The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

The House of Deep Water is a slow churning, atmospheric story of three women and the family that surrounds them as they come crashing together under one roof in the small midwestern town of River Bend.

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Jeni McFarland covers topics that many today are coping with: abuse – spousal and familial, racial tensions, small town poverty, and isolationism. She tells the story of these women deftly, with a stoicism that sets apart the midwestern people, gives them the appearance of being hard when, in fact, they are hurting like everyone else. The story flows slowly along much like the river does through the town but it never falters. The House of Deep Water is not a cozy, feel good women’s tale but one of reality about the hardships many women – and men – face in today’s society. If you are looking for a really good read that will keep your attention and make you more aware at the end than you were at the beginning, then this is the book for you this summer!

The Little Engine That Could – NINETIETH Anniversary Edition

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Seriously! How is it possible that this delightful, inspirational tale is NINETY years old!?! Well, it is and to celebrate there is a brand new edition just waiting to be read and added to your library!

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Everyone knows the story of the little engine, right? I think I can…. I think I can…. and soon she absolutely could! By far this was my favorite story as a child. I was small and so often there were things I was told I was “too little” to do. This engine became my hero, her mantra became mine. When I was a Weight Watchers group leader the members in my group used it as their mantra as well. If you think you can, you will do!

The text in this updated version is the same heart felt prose we always adored but the illustrations are new and absolutely gorgeous. They will make you fall in love with them! Just look at the colors in this one:

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This anniversary edition features the original text, all-new re-imagined artwork and an introduction from Caldecott Medal-winner Dan Santat and a special letter from Dolly Parton, award-winning singer-songwriter and founder of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. Every child and adult alike should have a copy of this inspiring tale on their shelves to read when self-doubt rears its head. It’s perfection.

 

(Thank you to #Edelweiss, #PenguinPublishingGroup, #Grossett&Dunlap for my copy of The Little Engine That Could)

Fab Fiction on Friday: Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

Let me just say that Such a Fun Age definitely will be on my Top Ten list of reads for 2020. That just goes without saying, I think, and I also think it will be on a lot of “favorite” lists this year. I have, however, hesitated to write a review of the book out of fear of diminishing its importance as well as its enjoyability.  Such a Fun Age is a cross-genre tale about race, class, upbringing and the difficulty it is to cross those barriers. Age even plays a role in this clever, well written, very timely book.

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Emira is a babysitter – not a nanny – for Peter and Alix (who changed the spelling of her name to be more relevant.) Peter is a newsreader on television and Alix is an “influencer” on social media. Emira is charged with caring for Briar, their very precocious, charming daughter and she loves it. There is a beautiful, loving relationship throughout the book between Emira and Briar. It reminded me a bit of the The Help, another book that looks at these same themes. Problems arise when Peter makes a racist on-air remark and their house is egged as a result. Alix asks Emira to take Briar out of the house to an upscale store until things can get sorted. There, however, Emira is accused of kidnapping Briar; after all, why would a black teenage girl have a white little girl at a store at 11pm? There is a huge scene and isn’t resolved until Peter arrives to clear up the confusion. Emira remarks that the security guard should be pleased since “Peter is an old, white guy.”  Things escalate from there as Alix and her extremely politically correct friends try to make things better for Emira who is more concerned about not having health care than she is about “the incident.” Things grow more tense throughout the book leaving you feeling as though you are watching a snowball grow into an avalanche until the very final page of this book.

So, after reading Such a Fun Age twice through, I realized that this is far more than a book about “transactional relationships,” – seriously, did you even know that word existed until this book? I didn’t. It is far more than a book about race, although it very clearly is that too. This is a story about the disconnect we all have with one another as we make assumptions about the people who come into and out of our lives. Do I treat the migrant differently than I treat others in my world? Do I see a person in their 30s and immediately make assumption about their “millennial” lifestyle? Do I try to make others see me as “relevant,” when, in fact, we all are. But, what I came away with most is that Emira was her own person, with her own goals and her own identity. She didn’t want to be super successful like some of her “home girls.” Neither did she want to be left behind in the job market. Most importantly, she didn’t have her life all figured out on the time-table that society set for her – few do! We forget that we are individuals and each of us – regardless of race or religion or lifestyle choices – have to allow that individuality to flourish. Stop putting people into boxes to fit your own ideas, ideals or beliefs. It really is that simple and Such a Fun Age illustrates this beautifully.

