REVIEW: THE SILENT SISTER, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

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Riley MacPherson’s family has suffered numerous losses, and the troubled history that seemingly hovers over them all is about to get a lot worse. Leaving behind her stable life in Durham, where she is a school counselor, she takes a leap into the past, returning home to New Bern after her father’s death, to settle up his estate. There she finds her angry brother Danny living in his reclusive trailer in the forest, and even though she tries to reach out to him, he keeps her at arm’s length.

The task of going through her father’s things will be hers alone, as Danny refuses to be part of it. An old friend of her mother’s, Jeannie Lyons, is an irritating addition to her life as she sorts through everything, and between Jeannie and her daughter Christine, who are readying the home for estate sales, etc., Riley feels overwhelmed and annoyed with their very presence.

But as Riley begins to search through her father’s effects, more questions appear, and she begins to wonder about the family’s hidden secrets and the lies that stood between her and the family she longed for. And suddenly, her connection to Jeannie changes, as more is revealed.

What is the truth behind older sister Lisa’s supposed suicide? What lies under the surface of Lisa’s privileged life as a music prodigy? How did their father manage to change the course of all of their lives by one series of actions? And who is Jade, living across the country in an alternate life?

Riley’s story is narrated in her first person voice, in the year 2013, while Jade’s narrative takes place in the 1990s, following one secret night that changed all of their lives.

How will their lives reconnect, and what threats still await them all? A wonderfully unputdownable story, The Silent Sister is a testament to the strength of family attachments in spite of the secrets that lie beneath the facades. Set in North Carolina, occasionally veering off into Virginia and then to San Diego and Seattle, I followed the characters on their journeys. I loved this story, and would recommend it for all Chamberlain fans, and for any who enjoy a good story of family secrets, lies, and deceptions. 5.0 stars.

FROM THE INTERIOR: EAGERLY AWAITING “LILA”

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Welcome to another Wednesday for sharing our eager anticipation of upcoming releases.  Check in over at Breaking the Spine, to see what everyone is excited about.

I am late to the party today, but I stumbled upon this book from a favorite author and had to join in:  Lila: A Novel, by Marilynne Robinson, is coming on October 7, 2014.

 

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Blurb:  Marilynne Robinson, one of the greatest novelists of our time, returns to the town of Gilead in an unforgettable story of a girlhood lived on the fringes of society in fear, awe, and wonder.
Lila, homeless and alone after years of roaming the countryside, steps inside a small-town Iowa church—the only available shelter from the rain—and ignites a romance and a debate that will reshape her life. She becomes the wife of a minister, John Ames, and begins a new existence while trying to make sense of the life that preceded her newfound security.
Neglected as a toddler, Lila was rescued by Doll, a canny young drifter, and brought up by her in a hardscrabble childhood. Together they crafted a life on the run, living hand to mouth with nothing but their sisterly bond and a ragged blade to protect them. Despite bouts of petty violence and moments of desperation, their shared life was laced with moments of joy and love. When Lila arrives in Gilead, she struggles to reconcile the life of her makeshift family and their days of hardship with the gentle Christian worldview of her husband which paradoxically judges those she loves.
Revisiting the beloved characters and setting of Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Gilead and Home, a National Book Award finalist, Lila is a moving expression of the mysteries of existence that is destined to become an American classic.

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I am so excited about this new book from Robinson.  What are you excited about today?

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FROM THE INTERIOR: MUSINGS & RAMBLINGS

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I have missed the last few Musing Mondays, but today I just felt in the mood to muse a little.  Check Should Be Reading to see what others are chatting about.

Here are some possible topics:

 

Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• What book are you currently desperate to get your hands on? Tell us about it!
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are (or, aren’t) enjoying it.
• Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up? Share it with us!
• Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it, then!

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So, today I’m going to ramble a bit, sharing odds and ends that strike my fancy. 

As I posted my review today of Save the Date, I realized that I have written reviews for all the Vine and Author Review Books on my stacks through July.  And there are only four on my August stacks.  Although I think another two or three books are in the mail, headed my way.

 

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It is sometimes a challenge to keep ahead of those review books, and still find time to read the books I bought, some as far back as 2011 (although there are only a few of those left!).

Another delightful piece of news (for me); on Thursday, I moaned and groaned about the new posting system at WP (My Bookish/Not So Bookish Thoughts).

And then, quite by accident, as I prepared to write a new post, I noticed a little place to click if I wanted the Classic Posting System.  Yay for classic!

So all is not lost.  Just as on Amazon, where there is a new system that I don’t like, with no place in it for inserting book links; however, again, magic click takes us to the Classic Mode.

Speaking of Amazon:  here are my recent stats showing that I just posted my 1100th Review!

 

 

Your reviewing stats
Reviews written: 1,100

Reviewer rank: 423
Helpful votes: 3,257 of 3,834

REVIEW: SAVE THE DATE, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

18404093Talented Savannah florist Cara Kryzik has taken over the business of her former boss, and even though her new business is flourishing with wonderful referrals, a series of expenses have created challenges for her. Especially with her controlling father, the Colonel, who lent her money in the beginning, now demanding to be repaid.

