Tuesday, May 23, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: Rich People Problems by Kevin Kwan

Title: Rich People Problems
Author: Kevin Kwan
Series: Crazy Rich Asians, #3
Published: May 2017, Doubleday
Format: Hardcover, 384 pages

Kevin Kwan, bestselling author of Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, is back with an uproarious new novel of a family riven by fortune, an ex-wife driven psychotic with jealousy, a battle royale fought through couture gown sabotage and the heir to one of Asia’s greatest fortunes locked out of his inheritance.

When Nicholas Young hears that his grandmother, Su Yi, is on her deathbed, he rushes to be by her bedside—but he’s not alone. It seems the entire Shang-Young clan has convened from all corners of the globe, ostensibly to care for their matriarch, but truly to stake claim on the massive fortune that Su Yi controls. With each family member secretly fantasizing about getting the keys to Tyersall Park—a trophy estate on 64 prime acres in the heart of Singapore—the place becomes a hotbed of intrigue and Nicholas finds himself blocked from entering the premises. As relatives claw over heirlooms, Astrid Leong finds herself at the center of her own storm, desperately in love with her old sweetheart Charlie Wu, but tormented by his ex-wife—a woman hell-bent on destroying Astrid’s reputation and relationship. Meanwhile Kitty Pong, married to billionaire Jack Bing and determined to raise their son more lavishly than a future king, finds a formidable opponent in his fashionista daughter, Colette.

A sweeping novel that takes us from the elegantly-appointed mansions of Manila to the secluded private islands in the Sulu Sea, from a schoolyard kidnapping to a gold leaf dancefloor spattered with blood, Kevin Kwan’s gloriously wicked new novel reveals the long-buried secrets and rich people problems of Asia’s most privileged families.

Rich People Problems  by Kevin Kwan is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Review: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser (audio)

Title: Almost Missed You
Author: Jessica Strawser
Narrator: Therese Plummer
Published: March 2017, Macmillan Audio
Length: 9 hours 56 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My thoughts: This debut novel is such a compelling read...one that I am so glad that gals at She Reads picked as a Spring Book Club selection. It's one that I had on my radar but would probably not have gotten to as soon as I did had it not been for the book club. 

This book kept me captivated from start to finish. At the center is the story of a missing little boy, but it's so much deeper than that. It's about secrets and the wrong people knowing the wrong secrets. It's also about connections and how we sometimes romanticize the past a bit more than it really was.

I loved the way the story is told - from multiple view points as well as going back and forth in time. It really gives the story that multi-dimensional feel. As the story moves around from character to character and from the present to the past, you begin to find out each person's motive and as the secrets are slowly revealed, we find the true motivation and driving force behind each character.

This book was certainly not what I expected. I was kept on my toes the entire time, desperately trying to guess what the mystery was behind the abduction and ultimately where everything would end up. This domestic fiction is one that I will not be forgetting anytime soon. And this author is one that will I will be keeping on my radar - for a debut novel, she knocked it out of the park!

Audio thoughts:
This was such a great audio to listen to and Therese Plummer did an outstanding job with the narration. She gave each character their own unique voice and I never once felt lost as to who was talking. She really brought this book to life with her performance.

Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser is one of the She Reads "Books of Spring" reading selection picks. 
Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Spring" selections.


Friday, May 19, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: The Best of Adam Sharp by Graeme Simsion

Title: The Best of Adam Sharp
Author: Graeme Simsion
Published: May 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 314 pages
From the #1 bestselling author of The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect, an unforgettable new novel about lost love and second chances

On the cusp of turning fifty, Adam Sharp likes his life. He’s happy with his partner Claire, he excels in music trivia at quiz night at the local pub, he looks after his mother, and he does the occasional consulting job in IT.

But he can never quite shake off his nostalgia for what might have been: his blazing affair more than twenty years ago with an intelligent and strong-willed actress named Angelina Brown who taught him for the first time what it means to find—and then lose—love. How different might his life have been if he hadn’t let her walk away?

