Phyl's 5 Phaves from April

April feels as if it was many months ago rather than just one. Life has been busy and sometimes I have a hard time making myself write. But I do want to say something about the books I really liked each month.

So, the April phave list includes two non-romance books. I should read outside the genre more often. The variety is nice.

5. Touch and Go by Lisa Gardner. This mystery/suspense novel is the first book by Gardner I've ever read. It is clearly connected to a previous book, and while I was somewhat intrigued by the back story, I doubt I'll go back and read that one. However, I think I probably will read Gardner going forward. In this one her characters were well-developed, and I liked the way she wrote from several POVs. Interestingly, one particular character was written from the 1st person POV. What an unusual way to tell a story. Normally I'm not overly fond of mysteries, but this one sounded too interesting to skip. An entire family goes missing and there's not a single trace of evidence to help detectives figure out who took them and why. The bulk of the story takes place in Boston, but it also shifts to rural New Hampshire. I loved the way the differences in policing were described between the two places. There are lots of lies and betrayal, and of course, money is at the root of it all. I had fun with this book and it made for a nice change of pace. And hey, there were even little seeds of a romance planted. Nice.

4. Turning Up the Heat by Laura Florand. This is a lovely novella about a couple, married for 10 years, who have gotten so caught up in the busy-ness of their lives that they've lost touch with one another. The story begins when Léa, needing to take a break, runs away to Tahiti. A frantic Daniel soon follows and slowly, but surely, they begin to really communicate with one another. For a few years now they've been living on assumptions that have long since ceased to be relevant. They married young and their early years were spent saving her father's restaurant, raising Léa's younger siblings, and turning Daniel into one of the most well-known and popular chefs in the world. With those goals accomplished Léa is at loose ends. Meanwhile Daniel has thrown himself into a life he no longer really wants. I enjoy books that take us past the very beginning of a relationship and let us see what happens down the line. Habits need to be adjusted, conversations held, and new plans need to be made. There was no magic formula, just a need for long conversations, patience, and lots of love. I thought this story was nicely done.

3. Crazy Thing Called Love by Molly O'Keefe. This is the third book in O'Keefe's trilogy surrounding a couple of hockey players in Dallas. There's a brief prequel novella to this called "Naughty & Nice" which tells the story of Maddy and Billy eloping as teenagers. I wonder if I would have liked this as much if I hadn't read the prequel because it does a good job of describing how young Maddy & Billy were when they first got married. It also gives a rather vivid description of how bad Billy's home life was and what an oasis Maddy was to Billy. But their marriage does not survive Billy's success as a hockey star. Now on the downside of his career, he finds himself playing for a losing team in Dallas where, coincidentally, Maddy has remade herself into Madeline, host of a very popular morning TV show. Madeline has become closed off emotionally and career-driven. She's not particularly likeable. Billy is the team bad-boy, the one who starts the fights on the ice. He has a hard time controlling his temper. When her producers want Billy to come on the show for a makeover, Madeline is resistant because no one knows she and Billy used to be married. Billy recognizes this is a chance to get his Maddy back and he's willing to do whatever it takes to prove to her he's changed. Things become a little more complicated when Billy finds himself taking custody of his late sister's two children. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would, to be honest, because I thought Madeline's aloofness was a little overdone. But O'Keefe tells a good story and I found Billy's character to be believable. He had a lot of anger he needed to learn to deal with and I liked his willingness to learn to make the necessary changes.

2. The Wedding Journey by Carla Kelly. This was a re-read prompted by the fact that this book was recently re-published as an ebook. I could have sworn I owned it in paper, but I couldn't find it, so I must have borrowed it from the library when it was first published. I loved this book then, and loved it again now. Jesse is a surgeon with the British Army during the Peninsular war. Nell is the daughter of a debt-ridden soldier and when her father dies, Jesse marries her rather than see her fall into the hands of a brute who owned many of the father's debts. Jesse had been in love with Nell for years, but is so shy she is unaware. The army has to march to Portugal for the winter and the nasty man who wanted Nell and is also in charge of ordering the march "accidentally" leaves the hospital group behind. The journey is the story of this small group of wounded men, their doctors, and Nell, trying to get to Portugal ahead of the French. Told in Kelly's inimitable style, Nell slowly falls in love with Jesse as they struggle to get to safety. Kelly doesn't gloss over the horrors and atrocities of war, but she doesn't dwell on them either. Life is never easy, but the worst is far more bearable with the one you love.

1. All You Could Ask For by Mike Greenberg. I am a regular listener of ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike In the Morning program. Greenberg has written a couple of semi-autobiographical books and he spent some time this winter talking about his first foray into fiction. I cannot tell you how impressed I was by this look into the lives of three women battling three different forms of breast cancer. Greenberg and his wife lost a dear friend to breast cancer. That experience resulted in this book which is written in 1st person from the three points of view of the women who learn they have the disease. The first part of the book (a little over 50%) is the women telling the story of their lives up to the moment just before they learn of their diagnoses. Each of them have ties to the same Connecticut town, but they meet via an online forum for women with the disease. The second part of the book is about how they deal with their cancers, their careers, their families, and life in general. Each woman is very different, and in one case it was hard for me to agree with that character's choices. Yet the whole book felt authentic. The women come from positions of privilege--that is they have the financial resources that most of us don't enjoy. Greenberg himself, as a well-paid radio host, also enjoys that position of privilege. I suspect he wrote what he knew. He took a risk writing womens' voices and I think he succeeded very well. My only criticism is that I wish the first part, the backstories, had been shorter and the part about the women connecting with one another had been longer. Still, this is a book that I found touching, even funny in parts, and most importantly, hopeful. I was thinking about it for days after I finished it.

Comments

  1. I've listened to a couple of Gardner's on audio and think she writes suspense very well. Even when I found myself annoyed by some other aspects in the book (her characters in the books I tried had a tendency to info-dump police procedure, crime statistics, suspect profiling etc.) I was still glued to the main plot thread.

    If you can handle books where "bad things happen to children" (and I mean really bad things) - I would endorse Say Goodbye. Especially in light of the recent rescues of Jaycee Dugard and those women in Cleveland.....

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    Replies
    1. Wendy, I looked up Say Goodbye. That sounds very creepy. I don't consider myself a squeamish reader, so I just may give it a try. Spiders, huh? Thanks! I think :)

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