I’ll Never Tell – the perfect summer read

I’ve never read a book by Catherine McKenzie but have heard so many great things about her books that I wanted to try one to see what I was missing. Well, apparently I’ve been missing a lot. I’ll Never Tell was the perfect summer read for me: not too serious, super quick, a nice mystery and interestingly quirky characters. What more could a reader ask for in a summer book?40201006._SY475_.jpg

The MacAllister siblings grew up at Camp Macaw, the typical summer camp with cabins that surround a lake, stories re-told over and over, sports, games and art workshops. What wasn’t typical was the summer that Amanda, a popular counselor and friend of the siblings, washed ashore dead in a rowboat. The police never found the killer. When the siblings’ parents die and the will is read, they discover that the only way they will inherit the camp is to solve the mystery of Amanda’s death. However, what once was an unsolvable murder mystery is now shrouded in closely guarded family secrets as well. None of these siblings is who they appear to be.

I’ve come to love domestic noir especially when it is done well and I’ll Never Tell does, in fact, handle this genre very well. There are six points of view – yes six – which could get muddled and confusing but McKenzie deftly moves back and forth between the chapters and personalities so that never once does the reader lose focus on who is who. The book also jumps back in time through Amanda’s point of view but this also adds to the dimension of the story rather than detracts. We are able to put into perspective the tales that the siblings are weaving from the actual facts as they happened. This does not, however, give the reader a clear cut view of the actual killer. There are so many twists and possibilities that I was clueless until the very end.  Literally, it could have been any of them, or all.

I’ll Never Tell is a well written “whodunnit” and a great mystery, perfect for any season but even better for summer because of its setting. I highly recommend it and will be pursuing other McKenzie books for myself.

Thanks to #Netgalley, #CatherineMcKenzie @CEMcKenzie1 and #LakeUnionPublishing for my copy of this great read.

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We Never Told #DianaAltman

There are stories relating to women that are as timeless as time itself. As advanced as society may become, there are issues that women and their children deal with that seem never to change. We Never Told is one such tale.

41646617amazonWe Never Told revolves around a Hollywood socialite, Violet, and her two daughters, Sonya and Joan. Violet lives the epitome of the luxurious lifestyle of the “rich and famous,” cycling through husbands, attending parties, living a life of style and glamour until Sonya is fourteen years old. That summer, her mother tells her two daughters that she has to go away for treatment of a tumor. She leaves the girls in the care of the housekeeper and makes them swear to tell no-one, not even their father who has visitation rights. Even after the housekeeper has a heart attack and leaves the girls alone, they tell no one for months on end. They simply endure and care for themselves. It becomes a secret that lives between them – thus the title for this book. They never told a soul. After their mother’s death years later, the daughter’s finally realize what had actually happened to their mother. We, of course, do not learn this until the end of the book – although I’m quite sure most astute readers can guess. It isn’t the end result that is important to the story,  it the is the story itself. And that is where the beauty lies with We Never Told.

It doesn’t matter where families live, in New York, California or Mississippi. It doesn’t matter if it is 1790, 1990, or 2019, there still are things that certain things that families keep secret, certain actions that are not talked about from teenage pregnancy to drug use to mental illness. If you scratch past the surface in every family, you will find a secret that family is hiding. Families also are a sum total of all of their parts, no child is raised in a vacuum – from parents to grandparents. aunts, cousins, school teachers or coaches – we all are a result of the influences of those around us. That is the beautiful lesson of We Never Told. Altman weaves together an incredible story of women, children, families, care-takers, the world in the late 20th century and that of today and makes each aspect of her story completely relevant to now. While of the book takes place in the 20th century, it isn’t historical fiction, but a timely read for today’s generation. It is one that I highly recommend.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #SheWritesPress and #DianaAltman for my advanced copy of #WeNeverTold. It will be on sale June 11, 2019.

