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Showing posts from June, 2022

Book Review: Once Upon a River By Diane Setterfield

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My Rating: 4.5⭐️ “A river no more begins at its source than a story begins with the first page.” In 1887, on the night of the winter solstice, an injured man stumbles into The Swan, an ancient inn in Radcot on the banks of the Thames River with the lifeless body of a young child. Presumed dead and confirmed to have no pulse by the local nurse Rita, everyone in the inn is shocked when the little girl regains consciousness. The man who brought her in, photographer Henry Daunt confirms that the child is not his and that he found her body floating in the river. The child is unable to speak and therefore, her identity and parentage remain a mystery. Thus, it is in The Swan, where patrons "went for storytelling" while enjoying their drinks, that the story of the intriguing events that follow the mysterious appearance of this little girl is set in motion.

Bookish Travels: December 2019

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In December, 2019, we  visited Margaret Mitchell House ( now a Museum) in Atlanta, Georgia.   The author and her husband lived in a ground floor apartment in the building in the 1920 and early 1930s (then known as Crescent Apartments). This is  where she wrote the most part of her Pulitzer winning novel  "Gone With the Wind".   

Book Review: Antarctica by Claire Keegan

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Ever since reading Small Things Like These in 2021 , I've become a fan of Claire Keegan’s writing. Recently, I picked up Foster which is also a beautifully written novella and since then I have been looking for more of her work. Antarctica is her debut collection of sixteen short stories, few of which had been previously published. This compilation of short stories was published in 1999.

Book Review: The Girl Who Survived by Lisa Jackson

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My Rating:  3.5⭐ At the age of seven, Kara McIntyre’s world was shattered when during the Christmas holidays, her parents and two of her three half-brothers ( from her parents’ previous marriages) were butchered by an unknown assailant in their family cabin in Oregon. After locking her in the attic to keep her safe, her older half-sister Marlie disappeared and her fate was unknown. Kara after escaping the attic was later saved by an off-duty copy who died from his efforts. Her older half-brother Jonas, eighteen at the time was injured in the attack but survived. Circumstantial evidence has Jonas convicted for the murder and he serves 20 years in prison but is being released because of a glitch in the chain of evidence recently discovered by his lawyer.

Book Review: The Living Mountain: a Fable for Our Times by Amitav Ghosh

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Two friends, our unnamed narrator and his friend Maansi, while deciding on a theme for their book club for the year ahead stumble across the word ANTHROPOCENE- a term that is making waves and Maansi, in particular, is quite keen on. However, as the narrative progresses Maansi shares a vivid dream she has had that has left her more than a little unsettled.

Book Review: One's Company by Ashley Hutson

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My Rating: 4.5⭐ “The world was so haphazard and frightening, why not arrange it the way I wanted it? Why not?” Our protagonist Bonnie Lincoln finds solace in watching reruns of Three’s Company, a popular sitcom originally aired between 1977-1984, after a traumatic event that alters her life irrevocably. Some years down the line, when she comes into a large sum of money after winning the lottery she decides to leave everything and everyone behind and create her alternate reality, modeling her new life along the lines of her favorite television show. 

Book Review: Mother Tongue by Joyce Kornblatt

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My Rating: 4.5⭐ “Our lives are Russian dolls, identities inside identities.” In 2013, forty-five year old Australian writer Nella Gilbert Pine is teaching refugees how to speak and write English hoping to enable them to “reclaim the voice they often lose when they leave their native language behind, in the choices they make to save their lives and the lives of their families.” Recent events in her own life inspire her to pen her thoughts and share her story.

Book Review :The Lies I Tell by Julie Clark

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ “The difference between justice and revenge comes down to who’s telling the story.” Meg Williams is a con woman who has mastered her craft over the years - meticulous planning, in-depth research, and a whole lot of smarts result in the almost flawless execution of her plans, changing locations and identities as the situation demands. But there is more to her story and her motivations as is gradually revealed as the narrative progresses. Unbeknownst to Meg, she has been on someone’s radar for over ten years, ever since one of her cons inadvertently resulted in a young journalist’s life falling apart.

Book Review: Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “We didn’t know then that the practice of burying emotions created adults who’d struggle to build meaningful relationships; some of us would eventually completely forget how to access true feelings.” In the summer of 1999, our twelve-year protagonist Felicia "FeFe" Stevens spends her days jumping rope with her three friends Precious, Shania and Tonya whom she has recently befriended, attending summer school (though she does not really have to) and keeping out of trouble under the watchful eye of her mother, who is protective of her children, FeFe and her older brother Meechie. The friends live in the Robert Taylor Homes, the housing projects in the Bronzeville area of Chicago’s South Side. FeFe is sweet and kind to others around her, befriending those who she knows has a rough time at home.

