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Book Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

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The House at RivertonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kate Morton came into my life just under 3 years ago. I don’t remember how, but I picked up one of her books and absolutely fell in love with her writing style, characters, and multi-dimensional storytelling abilities. After almost 3 years, I’ve finished reading all 6 of her books; it’s a tad amusing that the last one I read is actually the first book she wrote — The House at Riverton, or The Shifting Fog, as it was previously known. For me, she’s the queen of historical fiction when the focus is on ‘ordinary’ families in a world from ~ a century ago. The House at Riverton is no exception, and while not my favorite of her tomes, is quite a splendid novel very reminiscent of Downtown Abbey.

In this book, Grace is ~100 years old and dying very soon. She has a story and a secret about the past to tell her wayward grandson who’s gone missing after his wife died of an aneurysm. Through flashbacks and other POVs, we learn about Grace’s time as a maid and ladies maid in the Hartford family household. We witness conversations in the current period between Grace and Ursula, a film director telling the story of what happened when a family friend and renowned poet committed suicide in the 1920s at the Hartford estate. We find out who actually loved whom, and which family members shouldn’t have been trusted. All set against the gorgeous backdrop of the English countryside, it’s a powerful and emotional tale about fighting your desires and knowing when it’s time to give in.

One of the things that made this book so appealing is how similar it was to Downton Abbey. There’s a family torn apart by war. Girls cannot inherit their father’s estate. Love between classes is forbidden. Estates cost too much. A daughter must marry into a wealthy family to survive. But then it goes off on its own path with a murder, an affair, and a past indiscretion connecting two people who never knew until it was too late. Morton can weave the most elaborate stories to warm the heart. I feel such passion and connection with her words and imagery. I can think of no other author who evokes such lyrical enthusiasm and despair in a scene on multiple levels that overwhelm you and excite you at the same time.

While a majority of this book is amazing, there were a few areas that I struggled with… hence 4 stars. The beginning is a bit too slow; it takes time to develop characters, but Morton uses a few different techniques to foreshadow what’s to come in the future almost crossing that invisible line with audience. For example, there’s a paragraph ending a chapter that actually speaks to readers saying, “You think she should have done this, but no, instead, she does this… and this is why what happens to her later was so painful.” I paraphrased to not give away any spoilers, but you get the basics. Another concern I had was how certain storylines were left too open-ended for my taste. We know two characters re-connect 40 years later, but how / why. We know there was a blood relationship between two characters, but was it ever acknowledged? We know one character leaves a letter to another, but what happened with the gift she also left behind? Who was Lady Clementine and how did she fit into this family?

Some of those were loosely explained, but with a powerhouse like Morton, I expect everything to be properly tied together. I’m okay with vague, but there needs to be some clarity on what the ‘options’ are as opposed to just making a statement and never exploring the follow-thru aspects. That said, this doesn’t happen in her later books, so I think these were debut author style changes… and definitely ones I’m glad she eventually made. All said, it’s a must read. The book is slower than others, with less of a major climax, but fully immersive and extravagant in other ways. I am sad that it’ll be at least another year before her next one…

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Book Review: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

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Ever since I read my first book by Kate Morton, I’ve been keen to read all her others. This month I went with The Secret Keeper since I tend to love books where there’s a secret buried somewhere that must come out despite every intent to bury it years ago. I was thrilled with the novel and can’t wait to take on the next one.

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The book takes place over a period of ~60 years focusing for the most part on Dorothy (Dolly) and daughter Laurel. We see snapshots of their lives while Laurel tries to unravel the mystery of a childhood incident where she’s certain she saw her mother stab a stranger. We see the perspective of a few other characters who interacted with Dolly when she was younger, as well as Laurel’s three sisters and one brother. It all comes together in a surprising conclusion where readers are forced to decide how we feel about an event that can be seen from many different angles.

Morton is the best at weaving together a story full of so many different side stories, you can never tell which will be the significant one to change the entire ending or plot arc to capture your shock. As this one moved along, I enjoyed the lyrical prose, tense dialog, well-drawn characters, and thrilling descriptions. About 75% through, when I thought I’d figured most of it out, I was feeling a bit disappointed. It was good, but that shock factor didn’t emerge as powerfully as I’d hoped. A few chapters later, in the most unusual place, I thought I saw an error. I re-read the passage twice, then realized — Oh, here’s that crazy twist! And what a fantastic one it was. 🙂

At that point, my opinion on the book shot up from a 4 to a 4.5. I would love to give it 5 stars, and it’s close, but there were a few moments of repetition and slowness that held me back. By no means did it make me want to put it down and wait days before reading again. It just didn’t force me to stay up super late… but that’s okay, sleep is needed, too. Overall, the story is very enthralling on many levels. You’ve got a backdrop of war, then modern social media times. You’ve got a mother who might or might not be lying or be a killer. As you read the historical portions, you can’t decide which of two girls is the one to believe. It keeps you going to the point you almost think they’re both lying, but which is the most pertinent among all the confusion?