The Editor #Steven Rowley

Fridays are generally set aside for fabulous fiction here at Macsbooks and The Editor by Steven Rowley, author of the amazing book, Lily and the Octopus, certainly fits that description! 9780525537960_5fcef
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James is a writer living in New York with his boyfriend, struggling to make ends meet and hoping for his first big break. His publisher calls informing him that his editor requests a meeting with him, which scares him senseless enough; but, when he discovers that his editor is Jackie Kennedy Onassis he is speechless. As Ms. Onassis continues to work with James through rewrites and deeper explorations into his novel and his own personal relationships, James realizes that his editor is, indeed, the perfect one to help him grow as a person and as a writer.

To say that I have a love affair with the Kennedys is an understatement, There are few, if any, books written by or about this family that I haven’t read. When I saw that this was a historical fiction book featuring Kennedy-Onassis in her final years as an editor, I literally jumped at the chance to read it. It did not disappoint in the least. As with Lily and the Octopus, Rowley has created a story that illustrates how even the most flawed characters can be lovable and redemptive. He weaves this story around an amazingly famous person but manages to place her in a tale that makes her human and real. To do this with someone like Kennedy-Onassis truly is astounding and my hat is off to Rowley for this alone. Most importantly, however, the core of The Editor is based on familial relationships; the struggle between a son and his mother. This is the story that is worth reading and it is here in which lies all of the beauty and the charm of this novel.

The Editor will available on April 2 and I highly recommend it.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, @StevenRowley and @PutnamBooks for my copy of #TheEditor

Keeping Lucy #TGreenwood

Keeping Lucy is the first T Greenwood novel that I have read and it is one that grabbed me, pulled me in and still will not let me go. It is heart breaking and heartwarming, historical and timely all at once. It’s a book that I highly recommend.

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Keeping Lucy begins with Ginny Richardson giving birth to her daughter, Lucy, who is born with Down Syndrome, known as ” a mongoloid” at that time. Ginny’s husband and father in law make the decision to put Lucy in a state-run facility called Willowridge where she will be cared for until she dies. Those are their words. For several days, Ginny is given “twilight,” the drug most women were given during that time to forget the pains of childbirth and her loss. Remember, natural childbirth was not in vogue at this time. When my own daughter died in-vitro, I was given “twilight” so that I would “forget” everything. Trust me, you don’t forget. Your body remembers everything and your mind desperately tries to fill in the pieces that it was forced to black out. This drug is horrific. I cannot believe and entire generation of women were routinely given this drug. For two years Ginny is forced by her husband and her father in law to pretend her daughter did not exist until her best friend brings her news articles about the horrors that have been uncovered at Willowridge: children lying in their own feces, roaches in the food, children malnourished and far worse. Ginny and her friend, Marsha, decide – finally – to go to Willowridge only to discover that, while she can visit Lucy, her parental rights have been terminated by her husband. Ginny takes matters into her own hands at this point and a battle for Lucy’s survival ensues.

I actually loved Keeping Lucy for multiple reasons and many of those reasons are the very ones for which other readers are disparaging the book. First, Keeping Lucy is based on an actual place called Willowbrook. You can read more about it HERE. It was so horrific that legislation was passed in the late 70s that allegedly altered the way that we in the US care for the “disabled.” I use the word allegedly because I grew up in the south near a facility aptly called the Conway Human Development Center. It was a place of filth and horror where people with mental and physical disabilities were sent just like Lucy was sent in this story. It still exists in one of the poorest states in the US and the residents are not developing anything other than bedsores and diseases. It’s a disgrace. If you doubt that, then you can read this article from today’s news.   Nothing has changed. Nothing. Books like Keeping Lucy are necessary to educate readers about these horrors then as well as now.

