Connie A Thompson

Category Archives: Book Review

The Book of James by Ellen J. Green

24965074Summary from Goodreads:

A terrible car crash sets things in motion for 31-year-old Mackenzie when her critically injured husband, Nick, whispers warnings that someone from his past may attempt to harm or kill her after his passing. He urges her to travel to Philadelphia to his childhood home. Find James, he insists. It’s the only way out.

His last words are pushed to the side in the aftermath of his death, as Mackenzie is consumed with grief. Until the things he had spoken of start to come true. Mackenzie’s search brings her to the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia, to the 19th-century mansion where her husband was raised, and face to face with a mother-in-law she didn’t know existed. The two women each have an agenda. Cora, a recluse, worries that her son revealed devastating childhood secrets to his wife. Mackenzie is concerned that unless she uncovers those secrets and finds the elusive James, she may not survive. The two women circle around one another, hunter and prey. But which is which?

As the plot unfolds Mackenzie becomes more driven and takes increasingly dangerous risks while Cora’s precarious mental state rapidly deteriorates forcing her to relive a past she has worked so hard to keep buried.A gallery of photographs in the bowels of the house holds clues to generations of abuse, treachery and possibly murder. Messages hidden in Nick’s childhood Bible within the Epistle of James have Mackenzie racing against time to put the pieces together, unearth the reasons her husband chose to vanish when he was sixteen years old, and locate the person mentioned in Nick’s dying breath.

When James is finally found, the results are more horrifying than Mackenzie could have ever imagined.

Connie’s Thoughts:

The cover and the title caught my attention. I was cruising through the available titles on Netgalley, and I kept coming back to this one. What if you found yourself widowed, a tragedy, but then you learn you never really knew your husband. He lied about his past. His mother is still alive. He lied about his lack of money. Mackenzie is his only beneficiary and learns she has inherited millions. They were fighting about money when the accident happened.

I enjoyed the story. Often I would find myself asking if a real woman would take the same actions as Mackenzie would. I knew that I wouldn’t have made those same choices, but isn’t that part of the reason we read? To experience other lives.

I’ve only recently begun to read novels classified as mystery thrillers: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, Where They Found Her by Kimberly McCreight,  and That Night by Chevy Stevens. I tend to gravitate more towards women’s fiction with novels that focus on family, marriage, love, and ordinary lives albeit usually with a little more flair than a normal life.

4_5Stars

 

 

I’m giving The Book of James four stars. I often found myself saying “just one more chapter.”

Review of Barbara Claypole White’s The Perfect Son

51YP+MLWosLFelix Fitzwilliams strives for perfection. He is meticulous in his professional life. His wife, Ella takes care of the household and their teenage son, Harry, who lives with Tourette’s Syndrome.

Ella has been Harry’s champion helping him adjust to the nuances of life in the world that doesn’t understand the disorder. Ella quit her job as a jewelry designer to be Harry’s full-time Mum. Felix didn’t have the patience or understanding to deal with Harry. He worried that he would become like his father. Felix makes the money working long hours while Ella devotes herself to family and home.

Harry has scored 1400 on the SAT. His mother wants him to choose a college close to home. His father dreams of an Ivy League education.

Heart troubles send Ella to the hospital. She needs rest. Felix must take over all of Ella’s duties and care for their son. Felix must find a way to balance his professional and home life, and he discovers Harry is in love, and it appears the girl loves him too.

Harry and Ella have an eclectic and eccentric group of friends. Harry and Max have been friends since preschool. Max helps Harry navigate through high school. Eudora is their neighbor, a retired professor with a passion for gardening and knowing when to pop in on father and son. Katherine is Ella’s best friend. She doesn’t care much for Felix, but for Ella she tries. Reluctantly they work together to give Ella the time she needs to heal. Harry must learn to rely on himself and his father.

I immediately fell in love with Ella and Harry. I found myself wondering what she ever could have seen in Felix. He had a demanding father, but that isn’t an excuse for being so emotionally withdrawn.

The squirrel scene is hilarious. You’ll just have to read it.

The Perfect Son is about relationships, a young man living with Tourette’s Syndrome, and a love story. By the last page, you’ll understand why Ella fell in love with Felix.

I found myself staying up long past my bedtime reading to find out what happened next. Five stars to The Perfect Son.

For a limited time, The Perfect Son is a Kindle First pick and available for a special pre-order price. The novel is available July 1.

