The Possessions. Finished 3-1-17, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 368 pages, pub. 2017
In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.
But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls. from Goodreads
What started slow, but interesting, gained strength as we neared the midway point and finished with and acceptable end. Because there was no place or even time frame given to the novel it had a dystopian feel, even though society was operating just as it does today. The story without context and the protagonist who kept us at arm’s length left the story in some parallel universe where the only thing different is that ‘bodies’ like Edie could open themselves up to spirits beyond the grave so that loved ones could continue to have a relationship with the deceased.
Creepy. The whole book was creepy, but not in a bad way. The idea of renting a body to talk to a lost loved one (think séance without the candles or theatrics) was new and the Elysian Society seemed like a well run operation. Edie, one of the longer serving bodies was a blank slate for the bereaved and the reader. Until the end you really had no idea who she was, where she came from or what she was capable of and by then it was almost too late to care much.
I liked it because it was different and the concept was a fun one to ponder. There were enough subplots to keep the story moving and at least one character I ended up caring about more than Edie. But there were some issues too, the slow start being one.
I thought this was a solid debut and very different. Kudos to Murphy for bringing something new to the table.
Thank you to TLC Tours for the allowing me to be a part of this tour and sending the book to me. Here are the other stops if you’re interested in checking them out.
At Wolf Ranch. Finished 12-25-16, rating 3.5/5, romance, 358 pages. pub. 2015
Book 1 in the Montana Men series
After years on the rodeo circuit, Gabe Bowden wants nothing more than land of his own and a woman who will claim his heart for more than one night. When he has the chance to buy the enormous Wolf Ranch spread, he snaps up the incredible deal. Everything is set, until Gabe rescues a woman on the deserted, snowy road leading to the property, and the half-frozen beauty changes everything.
Ella Wolf rushes to her family’s abandoned Montana ranch after her twin sister is murdered. She knows she’s next . . . unless she can uncover a secret hidden somewhere at Wolf Ranch. The last thing Ella expects is to be rescued by a rugged rancher with his own agenda. A man who almost makes her forget how dangerous love can be. from Goodreads
I am not a big fan of cowboy stories. Maybe it’s that I haven’t read many? I’m a city girl. When a friend recommended that our families go camping together recently Jason laughed out loud and then shared my feelings on tents, spiders, running water…my only saving grace was that I loved s’mores by the campfire. Anyway, this is not a book I would have picked up to read, EXCEPT that I met author Jennifer Ryan at the Avon event last month and she was wonderful. I got the book signed by her and dove in. I was pleasantly surprised.
Ella is an uber rich NYC girl who witnesses her twin sister being murdered by her uncle with a policeman there backing him up. This is the opening scene of the book. She hightails it to Montana and her family’s ranch only to be left for dead and rescued by a cowboy.
Will she avenge her sister? Will she and the cowboy have lots of sex? Does she have more money than Oprah? All of these questions and more will be answered (well, you’ll have to do the math on the Oprah one)
I liked it and thought Ella and Gabe were a good couple, almost too good. I don’t know when or if I’ll continue with the series but if you like sexy cowboys I recommend this one 🙂
So Much Pretty. Finished 9-21-16, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2011
Unabridged audio read by Aimee Bruneau. 9 hours, 55 minutes.
Set in a rural community steeped in silence and denial, So Much Pretty explores all parents’ greatest fear, that their child will be hurt. But it also examines a second, equally troubling question: What if my child hurts someone else? The disappearance and murder of nineteen-year-old Wendy White is detailed through the eyes of journalist Stacy Flynn and a host of other richly drawn characters, each with their own secrets and convictions. After Wendy’s body is found, Flynn’s intense crusade to expose a killer draws the attention of a precocious local girl, Alice Piper, whose story intertwines with Wendy’s in a spellbinding and unexpected climax. from S&S website
I listened to this in September and I’m going to post what I wrote on my 30 Days blog because I do remember bits and pieces and certain feelings, dark feelings, but the details I remember would reveal way too much about the book. There were three points of view on one of them is Stacy from Cleveland 🙂
I finished the audio at 11 pm. It is totally messed up (or is that me since that isn’t my first glass of wine?). I would recommend reading instead of listening because there is a lot of jumping from viewpoints and different years. Yesterday I read about the making of a terrorist and today I read about…well, I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s not too far off.
What’s it about – a reporter, a kidnapped young woman, and a girl live in Hayden, New York with a sad bunch of citizens.
What did I learn – although I know rape is something that happens often, this book really put it in context.
