Connie A Thompson

Tag 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 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 of Joyce Maynard’s Labor Day

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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.

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?

Book Review: The Unfinished Garden

TUGThe Unfinished Garden by Barbara Claypole White is a love story about damaged people. Tilly Silverberg is a widow with a young son. James Nealy is a retired professional with OCD. His illness is to thank for his retirement – not because he was having difficulties functioning, but because he’s made enough money to retire thanks to long hours and his extreme attention to detail. James has a new obsession, he must have a garden, but not just any garden – he falls in love with Tilly’s garden.

Tilly is an accomplished gardener. She owns and operates her own nursery. She is just what James is looking for, but Tilly is not interested in designing his garden. Tilly agrees to think about it and she’s off with her young son to visit her ailing mother in her homeland, England.

In the English countryside, Tilly reconnects with her best friend, Rowena and her first love, Sebastian, who just happens to be going through a divorce. Should Tilly have married Sebastian all those years ago? And what about James, who has braved his extreme fear of flying and germs to come to England to persuade Tilly to design his garden. James is the type of man who is used to getting his way, but Tilly does not care about the money. She has her own fears to deal with and she continues to grapple with the guilt she feels for her husband’s death. Should she have held on?

As a widow, I empathized with Tilly. I understood her. I thought White did a beautiful job portraying the various stages of grief. It is hard to move on and there is so much guilt and fear associated with moving forward.

Tilly finds herself at home in England. Should she stay? What would that do to her son? North Carolina is the only home he has ever known.

The Unfinished Garden is a wonderful summer read and you have to keep turning the pages to see if Tilly will choose Sebastian, James, or the ghost of her late husband.