Once Upon A River, by Diane Setterfield
Fiction , Mystery , Women's Fiction / January 14, 2019

This book is fascinating. The type of book that you want to read a second time. Like a river there are so many bends and runs, so many facets. This is a “story of stories” with family love at the center of three distinct families and their potential relationship with a mute girl who turns up in a small town. The characters of the novel are somewhat simple people. Some more or less educated than others. They have challenges and victories and their combined story is so interesting!! Some readers might be a bit impatient with the beginning. Like the headwaters of some rivers, the book starts small and somewhat quiet. Also like a river it is beautiful one minute, cruel the next, and always mysterious. This story will stay with me for a long time. I have no doubt I will reach for it again and enjoy it the second time as much, if not more, than the first.

City of Second Chances by Jane Lacey-Crane
Advance Reading Copy , Fiction , Women's Fiction / November 28, 2018

It was the book’s cover art that grabbed my attention. Snowflakes are falling, New York City gleams in the distance. The blurb “Funny and heartwarming, the perfect winter read” sealed the deal as I requested an ARC of City of Second Chances from NetGalley. (Thank you Author Jane Lacey-Crane and NetGalley ) For this reader the novel itself didn’t come together as well as the cover art.  I liked both the concept of a widow looking to change and the characters of Evie and Rachael and Evie’s sister Kate, but for me, one especially sad subplot (one of many) driving the first part of the book derailed my enjoyment. It turned the novel away from funny and heartwarming. True, this mirrors life. Not everything is neat and tidy. Some may like this realism, but for this reader it felt like the book was trying to do too much.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton
Historical Fiction , Women's Fiction / April 14, 2018

Recently I noticed a librarian had propped up The Miniaturist on her desk, it sat with a little sign that said, “Ask me about his book.” When I did, she smiled and said that it was a great read and that I should add it to my TBR list, and then be sure to read it as soon as possible. Of course my TBR list is long, so it took me awhile to get to it, but I have to say it was fascinating. The story begins with Nella, an eighteen year old new bride, traveling to her husband’s home. She comes from a family with a good name, but has few prospects, so she has agreed to marry Johannes, a wealthy merchant from Amsterdam. Seems simple? Right? Not at all. Enter Marin, Johannes unmarried sister, Otto and Cornelia, the two servants, and a wedding present — a miniature version of her new home. As a reader I felt for Nella, this young woman thrust unknowing into this strange situation. Nella hopes to be a wife to Johannes, hopes for babies, and hopes for happy laughter. Soon she realizes there will be none. We, as readers, uncover secrets as if we are Nella, and they are some big ones. I applaud the librarian who…

Summer Hours at the Robbers Library, by Sue Halpern
Audio Book , Women's Fiction / April 5, 2018

I admit it, I couldn’t resist. Summer Hours at the Robbers Library just had to be read, or rather listened to, as I downloaded the audio cd to help me get through some miles on my treadmill. Cute and simple on the surface, only to reveal deeper issues as the story progresses, it is the story of Sunny, a teenage girl who is doing community service at the local library where she meets Kit, a quiet librarian who just wants to be left alone. Add in a few other eccentric characters and the listener is transported into a very believable small town that is inhabited by a cast of layered characters that reflect some complex, emotional issues. Readers of a “A Man Called Ove” or “The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend” will like this too.

The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor
Fiction , Mystery , Women's Fiction / February 21, 2018

Years ago a girl was brutally murdered, dismembered, and her head placed in a backpack for unknown reasons. What the reader does know, is that the crime, although solved, is really probably unsolved. That is the beginning of The Chalk Man by new author C.J. Tudor. The novel uses a familiar pattern of past and present to engross the reader in the youth of Ed and his childhood buddies and Ed as a middle aged man still struggling with what happened in his town and a recent piece of mail that includes a stick of chalk. Everyone, I mean everyone, has secrets in this novel. And it is a fast paced, page turner. I am excited for this author, mainly because breaking into the publishing world seems so hard, but also because this is a fascinating trip through the strange and creepy, the horrible and evil, the truth and lies, and of secrets that won’t stay buried.

After Anna by Lisa Scottoline
Advance Reading Copy , Fiction , Women's Fiction / February 19, 2018

After Anna is the latest novel from Lisa Scottoline.  The story is about how Maggie is suddenly reunited with her daughter, Anna. It was years before that Maggie was declared an unfit mother, but now Maggie has the chance to be in the life of the daughter she has always loved. Things go bad almost immediately, and Anna is murdered. Wow, right? Maggie is crushed, no, she’s beyond crushed, when her husband Noah is arrested for the crime. The book is a quick read, and I did have my suspicions about events, which nearly never happens to me. My main complaint about the book? I feel the ending is abrupt. I wanted another chapter to blend and wrap up this traumatic novel. But, it started fast, so maybe it’s okay for it to end fast too. I received an Advanced Reading Copy of this novel. This is my honest review.

The Jane Austen Project by Kathleen A. Flynn

This book started slow, but ended up being both sweet and philosophical. A team of time travelers are sent to see if they can meet Jane Austen. They are assigned to befriend her and to locate a manuscript that is thought to be lost.  Of course the directive to alter history as little as possible and the social customs of 19th century England made this somewhat difficult.  Overall I am glad I stuck out the tea parties, carriage rides, and dress fittings of the beginning of the novel, as the end, with it’s thought provoking questions about time travel and changing history, has really stuck with me.

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware
Mystery , Women's Fiction / November 3, 2017

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware turned out to be better than I expected. I guess I had let some mediocre reviews cloud my impression before I even started the book.  So the book is about four girls at a boarding school in England and the dark secret that forces them apart and ultimately back together years later. Of course there is plenty of suspense, and the author is skilled at writing characters who are not necessarily honest with us as readers, or even themselves.  There are many themes in the novel- including love, honesty, and loyalty.  I have to say, unlike her previous novel, The Woman in Cabin 10, I feel, in my opinion, this one is focused/marketed to female readers, as it includes a lot of focus on a baby – as the main character Isa has an infant with her most of the story. That being said, the baby does come into play in the plot, and is important in terms of theme. It’s just an opinion and of course others might feel different. Still, I found it quick and satisfying, a good read.

Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth

This book really made me smile. It is one of those books that skips back and forth between the present day and the past. Each skip reveals more of the story between an Iowa farm girl and a young German POW who happens to be held close by, and who comes to help on her family farm. There are lots of geographical references that I happened to be familiar with: Clear Lake, Mason City, and the Grotto Of the Redemption are just a few. Really a quick, sweet read that anyone from the Midwest would especially enjoy.

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh
Fiction , Women's Fiction / August 27, 2017

I Let You Go is a novel that I have mixed feelings about. The writing is excellent and the characters thoughts and dialogue are realistic and convincing. What I question is some of the characters motives, actions, and reliability. The novel starts with a Prologue where the reader witnesses a child dying in a hit and run accident. Then Part One begins with main character Jenna living, if you can call it that, in a nightmare. A young boy is dead and her life appears to be in ruins. As the story progresses we find her taking up residence in a remote coastal town, starting over with a career taking photos, and a couple new friends. Enter Ray and Kate, two detectives trying to solve the hit and run that killed the boy. And enter Part Two, the thoughts and flashbacks of a somewhat mysterious man.  There are a lot of different POV’s/sections to put together, but for me it all flowed well, and I had no problem keeping it straight in my mind. As the book progresses it does go in a couple directions I didn’t predict and the plot takes on more dark elements. It wraps up somewhat quickly, and the end is somewhat violent and emotional but satisfying at the same time.