Book Review: The Hostage by A.F. Carter

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My Rating: 3.5⭐ Captain Delia Merola of the Baxter Police Department has a lot on her plate. With the new Nissan Car Company plant promising to boost the economy of the small town of Baxter, she is in charge of cleaning up the local drug trade, making Baxter a safer place to live and work. She spends her days busting meth labs and arresting dealers and pushers while balancing her role as a single mom to her fourteen-year-old son Danny. When the fifteen-year-old daughter of a rich family, who also happens to be the highest bidder on the construction contract of the new plant, Delia is instructed by her boss to let the FBI handle the case. When the FBI advises the family to pay the ransom and wait for Elizabeth’s release, the family reaches out to Delia and asks her to run a parallel investigation- one that does not involve sitting and waiting.

Book Review: The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle by Matt Cain

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Albert Entwistle is months away from his sixty-fifth birthday and being retired from his employment as a postal worker with Royal Mail in Toddington. Albert is a shy introverted man who lives alone with his cat Gracie since the death of his ailing mother almost eighteen years ago. Albert has spent almost five decades absorbed in his work at Royal Mail covering his delivery route of 667 addresses. He does not have friends and barely socializes, limiting his interactions to polite exchanges with his work colleagues.

Book Review: Ithaca by Claire North (Penelope #1)

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Once upon a time, there were three queens in Greece. One was chaste and pure, one a temptress whore, one a murderous hag.” It has been seventeen years since Odysseus left Ithaca to fight in the Trojan War, leaving his young bride Penelope and infant son Telemachus behind. The war lasted ten years but Odysseus has not returned. Penelope is left to fend for herself and her son and run the kingdom of Ithaca with help of her household of maids and advisors.

Book Review: Foster by Claire Keegan

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Part of me wants my father to leave me here while another part of me wants him to take me back, to what I know. I am in a spot where I can neither be what I always am nor turn into what I could be.” At the onset of the novel, we meet our young narrator as she is being driven by her father to a relative’s home in Wexford County in the Irish countryside. She is to remain in John and Edna Kinsella’s care for an undecided interval of time. She has never met the Kinsellas before and is uncertain of how she will fare with her foster family.

Book Review: Never Coming Home by Hannah Mary McKinnon

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ “Good things come to those who wait was a total pile of crap. Good things come to those who make them happen...and then wait for the payoff. Mine was on its way.” Lucas Forester married his wealthy wife, Michelle, for her money with the sole purpose of divorcing her and claiming a hefty chunk of her assets for himself. However, her father’s insistence on a prenup forces him to change his initial plans. Lucas is a conman and from the moment he met Michelle in an Art Gallery in London, he knew what he wanted. He now intends to have his wife killed and claim all of her assets for himself. He is smart and calculating and does not mind biding his time (in this case, a few years) playing the perfect devoted husband before setting things in motion.

Book Review: Trust by Hernan Diaz

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My Rating: 4.5⭐ "Most of us prefer to believe we are the active subjects of our victories but only the passive objects of our defeats. We triumph, but it is not really we who fail—we are ruined by forces beyond our control." I’ll admit that I had put this book aside when I first received it a month ago. The subject matter- financial markets, Wall Street tycoon, the crash of 1929- wasn’t pulling me in. But eventually, my curiosity got the better of me and I finally cracked it open three days ago and I have been immersed in it ever since. This is a book that takes time and patience. I did put it down a few times – not because I lost interest but because I needed to take a pause and absorb what I was reading. In general, I enjoy meta fiction when it is done right and Hernan Diaz takes meta fiction to a different level altogether with “Trust".

Book Review: The Favor by Nora Murphy

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My Rating: 3.5⭐ “We were guilty. But we were also victims. We were survivors.” Two highly educated and professionally accomplished women – Leah and McKenna – married to equally educated and accomplished men , no financial worries and homeowners in respectable neighborhoods- what more could a woman want? But the truth behind their picture-perfect lives is not what any woman would dream her life to be.

Book Review: Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley

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My Rating: 4.5⭐ Our protagonist, seventeen-year-old East Oakland resident Kiara Johnson is struggling to make ends meet and keep it together for herself and her older brother Marcus who is unable to hold a job and would rather spend time (unsuccessfully) pursuing a career in music. Their father passed away when she was thirteen and her mother is currently a resident of a halfway house for reasons that are gradually revealed. Kiara also feels responsible for the well-being of nine-year-year-old Trevor her neighbor Dee’s son who is often abandoned by his mother and left to fend for himself. Kia genuinely cares for Trevor and her time spent with him is one of the few bright spots in her unhappy life. When her landlord doubles her rent and she is unsuccessful in securing gainful employment elsewhere, an unfortunate turn of events sees her take to prostitution in a last-ditch effort to avoid eviction and starvation. 

