“Little disasters” Sarah Vaughan

Rated 4 stars **** ARC.. ebook. Atria/Emily Bestler Books. To be published August 18, 2020.

Little DisastersLiz, Jess, Charlotte and Mel met at a prenatal class, and grew close through play dates and nights out together. Over the ten years of their friendship Liz, Charlotte and Mel always felt that Jess was a perfect mom because she had the cleanest house, cooked the best food, expertly parented her two boys, and got her figure back just a few weeks after giving birth to her third child.

However, shortly after Betsey’s birth, things seemed to change. Jess didn’t spend as much time with her friends; was easily distracted, and was obsessed with cleaning. Because her husband worked long hours, she was left to care for three small children on her own. She internalized everything and, though she grew more and more withdrawn, no one realized she was hiding a secret that would forever change all of their lives.

Through flashbacks and the present time, readers gain insight into secrets from Liz, Jess and Charlotte’s pasts that made them into the women they are today. As the situation with Jess gets darker and more complicated, and Liz struggles with her own issues, it is the bonds of friendship that keep their heads above water.

I thought the storyline between Liz and Jess was compelling and kept me guessing up until the very last page, but I disliked the flashbacks the author used to talk about their pasts. I thought there was too much back and forth going on between the past and present. However, because the subject matter is very important, I will recommend it for Adult readers.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Behind the red door” Megan Collins

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Atria Books. To be published August 4, 2020.

Behind the red doorFern loves her daddy even though he was always distracted with his work. His research dealt with the effects of fear, and she was always part of his Experiments where he terrorized her for years in many ways then interviewed her about her feelings. Though she had always been truly afraid during the Experiments, his care during the follow up interviews made her feel important and loved. As she grew older the years she’d spent being tormented caused her to become anxious and develop nervous habits, but it never diminished her love for him.

When Ted called to ask for help packing for an upcoming move, Fern was thrilled because she believed he needed her. Once she arrived they took a trip to town where she picked up a book about a local woman who was kidnapped 20 years ago and was missing again. As reading about the kidnapping tugged at memories she’d long kept hidden, these remembrances began to turn her life upside down.

This book really bothered me. I can’t reveal what happened, but I can say I was not happy at how that particular situation ended. I also couldn’t understand how, as an educated Social Worker, she was so ignorant about her own father. I liked the suspense, and how she gave Fern a wonderfully loving and supportive husband.

I gave it 3 stars for its twists and turns, and will recommend it to Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“The second home” Christina Clancy

Rated 5 stars ***** ARC. ebook. St. Martin’s Press. To be published June 2, 2020.

The Second HomeAnn’s parents had recently been killed in an accident and she was desperate to rid herself of her family’s ramshackle summer home in Wellfleet, though it had been in their family for generations. Her urgency to sell also included the fact that she didn’t want her estranged brother Michael to know she was selling. They’d lost contact years earlier, after an especially horrific summer, and the anger she felt towards him had worsened over the years.

Michael and Ann were the same age and had become best friends at school so, since he got along well with her family, Ann convinced them to adopt him. The summer of 1999 was his first in Wellfleet, which he spent wrestling with his feelings about Ann. She had taken on a babysitting job with the Shaws, a rich family, contrasting their lives and loving how Mr. Shaw made her feel. While they tried to work through their issues, Poppy was busy getting high after falling in with a rough crowd of surfing locals. That summer changed the rest of their lives – forever.

Told through flashbacks and the present time, Ann, Michael and Poppy’s love for their summer home and the memories from Wellfleet (both good and bad) that tied them together, sink deeply into the reader. I was fully invested in their stories, and eagerly turned pages hoping the ending everything would end on a satisfying note.

Highly recommended for Adults.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Summer on the bluffs” Sunny Hostin with Veronica Chambers

Rated 4 stars **** ARC. William Morrow (HarperColllins). Oak Bluffs #1. Coming Summer 2021. 385 p.

Summer on the BluffsAmelia and her husband Omar worked their way up from the bottom to become rich millionaires, and built a beautiful beach house in a historically black section of Oak Bluffs on the island of Martha’s Vineyard. There they relaxed, mingled with other well-heeled neighbors, had parties, and enjoyed the island’s beauty. Midway through their marriage they became godparents to Perry, Olivia and Billie. The young girls spent summers with them on the island, were introduced to cultural activities, travelled widely, and became like sisters to each other. Ama and Omar’s generous monetary gifts enabled them to attend the finest schools, and set them onto high paying career paths.

It’s 2020 and Ama is now alone, as Omar passed away five years earlier. Despite inner reservations she’s decided it was time to tell her girls important secrets she’s kept hidden from them for decades. She invites them to spend one final summer at the Bluffs, but she doesn’t know that Perry, Olivia and Billie are hiding secrets of their own. Can three grown women who have grown apart over the years return to the summers of their youth with a woman they have grown to see as a mother figure?

