Connie A Thompson

Category Archives: Book Review

Review of Sarah Jio’s The Last Camellia

15848920The Last Camellia is the story of Flora and Addison, Americans living in England.

Flora’s story takes place in the 1940s and England has just joined the war. She works as a nanny for the four Livingston children at the manor. The children’s mother, Lady Anna recently passed. When she died she suspected that her husband might be involved in the disappearance of several local women. Was she another victim?

Addison’s story takes place in 2000. she harbors a secret that has followed her from New York, and now threatens her happy marriage. Will her husband be able to forgive the horrible secret of her past?

Another delightful mystery and romance fans of Sarah Jio are sure to love.

I gave this novel 4 stars on Goodreads.

 

Review of Jennie Shortridge’s Love Water Memory

love-water-memory-pb-225Imagine finding yourself knee-deep in the chilly water of the San Francisco Bay. You don’t know your name, where you’re from, or why you’re there. There are no visible signs of injury, no identification, only a strange small scar. You are taken to a hospital.

A handsome man appears to say he is your fiancé. He has come to take you home. The hospital staff believe him, and he takes you home.

You keep searching for clues. You know things about decorating, designs, multitudes of facts, and yet you can’t remember your name.

You eat candy; your fiancé tells you that you don’t like candy. There’s a piano. Do you play? He’s never heard you play.

Your fiancé seems kind, but is there something he is hiding, something he isn’t telling, something you can’t remember. Why did you run away? You left to try on wedding dresses, and you never came home.

Love Water Memory is told through three viewpoints: Lucie, Grady, and Helen. Lucie suffers from amnesia. The doctors aren’t sure why. They suspect an incident triggered it, but since Lucie can’t remember and Grady isn’t talking—nobody knows. Helen is Lucie’s estranged aunt and Grady tries to protect Lucie from her. The old Lucie wouldn’t talk about her childhood, her parents, or her aunt. Her parents are dead and Helen may be the only one who has the key to why Lucie has chosen to forget.

Will Lucie ever remember who she was? She’s not sure she wants to. The old Lucie doesn’t have any friends. All the old Lucie did was to work ferociously as a headhunter and run.

This new Lucie makes friends, she likes who she is, and yet her past haunts her. She knows she’ll never find peace or be able to marry Grady until she remembers. And when she does remember, will she still want to marry Grady?

Love Water Memory is an engaging story that explores identity and how much our past impacts our present. It is a wonderful diversion for a cold January day.

Love Water Memory by Jennie Shortridge is the She Reads selection for January.

The In-Between Hour

41AP5DiV37L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I was fortunate to win an ARC of this novel in a Facebook contest, and I am thrilled to report that it is every bit as engaging as Barbara Claypole White‘s first novel, The Unfinished Garden.

Hannah, William, Poppy, Jacob, and Galen are all imperfect people. Hannah has trouble setting boundaries. Hannah and Will both have secrets that need to be revealed. Poppy is a free spirit with the realities of the world closing in on her. Jacob mourns the loss of his beloved wife and doesn’t want his son, Will to put him in an old folks home. Will can’t understand his father’s grief. He only remembers his mother as unstable and embarrassing. Galen is a young man with a death wish and his own secrets.

The novel pays close attention to that in-between hour — the time as dusk approaches and the day wanes turning to night. This is often the time when the evening sky is colored in various arrays of blues, pinks, oranges, golds and even grays. And yes, sometimes a gray sky can be beautiful. Since reading the novel, I catch myself looking for this particular moment and I’m often amazed at just how the landscape changes for that short time.

White’s five characters come along side one another each with their own hurts, their own agendas, their own demons, and the only way to rescue one another is through the aid of others. Will doesn’t understand his father, but Hannah and Poppy do. Will struggles to come to terms with the grief of a lost son while his father has blissfully forgotten. Each evening Will must plot out his son’s new adventures in Europe for this is how Jacob accounts for the lack of his presence. Hannah doesn’t understand her son, Galen. To her, he is a wonderful and intelligent. She doesn’t understand the depression that comes over him, but Will does and he tries to show Galen the things he has to live for. He’s frustrated by a young man who wants to take his own life while his own son didn’t live past the age of five. And yet there is an understanding there. Will begins to realize that the best way to help himself is by helping others.