And then, out of nowhere, from the other side of the world, Angelina gets in touch. What does she want? Does Adam dare to live dangerously?

What readers are saying: 

***One of Glamour's "Most Anticipated Books of 2017"

"Readers are already clamoring." ―Library Journal

"This dazzling story about a former pianist who has a second chance in midlife with his former actress flame will do some major heart-warming this Spring — and readers will never foresee the incredible ending." —POPSUGAR

"It's a fun sweet ride." —The Washington Post

“An extraordinary literary treat that reminds readers the best things in life have nothing to do with plans.” —20 Must-Read Books for Spring 2017, Redbook.com


The Best of Adam Sharp  by Graeme Sharp is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Review: It's Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

Title: It's Always the Husband
Author: Michele Campbell
Published: May 2017, St. Martin's Press
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages
Source: Publisher

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny. They first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, even though they are as different as three women can be. Twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge . . and someone else is urging her to jump.

How did things come to this?

As the novel cuts back and forth between their college years and their adult years, you see the exact reasons why these women love and hate each other—but can feelings that strong lead to murder? Or will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

My thoughts: This book is why I love reading a good suspense novel - it kept me guessing all the way through and I was engaged the entire time,  yet it was set up completely differently than any other book I've read before. This is where this genre has so much to offer and why I continue to read these types of books.

One of the more distinctive parts of this book that I loved is how it's told. There are two parts and they are both so crucial to the overall story, yet they are told so differently. The first part is told twenty years earlier and introduces us to the three young women when they first begin college. This is the slower part of the book - but it sets the foundation of the story and allows for us to really understand the characters and their motivations. The second part is set in present day and this is where the action, intensity and suspense amps up. 

I read this book in a day and a half - I just couldn't put it down. I was captivated by these women and the twisted, complex relationship they had. Not to mention the fact that they weren't necessarily all the most likeable of characters. But, that's what made it so good and so difficult to pinpoint who did it when one of them was found killed. There were so many suspects and so many reasons why any number of people could have done it! Every time I thought I had it figured out, another clue was dropped or secret was revealed and I was left scratching my head trying to think of who else could be the suspect. 

This is the type of book that gets under your skin and doesn't let go until you get to the end...and even then you are left with quite a surprise. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what comes next from this author!!!

It's Always the Husband  by Michele Campbell is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks.  
Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Review: Tell Me No Lies by Lisa Hall

Title: Tell Me No Lies
Author: Lisa Hall
Published: May 2017, Carina / HarperCollins
Format: Paperback, 43 pages
Source: Publisher

From the bestselling author of Between You and Me don’t miss Lisa Hall’s new gripping thriller.

Don’t. Trust. Anyone.

It was supposed to be a fresh start.

A chance to forget the past and embrace the future.

But can you ever really start again?

Or does the past follow you wherever you go…

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Lisa Hall and as much as I was left dumb-struck by the ending (more on that in a little bit!), I can tell you I will definitely be reading more by this author...this book was a gripping domestic thriller that gets under your skin and doesn't let up.

Ok...first of all - let's talk about that ending! How could this book end like that??? I got there and I was like - WHAT? That's it??? I was gobsmacked...I was looking for more, and actually had to go back and reread the last few pages to see if I missed something. Yes, I do see how it could end like that, but I expected a little more. I wanted a better conclusion...unless there's going to be another book following up on these characters. Then it would all make sense.

This book is insane! With a tag line on the book saying "Don't. Trust. Anyone." you know you're in for a crazy ride and this book is that and much more. I found myself questioning every character that was introduced - no one was safe from my suspicions! Is it madness that is the cause of the havoc in Steph's life or is someone messing with her?

I have to say that at first, I was unsure where things were headed and what was really going on, but then, about halfway through, I figured out who was behind things. I didn't feel let down by this - quite the opposite, in fact. I wanted to see how it would all play out - how was it going to be revealed. 

