Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman

Book Description:

Published: March 29, 2005

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Through these interconnected narratives more than a dozen men and women learn how love transforms us and how it is the one lasting element in our lives.

With “incantatory prose” that “sweeps over the reader like a dream,” (Philadelphia Inquirer), Hoffman follows her celebrated bestseller The Probable Future, with an evocative work that traces the lives of the various occupants of an old Massachusetts house over a span of two hundred years.

In a rare and gorgeous departure, beloved novelist Alice Hoffman weaves a web of tales, all set in Blackbird House. This small farm on the outer reaches of Cape Cod is a place that is as bewitching and alive as the characters we meet: Violet, a brilliant girl who is in love with books and with a man destined to betray her; Lysander Wynn, attacked by a halibut as big as a horse, certain that his life is ruined until a boarder wearing red boots arrives to change everything; Maya Cooper, who does not understand the true meaning of the love between her mother and father until it is nearly too late. From the time of the British occupation of Massachusetts to our own modern world, family after family’s lives are inexorably changed, not only by the people they love but by the lives they lead inside Blackbird House.

These interconnected narratives are as intelligent as they are haunting, as luminous as they are unusual. Inside Blackbird House more than a dozen men and women learn how love transforms us and how it is the one lasting element in our lives. The past both dissipates and remains contained inside the rooms of Blackbird House, where there are terrible secrets, inspired beauty, and, above all else, a spirit of coming home.

From the writer Time has said tells “truths powerful enough to break a reader’s heart” comes a glorious travelogue through time and fate, through loss and love and survival. Welcome to Blackbird House.

Review –

“With a dozen stories, some more clearly connected than others but all set in the same farmhouse on Cape Cod from the time of the British blockade to the present, Hoffman (Blue Diary, 2002, etc.) creates a continuous narrative built up through a sense of place.

Blackbird House was built “On the Edge of the World” by a fisherman lost, along with his younger son, during what he’d hoped was to be his last sea voyage before settling down to farm. “The Witch of Truro” is actually Ruth, a desperate orphan who finds love and security with a kindly one-legged blacksmith on the farm. When Ruth’s husband dies years later, her daughter buries “The Token” to help her recover. These stories lean heavily on symbolism—fire, water, the color red, a white blackbird—but Hoffman has grown in subtlety, so that the recurring motifs and occasionally heightened realism work nicely within the book’s structure. At the center, three interlocking stories follow Violet, a bookish farm girl. She falls in love with a visiting Harvard professor who ends up marrying her prettier sister—but not before impregnating Violet. Violet marries a good man and happily raises three children on the farm. The oldest, unaware of his paternity, wins a scholarship to Harvard and leaves Cape Cod. When he dies in Europe years later, Violet brings home his son to raise. That grandson returns from WWII with a Jewish wife, a Holocaust survivor ready to meet the challenge of Violet’s fierce love. In the ’50s and ’60s, unhappiness hovers over the farm: murder, resentments, suicide. But in the concluding pieces, about a family that must rebuild itself after confronting a child’s bout with leukemia, the farm becomes a source of love and renewal. While family names come and go (and sometimes reappear), the farm undergoes its own evolution.

A quiet but deeply moving achievement of lyric power.” Kirkus Reviews

This book was a wonderful way to spend a few hours on an other wise dreary day and you’ll have to read or listen to it to find out the significance of the book cover.

 

 

The Coroner(Jenny Cooper #1) by M.R. Hall

Book Description:

Published: February 1, 2009

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

When lawyer Jenny Cooper is appointed Severn Vale District Coroner, she’s hoping for a quiet life and space to recover from a traumatic divorce, but the office she inherits from the recently deceased Harry Marshall contains neglected files hiding dark secrets and a trail of buried evidence.

Could the tragic death in custody of a young boy be linked to the apparent suicide of a teenage prostitute – and the fate of Marshall himself? Jenny’s curiosity is aroused. Why was Marshall behaving so strangely before he died? What injustice was he planning to uncover? And what caused his abrupt change of heart?