Who would love it – mystery lovers who enjoy the darker side.
Reading Lolita in Tehran. Finished 9-14-16, rating 3.5/5, memoir, 343 pages. pub. 2003
Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi’s living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature. from Goodreads
We read this for book club in September. It’s hard to know exactly what the problem was. Some didn’t like the author, some thought she was talking down to them about the books, others were bothered by the jumping around from the past to the present. I think all of us agreed that we wanted to feel more of a connection with the girls in the book club. I liked the book overall, but only because I found the good parts worth the not-so-great ones. And I did a lot of skimming
Azar, a college literature professor in Tehran, Iran at the time of the revolution, chronicles her years living in Iran and how the Islamic takeover of the government changed the lives of the women living there. Eventually she started a secret book group in her home where the women talked about banned Western classics and it’s through these books that she framed the story.
Learning about what was happening in Iran in the 1980’s, told from the perspective of an educated woman, was eye opening for me. I learned more about the history of Iran than I thought I would and that was my favorite aspect.
The Girl From Summer Hill. Finished 7-19-16, rating 3.5/5, romance, pub. 2016
Unabridged audio 12.5 hours. Read by Emily Rankin.
Sparks fly as fiery Casey Reddick and brooding Hollywood actor Tate Landers clash in the Virginia summer heat. A chef who puts her career first and her love life second, Casey doesn’t see what every girl in town is swooning over. She made up her mind the moment she met Tate—he’s gorgeous, but stuck-up, nothing like his ex-brother-in-law, Devlin who’s playing the Wickham to Tate’s Darcy in local production of Pride & Prejudice. Casey makes the perfect Elizabeth Bennett—how could she be star-struck when she’s heard Devlin’s damning stories about Tate? As they rehearse together, however, Casey finds herself attracted to Tate—he’s much more down-to-earth than she expected and any physical contact between the two of them literally gives her a tingling, electric shock. As opening night draws near, Casey has some difficult decisions to make. Whom should she believe? from Goodreads
I enjoyed this fresh take on Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. From the opening scene (let’s just say it’s hot and wet) to the ending full of love and friendship this book was fun. It wasn’t the most comparable to the original, but the main characters were there and recognizable. It’s also the start to a new series set in small town Virginia, Summer Hill, where this story was set.
Summer Hill is putting on Pride & Prejudice to raise money for charity and Casey, in town to lick her wounds from her last job and relationship, is in charge of catering. She is independent and outspoken and not impressed when two movie stars show up in town, even if one of them sends electric running through her every time they touch. The sparks between Casey and Tate land them the lead roles in the play which also leads them to their expected happily ever after. There is, of course, a Wickham but this one is even more devious than the original and is responsible for most of the (non-sex) action in the story.
This was light and fun and perfect for a summer read.
C is for Corpse. Finished 4-6-16, rating 3.5/5, mystery, 212 pages, pub. 1986
When I linked my reviews of the first two books of the series I realize that I’m reading these books 2 years apart. If I continue at this speed I’ll finish up with Z when I’m 90. Not that there’s anything wrong with that 🙂
How do you go about solving an attempted murder when the victim has lost a good part of his memory? It’s one of Kinsey’s toughest cases yet, but she never backs down from a challenge. Twenty-three-year-old Bobby Callahan is lucky to be alive after a car forced his Porsche over a bridge and into a canyon. The crash left Bobby with a clouded memory. But he can’t shake the feeling it was no random accident and that he’s still in danger…
The only clues Kinsey has to go on are a little red address book and the name “Blackman.” Bobby can’t remember who he gave the address book to for safekeeping. And any chances of Bobby regaining his memory are dashed when he’s killed in another automobile accident just three days after he hires Kinsey.
As Kinsey digs deeper into her investigation, she discovers Bobby had a secret worth killing for–and unearthing that secret could send Kinsey to her own early death…
I like Kinsey. She’s tough and independent, but also caring and protective. She developed a soft spot for Bobby in the few days they knew each other and she was going to finish the job even if it killed her (not a big spoiler to note that this series is currently on X so don’t worry about Kinsey too much). Not only was she welcomed into Bobby’s very wealthy family, but she became a should to lean on for his mother.
Kinsey also showed how much she liked her landlord and friend, Henry, by smelling a sweet-talking, cunning, money-grubbing charmer in Lila. Lila was up to know good and Henry was falling for it hook, line and sinker. And this gave her a reason to contact an old crush, Jonah, to get some information. Jonah was back with his wife, but the embers still burned between he and Kinsey.
