Songs in Ursa Major by Emma Brodie

Book Blurb:

The year is 1969, and the Bayleen Island Folk Fest is abuzz with one name: Jesse Reid. Tall and soft-spoken, with eyes blue as stone-washed denim, Jesse Reid’s intricate guitar riffs and supple baritone are poised to tip from fame to legend with this one headlining performance. That is, until his motorcycle crashes on the way to the show.

Jane Quinn is a Bayleen Island local whose music flows as naturally as her long blond hair. When she and her bandmates are asked to play in Jesse Reid’s place at the festival, it almost doesn’t seem real. But Jane plants her bare feet on the Main Stage and delivers the performance of a lifetime, stopping Jesse’s disappointed fans in their tracks: A star is born.

Jesse stays on the island to recover from his near-fatal accident and he strikes up a friendship with Jane, coaching her through the production of her first record. As Jane contends with the music industry’s sexism, Jesse becomes her advocate, and what starts as a shared calling soon becomes a passionate love affair. On tour with Jesse, Jane is so captivated by the giant stadiums, the late nights, the wild parties, and the media attention, that she is blind-sided when she stumbles on the dark secret beneath Jesse’s music. With nowhere to turn, Jane must reckon with the shadows of her own past; what follows is the birth of one of most iconic albums of all time.  

Shot through with the lyrics, the icons, the lore, the adrenaline of the early 70s music scene, Songs in Ursa Major pulses with romantic longing and asks the question so many female artists must face: What are we willing to sacrifice for our dreams?

My Thoughts: This was another really good book with a storyline in the music industry. I was a big fan of Daisy Jones and the Six, and even though this book is very different in structure and story from that one, I still kept thinking of it as well. This one had a more traditional structure in the telling of the story, but it also dealt with the difficulties of being a female during that time period in the music industry. If I had the talent, I always thought I would have love to be a singer or dancer, but after reading these books, I’m not so sure. Although women working in a man’s world have always had struggles, I think the struggles portrayed here were particularly difficult. Of course drugs were also a part of the story and seem to be a consistent component of the music world. The characters were strong and the story was compelling. It’s hard to believe that this was a debut for this author. I’d recommend this one, and I’ll be on the lookout for this author’s next book.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Knopf (June 22, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ June 22, 2021
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 336 pages

You Belong Here Now by Dianna Rostad

Book Blurb:

Montana 1925: Three brave kids from New York board the orphan train headed west. An Irish boy who lost his whole family to Spanish flu, a tiny girl who won’t talk, and a volatile young man who desperately needs to escape Hell’s Kitchen. They are paraded on platforms across the Midwest to work-worn folks and journey countless miles, racing the sun westward. Before they reach the last rejection and stop, the kids come up with a daring plan, and they set off toward the Yellowstone River and grassy mountains where the wild horses roam.

Fate guides them toward the ranch of a family stricken by loss. Broken and unable to outrun their pasts in New York, the family must do the unthinkable in order to save them. 

Nara, the daughter of a successful cattleman, has grown into a brusque spinster who refuses the kids on sight. She’s worked hard to gain her father’s respect and hopes to run their operation, but if the kids stay, she’ll be stuck in the kitchen.

Nara works them without mercy, hoping they’ll run off, but they buck up and show spirit, and though Nara will never be motherly, she begins to take to them. So, when Charles is jailed for freeing wild horses that were rounded up for slaughter, and an abusive mother from New York shows up to take the youngest, Nara does the unthinkable, risking everything she holds dear to change their lives forever.

My Thoughts:

I was unfamiliar with the Orphan Trains until I read the book titled The Orphan Tran by Christina Baker Klein, and I was immediately interested in learning about that experience. Although the subject matter in this latest entry is now not new to me, I found the story to be enjoyable and compelling. Each of the three children who end up on this ranch are unique characters, and I loved the way they formed their own family unit within their circumstances and supported each other. The book is filled with interesting (and infuriating) characters and some other history particular to the area is included. It is a heartfelt book that will capture your heart. I was also surprised to learn that this is a debut. It reads like it was written by a seasoned author. Diane Rostad will be one to watch, and I look forward to her future books.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow Paperbacks (April 6, 2021)
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 362 pages

The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer

Book Blurb:

In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.

Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.

Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it.

