Fun ride through the past to change the present.

The Perfect Comeback of Caroline JacobsThe Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs by Matthew Dicks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While looking through the stack of mysteries on my bookshelves I rediscovered this little gem of a book. I needed something fun and it fit the bill nicely. It’s difficult to pinpoint the time when we took the wrong turn or when an event derailed us, but a series of events when she was fifteen causes Caroline Jacobs to become a doormat. When she finally has enough she embarks on a journey, taking her daughter in tow to rectify the situation.

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Faithful, a novel by Alice Hoffman is a must read

FaithfulFaithful by Alice Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alice Hoffman writes so well, I always enjoy her books.

When an ordinary girl is involved in a life-changing accident and her best friend is damaged beyond repair, she is overcome with guilt and despair. With the help of her mother, strangers, and rescued pets she eventually realizes she is a good person with something to offer and is no longer defined by the tragedy she survived.

A story of family, faith, forgiveness, and survival – something we can all relate to.

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“Need to know” keeps you guessing to the very end.

Need to KnowNeed to Know by Karen Cleveland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Vivian has it all, a wonderful husband, a home, an important job, and four lovely children. She’s having trouble juggling it all, being super mom and super central intelligence analyst. When she discovers the unthinkable, everything she believes is not what she thought it was, nor is she sure what she can do to protect her family. Lies have a habit of compounding and this story kept me enthralled. She finds she’s made of tough stuff, but the more she finds out the worse things get. Will she ever escape the downward spiral of her life – good question.

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Finding Joy in Sadness

I can’t imagine losing your child. Our kids aren’t supposed to go before we do. I’ve seen it happen, quite a few times and it is heartbreaking.

My best friend’s son died yesterday. He’s just a couple of years younger than my son. I’ve known him all of his life. He was such a good man, son, and father. Everyone is no doubt wondering “why.” We can’t answer that question, not really, but I like to think that because he was so special he was needed above. He’s making a fantastic Angel. And when he’s not busy helping others, he’ll be fishing with his grandfather, his grandmother rocking in her chair, crocheting, with a huge smile on her face.

Meanwhile, his parents, children, and friends grieve. His warm arms will not hold us as they did before. He was a great hugger, and he was kind enough to share them with me when my son is so far away. He worked so hard and loved so deeply, what a huge hole his absence is making in the world. It’s still so hard to believe he is gone from us.

I loved his laugh and I can appreciate a good one. He laughed with his whole body and that’s the only way to do it and do it right.

Watching him with his kids was amazing. And listening to his mother share stories of him painting the girl’s toenails really cracked me up. His patience with his sons showed his love for them, I hope they never forget it. With four kids and two jobs, he didn’t get much time for himself, but he didn’t seem to mind. I’m told he was a great cook and grill master, knowing just what to do with spices to make everything taste good. I’m sure his experiments worked out much better than my “creative cooking” ever could.

When you’ve lost someone so special, you can’t help but feel empty. The tears never stop and everything hurts. Nothing works to make that feeling of loss and pain go away. Except, maybe time, but I doubt it. You grow a scab and a memory may tear it off. Eventually, the good memories outweigh the sad ones and you laugh. God, I loved his laugh, it was so contagious and heartfelt. That’s the part I will remember, his laugh, and his bear hugs. We love you, Shawn.

Where the Crawdads Sing

Where the Crawdads SingWhere the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Stunning first novel. The prose is vivid, as are the characters and setting. One by one, Kya has been abandoned by her family, so she carries on living alone in the shack in the marsh. The townspeople don’t understand who she is and dubs her the marsh girl. She is strong and a survivor. She gets a little help from a few others, but she spends her life isolated. A friend of her brothers realizes how smart she is and teaches her to read. He also shares textbooks about biology, because he is also a child of the marsh. The sense of nature, the lack of nurture, the stunning scenes and tension of being alone and different are a poignant part of the story. I loved this book. I could smell the fetid water and hear the cicadas. I could sense Kya’s heartbeat as it matched time with the waves coming into the shore of North Carolina.

Thank you, Delia Owens for writing such a compelling book.

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Dreams of Joy, follow up to Shanghai Girls – ROCKS!

Dreams of Joy (Shanghai Girls #2)Dreams of Joy by Lisa See
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading “Shanghai Girls” I had to find a copy of book 2. It was worth it. I read it less than 2 days. OMG. A 19-year-old Chinese American girl runs away from home (L.A.) to the Peoples Republic of China with stars in her eyes and guilt in her heart. She wants to be a part of something bigger than herself, where everyone is equal and shares everything equally. She jumps into the culture with her eyes closed and her heart open and suffers along with the comrades in the countryside.