There are delightful scenes that will make you laugh, harrowing scenes that will make you flinch, and of course touching scenes that will bring tears to your eyes.

 

You Do Judge A Book By Its Cover

What makes a reader choose a book? A recommendation by a friend. New York Times Best Seller List. Favorite author. Blog post. Goodreads. Email. Price.

In 2011, there were almost 300,000 books published that year so how do you make your book stand out? A great cover helps.

thehelp Years ago I refused to initially buy The Help because I hated the cover. It just didn’t appeal to me. It was only after the novel received rave reviews and that it was offered as an e-book special that I finally succumbed and bought it. I’m so glad I did. It ranks as one of my top favorite reads, but it is one that I almost missed because of my aversion to the cover. I still don’t get what three birds have to do with the novel other than the story is really about three characters, two black and one white and how they relate to one another and the community where they live.

I love to peruse the aisles of the library and local bookstores. My local Indie bookstore, Hub City Bookshop has wonderful displays which encourage patrons to pick up the novels, read the covers, and even sit and read a bit before buying. While I love reading on my iPad, there is still something about holding a book with crisp, newly printed pages.

Here are the book covers that appealed to me the most this year.

Intriguing Book Covers of 2013

Intriguing Book Covers of 2013

Z by Therese Anne Fowler, In the Garden of Stone by Susan Tekulve, Whistling Past the Graveyard by Susan Crandall, The Interestings by Meg Worlitzer, The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, The House Girl by Tara Conklin, Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan, The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarity, and Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys.

Of course after making this list I realized these covers appeal to me as a woman and are part of the genres that I typically prefer to read from.

Review: Me Before You

I read The Girl You Left Behind a few months ago, and I loved the writing and the story. Encouraged by my introduction to Moyes, I finally succumbed and got the audio version of Me Before You. I was not disappointed. I think it helps to listen to a story when the setting is in a country in which you’re not all that familiar with. I know the setting is only short drive from England, but I’m a Southern girl from a small town in the US. Louisa’s world is a bit of a culture shock for me, but yet the human experience is universal. Louisa’s life is full of family drama, fear of the unknown, missed opportunities, and the fact that so many people in general abhor change.

Louisa is forced to look for another job when the small cafe where she works closes. She tries a variety of unsuccessful jobs and is sent on a interview to be a caregiver. Her main demand is that she doesn’t want to have to wipe anyone’s bum, she’ll go back to the horrid chicken processing plant before that. Will is a quadriplegic and his mother is searching for someone to care for him during the day. Louisa has no medical background, but she is chatty and she just might be what Will needs.

Since I listened to this book, I found myself searching for opportunities to tune in: treadmill, cleaning, driving, etc.

I’m looking forward to reading Moyes’ other novels.

Review: Someone Else’s Love Story

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Shanti is a twenty-one-year old single mother, who was a virgin when her son was born. William looks like Thor and is a geneticist with Asperger’s.

Shanti and her three-year-old son dash into the Circle K for a drink. She notices William standing by the laundry detergent and she understands “he was single. Newly. It all added up: the shaggy hair, the interest in detergent boxes. He was trying to learn how to not be married anymore. Divorced guy meets laundry.”

And this could have just been another moment in a life a moment easily forgotten until a man enters the convenience store brandishing a gun, impacting each of their lives in a way never expected.

Joshilyn Jackson is a master at taking these moments, which seem inconsequential, and revealing their impact, changing lives forever.

Someone Else’s Love Story is more than the love story of Shanti and William. Jackson reveals the present story as well as the separate past histories of Shanti and William. Jackson’s tale is more than boy meets girl. It is about all the different threads that transpire and affect their lives together and separately.

Shanti and William each carry a secret about the past. Can William help Shanti find Natty’s father? Can Shanti help William heal after the loss of his marriage and daughter?

I have read all of Jackson’s novels, and I found her latest, Someone Else’s Love Story to be just as entertaining and thought provoking as its predecessors. The prose is witty. The story envelopes you, and just when you think you know where it is going, Jackson takes a sharp turn down a road you never imagined.