My Thoughts:

This novel is another good entry in the historical fiction WWII category. This one takes place between two time periods and Kelly Rimmer does a fine job weaving the two storylines together. Sometimes I prefer one storyline over the other in dual narratives, but I felt both were equally compelling. I did find the present day storyline of a mother/family dealing with an autistic child a little different and interesting. The struggles and stress portrayed during the present with the Mom trying to juggle everything on her own and the resulting complications in her marriage and worry about her Grandmother’ felt very realistic and honest. Both stories are good and cover a range of events that are heartfelt. Although not a thriller by any means, there was a family secret revealed. Once again, Rimmer did a nice job unveiling the past storyline to eventually reveal some buried secrets. Recommended for fans of historical fiction, especially WWII.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Graydon House; Original edition (March 19, 2019)
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 432 pages

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

Book Blurb:

From an award-winning author comes a wise and tender coming-of-age story about a nine-year-old girl who runs away from her Mississippi home in 1963, befriends a lonely woman suffering loss and abuse, and embarks on a life-changing road trip.

Whistling past the graveyard. That’s what Daddy called it when you did something to keep your mind off your most worstest fear…

In the summer of 1963, nine-year-old Starla Claudelle runs away from her strict grandmother’s Mississippi home. Starla’s destination is Nashville, where her mother went to become a famous singer, abandoning Starla when she was three. Walking a lonely country road, Starla accepts a ride from Eula, a black woman traveling alone with a white baby. Now, on the road trip that will change her life forever, Starla sees for the first time life as it really is—as she reaches for a dream of how it could one day be.

My Thoughts:

This was another winner in the southern literature setting that I love. It is an engaging coming of age story with a journey that results in a heartwarming bond that develops between a young 9-year-old white girl and an older black woman. The story is told through Starla’s point of view. She was a great character with lots of pluck and I enjoyed seeing her growth as she became more knowledgeable about the world around her. Eula was a remarkable woman who had such strength, moral conviction, and a strong faith despite all the abuse she received. Through their story we are allowed to see how difficult discrimination and racism is. The book has lots of other good characters as well. My one small complaint about the book is that Starla seemed much older than she was. I would have thought she was a teenager if we hadn’t been told she was nine. This is my second Susan Crandall book, and I would say that she is an excellent story teller. I really enjoyed this one, but I think I might have liked The Myth of Perpetual Summer a little bit more. I listened to the audiobook version and Amy Ruminate did an excellent job narrating the book. Often books set in the south have people who aren’t from there overdoing the accent. That was not the case here, and she m05ade them sound so realistic.

I can’t imagine there would be many who wouldn’t like this one, but I would especially recommend it for people who like books set in the south, coming of age, a little adventure, and great characters, and a captivating storyline.

My Rating: 4.5 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Gallery Books (July 2, 2013)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ July 2, 2013
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 321 pages

The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave

Book Blurb:

We all have stories we never tell.
Before Owen Michaels disappears, he manages to smuggle a note to his beloved wife of one year: Protect her.

Despite her confusion and fear, Hannah Hall knows exactly to whom the note refers: Owen’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Bailey. Bailey, who lost her mother tragically as a child. Bailey, who wants absolutely nothing to do with her new stepmother.

As Hannah’s increasingly desperate calls to Owen go unanswered; as the FBI arrests Owen’s boss; as a US Marshal and FBI agents arrive at her Sausalito home unannounced, Hannah quickly realizes her husband isn’t who he said he was. And that Bailey just may hold the key to figuring out Owen’s true identity—and why he really disappeared.

Hannah and Bailey set out to discover the truth, together. But as they start putting together the pieces of Owen’s past, they soon realize they are also building a new future. One neither Hannah nor Bailey could have anticipated.

My Thoughts:

This was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club, and I must say that I have generally really liked her book picks. I like that she chooses from a broad range of genres and doesn’t only pick literary books. Thus, I was eager to listen to this suspense/thriller audiobook, and it was everything I hoped for. It was fast-paced with a story that kept me wanting to listen as the story unfolded, and the storyline kept me guessing all along the way. The characters were great and very relatable. Maybe it’s because I have a very dependable and predictable husband, but I do find myself being drawn to books where a spouse thinks they know their spouse, but really don’t.  I just can’t imagine that and find it inticing (although I’m not wanting that to happen to me)! Dave did a nice job accurately depicting the growth of that relationship with a teenager, complete with ups and downs. The narrator for the audiobook, Rebecca Lowman, did an excellent job narrating this audiobook.  I wasn’t familiar with her work, but she will be on my radar for future listens.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Hardcover: 320 pages

Published: May 4, 2021 by Simon & Schuster

Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts

Publisher’s Blurb:

A handsome stranger. A dead billionaire. A citywide treasure hunt. Tuesday Mooney’s life is about to change . . . forevermore.