This is a fun series. I like Kinsey, the short length of the books, and the well-woven mysteries. Maybe I’ll even pick up the pace and read D before 2018 🙂
Up From Slavery. Finished 1-13-16, rating 3.5.5, memoir, pub. serially 1900-01
Unabridged audio read by Andrew L Barnes. 7 hours, 30 minutes.
Booker T. Washington, the most recognized national leader, orator and educator, emerged from slavery in the deep south, to work for the betterment of African Americans in the post Reconstruction period.
“Up From Slavery” is an autobiography of Booker T. Washington’s life and work, which has been the source of inspiration for all Americans. Washington reveals his inner most thoughts as he transitions from ex-slave to teacher and founder of one of the most important schools for African Americans in the south, The Tuskegee Industrial Institute.
Booker T. Washington’s words are profound. Washington includes the address he gave at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition in 1895, which made him a national figure. He imparts `gems of wisdom’ throughout the book, which are relevant to Americans who aspire to achieve great attainments in life. from Goodreads
I picked up this 1968 paperback with a very retro cover years ago and added it to my Classics Club reading list last year. I both read and listened to this one and was both inspired and somewhat bored by it. Let’s break it down a bit.
Washington was born a Virginia slave. His childhood as a slave wasn’t as awful as some I’ve seen portrayed in the movies, but impressive because he harbored no real resentment towards the whites. He was still a kid when Lincoln freed the slaves and life changed drastically for his family. They were now on their own and still together. Booker, from a young age, was determined to become educated. His desire and struggle for education was something, I think, that is inherent in all great men and women, and he was a role model. Through his dedication he was able to start teaching others. He somehow got himself to the Hampton Institute and enrolled even though he didn’t have enough money for tuition. It is a true testament to valuing hard work that he was able to accomplish what he did.
When the time came that he was chosen to head the Tuskegee Institute, Washington had to build it from the ground up. He became a spokesman for the college, and for African-Americans everywhere, by placing as much emphasis on labor as book learning. I loved his ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps’ and black empowerment through education and hard work message. This part of the book, once he became more national speaker than day-to-day director of the school, dragged. And it was half the book, so you see the problem. It was a rehash of his speaking engagements and travel and some of the press clipping about these speaking engagements.
I thought his insights into the African-American experience during and after the Civil War were engaging and wish the book had been more about that. That being said, I am so glad I read it and wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it, especially now that I’ve taken your expectations down a notch 🙂
This was my 9th selection for the Classics Club. I need to get busy!
Two mini-reviews to finish up the year!
Sleeping Arrangements by Madeleine Wickham. Finished 12-24-15, rating 3/5, Romance (I guess), pub. 2008
Unabridged audio read by Katherine Kellgren. 7 hours
Chloe needs a holiday. She’s sick of making wedding dresses, her partner Philip has troubles at work, the whole family wants a break. Her wealthy friend Gerard has offered the loan of his luxury villa in Spain – perfect.
Hugh is not a happy man. His immaculate wife Amanda seems more interested in her new kitchen than in him, and he works so hard to pay for it, he barely has time for his children. Maybe he’ll have a chance to bond with them on holiday. His old friend Gerard has lent them a luxury villa in Spain – perfect.
Both families arrive at the villa and realise the awful truth – Gerard has double-booked. What no-one else realises is that Chloe and Hugh have a history, and as tensions rise within the two families, old passions resurface. It seems that Gerard’s ‘accidental’ double booking may not be an accident after all… from Goodreads
I picked this up at the library thinking it would be something light and romantic to listen to when decorating and wrapping for Christmas. I had no idea that Madeleine Wickham and Sophie Kinsella were the same person! Now I’ve read one book by each of the pen names and I think I can mark her off my list.
There wasn’t anything romantic about this one. Two couples with kids end up staying at the same Spanish villa and none of them are all that likeable. And then there’s cheating which doesn’t make any of them more likeable. By the end they’ve turned into new and improved characters, I guess, but I didn’t really buy it.
