REVIEW: DEAR DAUGHTER, BY ELIZABETH LITTLE

 

 

81wMk-xe5RL._SL1500_Synopsis: Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is sly, stunning, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a high-society beauty known for her good works and rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie makes herself over and goes undercover, determined to chase down the one lead she has on her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the killer she’s looking for.

The fun in Dear Daughter: A Novel is trying to figure out who did what, as we trail along behind Janie in her disguise as Rebecca. Her search for answers leads her to South Dakota, and what she discovers there will keep us hopping throughout this journey.

Who had the most to gain by killing Janie’s mother and framing her? What secrets lie in the small towns of Ardelle and Adeline? Is anyone buying Janie’s disguise, or is her gig up before she even completes it?

There were times when I was confused by the numerous characters and connections Janie/Rebecca came across in South Dakota. I often had to keep checking to see who was related to whom. But throughout, Janie was clearly a well-drawn character.

In many ways, she was an unlikeable character, but I found myself rooting for her anyway. In the end, I was stunned by the unexpected reveal. And then disappointed by the final denouement. 3.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE CARRIER, BY SOPHIE HANNAH

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Gaby Struthers is waiting for her plane, the one that will return her home to England after a long day of business in Germany. But the plane has been delayed, and a horrific young woman is shrieking, sobbing, and carrying on, disturbing everyone around her. Unfortunately, this scene is just the beginning of what will be Gaby’s association with the young woman, Lauren Cookson, whose life is seemingly linked to hers in unexpected ways.

Thus begins the twisted tale, The Carrier (A Zailer & Waterhouse Mystery), another journey into a muddled murder with the usual suspects of quirky detectives trying to solve the case. There is Charlie Zailer, the most likeable of them all, in my opinion, but she, for some reason, has chosen to marry Simon Waterhouse, who is beyond neurotic…but also interesting. And smart.

Then there is their boss, Proust, whom everyone calls The Snowman.

Who was murdered? A woman named Francine Breary, and her husband Tim has confessed. But doesn’t know why he murdered her, supposedly.

The host of strange characters extends to those who have been like the cast of a weird play, surrounding Tim and Francine, all living in a posh house owned by Dan and Kerry Jose, who were investors in Gaby’s business years before. See, strange connections.

When the police, who are not satisfied with Tim’s confession, begin to question all of these people individually, they are even more puzzled. It is clear that everyone is lying…but why?

Soon we realize some of the connections, and why Gaby is central in much of what is happening. She has been in love with Tim for years…but he wouldn’t leave his wife, who has reportedly treated him horribly, and everyone else has been witness to it. He did leave once, but then returned when she had a stroke, which is her condition for a while prior to her death.

The story takes us through the mysterious case via alternating perspectives, and then occasionally we are offered a series of letters that, for me, were the one negative in it all. Written by each of those who lived with Tim and Francine, they were addressed to Francine herself, and then hidden in the mattress. It was obvious that she would never read the letters…and their presence in the story was confusing. There was a point near the end where they turned out to be somewhat helpful…but not in the way one would expect.

I had pretty much figured out who had actually killed Francine early on, but the whys and wherefores took a while to figure out. And throughout, Gaby continued to stand by Tim, but I could not understand why. In my opinion, he was beyond weird and not even a little bit appealing. But the story is a psychological study as well as a mystery, and as we ponder why any of the characters like or love each other, we are taken on an exploration that is both fascinating and puzzling. Except for the odd letters, I enjoyed the story enough to award four stars.

GUESS WHAT? MY INTERIORS ARE IN FLUX AGAIN!

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About a year ago, I moved this little table out of my office and set it before the patio door.  I liked being able to look outside while eating.

The photo above was taken during the summer months, an especially lovely time to sit by the window.

But my daughter and grandson Noah just moved into their own house, the one just vacated by my youngest son.  And guess what?  She didn’t have a dining room table, and we will be going there for holidays.  She is the one who loves to cook…LOL.

