The beginning of Stone Mothers by Erin Kelly

stoneI just started this book so this isn’t the review.  It has me hooked so far.

The blindfold hurts. His inexperience shows in the knot.  It’s tight but crude and has captured a hank of my hair.  Every time he takes a corner too fast I rock to the side, the seat belt slicing my shoulder and the needlepoint pain in my scalp intensifying. 

He brakes without warning: I’m thrown forward.  A loosening of the purple silk near my right temple lets in a little light but no information.”

I’m into chapter 7 now and this book has already taken an interesting turn from how I thought it was headed.  Would you keep reading?  I am! Review later on as this one is going to the beach with me this weekend.

I’m linking with the First Chapter/First Paragraph/Tuesday Intro is hosted by Vicki at I’d Rather Be At The Beach. also with Joy for her British Isle Friday series as Erin Kelly is an English novelist.

A Lily in the Light by Kristin Fields

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I was unsure about requesting this book, the plot sounded like it may be depressing or just too sad. I’m very happy I read it and will most certainly look for more by this talented author. The characters were well developed, conveying the emotional strain of dealing with one another after 4 year old Lily disappears.

The main characters are Andre and Cerise and their four children. Nick is the oldest and the only son, then Madeline, 11 year old Esme and 4 year old Lily. We start with Esme finishing her ballet class, her mother and Lily waiting to pick her up. Esme obviously has a good relationship with her little sister, playing with her and making up stories to amuse her.

Once they arrive home Esme starts studying in her bedroom shared with Madeline. Lily is begging for a story and Madeline yells at her and orders her out of the room. There is crying, there is Andre fussing about the crying and Nick yelling for quiet. As they sit down to dinner they call out for Lily to get to table. She’s gone. Just disappeared. There is more detail in book that plops you flat into the middle of a heart pounding search and the fear that grips you over possible scenarios.

The guilt each member of the family feels is evident as they ponder the before….before Lily was missing. Esme unfairly blaming herself because she didn’t take time to tell Lily that story. Madeline remembering the last words she shouted at her little sister, “it was better without you” and Cerise wishing she had been home instead of church.

The book is told through Esme’s point of view, starting when she was 11 years old and then jumps 8 years ahead with Esme living elsewhere. A scene in the present accurately describes how Lily’s disappearance damaged the entire family irrevocably.
The part about the special cake plate speaks volumes about how life changed for all of them. Esme’s mother brings out that special plate and Esme “would always wish her mother hadn’t packed it away after Lily but had kept making frosted cakes on that plate for her or Nick or Madeline, because they’d always been in reach. They’d been colored invisible instead. The left behind.

The way relationships developed, and in some cases stalled, were well written. For Esme, her ballet teacher saved her from a half-life at home by recognizing the potential in her young student.  I don’t want to reveal too much as it may ruin the way you are drawn into the story and the progression of their lives.

The food was as different as the two lifestyles. At home Esme would eat the rotating menu of spaghetti, tacos, lentil soup, minestrone, turkey meatballs and hamburgers. Living with Amelia they had salads, roasted chicken, vegetables, omelets, spicy Chai tea. There was also orange madeleines, macaronis, warm chocolate, baking bread from the Paris portion of the book.

Well written, Kristin Fields. I will certainly be looking for more of your work.

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Linking up with Heather for April Foodies Read.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. I received this complimentary copy and was not compensated for my opinion/review.
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The Fragments by Toni Jordan

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This is a literary mystery set primarily in Brisbane Australia.  The genre and locale hooked me right away so I promptly requested a copy from NetGalley.

Imagine a famous author who publishes a ground breaking literary masterpiece, one people talk about and analyze over the years.  The author has another book about to published, people eagerly awaiting the story, when a horrific tragedy strikes. The author dies in a warehouse fire, the flames destroying all copies of the latest book.  Only fragments are recovered and her mourning fans and scholars are left with scraps of sentences, forever wondering about this lost masterpiece.   That is the story of Inga Karlson, the author who became a legend.

