My Mother’s Silence @lwestwoodwriter

Last year during the holidays, I was introduced to Lauren Westwood’s work through her novel Midnight on the Thames. It was one of my most loved books of the season and afterward I read all of the books she had written to date! You can read my review of Midnight on the Thames HERE.  This year Westwood is back with another incredible story, My Mother’s Silence. Set during the holiday season, it is a cross-genre book about family, the bonds of love, forgiveness and the power of forgiveness.

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Skye had no recollection of the night her twin sister, Ginny, died. All she was aware of was her inability to forgive herself for Ginny’s death and the belief that her mother blamed Skye for Ginny’s death as well. Fifteen years later, their mother is frail and in need of someone to be with her. Skye returns home to the secrets, the blame, the gossip of what really happened the night Ginny vanished. As Skye searches for answers to the questions her memories refuse to answer, the horrors of that night reveal secrets this family may not be able to cope with.

My Mother’s Silence is a story of three women: a mother and her twin daughters. It’s a tale of unspoken anger, resentment, jealousy but, above all, it is a story of love, forgiveness and hope. What I love most about Westwood’s writing is that she creates characters that are so realistically flawed so that we, the reader, are able to relate to them. Through their story line we come to know everything about them, including the thoughts and feelings that they would like to forget. As Skye delves into her sister’s past with the help of long forgotten journals, we see how emotionally fraught her sister was, the secrets that she was keeping from Skye and, ultimately what happened that fateful night. As Skye then attempts to deal with the lies, the whispers and betrayal, we see her emotional growth as she finally makes reconciliations with members of her family. This is a powerful, emotional, tense book through which I laughed, cried and got angry right along side Skye. Westwood, as always, drew me into their lives from the beginning and I did not stop reading until the very end – and then I wanted MORE!! And yes, this book is centered around the holidays, but it is far more about relationships than it is about the holidays. It easily could be read any time, any day of the year – and you should do just that. Now, do I really have to wait another entire year for the next fabulous book by Lauren Westwood!?

I’m so grateful to #Netgalley and #Bookoutre for my copy of  #MyMothersSilence.

 

 

Third to Die @Allison_Brennan

That Ending!! It may not have been a cliffhanger but it definitely left me wanting more, now…. immediately. How soon can she write the next in this series!?!

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Brennan is well known for her psychological thrillers so when I was offered an ARC for her newest book I jumped at the opportunity. The Third to Die is the first book in a new series by Brennan revolving around the FBI’s Mobile Response Team. This newly formed segment of the FBI consists of highly specialized agents who are top in their field, whether it is forensics, crime scene specialists or investigators. They are mobilized primarily in rural areas where the local force most likely is lacking in either experience or equipment. This is their first case in the field and it is a nightmare. A serial killer has re-emerged after years of silence. His method is killing someone on March 3rd, 6th or 9th. This story is made more interesting by the addition of a SFPD officer who is on “vacation” in the area and ends up helping the FBI solve their case. This detective, Kara Quinn, is one of the most interesting characters I’ve run across in a thriller in a long while. The chemistry between her and FBI agent Matias Costa is electric – and fun! The story is engaging, interesting and, yes, thrilling! So much so that I’m reading past written books by Brennan and cannot wait for her next in this series – and this one is not out yet!! But it will be soon and should be bookmarked on your to-read list.

Strong Women Stories: Love Heart Lane, Things You Save in a Fire and A Bittersweet Surprise

Rather than concentrate only on “thrillers,” my go-to genre, I decided to read women’s fiction, including a few light romances. What I discovered was there quite a few solidly written books in these genres that make you proud to be a woman. Although all three are very different, they each feature a strong woman at the heart of the story.

FOXGLOVE FARM – #ChristieJBarlow

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Foxglove Farm is meant to be a sweet romance. I suppose that it is – to a point. Isla and Drew are experiencing marital problems and Isla is unaware of exactly why. The man she loves is suddenly withdrawn and sullen but refuses to tell Isla why or what might be wrong. When a birthday surprise blows up in her face, she flees with her infant until she can sort out what to do. The fact is that they are having financial difficulties which Drew has not shared with Isla. He is depressed and angry at not being able to provide for his family. Together they find a way to persevere and rekindle their love for one another once more but the journey is a difficult one.