In the face of powerful and sinister forces determined to keep both the truth hidden and the troublesome coroner in check, Jenny embarks on a lonely and dangerous one-woman crusade for justice which threatens not only her career but also her sanity.

Review –

Jenny Cooper is appointed Coroner for the Severn Vale district and soon realises that her recently deceased predecessor, Harry Marshall, has been running the office in a haphazard way. She finds files hidden in desk drawers and discovers serious flaws in the handling of the death in custody of a teenage boy. The discovery of a link between the young boy’s death and the suicide of Katy Taylor, a teenage prostitute suggests a conspiracy extending to the death of the former coroner himself.

I found this  book a fascinating insight into the role of the coroner, although the duties may differ site to state and country to country) Hall is a former criminal barrister and I don’t think I’ve come across before the level of detail he provides about the coroner’s role in England and Wales . The descriptions of the village halls, the visits to the mortuary and process of holding an inquest were well written and completely believable. This was also true of the descriptions of bureaucratic delays and petty prejudices that flourish in such environments.

I also liked the central protagonist, Jenny Cooper. She seemed a realistic character although whether anyone can take so many tranquilizers and imbibe that level of alcohol without killing themselves is open to question. I thought her troubled relationship with both her ex-husband and her son to be particularly convincing and am sure that this has been  explored further subsequent  books.

The book was an excellent read and I can understand why it was so well received. I’ve already planned to get a hold of a copy of The Disappeared, the second book in the series and I’m looking forward to seeing the characters develop.

 

Total Exposure (Jordan’s Game #1) by J.A. Huss

Book Description:

Published: January 16, 2018

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 5

The spotlight is my enemy.
The cameras are my cure.

Jordan Wells says he can help me. Heal my soul and fix my fear so I can perform on stage again to a sold-out crowd. His game gives me a reason to go on, but his price is total exposure.

The stranger watching my every move is anonymous.
Or is he?
The daily notes he leaves seem familiar. His unreasonable requests bring out all my hidden fears. And then one night in the dark… his touch is everything I ever wanted.

It was supposed to be a guaranteed win.
A way to move past the performance anxiety.
One less thing to worry about in a sea of dreadful things to worry about.

But what we do in the secret anonymity of night might be more frightening than anything else.

Because I like it. And I want more of it. And I’m willing to give up everything just so I can play this game forever…

Review –

Jordan is the mastermind behind what is taking place in this book, manipulating people for his own desires, but the romance here is not his. It’s Ixion’s and Evangeline’s. And if two people ever needed one other, it’s these two. One loves to watch. One fears being seen. Yet somehow, they work perfectly together.

Ix is sinfully wealthy, a voyeur into the lives of those around him, but we never gain a full picture of this man until the end. I almost feel the need to listen to this book again, knowing now what I do and seeing him in an entirely different light. But Evangeline, she was an open book. A child prodigy who never progressed into normal adult relationships and continued to fear people watching her, whether it was because they wouldn’t see her true self, or because they would, and would find her lacking.

I did find myself a bit confused with the backstory of Ix and Jordan and what exactly took place to create the tension between them, but this didn’t impact my enjoyment of the present and the growing obsession between Evangeline and her “Watcher”. I loved the taboo aspect of the intimacy with an unseen stranger. And I loved the little twists and turns that I didn’t see coming.

This story was totally unexpected. It was devious and manipulative and erotically charged. JA Huss is a master of playing with her reader’s mind, and I for one, love the game.

 

Be My Brayshaw (Brayshaw High #4) by Meagan Brandy

Book Description:

Published: June 2, 2020

Format: Audio/Audible

Stars: 4

Cross one, cross all.”

That’s the Brayshaw way.

She should have realized this before sliding into our world with secrets too big to bury.
She didn’t and now the target is on her back.

The day her lies came crashing down, I should have forced her out.
Instead, I locked her in, and with the promise I would never be hers.

