REVIEW: THE FRIENDS WE KEEP, BY JANE GREEN

 

Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known one another since college. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and they never found the lives they wanted—the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible.

Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man.

Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with in college, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause.

Topher became a successful actor, but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy.

By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with one another and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness…until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything.

 

My Thoughts: I was definitely in the mood for The Friends We Keep, as there is something so heartfelt about Jane Green’s friendship tales. I also love how she paints pictures of the settings, the food, and the events in a way that makes me feel as if I’m there with the characters.

A story that spans decades, this book shows the characters as they struggle, as they soar during the good times, and then how their feelings of betrayal come to the forefront when dark secrets are revealed.

In the end, the friendships are tested in a familiar way, and we are left with good feelings, even though real life would have given them more challenges along the way. An enjoyable read that earned 4.5 stars from me, despite the predictable elements.

***

REVIEW: THE BURNING GIRL, BY CLAIRE MESSUD

Julia and Cassie have been friends since nursery school. They have shared everything, including their desire to escape the stifling limitations of their birthplace, the quiet town of Royston, Massachusetts. But as the two girls enter adolescence, their paths diverge and Cassie sets out on a journey that will put her life in danger and shatter her oldest friendship. The Burning Girl is a complex examination of the stories we tell ourselves about youth and friendship, and straddles, expertly, childhood’s imaginary worlds and painful adult reality—crafting a true, immediate portrait of female adolescence.

Claire Messud, one of our finest novelists, is as accomplished at weaving a compelling fictional world as she is at asking the big questions: To what extent can we know ourselves and others? What are the stories we create to comprehend our lives and relationships? Brilliantly mixing fable and coming-of-age tale, The Burning Girl gets to the heart of these matters in an absolutely irresistible way.

My Thoughts: Julia (JuJu) and Cassie met in nursery school and bonded over similar interests, and a unique ability to know what the other girl was feeling.

At some point, and after Cassie has seemingly turned away from Julia, rather abruptly, the two are barely civil for a while. In fact, some of Cassie’s new friends are downright mean girls.

The Burning Girl moves back and forth in time, showing us some of their best adventures together, like exploring the abandoned asylum near the quarry. Those moments spent there would come back later in the book in a pivotal way.

Cassie is described as frail, beautiful, and with “famous” white blond hair. But her behavior over the years is “slutty,” according to the other girls, and soon Cassie is isolated from everyone except the bad girls. Cassie’s issues exacerbate after her mother invites her new boyfriend to stay with them. Dr. Anders Shute seems to offer Cassie’s mother Bev a feeling of upward mobility, in which she can feel “better than” she once felt. Meanwhile, Cassie struggles with her daddy issues and resents Dr. Shute’s controlling attitudes.

What happens when Cassie completely goes off the rails, disappearing mysteriously? After her second disappearance, Julia is drawn into a sense of connection with Cassie again, having dreams of a dark cloak covering a “burning girl.”

I like Julia’s musings near the end: “Whatever choices we think we make, whatever we think we can control, has a life and a destiny we cannot fully see. That I can sense the way the plot will go, that I could…save the life of one Cassie Burnes—it’s only an illusion I cling to.”

A book that moved slowly in the beginning, but always had a hint of darkness that might be revealed later on, the tale was a coming-of-age story with mystical edges. Still, I could only give this book 4 stars. It kept me engaged, but there was much to ponder that left me shaking my head.

***

FROM THE INTERIOR: WAITING ON “A WEEK AT THE LAKE”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday, our special day for sharing upcoming book releases.  Hop on over to Breaking the Spine to find out what everyone else is excited about.

Today I am thrilled to share my anticipation for Wendy Wax’s upcoming release, A Week at the Lake, to be released on June 23, 2015.

 

 

 

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Twenty years ago, Emma Michaels, Mackenzie Hayes, and Serena Stockton bonded over their New York City dreams. Then, each summer, they solidified their friendship by spending one week at the lake together, solving their problems over bottles of wine and gallons of ice cream. They kept the tradition for years, until jealousy, lies, and life’s disappointments made them drift apart.

It’s been five years since Emma has seen her friends, an absence designed to keep them from discovering a long-ago betrayal. Now she’s in desperate need of their support. The time has come to reveal her secrets—and hopefully rekindle their connection.

But when a terrible accident keeps Emma from saying her piece, Serena and Mackenzie begin to learn about the past on their own. Now, to heal their friendship and their broken lives, the three women will have to return to the lake that once united them, and discover which relationships are worth holding on to . . .

***

I love this author’s work, and I can’t wait to find out about a new series of friends with their secrets and betrayals.  What are you sharing today?

***

FROM THE INTERIOR: INTROS/TEASERS – “THE WEDNESDAY GROUP”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

It is time for our happy dance!  Let’s grab our books and share those excerpts.  Mine today is an ARC from Amazon Vine:  The Wednesday Group, by Sylvia True.

 

 

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Intro:  (Lizzy)

The wind howls, then quiets to a gray whisper.  Lizzy pauses in front of the bedroom door holding a bottle of wine and two goblets.  Her casual nightshirt shows off her long legs.  If this marriage is going to survive, they need to reconnect.

She opens the door and stands at the foot of the bed.  Though fifty-two, Greg could still pass for thirty-five.  He has a full head of dirty blond hair, a boyish grin, and healthy skin, no age spots, no circles under his brown eyes.

“Thought you might want some wine,” she says.

“What kind?”  He sits up a little.

“Chardonnay.”

“I guess.”

Although she senses his hesitation, she manages to smile and begins to pour.

“That’s enough.”  He holds out his hand.

There’s still plenty of time.  He’s always been a slow starter, although she’d thought that would change after he confessed.

