Sunday, October 22, 2017

A Family Quarantined for Seven Days in an Old Manor House

It’s Christmas and a very special Christmas for the Birch Family. The oldest daughter, Olivia, is coming home from an assignment in Monrovia, Liberia taking care of victims of the highly contagious Haag Virus. Because of the contagious nature of the virus, Olivia and her family must be quarantined for seven days after she arrives.

As usual, they elect to spend Christmas at Weyfield Hall, the old Manor House passed down through Emma, the mother’s family. Each family member is dealing with secrets: love, a fraught engagement, a cancer diagnosis and the appearance of an illegitimate child. As the family members struggle with their demons, they begin to come together as a supportive family, gaining understanding of each other.

The novel starts slowly with Olivia’s romance in Monrovia. At first I found the characters not likable. They were all steeped in their own problems. Andrew, the father, was rude; Emma, clingy; and the younger daughter, Phoebe, totally self centered. However, as the week progressed they began to come out of their isolated personas and become attuned to eachother’s needs.

By the end of the novel, I enjoyed the family’s interactions. I can’t say this is a humorous book. The problems and interactions are rather sad than amusing. However, the characters are well developed and the story line has twists. If you enjoy family dramas, you may like this book.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for the review.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Food, Adventure, Love, and Spirituality

Lia Huber has had an interesting life so far. It’s not a life that is carefully planned. Lia seems to leap from one thing to another. However, there are stable themes: her love of food, the companionship with her husband, Christopher, spirituality, and a love of adventure.

The book starts in Greece where as an eighteen-year-old, she’s engaged to a Greek man and is beginning to develop her love affair with food. The Greek romance didn’t work out, but Lia found the theme of her life in cooking and writing about good food. I found all the parts of the book discussing her culinary adventures excellent. The recipes included at the end of each chapter will have you heading for the kitchen.

I also enjoyed her travels. The trip through Mexico to spend time in Costa Rica made me want to visit the places she described. I hadn’t realized how delightful some on the interior towns in Mexico are.

Lia hasn’t had an easy time with Lupus and a hysterectomy. She does make impulsive decisions that get her and her husband into trouble, but it’s all interesting to read. I recommend this book if you’re up for an armchair adventure.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  

The Pluses and Minuses of Middle Age

Into your forties and approaching fifty, you’re in the throes of middle age. Significant events include: children leaving home for college, menopause, death of friends, and health concerns. Each essay in this book traces the author’s journey through this sometimes difficult period. Some of the vignettes are affecting, some try to be amusing, and some are sad.

I enjoyed the essays dealing with children going to college, particularly the one where the author celebrates the fact that her son is on his way to being independent. The essays on death, particularly the death of her sister, are affecting. It’s hard to see a sibling die and raises issues about our own mortality.

I didn’t find the book particularly humorous. The tone of some of the essays is light, but like the one about her concern that her bio wasn’t as good as her friends, it was rather sad. If you’re facing middle or already in it, this is an interesting book. It will tell you that what you’re experiencing is not all that unusual,
and there is an end in sight which may be much happier than where you are now.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.   

Monday, October 16, 2017

A Missing Child, A Double Murder, and Gwen’s Past

Gwen Marcey has taken a job with the Interagency Major Crime Unit (IMCU). Although she was planning to spend time with Blake, her new love, the case of a missing child whose parents were murdered recalls her own tragic history. She grabs the case and head for Idaho and the Nez Pierce reservation
leaving Blake behind.

From the beginning, someone wants Gwen off the case. When checking out the murder scene, her car is stolen. Without transportation, she seeks help from her friend Beth, who does research for her on her cases. Beth arrives with Winston, Gwen’s huge dog, in tow. They manage to find a bed and breakfast that will take dogs. It seems an ideal situation, but the building brings back memories, and in addition to the case Gwen is immersed in the search for her own history.

The plot is well done. The threads of the missing child case meld with Gwen’s history. In solving one, she comes closer to understanding who she is. I enjoyed the setting in the Nez Pierce tribe. The background was unusual and very interesting.