I resisted, fought against us.
I caved.

I tasted what became my newfound favorite flavor and fell hard for the little liar.

But then the depth of her treachery reveals itself, and with it a reminder.

Our town is a twisted place, and with truth comes trouble.

In the blink of an eye, my world is split at its core, and I’m faced with an impossible decision, one that leads to a single outcome…

Betrayal.–
This is Captain Brayshaws book and the fourth book in the Brayshaw series.

Review –

Be My Brayshaw picks up right where Reign of Brayshaw left off and was honestly full speed ahead the entire time. Every twist and turn was mind-blowing, and just when I was like okay, things are going to happen this way, it was like a bomb would drop and what I thought was going to happen didn’t. Like I said EPIC.

I don’t know what it is about the Brayshaw men, but I can’t get enough of them. I loved that we got to see Raven and Maddoc living their lives they were destined to live. And Royce, ugh I love him and his sense of humor cracks me up! The relationship that Captain, Royce, and Maddoc have is honestly so beautiful. No questions asked if one of them needs the other, they’re there. They’re there even if they aren’t needed to speak just to be in silence. That silent support was amazing. And getting to see them work together again AMAZING!

Don’t even get me started on Victoria. I LOVE HER. I wasn’t sure what to expect out of Victoria but seeing her with Zoey was a highlight for me. Her love for Zoey,(Captain’s child with another girl) was evident from start to finish, and the things you learn about Victoria in this book will shock you, but in the best way. Her past is one I never expected, but she is a kick butt heroine and it’s awesome to finally get her story. All in all, this book deserves all of the praise and is one of my all-time favorite books now.

The world of Brayshaw is one that I cannot get enough of, and I swear that every book is even better than the previous. While I absolutely LOVED Raven and Maddoc’s story, I have been looking  forward to Captain’s. The quietest of the Brayshaw’s, there was always something about Captain that I needed more of and Meagan delivered in an EPIC way.

Another fantastic win for author Meagan Brandy!

 

Victim 2117 (Department Q #8)by Jussi Adler-Olsen

Book Description:

Published: March 3, 2020

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

In the heart-pounding next installment of the New York Timesand #1 internationally bestselling Department Q series, a terrifying international investigation reveals the complex backstory of one of the department’s own–the enigmatic Assad.

The newspaper refers to her only as Victim 2117–the two thousand one hundred and seventeenth refugee to die in the Mediterranean Sea. But to three people, the unnamed victim is so much more, and her death sets off a chain of events that throws Department Q, Copenhagen’s cold cases division led by Detective Carl M�rck, into a deeply dangerous–and deeply personal–case: a case that not only reveals dark secrets about the past, but has deadly implications for the future.

For troubled Danish teen Alex, whose identity is hidden behind his computer screen, the death of Victim 2117 becomes a symbol of everything he resents and the perfect excuse to unleash his murderous impulses in real life. For Ghallib, one the most brutal tormentors from Abu Ghraib, Saddam Hussein’s infamous prison, murdering Victim 2117 was the first step in a terrorist plot years in the making. And for Department Q’s Assad, Victim 2117 is a link to his buried past–and a clue that the family he assumed was long dead may still be alive.

With the help of the Department Q squad–Carl, Rose, and Gordon–Assad must finally confront painful memories from his years in Syria and Afghanistan in order to hunt down Ghallib. But with the clock ticking down to Alex’s first kill and Ghallib’s devastating attack, the thinly spread Department Q will need to stay one step ahead of their most lethal adversary yet if they are to prevent the loss of thousands of innocent lives.

