Friday, December 22, 2023

The Women by Kristin Hannah

The missing. The forgotten. The brave… The women.

From master storyteller Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Nightingale and The Four Winds, comes the story of a turbulent, transformative era in America: the 1960s. The Women is that rarest of novels—at once an intimate portrait of a woman coming of age in a dangerous time and an epic tale of a nation divided by war and broken by politics, of a generation both fueled by dreams and lost on the battlefield.

“Women can be heroes, too.”

When twenty-year-old nursing student Frances “Frankie” McGrath hears these unexpected words, it is a revelation. Raised on idyllic Coronado Island and sheltered by her conservative parents, she has always prided herself on doing the right thing, being a good girl. But in 1965 the world is changing, and she suddenly imagines a different choice for her life. When her brother ships out to serve in Vietnam, she impulsively joins the Army Nurse Corps and follows his path.

As green and inexperienced as the men sent to Vietnam to fight, Frankie is overwhelmed by the chaos and destruction of war, as well as the unexpected trauma of coming home to a changed and politically divided America.

The Women is the story of one woman gone to war, but it shines a light on the story of all women who put themselves in harm’s way to help others. Women whose sacrifice and commitment to their country has all too often been forgotten. A novel of searing insight and lyric beauty, The Women is a profoundly emotional, richly drawn story with a memorable heroine whose extraordinary idealism and courage under fire define a generation.

Kindle Edition, 480 pages
Expected publication February 6, 2024
 by St. Martin's Press
5/5 stars

My love for Kristin Hannah's writing is what made me read The Women, Vietnam is not a place I visit in my HF reading. I am very glad I read this book, it was an eye-opener to say the least.

Frankie is a na├»ve 20-year-old raised with privilege, an impulsive decision sent her to nursing school and then she enlisted in the army. The author didn’t hold back on what transpired in the war, from the brutal conditions, the violence as well as the friendships that develop.

I was very thankful that the publisher gave me a digital arc along with the audio book. I found myself listening to the audio following along on my Kindle - it wasn't the type of story that I multitasked with but sat and absorbed it. The story was compelling and gripping.

I'll confess that there were times I have visions of Mash (the tv series) in my brain, but with more primitive conditions. It’s after Frankie comes home that the story becomes more heartbreaking and emotional. It’s during a time when PTSD was not really a thing and the fact that nurses were not considered Vietnam vets, making any type of help unavailable to her.

I’m also thankful also that my copy included the author notes with the authors inspiration, her numerous sources, and her strong desire to get this story out.

The Women is a well written strong historical story, it is a story of friendship, heartache and family along with addiction and longing. I think Kristin Hannah’s best book to date. One that will stay with me for a long while.

My thanks to St. Martin's Press and Macmillan Audio for advanced copies.  The Women releases on Feb 6, 2024.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Bad Move by Linwood Barclay

In the too-quiet town of Oakwood, only the lucky die of boredom... and new homeowner Zack Walker isn’t feeling lucky. Whoever said the burbs were boring will think twice after reading Linwood Barclay’s hilarious debut mystery, in which Dad learns the hard way that he doesn’t always know best.

Zack wouldn’t blame you for thinking he’s safety-obsessed. True, he masterminded a plot to trade his family’s exciting city lifestyle for one of suburban tranquillity. True, even after this strategic move, Zack still has issues with family members who forget their keys in the front door, leave their cars unlocked, or park their backpacks at the top of the stairs — where you could kill yourself tripping over them. Just ask his wife, Sarah, or his teenage kids, Paul and Angie, who endure their share of lectures.

Zack knows that he needs to chill out and assume the best for once — but we know what happens to those who assume.

When Zack realizes their two-faced developer sent a petty thief to fix their leaky shower, he starts fighting hard to ignore the fact that Oakwood isn’t the crime-free paradise he was hoping for. But his brief state of denial comes to an abrupt end when, during a walk by the creek, he stumbles across a dead body. Even more shocking, Zack actually knows who the victim is — and who might want him dead.

With a killer roaming around their neighborhood and Zack’s overactive imagination in overdrive, he’s sure things can’t get any worse. But then another local is murdered — and Zack’s paranoid tendencies get him implicated in the crime. While his wife is trying to remember why she married him in the first place, and his kids are considering whether it’s time to have him committed, Zack decides there’s only one thing he can do. To protect his family — and avoid being busted for a crime he didn’t commit — he’s going to have to override his safety-first instincts, tap into his delusions of machismo, and track down the killer himself.

Mass Market Paperback, 387 pages
Published April 26, 2005
 by Bantam
4/5 stars

Since Linwood Barclay has become an auto read for me I have gone back to the beginning with his debut, Bad Move, which is also the first book in a four part series. Oh my this is unlike any Barclay book I have ever read before.

