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One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten- ARC Review — Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub

This is a re-blog book review from the ‘Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub’ that I found very interesting. I immediately ordered this book and am really looking forward to reading it. I thought maybe some of you might find it interesting and want to read it as well. I think it would be a very good book for discussion. See what you think. While you’re enjoying this post, you might want to check out her blog. She’s got lots of interesting things on there.

Originally posted on Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub: On New Year’s Day 2013, two-time Pulitzer Prize–winner Gene Weingarten asked three strangers to, literally, pluck a day, month, and year from a hat. That day—chosen completely at random—turned out to be Sunday, December 28, 1986, by any conventional measure a most ordinary day. Weingarten spent the next…

One Day: The Extraordinary Story of an Ordinary 24 Hours in America by Gene Weingarten- ARC Review — Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub
BOOK REVIEWS, YA BOOKS

THE NIGHT THAT OLIVIA FELL BY CHRISTINA MCDONALD

Publishing Information from Amazon.com

  • Print Length: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Gallery Books (February 5, 2019)
  • Publication Date: February 5, 2019
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English

SYNOPSIS FROM GOODREADS

In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.

When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?

Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heart wrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you? 

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My Thoughts

When I first saw this book, I knew it would be an easy read with a little mystery in it. I didn’t realize it was a YA book. I should research more carefully in the future. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t a terrible book and I’m sure that middle school and high school age children would eat it up. But for me, not so good.

The book centers around a 16-year-old high school girl named Olivia who has a terrible “accident”. Or, is something more sinister at the root of her fall? Her mother Abi, an overprotective single mother who adores her daughter and keeps a tight rein on her.

Olivia has a BFF, Madison, a boyfriend, Tyler. Madison has been a friend since they were small children and Tyler is, of course the handsome but shallow captain of the football team.

I could go into great detail about all the characters and the twists and turns this book made, but I will let you read it for yourself.

All of this is quite predictable and I had no problem figuring out how it would end. Like I stated above, it was not a terrible book, but pretty lightweight. I didn’t research it or read reviews.

The book has some redeeming features that will be evident toward the end. If you like YA books or have a teenage daughter or son that is a reader, this is a perfect book for them.

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About the Author

Christina McDonald

Christina McDonald is the USA Today bestselling author of The Night Olivia Fell (Simon & Schuster/Gallery Books), which has been optioned for television by a major Hollywood studio. Her next book, Behind Every Lie, is out Feb 2020. Her writing has been featured in The Sunday Times, Dublin, USAToday.com, and Expedia. Originally from Seattle, WA, she has an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England with her husband, two sons, and their dog, Tango.

BOOK REVIEWS, HISTORICAL FICTION

THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON BY SARA COLLINS

THE CONFESSIONS OF FRANNIE LANGTON
BY SARA COLLINS

Title: The Confessions of Frannie Langton
Author: Sara Collins
Publisher: Harper – May 21, 2019…….375 Pages

FROM THE BACK COVER
No one knows the worst thing they’re capable of until they do it . . .
“All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, who is accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey.

The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore. Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, or how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood, even if remembering could save her life.

But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship.
Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.

The Confessions of Frannie Langton is a breathtaking debut, a murder mystery that travels across the Atlantic and through the darkest channels of history. A brilliant, searing depiction of race, class, and oppression that penetrates the skin and sears the soul, it is the story of a woman of her own making in a world that would see her unmade.”

THE STORY

The book opens at Newcastle Prison in London, England, where Frannie Langton is on trial for the premeditated murders of her Master and Mistress, George and Marguerite Benham. She faces the death penalty. Frannie maintains she has no memory of the incident.

Frannie has been taught to read and write by Langton in order that she could help him with his scientific “experiments”. She was educated, which was rare for a woman of color in that day and age. She longed to write; and, while awaiting her fate in prison she wrote her memoir.
Frannie begins her memoir from her childhood in Jamaica to her arrival in London. She chronicles her years as a slave in Jamaica and the “scientific” atrocities she was forced to be witness and participate in while she was there. Langton, her master in Jamaica, was working with another very well known and respected scientist. They were working on the same project. I shall not, at this point, reveal the subject of these experiments. I will let you read this book if you have a mind to. Trust me when I say, they are macabre & frankly sickening.

Langton subsequently offers to gift Frannie to the more well-known scientist, Benham and they travel to London. Upon arriving, Frannie works as a servant under the supervision of the house manager, who hates her. However, shortly after arriving, she has caught the eye of Marguerite Benham, Meg as her friends refer to her and becomes Meg’s lady maid. The two of them become extremely close friends much to the chagrin of the house manager and the Master George Benham. Frannie tends to Meg’s every need. And I want to stress “every need”.

I’m going to stop here so as not to post any spoilers. Anymore detail would be an injustice to future readers of this magnificent book It’s a must-read book and you will not be disappointed.