The fragments of her manuscript along with photos of Inga and her personal belongings are exhibited around the world for decades.  Loyal fans and scholars line up to view this exhibit, some of the devotees young enough to be Inga’s grandchildren.  She is epic.

Cadence “Caddie” Walker’s obsession with Inga Karlson’s lost manuscript has her standing in line in the blazing Brisbane heat, awaiting the opening of the exhibition so she may view this collection.  In line near Caddie is an old woman named Rachel Lehrer.  She speaks with Caddie, asking what her favorite lines were from the scraps left of the book.  In return, Rachel “quotes” this sentence fragment of the unpublished book.

And in the end, all we have are the hours and the days, the minutes and the way we bear them, the seconds spent on this earth and the number of them that truly mattered.

But that last part wasn’t written anywhere.  Is it the imaginary conjuring of an old woman?

The book is divided in three parts.  I thought the first part had a few slow spots, certainly not enough for me to abandon the book.   I was very intrigued with the perspective back in the 1930’s about Rachel Lehrer and her family.  When the story took that reminiscing turn to the past I was completely engaged.  It hops with a fluid transition from 1986 and Caddie Walker’s obsession to the 1930’s story line.  You don’t see what one has to do with another until part two of the book. Then the puzzle connects.

Nearing the end of part two I was on the fence regarding my feelings for Caddie.  She was about to take up with someone I know isn’t a good person; someone who will use her up. I’m torn with the entwining stories of Rachel and Inga in the past and the Caddie/Jamie/Philip mess in the 1980’s.  Caddie needs to be shaken by the shoulders as I, the reader, clearly knows what needs to be done here!

There is mystery, love, a snapshot of domestic violence in the 1930 era and a satisfying conclusion to the story.  Also, a surprise about several characters in part three of the book.  I would like to know what became of  a few supporting characters but there certainly was a clear resolution.  I would read more by this author.

Adventurous setting for me, Kookaburra and Queensland and Brisbane……I am armchair traveling again.

Food stuff:  Chili Lentil Soup, pizzas of Margherita and vegetarian varieties, sundaes, cakes, chicken a la King.

Linking up with the 2019 Aussie Author Challenge,   Girlxoxo for the Monthly Motif and Heather for April Foodies Read.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. I received this complimentary copy and was not compensated for my opinion/review.

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Cape May by Chip Cheek

Cape May Beach in New JerseyThis book could also be titled How to Destroy your Relationship in Two Weeks.  But that’s just my opinion.

The time period is the 1950’s and setting is off-season Cape May, New Jersey.  Some of the appeal was the cover,  the time period and subject of relationships.

It’s the tale of virginal newlyweds Henry and Effie slowly and shyly getting to know one another. Seemingly good people at heart, they cautiously learn about each other’s bodies and love. They talk about their future, having children, settling down in their small Georgia town.   A few days into the honeymoon Effie wants to go home because Cape May during off-season isn’t as fun as remembered it. When she visited as a young girl it was the summer high season. So much was going on then.

If only they had left when Effie first suggested it.  But then we wouldn’t have a story as it all revolves around the two week honeymoon.   The holiday homes are empty and most stores are closed.  One afternoon they notice cars at one home down the block.  As they stop by to say hello,  Effie is surprised to see a woman from her childhood.  Clara was  much older and used to tease Effie when she was a young girl, embarrassing her.  Clara, who has the moral code of a cat in heat, is partying with her friends Max and Alma.

Against Effie’s better judgement they are cajoled into staying longer and have dinner and drinks with Clara, Max and Alma. Things start spiraling out of control soon afterwards. Gin and tonics are consumed by the bucketful. Eventually they break into the other homes, vacant holiday homes that won’t be visited until the following May. They walk through the houses on the block and look at the possessions as if they are in a museum. They try on clothes and play with homeowner’s belongings. Creepy isn’t it?