Thoroughly entertaining, comical with mystery and mayhem Bad Move is told from the pov of an overly cautious husband/dad/disgruntled homeowner. When I say overly cautious I mean paranoid about safely and mindful how his family isn't all that concerned about safety.  Especially when Zack moves the family to a 'safe' neighborhood which as it turns out isn't all that safe.

It’s an impulsive move, to teach his wife a lesson, that sends Zach on a path of bad decision making. And what a path it is. Even though Zack is rather annoying and over the top I was in need of a palate cleanser in my reading life and this fit the bill nicely. It was a twisty read with a wide range of personalities and a twisty ending I didn't see coming at all.

Will I continue with this series?  Absolutely, Bad Guys is already included in my January vacation plans.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

Counting the Cost by Jill Duggar

For the first time, discover the unedited truth about the Duggars, the traditional Christian family that captivated the nation on TLC’s hit show 19 Kids and Counting. Jill Duggar and her husband Derick are finally ready to share their story, revealing the secrets, manipulation, and intimidation behind the show that remained hidden from their fans.

Jill and Derick knew a normal life wasn’t possible for them. As a star on the popular TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting, Jill grew up in front of viewers who were fascinated by her family’s way of life. She was the responsible, second daughter of Jim Bob and Michelle’s nineteen kids; always with a baby on her hip and happy to wear the modest ankle-length dresses with throat-high necklines. She didn’t protest the strict model of patriarchy that her family followed, which declares that men are superior, that women are expected to be wives and mothers and are discouraged from attaining a higher education, and that parental authority over their children continues well into adulthood, even once they are married.

But as Jill got older, married Derick, and they embarked on their own lives, the red flags became too obvious to ignore.

For as long as they could, Jill and Derick tried to be obedient family members—they weren’t willing to rock the boat. But now they’re raising a family of their own, and they’re done with the secrets. Thanks to time, tears, therapy, and blessings from God, they have the strength to share their journey. Theirs is a remarkable story of the power of the truth and is a moving example of how to find healing through honesty.

Audiobook, 7 hours 7 minutes
Published September 12, 2023 
by Simon Schuster Audio
4/5 stars

Although I don't usually read a lot of nonfiction, especially memoirs about celebrities, I found myself drawn to "Counting the Cost" by Jill Duggar. Jill is one of the older children from the TLC show "19 Kids and Counting." I decided to listen to the audiobook version, which was narrated by the author herself.

This book was truly eye-opening. Even though I had never watched the show, I was aware of it, especially in recent years due to the charges against Jill's older brother, Josh.

Hats off to Jill for bearing her soul and giving us a glimpse into what life was like when the whole world is pretty much watching your every move. I did not realize the role that Bill Gothard and IBLP played in their lives. I am familiar with him and could never get past him being an expert on marriage, and child rearing when he himself is a single man. But apparently lots of people do .

Jill Duggad, now married with a couple children, speaks of her growth and maturity as she begins to question the actions of her parents, which is mostly geared towards her father. His reactions are disheartening to hear, from the whole situation with Josh and how the finances are/were handled. For a book that comes in just under 300 pages with the audio around the seven hour mark it does pack a punch, and made for an interesting and enlightening read.

Both the ebook and audio were obtained through CloudLibrary.

Thursday, December 14, 2023

The Unmaking of June Farrow by Adrienne Young

A woman risks everything to end her family’s centuries-old curse, solve her mother’s disappearance, and find love in this mesmerizing novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Spells for Forgetting.

In the small mountain town of Jasper, North Carolina, June Farrow is waiting for fate to find her. The Farrow women are known for their thriving flower farm—and the mysterious curse that has plagued their family line. The whole town remembers the madness that led to Susanna Farrow’s disappearance, leaving June to be raised by her grandmother and haunted by rumors.

It’s been a year since June started seeing and hearing things that weren’t there. Faint wind chimes, a voice calling her name, and a mysterious door appearing out of nowhere—the signs of what June always knew was coming. But June is determined to end the curse once and for all, even if she must sacrifice finding love and having a family of her own.

After her grandmother’s death, June discovers a series of cryptic clues regarding her mother’s decades-old disappearance, except they only lead to more questions. But could the door she once assumed was a hallucination be the answer she’s been searching for? The next time it appears, June realizes she can touch it and walk past the threshold. And when she does, she embarks on a journey that will not only change both the past and the future, but also uncover the lingering mysteries of her small town and entangle her heart in an epic star-crossed love.

With The Unmaking of June Farrow, Adrienne Young delivers a brilliant novel of romance, mystery, and a touch of the impossible—a story you will never forget.