5Stars

Review: Sarah Pekkanen’s Things You Won’t Say

_2929166What happens to the people behind the headlines? It seems as though the whole world knows the story, but they only know a snippet, what supposedly happened in a short span of time. What happens to the wife, the children, the family, the friends?
Mike Anderson is a policeman on administrative leave after killing a young Latino man. Mike claims he saw a gun, but no one can find a weapon. Worse, his new partner claims he didn’t see a gun either.
The story takes place after the shooting. Mike lives with the daily regret that his longtime partner and best friend is recovering from a gunshot wound. It should have been him.
Mike’s wife, Jamie justifies her husband’s actions. It was raining. She desperately tries to keep the family together despite the news vans and strangers berating her for buying her daughter a bathing suit while a young man is dead. Life as usual can’t go on, but for the children’s sakes, Jamie tries.
Christie, Mike’s ex and the mother of his eldest child seems to be the only one who believes him.
As Mike faces further difficulties, and possible jail time, Jamie tries to hold on, seeking help from everyone except her husband. Christie asks for help from her new boss, a private investigator.

Things You Won’t Say reminds us that there is so much more to the story than the headlines and the few paragraphs that follow. Every incident ripples, affecting the lives of many.
I’m giving Things You Won’t Say four and a half stars. We are often horrified by headlines, but we tend to follow the collective. It is easy to identify with what should have been done, but unless you are there, you’ll never truly understand. Pekkanen’s novel gives a voice to the family behind the headlines.

4_5Stars

Review: Lisa Jewell’s The Third Wife

ThirdWifeAdrian’s youngest daughter, Pearl says her father is “addicted to love.” The Third Wife is about the Wolfe family, two ex-wives, five children ranging in age from five to twenty-three, and the new wife.

The family goes on vacation en masse. They get together for holidays, recitals, and all sorts of life events. The older children from the first marriage love and adore their younger siblings from the second marriage. And everyone genuinely appears to like one another, even the exes.

Adrian and his third wife, Maya were trying to have a baby. Their marriage ended when an intoxicated Maya was hit by a bus at three in the morning.

As Adrian grieves his late wife, he begins to realize that things are not what they seem. He discovers that Maya had been receiving horribly critical emails from an unknown person. The knowledge the sender had is very intimate. Could it be one of his children? Or maybe it was Jane, the woman who answered his ad about adopting Maya’s cat. The mysterious Jane has been seen all about London. Adrian attempts to find Jane and discovers she wasn’t really Jane.

As Adrian spends more time with his children and ex-wives without the buffer of a new wife, he learns about himself and his children. They are not the perfect creations he has always considered them. And he is not the perfect father he thought he was.

I am giving The Third Wife four and a half stars. I found the story provocative, intriguing, and entertaining.

4_5Stars

Book Review: Inside the O’Brien’s

22716194I met my best friend, Lisa when I was six. She was only five. Little did we know during those first few tentative moments of friendship that it would be the friendship of a lifetime. We were in junior high, when Lisa’s mother learned she had Huntington’s Disease. It was during the late 1970’s, and we knew two things: it would take her mother’s life, and Lisa had a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. She was a teenager facing her mother’s mortality as well the possibility of her abbreviated life.

Lisa lived in fear that with any twitch, stumble, or even moment of forgetfulness that it was the disease manifesting. She refused testing; she was only a blood test away from knowing her fate. She wasn’t willing to give up her 50% chance of hope.
I found Lisa Genova’s Still Alice captivating. And still when I have a moment of forgetfulness, I immediately think of Alice and wonder if it is more than a momentary lapse.

Genova’s, Inside the O’Brien’s, transports the reader into the lives of a working class Boston family as they face the diagnosis of an unfamiliar terminal illness. Told through the dual point of view which shifts from Joe, the patriarch and his youngest daughter, Katie the family grapples through all the stages of grief as they learn about the disease. Joe always thought his mother drank herself to death. She embarrassed him. He feels guilt for how he treated his mother as well as for the legacy he has possibly bestowed upon his four children.

The story unfolds through Joe and Katie’s points of view, but the novel is about all six members of the family. The mother, Rosie clings to God then spurns him. The eldest, JJ is married and planning a family. The second born, Patrick works in a bar and spends most of his time with his friends. Meghan, the first born daughter, is a ballet dancer.

Katie is the youngest. She is a yoga instructor, who covers her bedroom walls with graffiti, handwritten quotes in hopes that the view of “her exterior world would seep into her consciousness and perk things up.” She is in love with a man her parents would not find suitable: he isn’t from the neighborhood, he isn’t Catholic, and his heritage is not Irish. If she has Huntington’s, what kind of future can she offer him?

How do you live with Huntington’s Disease? Is it better to know or to hold onto to that 50% chance of hope?

I give Inside the O’Brien’s a five of five-star rating.

About the number of stars, you’ll only see four or five stars here. I refuse to continue reading a book that doesn’t keep me interested. There are too many good books to force myself to suffer through one that doesn’t interest me. Lack of interest doesn’t always mean a book is bad; sometimes it just isn’t the right time in my life to read it.

