John by Cynthia Lennon

I have been watching the Lifetime series on R. Kelly.  For a man with such a talented voice he sure is a disgusting human  being in his real life.  You might be asking what this has to do with John Lennon.  Stay with me.  By the time I was born The Beatles had already broken up.  I was eight years old when John was assassinated.  However, I have always been a music lover and loved The Beatles and John.  I read Cynthia Lennon’s memoir in basically a day.  I was riveted to her story.  I found her to be a seemingly genuine person and maybe she did idealize herself to an extent in her memory of events between her and John but her love for him shines through clearly.

He was not perfect.  He had many flaws and one of them was basically abandoning his first wife and son.  But he was the great John Lennon so whose reputation suffered in his narrative?  Yoko Ono.  Many blamed her for breaking up The Beatles as well as for his abandonment of his first wife and son.  See how that worked there?  John was the one who had an obligation to his family but somehow the court of public opinion blamed the woman for his decisions.

Which brings me back to R. Kelly.  Why do we as a group exonerate these men?  Because they are stars?  Because it is hard to reconcile a person who is so talented musically with a person who is a piece of crap in their personal life?  Personally I am far more willing to forgive Lennon for his actions than I am Kelly.  John was just an ass but Robert is a criminal.

With all of that said, I thoroughly enjoyed Cynthia Lennon’s book about her life with John all the way through his death and the aftermath for their son, Julian.  I particularly enjoyed reading her perspective about the early days when The Beatles were just beginning.  She did a good job of presenting both the good and the bad about her deceased ex husband.  If you are a Beatles fan, this is a worthy and necessary read.

Five out of five stars.

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The Light Over London by Julia Kelly

I liked this book a lot and I read it really fast.  I could not wait to find out what happened with the two main characters.  This historical fiction novel followed the formula of having two timelines.  That was the only formula one could say was applied to this novel. Louise in the past timeline and Cara in the present timeline had equally interesting stories and were tied together by Cara reading Louise’s diary kept in the years during WWII when England was under siege by the Germans.  Each lady had her own romance in this novel and toward the end, there is an enormous twist that is almost never seen in these types of books but was really good. The writing was well crafted and the plot advanced at a nice pace. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this book.

Four out of five stars.

The Wartime Sisters by Lynda Cohen Loigman

I loved Loigman’s debut novel, The Two Family House, so was very excited to read this second novel by this author.  Like many historical fiction novels, this story covers two different timelines. What is unique to this story is it is two different timelines for the same two sisters and the timelines are only a few years apart.  I really enjoyed that perspective. Loigman excels at realistically portraying real relationships with all of the misunderstandings and imperfections and secrets kept.

The Wartime Sisters is about two sisters.  Ruth is the older and considered more responsible sister.  She has married and left home to move with her husband to a military base.  Millie is the younger sister. Before the story begins, Millie is involved with an inappropriate loser type man.  The death of the girls’ parents sets in motion events that bring the sisters together again. Exploring their rocky relationship is the main conflict of the novel.

I really enjoyed this book and hesitate to tell more and spoil things for others who may decide to read.  I hope they do. Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.  

Four out of five stars.

An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen

I really liked The Wife Between Us by this author duo so was both looking forward to their next endeavor as well as being a little nervous that it would not be as good as their first.  I was captured almost from the beginning, reading nearly half of it in an afternoon. It is a much different story than The Wife Between Us but for those of you who have read their first book and remember the major surprise twist halfway through it, An Anonymous Girl will not disappoint you.  It is structured differently in that it has multiple twists and you will want to keep reading to find out what is going to happen next.

Jessica Farris is a young woman working as a makeup artist in New York City.  She struggles to make ends meet and help her parents financially with the care of her special needs younger sister, Becky.  In an effort to earn extra money, Jess signs up to participate in a research study about morality and ethics. As subject 52, the story of her involvement with Dr. Shields, the researcher, serves as the plot for this thriller.  To tell much more about the plot would be a disservice to those who might want to read this. It is much better to go into this story as blind as possible. Just know you will enjoy it from beginning all the way to the end.

Thank you to the authors, St Martin’s Press and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Five out of five stars.

Make Something Good Today by Ben and Erin Napier

Make Something Good Today is written by alternating narrators.  Ben and Erin take turns telling us about their early lives and the early days of their romance.  They describe what they both were doing in the years between college and the present day of hosting a television show where they renovate homes.  Both have an easygoing style of writing that leaves the reader feeling like they were just hanging out on their porch with them listening to stories.  I loved that so many personal photos were included in the book.

Both Ben and Erin were candid about their lives and pasts.  They both come across as real in this book as they do on their show.  The love and respect between the two of them is obvious. I was most impressed with Erin’s admission that she is not a naturally positive thinker and her description of making a habit out of finding something good in every day and journaling/blogging about it.  I also liked reading about how Ben came to love woodworking.

I look forward to seeing and reading more from this couple.  Five out of five stars.

The Rain Watcher by Tatiana de Rosnay

Rosnay sets a family drama within the context of a larger drama caused by natural disaster in The Rain Watcher.  The son, Linden, is the narrator. Linden’s sister, Tilia, as well as mom, Lauren, and dad are meeting in London for the purpose of celebrating the father, Malegard’s birthday.  Both of the grown children have their own lives outside of their parents.