Review –

“When down-at-the-heels freelance reporter Joan Aiguader first gets a look at the 2117th refugee to die at the Barcelona shore while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, he’s inspired by the dead woman to put aside thoughts of his own suicide and cover her death. The story turns out to be much bigger than he thinks, for Victim 2117 has been stabbed to death, not drowned, and Joan’s laughably incomplete reportage gets him put under strict orders to dig up the rest of the story within two weeks. For Hafez el-Assad, of Department Q, Victim 2117 means much more. He recognizes her from Joan’s picture as Lely Kababi, the woman who sheltered his family years ago and became a second mother to them. Deeply shaken by her murder, Assad is finally moved to share with DI Carl Mørck, the head of Department Q, some crucial details about his past, from his links to Iraq’s notorious Abu Ghraib prison to his real name, Zaid al-Asadi, so that they can take steps against the plot Assad is certain is unfolding. For Abdul Azim, the terrorist now known as Ghaalib, Victim 2117 marks the first step in an epic plot of revenge against the West in general and Assad in particular. And for Alexander, an obsessive video game player, Victim 2117 is the trigger that informs him that once he’s claimed his 2117th victory in “Kill Sublime,” it’ll be time to murder his parents and then go out into the streets of Copenhagen and continue the carnage. Only a wizard could sustain all these plotlines and manage the shifting connections among them, and Adler-Olsen (The Scarred Woman, 2017, etc.) delivers inconsistently on their extravagant promise. But readers hooked by Assad’s fatal tango with Ghaalib or the news that Mørck, now 53, is about to become a father again will keep reading compulsively and do their best to shift gears with the grimly multifoliate story.

Adler-Olsen supplies everything you could possibly want from a thriller and much, much more.” Kirkus Reviews
This was by far, the most action packed, action driven of the series so far. Loved it!!

The Heart Keeper by Alex Dahl

Book Description:

Published: July 19, 2016

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars:4

Critically acclaimed author Alex Dahl explores how love can turn darkly sinister when a desperate mother looks to reconnect with her lost daughter in this riveting Norwegian set psychological suspense novel.

Two mothers. Two daughters. One heart.

When Alison’s beloved daughter Amalie drowns, her world turns impenetrably dark. Alison tries to hold it together throughout the bleak Fall, but in the darkest days of the Norwegian Winter she completely falls apart.

In another family, Amalie’s passing is a new beginning. After years of severe health problems, young Kaia receives a new heart on the morning after Amalie drowns. Her mother Iselin has struggled to raise Kaia on her own and now things are finally looking up. She’s even made an affluent new friend who’s taken a special interest in her and her daughter.

Alison knows she shouldn’t interfere, but really, she’s just trying to help Iselin and Kaia. She can give them the life they never had, and by staying close to them, she can still be with her daughter. Kaia is just like her, and surely, something of Amalie must live on in her. As her grief transforms into a terrifying obsession, Alison won’t let anything stop her from getting back what she has lost.

Review –

Told by two suffering mothers, this sad, wild, alarming tale from Norwegian author Dahl is all too plausible and predictable.

Alison and her husband are grieving over the drowning of their five-year-old daughter, Amelie. Alison is close to losing it, despite therapy and her heavy use of pills and alcohol. Meanwhile, Iselin, a single welfare mother, has waged a seven-year battle caring for her daughter, Kaia, who was born with a life-threatening heart problem. Then Kaia receives a new heart from a girl who drowned. As she begins to blossom into a happy, active child, Iselin’s burdens lift. When Alison hears about the phenomenon of cellular memory whereby organ recipients can take on characteristics of donors, she becomes obsessed with finding the bearer of Amelie’s heart. On learning it’s Kaia, she quickly insinuates herself into Kaia and Iselin’s life, as best friend, benefactor—and keen observer of Kaia’s emerging Amelie-isms. To Alison it’s clear: Kaia is more her child than Iselin’s, and she alone deserves the girl. This psychological thriller may also be a horror story, but one that feels natural—if utterly unhinged. 

It’s an emotional tale and it may happen to an extent more than we know, because I’m sure the newspapers/media doesn’t alert the world every time a heart recipient  is stalked by the family of a donor. Very thought provoking.