This book takes you on quite a roller coaster of a ride - it plays with your emotions and wreaks havoc on your mind. It will take hold of you until you finish it - and whether you agree with the ending or not - it's one heck of a tale ! I cannot wait to go back and read Lisa Hall's debut novel, Between You and Me, and I will certainly be keeping an eye out for what comes next from her as well! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

Review: A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner (audio)

Title: A Bridge Across the Ocean
Author: Susan Meissner
Narrator: Kim Bubbs
Published: March 2017, Penguin Audio
Length: 10 hours 32 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible
Wartime intrigue spans the lives of three women past and present in the latest novel from the acclaimed author of Secrets of a Charmed Life.

February, 1946. World War Two is over, but the recovery from the most intimate of its horrors has only just begun for Annaliese Lange, a German ballerina desperate to escape her past, and Simone Deveraux, the wronged daughter of a French Resistance spy.

Now the two women are joining hundreds of other European war brides aboard the renowned RMS Queen Mary to cross the Atlantic and be reunited with their American husbands. Their new lives in the United States brightly beckon until their tightly-held secrets are laid bare in their shared stateroom. When the voyage ends at New York Harbor, only one of them will disembark...

Present day. Facing a crossroads in her own life, Brette Caslake visits the famously haunted Queen Mary at the request of an old friend. What she finds will set her on a course to solve a seventy-year-old tragedy that will draw her into the heartaches and triumphs of the courageous war brides and will ultimately lead her to reconsider what she has to sacrifice to achieve her own deepest longings.

My thoughts: This is the first book I've read by Susan Meissner and I'm so glad it was selected as one of the She Reads 'Books of Spring' selections. Those gals always know how to pick such great reads and this one was no exception!

I loved the way this story was told - it had a little bit of everything! Not only was there a good mystery to be solved, but there was also the added use of the paranormal element that just amped up the story. And the historical element just rounded it all out. I'm a sucker for anything to do with war brides - I just eat these stories up for some reason - so of course, I loved this element of the story! But the way Susan Meissner takes these different elements - the present day story, the ghost story - or drifters as she calls them - and the past is just magical!

This story is complex and full of wonderful characters. As the book moves around - back and forth between the time periods and the characters - most times you tend to gravitate to one character or time period more than the other. That was not the case here...I loved each and every part of this book equally. Every time the book switched to another character or time period, I wanted to stay where we had just been, but was also glad to catch up with that other character. I found myself completely invested in this book, wanting to know as much as I could about all the characters, caring deeply about them all and wanting them all to find their happiness - because ultimately, that's what they were all after.

I really enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more by Susan Meissner.  I also plan on looking into more books about not only war brides but about the RMS Queen Mary - I had no idea that it carried war brides over to America, nor that it was rumored to be haunted! I love when a book leaves me wanting to read more about something, don't you?

Audio thoughts:
Kim Bubbs is a new-to-me narrator and I thought she did a great job with this audio book. She gave each of the characters unique voices and made listening to this book an enjoyable experience.

A Bridge Across the Ocean by Susan Meissner is one of the She Reads "Books of Spring" reading selection picks. 
Head over to the She Reads website to read reviews and related posts of this book, as well as posts related to the other "Books of Spring" selections.

Friday, May 12, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Spotlight: Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

Title: Woman No. 17 
Author: Edan Lepucki
Published: May 2017, Hogarth Press
Format: Hardcover, 320 pages

A sinister, sexy noir about art, motherhood, and the intensity of female friendships, set in the posh hills above Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of California.

High in the Hollywood Hills, writer Lady Daniels has decided to take a break from her husband. She’s going to need a hand with her young son if she’s ever going to finish her memoir. In comes S., a magnetic young artist, who will live in the secluded guest house out back, care for Lady’s young toddler son, and keep a watchful eye on her older, teenage, one. S. performs her day job beautifully, quickly drawing the entire family into her orbit, and becoming a confidante for Lady. But as the summer wears on, S.’s connection to Lady’s older son takes a disturbing, and possibly destructive, turn. Lady and S. will move closer to one another as they both threaten to harm the things they hold most dear. Darkly comic, twisty and tense, this mesmerizing new novel defies expectation and proves Edan Lepucki to be one of the most talented and exciting voices of her generation.