Above all the plot and story, the settings are among the most gorgeous and captivating as any I’ve ever read before. Morton can describe the simplest things in the most complex terms, but it still makes me yearn for more. I never think “ugh, she’s completely overdone it,” but there are times when I would be okay with a few less words if it’s not ultimately important to the detail of the story. It’s a fine line, and in 98% of the cases, she’s spot on.

If you’ve never read her work, this is a good one, but I’d start with The Forgotten Garden then come to this one. I’ve two more left to read of hers, then I’ll probably have to wait a year for the next to be published. Oh well… sometimes patience is a good thing.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. The debut book, Academic Curveball, in my new mystery series, Braxton Campus Mysteries will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations. I read, write, and blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge –and multiple Readathons. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Date by Louise Jensen

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4.5 stars to the thrilling mystery novel, The Date, written by Louise Jensen and published in 2018. I always look forward to savoring a creepy and well-written suspenseful story, and this one definitely delivered a strong and fantastic punch. Many thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a copy.

Have you ever woken up and forgotten what happened the night before? I’m sure it’s happened to all of us at some point. Most of the time we recover those memories. Then again, most of the time we also recognize our own face in the mirror. Unfortunately for Ali, neither is happening when she wakes up one morning after a date with some online mystery man that her friends convinced her to finally take a chance with. She’s separated from her husband, trying to figure out how to move forward after some problems, and suffers from something traumatic in her childhood. All three of these things remain center stage as Ali tries to piece together the night without telling her friends or brother that she doesn’t have a full memory or can’t recognize people’s faces anymore. Something happened to her and the blood and head wound must be the place to start.

This is a psychological horror of a novel — in a good way. It’s well-written and not medically technical on any level. Enough details are explained so readers know why she can’t remember and what type of reality this is in the world. Although rare, if a certain part of the brain is injured, it’s possible to not continue to remember what someone looks like. Ali’s other senses need to step up, but it doesn’t seem to be happening quickly enough. When her roommate disappears, Ali starts wondering if maybe she’s the one who did something bad and not the other way around. Even the police grow suspicious, but she continues to receive support from 3 or 4 people. We all know one of them is lying, but it’s not easy to tell what’s happened behind the scenes. Is it the brother? The aunt? The best friend? The guy next door? The hypnotist? The soon-to-be husband? Or someone else lurking in the night and scaring her with notes and messages all over the house.

I read this book all in one day. I started in the morning before the gym and assumed I’d read 30 or 40 pages to see if I liked the book. Next thing I know, I’m 200 pages in and late for the gym. I had to finish reading later in the afternoon and I’ve held off writing the review because it’s so hard determining what to say without giving away the plot. I kinda figured out what was going on, or at least who was behind it all. But the reason blew me away. I wasn’t expecting to find out the true details of the past so late in the game, but as soon as they were revealed, the whole story made sense to me. Great job, Jensen. I’m definitely going to be reading more of your novels.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Over the Hill on Yellow Brick Road by Cathi Turow

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Creativity has always been the most important aspect of a writer’s success in my humble opinion. Sometimes it’s the golden balance of wit and truth that make a book stand out among others in its genre. When a bloggerCathi Turow, I’ve been following published a book, Over the Hill on the Yellow Brick Road: Growing Older with Silliness, High Spirits and a Lot of Heart, earlier this year, I marked it as something to look into over the summer. Well summer arrived, and I found myself with a copy of something that sounded like a cross between almost everything. There’s a bit of truth in this off-beat and off-the-beaten-path (oh, that’s kinda funny when you think about the title) of a memoir (if I may borrow from Turow’s blog) combined with the sarcasm and humor of a well-written writer. And it makes sense given a former role was writing for television and children. So why not combine all of these things together in a ~100-page sorta-picture book filled with fantastic themes, imagery, advice and challenges, right?