Review: THE GLASS KITCHEN

Glass Kitchen

 

Portia Cathcart was born with a gift, a knowing. She dreams of food and when she wakes she feels compelled to make it. It is a gift she shares with her grandmother and soon Portia finds herself working in the family restaurant, The Glass Kitchen. She always seems to know just what to put on the menu, the dishes offering comfort to those in need.

Portia has abandoned her gift opting for a life as a politician’s wife. She refused the gift until it seems she’s lost it. After her husband’s betrayal, she heads to New York to live in the apartment her beloved aunt willed left her. Images and dreams of food begin calling to her. Her sisters live in New York. She meets Gabriel and his two daughters. After years of fighting her gift, she succumbs to the knowing and begins cooking. She wants to open a restaurant, but she has no money, and the knowing keeps giving her images of a special meal, Gabriel’s meal.

Lee’s book is a delightful summer read that will keep you turning the pages to see what happens next. There is mystery, betrayal, sisterly love, and romance. Follow Portia as she begins to understand her gift and searches for her identity, learns to accept the loss of a life she thought she wanted, helps Gabriel and his daughters connect as a family, and struggles to bring Texas cuisine to New York City.

The cover calls for you to pick this book up. I loved the glass jars so much I searched Pinterest to learn how to make my own. While I love the purple, it wasn’t the right hue for my decor and I opted for shades of green.

photo-14 copy

Review of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

9781616203214_p0_v2_s260x420Sometimes you find a book that remains with you long after you’ve read the last page. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is one of those books. You’ll want to tell your friends about it. I think you’ll find it is one of those books that beckons to be read more than once.

I have to admit when I first saw the cover and title, I wasn’t intrigued. And yet, once I read that first page, I tumbled into the world of A.J. Fikry and the characters that frequent the bookstore of Alice Island.

A.J. is a grieving widower. Sales in his bookstore are suffering from the lack of his late wife’s enigmatic personality and the rising popularity of e-readers. A.J. has one treasure possession, one that will save him, offer him an alternative life, free him of the bookstore. He owns a rare and precious original copy of Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry. One night he feels sorry for himself, drinks too much, and takes his treasured copy from its safe. The next morning, it is gone.

Changes are coming for A.J. He finds a toddler left alone in his store. She is brilliant. He can’t bear to turn her over to social services. Can a self-absorbed widower adopt? He begins to connect with the people in the town. He reads a memoir suggested by a literary rep, and is surprised to find himself absorbed in the story. They begin to talk. It doesn’t hurt that she’s easy on the eyes. A.J. He invites the author to speak at his bookstore. He hasn’t had an author visit since his wife died.

Each chapter opens with A.J.’s thoughts on a book. How better to understand someone than by knowing what they read.

The cover and title may not grab you, but the story will. I encourage you to pick up a copy today. Join us over at www.shereads.org where we will be blogging about the book. There will also be giveaways.

Review: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

LOST-LAKEKate Pheris finally woke up. A year after the loss of her husband, she awakens from merely going through the daily motions of life.

In that year, her highly successful realtor mother-in-law, Cricket has been taking care of things: selling the family home, caring for Kate’s precocious daughter, Devin, and preparing to move Kate and Devin into her home. She has a film crew waiting to record their entrance to their new home. A recreation of a successful past media campaign, which transformed her real estate company by featuring a series of commercials chronicling their “moving on” after the death of her husband. Kate’s late husband, Matt hated those commercials.

Kate and Devin take off to Lost Lake, Georgia, an enchanted vacation spot, where 12-year-old Kate spent the best summer of her life. She reconnects with her Aunt Eby, a caring vibrant woman shunned by Kate’s mother due to a family squabble.

Lost Lake has many wonderful characters. Lisette is an aging French woman still haunted by her past. Selma is an aging red-haired siren looking for a man, who will be her last husband. Bulahdeen has wit and practicality. And then there is the local handyman and pizzeria owner, Wes, who shared that magical summer with Kate.

Lost Lake is no longer the profitable vacation spot it once was. Eby plans to sell the resort. She longs to return to Paris, where she spent her honeymoon with her late husband.

There is also an alligator seen only by Devin.

All the characters of Lost Lake are in a state of flux. Can Lost Lake’s enchantment change their lives?

Sarah Addison Allen delightfully presents a wonderful story with notes of magical realism in a beautiful setting  with characters struggling through the difficulties of life. They learn the best way through difficult times is with the help of friends.

As a graphic artist, I always pay attention to book cover designs. I feel this is a cover, which will appeal to women and encourage them to take a look. The multi-colored lanterns and landscaped path make me want to take the road to Lost Lake.

This is Allen’s first novel after battling breast cancer and being declared in remission. Lost Lake is full of loss, hope, and finding a new direction in life.

