I really enjoyed this very suspenseful novel. Knowing right from the start that one of the characters will end up facing a killer makes you very anxious as you read, assuming it could happen at any moment. Although I liked the suspense part of the story, I was really drawn in by the parts of the story that had to to with the family relationships. I read this one for review, which you can find here.
I’ve seen Miss Read books on library shelves for years, but never really thought about reading them or even knew what they were about. Judging by cover and author “Miss Read” they seemed terribly old fashioned, and possibly not in a good way. For I-don’t-know-what reason I picked one of the shelf a few weeks ago and checked it out. I assumed it didn’t matter if I read them in any particular order and indeed, although this is apparently “Fairacre #15″ it was completely fine as a standalone novel.
Miss Read is the author, but also the main character of these books. The setting is a tiny rural English village where Miss Read is the spinster schoolteacher. This school is fascinating to me. Although a year is not given this book was published in 1980 and it seems to be contemporary for the time, but feels like it’s taking place in 1950 (maybe it is?) The village school goes up to age 10 and there are two classes. Miss Read teaches the older children and another teacher has the “infants.” Literally they are referred to as infants and babies. But presumably they are 5 and 6 year olds? And during school the kids are just sent out to play, or they all go on walks across the moor, and the vicar visits them, and Miss Read chooses morning hymns for them to sing. So fascinating and foreign to me.
The structure of the book is a chapter per month of the year, going from January through December. The central idea as we go through the year is that the school is celebrating its centenary and Miss Read must plan an appropriate celebration. She also must deal with an ancient leaking skylight. There is not a lot of excitement going on from month to month. It’s a gentle slow book, but I did enjoy when she talked to the elderly residents about their memories of the schoolhouse and the bits about her daily life.
This was excellent. I adored Prep, but skipped American Wife. I was a little uneasy going in to this because a couple of trusted book friends said they didn’t like the ending. So I kept wondering what was going to happen and whether it would spoil it for me. Fortunately, I was soon so caught up in the story and wonderful writing that I let that go. Until the ending happened and I totally agreed with my friends and thus it only gets 4 1/2 stars instead of 5 from me on Goodreads. But I’ll leave my comments about that until the end.
Kate is an identical twin with Violet. Since childhood they’ve had “senses” about things, but this perception has made Kate uneasy, whereas Violet, who is more of a bohemian free spirit, has embraced it and makes her living as a psychic. From the the beginning it seems like Kate has her act together-married to an awesome guy, mother to a baby and toddler, a happy homemaker- while Violet is kind of, well, not a loser, but she doesn’t have her act together. Flirting with lesbianism, overweight, a psychic, and just not settled. Then one day Violet has a big prediction–an earthquake will come to St. Louis and soon. When Kate herself has a prediction-the earthquake will be on October 16-Violet shares that date publicly. The city becomes gripped with a combination of anticipation, fear, and excitement. Kate is gripped mostly with anxiety and embarrassment. Her husband is an earth scientist so Violet’s prediction is especially embarrassing. I felt like the buildup to October 16 was incredibly suspenseful. In fact, I actually got very excited and wound up as the pages went by on October 16 as I waited, waited, to see what would happen. That was one of the things I really liked about this. The other thing I really liked, was just how well Sittenfeld wrote, and particularly about some of the ways Kate feels about motherhood. A few things stuck with me, such as when Kate looks at her sleeping daughter and it feels like she’s making a deposit in the bank of her daughter’s well-being. I completely understood that and I loved the way she wrote that.
Overall, a totally excellent book. I really enjoyed it, the story was interesting, the writing was great, and she definitely conveyed life with young kids well, Now about that half star subtraction……possible spoiler, so stop here if you’re going to read it!
I hated what she did at the end. I thought it was so unnecessary. The story was already good and then she had to throw in a terrible cliche and ruin her life and make me so unhappy with the character. On the other hand…..I did love how it meant the prediction came true, just not the way she thought. Which leads you to wonder about her making things happen, or if things are fated. So even though I was really uncomfortable with that entire aspect of the story (and just so MAD at Kate for f’ing up her life with Jeremy!!) maybe it does make the book work.
Somewhere along the way I missed #5 in this series and just happened to see this one on the shelf of our little library. Out of order and out of season, but I had to grab it and read it. Once again Lady Georgiana Rannoch finds herself in the midst of a puzzling crime. In this case it’s a suspicious death every day of her holiday. Faced with nowhere to go except spending Christmas with her horrid sister in law, Fig, she answers and advertisement for a lady of good social standing to join a house party. It turns out that the hostess, Lady Hawze-Gorsely, is having guests for a true old fashioned English village Christmas. It’s very Clue-like, complete with a Colonel, what, what? Fewer details of her royal relatives in this installment, but the lovely details made such a vivid picture in my head of this British village and the time. Georgie’s mother, grandfather, Noel Coward, and of course, her love interest, Darcy, all manage to happen to spending Christmas in the same little village, so the familiar characters are there.