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Turow’s book was a surprise. I knew what it covered before I dove in, but the world she’s created is admirable and endearing. You’ve heard all the nursery rhymes. You’ve listened to all the corny advice people share about growing older. But you’ve never quite heard it all tied together like this… a mom learning to adjust to the next phase in her life goes for a walk but is swept adrift to a faraway land. She wants only to get home, but at the same time, she feels compelled to help those around her in this land. Sometimes she’s offering the same advice she had once needed or had given to her, but in others, the quirky and memorable characters (don’t even get me started on the cute google-eyed pictures) show her a different way of looking at things. I don’t like to spoil a book, but there’s 1 story that will make you want to take a chance on this book… think of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe. What if she was a sudden empty-nester and considering downsizing? Should she choose a sandal? Or a glove? Or maybe something totally different? Yep, that’s the marvelous tone set for this book from the beginning. And what a fun read it was!

Less than 2 hours, a comfy couch, a glass of seltzer, and I’m laughing my you-know-what off for a while. But then we get to a certain truth about a certain 4-letter word, and I just lost it for a few minutes. Even Baxter (the 15-week puppy I just got) cocked his head and looked at me like I’m crazy. Crazy like a fox, I said… or at least the author is. She’s on to something quite good here and I can’t wait to see what journey unfolds with the next book she’s planning. For now, take a gander at her blog — you’ll LOVE it.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Will You Remember Me? by Amanda Prowse

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4.5 stars for making me cry through the last few chapters of Will You Remember Me? by my new Queen, Amanda Prowse— and it was even sweeter knowing this was a signed copy that my friend Claire secured for me. I make no pretense here: I waffle back and forth between Amanda Prowse and Kate Morton as my favorite contemporary fiction female storyteller but it always comes down to who makes me tear up the most… Wow, this was quite a story and I can’t wait to devour another one of her books next month.
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Although part of a series, it can definitely be read standalone as the series seems to jump around from character to character. I didn’t read the first book, Poppy Day, which focuses on the same lead but I have a feeling it’s okay to go out of order. Poppy is 32, married to the love of her life, has two wonderful children and a great sense of happiness for the future — until she finds a small lump in her breast, and nothing is ever the same again. Prowse takes us thru the journey as Poppy begins to realize everything she will lose. From telling her husband to searching for her unknown father, finding a new family member and saying goodbye to people for the final time… this tale will have you holding your breath, tearing up, and gritting your teeth with anger and disappointment. Things don’t always work out. Sometimes they do but on a different level. What fine balance in this beautiful and heartwarming piece of brilliance.

My only minor hesitancy in giving a full 5 stars is that there were a few moments where I wanted more details about her relationships with her mother, doctor, and son. There was a lot to cover in the book, and it was the right page count but it was a tad short on some details and a bit full on others that didn’t add 100% value. All very, very minor and just a personal taste for me. I definitely recommend this book especially with the sea of stories out there probably full of similar tones and styles. What’s different for me in a novel by Prowse is the genuine understanding of what the person is suffering from. It’s not just words strung together to make a reader sad and empathize. It’s as if you’re sitting there with the same pains and wishing only for a way to make it better for both you and the one suffering in the book. That’s an author I respect and plan to read her full canon as quickly as I can!

 

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Connecticut Corpse Caper by Tyler Colins

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I’m always excited when I get back to reading a cozy mystery, especially when it’s part of a series where I can truly invest in the characters and setting. I chose The Connecticut Corpse Caper, the first book in the Triple Threat mystery series published in 2016, written by Tyler Colins, after reading the description. I’m a fan of the macabre and horror movie genres and am always interested in stories where the main character is invited to a mysterious house in order to collect an inheritance. Though I knew this book wouldn’t be dark, and it wouldn’t contain anything gory, the plot and setting were enough to buy it from Amazon last month. I’d been following the author’s blog for several months and was very curious to see what a full length novel might be like. I was definitely glad I chose to read it and found a new series with some fun and quirky characters who like to push the envelope just a little bit!

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In this caper, Jill, has been offered an opportunity to collect $200K if she stays at her late aunt’s house for one week, along with several other guests who are each competing for the full inheritance. If someone leaves (for ANY reason), their share is entered back into the pool thus upping what the others have the opportunity to collect! Some of the guests are friends and neighbors of her dead aunt, others are family members and boyfriends. By the end of the tally, there are ~12 people subjected to the silly / dastardly plans of an older woman who liked to play tricks, even in her death. Between a ghost who haunts the place by singing and a slew of fake and real dead bodies popping up in the strangest of places, this caper has you guessing all the way thru. It felt a bit like Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, as one by one, visitors keep dying. But many secrets are also unraveling to a backdrop that felt something like the movie Clue.