Lisa See gives us an amazing glimpse into what it may have been like from 1957 through 1959 Maoist China. Nothing is as it seems and our young heroine nearly loses her life before she realizes how wrong she has been.

Amazing stories from a wonderful author that transport you and tug at your heart and mind. Thank you, Lisa See.

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Shanghai Girls, an amazing read.

Shanghai Girls (Shanghai Girls #1)Shanghai Girls by Lisa See
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa See has recreated Shanghai China in the 1930’s and the escape from the Japanese invasion by two sisters. Their experience is compelling. They eventually make it to Los Angeles and Angel Island. Although they are married (arranged by her father) to young Chinese American men, they struggle with interrogations and accusations by the authorities. Their new lives in America are difficult and opportunities become fewer as World War II rages. They are able to maintain a semblance of Chinese tradition and culture by living in Chinatown and working there. This story centers around the sister’s stories, their closeness, and their difficulties. It is not always an easy relationship because they are very different. One sister bears a child then the other raises it. The other sister loses her child. When one sister betrays the other once again, the results are catastrophic.

I was mad when I came to the end of this novel. There was so much more to the story. That’s when I found “Dreams of Joy” the second book and read it in two days also. Thank you, Lisa See for bringing such richness to the story, the people, the places and the time.

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O.M.G. This book ROCKED!

The Death of Mrs. WestawayThe Death of Mrs. Westaway by Ruth Ware
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hold onto your seats. This kept me “enthralled” for three days until I finished it. O.M.G. Interesting characters galore. Untold twists and turns and surprises. It’s compelling, suspenseful. Okay, I can’t say enough good things about this book.

Harriet (aka Hal) is alone and struggling since her mother died, and she can’t seem to catch a break. Although she is good at reading people and the tarot, she anticipates tomorrow will be just like today – a constant struggle. Besides the past due bills, she gets a letter in the mail summoning her to the reading of her grandmother’s will. She thinks it must be a mistake but if there’s a remote chance she’ll receive a little money (hence a break) she decides to hop a train and find out, although doing so will leave her stranded without enough money to purchase a ticket home.

Suffice it to say, things aren’t all they seem. The reading of the will is full of surprises, and Hal finds herself amongst people who consider her family. A feeling she’s not had since her mother died three years before. I’ll stop now because I don’t want to give anything away. If you love a spellbinding book, this is a GOOD ONE!

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The Book is Better than the Movie

 

I can’t begin to guess how many films have been made based on novels or short stories, so I Googled it and believe there are too many to count. Twenty-six books are being made into films in 2018.
Twenty-four were made in 2017, twenty in 2016 so we could do the math, but that is not my forte.

Most of the time I find that the book is much better and I’m disappointed in the movie, so instead of rushing out to see a film after I’ve read the book, I wait a little while. If the movie captures the characters and story, then the details don’t matter quite as much.

For example. Our book club has been reading a lot of heavy WWII stories. They were brilliant, but we needed something light to ease the tension. We slipped in Joanna Fluke’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Mystery and found it delightfully fun. (We even tried one of the recipes in the book and agreed her other recipes and books are worth trying.)

We only meet once a month so one evening I noticed that Fluke’s cookie story was a Hallmark movie and flipped channels to watch. Big mistake. The characters were different in not only appearance (the redhead was made a blonde), but their personalities were more superficial. They changed quite a bit of the story, too, but the essence was there. The trouble is, I had just finished reading the book and felt disappointed. I will return to my theory that there needs to be some time between reading the book and watching the film to not feel cheated.

Here are a few exceptions to the “book is always better” rule. 

  • In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner was an amazing book, and Toni Collette and Cameron Diaz did a great job portraying the characters. I noticed some missing scenes in the movie, but I didn’t miss them.  
  • The Help by Kathryn Stockett was another successful book translation to the silver screen. The casting was stellar, and the story well told in both paper and film. 
  • I’ve never read Gone With the Wind (sorry Margaret), but I loved the film and have been told that the movie is very much like the book. 
  • Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic read that I don’t mind repeating periodically. Same goes for the movie, Gregory Peck and those kids made the story come alive for me, and I watch the movie every year. 

I don’t know how much the author is allowed to contribute to the making of a film based on their work. It appears that most production companies have their own stable of writers, but many times I read that authors are asked to consult on the script and during filming. Sounds like fun, but also nerve-wracking to watch your creation take form in someone else’s hands. Here’s hoping some of us experience it sometime. I wish you all tons of luck on your writing journey. 

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