I believe William is one of my all time favorite literary heroes, and I was thrilled when talking with Jackson through a Facebook chat to find that he made his appearance to her about ten years ago. She did not have a story for him at the time, but he’s been sitting in a corner of her mind waiting to take his place on the page.

If you’re looking for a great read, pick up Joshilyn Jackson’s newest, Someone Else’s Love Story.

Once you’ve finished the novel, if you find yourself wanting a little more of Shanti’s story, you can get the short story eBook, “My Own Miraculous.”

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Someone Else’s Love Story is the November She Reads Pick. Pop over to their website, where you will find discussions with the author and book giveaways.

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind

9780670026616_GirlYouLeftB_JKF.inddTwo  women — two different centuries — and yet, the women are kindred spirits.

Be prepared that once you pick up this book, life as you know it will temporarily cease. Laundry will pile up, dishes will need to be washed, beds will go unmade, and you’ll be reaching for the phone to order pizza rather than cooking because you’ll need to finish this story. You’ll need to know what happens to Sophie and her contemporary counterpart, Liv.

The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes is the October She Reads selection. Join us there this month for giveaways and chats about the book and with the author.

Sophie has left Paris for home to help her sister run the family business, an inn and a restaurant. Together they work and care for the children while their husbands fight on the front during World War I. Their little town is now occupied by the Germans and the German Kommandant has decided that he and his men will take their meals at the family’s inn.

Liv Halston lives in London, in a distinctive, architectural glass wonder designed and built by her late husband. There is nothing warm and inviting about her home except for the painting of a young woman, vibrant and beautiful. They found the painting on their honeymoon. He bought it off the street as a gift for his bride, who was mesmerized by the image. Liv often wonders who the woman was? What was behind her smile? Now, the woman reminds her of who she used to be.

Although under scrutiny, Sophie manages to take meager portions, which she uses to feed the children. She and the Kommandant begin an unlikely friendship. She sees the man he is beneath the German façade. He sees her as the lovely woman of the painting rather than the war-ravaged person she sees in the mirror. For Sophie, the painting reminds her of when she first fell in love with her beloved husband, who captured her feelings of love for him with his paintbrush.

The town believes Sophie has disgraced herself with her relationship with the German. She is sent away to a concentration camp.

100 years later, Sophie’s painting, The Girl You Left Behind, now adorns Liv’s bedroom wall. Sophie’s great-nephews lay claim to the painting. Ironically, the painting’s location would remain unknown except Paul, Liv’s new love interest knows. He works for a company that specializes in returning art to the original family, especially art that was stolen during war times. Liv proclaims the painting is hers; it is all she feels she truly has left. She can’t let Sophie go. Paul must make a choice, his profession or love?

The dual story lines eventually lead to a fabulous conclusion. Questions are answered and the true images rather than the imagined are revealed.

I love finding new authors and after reading The Girl You Left Behind, I can’t wait to read some of her other novels.

Review: Shake Down the Stars

41PgMBELuHL._SY300_Piper Nelson is going through the motions. She teaches school and she helps care for her nieces. The only problem is that alcohol is getting in the way and even she is starting to notice it. She was once a stellar teacher, favored by the students, but when the principal removes her from her class because she was passed out on the desk, Piper begins to realize that changes are needed.

Her sister is marrying a famous sports star. She’s more interested in the reality television show they’ll be starring in than being concerned for her daughters or her sister.

Her mother is married to a prominent evangelist. You would think she would help and Piper even tries to help herself by attending church, which results in disastrous and embarrassing moment for herself, her mother, and her stepfather.

Piper uses alcohol to self-medicate, a means to help her deal with the death of her daughter. Piper has a secret; the accident was her fault. And while she divorced her husband soon after their daughter’s death, she can’t seem to let him go, until he becomes interested in another woman.

Piper wanders her neighborhood, paying tribute to alters placed on the streets remembering those taken. She identifies with the loss, the need to preserve something. She also spends time in the cemetery by her daughter’s grave.

The one bright moment in her life was meeting Selwyn. They spent an evening staring at the stars. Astronomy is Piper’s favorite topic. She was introduced to the stars, planets, and universe by one of her mother’s old boyfriends. She still doesn’t understand why her mother didn’t marry him. Instead she married the pastor and took young Piper away from the only person she felt close to.