What Readers Are Saying: 

"Edan Lepucki's Woman No. 17 is part family melodrama, part twisty self-relection... very funny." — GQ

"Following the success of her debut novel, California, author Edan Lepucki returns with a dark and clever tale about motherhood and the complexity of friendships." — SFWeekly

“Lepucki’s brisk style and arresting characterizations make for a compelling portrait of womanhood in the present moment, right down to its intriguing integration of social media.”  Publishers Weekly

“An acidly inquisitive domestic drama set in teh Hollywood Hills and anchored to depthless questions of identity, family, and art... Lepucki’s arch and provocative tale of elaborate and privileged dysfunction poses sharp questions about inheritance, self-expression, and love.” 
“Always enjoyable…this novel succeeds by staying light on its feet.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“In Woman No. 17, Lepucki has crafted an intricate, gripping story of people behaving very badly. You will want to race to the end to see what happens, but don’t cheat yourself. This book deserves to be savored –gorgeously written, darkly comic, smart and thrilling.”  – CYNTHIA D’APRIX SWEENEY, New York Times bestselling author of The Nest

"Woman No. 17 fizzes with references to contemporary culture and sparks with larger, timeless questions: Where is the line between performance and identity? What separates life from art? And can we ever escape the gravitational pull of our parents? Edan Lepucki shows herself to be a sharp-eyed chronicler of our modern world." – CELESTE NG, New York Times bestselling author of Everything I Never Told You

“Woman No. 17 is a provocative and timely meditation on art, authenticity and representation in a digital age. The increasingly gripping plot suggests the outcomes of a thriller, but at the crucial moment the novel swerves toward subtly profound truths about our capacity for self-sabotage and self-reinvention, the power of trauma to shape lives, and the inexorable gravity of family secrets. Lepucki’s smooth prose and deft handling of point of view reveal a writer fully in command.” —MATTHEW THOMAS, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Not Ourselves

“Taut as a thriller (with plenty of sex and secrets), Woman No. 17 raises big questions about identity, art, ethics, parenthood, and more. In Edan Lepucki's hands, the philosophical is transformed into a page turner; I don't know how she does it.” –RUMAAN ALAM, author of Rich & Pretty

“[A] Hollywood noir about the electric bonds between women… this one is a safe bet for beach season.” 
– The Week

Woman No. 17  by Edan Lepucki is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks. 
 Follow the #SRC2017 hashtag on twitter to read reviews on this book as well as reviews on the other summer books! Also, be sure to check out the BookSparks Facebook page for the #SRC2017  and other fun links. You can participate in weekly secret missions for chances to win signed copies of selected books and more! There's a new secret mission each week :)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Review: Summit Lake by Charlie Donlea (audio)

Title: Summit Lake
Author: Charlie Donlea
Narrator: Shannon McManus
Published: January 2016, Brilliance Audio
Length: 8 hours 12 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Set in a small, picturesque North Carolina town, Charlie Donlea's suspenseful debut novel tells the haunting story of a murdered law school student, the reporter assigned to her story - and the intimate connection that comes when the living walk in the footsteps of the dead.
"No suspects. No persons of interest. Just a girl who was alive one day and dead the next."
Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place, with charming stilt houses dotted along the pristine water. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student, was brutally murdered in one of those houses. The daughter of a powerful attorney, Becca was hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious. Now, while the town reels with grief and shocked residents gather to share their theories, the police are baffled. 

At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the determined efforts to keep the case quiet, all hint at something far more than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper, pushing on despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca's friendships, her love life - and the secrets she was keeping - the more convinced she becomes that learning the truth about Becca could be the key to overcoming her own dark past....