GENRE: Domestic Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Thank you to #PenguinPublishingGroup and #GPPutnamandSons

Theme Music by T. Marie Vandelly

She didn’t run from her dark past. She moved in with it…

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Theme Music was one of the most hauntingly bizarre tales that I’ve read in a very long time. There is a paranormal element to it that adds to the horror aspect of the story but the story line itself is macabre enough to frighten off those with weak constitutions. Never-the-less, I couldn’t put this book down!

Dixie was the sole survivor of a family massacre that occurred when she was two. The official story is that her father murdered the family with an axe before slitting his own throat, leaving only Dixie alive in her high chair. Dixie, who was raised by her aunt and uncle, has grown up with the stigma that surrounded her family as a result; so when the house – THE house – is put on the market, Dixie decides to buy it and move in. Not only that, but she gathers all of the old furniture and belongings that have been in storage and creates the house as near to the original as possible. Talk about a bit “off,” or perhaps just slightly obsessed. Of course, once inside the house, all hell breaks loose for Dixie. The problem for the reader is that we never are clear if Dixie is as crazy as her father allegedly was or if there is more to the story that Dixie – or us – even suspect.

Admittedly the story was brilliant until the midway point and then I found myself hurriedly reading through to the end to find out what was going on with the characters – all of them. I think there could have been a bit more editing, especially toward the end of the story. However, even with that in mind, Theme Music is a terrific book, frightening, suspenseful and definitely horrifying.

Thanks to #Edelweiss, the author and #PenguinPublishingGroup #Dutton for my copy of this book.

The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread

#MurderousMonday on a Wednesday #TheScholar

Murder monday with textYes, I know. It really has been that kind of week here at Macsbooks. I’m not sure what the attraction to the Midwest is right now but there are a LOT of travelers visiting the fair state of Indiana. If you’re ever this way, please do stop by The Wisteria House. I truly thought I had these posts ready to go without me, but sadly, I’m just not that coordinated and on top of things. Luckily for my guests, I AM on top of clean rooms and delightful breakfasts :)Whew! 

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The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan is the second book in a series featuring DS Cormac Reilly. As usual, I had not read the first book (I have now) before beginning this one and did not once feel lost or confused.

DS Reilly has been assigned to cold cases until the night his girlfriend frantically calls him. She has found a young woman in the street, the victim of an apparent hit and run. The dead girl is carrying an ID of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company and the company for whom Reilly’s girlfriend, Emma, is conducting research on the first successful artificial kidney. Reilly is certain that Emma cannot be involved so he takes the case, but as it continues to unfold, doubts into Emma’s innocence start to rise, complicating their relationship and eroding his reputation at work.

The Scholar is a multi-layered mystery with heaps of suspense and fabulous, complex characters. McTiernan is a marvelous writer who capably molds her characters into realistic people that often remind us of those we see every day. Never does she cross the line into hyperbole or drive Reilly into a farce of what a DS should be. He is flawed, but not the typical drunk, broken, woe-is-me copper who has become the stand-by for far too many police novels. Instead, he has real flaws like we all do. He makes mistakes like we all do and that creates a character who is far more relatable to the reader.

This is not a “fast paced thriller” but rather a well-done suspenseful mystery and when I say “well-done” I mean superb. I highly recommend both The Scholar which is due for publication in the US in May and The Ruin, which you can find at your local bookstore or library.

Many thanks to #Edelweiss, @DervlaMcTiernan and @Penguinbooks for my copy of #TheScholar

 

The Dream Peddler #Martine Fournier Watson #PublicationDay

It is Publication Day for the exquisitely written debut novel, The Dream Peddler by Martine Fournier Watson.

40908546amazonRobert Owens is peddler of a product that is rare and quite valuable: dreams. He travels from town to town, mixing his elixirs individually for each client at their request, fulfilling their unique desires. Some dream to remember the past, some to see the future and others to relive a present day joy. Evie’s request, however, is unusual. She has a pain so intense that she believes only Robert can and his elixirs can cure. As they meet over the elixir exchange, they form a friendship, a bond, but that bond is tested as the town’s residents begin to turn on Robert. After all, too much of a good thing is never really good for a small town, is it?

I found The Dream Peddler to be one of the most unique, remarkable stories that I have read in a very long time. There is a wide cast of characters, each with their own hidden desires, faults and goodness. However, Evie and Robert clearly stand out as the main focus and their complexity is brilliantly written throughout. While the dreams themselves appear to have a touch of magical realism to them, I felt that the story was more of a parable or fable, a story within the story, with a lesson for us all. We wish, we dream, we have hopes and with those desires come consequences. Do we dare to dream them anyway despite knowing the risk?

