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THE DOLL FUNERAL: A Novel ~Kate Hamer

Monday, August 21st, 2017

After reviewing THE GIRL IN THE RED COAT, I was a bit hesitant about this book.  I was so in empathy with the young mother who’s daughter had been adducted and I had to keep turning the pages to find the outcome and release.  THE DOLL FUNERAL is also a well-written book and very captivating, but certainly not of the intensity of the first book I read.  It was actually a relief that it was more of a fantasy story- the imagination providing survival.

A couple that has lost their own baby has adopted Ruby.  The new mother is not a strong person and the new father is very abusive to Ruby.  As this child becomes a teenager she is searching for answers about her birth family, which, she believes will find her or come to her if she just believes this to be true.  Ruby is acting out and often using fire to make her point perfectly clear.  With grandmother’s death she does not feel that she has a comrade or any answers, but she continues to recite ideas that this kind person shared from her cottage deep in the forest.  We are treated to little tidbits of ALICE IN WONDERLAND.

“[Hamer’s] fascination with the thresholds between childhood and adulthood, sanity and insanity, chosen and blood families, and her subtle understanding of the clean, often disturbing logic of childhood morality, evoke both Jeanette Winterson and Ian McEwan . . . This is an elegiac and uplifting novel about the indissoluble bonds between mothers and daughters and a reminder of how the imagination can set you free.” —Melanie McGrath, The Guardian

There is quite a substantial amount of presence by a shadow figure, which it is a long way into the read before one realizes, like Ruby, that she is able to see the dead.  In essence her mother does come to her in a vision of a car hitting a tree and a woman in a yellow dress.  When Ruby has been badly beaten by her father and put on a train to an aunt’s house, she finds a way to run away and it is in the forest that she encounters a huge old house and children who have been abandoned by their parents on an old commune.  Tom and Elizabeth are doing the best that they are able and they invite Ruby to stay with them in their huge house.  This arrangement works okay until the wandering parents stop sending funds and a fox kills all the chickens in their coop – the cold winter is upon the reader and the story.

We are treated to Ruby’s parent’s story as part of the backstory and we learn about her beginnings as Ruby does and this makes for quite unique story telling.  The love of the forest is quite a dominant theme and all the changes the locals have to make as mining ends and there is no work in the woods.

A very unique coming of age story with lots of little confusing moments that make the reader work a bit to figure them out and guess what will happen next, while still developing an intensity in the story.  I think Hamer is  quite the writer and I am very happy that her work is making it’s way onto our local scene.   Another 5 star read for sure – I can highly recommend THE DOLL FUNERAL.

The title did not excite me and I thought it was a weak part of the story line and not as well prepared, or as subtly worked into the story, or well resolved in the conclusion.

About the Author:

KATE HAMER is the author of The Girl in the Red Coat, which was a Costa First Novel Award finalist, a Dagger Award finalist, an Amazon Best Book of the Year 2016, and a winner of the ELLE Lettres Readers’ Prize. She lives in Cardiff, Wales, with her husband and two children. TLC Book Tours Book

Related:
The Girl in the Red Coat
The Godforsaken Daughter
Coincidence

THE SURVIVOR’S QUIDE TO FAMILY HAPPINESS: A Novel ~Maddie Dawson

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Sometimes life just leaves you all alone. Feels just awful but what is a gal to do? If you are Nina Popkin you just start searching out new goals and pick up your spirits and charge forward.  The reader is pulled into this story of rejection and the glorious optimism and worry of Nina until one is immersed in the possibility of a happy ending.

THE SURVIVOR’S QUIDE TO FAMILY HAPPINESS is actually a story about 3 women and the choices they are making that will guide their future.  Nina’s plight is the grounding to the whole adventure, as in her 30s her mother dies of cancer, her 6 months marriage is now a divorce, and her best friend and boss is newly married and very happy.  Since Nina was adopted she begins her future by deciding to track down her birth mother, and help a recently divorced father of 2 teens find a condo and move out of the family home.  These two events bring out Nina’s sharp wit and also her sadness, which she is working through with a sense of maturity and “klutz”.

Soon in the process, Nina discovers she has a sister; arranges to meet her and she starts dating the fellow with the two teens.  New sister resists tracking down her birth mother or forming a relationship with Nina.  The two girls do look alike and Lindy has beautiful red hair and not the curly, frizzy hair that Nina supports; they discover they lived close to each other growing up and even attended the same schools.  This encounter stirs up feelings for Lindy and makes her responses to her mom tense and confusing.  Lindy is trying to live the “perfect” life, as has no room for these new feelings.

Indigo the teen daughter adds a new voice to the situation as she develops a “Must do” list of rather dangerous adventures and uses magic markers to color her hair.  Lots of hair referrals in this story!   And yet, her “gutsy” demanding demeanor gets the two sisters relating to each other and figuring out some solutions to who they are and what actions they need to accomplish to find resolution.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story telling and wandering within the feelings exposed.  I liked the outcome and results and how the girls handled themselves within their discoveries.  Everyone found a good solution and was left better off as the story unfolded.  THE SURVIVOR’S QUIDE TO FAMILY HAPPINESS was a good read.  Thank you to TLC Book Tours  and Lake Union Press for sharing this book with me.