Furthermore, every time I read a book set in the late 60s and early 70s and that book is historically accurate regarding the plight of women, I am utterly amazed at the number of female reviewers who write scathing reviews about the passivity of the female protagonist. Here’s a reminder for you strong women of today. My daughter and I purchased a home two years ago, We literally had to jump through hoops in the state of Indiana to get a bank to approve a home loan to two women without a male co-signer! This is the 21st century. Until 1978, it was legal to fire a woman from her job if she got pregnant. An abortion was not legal until 1973 – and in some states in the southern US it still is not regardless of what you might think otherwise. Until 1977, you could be fired for reporting sexual harassment in the work place, a woman could not apply for a credit card on her own without a male co-signer until 1974,  and could not refuse to have sex with her husband under any circumstances until the mid 1970s. Are you beginning to get a picture here ladies!? Ginny was not passive. She was living her life according the law of the land. While most others were guaranteed rights in 1965 and 1966, women were not granted any rights, other than the right to vote, until the mid to late 70s and we still obviously are fighting for the right to decide what is best for our own bodies! In Keeping Lucy, Ginny literally had no rights. Furthermore, everyone smoked!! They smoked in restaurants, they smoked in their cars, they smoked in stores, they smoked when pregnant and they smoked around kids! My doctor, whom I adored, smoked every time I visited – in his doctor’s office! I don’t know where you were in the 50s, 60s and 70s but there were advertisements for cigarettes extolling the benefits of nicotine! You are looking at the behavior of these women through your 21st century glasses and missing some very valuable lessons that we all need see and learn. Primarily this – nothing has changed!! We have politicians and religious leaders who want babies born at all cost. These children are then put in institutions like the Human Development Center and no one ever considers the toll that it places on the women who have given birth. No one EVER thinks about the women – period – much less these poor children!

So, with all of that said, please read Keeping Lucy without blinders, with an open mind and with the idea that there is more here than two women on a joy ride across the south. This book is available for pre-order now.

Thank you very much #Netgalley, @tgwood505 and #StMartinsPress for my advanced copy of #KeepingLucy.

 

 

Rosie’s Travelling Tea Shop @RebeccaRaisinAuthor

Rosie had everything she ever had wished for: the perfect husband, she was the sous chef at a Michelin rated restaurant, two perfect children – well, they were perfectly planned out in her future where they would be perfect to be sure – and she lived in a perfect apartment. Until she walked in on her birthday to find her not-so-perfect husband with a pre-packed bag walking out on her for another woman! Rosie’s very perfect life was shattered. So she did what any sane woman would do – she drank a lot of cheap wine and unknowingly used all of her savings to purchase a hot pink RV named Poppy! Rosie gives it all up – the perfect apartment, the perfect job, the Michelin stars and hits the road with Poppy to open a pop-up tea shop.

41962558I’ve recently read quite a few books about women who have hit a crisis point in their lives and, throwing caution to the wind, leave everything behind to open a bakery, bookstore, coffee shop, etc. Rosie’s story, however, hit notes of reality that I found myself relating to on multiple layers. She was alone, in fact she was a loner in general. She had used her savings to purchase Poppy so money was not a luxury for her. When Poppy breaks down, she has to rely on the kindness of others and scrabble together new ways to make money to pay for the repairs. She got herself mixed up in a “catfishing” scheme that was extremely realistic and, sadly, happens far too often to women online. I found myself nodding throughout the book, saying yes, yep, been there, done that. I suspect we all have – or will – find ourselves in similar situations. That’s not to say that Rosie did nothing except make mistakes. Along her journey, she made true friends, learned real lessons, renewed her self-esteem and discovered that she could fall down, take chances, and get back up again to carry on. She found love and laughter in the most unusual places but learned that she also could stand on her own two feet when she needed to do so.

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop is a wonderfully written story of friendship, love, self-discovery and person growth – a true delight to read for all.

Many thanks to #Netgalley, @Jaxandwillsmum and @HQDigital

 

She Lies in Wait #GythaLodge

Of all of the genres that I love, and I do love a lot, the one I find myself immersed in most often is police procedurals. Police Procedurals are a sub-genre of “Detective/Crime novels” and are told from the police point of view, often involving several, often unrelated cases that seemingly come together in the end. I give you this definition because She Lies in Wait is, honestly, a perfect example of a British police procedural done well.