I was hesitant to give this a full 5 stars solely due to the fact that the book is complete perfection until the end where it wobbles a just a bit. It is still, however, highly recommended across all genres and one of the best books I’ve read in 2019.

Martine Fournier Watson is originally from Montreal, Canada, where she earned her master’s degree in art history after a year in Chicago as a Fulbright scholar. She currently lives in Michigan with her husband and two children. The Dream Peddler is her first novel.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, @MFournierWatson and @PenguinBooks for my copy of #TheDreamPeddler

Have you read The Dream Peddler? What are you thoughts about it? About dreams coming with risks and consequences. Let me know, I’d like to hear from you!

 

The Good Detective

I should tell you that once I picked up The Good Detective that it was so gripping and thrilling that I could not put it down until I finished it. I should tell you, but I can’t. The fact is that I started this book twice, two months apart, and each time I read the first chapter, got so incensed that I put the book down and didn’t finish it. But there was something about the blurb that kept pulling at me, reeling me back in; something that kept saying “read it, c’mon, you know you want to.” So, on the third try I vowed to get past the second chapter regardless of how angry I became. You know what happened, right? I didn’t put the book down until I completely finished the book! I stayed up all night long and finished reading it. I cannot believe how stupid I was to think I wouldn’t absolutely love this book – because I absolutely LOVED this book!!

51Bg7iOP81L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_amazonThe Good Detective is P.T. Marsh, a “rising star” in a southern Georgia police department, at least he was until his wife and young son drowned in an accident that either was or might not have been a horrible accident. For over a year, P.T. has been a semi-functioning drunk. While in a bar, more like a strip club, he promises a dancer that he will have a talk with her abusive boyfriend. His “talk” actually means that PT beats the crap out of the guy after which he goes home to drink the remainder of his night away. Imagine his surprise when PT is called out the next morning to a murder scene and it is the boyfriend who is murder victim. This is the part that made me so angry. I have no tolerance for police brutality even when the person on the receiving end is a Neo-Nazi scumbag. However, all of this takes place on just a few pages at the very beginning of the book and the remainder of the book is incredibly fascinating! Read on…..

The death of the scumbag leads PT and his partner to the lynching site of a young African American boy. As they begin to search for the boy’s killer – since the best witness and/or suspect is now dead thanks to possibly PT- they begin to uncover something very sinister in their small rural, Georgia town, something that has been happening for centuries and it is dark and conspiratorial, and dangerous and of the very worst sort of nightmare that you can possibly imagine. I wouldn’t even attempt to perceive such atrocities except that I lived in the south and my father was from rural Georgia so I know that this horror does exist and that is what made this book so terrible and fascinating all at the same time. It was like watching a train derailing. I didn’t want to know, didn’t want to see the travesty that was unfolding but I couldn’t stop either.

McMahon has created characters on both sides of the fence that are perfectly conceptualized. They are not pretty, they are not good, they have flaws and some are so awful you won’t want them in your room, not even on your pages. I’m not sure you can create characters like this unless you have encountered them at some point in your lifetime. There were times that this read like something out of the 1930s or 40s, but then I remembered that there are parts of the rural south that still are very much like this. Who am kidding? There are places like this all over the US, not just the south. That’s what is so disturbing. This is happening everywhere, not just in small towns or in a particular region. In the end, there was a small amount of justice and a bit of redemption for PT as well. I can only hope that we will find this type of redemption for America soon. The quote below summed up the ending of book as well as my feelings for my history with the southern US:

There’s no place I’d rather travel than in the South…Even with our history, when I’m at Publix buying groceries, I see interracial couples. Lots of us. So as much as we struggle here with race, in some ways our struggle is closer to the surface and I hold out hope that this means it’s easier to fix. 

I know this was a bit of a rambling review. This was a very emotional book for me. The one thing I can say is that I highly recommend it and hope that you will read it, even it takes you a time or two to get started.

I owe much appreciation to #Edelweiss, @PutnamBooks, #JohnMcMahon and @PenguinPublishingGroup for my advanced copy of #TheGoodDetective

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun #DanaReinhardt

Tomorrow There Will Be Sun is a marvelous written piece of women’s fiction that humorously explores a woman’s life as she realizes that she has reached “middle age,” and her life is not as perfect as she had planned.

