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Jul 15, 2016

Mini Reviews of Summer 2016 Reads

Friday, July 15, 2016

From June 2016 onwards I picked up some great reads from the library, and we all know how annoying it is to feel forced to write a review. But I did want to highlight some of them because they were very good reads. I no longer review "for others" so all these were either purchased or were library loans.

released April 2016

A sweeping new drama from the beloved, bestselling author of Roses.

Texas in the early 1900s, its inhabitants still traveling by horseback and barely familiar with the telephone, was on the cusp of an oil boom that, unbeknownst to its residents, would spark a period of dramatic changes and economic growth. In the midst of this transformative time in Southern history, two unforgettable characters emerge and find their fates irrevocably intertwined: Samantha Gordon, the privileged heiress to the sprawling Las Tres Lomas cattle ranch near Fort Worth, and Nathan Holloway, a sweet-natured and charming farm boy from far north Texas. As changes sweep the rustic countryside, Samantha and Nathan's connection drives this narrative compulsively forward as they love, lose, and betray. In this grand yet intimate novel, Meacham once again delivers a heartfelt, big-canvas story full of surprising twists and deep emotional resonance.

My thoughts:
I was first introduced to author Leila Meacham in 2010 while she was on tour to promote her release of Roses, a saga about a Texas family. It was a wonderful experience to actually meet the author and I did a quick interview with her before she spoke at a bookstore event. I was thrilled to receive the gorgeous hardcover edition of Titans for Mother's Day this year. This novel had the same feel of a family saga that we love about Meacham's writing, and this time there was a bit of a suspenseful nuance as we wondered how and when the next horseshoe was to drop. It was a very good read about family bonds during the era of Texas growing as an oil-rich state but in the end I did feel like the author was leaving some of her passion behind. Still a very good read with intriguing characters and written pretty much in line with her previous works.

released March 2016

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Spellman Files series, Lisa Lutz’s latest blistering thriller is about a woman who creates and sheds new identities as she crisscrosses the country to escape her past: you’ll want to buckle up for the ride!

In case you were wondering, I didn’t do it. I didn’t have anything to do with Frank’s death. I don’t have an alibi, so you’ll have to take my word for it...

Forty-eight hours after leaving her husband’s body at the base of the stairs, Tanya Dubois cashes in her credit cards, dyes her hair brown, demands a new name from a shadowy voice over the phone, and flees town. It’s not the first time.

She meets Blue, a female bartender who recognizes the hunted look in a fugitive’s eyes and offers her a place to stay. With dwindling choices, Tanya-now-Amelia accepts. An uneasy―and dangerous―alliance is born.

It’s almost impossible to live off the grid today, but Amelia-now-Debra and Blue have the courage, the ingenuity, and the desperation, to try. Hopscotching from city to city, Debra especially is chased by a very dark secret…can she outrun her past?

With heart-stopping escapes and devious deceptions, The Passenger is an amazing psychological thriller about defining yourself while you pursue your path to survival. One thing is certain: the ride will leave you breathless.
My thoughts:
This was a very fast-paced thrill of a read. I pretty much devoured it and didn't want to put it down. There was mystery and suspense that kept me guessing, and you can't help but root for the main protagonist no matter what dastardly deeds she was forced to do. A comfort read, a summer read, a perfect fit for the mystery reader who likes to be entertained.

released January 2015

EVERY DAY THE SAME Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.  UNTIL TODAY And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

My thoughts:
This was a very dark and emotionally intense thriller of a read. When your own marriage is on the fritz I really wouldn't recommend reading this however as it can really depress the crap out of you and perhaps highlight characteristics of your own sad life that would make you want to slit your wrists. Very moody, yet such a good story that really sucks you in with skillful writing. You kind of get the gist of who the bad guys are but it is hard to really tell where the author will take you next as the narrative shifts around. Very well plotted and yet I am not sure how the future movie will be able to portray the power of the author's words in this one.