I enjoy the Gwen Marcey books, but Gwen’s character in this one seemed rather strained. She makes poor decisions which put her and Beth in danger. She manages to get out of the situations, but the actions are more like a superhero than a lady with a double mastectomy.

If you enjoy mysteries in unusual locals, this is a good one.

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.

Monday, October 9, 2017

A Spree Killing and Finding Your Place in a Foster Family

Telly and Shalah Nash grew up in an abusive home. One night their drug addicted father stabbed their mother and took after the kids with a kitchen knife. Nine-year-old Telly managed to kill his father with a baseball bat, but in the process he broke Shalah’s arm. Because of the trauma, the siblings have been separated for eight years.

Each child has found a foster family they can begin to love. Shalah lives with Quincy and Rainie, FBI profilers, and a retired police dog, Luka. Shalah has gradually begun to love and trust her foster parents and they are ready to adopt her. Telly has also found a family he feels comfortable with. Frank and Sandra Duval, a science teacher and a homemaker, took Telly on as a project to get him ready to face the adult world when their own son, Henry, went off to college.

The security the siblings are finding is shattered when Sandra and Frank are found brutally murdered. Quincy and Rainie are recruited to help in the search for Telly who they believe is on a spree killing triggered by something that happened in the Duval family.

The characters in this book are all working on trust issues. The author has done an excellent job showing how difficult it is for foster parents and their children to deal with trust issues. The problems of teens coming from abusive homes are well portrayed. It’s worth reading this book because of the well developed characters.

The plot is good and has a number of twists. The author lays down enough clues that you can play the game along with the profilers. However, the beginning of the book is rather slow. As Quincy and Rainie try to discover what could have caused Telly to snap, they go over the same story numerous times. The action doesn’t really get going until after the middle of the book.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it. If you’re looking for violence and sex, this isn’t your book. However, it you like thrillers with well done psychological background, you’ll enjoy this one.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

What Does it Take to Lead a Meaningful Life?

Why do so many people in the happiest countries in the world take their own lives, while fewer people in poorer countries do? The surprising answer is meaning. Too many people in the richer countries don’t feel their lives are meaningful. I particularly enjoyed the incident where Will Durante was asked by a man why he should go on living. Durante had no easy answer, so the man walked away, but it inspired Durante to search for the answers for himself.

This book is organized around the four aspect of meaning: belonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence. In each of these sections, the author relies on psychology, sociology, philosophy, and theology to present information and look at the way, philosophers, poets, scientists, and others have answered the question, or looked for meaning.

The book is well researched. The author does a commendable job of presenting somewhat difficult material in a form that the average reader can enjoy. Her storytelling ability is one of the major reason for this. I recommend reading this book if you’re looking for a more fulfilling life. Reading the stories and questions can change your outlook and lead you to find more meaning in your own life.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

A Haunted Southern Mansion and Murder

The Ducote sisters, An’gel and Dickce, live in a lovely southern mansion that might have some ghosts. They’re experienced with old houses and strange occurrences. So when Mary Turner Catlin and her husband, Howard, ask for help because of the strange occurrences in the Natchez mansion they are fixing up as a bed and breakfast, the sisters can’t resist the adventure.

The bed and breakfast is supposedly closed during the time the sisters will be there. However, soon unexpected guests arrive. First a psychic comes saying she was called by the spirits inhabiting the house. Then distant cousins, Nathan and Serenity, arrive with Serenity’s lawyer in tow. Serenity wants to convince Nathan to give her some of her trust fund, while Nathan wants to look for papers that will give him title to some of the mansion’s valuable furniture housed in the French room.

Strange things happen almost immediately, but the action warms up considerably when Nathan is found dead in the French room with the furniture he’s trying to claim.

The Ducote sisters are delightful, proper ladies who can’t resist solving a mystery. The scenery was lovely and the descriptions of the mansion made me want to visit. The only criticism I have is that it took a long time for the murder to occur, nearly halfway through the book. However, the plot is full of twists. It’s hard to guess the murderer until the very end.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.