51Z11MUh0oL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_amazonJenna Carlson has planned the perfect birthday party for her husband, Peter. Each year Peter and his best friend, Solly, celebrate their birthdays together but this year, their 50th, has to be the best ever! Jenna has been planning for more than a year for the couples, she and Peter; Solly and his second wife Ingrid, to vacation for a week at a luxurious villa in Puerto Vallarta. Joining them will be Jenna and Peter’s daughter, Clementine, Solly and Ingrid’s out-of-control 5-year-old son and Solly’s teenage son, Malcolm from his first marriage. Malcolm has recently has been expelled from school but we don’t talk about that. It sounds like a real delight, doesn’t it? The bottomless, perfect margaritas do help, really, just keeping drinking those. What doesn’t help is that Peter insists on taking “work calls” from his gorgeous assistant back in the states, Solly is incredibly overbearing and Clem is glued to her phone the entire trip – except when she’s trying to seduce Malcom. At the point that a drug cartel disrupts the local town and the villa loses both internet and phone connectivity, the nerves of everyone are frayed. An emotional explosion is inevitable; what the fall out will be may surprise you.

I admit that I, in my 50s, obviously am the target demographic for Tomorrow There Will Be Sun. I found Jenna to be so completely relatable. Her fears, her worries, the things that annoy her – even the words that she makes “off-limits” – all are things that I completely understand and do and say. Okay, there is a lot of Jenna in me. I found the other characters reprehensible and it almost got to the point that I couldn’t finish the book because I, quite literally, despised Solly so much. I’m also very VERY glad that I no longer have teenagers in my world because the more that I read about them in fiction, the less I like them as a whole. When the book finally reaches its crescendo, I am right there with Jenna. I get it! But then, I also totally understand what she does next. Why? Because I’ve been there and done that. Not that my husband did what Peter did, but when you get to be my age and your entire life has been committed to raising your children, your career was set aside for them and them alone, you wake up and realize that the comfortable life you enjoy is very much wedded to the income of the partner that you have. Would you dissolve a business partnership over something like this? It’s questionable. Would you learn to make compromises so that you each had what you wanted in the end? Maybe. Every person involved makes the decisions that are right for them and that is exactly what Jenna does in the end. My gosh, the author does an amazing job conveying the emotions, the fears and worries of every woman who ever has found herself in Jenna’s circumstances.

I loved the book, I loved Jenna and most of all I LOVE that women are writing books about real, live women, warts and all, who are not in their twenties , rather, those who are faced with the ugly parts of life! This was a stellar read for me and I hope it will be for you as well.

Much gratitude to #Edelweiss, #PamelaDormanBks, @PenguinBooks and #dsreinhardt for this incredible read!

The Municipalists by Seth Fried

I’m slipping this review in on a lazy, stormy Sunday afternoon because, honestly, I don’t normally review books that I didn’t finish. The Municipalists, however, is an interesting dystopian tale that comes so close to being really good that I think there may be those out there who enjoy it far more than I did and for that reason I want to bring it to your attention.

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Set in the near future, man has achieved its dream of creating a near perfect city, Metropolis, that is run, along with its sister city, by the United States Municipal Survey. It’s all quite perfect, logical, white button down, starched shirts and a place that makes our protagonist, Henry Thompson, the ultimate bean-counter, very VERY content. Until the day when a series of bombs are detonated and begin to systematically destroy the infrastructure that keeps Metropolis running, including its very important artificial intelligence systems. Henry Thompson, along with his wise-cracking AI, OWEN, are tasked with hunting down the suspects, including a former US Olympian and daughter of one of the top bureaucrats.

The Municipalists has such a great premise and a cast of wonderful characters. The dialogue between Henry and OWEN is almost worth the time it takes to read the book. The problem is that no idea in itself is ever fully developed. The characters, aside from OWEN, ironically, never are fleshed out so there is no attachment to them. The idea of this world crumbling around these happens so quickly in the beginning of the book that the satire, which should be present, is not. You recognize that it should be there, and the void it leaves it palpable. There are thrills, shoot-outs, and adventures for Henry and Owen but because you are not invested in their characters, these incidents don’t really matter. In essence, the words are there, the premise is there but they are not woven together into material that is strong enough to capture and hold your attention.

I really would like to see more from this author and can recognize that there is talent here but perhaps not wholly realized just yet.

Thank you to #PenguinPublishingGroup and #Edelweiss for my copy of #TheMunicipalists.