Faced with the probability of losing her job, Piper seeks help. She finally finds it in AA. She balks when they tell her to seek a higher power. She doesn’t want anything to do with her mother’s god. Her sponsor encourages her to think of the universe as her higher power. Piper begins to heal, but her recovery is full of mistakes.

As I read the first few pages of Shake Down the Stars, my first thought was what in the world can I have in common with Piper? My favorite books are the ones where I identify with characters. But as I was drawn into the story, I felt Piper’s pain. I regretted her bad decisions and I cheered her good ones.

My sister died at eighteen. And while I mourned her loss, it could not compare to the loss my mother felt. It consumed her for months, even years. My mother never got over the loss, but she learned to live with it. The loss of a child is the most horrific loss a person can endure. And Renee Swindle’s novel, Shake Down the Stars is true to the pain and yet there is hope too. You should definitely read the novel and join Piper on her road to finding her new normal. You’ll never look at the stars the same again.

Review: The Perfume Collector

Le droit de choisir — every woman should have the right to choose.

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Grace Munroe is surprised when a Parisian attorney contacts her informing her that she is the sole heir to the estate of Madame Eva d’Orsey. At first Grace believes it is merely a case of mistaken identity.

Grace is married and childless. Children are not part of her future. Her husband travels for business frequently. Grace is not like other women. She doesn’t much care for fashion or hairstyles. She is intrigued with numbers and patterns. And yet her friend, Mallory persists on taking Grace out and to parties and events forcing her to engage with others. And it is at one of these parties that Grace learns her husband might be having an affair. Paris seems to be just the answer, a diversion from the reality of her life.

Grace boards an aeroplane for Paris, which is quite an adventure given that it is 1955 and her beloved England is still recovering from the war.

In Paris,  she expects to find answers. Who is Madame d’Orsey and why did she leave her fortune to Grace? The handsome lawyer takes her around town introducing her to French cuisine. She meets people who knew the late Madame, but all refuse to speak of her.

The story is told through two characters, Eva and Grace. We meet Eva as a fourteen-year-old orphan, who gains employment with a prestigious hotel in New York. Working with the alcoholic Rita, it does not take young Eva long to realize that this is not the life she wishes to lead. She takes chances. She’s exploited. She finds a way out of the dismal life she was destined to lead.

Grace is an aristocratic woman. Her father died when she was young. Her mother died in the bombings. She lived with an uncle and now she’s married. She seems to lead the perfect life, but something is missing.

Grace is on a quest to discover who Eva was and why she would leave her such a fortune. Grace is excited by the mystery, but as secrets are revealed, Grace isn’t sure she wants to know the truth.

The Perfume Collector is the kind of story that envelops you transporting you to other worlds and other lives. It is storytelling at its best.

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro is the August selection of She Reads. Please join us at She Reads for blog posts, reviews, discussions, giveaways, recipes,  and a wine pairing.

Back for seconds with CALLING ME HOME by Julie Kibler

I’m an avid reader. I can devour a book easily in a weekend or less, and of course this happens either because I have free time that weekend and/or the book is just too good to put down. I will admit that I try to pace myself now. A really good book is like dessert, I try to savor it, enjoy it, and take my time. But if I didn’t, and it was that good and I devoured it, I’ll read it again.

It makes me think of a cruise I was on several years ago. The first night at dinner, they offered us Chocolate Lava Cake. It was delicious, a miniature cake filled with hot chocolate. The next night, they offered it again, and I ordered it again. I had it every night for four nights. When the final night of the cruise came, they had something special for us, Baked Alaska. I was disappointed, it was our last night, and I wanted the Chocolate Lava Cake. Well on a cruise, you can have just about anything you want and our waiter had the foresight to make sure that I also had Chocolate Lava Cake. It was delicious. I savored every morsel, taking the tiniest bites.

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That is how a great book is for me. I know the story, I know what to expect, and even though I’m prepared and I know how the story ends, I savor every word. My book club will be discussing Calling Me Home by Julie Kibler tonight. I’m so excited because Julie will be joining us via Skype.

Calling Me Home was the She Reads book of the month for February. It has also been optioned by Hollywood. We’re really interested to see whom Hollywood casts.

Are there any books that you’ve read more than once?