I enjoyed the book a lot. I liked all the characters and the setting was very clear — almost too descriptive at times as it builds the entire picture for you without much room to invent your own backdrop. Jill re-builds a friendship with her cousin, and by the end of the book, they are in a very different place from whence they started. Perhaps one’s a killer. Perhaps they find out family secrets. Or maybe only one survives. I won’t spoil anything, but this book is a clear kick off for a new mystery series where a trio of ladies investigates crimes.

Colins has a strong grasp of building a world for her characters to play in. She delivers quirky, funny dialog that makes you want to slap them sometimes purely for the comical laughs that take take away from the villainous murders happening around everyone. Picture a head chopped off… a vampire-like death, and a sea of meals made only from mushrooms. Now that’d be the death of me! Perhaps the most vivid of the slew is the cute names Jill and her boyfriend have for one another given his career as a pastry chef. I’m glad to see how it all ends between those two! Ha… curious? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I look forward to picking up more from this author and encourage anyone who’s a fan of humor, murder mystery, Clue or large casts to pick up this entry novel into the Triple Threat mystery series. It has lots of potential and I am excited to see what happens in the next one.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: The Lake House by Kate Morton

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After reading a few Kate Morton novels last year, I found myself enamored with her storytelling and character creation abilities. I added all of her books to my TBR and included The Lake House on my monthly Book Bucket List on my blog, where followers vote to select one read per month for me — this won as my June novel and I finished it over 6 days last week. With a new puppy in the house, reading and book reviewing time is not as easy as usual but I’m determined to meet my June TBR goals. While I absolutely adored this book, there were a few times I felt disconnected and disappointed, or that the coincidences were a little too much, but not for too long or in any way to truly bother me.
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The story focuses on several characters in England mostly during the 1910s to the 1930s, and then current time which is set in the 2000s. In the 1920s, the Edevane family is recuperating from World War 1 where while no one died, the savagery of war has had its toll on relationships. Alice is the focus, the middle sister who never quite fit in the family and became a mystery writer. When her younger brother disappears, and her two other sisters begin to act oddly, something seems off. Throw in a battleaxe for a grandmother, a fun but peculiar uncle-type, and some very attentive or non-attentive nannies, there’s got to be something bad that happened to the little boy… but was he kidnapped, killed, or is someone making things up about his childhood? When Alice’s book covers some of those true-life situations, people wonder what happened years ago… in modern times, Sadie has been put on leave after she made a mistake during an investigation, so the cop visits her grandfather and gets caught up in the old Edevane case while taking some rest. This is a story about missing children, lost children, and kidnapped children… there are a few cases going on, but they are not connected in any way other than as situations to help readers reflect on the character’s emotions and lives.

What I love about Morton’s writing is the imagery and depth you see, hear, and experience. Everything feels like it’s unfolding right before your eyes on a stage. Among the always present gardens, large estates, dysfunctional families, and interconnected historic and modern times, you’re carried away into a dreamlike state where you can happily immerse yourself in beauty and lyrical action. Morton also excels at weaving together multiple stories that have both small and large connections you begin to assemble along the path. At times, it’s a bit too connected or coincidental, but truthfully, isn’t that part of why we read books? We want to experience something new and different, a shock or a twist… if it was all simple and straightforward, there wouldn’t be a lot of drama to dig into. So while it can be a bit overdone or over-the-top (even in my own writing, I would agree it happens), it also is what truly makes the book spectacular in other ways. It’s a story with a start and a finish, so it’s going to have very specific reasons for things happening. In this one, it all felt natural as it could have happened just pushed together too closely in a few occasions.

I also struggled a bit in the early pages as there were a few too many characters to keep track of, and with so many women across 4 generations, it was often a confusing in the beginning of a chapter to know which one we were talking about. It was done purposefully to add intrigue and suspense, which I understand, but sometimes it was a little too much. Other than those concerns, I was very happy with the story. It isn’t my favorite Morton, but I find myself still thinking about it days later… Morton captures the young heroine trying to solve the past like no other author I know. She can also brilliantly build the amazing balance in an octogenarian who is torn, but also a bit of a curmudgeon about the past. You feel the indeterminable strength in the woman who can’t let go but is desperate for a closure that seems destined to cause more pain.

I am thrilled with this book, especially with the last 25% and how it all came together. Stunning poetry at times. I can’t wait to read her latest book, The Clockmaker’s Daughter, which I just got approved for on NetGalley.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.