I thought this was a splendid mystery, was fooled by a red herring, and was very satisfied with the ending. I also liked it that the author included traditional Christmas games and recipes at the end. I must say, the meals described were wonderful and I can’t believe people weren’t fat as houses back then. Giant teas followed by sumptuous repasts at dinner!
I really like all of Hester Browne’s book so when I suddenly realized I had a new one languishing on my to-read list I had to get it right away. I really loved this. What I liked most about it was that there were not a lot of ridiculous misunderstandings (I find myself losing patience with tv/movies/books where there is a misunderstanding that people are allowed to correct when in real life you simply would) and that there was not any doubt about the two characters being in love. It was not a question of will they fall in love, but more, “how on earth can Amy adapt to this royalty business?”
Amy is from Yorkshire, a very private casual woman who is a garden designer. She has a fabulous best mate, Jo, and they have good times together. At a party Amy meets Leo and is smitten right away. Turns out he is too and off they go on a date. It is not until a couple of dates later that Amy realizes that Leo is an actual prince (of a made up country that is like Monaco.) This book completely fed into my renewed interest in royalty (royal wedding, royal baby, etc.) and I will choose to believe ever detail is accurate. Leo is too good to be true, but that’s ok. Amy has a terrible family secret in her past which is not revealed until near the end. I really liked how much Amy loved her mum and dad, all the garden details, and how the book unfolded.
You had me at “Irish seaside.” Maeve Binchy-sque by the sea! To be honest, this wasn’t as good as a Maeve Binchy, but I did enjoy it. In a small Irish village (by the sea) family drama is unfolding. Tess Powers and her sister Suki had grown up in a big fancy house that made them appear to be titled and wealthy, but really they were quite poor. After their father’s death the house had to be sold. Tess still lives in the village where she is (now)separated with two kids. Her sister had married up into an American political dynasty and was a well known feminist author. Unfortunately, after that, her life became a dreadful mess. Now she is about to return to the village, Tess’s life is falling apart, and Cashel, the son of their housekeeper who is now an international millionaire and her past love, has just returned. The story jumps around from their various points of view. The big family secrets and the misunderstanding between Tess and Cashel were not as dramatic as I thought they’d been built up to be.
I think it was a little long and ended kind of abruptly, but it was still enjoyable.
I don’t often browse the new shelves at the library and just pick stuff up, but that’s how I came across this one and I’m so glad I did. Once Queenie left her small town in Texas she was determined to never move back. She traveled around the country being a chef in various big cities, but always getting fired. When the latest firing occurs she packs up and heads back to stay with her sister. In part because she has nowhere else to go, but also because her single mom sister wants her to be there when her son is announced as the starting quarterback. This is a small Texas town where high school football is everything. The problem is Queenie and her sister are considered absolute trash by the whole town and people are always mean to them. Their mother was known for being trash, always drunk, getting arrested, leaving her girls, and ultimately getting killed by her own best friend, after the friend discovered the mom in bed with her husband. The rest of the town has had some unseemly things going on too, but because they are wealthy and a better class, their secrets remain untalked about. Queenie’s return to town shakes everyone up and secrets start to bubble to the surface. There’s a lot going on this book: the fascinating football culture, Queenie and her sister dealing with her dead mother’s effect on their lives, illegitimate children, Queenie’s love affair with one of the rich boys (so it has remained secret), good food and recipes, and prison. Queenie is a chef but never served her own mother’s recipes. This return to town rekindles in her a desire to make the amazing things her mother used to make (the one thing she did well.) From that she takes a temporary job being the last meal chef at a local prison. That’s right. She’s going to make the last meals for prisoners on the day they are executed. This was a totally fascinating angle to this story. Queenie finds it very affecting, too, and it helps her put the rest of her life in perspective. What I go out of this was the shocking knowledge of how many prisoners Texas executes every year. I really had no idea and was horrified.
I really liked this book a lot. It reminds me of another Southern author I like-Billie Letts.
I loved Maine and so was excited about a new book by this author. I got on the hold list early and got it pretty quickly when it came out. Unfortunately I had other things to read and before you knew it it was due on Saturday and on Friday I hadn’t yet started it. I didn’t want to go back on the hold list and wait, what to do? Well, I read the first 10 pages and was hooked. I figured I could read it and get it back just a few days late (which I did, having just finished it this, Sunday, morning. It was so good that I wish I had read it more slowly to make it last and savor it.) I approached this book the same way I did The Husband’s Secret--without having read the blurb, a review, or any other information about the story. It’s not often that you can do that because usually you choose a book based on what it’s about, but when you can and it works out well, it’s a lot of fun. (So I guess you should stop reading this post now if you want to go that route because I’m about to tell you a bit about it.)