Hardover, 320 pages
Published October 17, 2023 
by Delacorte Press
4/5 stars

I went into this book with a little bit of trepidation, between the positive hype on social media along with the fact that the author's, previous book, Spells for Forgetting wasn’t a favourite of mine. In this her latest release, I am happy to say that it was a captivating read and ticked off many boxes of my favourite things bookish.

The Unmaking of June Farrow is a story of a 34 year-old woman that has just lost her grandmother. Her grandmother raised her since she was six months old after being abandoned by her mother. There are many things in this book that enjoyed - the mystery, the supernatural and some characters/relationships that were strong and well developed. The storyline itself was intricate, well thought out and executed, even though at times I had to stop and think.

All in all a very entertaining read where I found myself reading the last half in one day.

My copy was obtained through my November block of the month and part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

The Mystery Guest by Nita Prose

When an acclaimed author dies at the Regency Grand Hotel, it's up to a fastidious maid to uncover the truth, no matter how dirty—in a standalone novel featuring Molly Gray, from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Maid, a Good Morning America Book Club Pick.

Molly Gray is not like anyone else. With her flair for cleaning and proper etiquette, she has risen through the ranks of the glorious five-star Regency Grand Hotel to become the esteemed Head Maid. But just as her life reaches a pinnacle state of perfection, her world is turned upside down when J.D. Grimthorpe, the world-renowned mystery author, drops dead— very dead —on the hotel’s tea room floor.

When Detective Stark, Molly's old foe, investigates the author’s unexpected demise, it becomes clear that this death was murder most foul. Suspects abound, and everyone wants to who killed J.D. Grimthorpe? Was it Lily, the new Maid-in-Training? Or was it Serena, the author’s secretary? Could Mr. Preston, the hotel’s beloved doorman, be hiding something? And is Molly really as innocent as she seems?

As the case threatens the hotel’s pristine reputation, Molly knows she alone holds the key to unlocking the killer's identity. But that key is buried deep in her past—because long ago, she knew J.D. Grimthorpe. Molly begins to comb her memory for clues, revisiting her childhood and the mysterious Grimthorpe mansion where she and her dearly departed Gran once worked side by side. With the entire hotel under investigation, Molly must solve the mystery post-haste. If there's one thing Molly knows for sure, it's that dirty secrets don't stay buried forever...

Paperback, 304 pages
Published November 28, 2023
 by Penguin Canada
4.5/5 stars

Molly has returned, three years later, as head Maid at the Regency Grand Hotel.

This was a fun sequel to The Maid. It had some of Molly‘s background and her growing up years with Gran that were intricately woven into this story. Beginning with the murder of renowned author, J.D. Grimthrope and where Molly meets again Detective Stark. Was it natural causes or foul play? Thus begins this story

For me, it was Molly's story that took center stage with the murder being nicely in the background, but not too far back. With a more personal glimpse into her past, with some of the obstacles she faced and overcame along with what makes her tick made this an enjoyable and entertaining room. The ending was fitting with lots of loose ends tied up neatly.

 I would love to see Molly again in another story, but I would also like to see what else the author can come up with.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge

Sunday, December 10, 2023

This Spells Love by Kate Robb

A young woman tries to heal her heartbreak by casting a spell to erase her ex from her past, but she wakes up in an alternate reality where she’s lost more than she wished for in this witty, whimsical friends-to-lovers debut.

What if one little wish changed everything?

When Gemma gets dumped by her long-term boyfriend, she reacts the way any reasonable twenty-eight-year-old would: by getting drunk with her sister, kooky aunt, and best friend, Dax. After one too many margaritas, they decide to perform a love- cleansing spell, which promises to erase Gemma’s ex from her memory. They follow all the instructions, including a platonic kiss from Dax to seal the deal.

When Gemma wakes up, she realizes that this silly spell has worked. Not only does it seem that she never dated her ex, but the rest of her life is completely unrecognizable. The worst part: Dax has no idea who she is.

To reverse the spell and get back to her old life, Gemma must convince her once-best-friend-now-near-stranger to kiss her. But as she carries out her plans, she finds herself falling for him—hard. Soon, Gemma begins to wonder whether she even wants to go back to the way things once were. What if Dax was The One all along?

Hardcover, 352 pages
Published December 5, 2023
 by Dial Press Trade Paperback
3/5 stars

This Spells Love is a book that I wanted to love. It is by a Canadian author with a Canadian setting that I am very familiar with. The book started off great with a little bit of magic and a nice blend of characters, Gemma the recently jilted, her sister, and an aunt who dabbles in magically spells. Gemma wants to forget the four years she spent with Stuart. She wishes that they never happened and after one too many margaritas her wish comes true, but with repercussions she never anticipated. Now she has one month to correct it.