There were multiple issues that the author introduced: lies and secrets in a marriage, the difficulty of having a newborn on a marriage and, of course, male depression and mental health. While all of these are very important topics – very – at times there was just too much hardship to be believed. There was one problem after another after another in such a short period and within a relatively short story. Yes, there are those who are faced with mounting challenges and generally when it rains, it pours. However, for the good of the novel and to really explore any of these topics thoroughly, either the book needed to be longer or there should have been fewer fires. Regardless, the story itself is well told, well-written and uplifting. This is the second in a series and each set of characters is different from the last, however, I felt as though I was missing some backstory that others might have known from reading the first book in the series. I would suggest reading them in order. They are quick reads so that shouldn’t be a problem.

 

THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE – @KatherineCenter

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There has been a lot of hype and publicity for Katherine Center’s latest book: Things You Save in a Fire and there is a good reason for that – it is a wonderful book featuring a strong, interesting, intelligent woman who also is a firefighter.

When Cassie is first introduced she is receiving a medal for valor and bravery. This really isn’t something that she wants but she deserves it. She’s with her department family having a great time when she becomes aware that the person is handing out her award is someone with whom she has a traumatic past. Things do not go well after that, to the point that she is giving the choice of being fired or transferred. She takes the transfer which is back her hometown, a new station, the need to prove herself once again and to a mother with whom she has a difficult past.

Through the remainder of the book we see Cassie as she grows into the person she was meant to become – strong, capable, funny and even loving. The transformation is poignant, heartfelt, hard and very relatable. Things You Save in a Fire is one of my favorite books of the year. With impeccable writing, believable characters and a story line that is captivating and heart-felt, this is a book you will not want to miss.

A BITTERSWEET SURPRISE @CynEllingsen

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Emma loves running her family’s candy shop, creating new delicious treats and seeing her friends savour her new offerings; however, her father left the candy shop to his second wife who is selling the shop to a corporation. The only way that Emma can keep the shop is to buy out her step-mother at a higher profit than the corporation has offered her. The catch, of course, is that Emma has no extra money and very little self-esteem to think outside of the box. What she does have is loyal customers, friends whom Emma has helped over the years who are ready to return the favor and…. a mysterious painting that has hung in the candy shop since her father was alive. When a stranger makes Emma a flabbergastingly large sum of money for the artwork, Emma begins to suspect there is more to the painting than she realizes.

I absolutely loved and adored A Bittersweet Surprise. There was drama, family issues that had to be overcome but, most importantly, it illustrated how women, given the chance, can overcome obstacles in order to succeed. Emma not only has the skills necessary to be a successful business owner, she a heart that is full of gold. We see Emma as she selflessly helps the other people in her town, a homeless woman and her son, everyone she comes in contact with. She isn’t perfect but she shows what goodness means. I found myself completely immersed in Emma’s story and all of the characters in the book. A Bittersweet Surprise is the third installment of a series but it works beautifully as a stand-alone. Ellingsen uses the “shared universe” style of writing where, as readers, we are introduced to a town or setting that is common throughout the series but the characters, though they may be familiar to us, each have their own story and plot. She has done a great job introducing the characters so that you know their backstory without the need to read each book in order. I highly recommend the book and the entire series – which I’ve now read.

 

 

A Life of Their Own by Pauline Tait

I am a huge fan of Pauline Tait’s series for children, The Fairy in the Kettle, and I could not wait to read her first “adult” book, A Life of Their Own.

Kate is on the run from an abusive husband. She and her two kids are quietly leaving him and moving across the country to place she had only dreamed of – Colorado. She has no plan, no idea how they will survive but she knows she has to get herself and the kids away from the abuse. She arrives at a guest home run by an older couple who treats them as family instead of guests. It is the first sign of kindness in a very long time for Kate. She also runs into an old flame who never stopped loving her. Soon, she is working for him and living on his ranch. But will Kate ever truly get over the abuse and the scars it has left on her.

A Life of Their Own is a sweet, very short book about hope and the healing power of love. I enjoyed reading it and the story itself kept my attention until the end. However, there were a few concerns that I had. The language is very dated. If this had been a piece of historical fiction or set in a different country other than the US, I might have understood. But Americans no longer speak in this stilted, very formal style of English. For example, I cannot remember the last time – if ever – a mother has referred to her kids as children. They’re kids as in “hey kids, let’s go” not “children we must leave.” There were multiple examples of British phrases used that are not used in the US. I had to look up what a “fleece” was because the mother bought two of them for the kids. (It’s a type of jacket) and, while I know what “tuck in” means in the UK, if you told an American sitting at a table to “tuck in,” they would get up and go to bed. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE British writers but if a book is going to be set in the US then it would be great if the author knew a bit more about American lifestyles and slang.

