Thursday, January 17, 2019

2019 Reads and Reviews

1.  The Clockmaker's Daughter by Kate Morton

Completed:  January 14, 2019

Rating:  7/10

  In the summer of 1862 a group of young artists meet at Birchwood Manor, the country home of Edward Radcliffe, who is one of the artists. He has gained much popularity amongst the British art world for his portrayals of a beautiful young woman with flaming red hair. They are there with their models to gain inspiration from the countryside and the river Thames, planning on spending the summer. The house has always held a fascination for Edward, and he has felt since a child that it has called to him. But the summer fun ends abruptly with the death of one of the group and another one missing. Edward's perfect life takes an abrupt turn.

 In present day, Elodie Wilson, comes across a leather satchel with a photo of a beautiful young lady and an artist's sketchbook with a sketch of a lovely house by a river. Working as an archivist she recognizes that this may hold some significance to the past and is determined to find out who the beautiful woman is and where the house is. As she discovers there is way more to this mysterious person and the house than she bargained for.

 I was really looking forward to this new book from this author. She has quickly become a favorite from the other books I have read from her. This story, however, was just ok for me. For me, it suffered from way too many characters, with way too many story lines spanning over a time period of 150 or so years, and sometimes the connecting of them all felt a little forced. I thought the story could have used a bit of editing. After reading the story I was still trying to remember how certain characters were connected to the house. It also had a ghost element which is not my cup of tea in stories and had I have known that I would have passed it by. The premise was interesting but the execution didn't work for me. I did, however,like the descriptions of old London and the glimpses into the seedier side of orphan life of those days. Those were interesting and sad at the same time.  If you like historical fiction melded with the present day and a ghostly element to your stories this still may be something you might enjoy. I have loved several other books from this author so even though this was a miss for me, I will still look forward to other novels from her.

2.  Secrets at Cedar Cabin by Colleen Coble

Completed:  January 21, 2019

Rating:  9/10

Bailey Fleming has found out that she wasn't who she thought she was.  Her mother has lied to her her whole life and her marriage was all based on lies.  Now her mom has been murdered and left her a cryptic message to run for her life.  Who can she trust anymore.  Running to the only place she can think of, a remote cabin that her ex gave her to try and buy her silence, she wonders who she can trust anymore as she tries to figure out what or who her mom could possibly have been involved with that would want her dead.  But when she finally finds the cabin, the bodies of some young girls turn up linking them to a human trafficking ring.  An agent on the case, Lance Phoenix, wants very much to solve the case not only for the girls but because he's been searching for his missing sister for years.  With clues leading to this cabin, can he rely on Bailey to help him solve the years old mystery or will her own mysterious past get in the way?

I really enjoyed this wrap up to the Lavender Tides Series. It was fast paced and hard to put down. The story focused on the Bailey, the youngest sister of the three siblings that this series deals with and an FBI agent named Lance who is trying to find his missing sister. The whole series had an interesting premise of 3 siblings separated at a young age through tragedy. It connects them all together in this last installment but this story also dealt with a very real issue and that is the one of human trafficking. At times the story was hard to read because it deals with the tragedy of how young girls are lured away and then taken and what might be happening to them. I thought the author did a very good job of bringing awareness to this very important topic. I liked the character of Bailey and how she struggled to deal with all the lies that made up the foundation of her life and now put her in a position of who to trust going forward. The romance was not heavy handed and I appreciated that though as is usual in stories like this was a bit fast moving. There were a couple parts involving FBI agents that made me wonder if they would actually do that but I can see where it was necessary to keep the story moving and not get bogged down in procedure. All in all I really like this story and the series as a whole.

3.  Every Note Played by Lisa Genova

Completed:  January 28, 2019

Rating:  9/10

Richard is a very well known accomplished pianist who has played the starring role with symphonies all over the world. He has spent a lifetime honing his craft to become the best. Music and piano are his life. He spends up to 10 hours a day practicing, to the detriment of his family life. Not that he notices the time. When he's at the piano all time fades away as he is carried away by the music and the perfection of never making a mistake. Karina is also an accomplished pianist from Poland. She and Richard met at a music college in America. In ways she was technically even more better than Richard naturally feeling the music where Richard had to work at the emotion. When he finally asked her out they clicked immediately, their love for classical music being the foundation. But then Karina took a turn in her choice of music pursuits when she fell in love with jazz, something that Richard could never like. He didn't even consider it music. After marriage and a child, Richard moved the family to another city to pursue his career and so the rifts within the marriage started to build to the point they became irreparable, each blaming the other for the breakdown. And now Richard has ALS. As the disease claims him piece by piece, with no one else to do it, Karina becomes Richard's caretaker. Both are filled with the regrets of the past but don't know how to move beyond it. But time is not on their side and both of them must take some hard looks at the role each played to get to where they are today.