There were parts in the beginning that I really struggled with, but once I hit the 60% mark it picked up and I finished it in one sitting. I think my only problem was parts in the first half were a bit disjointed, too convenient and the Insta love didn’t feel authentic. I was hoping for more of a magical feel as the blurb hint to, but alas, the magic played a small part.

All in all This Spells Love was a cute and quick read that redeemed itself in the last half.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge (#91). My copy was obtained through my November book of the month.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

The Armor of Light by Ken Follett

The long-awaited sequel to A Column of Fire, The Armor of Light, heralds a new dawn for Kingsbridge, England, where progress clashes with tradition, class struggles push into every part of society, and war in Europe engulfs the entire continent and beyond.

The Spinning Jenny was invented in 1770, and with that, a new era of manufacturing and industry changed lives everywhere within a generation. A world filled with unrest wrestles for control over this new world order: A mother’s husband is killed in a work accident due to negligence; a young woman fights to fund her school for impoverished children; a well-intentioned young man unexpectedly inherits a failing business; one man ruthlessly protects his wealth no matter the cost, all the while war cries are heard from France, as Napoleon sets forth a violent master plan to become emperor of the world. As institutions are challenged and toppled in unprecedented fashion, ripples of change ricochet through our characters’ lives as they are left to reckon with the future and a world they must rebuild from the ashes of war.

Over thirty years ago, Ken Follett published his most popular novel, The Pillars of the Earth. Now, with this electrifying addition to the Kingsbridge series we are plunged into the battlefield between compassion and greed, love and hate, progress and tradition. It is through each character that we are given a new perspective to the seismic shifts that shook the world in nineteenth-century Europe.

Hardcover, 737 pages
Published September 26, 2023
 by Viking
3.5/5 stars

This is part of The Pillar of the Earth Series, I am not sure which one. Ever since the prequel came out I see different numbers on it. But suffice to say, each book is separated by a couple hundred years so truly they can work as a standalone .

It's 1770 in the now familiar Kingsbridge when this story begins.  It spans the beginning of the industrial age, Napoleons revolution all the way through to 1815. I wanted to love this book as much as I did Pillars and it’s prequel, The Evening and the Morning, two books I thoroughly enjoyed. They captured the  start of Kingsbridge with the historical aspects and gave an interesting account of what life was like. The Armor of Light, while it was rich in history, I found it slow moving with characters that didn’t really appeal to me like in the other two. At times the detailed descriptions of various machines, i.e. the Spinning Jenny were a bit long-winded

With a little help of the audiobook, via CloudLibrary I was able to finish this almost 800 page brick. The same reader as Pillars again did a great job with the narration.

All in all in entertaining read, not my favorite, but still it broadened my horizon as to the industrial age and England’s war with France.

This book was part of my 2023 reading off my shelf challenge.

Friday, December 1, 2023

She's Not Sorry by Mary Kubica

An ICU nurse accidentally uncovers a patient’s frightening past in this chilling thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of Local Woman Missing and Just the Nicest Couple.

Meghan Michaels is trying to find balance between being a single mom to a teenage daughter and working as a full time nurse. While on duty at the hospital one day, a patient named Caitlin arrives in a coma with a traumatic brain injury, having jumped from a bridge and plunging over twenty feet to the train tracks below.

But when a witness comes forward with shocking details about the fall, it calls everything they know into question. Was Caitlin pushed and if so, by whom and why?

Meghan has always tried to stay emotionally detached from her patients, but this time, she mistakenly lets herself get too close until she’s deeply entangled in Caitlin’s and her family’s lives. Only when it’s too late, does she realize that she and her daughter could be the next victims.

Kindle Edition, 329 pages
Expected publication April 2, 2024
 by Park Row
3/5 stars

Local Woman Missing remains one of my all-time favorite Mary Kubica books. However, I have to admit that She's Not Sorry didn't quite live up to the hype for me.

Around 39% into the book, I seriously considered abandoning ship. The pace was painfully slow, and the writing failed to captivate me as much as I had hoped. Thankfully, things did start to pick up after the halfway point, but by then, I had already developed a dislike for the characters, and the plot holes were becoming increasingly irritating. And let's not forget about the twist – (because there is always a twist) while it felt somewhat familiar (reminded me of another book), the execution just didn't have the impact I was expecting.

She's Not Sorry isn't the kind of book that you can breeze through, thanks to its lengthy chapters. The ending felt rushed, predictable, and ultimately unsatisfying. I don't mean to sound too harsh, but it's safe to say that this isn't my favorite Mary Kubica book. However, I couldn't help but be curious about the ending, even if it was just to confirm my suspicions.

There are so many rave reviews,  please take mine with a grain of salt.

My thanks to Park Row Books for a digital ARC in exchange for honest review.