The bottom line is that A Life of Their Own is very sweet romance and if you can turn off that inner questioning voice, you will enjoy it. I did enjoy it. I just saw the flaws as well.

I received my copy of A Life of Their Own from #Netgalley

#TwoforTuesday #TheRunaway #OneLittleSecret

Riveting and captivating mysteries is the genre to which I always find myself returning. The Runaway by Ali Harper and One Little Secret by Cate Holahan are two marvelous books that exemplify this genre so well.

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The Runway is the second book in a series revolving around two young, female private investigators who run an agency specifically searching for missing persons. The gals from No Stone Unturned have, so far, only has solved one case but soon they find themselves with two complicated jobs – a missing boyfriend and a cold case involving a woman who never was identified. Each of these cases leads the women into areas they never have gone before, from flats for the extremely wealthy and well-known, to freestyle “raves” in open fields. As the evidence begins to mount, they soon discover that neither case is at all what it appeared to be and that discovery can, and does, lead to dangerous conclusions.

The Runaway is very “in the now” book. This is not your stodgy old mystery novel but rather a very current, realistic one with characters that are flawed, young and extremely capable. The vernacular is edgy, the characters are young and feisty as hell. You know I love books with strong female leads and Jo and Lee are about as strong and urbane as they come.

“Women aren’t taught to fight; they aren’t taught to stand their ground. Women are taught…. to run.”

These women do NOT run, they are not afraid and they definitely stand their ground. I loved them! I loved the book! While this is the second in the series, it reads as a stand alone quite well. I read it before I read the first in the series and, while I understand more about the women, I never felt lost while reading The Runaway. If you like mysteries with strong female leads the I cannot recommend The Runaway highly enough!

ONE LITTLE SECRET by Cate Holahan

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Over the summer I fell into a reading slump. I was behind in everything – reading, reviewing, commenting – and I truly felt as though I needed to throw in the towel as a blogger and reviewer. And then I read One Little Secret. It completely turned everything around for me! I read the entire book within hours and immediately went on a search for all of Cate Holahan’s books. I downloaded them and read them all as well. I was a fan! I was also out of my slump. Do I need to say more!?

Fine. One Little Secret is a marvelous “locked-room mystery.” Susan wanted nothing more than a peaceful get-away at the beach. She invited a few other couples to join her and her husband at a beach house rental. Susan thought it would be a dream vacation for them, a time of fun and games and a way to reconnect with one another. She thought wrong – deadly wrong. A night of drinking leads to diminished inhibitions, secrets are revealed and the next morning one of them is found dead on the beach. Who wanted this person dead and why, more importantly how?

One Little Secret is well written, suspenseful to the end and is one of the best “locked room” mysteries I’ve read in a while. It very easily could have slipped into campy but the craftily worded plot never allows it to go there. While many have called this a “summer beach read” because it set at a holiday house at the beach, this is a mystery that will be a good read any time of the year. When you’re finished with this one, go find Holahan’s other books. You will enjoy them as well!

Thank you #Netgalley, @CrookedLaneBooks, and @HarperImpulseandKillerReads for my copy of these terrific books.

 

Sunday Morning for the Kids #TheFairyin the KettleGetsMagical and #TheArtistWhoLovedCats #MothersDaywithSnowmanPaul

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It’s Sunday, and here at Macsbooks that can only mean one thing – Children’s Books! I have greatly missed posting about all of the marvelous children’s books that have been published. My inner child loves reading them almost as much as kids do! This week I have three marvelous books to share with you!

THE ARTIST WHO LOVED CATS: The Inspiring Tale of Theophile Alexandre Steinlen by Susan Schaefer Bernardo, illustrations by Coutenay Fletcher

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I’m sure we’re all familiar with the famous painting Le Chat Noir, the black cat from Paris, but few know who the artist is behind the painting: Theophile Alexandre Steinlen. The Artist Who Loved Cats is the delightful story of this man and his love of cats. The story line is set in an antiquities shop in Paris. Antoinette sees something in the window that catches her and, once inside, meets the proprietor who knows the stories behind each and every object in the store. Through beautiful, rhythmic prose, he begins to tell her of the man who loved cats – Steinlen. Steinlen was in Paris in the 1800s to study fabric and design. He created hundreds of illustrations about the industry but he always came back to painting what he loved most: cats. In this delightful tale, children not only learn about this incredible illustrator/artist, but they will be fascinated by the details of Paris in the height of the artisan age, the golden age of Paris.