If you follow Sarah Addison Allen on Facebook, she has a fun link, where you can find out which Lost Lake character you are.

Lost Lake is the March selection at She Reads. Join us for giveaways, blog posts, reviews, and recipes this month.

Review of Ariel Lawhon’s The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress

wifemaidmistress1The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress by Ariel Lawhon is the story of three women bound together through one man, Justice Joseph Crater. Stella is his wife, Ritzi the mistress, and Maria the maid. The story is revealed through each woman’s point of view.

One sultry night Joe Crater doesn’t return home. His wife knows of his infidelity and so does the maid. The mistress has her own secrets. The police are searching for the missing judge, who was known to frequent Club Abbey, a gathering spot for mobsters, showgirls, and corrupt politicians. Joe Crater had a taste for liquor, women, and prestige. Rumor has it his appointment as a judge came with a price rather than diligence and hard work.

Most of the narrative takes place in 1930 thru 1931. It begins and ends in Club Abbey in 1969 where all the secrets are revealed including just what happened to the honorable Joseph Crater, his wife, his mistress, and the maid.

Stella, the wife just wants a husband, who loves her and forsakes all others.

Ritzi wants to be a star on Broadway. The only way to get there is through Owney Madden, owner of Club Abbey and the man who can make things happen, although his assistance comes with a hefty price.

Maria is happily married to Jude Simon, a New York Police Detective. Maria has defied her Catholic father and married an agnostic. She works as a maid in the morning for the Crater’s and as a seamstress in the evening. More than anything Maria wants a baby, but at 32 she remains barren.

The novel begins with a little bit of intrigue, a hint of mystery and scandal that this simple meeting between acquaintances that once would have made the front page of the newspaper. Lawhon gives you a little taste and then plunges you back in time to before the mystery began, when Joe was just a husband coming home to his unhappy wife.

I couldn’t help but like these three women. I cheered them on. I cringed at their mistakes. I reveled in their bravery. I couldn’t put the book down.

I actually spent Saturday night reading a book while my sweet husband enjoyed one of those shows he loves. I woke up at four in the morning thinking about poor Ritzi. I couldn’t wait for the Sunday afternoon football pre-game so that I could return to the world of Stella, Ritzi, and Maria. I’m a reader not a sports fan, although I do love the Super Bowl commercials.

About the cover. I love the color, a beautiful coral color with gold stripes and thin black lettering. The black and white image is alluring. I’m drawn to the cover. I wanted to pick it up and see what the book is about. After reading, I wish the image on the cover was of three women rather than a single woman.

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress is the She Reads selection for February. Join us there all month where there will be interviews with the authors, reviews by bloggers, a twitter chat, and some great giveaways. If you’re new to She Reads be sure to sign up for their newsletter.

I gave the novel 5 stars on Good Reads.

 

 

 

 

 

Review of Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day

labor-day

I love reading books that have inspired movies. Major discrepancies from print to film irritate me and I usually prefer to have some time lapse between the time I’ve read the book and seen the movie. The movie comes out January 31st so I obviously won’t have that option.

Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day is told through the viewpoint of thirteen-year-old Henry. His parents have divorced. His father has a new wife, new daughter, new step-son, new life. Each week Henry joins his father’s family for their traditional family dinner at Friendly’s. Henry’s mother rarely leaves the house. Their freezer is full of frozen dinners, their cupboards are full of cans of soup.

With school beginning, Henry and his mother go to a local store for back-to-school clothes and supplies. A man approaches Henry and asks for a ride. Henry’s mother agrees. The man’s planned destination is their home.
Frank is an escaped convict. He says he was wrongly convicted and asks the mother and son not to believe everything they will hear. The news reports are a sharp contrast to the kind man Henry sees living in his home.Henry also begins to see his mother in a new way. Is his mother falling in love with the convict?

I often found myself cringing as I read. This is a thirteen-year-old boy. Puberty. He is just beginning to experience the sexual desires that come with puberty. His mother although she has often shared too many personal details is experiencing a sexual awakening. Henry can hear everything through the thin wall separating his room from his mother’s.

The reader also feels as if a voyeur. Sometimes I found the lack of quotation marks infuriating. There are also several passages that I found to be beautiful and descriptive of the human element.

Henry on his mother preference and need to stay home:
It was like she was missing the outer layer of skin that allows people to get through the day without bleeding all the time. The world got to be too much for her.

As I read the last sentence of the novel, I could see why Hollywood would choose to make this into a movie. I plan to see the movie in the near future, and I’ll check back here and let you know what I thought about the screen adaptation. Joyce Maynard posted on her website that she loves the movie. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

Which movies that have been adapted from novels have you loved? Which have you hated?

I loved Water for Elephants. With My Sister’s Keeper, I really liked most of the movie, but to totally change the ending? I was really disappointed with that.