Here come some spoilers

Henry is a complete piece of crap. While he cheats on his wife he also wonders how she could have gone off on a boat outing without him. He wouldn’t have gone anywhere without her, he muses. Seriously, one of the worst examples of a husband Ever.
Not that any of the other characters are sterling examples of virtue. None of them.

The last 15% of the book seems to be written by someone else. Almost the entire book focuses on the two week honeymoon period and the interactions with Clara and her group. Honestly, the best way I can categorize it is under the genre pornography. There are graphic sex scenes, very detailed, throughout the book. It was expected there would be passages about love and sex as the book is advertised as a plot of “marriage, love and sexuality and the lifelong repercussions a group of debauched cosmopolitans may have.” That’s an understatement.

Another unbelievable part is when Effie wonders if she is pregnant.  OK, so…..she was a virgin and it’s only been two weeks at the most and she thinks she’s pregnant.  I can suspend disbelief for many scenarios but this didn’t qualify.  Never mind the other “relationships” that formed, also unlikely but hey….maybe I’m naive.

The last bit of the story wraps up with the final 50 years of Henry and Effie’s respective lives. Bam, bam, bam you are given the life story in a fast forward mode.

If graphic sex scenes offend then skip this book. If you would like a snapshot of 1950’s depravity and a dose of double standards from our Henry, by all means pick this one up.

Netgalley kindly gave me a complimentary copy prior to it’s publication on April 30, 2019.  Opinions are mine and I was not compensated for my honest review.

Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein

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The time period for most of this book is WW II, the viewpoint and setting is Germany. Usually I gravitate toward England and occasionally France for novels set in the WW II era. This was, at times, difficult to read.

The first chapter starts in 1989, the setting New York. Ava Fischer sits on her bed crying after learning about her mother’s death and past life. Ava had banished her mother, Ilse von Fischer, from her life ten years prior. You’ll learn why as you read on.  She receives a box from Ilse’s attorney with her mother’s ashes and a cache of letters addressed to Renate Bauer.  Bauer isn’t a name Ava has ever heard and doesn’t know who the woman.  Why would her mother be writing to Bauer?

Ava discovers unsettling things about her mother’s involvement with the Ilse BDM (Bund Deutscher madel) in Nazi Germany.  The chapters go back and forth mainly between Ilse and Renate in the early 1930’s. Ava’s chapters are interspersed.

Ilse and Renate were very good friends. They shared secrets, books, loved one another without question. There was one scene where they defied the German soldiers and went into a Jewish bakery together. The boycott of Jewish businesses didn’t bother these two young ladies as they strode past the soldiers in search of sweets. Such boycotts were ridiculous for these headstrong teenagers.

But as you read on there is a sadness that such a wonderful friendship could be severely strained and eventually fractured over one being Jewish. Perhaps it’s the political climate in America today but this book had my mind drifting to the hate crimes and gang mentality I currently see in the news. While it was well written it was at times hard to read.

Reading how Ilse and Renate’s friendship was tested because Renate was Jewish was uncomfortable. Reading how relationships could change in a snap because of one’s heritage was sad.

Foodie book – no way. There were delectable bakery items and a traditional German meal mentioned.
Buttery poppyseed cakes, stolen, fruit pies, apple cakes, doughnuts, Schweinebraten in a crackling glaze of paprika, mustard and caraway seeds.

Publication date for this historical fiction novel is April 23, 2019. Check it out at your local bookstore or online book store.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. I received this complimentary copy and was not compensated for my opinion/review.

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See You in the Piazza by Frances Mayes

mayes If you are an armchair traveler as I am and you love reading about Italy, get this book immediately! I certainly loved Under the Tuscan Sun as well as Mayes’ next book Bella Tuscany. This one won’t disappoint if you are fans of Frances Mayes and like a foodie/cultural narrative.

See You in the Piazza isn’t a novel. I’d describe it as a cross between a memoir and a travel guide, yet it isn’t specifically either one. It’s the sort of Ex-Pat lit that I can sink my teeth into, traveling vicariously through descriptive writing.