The Artist Who Loved Cats is wonderfully written and the illustration are simply stunning. I can only hope that this is the beginning of series featuring more artists from this era. I think kids – as well as adults – would be thrilled by it. I have to share my favorite quote from the book with you because it’s actually one that I live by here in my Victorian home: “Each thing has a past, each place has a history.” Isn’t that just so incredibly true? I do hope you will read this marvelous book and share it far and wide with the children in your lives.

THE FAIRY IN THE KETTLE GETS MAGICAL by Pauline Tait

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If you’ve followed this blog for any length of time then you know that one of my favorite series is The Fairy in the Kettle. I became enamored with the fairy kingdom of Fairy Glen and with Lenora, the adorable and spunky fairy who lives in a kettle. The Fairy in the Kettle Gets Magical, by Pauline Tait, is the latest addition to the series.

The fairies of Willow Glen are horrified to discover that the fairy dust of Willow Glen is becoming scarce. Unsure of what to do, they decide to leave the glen in search of more magic. Their adventures are perilous  and the fairies find that the only way to succeed in their mission is to work together. As always, the story is both entertaining as well as subtly adding a moral within, a key to any good, clever children’s book. It is, however, the illustrations that are most captivating. They are striking watercolors that will capture the imagination and attention of children of all ages. While the books are geared toward ages 4-8, I suspect younger children will love the rhythm and colors of the story if it is read to them. It is gorgeous book that would make a great addition to any library.

MOTHERS DAY WITH SNOWMAN PAUL by Yossi Lapid

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A few months ago, I had the pleasure of being gifted a beautiful book for a new series, Yara’s Rain Forest. You can read my review HERE.  The author, Yossi Lapid, is well known for his Snowman Paul series that is a favorite of children all over the world. In May (!) I was asked to read Mother’s Day with Snowman Paul but, you know, life interrupted my blogging and I was unable to post a review until now which is a shame because it is one fantastic children’s book!

The story is simply told, beautifully illustrated but carries a far deeper message than just “mother’s day.” Snowman Paul explores the concept of mothers of all types, especially Mother Earth. It is an amazing tribute to mothers – human, animal and environmental. I absolutely loved this and, more importantly, so did all of the children I have shared it with. The direction of Lapid’s books toward environmental education is one that I find sorely lacking in children’s books today. When my kids were younger that is all that they read and they have grown to be acutely aware of the destruction we are causing the planet, so much so, that my daughter is now with the US State Department in their climate office and was one of the authors of the Paris Agreement. This is due, in part, to the love of our earth that she received from books just like Lapid’s. I want this love of nature, our earth, our environment for all children which is why this book and the Rain Forest series are so very dear to me and I hope they will be to you and your family as well. I would give all of Lapid’s books TEN STARS if I had five more available to me!

Many thanks to #Netgalley, #InnerFlowerChildBooks, #SilverWoodBooks,the authors, and especially to Yossi Lapid for allowing me to read these beautiful books.


					

29 Seconds @tmlogan

I fell in love with TM Logan after reading “Lies,” and now I’m absolutely addicted to his writing! 29 Seconds is more than a thriller, it is a story about choices. If you could make one person disappear without a trace forever, would you do it? That is the choice that Sarah has after rescuing a young girl from an abductor. Sarah has been harassed by her boss for years, as have other women. Now she has a chance to do something about “the monster,” but will she be able to make the call.

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The writing was gripping, the story line believable and the twist was perfect – not melodramatic and totally unforeseeable. I absolutely love 20 Seconds and highly recommend it to lovers of women’s fiction, suspense and thrillers.

Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews

As most of you know, I was off for several months due to illness and, although I couldn’t read, thought I wouldn’t read, I somehow managed TO read a lot of books. I’m also determined to do justice to those authors who sent me books to review. What this means is that I am quite behind with my reviews and I really hate to be behind at anything. Recently I read a post on the Bibliophile Book Club’s blog where she did a series of short but thorough reviews. Taking off on her idea, I will be doing the same until – if ever – I am caught up once more. Fingers crossed and thanks to the Bibliophile Book Club for such a great idea. Please be sure to check out their blog!

Recent and Rapid

MONTAUK by Nicola Harrison

By now I’m quite sure or hope that many of you have read Montauk, one of the best summer reads for 2019. It is, however, a engrossing tale that surpasses the usual summer fare making it a delight to read any time.  Set in the pre-WWII days of New York, it is the story of a woman who married “above her station” without fully comprehended all that would involve. When her husband tells that they are going to travel to Montauk for the summer, she assumes they will be there together. Sadly, she was mistaken and soon learns that not only is she alone, her husband is cheating on her with any woman who will allow it. Feeling displaced with the rich at the resort, she turns to the people who actually live in Montauk, the town, where she discovers friendship, grudging acceptance and more.

