Friday, October 20, 2017

Shout Out To My Library!

Today I want to give a shout-out to my local library. I came across a book, Text, Don’t Call by Aaron Caycedo-Kimura, that looked interesting and I decided I wanted to read it. It wasn’t available at my library, but I knew they were open to suggestions, so I filled out the ‘suggest a purchase’ form on my library’s website. That was on a Saturday night. On Tuesday morning, I received an email informing me that the book had been added to the catalog, and a reserve place in my name. Just 3½ weeks later I had another email telling me that the book was sitting in the library waiting for me! That’s service!

This is not the first time, or even the second time, that I’ve taken advantage of this form, and I’ve never been disappointed. I’ve also never been disappointed by the children’s programming, the ebook selection or the many databases I use for my genealogy research. They even loan out cooking equipment and fitness equipment! I think I have the best library anywhere.

Thank you St. Charles City-County Library system! You rock!



via GIPHY

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Club Review: The Other Widow

The Other Widow
by Susan H. Crawford

Why did you choose this book? The cover, then the synopsis
When did you read this book? October 2017
Who should read this book? Readers who enjoy mystery-suspense
Source: library ebook
My Rating: ✰✰✰✰  4 Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Other Widow from Goodreads

Everybody’s luck runs out. This time it could be theirs . . .

It isn’t safe. That’s what Joe tells her when he ends their affair—moments before their car skids off an icy road in a blinding snowstorm and hits a tree. Desperate to keep her life intact—her job, her husband, and her precious daughter, Lily—Dorrie will do everything she can to protect herself, even if it means walking away from the wreckage. Dorrie has always been a good actress, pretending to be someone else: the dutiful daughter, the satisfied wife, the woman who can handle anything. Now she’s going to put on the most challenging performance of her life. But details about the accident leave her feeling uneasy and afraid. Why didn’t Joe’s airbag work? Why was his car door open before the EMTs arrived? And now suddenly someone is calling her from her dead lover’s burner phone. . . .

Joe’s death has left his wife in free fall as well. Karen knew Joe was cheating—she found some suspicious e-mails. Trying to cope with grief is devastating enough without the constant fear that has overtaken her—this feeling she can’t shake that someone is watching her. And with Joe gone and the kids grown, she’s vulnerable . . . and on her own.

Insurance investigator Maggie Devlin is suspicious of the latest claim that’s landed on her desk—a man dying on an icy road shortly after buying a lucrative life insurance policy. Maggie doesn’t believe in coincidences. The former cop knows that things—and people—are never what they seem to be.

As the fates of these three women become more tightly entwined, layers of lies and deception begin to peel away, pushing them dangerously to the edge . . . closer to each other . . . to a terrifying truth . . . to a shocking end.

Book Club Review

My original review appeared on this blog earlier this year on February 21. As I mentioned in that review, I thought I knew what was going on at the end…..UNTIL I started reading other Goodreads reviews and questions. At that point, I was completely confused. There is a passage in the book that can be read in at least two different ways, giving alternate possible interpretations. (The relevant passage is that last paragraph of the last Karen chapter, page 327 in the hardcover, for anyone reading along). Because I was still confused, and my book club was looking for a good read, I suggested we read the book so that I could tap their brains about this. We all THOUGHT we knew what had happened; and then I pointed out that passage! The verdict — we are STILL confused!

I’m not going to actually review the book here; you can read my thoughts on my earlier review. But I do want to say that as I predicted, this was a GREAT selection for our book club. We used the discussion questions found on Reading Group Guides, but we also found other topics to discuss. The Other Widow is one of the few books that our group has read and rated highly by everyone. Usually someone likes a book very much and someone else could hardly finish it. The only other book I can remember having such consistantly high ratings with our group is The Scent of Rain and Lightning by Nancy Pickard.

If your group hasn’t yet read this one, you should add it to your list! The book is fast paced with lots to talk about….especially that ending! And after you’ve discussed it, please let me know what you thought!

My rating — 4 Stars
Book Club rating — 4 Stars
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Sunday, October 8, 2017

Review: The Stolen Marriage

The Stolen Marriage
by Diane Chamberlain

Why did you choose this book? I’ve enjoyed novels by this author
When did you read this book? September 2017
Who should read this book? Diane Chamberlain fans  
Source: NetGalley
My Rating:  ✰✰✰✰½     4½ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Stolen Marriage from Goodreads

In 1944, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly ends her engagement to the love of her life when she marries a mysterious stranger and moves to Hickory, North Carolina, a small town struggling with racial tension and the hardships imposed by World War II. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows no interest in making love. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry and see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain, especially after one of the town’s prominent citizens dies in a terrible accident and Tess is blamed. Tess suspects people are talking about her, plotting behind her back, and following her as she walks around town. What does everyone know about Henry that she does not? Feeling alone and adrift, Tess turns to the one person who seems to understand her, a local medium who gives her hope but seems to know more than he’s letting on.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes the town, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess, who has a nursing degree, bucks Henry’s wishes and begins to work at the hospital, finding meaning in nursing the young victims. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle her husband’s mysterious behavior and save her own life?