My thoughts: I picked this up on a whim when it was an Audible Daily Deal of the Day and I ended up really enjoying it and finding a new author to follow - so it was a win-win for me! I have to say I have really had some good luck with those Audible Daily Deal of the Days at times - be sure to check them out if you use Audible.

I love a good mystery and that's exactly what this was - a solid mystery with a really good twist! I loved the way the story alternates between Kelsey and Becca's point of view - this really helps to fill in some pieces of the puzzle. Kelsey's part is told in the present as she is sent to Summit Lake to go investigate what really happened to Becca. Kelsey has recently suffered some type of trauma and while we aren't initially given all the details, as time goes on, little bits eventually come to light. Becca's part is told in the past - and these are quiet enlightening. Just like with Kelsey's past, very slowly, we get the whole picture of what really happened to Becca - and it's definitely not what you might be expecting!

This book is filled with secrets and twists and turns that you don't see coming. It's a relatively fast-moving book, especially as things start coming together and you start to realize just what is going on. The way things are revealed, slowly and bit by bit is agonizing, but it's so intense, that you don't even realize it. It's multi-layered and haunting and stays with you long after you finish it.

As debut novels go, this one was a hit! And I already have his next book, The Girl Who Was Taken, on my to-read list - and he will be at BookExpo later this month! I can't wait to meet him - can we say fan-girl moment!!!

Audio thoughts:
I really enjoyed this audio book and thought Shannon McManus did a great job with the voices. Having to alternate between the two main characters, along with the other lesser characters is a challenging job, but Shannon made it seem effortless. She was able to give each and every character a distinct voice and was also able to infuse just the right amount of emotion into her voice as needed.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Review: Where the Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again by Kimberly Williams-Paisley (audio)

Title: Where the Light Gets In: Losing My Mother Only to Find Her Again
Author: Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Narrator: Kimberly Williams-Paisley
Published: April 2016, Blackstone Audio
Length: 5 hours 26 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

Many know Kimberly Williams-Paisley as the bride in the popular Steve Martin remakes of the Father of the Bride movies, the calculating Peggy Kenter on Nashville, or the wife of country music artist, Brad Paisley. But behind the scenes, Kim was dealing with a tragic secret: her mother, Linda, was suffering from a rare form of dementia that slowly crippled her ability to talk, write and eventually recognize people in her own family.
Where the Light Gets In tells the full story of Linda’s illness—called primary progressive aphasia—from her early-onset diagnosis at the age of 62 through the present day. Kim draws a candid picture of the ways her family reacted for better and worse, and how she, her father and two siblings educated themselves, tried to let go of shame and secrecy, made mistakes, and found unexpected humor and grace in the midst of suffering.

Ultimately the bonds of family were strengthened, and Kim learned ways to love and accept the woman her mother became. With a moving foreword by actor and advocate Michael J. Fox, Where the Light Gets In is a heartwarming tribute to the often fragile yet unbreakable relationships we have with our mothers.

My thoughts: When I first saw this book, I knew I had to pick it up even though I don't normally read non-fiction. I am a huge fan of Kimberly Williams-Paisley, but more so, I was drawn to the subject of the book itself. 

This is such a beautifully written, yet powerful and moving, account of the struggle that Kimberly and her family have been dealing with as they learn to accept their new normal with Kimberly's mother's illness - primary progressive aphasia, a form of dementia. She is very candid with all the mistakes that they made early on, yet what is most striking is the strength of this family's love and how ultimately they all got on the same page and came together for Linda. It wasn't easy - it still isn't, but they make it work!

This book is emotional and powerful. I was laughing and crying all the way through - and while I may not be in Kimberly's position at this time in my life - there may very well come a time that I do find myself there and I can only hope that I can carry myself with the same grace and compassion that she did. Yes, there were times that she was frustrated - but more so at the situation than at the person. This is a terrible illness and there is so much that is unknown about it. But I think the one important thing that Kimberly makes so clear is that what we need to do in this situation is remember that we cannot focus on what we and the person afflicted is losing but rather what they can still enjoy and do, and what we can still learn from that person. This simple shift, while not easy, will still allow that person and the family to live a complete life.