Another heartrending story from Lisa Genova of the lives involved and ruined with a horrendous disease. This author has a beautiful gift of being able to give a voice to those suffering from a horrible disease and not only translate what they are going through physically, emotionally and mentally but also those of the family and people around them. The story is touching and maddening, very heavy at times. How can it not be? But I read it to glean the knowledge of what those who face these diseases live with. Lisa Genova is able to really make the reader feel the emotions and struggles. I cried several times throughout this story as I felt for what Richard was going through as the moving paralysis claimed more and more of his body, even as his character was arrogant and unlikeable to me in the beginning. But as is with life things were revealed that made me think a little more why he might have come to be that way. My heart went out to his and Karina's college aged daughter who basically grew up without her dad and now must also face his dying. It's a story that puts a human face to the big ALS "ice bucket" awareness challenge of the last few years. It's a story of loss and regret, suffering, looking for hope in the face of hopelessness, facing one's own roles in the state of relationships and the offering of mercy, service and forgiveness.

4.  The Real Enemy by Kathy Herman

Completed:  February 5, 2019

Rating:  10/10

Brill Jessup is the new Police Chief in the town of Sophie Trace, Tennesse. Not only is she the new chief she is the first female chief the town has had, so she feels she has a lot to prove. Her family made the move from Memphis where she was on the police force for 18 years. She had an excellent career there and was known for finding clues others missed. But the family moved when her personal life took a bad turn in an attempt to be where Brill would be less busy solving major crimes and would have more time to devote to their daughter. She and her husband, Kurt, are trying to make a decent home life for their 12 year daughter still at home . Trouble is Brill can barely tolerate being in the same room as her husband. Kurt, her husband, is trying everything in his power to make things right with Brill after his huge failure, but no matter how kind and loving he tries to be it just makes Brill more bitter and angry. In trying to hold it together for their daughter, they are butting their heads against stone walls with each other. And their daughter is noticing the tenseness of her mother towards her father. Now Brill has to deal with a rash of town people who seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth . The locals seem to want to blame an old Cherokee legend that has the spirits of former Cherokee who were driven off the land coming to get their revenge. But Brill knows there has to be a logical explanation. But with seemingly no clues left behind it's an race against time to find the missing people. And now she has a gang trying to raise it's head in the local school. As Brill works around the clock, she must confront the real enemy behind what is going on both in the case and at home.

 I loved this story. Kathy Herman is one of my favorite Christian suspense mystery writers. She is able to write a great page turning mystery while also placing in tough moral dilemmas for the characters to wrestle with. The story was interesting, fast paced and Brill's feelings were very raw and relatable. It drew lots of emotions and made me think. I had read books two & three in this trilogy years ago and really liked them. They were sent to me for review so I was always wanting to get to the first book to find out how the story all started. It's been on my library list for years. So this year I was determined to get to it to knock it off for my reading challenge and it didn't disappoint.

Set Aside after 2 chapters.  Didn't interest me.

5.  Life After by Katie Hanshert

Completed:  February 23, 2019

Rating:  10+/10

Autumn Manning was simply living her life, coming home from work one day when a terrorist's bomb rips her train apart. Twenty two people died, and Autumn lived. Now one year later, the anniversary of the explosion is drawing close and Autumn doesn't want to go. Since being found alive, she has wrestled with guilt, not only at being the only survivor, but also because she was misidentified at first, and another family thought they had hope and she feels she ripped it away from them. As Autumn tries to piece her life back together, she struggles with leaving the house, with being obsessed with the people who died in the attack and with all the unanswered questions.

 Meanwhile Paul Elliott, is also trying to move on. His wife died in the attack on the train. But a glimmer of hope was offered to them when it was thought she was the only survivor, only to be taken from them again when it was discovered there had been a mix up in the identification. Now he just wants to get past this anniversary and move his family on. But his 12 year old daughter wants to keep remembering and Paul is terrified she will discover what he has been trying so hard to bury. And now circumstances have brought the very woman who was mistaken for his wife back into their lives.

 I loved this novel. It is hard to review this story due to it's depth of storytelling. I don't want to give anything away. It is such a deep story full of complex layers. It deals with survivor's guilt, truth and lies, forgiveness, grief, and purpose of life just to name a few. The character's are so rich and well written. My heart was torn for them all throughout the story and the author was able to really delve into the emotions and struggles from several angles of those who have survived something like this or to be a family dealing with with the loss of a loved one due to terrorism (or really any tragedy that claims lives due to another's actions). I was really affected by this story and the author's insight and ability to really make me feel invested in the characters and what they were going through. It was one of those where I couldn't pick up another book for a few days because I couldn't stop thinking of this one.

7.  The House of Foster Hill by Jaime Jo Wright

Completed:  March 25, 2019

Rating:  9/10

8. The Offering by Angela Hunt

Completed:  April 18, 2019

Rating:  7.5/10



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