“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 She internalized everything and, though she grew more and more withdrawn, no one realized she was hiding a secret that would forever change all of their lives.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.

“Elizabeth I: The making of a Queen” Laura Brennan

3 stars *** ARC. ebook. Pen and Sword History. To be published July 19, 2020. (Includes lists of primary and secondary sources, as well as period photographs).

Elizabeth IThis book about Queen Elizabeth I is divided into several parts, concentrating on historical and political events from before Elizabeth was born, before she became Queen, and that transpired during her 45-year reign. She saw how her father, King Henry VIII, treated his wives and watched men conspired against their wives, leaving them powerless. This inspired her to remain single, and keep her own power. England’s religious battles, and the strained relationship she had with her sister Queen Mary I are also detailed. Thus, as Queen, Elizabeth used the experiences of her past and present to help her become a strong willed Queen.

Learning about Queen Elizabeth I was interesting because I believe that it’s important to “put [what is being studied] in its time and place,” a quote attributed to my former college professor. However I disliked how Brennan jumped from one event or person to another, then circled back again a few chapter or paragraphs later with information that would have been useful to know when she first began talking about that person or event. This made the book feel disjointed.

There are interesting facts about Elizabeth I mixed in with everything else, so I will recommend it to Adult readers who want to know more about this monarch.

I received a digital 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.

“In a dark, dark wood” Ruth Ware

Rated 3 stars *** Scout Press (Simon & Schuster). 2015. 310 p.

In a dark, dark woodNora got an email that brought forth memories she’d been repressing for 10 years from when she’d been in love with James at the age of 16. Though it had ended badly, she’d never gotten over their relationship. Her ex-best friend Clare was getting married and Flo, her maid of honor, was writing to invite her to Clare’s Hen (bachelorette) party. After debating whether or not to go Nora decided to attend.

Six people showed up to a glass walled house buried deep in the spooky woods, where she finds out Clare is marrying James. With memories overwhelming her, Nora is desperate to leave but stayed to save face though no one has phone reception, the landline goes dead, and Flo is obsessed with pleasing Clare. Getting drunk, playing silly games and passing on snide comments about each other turn to seriousness when a Ouija board spells “murderer”, and the back door opens by itself in the middle of the night.

By this time they are all paranoid so, when someone comes up the stairs and is shot dead, no one remembers who did the actual shooting that killed James. Nora developed amnesia after the shooting but, for James’ sake, is determined to recover her memories and find out what happened that night. Who shot James? Did she do it?

The book started out slow and dragged through a few chapters before it started to pick up steam. I enjoyed the suspense, and whodunit feel. I had my suspicions, but was surprised when the villain was revealed. What I didn’t like were loose ends that weren’t explained, how much Nora reverted to her high school self around Clare, and why she went to the Hen when she wasn’t invited to the wedding.

Though the book had its hiccups I will recommend it to Adult readers who like suspense. It will definitely keep you guessing.

 

“First & then” by Emma Mills

Rated 4 stars **** Henry Holt and Company. 2015. 267 p.

First & thenDevon and Cas have been best friends for years and, though she’s secretly in love with him, she keeps that part under wraps. Frustrated at her inability to feel any interest in everything that comes with college plans, she takes it out on Foster, her 14-year-old nerdy cousin, who has just moved in with them.

The worst part about school for Devon is having to take gym with a bunch of freshmen – including Foster. She and Ezra Lynley, the football team’s newest star, are the only seniors in the class but seem to rub each other the wrong way. It seems as if every conversation ends in disaster. When Ezra discovers Foster can kick a football extremely far, he becomes his mentor and helps Foster join the varsity team.

As Foster becomes cool with his fellow freshmen, Devon struggles with her feelings towards Cas, Lindsay and Ezra. Though he annoys her, she likes his protectiveness towards Foster. In time, Devon realizes she needs to look outside of the box she’s placed around herself in order to discover a real life instead of the make-believe one she’s fashioned for herself.

I empathized with Devon in her complicated feelings towards both Lindsay and Cas, and was glad she got her act together in regards to both Ezra and Foster, as they deserved more chances than life had given them. It was a good book and a quick read, though I’m a bit confused as to what the title is supposed to mean.

Recommended for ages 14 and older.

 

“I am watching you” by Teresa Driscoll

Rated 5 stars ***** ebook. Thomas & Mercer. 2017.

I am watching youSixteen-year-old Anna Ballard and her best friend Sarah were at a party when Anna wanted to leave. She was very drunk, but Sarah had her eye on a guy and didn’t want to leave. Anna decided to go outside to find a taxi, and was never heard from again.

As the police do everything they can to investigate her disappearance, those who had some involvement with Anna tell their stories in alternating chapters. Ella saw Anna and Sarah on a train hanging out with two men who’d just gotten released from prison. Could they have had something to do with Anna’s disappearance? Maybe one of them is sending her threatening postcards.

Sarah feels guilty over what happened the last time she saw Anna, but doesn’t dare tell the police about what happened before the party. Anna’s father is heartbroken over her disappearance, and keeps repeating her last words to him “you disgust me dad.” Will he ever get the chance to make it up to her?

With each chapter readers gain clues into what may have led to Anna’s disappearance, but the shocking conclusion telling us what really happened came as a huge surprise. It was such a surprise that I immediately began rereading the book to find out what I had missed. It was just as good, and still just as shocking, the second time around.

Highly recommended for Adults.

 

 

“Oligarchy” by Scarlett Thomas

1 star * ARC. ebook. Publisher’s Group West (Ingram). To be published November 7, 2019.

OligarchyA bunch of rich girls are in a boarding school somewhere in England, where they rule the school. They spend all their time thinking about ways to avoid eating, measuring nonexistent body fat, and weighing themselves since almost all of them are anorexic. The tepid storyline of “Oligarchy” goes on and on with anorexia as its main theme, jumping disjointedly and dispiritedly from character to character.

I did NOT like this book, but forced myself to keep going because I had to review it. If you want a book that endlessly repeats the same problems, without any solutions, then this is for you. I’m unhappy I wasted so much time slogging through it, but will leave it up to teens aged 15 and older to decide if you want to read it or not.

I received an advance copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review