Monthly Archives: August 2018

The Heart Between Us

Megan and Crystal are twins. Crystal is an architect, living in New York City and married to a firefighter, Brian. She works too much and her marriage is falling apart. Megan works part-time at a library and lives with her parents in Minnesota. Megan is the recipient of a heart transplant. She goes to a fundraiser for the hospital where she received her new heart and runs into Caleb, who also had a heart transplant and who was Megan’s best friend.

Caleb is a photographer and travels the world. Megan was supposed to be his writing partner. But she turned down Caleb’s offer to come to London and write. Megan gets a letter in the mail stating that the heart donor’s parents want to meet her. She hesitates, then decides to meet them. She is given Amanda’s journal and sees that Amanda made a bucket list. Megan decides to honor Amanda by completing the bucket list.

Her mother freaks out and gets Crystal to go with Megan on the “trip of a lifetime.” Crystal and Megan are estranged and don’t talk often. The trip is a chance to mend some fences. They also meet up with Caleb along the way. Crystal is also working on a project proposal that could earn her a promotion to Senior Architect, a goal she has been working for her whole career. Crystal is out of inspiration and looking for some. She thinks the trip will give her a renewed inspiration for her big project.

When Crystal comes home early because her big presentation has moved up, she goes back to her old ways and causes Brian to move out. She thinks her marriage is over. Megan finishes the bucket list with Caleb and, despite all she has accomplished, goes back to the safety of her part-time job and community in Minnesota, even though she knows it’s not what she really wants. The question then becomes how much, if at all, are they willing to change to find happiness?

The Heart Between Us explores the sisters’ relationship, along with Crystal and Brian’s relationship, and Megan and Caleb’s. There were a couple of point in the story where I either cried or almost cried and really, only Nicholas Sparks does that. I liked this book. It’s a story about finding your courage and confidence. It’s about deciding whose expectations you’re striving to meet. It’s about love and taking people for granted, and finding your own happy ending.

There are a lot of references to God, but I understand, based on the topic of the book. Sometimes I felt it was a bit annoying, but that was probably just me. Overall, I really liked the book. It was well-written and the characters were, for the most part, well-rounded and believable. If you interested in a travelogue and romance, this book will fit the bill.

I won this book and received no other compensation for the review I have provided. The opinions contained herein are mine and mine alone.

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A Measure Of Darkness

Last year, I won Crime Scene by Jonathan and Jesse Kellerman. It introduced me to Clay Edison, Coroner’s Investigator for Alameda County. I liked the book so much, I bought A Measure of Darkness when it came out. And it was a good investment.

This time around, Clay responds to the scene of shooting at a party in Oakland. There are several gunshot victims. There is also someone who was run over by a car, attempting to escape the chaos. Then the police find another victim in the backyard – not a shooting victim. This woman was strangled. Clay ends up with her case and the hit-and-run victim. At first, he is unable to identify the strangling victim. And the id he gets for the hit-and-run victim is complicated by the fact that she is actually a he.

Then there’s Clay’s personal life. Things are going really well with his girlfriend, Amy. His brother, Luke is just out of prison and Clay is having a hard time dealing with him. Luke shows up to Thanksgiving with a fiancé, who Clay isn’t all too fond of.

I really like Clay. He’s real. I like the way he’s written. I love that he is not a police officer. You get to see the case from a different perspective. Clay is dedicated to finding the truth and he works hard at it. He is earnest, but not annoyingly so. He’s got just the right amount of cynicism to balance it out.

I also enjoyed the story. It kept me guessing to the very end. It was well-constructed. And Alex Delaware made another cameo, which I enjoyed.

The only complaint I had about the book was that the ending felt rushed. I felt as though the dynamic between Clay and Luke could have been expanded upon a bit. But honestly, that’s a really minor complaint. Overall, I liked this book as much as I like Crime Scene. I will keep reading the Clay Edison books. They are really good.

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Hoarder or Not?

I’m going to be honest. I own a LOT of books. Probably more than 1,000, though I have never counted them. I have read a big chunk of them. I have somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 boxes of books in my garage. They are in my closet, on my nightstand, on the floor by my nightstand, and on my dresser. There are 10 bookcases full of books. I know it irritates my husband that there are books everywhere. It doesn’t irritate me, but house cleaning isn’t one of my virtues.

Some people joke that I am a book hoarder. I don’t think that’s really an apt description. I also don’t think collector covers it either. I’m not sure what covers it. Tsundoku is the Japanese term for someone who buys books, lets them pile up, and doesn’t read them. I guess the same as a hoarder. But I don’t think I’m a hoarder. First of all I do, occasionally, get rid of books. I don’t own multiple copies of books. I have read probably two-thirds of the ones I own. I hand on to them, thought. I’m loathe to loan my books largely because I do not get them back. It bothers me.

I changed schools right before I started fifth grade. I had a horrible time making friends at my new school. I spent most of my summer vacation alone. I was babysat by my grandparents. My grandmother took me to the library every week. I must have read Baa Baa Blacksheep a dozen times. She gave me Agatha Christie to read. And James Harriott. I do not remember not having books in my life. When I was really small, I had a little golden book about an elephant on roller skates. You better believe I found that book when I had my son and read it to him. Books have always been part of my life.

I like having books in the house. First of all, television is pretty much shit. There is almost nothing on, despite having access to a trillion channels, Netflix, Hulu, etc. There is very little on television that feeds your brain. I am not a snob. I watch the Real Housewives of Orange County. I watch Little Women: LA. But, given the choice, I would rather read. I would rather use my brain to imagine what characters looks like and the places they go, the things they do, and the people they meet. I would much rather read something entertaining or nerdy or funny.

Books give you the opportunity to exercise your mind. They provide entertainment that doesn’t have batteries that die. They provide knowledge. Quite frankly, I think a lot of people need some knowledge these days.