Our author has traveled extensively throughout Italy enjoying the foods, culture and atmosphere, eventually purchasing a second home in Tuscany.  Yet Ms. Mayes says she feels the same excitement as she did her first few years of living in Italy. “To know Italy would take ten lifetimes.”

It’s a foodie book for sure – Olive trees, Negroni, homemade pasta, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, recipes and more.  The book is set up geographically from north to south.  It doesn’t have to be read cover to cover, rather you may choose the county of interest.  This will stay on my Kindle as a reference guide in case I’m ever able to visit Italy.

Read this and you will want to pack up and move, enjoy a different culture and pace.  This book was published March 12, 2019 so hustle to your favorite bookstore or online retailer and immerse yourself with Frances Mayes’ Italian travels.

Sharing with Heather for her March Foodies Read series.

Thank you very much  Netgalley for this digital copy of the book. It’s one I will refer to often, especially if I am fortunate enough to travel to Italy. I received this complimentary copy and am not compensated for my opinion/review.

NetGalley

The Lost Man by Jane Harper

They are at the Stockman’s grave, a landmark so old, no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish. Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he lose hope and walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects… (From Goodreads)

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Right away Jane Harper’s descriptive prose grabs your attention. You are plunged into the hot desolate landscape and have a clear image of the unforgiving Australian desert. We begin with one brother standing guard near his older brother’s dead body.  Bub had to spend the night to keep dingos from Cameron’s body.  In the morning Nathan Bright, the eldest in the family, arrives and asks Bub what he knows.  What would bring Cameron Bright to the isolated area near the Stockman’s grave?

When Cameron didn’t turn up at Lehmann’s Hill to meet Bub an alert went out on the radio.  Anyone living in that desolate part of Queensland would be on the lookout for Cameron or his truck. Dehydration can kill you quickly, as could an accident where you’d not be discovered in time.  Cameron was well organized and knew the dangers and how to be prepared with a truck full of supplies.  Yet here he was, near the Stockman’s Grave without water, shade or vehicle.

As you get to know the characters you realize how the three brothers were shaped, or should I say scarred, by their father Carl Bright. The revelations keep coming and you can sympathize with every single person in that family.  Nathan is the main voice in this book but you do get other’s perspectives. A few characters are not likable or I should say, it’s hard to warm up to them. Yet learning their backstories made me sympathetic to them.  The outback desert can be bleak place to raise a family.

In the beginning I thought it was a slow start yet I was interested and kept reading.  Getting less than halfway through I couldn’t put it down.  The end of just about every chapter left you wanting more. One of those books where you say, Ok after this chapter I’m going to go to bed, or do some work, or put the book aside. Nope, you just have to read one more chapter!

There’s a map – I love maps and since the places are referenced right from the beginning I was able to refer to the map and see the distances. This is important to the story to see how far it is from the Bright Homestead to the Stockman’s Grave and then to Nathan Bright’s ranch.

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The Stockman’s grave is mentioned throughout and with it come various stories about who he was and how he came to be buried in the middle of the desert.  Near the end Nathan tells his nieces the true story which he read at a national Library in Brisbane. I liked the story even if it was sad.

The heat – One curious thing was the mention of the heat in December, 45 degrees. I’m guessing the temperature is Celsius which means it’s 113 F. More appropriate for the hot December summer. Perhaps that wasn’t converted for the publications in the U.S.

School of Air – these days the school work and teaching is handled by video and internet, teachers able to schedule video chats. Before those amenities the School of Air was handled via radio. Children in the Outback didn’t have a convention school setting. It was up to the parents to supervise the lessons that were delivered by radio.

If you enjoyed Harper’s first book, The Dry, then I think you will like this one.  I’ll read every book she writes.  When I heard The Lost Man was coming out I was initially disappointed that Aaron Falk wasn’t the star character.  This is a stand alone from the first two books but I liked it very much.  Maybe this one will be made into a movie too.  Looking forward to The Dry coming out in theaters.

Well done again, Jane Harper!

Linking up with the 2019 Aussie Author Challenge.

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