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I don’t usually read books set in the era as it is one of my least favorite times in American history. However, Montauk – the resort area – was actually envisioned and created by a developer from my home state. He built a resort here in Indiana and also developed Miami Beach, Florida. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me. Montauk, the book, is more than just a romance or even historical fiction, it is a story of a woman trapped in the male dominated world of the early 20th century, a world full of lies, hypocrisy, misogyny and class wars. Her struggle becomes the struggle of all women from that era and one that many women today can relate to as well. The writing is brilliant, the characters come alive off of the pages and the story line is unforgettable. I highly recommend Montauk to any and all!

POLITE SOCIETY by Mahesh Rao

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Polite Society is a modern day re-telling of Emma, by Jane Austin set in India. Normally I’m not a fan of re-tellings because I like the original too much, with the possible exception of fairy tales and fables. However, because of the caste system or class structure in India, this particular version works well. The story is cleverly written with a lot of wit and charm. Sadly, for me, I didn’t enjoy Polite Society as much as I had hoped. I think there is too much feminist in me to think anything about this type of social construct is acceptable. I prefer to imagine that all of this died with the Victorian era even though my intellectual side knows differently.

THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan

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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NOTE: Many thanks to the authors, #Netgalley, #Edelweiss, #StMartinsPress, #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of these books

The Whisper Man #PublicationDay #AlexNorth

There is nothing that I love more than a true psychological thriller, one that gets into your head and won’t let go. That is exactly what I found in The Whisper Man by Alex North. 41nYBGAZjpL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

Let me first say that the cover art is one of my all time favorites. I had to read this book just for the cover alone and it definitely is representative of the horror within.

Tom and his son Jake have suffered the loss of their wife and mother. As a result, Jake – a very sensitive child – is having nightmares about the house in which she died. The pair move to a new village and into a home that others call “the scary house” but Jake insists is his very favorite. Tom decides the house has character, not terror, within its walls. He was wrong. In their small, sleepy village there once was a child killer, currently behind bars, Now another person is abducting children. Will Jake be the next victim of The Whisper Man?

This very easily could have been a run-of-the-mill child abduction book but it is so much more than that. The character development was superb throughout, even with minor characters who only appear infrequently such as Jake’s teacher. These characters draw you into their lives so that you become part of the story itself. And what a story it is! This is a very scary, creepy book. It is on the scale of Stephen King’s earlier works and reminded me why I originally read horror/thrillers. It turns out to be more psychological than horror but, wow, you do not know that until the very last chapter of the book. And yes, I am being deliberately evasive about the story line because part of the joy of reading this book was going into it blind and not knowing the real from the psychological terror. I want that for you as well.

This is a must-read book for anyone who loves horror, thrillers, psychological suspense or simply a really well told story! It is in my Top Ten favorites for this year and I highly recommend it.

It is publication day for The Whisper Man so run, don’t walk, to your nearest bookseller and get it today.  Thank you to #Netgalley, #CeledonBooks and @writer_north for my copy of this terrific book!

A Stranger on the Beach #MicheleCampbell

A perfect summer read just hit the shelves today and it is one that you will not want to miss: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell. 41150430Caroline literally has it all: a marvelous husband, a beautiful daughter and an amazing new beach house that has been transformed for exquisite entertaining, lavish parties and relaxing vacations on the beach. She also has a stranger who is very interested in her house. At first she is intrigued with him, when he shows up at her party as a bartender she is concerned by him, but when her life begins to disintegrate she turns to the stranger for comfort. But what if the stranger wants more?

Admittedly, I love Campbell’s writing and I knew going into this book that I was going to enjoy it – which I thoroughly did. Campbell’s characters also are layered, multi-dimensional versions of who you think they might be which enables her to keep you guessing throughout the story. Her plot, particularly in A Stranger on the Beach, never is quite you suspect it of being and just when you think you have the entire mystery solved, you discover that you were completely wrong. I’m not fan of plot twists for the sake of surprising the readers and that is not what Campbell does. She literally takes the reader into areas which the reader never thought to go and that makes her books very enjoyable and satisfying.

A Stranger on the Beach is not only a good summer read, it is a great mystery, thriller and suspense which I highly recommend.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @StMartinsPress, and @MicheleCampbell for my copy of @AStrangerOnTheBeach