I still have my Coca Cola dining room set and pub table, so I’m all set as well.

 

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I am flexible…that’s what I am.  So here is my wicker loveseat by the windows now…like a window seat.

 

 

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And here is the view from the front door:

 

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See how much more “walking room” there is!  And you know how much I love rearranging things.

I hope to be able to share photos of her new home within a few weeks.  It is still a work-in-progress, but she already has new carpet and a new paint job.  I love her color sense.

After rearranging things, I’ve been enjoying Gilmore Girls on Netflix.  I’d hoped to get through the first season today, but now I just want to read.

 

 

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The Carrier, by Sophie Hannah, is fascinating so far.

 

 

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What kind of weekend are you having?  Do you ever find yourself in the midst of reinventing your space?

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MY NEWLY CONFIGURED INTERIOR WORLD

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Welcome to my interior world.  As you enter my living and dining room, you are likely to see an assortment of collections, like the ones on my assorted shelves (above).

I am the first to admit that I have gone a little crazy with the collecting over the years, but this past week has been one of really taking another look at everything.  I have been clearing out drawers, closets, trunks, etc., and that quest has extended into my garage, where I have tackled those see-through bins that contain various collections.  But it was the paperwork I was after this week.  Sorting, shredding, etc.  Read about it at Curl up and Read, My Bookish (and Not So Bookish) Thoughts.

The next logical step was to do something about my books.  Yes, those.  At my Weekend Potpourri:  Abandoning the Old Rules, I made a big decision.  I decided to stop participating in my Mt. TBR Challenge, even though I was only four books short of completing it.

Why?  Because none of the remaining books (purchased before 2014) engaged me at all!  There were only nine more of those books, and rather than spend one more day trying to struggle through any of them, I am stacking them in the box for the collection drive.

Turning my attention to my newer books, I am pleased to report that my print volumes are few in number, and half of them were contest wins, so I didn’t purchase that many of these (see below, on the middle stacks, for purchased books); the stack on the far right includes books I purchased to reread:

 

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It is a different story on Sparky (my Kindle).  I have gone a little nuts downloading those books this year.  I did finish all the ones from prior years.

 

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Although I have read a few of the e-books I purchased this year, when I counted up the ones remaining, I was stunned!  Sixty-seven e-books remain!

So it’s a good thing I am going to turn my attention to these books, and have decided to give up challenges.  Now I can do something radical:  something I have been longing to do.  Read whatever my heart desires!

Have you ever done anything like this?  I know that I’ve read that some of you have given up purchasing books at all, using only the library.  I’m not ready for that yet.  But who knows what could happen?

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REVIEW: THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN, BY LISA JEWELL

71uOvtmWDeL._SL1500_Nestled in a pretty little village in the Cotswolds, the cottage had once been a quaint and cozy home for Colin and Lorelei Bird and their four children: Megan, Bethan, and twin boys, Rory and Rhys. They dubbed it The Bird House.

Lorelei was a childlike woman who seemed lighthearted on the surface, but there was something about her. Was it her slight detachment? Or, perhaps, it was her increasing need to surround herself with treasures. It all seemed to start with her tendency to buy everything in bulk, as if the thought of running out of something terrified her.

Until ultimately, the stacks and stacks of belongings increased monumentally because she never threw anything away.
Her fear of losing even one item was definitely a sign that things were not right.

Almost as if she were reacting to her mother’s disorder, Meg turned to a well-ordered, minimalist lifestyle that reeked of another kind of disorder: slight obsessive-compulsiveness.

Beth stayed at her mother’s house for so long that one might wonder about her psychological state. At thirty, she seemed adolescent and made some dangerous choices that would later come back to haunt her.

Something traumatic happens to them on Easter in 1991, and for all the years afterwards, they would be reeling from it. Would Rory be most affected? Or would Lorelei’s apparent lack of a reaction signify the beginning of the end for her? What secrets hide behind Lorelei’s façade, along with her inordinate need to surround herself with objects?