My Review

I read Necessary Lies a few years ago with my book club, so when I saw I could pick up an ARC through Netgalley, I grabbed it. I’m glad I did! I have to say though, after reading the beginning of the story, I thought I was going to regret it. Tess and her fiancee seemed so perfect for each other, and Tess was making some very back choices at the beginning of the story! However, it wasn’t long before I was immersed in the story and I flew through it!

I really liked all of the characters in the story. Some had flaws and could be petty, but even then, they were likeable characters. Though at the beginning Henry appeared to be the ‘bad guy’ who ruined Tess’s life, he was actually a very kind and thoughtful man caught up in some bad circumstances.

Though the main characters are fictional, the events in the story are based on fact. Tess is a nurse and volunteers in a polio hospital that sprang up on the outskirts of town in a matter of weeks. The panic of the parents with affected children and children at-risk was real. The way the community came together to make the hospital a reality was real. And the racism and prejudice was also real. You can read more about this events that inspired this novel here and here.

Like many of Diane Chamberlain’s books, this one will make an excellent book club selection with a variety of potential topics for discussion; racism of the 1940s, out of wedlock pregnancy in the 1940s, date rape, the polio epidemic and the history of immunization, and many others.

You can visit the author’s webpage to read an excerpt, see a reading guide, or browse a bibliography of materials she consulted while writing this book. You can view the Tedx Talks episode she recommends here.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced copy of this book for review purposes.
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Friday, September 29, 2017

Review: The Diplomat's Wife

The Diplomat’s Wife
The Kommandant’s Wife #2
by Pam Jenoff

Why did you choose this book? This was a book club selection
When did you read this book? September 2017
Who should read this book? Readers of historical adventure fiction; Pam Jenoff fans
Source: library ebook
My Rating: ✰✰✰½  3½ Stars
Bookclub Rating: ✰✰✰✰ ¼ 3¼ Stars

Here is a synopsis of The Diplomat’s Wife from Goodreads

How have I been lucky enough to come here, to be alive, when so many others are not? I should have died.… But I am here.

1945. Surviving the brutality of a Nazi prison camp, Marta Nederman is lucky to have escaped with her life. Recovering from the horror, she meets Paul, an American soldier who gives her hope of a happier future. But their plans to meet in London are dashed when Paul's plane crashes.

Devastated and pregnant, Marta marries Simon, a caring British diplomat, and glimpses the joy that home and family can bring. But her happiness is threatened when she learns of a Communist spy in British intelligence, and that the one person who can expose the traitor is connected to her past.

My Review

This was a last minute selection for our book club. We had a book club set on reserve that didn’t come in as we expected and we had about 10 minutes to come up with something else. Because we all have ereaders, we started browsing Hoopla for a replacement selection that we could all access quickly. This turned out to be a pretty good on-the-fly selection!

The book opens in a Nazi prison camp during WWII, with Marta Nederman regaining consciousness, much to her disappointment. She has been beaten senseless by her Nazi captives numerous times, and hoped the last beating would kill her rather than having to endure another beating. She hers her captors returning — but is relieved to find it is her Allied rescuers!

The war ends and Marta recovers slowly in a refugee hospital. I’m going to jump way ahead here to prevent spoilers. Marta is now in London, married to a British diplomat. She is recruited to travel to Prague as a spy, but now instead of the Nazis, her nemesis is the Russian communists. The story is full of suspense and danger for Marta and her companions, and the last couple of chapters were fast-paced and kept me on edge.

While overall I enjoyed the book, there were a few things I found annoying.The first was Marta. During the war she’d been a Resistance fighter, full of courage and resourcefulness. But in London, she was often timid and hesitant, unable to decide what she should. And often, in my opinion, she made some really bad choices!

The second thing I found annoying was how many times the characters should have died, only to have a miraculous recovery. I know a miracle makes a good story, but I think it can be overdone, and was in the story. Overall though, I did like most of the characters — at least the ones you would expect to be likeable. I also liked the ending, as unrealistic as it was.

It’s important to note that my book club did not agree with my assessments. They were find with Marta’s personality change, attributing to just wanting someone to take care of her and make all the decisions after all she’s suffered through. They also didn’t mind the numerous miracles. And as you might expect, they all rated the book more highly than I did.

Another thing to know about this book — it is a sequel to The Kommandant’s Girl by the same author. I’ve had this one on my bookshelf for several years, but have not yet read it. It was not necessary to read before The Diplomat’s Wife. There is enough background information given that I didn’t feel lost. However, you may want to read the book as it set around the events of the war and focuses on one of the characters that is only a bit character in The Diplomat’s Wife.

You can visit the author’s website to get discussion questions or read excerpts of either book.

My rating is 3 ½ Stars and our book club rating is 4¼ Stars.

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