Look at the life they have, look at how beautiful it is! I have never understood how people can blithely disregard the damage they do by following their hearts.” ― Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

released April 2016
 From the author of the New York Times bestseller and beloved book club favorite The Kitchen House, a novel of family and long-buried secrets along the treacherous Underground Railroad.
Jamie Pyke, son of both a slave and master of Tall Oakes, has a deadly secret that compels him to take a treacherous journey through the Underground Railroad.
Published in 2010, The Kitchen House became a grassroots bestseller. Fans connected so deeply to the book’s characters that the author, Kathleen Grissom, found herself being asked over and over “what happens next?” The wait is finally over.
This new, stand-alone novel opens in 1830, and Jamie, who fled from the Virginian plantation he once called home, is passing in Philadelphia society as a wealthy white silversmith. After many years of striving, Jamie has achieved acclaim and security, only to discover that his aristocratic lover Caroline is pregnant. Before he can reveal his real identity to her, he learns that his beloved servant Pan has been captured and sold into slavery in the South. Pan’s father, to whom Jamie owes a great debt, pleads for Jamie’s help, and Jamie agrees, knowing the journey will take him perilously close to Tall Oakes and the ruthless slave hunter who is still searching for him. Meanwhile, Caroline’s father learns and exposes Jamie’s secret, and Jamie loses his home, his business, and finally Caroline.
Heartbroken and with nothing to lose, Jamie embarks on a trip to a North Carolina plantation where Pan is being held with a former Tall Oakes slave named Sukey, who is intent on getting Pan to the Underground Railroad. Soon the three of them are running through the Great Dismal Swamp, the notoriously deadly hiding place for escaped slaves. Though they have help from those in the Underground Railroad, not all of them will make it out alive.
My thoughts:
This is a sequel to Grissom's The Kitchen House which was a favorite read of mine for 2010. The synopsis above is a thorough account of what to expect, and I found this follow-up to be well worth the wait. The USA (which is pretty much becoming an oxymoron) will always have the hostile environment that we created with our practice of slavery and this novel shows how deeply jaded the human race can be in regards to differences in color. Very enjoyable plot that is fast paced and replete with unforgettable characters. A book that is in the rare running for a re-read.

released September  2002

This powerful new novel by the bestselling author begins when a teenage couple drives up, late at night, headlights out, to Blessings, the estate owned by Lydia Blessing. They leave a box and drive away, and in this instant, the world of Blessings is changed forever. Richly written, deeply moving, beautifully crafted, Blessings tells the story of Skip Cuddy, caretaker of the estate, who finds a baby asleep in that box and decides he wants to keep her, and of matriarch Lydia Blessing, who, for her own reasons, decides to help him. The secrets of the past, how they affect the decisions and lives of people in the present; what makes a person, a life, legitimate or illegitimate, and who decides; the unique resources people find in themselves and in a community—these are at the center of this wonderful novel of love, redemption, and personal change by the writer about whom The Washington Post Book World said, “Quindlen knows that all the things we ever will be can be found in some forgotten fragment of family.”
My thoughts:
When I found this one, I was searching for a book to take my mind off things and something that would hold my interest without having to invest too much time and thought. This was a perfect fit with its lovable characters who try to do the right thing even if it might not be the best thing overall. It was kind of like a feel-good type of story, but yet not too many good things are really happening "action" wise. It is the interaction of the characters and the way that society is portrayed to highlight the things that are blessings in one's life. I enjoyed the novel and will look forward to looking for more of Anna Quindlen's backlist.

released May 2016

From the author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Little Bee, a spellbinding novel about three unforgettable individuals thrown together by war, love, and their search for belonging in the ever-changing landscape of WWII London.
It’s 1939 and Mary, a young socialite, is determined to shock her blueblood political family by volunteering for the war effort. She is assigned as a teacher to children who were evacuated from London and have been rejected by the countryside because they are infirm, mentally disabled, or—like Mary’s favorite student, Zachary—have colored skin.

Tom, an education administrator, is distraught when his best friend, Alastair, enlists. Alastair, an art restorer, has always seemed far removed from the violent life to which he has now condemned himself. But Tom finds distraction in Mary, first as her employer and then as their relationship quickly develops in the emotionally charged times. When Mary meets Alastair, the three are drawn into a tragic love triangle and—while war escalates and bombs begin falling around them—further into a new world unlike any they’ve ever known.
v A sweeping epic with the kind of unforgettable characters, cultural insights, and indelible scenes that made Little Bee so incredible, Chris Cleave’s latest novel explores the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the elite, the embattled. Everyone Brave Is Forgiven is a heartbreakingly beautiful story of love, loss, and incredible courage.
My thoughts:
I kept seeing the cover of this novel during internet browsing and its premise called to me. I was fortunate to get the eBook pretty early on via the library and it was a nice surprise. The writing is one that is full of prose and very descriptive, and while I tend to dislike overly wordy literary style novels, this one was just the right blend of emotion, beauty and tragedy. This was a realistic look at how lives were changed through the effects of war and it was very matter-of-fact though with a underlying thread of hope. The plot was a simple one, but its slow progression is precisely the beauty of this novel.