Tuesday Mooney is a loner. She keeps to herself, begrudgingly socializes, and spends much of her time watching old Twin Peaks and X-Files DVDs. But when Vincent Pryce, Boston’s most eccentric billionaire, dies—leaving behind an epic treasure hunt through the city, with clues inspired by his hero, Edgar Allan Poe—Tuesday’s adventure finally begins.

Puzzle-loving Tuesday searches for clue after clue, joined by a ragtag crew: a wisecracking friend, an adoring teen neighbor, and a handsome, cagey young heir. The hunt tests their mettle, and with other teams from around the city also vying for the promised prize—a share of Pryce’s immense wealth—they must move quickly. Pryce’s clues can’t be cracked with sharp wit alone; the searchers must summon the courage to face painful ghosts from their pasts (some more vivid than others) and discover their most guarded desires and dreams.

A deliciously funny ode to imagination, overflowing with love letters to art, from The Westing Game to Madonna to the Knights of the Round Table, Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is the perfect read for thrill seekers, wanderers, word lovers, and anyone looking for an escape to the extraordinary.

Thoughts (provided by my husband, Bob, who is helping me out and listened with me on our recent vaction):

The reference to the Westing Game in the blurb and the reviews both drew me to this novel and set a very high standard. Racculia really delivers in spades. Tuesday Mooney Talks to Ghosts is the kind of novel that comes along all too rarely, one that has appealing, fully developed characters and an entertaining story. The treasure hunt aspects of the story ends up being subsumed by developing romances and a number of mysteries, all of which are not neatly resolved. Although the book defies brief description, particularly without spoilers, it is a richly rewarding reading experience. Check it out.

Rating: 4.5 Stars (Me) 5 Stars (Bob)

Hardcover: 359 pages

Published: October 8, 2019 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Something a Little Different

Rather than reviewing a book today, I’d like to pose a question, and I hope some of you will respond. Recently on two separate occasions I went to look at ratings on two different books, and was dismayed to see that each of the authors had rated her own book 5 stars. This really bothered me and actually caused me to not get the book. I would hope that the author feels good about his/her book, but when I go to ratings, I want unbiased ones that are more likely to reflect what others who are reading the book feel. I also have a problem with authors who just get a lot of their friends to post 5 star reviews. I just feel that is being deceptive. In my mind, if an author is confident in his/her book, he/she shouldn’t feel the need to add a 5 star rating. Let the readers speak for themselves. Am I just being cranky and unreasonable? I’d love your thoughts.

The Last Night in London by Karen White

Book Blurb:

New York Times bestselling author Karen White weaves a captivating story of friendship, love, and betrayal that moves between war-torn London during the Blitz and the present day.

London, 1939. Beautiful and ambitious Eva Harlow and her American best friend, Precious Dubose, are trying to make their way as fashion models. When Eva falls in love with Graham St. John, an aristocrat and Royal Air Force pilot, she can’t believe her luck—she’s getting everything she ever wanted. Then the Blitz devastates her world, and Eva finds herself slipping into a web of intrigue, spies, and secrets. As Eva struggles to protect her friendship with Precious and everything she holds dear, all it takes is one unwary moment to change their lives forever…

London, 2019. American journalist Maddie Warner, whose life has been marked by the tragic loss of her mother, travels to London to interview Precious about her life in pre-WWII London. Maddie has been careful to close herself off to others, but in Precious she recognizes someone whose grief rivals her own—but unlike Maddie, Precious hasn’t allowed it to crush her.  Maddie finds herself drawn to both Precious and to Colin, her enigmatic surrogate nephew.  As Maddie gets closer to her, she begins to unravel Precious’s haunting past—a story of friendship, betrayal, and the unremembered acts of kindness and of love.