Alternating perspectives, including a few e-mails written by Lorelei to an Internet friend named Jim, reveal much of the story and finally yield some answers. An engaging tale that will appeal to fans of family dysfunction, The House We Grew Up In: A Novel was full of realistic characters, and I especially enjoyed the wonderfully hopeful ending. 5 stars.

REVIEW: CROOKED RIVER, BY VALERIE GEARY

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Sam and Ollie McAlister look forward every year to their time in the meadow near Terrebonne, a rural village in Oregon, the home they have with their father, Frank (Bear). A beekeeper and an eccentric loner, he is an important part of their world.

And then their mother dies unexpectedly, and they are now living fulltime with their father.

Exploring the river one day shortly after their arrival, they discover a woman’s body in the river, but it floats away before they can reach it. And then, for unknown reasons, they decide to keep their find a secret.

Their father’s mysterious face scratches, some missing hours that he was not at home, and his unwillingness to share what is going on with him are the unfortunate secrets that add to the “circumstantial evidence” leading to Bear’s arrest.

But Sam and Ollie feel sure that he is innocent. However, Ollie, damaged by events, has stopped speaking, ever since their mother’s death, and she “sees” visions. She is guided by Shimmering…from the spirit world. Through body language and gestures, she tries to communicate to Sam, without much luck. So Sam is on her own, playing detective, and bumbling along in her efforts to prove someone else killed their father.

Narrated in fifteen-year-old Sam’s voice, with ten-year-old Ollie’s thoughts shared in alternating chapters, Crooked River: A Novel is a suspenseful coming-of-age tale that reveals much about the bonds of family, the secrets that can tear those bonds apart, and how determination can lead to redemption. But first, Sam and Ollie have to survive those who are trying to undermine them and even harm them.

I could not put this book down, and even though the outcome was fairly predictable, and I had figured out who the killer was early on, I rooted for Sam and Ollie, and it was fun watching them sort it all out. 4.5 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: MY SEVEN DEADLY SINS!

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Today I have been pondering, reflecting, etc., in response to a TAG from My Home of Books, all about Seven Deadly Sins.

The prompt:  answer the seven questions below…

 

Seven Deadly Sins
1. Greed:
What is your most expensive book?
I purchased Barbra Streisand’s My Passion for Design a  couple of years ago…it sells for almost $40.00, but it is thick and filled with glorious photos, as well as text.
2. Wrath:
What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?
Off the top of my head, I would say that Danielle Steel’s books are no longer on my to-read stacks.  They are too predictable and formulaic for my tastes these days.   Hate is too strong a word, however.
3. Gluttony:
What book have you devoured over and over again with no shame?
First of all, I would never be ashamed to reread or devour a book over and over…LOL.  But lately, I have not done so.  In my younger years, that book was Gone with the Wind.  A few years ago, I reread a couple of Beth Gutcheon’s books:  Domestic Pleasures and Still Missing.

4. Sloth:
Which book have you neglected reading due to laziness?
Okay…probably a Stephen King book that has been on my stacks for several years…I’m not kidding here!  I bought it before starting Curl up and Read, the blog designed to help me whittle down the stacks.  Lisey’s Story is that book.  Hefty.  But I’ve read much heftier books lately…so I’m not sure why.  But I’ll get to it…I promise!
5. Pride:
What book do you most talk about in order to sound like an intellectual reader?
Anything by Dosteovsky or Tolstoy…LOL.

6. Lust:
What attributes do you find attractive in a male or female character?
Generalized attributes–
men: Chiseled jaw; strong body; and sensitivity, too.
women: Strength; ability to stand on her own two feet; her looks don’t matter much.
7. Envy:
What book would you most like to receive as a gift?
Anything having to do with interior design, with lots of photos.

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And that’s it, folks!  My soul is bared….

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If you ponder these questions, what would your answers be?  I’d love to read your thoughts!

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