Cara manages to keep juggling the various obstacles and to concentrate on a very promising new client that could put her business in the black. But will the competitive designer on the other side of town who seems to be sabotaging her at every turn keep her from achieving her goals? And what about the conflicts between the bride and her stepmother that could threaten the beautiful wedding they hope for? Could something deeper and more damaging ruin everything for the bride, for Cara, and her dreams? And how will Cara’s prize assistant seem to derail their teamwork as the big day approaches?

Save the Date has pages of interesting scenarios and conflicts, as well as characters that kept the story moving along. As we near the end, it is impossible to put this book down, as even though the storyline could be a bit predictable at times, the challenges were unique enough that I could not be sure how everything would sort itself out. And the characters, like Cara, her assistant Bert, and a potential love interest named Jack Finnerty, were fun and likeable. I was rooting for them, and holding my breath, hoping that the saboteurs would not win.

And throughout, I loved the descriptions of the flowers and the weddings, along with the delightful antics of two look-alike dogs that were, in many ways, matchmakers for Cara and Jack. With a breathtaking ending, this was a truly satisfying read. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE WRONG GIRL, BY HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN

17332262It all started out with one young woman, Tucker Cameron, in search of her birth mother.

And with Jane Ryland’s help, the whole process takes on a life of its own. As a reporter, Jane is always in search of a big story. And the idea that the Brannigan, an adoption agency, might be matching birth parents with the wrong children is just too good not to explore. Tuck is her friend, a former reporter, so she also has a special interest in the case.

The Wrong Girl (Jane Ryland) is actually more than one storyline, with murders coming one right after the other. A woman mysteriously killed in an apartment not her own, with two small children nearby; another woman who works for the Brannigan killed a few days later; and then the mysterious death of Niall Branngian.

Jake Brogan is a police detective involved in the murder cases, and he and Jane have a little thing going, something they try to keep hidden because of their jobs.

What, if anything, connects the various murder victims? How will Jane and Jake resolve the various cases and find a way to be together?

Quick shifts in perspective take the reader behind the scenes involving the Department of Children and Families, as well as the adoption agency. Another side story involves a cleaning crew that shows up after crimes scenes, but what is their true agenda? And who is behind what they do?

In the end, I felt the story wrapped up a little too tidily, but I enjoyed the characters and how the story kept me engaged throughout. 4.0 stars.

ENTER THE INTERIOR & GRAB SOME GIVEAWAY BOOKS!

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Earlier today, I was clearing off some shelves again, and as a result, my Book Nook has some new titles for giveaway.  Check them out!  There is an eclectic mix of books.

This clearing-out process took some books to the Library Collections box in the garage, as well as some to the graveyard for ARCs, since they are not included in my Book Nook or the Library box.

So, dear bloggers, it’s time again to offer up some books here.  All you have to do is stop by, leave a comment and tell me if you are a follower (for an extra entry), leave your contact info, and voila!  That’s it.

The giveaway will last until the end of the month.  Thanks for stopping by!

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REVIEW: WE ARE NOT OURSELVES, BY MATTHEW THOMAS

91hu3hzm1PLThis epic saga of an Irish Catholic family commences in Queens in 1941, with Eileen Tumulty, the MC, whose story begins when she is about nine years of age. Through her eyes, we see the effect her father has on her, with his stories, his drinking, and his larger-than-life essence.

Her remote mother, also a heavy drinker, stops drinking at one point, but life does not seem better for her.

Even at this early age, we see Eileen’s yearning for a rich tapestry of love, family, and beautiful settings. She has her eye on bigger and better things.

So when she meets Ed Leary in her college years, when she is studying nursing, there is a pull. Something about him that feels like home.

But as they begin their journey, and even after their son is born, we see the chasms growing between them, as what they each want seems to differ more and more with time.

Ed’s quirks seem more and more irritating to Eileen, as she realizes, finally, how much they have grown apart. And perhaps they never wanted the same things and she only saw what she wanted to see. Eileen’s longing for what she envisions for them—the house, the neighborhood, and the life—drives her to take actions.

But will the changes they make contribute to other, more drastic upheavals in their lives? What lies beneath Ed’s behavior, and what will Eileen have to do to bring about the serenity she craves?

The tragedies, sadness, and poignant moments that linger over the rest of We Are Not Ourselves: A Novel kept me going, wondering and even hoping that there would be some miraculous resolution to the changes in their lives. What was great to see was Eileen’s strength, in the face of life’s unexpected reversals. Ed’s traits that seemed annoying earlier in the story are now seen for what they were, a harbinger of what was to come.

Connell, the son, was difficult to pin down, for me. In his youth, he seemed on the brink of choices that could derail his life, but then, almost magically, he seemed to turn things around. What I did not like about him was his inability to see things from his parents’ perspective, and his obliviousness to any needs but his own. But time itself corrects this, and in the end, we see a new and improved version of him, ready to confront his legacy and carve out his own.

A compelling story that touches on issues with which families struggle, even without the tragedies. How marriages are often entered into without thought to how the individuals will manage when the early love no longer sustains them. And then we see that the commitment and the early bonds step in to spotlight the deeper and lasting foundation. Beautiful prose that created wonderful images of a family, a life, and the legacies left behind. 5.0 stars.