“Maddie Dawson grew up in the South, born into a family of outrageous storytellers. Her various careers as a substitute English teacher, department-store clerk, medical-records typist, waitress, cat sitter, wedding-invitation-company receptionist, nanny, day-care worker, electrocardiogram technician, and Taco Bell taco maker were made bearable by thinking up stories as she worked. Today she lives in Guilford, Connecticut, with her husband. She’s the bestselling author of four previous novels: The Opposite of Maybe, The Stuff That Never Happened, Kissing Games of the World, and A Piece of Normal.” (TLC Tours)

Maddie Dawson Website
Maddie Dawson Facebook
Maddie Dawson Twitter

Related:
A House for Happy Mothers
Two From Isaac’s House
The Light Between Oceans

ECHOES OF FAMILY: A Novel ~Barbara Claypole White

Monday, September 26th, 2016

“A Brit living in North Carolina, Barbara Claypole White writes hopeful family drama with a healthy dose of mental illness.  Her debut novel, THE UNFINISHED GARDEN, won the 2013 Golden Quill Contest for Best First Book, and THE IN-BETWEEN HOUR was chosen by the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance as a Winter 2014 Okra Pick.  Her third novel, THE PERFECT SON, was a semifinalist in the 2015 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Fiction. (Cover)

Marianne is a mature woman who suffers with Bipolar Disorder and other mental health issues.  She also runs a successful recording studio with her husband Darius and her adoptive daughter Jade.  They all work and enjoy music together on Marianne’s property in North Carolina; there is a state of the art studio.  Marianne has not been suicidal for an extended period of time, but due to a recent car accident she is obsessing about another car accident in which her friend Simon died and she lost her pregnancy.  She believes Simon’s brother Gabriel is taking the blame and she wishes to remedy this problem – right now.

The vast majority of the story takes place in a small British town centered on the historic church where Gabriel is the rector.  Marianne stops taking her medications and sneaks out of her house and off to the UK to help Gabriel truly understand that the car accident was her fault and not his.  They were just 16 at the time.  Marianne also needs to understand why her birth mother rejected her and why her adoptive parents did not reject her.  They did move the family to the United States after the accident and after Marianne had a big “incident” in the community, as mental illness was becoming a new problem.

It does not take long for Jade and Darius to figure out where Marianne has gone and they too are soon part of Gabriel’s life as this family takes over his life, his house and all his time.  There are some wonderful, delightful British characters in the story and as Marianne ends up in a private mental hospital there are connections made, which have interesting consequences.

The story holds the reader’s attention with plenty of details and descriptions and one can certainly identify with the frustrations that mental illness brings to situations.  There are several happy endings and one difficult one to bring the story to a good conclusion.  I liked the included book group question section and there is a great interview with the author included.  A very good read and I am going to suggest it to my book group to add it to the list. A sensitive treatment of Bipolar Disorder and an engaging read.

TLC Book Tours  sent me an e-copy for reading and review.

There is a 100 e-copy giveaway on Goodreads for this book!

Barbara Claypole White On Facebook
Barbara Claypole White Twitter

Related:
A Piece of Sand, A Grain of Rice
The Isolation Door
Mind Without A Home

CUCKOO’S CALLING: A Cormoran Strike Mystery (book I) ~Robert Galbraith

Monday, February 2nd, 2015

“It’s a psychological term.  The Johari window.  It’s all to do with how well we know ourselves, and how well other people know us.”  (Kindle page 360 of 550)

CUCKOO’S CALLING is a book group book that is from my personal library and it was just great fun to read.  A second Cormoran Strike Mystery will be released in June of this year and I think I will put it on my list, just because the writing is so good and this book was full of intelligent words and ideas and it did not feel like a 50-minute television drama at race speed.

Cormoran Strike is a great character who has been released from the military after losing his one leg in the war in Afghanistan.  He is working his own Private Investigation firm but is down to one client and struggling to procure clients.  He is overwhelmed and in walks a new temporary office manager, Robin, who proves her worth within the first hour persuading a new client to use the service.  Robin snags this new client who can pre-pay for his assignment and Strike is off and figuring out if a fashion model committed suicide or was pushed off the balcony of her apartment.  The reader is right in the middle of fashion shoots, the contemporary music scene, temperamental movie directors, and the very distinctive world of the wealthy in London.

Can one succeed as a PI taking the public transportation system and working day by day on a limited budget?   Robin is smart and thoughtful and job hunting for a permanent position, will he be able to keep her on or have to let her go?  Strike’s fiancé makes matters worse by kicking him out of the apartment they share and breaking up.  Can a PI live on containers of Pot Noodles, sleep on a camp cot, and spend his nights in the office undetected?  Can he get the answers he needs from the world of high fashion design and the drug and alcohol imbibing young people who work in this area?

I would recommend this book to all who enjoy good writing, intelligent writing, or people who enjoy a story that is not a formula story.  I would highly recommend this book to those who love mystery, suspense reading.   Although, I figured out the answer to the main question of the story very early on, the other sub-themes were very interesting to explore and probe and just as it was getting very interesting the twists were fabulous and diverting and I doubted my conclusion.  CUCKOO’S CALLING is a very good read, top – notch story telling and inspired me to think about reading the new book out in June.

Thank you LIZ for picking this read for our group to share and enjoy.  Good winter escape read and very entertaining.

About the Author:

“Robert Galbraith is a pseudonym for J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry potter series and THE CASUAL VACANCY.” (from the Kindle cover)

Related:
In Doubt
Accidents of Marriage
The Fixer 
Coincidence