Each of the women are strong characters, although I think Perry could have been a little less whiny and a better listener. Ama’s character was deep and long-suffering, while the men were well rounded and had their own strengths (except for Jeremy). I enjoyed reading a little about the history of Oak Bluffs, as well as seeing life through the eyes of the “powerfully rich and famous, I can live anywhere” crowd. I spent several summer days there many years ago as part of the “working full time, I can only stay in the cheapest place” crowd, but I’m proud to say my adult self once got the brass ring on the famous Oak Bluffs carousel. I had to return it at the end of my ride, but it was fun to get a free ride!

This is book #1 of a planned series, but it’s unknown as to whether or not the same characters will be in the rest of the series or if the author will introduce another set of characters to spend time on the Bluffs.

Recommended for Adults.

I received an advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

“Lady Clementine” Marie Benedict

Rated 5 stars ***** 2020. Sourcebooks. 310 p. (Includes “Author’s note,” “Reading group guide,” and “A conversation with the author”)

Lady ClementineAlmost everyone over the age of 50 has heard about Winston Churchill, and how his speeches, tenacity and love for country led Great Britain through World War II. Despite all of the historical information available on Churchill, his wife has remained a shadowy figure. “Lady Clementine” seeks to address this oversight, and does so in a very enlightening manner.

Benedict focuses on the Churchill’s from their 1908 marriage through the end of World War II in 1945. Important historical events, family life, the ups and downs of Churchill’s political career, and her own battles are told from Clementine’s point of view. Constantly at Churchill’s side, she evaluated his speeches, made speeches of her own on topics near to her heart, and worked tirelessly behind the scenes for her husband. In that time period, being a strong minded and strong willed female in a man’s world often led to ridicule by his associates and her peers for her “unseemly behavior.” Despite naysayers, Clementine continued to further the cause of women’s equality and was a powerful, yet largely unknown, force behind Churchill’s greatness.

This enthralling, quick moving novel about an important women in history who had been largely unknown, kept me reading late into the evenings. I love historical fiction (especially when rich with historical details) and Benedict did not disappoint. I look forward to reading more of her work in the future.

Highly recommended for Adults.

“Give it back” Danielle Esplin

Rated 2 stars ** ebook. 2017. Black Rose Writing.

Three women. Two sisters. Three stories. Two disappearances. Many suspects. One truth.

Give it backThrough flashbacks and the present time, Ella, her sister Lorraine, and Lorraine’s au pair Lexy tell their stories. Ella must come to grips with the fact that Lorraine has brain cancer, and that she’s been too busy with her job to concern herself with anyone or anything. Lorraine has been fixated for years on getting her long divorced husband to love her again, and has no intention of letting go of that bone. Meanwhile Lexy successfully hides the fact that she knows nothing about taking care of children, and came from London to Seattle to stalk an ex boyfriend. When Lexy and Logan (Lorraine’s 16-year-old son) disappear, and Lorraine’s cancer worsens, it’s up to Ella to make sense of differing accounts to figure out what happened.

I wasn’t a fan of this book, as I disliked how the women were portrayed. They were all either unloved by “the one” on whom they’d hung their hearts, so life was ruined, or were rendered unlovable because they worked too much. Other choices were to make them either ugly or insane. Compared to all of the women Ella was the strongest, but it wasn’t enough for me.

Though I didn’t like it, I will leave it up to you Adults to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received a digital reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

“Ghosts of Harvard” Francesca Serritella

Rated 3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Random House. To be published May 5, 2020.

Ghosts of HarvardSeventeen-year-old Cady is determined to attend Harvard because it was where her older brother Eric committed suicide. Since she blames herself, she is determined to figure out why he killed himself.  While at school her studies take a back burner to the nagging questions that arise about Eric’s schizophrenia.

As memories of good and bad times with Eric fill her mind, Cady begins to hear voices and music from a bygone era. Afraid she is heading towards the same path of mental illness, she has a small measure of relief when she figures out the voices are the ghosts of a former Harvard slave and two students who attended the school many years ago.

She enjoys having them as company, learning historical aspects about the school that she’d never known. However, as she uncovers more about Eric’s last days, she soon figures out he was hiding something. When his secret is finally revealed, her life is forever changed in even more ways than she’d thought possible.

I enjoyed the historical aspect of “Ghosts of Harvard,” especially since I once worked on campus, and didn’t know about many of the hidden gems revealed in the book. I now want to travel back to Massachusetts to take a leisurely stroll and go to the places mentioned in the book. The storyline about Eric, his secret, and the ghosts seemed a bit farfetched, but the troubling aspects of suicide, mental illness and its weight on families were truthfully articulated.

Recommended for ages 16 and older.

I received a digital advance reading copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.