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Thirty years ago, six teenagers went camping in the woods. Only five of them would awaken the next morning. Now, the body of the sixth friend, Aurora, has been discovered in a “grave” in the woods and it is up to DCI Jonah Sheens and his murder squad to uncover the details of what really happened that horrible night, a night filled with too much booze, drugs, consensual and non-consensual sex. Was one of the campers the killer or was it someone who knew they and the drugs would be at the campsite? They aren’t talking which leaves only the 30-year old, decomposed body of Aurora to tell her tale.

She Lies in Wait is a slow burning, methodical detective story where every clue, every person, every detail is thoroughly looked at and discussed. This is not a “thriller” or a “suspense” novel, it is procedural where you – the reader – are along for the ride with the police as they go through their investigation. If you go into this book expecting “edge of your seat” excitement, then you will be slightly disappointed. If, like me, you love and adore well written, hard core detective books, then this will be a winner! Lodge has crafted a story that has a lot of back-story in these once-teens/now-adult characters who have remained unusually close for thirty years. In addition, DCI Sheens was on the peripheral  edges of the group and appears to have a bit of history with them as well, something he would like to keep hidden from the remainder of his squad. His squad, in turn, are an interesting group. The two men are complete opposite of one another: one quiet and thoughtful, the other gregarious, and the newest member, a female, has a few secrets of her own. The intrigue of all of the characters helps to push the storyline along.

I really do hate for books to be compared to one another, but I often thought that She Lies in Wait was quite similar to Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. No doubt fans of that series would disagree, but the writing is similar and, of course, the methodology of the squad itself is the same. In addition, the way that both authors sink into the personal lives of the characters and weave it into the main story felt familiar to each and it was something I enjoy in both series.

If you enjoy police procedurals, particularly British ones, then I highly recommend She Lies in Wait. If you like a good mystery, I think you will enjoy it as well.

Thank you to #Netgalley, #RandomHousePublishingGroup and @thegyth for my copy of She Lies in Wait which will be published in the US on January 8, 2019.

 

The View From Our Window @authorljryan

Every now and again a book sneaks up on me and grabs my attention and my heart. The View From our Window is exactly one of those books! A sweeping family drama that travels from Ireland to France, dips down to Columbia and back again, The View From Our Window is part romance, espionage thriller, and domestic noir all in one book!

SaturdayI love a great fiction story whether it is historical fiction, women’s lit, the classics or a family drama; fiction has so much to offer when it is written well. The View From Our Window, a family drama, revolves around three people, ironically born on the same day at nearly the same time, whose lives continue to intersect with one another. Laurel, our heroine, is a newly widowed mother of two who is trying to escape her family and their treachery, as well as the mounting problems her deceased husband has left behind. Paul, her childhood friend, is a rising star in Irish politics and has just been named Minister of Justice. Unfortunately that means he will be in charge of the investigation into Laurel’s husband. And David, a French movie star – which is not as trite as it sounds – who is recovering from a very nasty divorce that has cost him visitation with his children. Their lives will converge with very dramatic, life threatening results.

cover151262-medium I admit that in the beginning of the book I was lost and confused as the details and backstory, the births, of these three were laid out for us. However, the writing was so expertly done and the story so compelling that I knew if I continued I would be rewarded – and I was! There is, quite literally, not one genre into which this book belongs. There is romance between Laurel and David but it grows out of a very beautiful friendship that she began with his family who befriended her when she moved to the French countryside. There is international politics and intrigue as we follow Paul through the machinations of Irish politics that is fraught with complications within the EU. There is espionage, drug runners and white collar crime that crosses all borders and familial lines. In all, it is a non-stop intense thrill ride from beginning to end! There is something for everyone within this book! I laughed, I cried, I got angry and still was left wanting more! I want a sequel!! All the stars and accolades for The View From Our Window and L J Ryan, I cannot recommend this highly enough!

Heaps of thanks to #Netgalley, @BooksGoSocial and #LJRyan for my copy of this amazing book!