Maybe one day, I’ll live in a house that will allow me to have a library where I can put all my books. Or a she-shed. At some point, I would love to be able to display them all. I hate that I have boxes of books in the garage. So, call me what you want. I will stick with bibliophile. Works for me.

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Three Things About Elsie

Three Things About Elsie is a really good book. It’s a mystery. It’s a meditation on aging and how the aged are treated. It’s subtle, but still manages to smack you in the face in a way that you don’t realize you have been smacked….at first.

Florence, Jack, and Elise are residents of a home for the aging (nursing home) in England. They are fine until a mysterious new resident moves into the community – a resident that Florence swears has been dead for 60 years. But how could Ronnie Butler (aka Gabriel Price) be alive? He drowned. After he ran over his wife in his car.

The thing that makes this book so interesting is that Florence, from whose perspective most of the story is told, may or may not have dementia and may or may not be seeing what is really happening. Some of what Florence says makes no sense. Some of it makes too much sense. Florence relies on Elsie and Jack to help her remember.  On top of the appearance of Ronnie Butler, Florence has been put on “probation” by the nursing home and is being evaluated for transfer to the dementia/Alzheimer’s home, to which she desperately doesn’t want to go. She thinks that Ronnie is responsible for ordering a bunch of pizzas, claiming to be her, or buying a cupboard full of cakes, when Florence swears she bought just one. Or moving the ceramic elephant on her mantle. All of these things make Florence look like she needs the dementia home.  There are a couple of jaw-dropping plot twists that I honestly didn’t see coming. And like I said before, the book puts them out there in a subtle way that makes you have to re-read just to make sure you understood what you thought you read.

Other than being mildly unhappy with the ending, I really liked this book. It is a reminder that we place so much value on youth in this society that we forget what our elders can teach us. It is also a reminder that people, while their bodies may be failing (or even their minds), have a lot to offer.  Joanna Cannon is a lovely writer. She is masterful at turning a phrase – and this book is full of quotable phrases and passages. It is almost lyrical the way it’s written. I truly enjoyed the writing as much as the story. I got hung up on some things that are clearly British and I had to Google, but that isn’t even a fault because I learned.  I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s a mystery, but it’s also a meditation on getting old and society’s disregard for the elderly. It’s just a well-written story with characters you won’t soon forget.

I won this book from Goodreads and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone.

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November Road

“Please. I don’t know what the hell’s happened to me. My life made sense to me before I met you. Now…it’s like I bumped into you and the girls and something inside of me tumbled off a shelf. No. It’s like all of me fell off the shelf and broke to pieces on the floor. I don’t…” Words were failing him. When in Guidry’s life had that ever happened?”

I’m not sure what it is about this passage, but I love it. November Road by Lou Berney is an amazing book. Set in the days immediately after the assassination of JKF, it’s about a mobster running from a mob boss and a woman running to a new life.

Frank Guidry works for Carlos Marcello. He realizes that he dropped off the assassin’s get-away car in Dallas. He is tasked to go to Houston to get rid of the car. Frank realizes that when he does that, Carlos will get rid of him. Frank decides to go to Vegas to get help disappearing from one of Carlos’ enemies.

Charlotte is married to an alcoholic. Though he’s not violent, he can’t hold down a job and Charlotte wants more. She works for a photographer, who keeps her from being a photographer because he doesn’t want to lose her work in the dark room. She has two daughters – Joan and Rosemary – and she wants more for them. After a family dinner, she takes the $300 her in-laws have given her and she packs suitcases for her and the girls and they leave. Her destination is her aunt in Los Angeles.

In the meantime, a hit man is chasing Frank. He knows this and is trying to think of a way to be inconspicuous. He sees Charlotte and the girls on the side of the road….

That’s enough plot. You will have to read the book for the rest. I was so excited to read this book. I am a nut about the Kennedy assassination (though, it’s really only a tangential matter here) and I love mobster stories. But this book is really much more than that. Lou Berney has a gift that is so rare – he shows instead of telling. He has an eye for detail and mind for brevity. He writes more in one sentence than some people do in entire books. That’s not to say that his writing is simple, short, or uncomplicated. It’s just perfect.

Every character – from Frank to Charlotte to Barone (the hit man) to the paint-by-numbers, small-town sheriff have a purpose and are richly drawn. I can see the jail cell Frank is in. I can see the Hacienda resort in Las Vegas with the miniature golf course and go cart track. I can see the places so clearly in my mind because Lou Berney writes them so clearly on the page.

Aside from the near perfect writing, the story is amazing. It’s a thriller and a kind of love story. There are plot twists, but they aren’t manufactured or trite or used to manipulate the reader. They are the kind that make you think, “I didn’t see it coming, necessarily, but wow does that make the book even better.” The thing I loved most about the story is that it is so human. The characters are flawed and do not do what you think they should. And even though it might not end the way you expect or want, you can sit back and say, “I’m satisfied.”

I liked Frank. He kind of reminded me of Marlon Brando’s Sky Masterson in Guys & Dolls. A kind of happy-go-lucky gangster, who has seen everything and has wisdom to spare – until he meets the woman who knocks him off his feet. Like Sister Sarah was for Sky in Guys and Dolls, Charlotte is that woman for Frank. She’s from a small Oklahoma town, about as far away from the mob as you can get. But she sticks on Frank’s soul. Just like Sarah did to Sky. And that is part of what makes this story and this book so endearing to me.

Do yourself a favor and read this book. I am so incredibly thankful to have won it because it is, by far, the very best book I have read this year – and in a very long time.

I won this book and received no other compensation in exchange for this review. The opinions expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Any use of quoted material from the text is used pursuant to the Fair Use Doctrine.

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