My Thoughts:

Karen White’s books are tremendously popular, but I never have read one before. I tried once, but for whatever reason, I just didn’t get into it. I had no trouble getting into this one. I was drawn to the book because of the setting in London during the Blitz, but it turned out to have a dual timeline with present day as well. I found both storylines compelling, but the one set in the earlier time period was the main driving force. Although, even the earlier storyline wasn’t completely set during the Blitz, I still found it engaging. The book has a mystery to it as one of the present day main characters tries to piece together information for an article she is writing on her relative. I like books about women and their struggles and friendships, and this one had all of that with some reinvention and betrayal thrown in there. Also, having grown up in the South, I really enjoyed hearing the phrases that were spoken by Maddie (from the South) that were common when I grew up. I will now correct my prior mistake of passing over White’s books and go back to her earlier ones again.

My Rating: 4 Stars

Print Length: 480 pages

Published: April 20, 2021 by Berkley Books

Love and Fury by Samantha Silva

Book Blurb:

From the acclaimed author of Mr. Dickens and His Carol, a richly-imagined reckoning with the life of another cherished literary legend: Mary Wollstonecraft – arguably the world’s first feminist

August, 1797. Midwife Parthenia Blenkinsop has delivered countless babies, but nothing prepares her for the experience that unfolds when she arrives at Mary Wollstonecraft’s door. Over the eleven harrowing days that follow, as Mrs. Blenkinsop fights for the survival of both mother and newborn, Wollstonecraft recounts the life she dared to live amidst the impossible constraints and prejudices of the late 18th century, rejecting the tyranny of men and marriage, risking everything to demand equality for herself and all women. She weaves her riveting tale to give her fragile daughter a reason to live, even as her own strength wanes. Wollstonecraft’s urgent story of loss and triumph forms the heartbreakingly brief intersection between the lives of a mother and daughter who will change the arc of history and thought.

In radiant prose, Samantha Silva delivers an ode to the dazzling life of Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the world’s most influential thinkers and mother of the famous novelist Mary Shelley. But at its heart, Love and Fury is a story about the power of a woman reclaiming her own narrative to pass on to her daughter, and all daughters, for generations to come.

My Thoughts:

I am drawn to books with strong female characters, and when I read the blurb that Mary Wollstonecraft was one of the first feminists, I was drawn to read this book, especially knowing it is based on an actual person. The book does a good job of portraying the constraints women faced during that period and how Mary constantly fought against those constraints. It also did a good job of portraying her forward thinking capabilities and her unconventional thoughts and life. I did appreciate learning about her. It did feel like a well-researched book. Many are giving this book high marks, but unfortunately, I just wasn’t as enamoured with the book as others. I’m not really sure why, but by the end I just felt like I was ready to be done with it. I probably won’t be personally be recommending it, but based on the ratings by others, I feel that if you are interested in feminism and historical fiction, you might be interested in reading this.

I did listen to the audio version and felt the reader did a fine job.

My Rating: 3 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Flatiron Books (May 25, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 25, 2021
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 280 pages

Find You First by Linwood Barclay

Book Blurb:

Tech millionaire Miles Cookson has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of—except time. He has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is a fifty percent chance that it can be passed on to the next generation. For Miles, this means taking a long hard look at his past . . .

Two decades ago, a young, struggling Miles was a sperm donor. Somewhere out there, he has kids—nine of them. And they might be about to inherit both the good and the bad from him—maybe his fortune, or maybe something much worse.

As Miles begins to search for the children he’s never known, aspiring film documentarian Chloe Swanson embarks on a quest to find her biological father, armed with the knowledge that twenty-two years ago, her mother used a New York sperm bank to become pregnant.

When Miles and Chloe eventually connect, their excitement at finding each other is overshadowed by a series of mysterious and terrifying events. One by one, Miles’s other potential heirs are vanishing—every trace of them wiped, like they never existed at all.

Who is the vicious killer—another heir methodically erasing rivals? Or is something even more sinister going on?

It’s a deadly race against time .

My Thoughts:

It’s been a while since I’ve read Linwood Barclay, but he’s an author I’ve always enjoyed. This one was no exception. I actually found this one a little more interesting because it has some interesting subject matter not usually found in a suspense type of book. The main character was a sperm donor at one point in his life and finds out he has Huntington’s disease and wants to try to track down any children he might have fathered. Although those records are supposed to be sealed, don’t the offspring have a right to know because it can also effect any children they may have? Interesting to ponder. That’s just the beginning because then it gets more interesting as lives are at stake. This book is fast-paced and keeps you engaged.

The audiobook version of this was a fun one to listen to.

My Rating: 4 Stars

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ William Morrow (May 4, 2021)
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ May 4, 2021
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 444 pages