What is revealed as the novel progresses is how little these four family members actually know about each other.  A couple of emergencies happen which extends their time together and allows them begin to know each other a little better.  The rain and water are a large part in the book definitely setting the atmosphere.

Rosney has a unique writing style that does not immediately reveal the plot but meanders a bit on its way to getting the reader where she wants them and reveals key plot points in a well spaced manner.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Four out of five stars.

Heavy by Kiese Laymon

Heavy by Kiese Laymon is such a unique book from such a unique voice.  Heavy is a memoir but addressed as if Laymon is speaking to his mother and telling her his story.  His true story. Laymon and his mom have a complicated relationship. At times loving, at times using and abusing, at times supportive and at other times the exact opposite of supportive. Laymon explores his relationship with his mother in this book but he also addresses his grandmother and more importantly himself.  Laymon explores his complicated relationship with his body. He alternates between obesity as a child to anorexia as a man. He both loves and hates his body.  Life is complicated for a young black male growing up in Mississippi.  Heavy seeks to unravel all of the feelings about the pains in his life but most importantly address the pain between him and his mother.

At one point in the book, Laymon’s grandmother tells him that through the stories she tells her children and grandchildren, she is just trying to ‘put them where I’ve been’.  In Heavy, Laymon is trying to put us all where he has been. He writes with such unapologetic honesty that at times it actually hurts to read his words. His vivid memory of a life filled with so much pain is examined here and left for the reader to decide how they should feel about it.  Near the end of the book, he says that he wanted to write a lie and you wanted to read a lie. He uses the word ‘you’ just as he has throughout the book when he is addressing his mother but this time it feels like the ‘you’ in the sentence is addressed to all of us. Laymon’s unwillingness to write what we would all like to hear or believe is what makes his writing so painful at times but it is also the ingredient that makes his writing so to the point and authentic.

For several years now I have admired Laymon’s writing.  It is reminiscent of Richard Wright. I waited a long time for this book to come out and look forward to reading more of Laymon’s work in the future.  If you want a cozy read, step away from this book quickly. You won’t find cozy or comfortable within these pages. But if you want to read a brilliant wordsmith who is willing to lay bare his heart for the world to read about with unflinching honesty, please read this memoir.  

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this memoir.  

Five out of five stars.

The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

The Dream Daughter is very different from most of Chamberlain’s stories.  Time traveling plays a large part in this novel. As usual, Chamberlain’s writing style is enjoyable and easily read in this novel as in her other novels.  

In 1970, Viet Nam war widow Caroline (Carly) Sears is pregnant with her first child.  Testing reveals her baby has a heart defect that is untreatable. There is no hope for a well child until her brother-in-law reveals he is a time traveler and fetal surgery is available in 2001.  Once Carly gets over her disbelief, she, of course, is willing to do anything at all to save her child. For reasons I won’t go into, more than one time traveling trip is required, and things do not always go as planned.

While executed nicely, this is not particularly my favorite type of book.  However, I did enjoy this story and will certainly read more from Chamberlain in the future.  Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Three out of five stars.

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese-Anne Fowler

A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese-Anne Fowler is a historical fiction novel based on the life of Alva Vanderbilt.  Vanderbilt had a fascinating life and I am glad I learned more about her in this fictionalized version of her life.  Alva was a strong woman who did what she needed to do in order to stay relevant.

I enjoy Fowler’s style of writing and have read books by her before so going into this novel I already knew the style to expect.  I really enjoyed learning more about the era as it was a time of rapid growth. Reading this novel felt like seeing everything through Alva’s eyes.  She was uniquely positioned to allow the reader to see details of her privileged life but also details of those existing in poverty, industry and growth in New York, high society, and those shunned by high society.  Later in life, she became involved in the suffragette movement to gain the vote for women. A lot was fit into one life.

I would divide her life in the book into two uneven sections.  My only complaint about this novel is that the latter part of her life did not get quite the attention that the earlier part did.  Perhaps some could have been cut from the middle in order to beef up the end.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this novel.

Four out of five stars.

Lies by T.M. Logan

Joe and his young son, William, inadvertently stumble into what appears to be an affair between Joe’s wife, Melissa and Ben.  Ben is the husband of one of Melissa’s long-term friends, Beth. The action begins early on in this thriller. Almost immediately, Joe thinks he has accidentally seriously injured Ben in a parking garage connected to the hotel where Ben just had a public meeting with Melissa.  Ben disappears and taunts Joe from a distance. The twists and turns do not stop. I can’t say a lot more without revealing too much.

Lies by T.M. Logan is a fast-paced thriller that will keep you turning pages until you find all of the clues to the mystery and put them together.  I must admit I did not figure the mystery out ahead of time, however, that did not stop me from wanting to bonk Joe on the head for being so thick-headed at times.  Even if thick-headed at times, I enjoyed Joe and continued to root for him throughout the entire novel. I will leave it to you to find out Joe’s fate.

Thank you to the publisher and to NetGalley for allowing me to read an advanced copy of this thriller.

Four out of five stars.