cover. The crowds push forward, and several girls are injured; one girl is killed. (That incident really occurred at the concert- I remember reading about it when it happened.)
Fast forward twenty-fours years later: Petra has to deal with her mother's death, and her husband leaving her for a younger woman. Her husband even has the nerve to bring Petra his dirty sheets to wash- he doesn't have a washing machine on his houseboat- and she does them! Oh, Petra.
Going through her mother's things, she finds out that she and Sharon won the David Cassidy fan contest 24 years ago; her mother hid the letter from her. Petra calls the magazine office, and all the stars align, because the magazine's boss thinks it would make a terrific human interest story to take them to Las Vegas to meet David Cassidy.
Readers will no doubt relate to Petra, with all of her insecurities. And reading this novel made me want to dig out my old Partridge Family albums (yes, I had them all) and The Partridge Family Season One DVD (yes, I bought it). Pearson has a transcript of the fascinating interview she did with Cassidy for The Daily Telegraph in 2004 in the back of the book, which inspired the novel. Now all I have to do is find Cassidy's 2007 memoir, Could It Be Forever? My Story. Cause that has got to be one juicy read.
This book will appeal to all the women who loved David Cassidy as a young girl, or any woman who fondly remembers her tween celebrity crush. And just try to get that song out your head. (less)
After the Funeral begins with Mr. Entwhistle, a lawyer attending a funeral for one of his oldest clients and friends, Richard Abernethie. Mr. Aberneth...moreAfter the Funeral begins with Mr. Entwhistle, a lawyer attending a funeral for one of his oldest clients and friends, Richard Abernethie. Mr. Abernethie ran a successful family business and with the death of only son occurring years earlier, the heirs to the family money include Richard's hypochondriac brother Timothy, his sister Cora, whom no one has seen in twenty years after she married a man considered 'unsuitable', nieces Susan, a businesswoman, Rosamund, an actress, and nephew George, in finance.
At the home after the funeral, Cora carelessly tosses off a comment about Richard being murdered. Most of the family chalked it up to Cora just stirring up the pot, as she is wont to do. But the next day, Cora is brutally murdered in her home, and now Mr. Entwhistle is concerned that perhaps Richard was murdered.
He goes to Hercule Poirot to investigate and find out if Richard was murdered and who killed Cora. I found it amusing when Poirot turns to Mr. Goby, a man "famous for the acquiring of information." Goby calls government snooping "God's gift to investigators." Given what we know about the NSA, one could infer that government's spying on their citizens is a time- honored practice.
The family members all have money issues: Timothy hasn't worked due to his "illnesses", and his house and car are falling apart. Susan wishes to buy a pharmacy for her husband. Rosamund wants to use the money to support her and her husband's dreams of staging a play. George apparently has a gambling problem and has been using clients' funds to cover his losses.
They all have motives for wanting the money, and Poirot discovers that many of them had opportunity as well. It's great fun following the clues and trying to put the puzzle pieces together to discover the murderer. (I confess that I was wrong.)
It's interesting that Poirot does not dominate the story. He comes into the story late and stays in the background for the most part. In today's mystery/thriller series books, the protagonist (a cop, investigator, medical examiner) tends to dominate the stories of the books, with the crime relegated to equal or lesser plotlines.
I also found it interesting the lengths that people will go to when money is involved. Like government spying, greed appears to be something that has been with humans for a long time, and probably will be for a long time to come.
Now that I have read three Agatha Christie novels, two of them featuring M. Poirot, I'm curious to read Sophie Hannah's take on the iconic character in The Monogram Murders. (less)