 

Hunkering Down

Between my right shoulder giving me fits and the SNOW STORM OF ALL TIMES, I’ve just been keeping warm under blankets and drinking hot cocoa mixed into my coffee and reading and listening to books.Since the first wave hit last Saturday night I’ve read or listened to 11 books and many of them five stars.

We were lucky enough to never having lost power but our furnace did quit a time or time but luckily my hubby was able to get it started again. He had lights hanging  in place to keep pipes and the hot water heater from freezing, so I can just imagine our next gas bill.

Today for the first time temperatures rose above freezing and by Tuesday it’s forecast to be 60!!!!!   I can’t wait.

Anyway, my shoulder is much better today thanks for some old pain pills I had for a tooth extraction last summer and Ibuprofen. It was so bad yesterday (couldn’t move it at all) I called and made an appointment to see an orthopedic surgeon , but all I want is a shot of cortisone.

So, I hope everyone out there is warm and cozy and didn’t experience too much hardship due to the snow storms. I’ll be posting  soon so stay tuned.

By popcorn317 Posted in Books

Laces (Boys of Hawthorne Asylum #1) by Tempi Lark

BookDescription:

Published: January 21, 2021

Format: Kindle

Stars: 4

Welcome to Hawthorne Asylum.

Welcome to hell.

This place isn’t run by the doctors who make you talk or the orderlies who force you to swallow your pills.

It belongs to them, to the Infamous Four.

Tabloids, talk shows, documentaries—their faces have been plastered everywhere. Not because of their impressive rap sheets, but because of how they look.

And when I arrive, they take notice. Especially their king: Lincoln “Laces” Caster.

He’s dark and disturbed.

He’s controlling and possessive.

The exact kind of boy I should stay away from if I want to clear my name and get out of here.

* This is an upper-YA bully romance not intended for readers under seventeen. This book may contain triggers for some readers.

Review –

Gambrielle witnessed something horrific done by her stepfather and no one believes her because he is a prominent DA. There is a trial and she is sent to Hawthorne Asylum by a judge.

There is meets Laces aka Lincoln Caster, who on the surface is BIG TIME CRAZY. he spends most of his day sketching drawings of women naked, dead and worse. His two friends Reyes and Thorne are CRAZY in their own right too.

Laces has the staff, especially a certain nurse, under his thumb and gets most of the things he wants, sex, alcohol etc. But, he also wants Gambrielle and she wants nothing to do with him.

Her abusive stepfather, Joe, has been abusing Gambrielle and her sister Elizabeth since they were very young and their mother did nothing to stop him because he gave her a big house and money to spend. Elizabeth is dead and it’s Gambrielle’s goal to prove that her stepfather killed her.

There is a way to get a day pass and she is bound and determined to get to Elizabeth’s room and find her journal hoping some answers will be found.

The ending is a complete jaw-dropping CLIFFHANGER and the next book won’t be released for a while and I cold hav screamed when I found that out. I want to know what happens next NOW !!!!!!

Fantastic read full of teen angst, deception,cruelty,bullying,darkness and hope, but there are also moments of sweetness and humor.

 

One by One by Ruth Ware

Book Description:

Published: september 8, 2020

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Stars: 4

The #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Turn of the Key and In a Dark Dark Wood returns with another suspenseful thriller set on a snow-covered mountain.

Getting snowed in at a beautiful, rustic mountain chalet doesn’t sound like the worst problem in the world, especially when there’s a breathtaking vista, a cozy fire, and company to keep you warm. But what happens when that company is eight of your coworkers…and you can’t trust any of them?

When an off-site company retreat meant to promote mindfulness and collaboration goes utterly wrong when an avalanche hits, the corporate food chain becomes irrelevant and survival trumps togetherness. Come Monday morning, how many members short will the team be?