This book is definitely a keeper - it's one that while I have in audio form, I do plan to revisit just because I feel it has those little nuggets of wisdom.

Audio thoughts:
I loved that Kimberly Williams-Paisley narrated this book herself. There are times when I've listened to an author narrate their own book and it works and there are times when it doesn't work, but in this case, since it was such a personal story, she was able to bring her own feelings into the telling of it - without going overboard or without being detached. It was genuine, it was heartfelt and it just felt right. 


Monday, May 08, 2017

Blog Tour & Review: The Marriage Bureau by Penrose Halson

Title: The Marriage Bureau
Author: Penrose Halson
Published: May 2017, William Morrow Paperbacks
Format: ARC Paperback, 52 pages
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours

A riveting glimpse of life and love during and after World War II—a heart-warming, touching, and thoroughly absorbing true story of a world gone by.

In the spring of 1939, with the Second World War looming, two determined twenty-four-year-olds, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver, decided to open a marriage bureau. They found a tiny office on London’s Bond Street and set about the delicate business of matchmaking. Drawing on the bureau’s extensive archives, Penrose Halson—who many years later found herself the proprietor of the bureau—tells their story, and those of their clients.

From shop girls to debutantes; widowers to war veterans, clients came in search of security, social acceptance, or simply love. And thanks to the meticulous organization and astute intuition of the Bureau’s matchmakers, most found what they were looking for.

Penrose Halson draws from newspaper and magazine articles, advertisements, and interviews with the proprietors themselves to bring the romance and heartbreak of matchmaking during wartime to vivid, often hilarious, life in this unforgettable story of a most unusual business.

“A book full of charm and hilarity.”—Country Life

My thoughts: I have to admit that I am not usually a non-fiction reader, but this book just called to me. And, it was such an easy, fun, quick read that really kept my attention. I remember what dating was like before I got married - and that wasn't too long ago, so imagine what it was like before the internet and all those crazy dating sites out there! 

I loved the charm of this book. It was interesting to read about how the Marriage Bureau came to be in the first place and how it was run, especially while the war was going on. Not knowing if they were going to succeed or not, Heather Jenner and Mary Oliver poured their heart and soul into their little business and really made a go out of it. And boy oh boy did they attract some interesting characters!

I loved the anecdotes of the actual clients they served throughout the years. They sure had some interesting clients and whether it was due to the war mentality or that was just the way some people were at that time, I was flabbergasted! One man, a Mr. John Paul, needed to be introduced to 48 women before finally finding the one that will do! But in the end, he at least had the decency to acknowledge that he probably held the record for being a "difficult" person - ha! 

The book is filled with little stories like this and I loved each and every one of them. But, the anecdotes weren't just about the clients that Heather and Mary, and then later on the secretaries, helped. There were also those who approached The Marriage Bureau with business propositions - like Mrs. Budd and her "bust bodice" - that was hysterical, especially when Mary decided to take the sample home to "try" out! Poor Mary! And then the ladies were asked to judge a Baby Show - that was also quite hilarious!!!

Heather and Mary took their match-making to heart. They developed their own system so that when they were interviewing clients they could classify them and easily determine who might be a good fit. Each interview was taken seriously and sometimes the interviews were more than just about finding a match. These became counseling sessions, too. 

The war is such a factor in this book and it definitely affects the business - both good and bad. It was interesting to see the impact it had not only on the business, but on the clients and their feelings towards the war itself. 

This was such a great book about the social history of London during this time. I love reading books that are just a little different than what I usually read and this totally fit that. Included in the back of the book are some of the actual comments that the interviewers made as well as some of the requirements that both the men and women had at the time. It's quite an eye-opener!