The Accidental Bestseller by Wendy Wax. Finished 12-27-15, rating 3.5/5, fiction, 419 pages, pub. 2009
Once upon a time four aspiring authors met at their very first writers’ conference. Ten years later they’re still friends, survivors of the ultra-competitive New York publishing world. Mallory St. James is a workaholic whose bestsellers support a lavish lifestyle. Tanya Mason is a single mother juggling two jobs, two kids, and too many deadlines. Faye Truett is the wife of a famous televangelist and the author of inspirational romances: no one would ever guess her explosive secret. Kendall Aims’s once-promising career is on the skids-and so is her marriage. Her sales are dismal, her new editor detests her work-and her husband is cheating. Barely able to think, let alone meet her final deadline, Kendall holes up in a mountain cabin to confront a blank page and a blanker future. But her friends won’t let her face this trial alone. Together they collaborate on a novel using their own lives as fodder, assuming no one will ever discover the truth behind their words. from Goodreads
I breezed through the second half of this novel in one day, not only because I wanted to finish before the end of the year, but because I really wanted to know what was going to happen. I was totally caught up in the story, so why only a 3.5 rating? The first half was all over the place with too many characters trying hard to make me care in only a few pages before moving on to someone else. That first half was really slow going for me.
It’s a story about the publishing business, sure to appeal to readers and writers alike, and also the friendship between four women who supported each other through tough times. It was solid and I’d happily read another by this author.
The Stranger. Finished 8-25-15, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2015
Unabridged audio read by George Newbern. 10 hours.
The Stranger appears out of nowhere, perhaps in a bar, or a parking lot, or at the grocery store. His identity is unknown. His motives are unclear. His information is undeniable. Then he whispers a few words in your ear and disappears, leaving you picking up the pieces of your shattered world.
Adam Price has a lot to lose: a comfortable marriage to a beautiful woman, two wonderful sons, and all the trappings of the American Dream: a big house, a good job, a seemingly perfect life.
Then he runs into the Stranger. When he learns a devastating secret about his wife, Corinne, he confronts her, and the mirage of perfection disappears as if it never existed at all. Soon Adam finds himself tangled in something far darker than even Corinne’s deception, and realizes that if he doesn’t make exactly the right moves, the conspiracy he’s stumbled into will not only ruin lives—it will end them from Goodreads
It’s no secret that I’m a huge Harlan Coben fan. He is a master of fast paced thrillers filled with quick wit and sharp dialogue. The storylines always seem to have an element ripped from the headlines; in this case the ruse of the Stranger and his band of merry tech (wo)men seems to mirror the hilarity/debacle of the recent Ashley Madison hack. Coben always has a relatable hero and a common entry into the cat and mouse game his stories share. This was not a favorite of mine for reasons I’ll go into next, but it’s solid and satisfying which is something I can always count on with Coben.
How frightening would t be if someone showed up out of nowhere and revealed a terrible secret held by someone you love? Depending on the nature of the secret it would probably be devastating. The Stranger has a small group who use the internet to track down secrets people didn’t even know were there and then they blackmail them. Pay up or a loved one hears the news. When Adam confronts his wife with what he found out she mysteriously disappears, leaving Adam to ask the wrong questions and make a few missteps. His perfect life in the ‘burbs is threatened but he fears there’s more at stake.
I liked the idea of this one, but it went in so many different directions that it really felt pretty flimsy when it all came together. Even Adam felt flimsy to me and he was supposed to be a sympathetic character! The end was a surprise that I mostly liked so that helped end on a high note. With all of the possibilities of the Stranger I was expecting more.
The Hard Way. Finished 4-26-15, rating 3.5/5, thriller, pub. 2006
Unabridged audio read by Dick Hill. 12 hours.
Jack Reacher was alone, the way he liked it, soaking up the hot, electric New York City night, watching a man cross the street to a parked Mercedes and drive it away. The car contained one million dollars in ransom money. And Edward Lane, the man who paid it, will pay even more to get his family back. Lane runs a highly illegal soldiers-for-hire operation. He will use any amount of money and any tool to find his beautiful wife and child. And then he’ll turn Jack Reacher loose with a vengeance–because Reacher is the best man hunter in the world.
The last one was one of my favorites of the series so maybe that’s why this one fell a little short with me. Reacher was still his ex-military, loner with a taste for justice self, but the focus this time around was fully centered on the kidnapping and while that was fine, it didn’t really elevate it above any other thriller. Well, except for Reacher, he always elevates the story I suppose. I just wanted more of him and his vigilante ways. It goes without saying that he was able to convince a woman to sleep with him (I feel like every Reacher book should start with a disclaimer telling women reading the book not to try this at home – Do Not Sleep With Drifters Especially Ones With A Menacing Presence And No One To Vouch For Their Character). Anyway, the mystery part of the book was fine, with an interesting ending location, but it only left me wanting to read the next one since I didn’t quite get my fill of the badass Reacher that I’ve come to love.
So, how many of you are Reacher fans? Are you obsessed with reading them in order like I am?