***

Teaser:  She curls under the eiderdown.  The room smells like stale wine.  The beginnings of a migraine nag at her temple.  (p.4).

***

Amazon Description:  Gail. Hannah. Bridget. Lizzy. Flavia. Each of them has a shameful secret, and each is about to find out that she is not alone… Gail, a prominent Boston judge, keeps receiving letters from her husband’s latest girlfriend, while her husband, a theology professor, claims he’s nine-months sober from sex with grad students. Hannah, a homemaker, catches her husband having sex with a male prostitute in a public restroom. Bridget, a psychiatric nurse at a state hospital, is sure she has a loving, doting spouse, until she learns that he is addicted to chat rooms and match-making websites. Lizzy, a high school teacher, is married to a porn addict, who is withdrawn and uninterested in sex with her. Flavia was working at the Boston Public library when someone brought her an article that stated her husband had been arrested for groping a teenage girl on the subway. He must face court, and Flavia must decide if she wants to stay with him. Finally, Kathryn, the young psychologist running the group, has as much at stake as all of the others.

As the women share never-before-uttered secrets and bond over painful truths, they work on coming to terms with their husbands’ addictions and developing healthy boundaries for themselves. Meanwhile, their outside lives become more and more intertwined, until, finally, a series of events forces each woman to face her own denial, betrayal and uncertain future head-on.

***

What are your thoughts?  Does this one grab you?

***

REVIEW: WHEN WE FALL, BY EMILY LIEBERT

20821323When Allison Parker and her ten-year-old son Logan leave Manhattan eleven years after her husband’s tragic death, she is hoping to start fresh. Find a new perspective.

The house she finds seems perfect, and it is close to the one owned by her parents, who provide a great support network.

At one of the first school events, however, Allison runs into an old friend: her husband’s best friend Charlie Crane. And with Charlie comes his wife Charlotte, who is a little less than friendly. Charlotte has her own issues of insecurity and her marriage has hit a bumpy path. Plus, her daughter Gia, also ten, is difficult. And probably spoiled.

What will happen when these old and new friends begin to mix? How will Charlotte’s posh friends, Sabrina and Missy, fit into this new arrangement? And then, what will alter everything for Charlotte when her challenging sister Elizabeth instantly connects with Allison?

I found myself rooting for both Allison and Charlotte, but at times, I threw up my hands at Charlotte’s inability to see through her “mean girl” mommy friends. Elizabeth grew on me, especially after seeing her through Allison’s eyes.

A wonderful story of friendship, marriage, and the strains that tug at the newly forming bonds and threaten to sever old bonds, When We Fall was an unputdownable read for me. The ending came a little too swiftly for me; I would have enjoying seeing the unfolding conflicts play out instead of being “told” what happened after the inevitable explosion. However, the story was delightful and fans of family and friendship dramas will enjoy it. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: NANTUCKET SISTERS, BY NANCY THAYER

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Emily and Maggie met as children on Nantucket Island. Maggie lived there year-round, while Emily came for the summers. They were so close that they called themselves Nantucket Sisters: A Novel.

Ben, Maggie’s brother, is two years older, and Emily has had a crush on him since childhood.

Slowly, over the years, we watch as time and life changes them. Maggie goes away to college, and so does Emily, but to different universities, their paths only crossing occasionally. Emily’s relationship with Ben becomes deeper over time, but their differences seemingly pull them apart.

As they reach adulthood, forces consume them, and compromise seems impossible. What secrets and betrayals stand between them? Can anything repair the broken ties?

Maggie’s desire to be a writer keeps her connected to the island, and Emily’s passion for the environment also connects her to that world. Will they finally discover how to resurrect what they’ve lost? What tragedies happen to ultimately reunite them? And what secrets will remain between them?

As the author’s prose painted pictures of the setting and the people, it all seemed like a gift to be unwrapped slowly. I loved the author’s descriptions of the island, from the homes to the waves against the shore. The parties seemed to invite me in, welcoming me as if I were in attendance. But what truly engaged me was the strength of friendship in spite of mistakes and the knowledge that even broken trust can be repaired. The ending was triumphant and a bit predictable, but heart-warming. 4.5 stars.

A FRIENDSHIP JOURNEY — A REVIEW

3295In the sequel to The Friday Night Knitting Club, Knit Two picks up a few years after the first story ends.

Georgia, the owner of the Walker and Daughter Knitting shop, who died in the first book, is a big part of this tale. Her presence continues in the minds and hearts of those left behind: the group of friends who comprised the knitting club. Women of all ages from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, they show us bits and pieces of who they are, moving ahead.

Dakota, as Georgia’s daughter and co-owner of the shop, is a freshman at NYU. There she is, trying to figure out who she is and what she wants, and whether or not she will forever be tied to the shop; will she continue her mother’s dream, or will she find out what the shop means to her in the present?

What I enjoyed most about this story was the wide age-range of the characters, from Anita, a seventy-something woman on down to the teenaged Dakota. In between are the forty-somethings and the thirty-somethings, proving once again that age is not what defines us. Even those who didn’t knit in the first book are now finding their own pace, while discovering other things that connect them to one another.

A trip to Italy brings together a group of people joined by business, but in the end, something further connects them. What is Anita’s big secret, and what is the meaning behind the mysterious postcards she receives? How does Catherine’s telephone connection to a man named Marco—an Italian winemaker—lead them all to the answers one of them has pursued? And what seemingly tragic event forms the basis for a whole new definition for the shop and for each of them? There were some predictable parts to the story, but I enjoyed how everything came together in the end. In the final section, recipes and knitting patterns are brought out for the reader. A book that knitters will enjoy, it also offers the reader a feel-good peek into the world of friendships between women, in glorious settings, from Manhattan to Italy. Four stars.