Book Review: The Lost Girls of Willowbrook by Ellen Marie Wiseman

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ In 1971, sixteen-year-old Sage Winters overhears her stepfather Alan and his friend Larry discussing the recent disappearance of Sage’s twin sister Rosemary from the premises of Willowbrook State School in Staten Island, New York. Unbeknownst to Sage, her mentally disturbed sister had been sent away to Willowbrook six years ago. Sage had been told by her now-deceased mother that Rosemary had died from pneumonia. Sage is shocked by the revelation that her sister, whom she loved and still grieves for, is alive. Concerned for her sister’s well-being, she travels alone to Willowbrook to assist in the search efforts.

Book Review: On a Quite Street by Seraphina Nova Glass

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My Rating: 3.5⭐ “Nothing ever happens in Brighton Hills.” Really? An affluent gated community in Oregon, Brighton Hills is home to “beige and plastic”, where few people know what goes on behind closed doors. Behind the polished exteriors and manicured fa├žade is a web of philandering husbands and scandalous affairs, recreational drugs domestic violence and many secrets. There is a lot that is happening in this quiet neighborhood and we are introduced to a few of the residents whose stories are central to the narrative.

Book Review: Aurora by David Koepp

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐ When a major CME (coronal mass ejection) is projected to knock out all power grids and cause a worldwide blackout, people scramble to “prepare" for the worst. This is a world that has survived the COVID pandemic but when the solar storm hits and results in a black sky event that could last months, maybe even years until power can be restored, it calls for a different level of preparedness. 

Book Review: Thank You for Listening by Julia Whelan

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My Rating:  3.5⭐ After a tragic accident forces Sewanee “Swan” Chester, a graduate of Juilliard and former up-and-coming actress, to forgo her dreams of an acting career, she ventures into the world of audiobook narration, a profession in which she earns repute and a respectable income. However, memories of her accident and subsequent disfigurement and her unrealized dreams cast a shadow on her present life. Initially, she gains recognition as a popular narrator of romance novels (under an assumed name) but has since moved on from the genre (she detests the unrealistic and impractical tropes and the promise of HEA in romantic novels!) to more serious books and is presently a successful audiobook narrator, under her real name. A chance meeting with a handsome stranger at a book convention in Las Vegas leads to a very interesting night for her and provides a welcome change from her monotonous life in LA.

Book Review: Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout (Amgash #4)

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My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ “It is a gift in this life that we do not know what awaits us.” At the onset of the novel, we see our protagonist Lucy Barton being whisked away to a “house on a small cliff on the coast of Maine” by her ex-husband and friend Dr. William Gerhardt. William, a parasitologist by profession, is concerned for Lucy’s well-being. Her history of asthma renders her vulnerable, as the coronavirus that has already ravaged Europe is making its way into the United States. William also urges their daughters and their husbands to leave New York for the time being. While Chrissy and her husband take his advice and leave New York before the shelter-in-place orders take effect, Becka and her husband do not. Though it takes a while for Lucy and William to adjust to their new surroundings in Crosby, Maine , they gradually settle in, make friends and reorganize their lives in keeping with the rules and restrictions imposed during these challenging times.

Book Review: Carolina Moonset by Matt Goldman

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My Rating: 3.5⭐ At the onset of the novel, we meet 45-year-old Joey Green, a divorced father of two, who travels from Chicago to Beaufort, South Carolina to help his mother take care of his 75-year-old father, Marshall, who has recently been diagnosed with Lewy Body Dementia. His father, a doctor by profession, spent his whole life tending to the needs of patients in a free clinic for the less privileged and moved back to Beaufort after a long career in Chicago. Marshall's illness has adversely affected his short-term recall but his ability to recollect events from his past is stronger and he is able to describe his memories from decades ago with astonishing clarity. Marshall also experiences bouts of hallucinations wherein he strikes up conversations with people from his past. As Joey spends more time with his father, Marshall shares his memories of his own life as a child growing up in Beaufort and often brings up fond memories from Joey's and Joey's sisters' childhoo

Book Review: Unnatural Ends by Christopher Huang

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My Rating: 4.5⭐ In April 1921, Alan, an archeologist, Roger, an engineer, and Caroline, a journalist – the three Linwood siblings return to their family estate in Yorkshire for their adoptive father’s funeral. Their father, the late Sir Lawrence Linwood, had been bludgeoned to death in his study with a medieval flanged mace by an unknown assailant. Upon the reading of Sir Lawrence’s will, they are made aware of a “find my killer” clause wherein in the case of an unnatural death, the one who can solve his murder inherits his estate.

From My Personal Collection

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