Review –

“By the numbers, the streaming app Snoop is devastatingly successful, and the company is on the cusp of a major buyout—if the shareholders vote to take this route. The founders, Topher and Eva, are torn, and the other three shareholders are being courted to choose sides. Most of the pressure falls on Liz, an awkward outlier when compared with the glamorous, beautiful people who head up the company. Though she doesn’t work directly for Snoop anymore, Liz is included in the leadership retreat: It’s her and eight other board members at a lush, remote French ski chalet for a little powder, a little pampering, and a little back-channel business. Erin and Danny, the caretakers of the chalet, notice tension among the members of the Snoop group from the beginning, but overall it seems like just another wealthy, entitled corporate gathering. The weather on top of the mountain grows increasingly dangerous, and when nine people go out to ski and only eight return, fear and suspicion begin to grow. Then there’s an avalanche, and the chalet is cut off from contact with the outside world. Soon, another group member dies, apparently poisoned, and then another is murdered because of something she saw. The survivors must split up to search for help before there’s no one left. Alternating chapters between Liz’s and Erin’s points of view, Ware does what she does best: Gives us a familiar locked-door mystery setup and lets the tension and suspicion marinate until they reach fever pitch. Another win for Ware and her adaptations of classic mystery traditions.

The solution is maddeningly simple but the construction, simply masterful.” Kirkus Reviews

I loved the book but the Snoop app thingie got on my nerves. Why I don’t know for sure, but every time is was mentioned it was like nails on a chalkboard. As for figuring out the identity of the killer, it could have only been one of two people, and finally the reader was made certain who the culprit was.  All in all, a very enjoyable read.

 

 

Washed in Blood (Heaven’s Guardians MC #1) by Ashley Lane

Book Description:

Published: June 29, 2019

Format: Kindle

Stars: 5

Blinded by anger, the man who had sworn to protect me,
shot me in a fit of rage when I was only sixteen years old.

He thought he killed me.
But my job wasn’t finished yet.

My days are spent as President of the Heavens Guardians MC.
Nights are spent searching for the scum of the earth.

Rapists, Murderers, Pedophiles.
They all answer to me.

I thought I’d seen it all.
Thought my heart couldn’t be any darker.
Thought I knew exactly how far I was willing to go.

Then a battered and broken woman was found behind our clubhouse,
and I realized, I’ve never had a clue about the monster that lurks within.

They may call me Priest,
but I’d sell my soul to the devil before I let anything take her away from me.

Review –

Priest/Kingston was murdered at the age of sixteen while defending his innocent girlfriend, but it wasn’t his time as according to the angel Azreal, he still had a purpose.  (I know that sounds like a paranormal premise, but it isn’t). Twenty years later, he is the president of a vigilante-type MC club.  I absolutely adored Priest.  He is strong, intelligent, and loves fiercely.  He has a great sense of loyalty towards his fellow MC brothers and has dedicated his life towards serving justice against those who prey on others.  When he encounters Willow, he feels a sense of calm when near her, but he also feels deep-seated protectiveness towards her.  I loved how caring and loving he was towards her.

Willow is a heroine whose story is sure to pull at your heartstrings.  She is only twenty years-old and has already led a long and difficult life. Even having endured so much in her short life, she never stops fighting.  She is a survivor and continues to persevere even when it seems like she will never be able to stop running.  Trust is hard to come by, but she starts to feel safe with Priest. 

I loved watching Priest and Willow’s relationship develop.  The author did a great job in making the reader feel that undeniable connection between them.  There are moments of tenderness between them as well as some pretty hot sex scenes.  The secondary characters are also well developed and I  enjoyed learning about the dark pasts of each of the MC members.

Washed In Blood is not for the faint of heart.  It is a book full of action and suspense.  It is fast-paced and will leave you flipping the pages to find out what happens, but also dreading the moment the book ends because it is that good. There are scenes of violence and abuse (not between the hero and heroine).  This is the debut novel by this author and I am thoroughly impressed with her style and quality of writing as well as the intricate plot.  I loved the characters and how this book is not your typical MC romance. 

Near the end I was brought to tears and that has NEVER happened to me before while reading or listening to a MC contemporary romance. This author is fantastic.