About the author: When Penrose was 25 and still unmarried, her mother sent her to the Katharine Allen Marriage & Advice BureauTwenty years later, after a career in teaching, writing and editing, she and her management consultant husband Bill bought the Bureau.  They also acquired The Marriage Bureau, which had been set up in 1939 by two 24-year-olds.  As Bill had predicted, matchmaking suited Penrose down to the ground, and they remain happily in touch with many former clients who visit them in London.

Purchase Links: HarperCollins | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


Be sure to check out all the other stops on the blog tour and follow the tour on Twitter (hashtags:  #TLCBookTours & #TheMarriageBureau).  


Friday, May 05, 2017

#SRC2017 Book Review: Into the Water by Paula Hawkins (audio)

Title: Into the Water
Author: Paula Hawkins
Narrator: Laura Aikman, Rachel Bavidge, Sophie Aldred, Daniel Weyman, Imogen Church
Published: May 2017, Penguin Audio
Length: 11 hours 31 minutes
Source: Personal copy via Audible

The author of the #1 New York Times bestseller and global phenomenon The Girl on the Train returns with Into the Water, her addictive new novel of psychological suspense.

A single mother turns up dead at the bottom of the river that runs through town. Earlier in the summer, a vulnerable teenage girl met the same fate. They are not the first women lost to these dark waters, but their deaths disturb the river and its history, dredging up secrets long submerged.

Left behind is a lonely fifteen-year-old girl. Parentless and friendless, she now finds herself in the care of her mother's sister, a fearful stranger who has been dragged back to the place she deliberately ran from—a place to which she vowed she'd never return.

With the same propulsive writing and acute understanding of human instincts that captivated millions of readers around the world in her explosive debut thriller, The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present.

Beware a calm surface—you never know what lies beneath.

My thoughts: As soon as I heard Paula Hawkins had a new book coming out, I knew I was going to read it. But, I have a confession to make - I didn't love The Girl on the Train...I liked it, but it definitely wasn't my favorite book. That being said, I was still willing to give this author another try because I liked her writing style and wanted to see what she would do in her second outing. 

I will say, I was a little apprehensive picking this book up and as you will notice from above, I decided to go the audio route this time around - and am so glad I did! I really liked this book - much more so than TGOTT! It's dark and intricately plotted and told by a cast of characters - which can be overwhelming at times, especially in the beginning, but once you figure out who is who, it all makes sense! I actually took notes to keep everyone straight. 

This is a multi-layered, multi-faceted tale, that is tightly woven. Once you start to pull at the threads, it all starts coming apart. I was entranced by the many characters and the lore surrounding the river. Between the recent deaths and the deaths that had happened in the past, along with those investigating it and the interesting townspeople, you get quite a story. It's sinister, dark, full of secrets and lies, and I love that the river and drowning pool almost become a separate character.

One of the themes that this book tackles is memories. Do they happen the way we remember them or did some trauma, or even time, alter them? This is tied in to the central mystery, though there are other forces at play. There is definitely a tangled web that Paula Hawkins weaves, taking so many different parts to make this moving tale, and if you blink you just might miss something! 

This book is a slow mystery, full of surprises and twists and turns. With so many characters, I was a bit apprehensive that I would have a hard time following along, but with the short chapters (and my handy note page) I was able to keep everyone straight and once I really got into the story, I felt more and more wrapped up in it! 

Paula Hawkins is certainly a talented writer - there's no doubt about that! And she likes writing twisted, sinister, crazy books with characters that will stick with you long after you finish reading about them. I cannot wait to see what comes next from this author!!!

Audio thoughts:
I loved the audio production of this book! Each of the narrators were brand-new to me, and I thought they all did a great job. The amount of emotion they infused into their voices when needed, especially Laura Aikman, who portrayed Lena, was amazing. It can be tough when so many narrators are used in an audio book, but in this case it was definitely a good idea. I really enjoyed this audio production - it kept me engaged and captivated from start to finish - in fact, I listened to the whole thing in 2 stretches! 

Into the Water  by Paula Hawkins is one of  BookSparks "Summer Reads" reading selection picks.  
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