The story opens with Frances Gerety burning the midnight oil on her latest assignment for her ad agency. For several years now she’s worked on their De Beers account, creating ads that promote diamonds for engagement rings. That night Frances comes up with “a diamond is forever.” So right here I was hooked. I mean, we’ve all seen those DeBeers ads and read that slogan and I myself am wearing a diamond engagement ring. And now, Frances and Sullivan are telling me that a huge part of Frances’s job was to create the idea that engagement rings should have diamonds in them and that entire concept is an advertising agency’s idea and part of De Beers’s scheme to control all the diamonds in the world!!
The story continues alternating between four different characters/couples, along with Frances. Each of those couples is in a different time frame, so we read about people from the 1920s up to the present day. After I read the first few people I wondered if they were all going to connect together or if it was short stories, or what. I resisted the urge to read the blurb and let it just play out as it would. And really, it was so worth it. Connected or not connected, I loved each couple’s story and the way she was able to capture so many different time periods, as well as types of relationships. I was charmed by Evelyn and Gerald and on the edge of my seat rooting for working class James and Sheila to get a better life. I liked Kate’s story, too–the character opposed to marriage. Kate made me feel like a lousy parent because she was apparently a wonderful mother who never yelled at her daughter, but also totally judgmental about people who let their kids have Barbies and stuff. And yet, Kate is the lone voice of questioning and pointing out the source of diamonds and the terrible things that go on in Africa because of that industry. Frances’s story is such an interesting thread throughout the book. Not only does she give us the perspective of the diamond industry and its manipulation of the American mindset about romance, weddings, and diamonds, but she also has her own great story about being a working girl and finding success on her own.
The way each character sometimes told their own backstory (which made even more stories and layers within the book) reminded me a bit of the last Maeve Binchy I read. I really like that technique-I feel like I’m getting bonus stories that fill out the characters. My favorite part was the story of how Evelyn and Gerald got together, which was really the romantic story of Evelyn and Nathaniel.
This was really terrific. I loved it start to finish (and loved the ending), lots to think and talk about. I remember from her previous books that she writes about very wealthy people quite a bit, along with definitely not wealthy people, and that is very much a part of this book as well.
I read this a few weeks (yep, I’m behind again!) but I feel like I need to get this written up stat because I just opened the new Entertainment Weekly and see this made it to their must list. Which kind of makes me feel, bleah. I mean, good for Liane Moriarty for being super successful now, but I hate it when there is an author I like and stick with and then all of sudden everyone else is like “oh yeah, she’s so good” and liking her feels trendy. So, I’ve read all her books and really liked them, so when I got a prepub of this (and I could tell she was making it because she’s Australian and this book is coming out here at the same time and not a year or two later, as her others did) I decided to dive in and not even read the blurb or any descriptive information at all-just the title. I know most people probably don’t like to do that, but I do with an author I trust. I knew it would be a story that would be layered with different characters, that those characters’ voices would tell different sides of the same story and piece together to be a big overall picture. I knew that nothing would be tidily resolved, that no character would be 100% good or bad, and it would be a little messy, like real life. And that is exactly what this story delivered. It was so engrossing, parts of it very sad and affecting, and I just loved it. It gave me a lot to think about, and I enjoyed discussing it very much with my friend who also read it. So saying all of that, I’m not going to give any plot description at all in case you, too, are willing to take a chance and let a story play out on the pages with no preconceived ideas at all.Go ahead, take the chance! And take it quickly before she gets so trendy and popular that you have to wait through a big hold list at the library.
Eloisa James is one of my very favorite romance authors and she posts a lot on Facebook. Via that I knew that she was doing a joint tour for a little while with Tessa Dare and that they are author buddies. Thus, a couple weeks before we went on vacation I picked up Any Duchess Will Do at the bookstore to bring to the beach with me. I figured if Eloisa likes her she must be good and similar, and indeed she is. I was delighted to find out halfway through that this is #4 in a loose series, Spindle Cove. So now I get to go read the other ones!
This was delightful and perfectly fit into the genre, meeting all my expectations. Pauline is a lowly servant girl in the little village of Spindle Cove. She has an abusive father and a “simple” sister, a taste for poetry, and dreams of opening a lending library. Griffin is a duke with a mother who is eager for him to be married. To that end she drugs him, whisks him off to Spindle Cove, and demands he choose a bride. They are both stubborn people and in a fit to win this battle Griff chooses the most unduchlesslike woman he can find-Pauline. Caught in the middle of this mother and son Pauline agrees to go to London with them for 1000 pounds-enough money that she can then return and open her bookshop. The mother is determined to make Pauline a society worthy duchess by the end of the week, but Griff is paying Pauline to be a failure so that his mother will get off her back. One of the things I liked about this was the mother. She is really just pining for a grandchild to adore and she loves her son dearly. Griff is hiding a painful secret that is affecting all of these decisions.
This was definitely a bit steamier than the romances I usually read and all the characters have unbelievable stamina. I hope there is a Mr. Dare to benefit from Tessa’s imagination and passion!