MY THOUGHTS

This wonderful book not only addresses the subject of slavery in both Jamaica and England, but also it brought to my mind the prejudice that is still in existence today targeting anyone who is “different”.

I was born and reared in Louisiana. I now reside in Arizona. I am also of the advanced age that I remember segregation very well. Not only in our schools but on public transportation. They had to go to the back of the bus. Also at the lunch counters, restrooms and water fountains. The list goes on and on. I had children that I did my best to dissuade from that kind of attitude in which I was saturated as a child. I think I did a pretty good job. Those children now have children of their own who have also been taught that prejudice is wrong and will not be tolerated.

Far be it for me to suggest that this attitude does not exist today. Sadly, it does. We can only hope that through education and the instruction of tolerance, we have hope for a better tomorrow.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sara Collins is of Jamaican descent. She studied law at the London School of Economics and worked as a lawyer for seventeen years before doing a Master of Studies in Creative Writing at Cambridge University, where she was the recipient of the 2015 Michael Holroyd Prize for Creative Writing. She lives in London, England. The Confessions of Frannie Langton is her debut novel, and was shortlisted for the Lucy Cavendish Prize.

LITERARY FICTION

LADDER TO THE SKY BY JOHN BOYNE

John Boyne knocks it out of the park again. This is another masterpiece. The protagonist “Maurice Swift”, from a very early age, longed to be a famous, best-selling author. There’s one problem, Maurice cannot come up with stories. He has no imagination. So, what does he do you might ask. He uses his good looks and charm to cozy up to successful story-tellers by however means necessary. He is asexual. Even though he is distractingly handsome, to both men and women, he cares nothing for sex. He uses his sexuality on both men and women throughout this book. He tramples on everyone on his way up the ladder to success. I believe he is what we’d call today a psychopath. He leaves broken and hurt associates all along the way. However, the higher we climb, the farther we have to fall.

John Boyne is one of my favorite authors. Every book I have ever read by him has been brilliant. He just simply knows how to develop a story with characters you will never forget.

If you haven’t read this book, run, do not walk to your nearest bookseller and buy a copy. I have full confidence you too will be hooked like I am.

John Boyne (born 30 April 1971 in Dublin) is an Irish novelist.

He was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, where he won the Curtis Brown prize. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters by UEA.

John Boyne is the author of ten novels for adults and five for young readers, as well as a collection of short stories.

His novels are published in over 50 languages.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, which to date has sold more than 7 million copies worldwide, is a #1 New York Times Bestseller and a film adaptation was released in September 2008. Boyne resides in Dublin. He is represented by the literary agent Simon Trewin at WME in London, United Kingdom.

MAGICAL REALISM

The Angel In My Well – by Kevin Ansbro

This was another excellent book written by the wordsmith Kevin Ansbro. It is a short story that opens at the funeral of Joe (the protagonist and narrator) for his grandmother. Joe and his grandmother are extremely close and Joe falls into a deep depression after the funeral. He sits around for some time not cleaning, eating properly or pretty much anything that normal people do.

Joe’s grandmother appears to him in human form as much younger, from the well at his house. Joe realizes that she was a very beautiful woman when she was young. He takes her to shop for some appropriate clothing and they prepare for a night on the town. She charms everyone she comes into contact with.

This story also has an alternate plot involving a Muslim man and his dire plan. I was perplexed about how this story relates to the beautiful story told of Joe and his grandmother. But, I had total confidence in Kevin Ansbro and his ability to create a perfect merging of the two stories. Of course, he did not disappoint.

This is a beautifully written short story that relates to a personal loss that I suffered through when my grandmother passed away. She had been my primary caretaker while I was growing up and when she passed away I was devastated.

About the Author

I was born of Irish parents, and have lived in Malaysia and Germany:
My formal education was at Hamond’s Grammar School in Swaffham, and at the Norfolk College of Arts and Technology (Stephen Fry being a much more famous former student).
I write in the magical realism genre, meshing otherworldliness into the harshness of our real world. I also like to handcuff humour and tragedy to the same radiator.
Perhaps incongruously for an author I have a background in karate and kickboxing. I also travel extensively – particularly in the Far East.
I’m married (to Julie) and currently live in Norwich, England.
Stuff about me: I’m a foodie and an avid reader who values good manners, love and friendship above all else. I am constantly putting my foot in it, am reputed to have a wicked sense of humour and love to laugh, but sometimes do that ‘snorty pig’ noise when I do!
I’m also easy-going and extremely friendly. Come on over and have a chat – I’ll put the kettle on!

PSYCHOLOGICAL THRILLERS

Lies by TM Logan

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“I often wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t seen her car that day. If the light had been green instead of red. If my son had been dozing, or daydreaming, or looking the other way. If I’d been five seconds faster in the stodgy London traffic, or five seconds slower. If, if, if. But I did see her car.”

Above is the opening for the book Lies by T.M. Logan. This was a psychological thriller. I have read another book by Logan “29 Seconds” which I loved. I looked forward to reading Lies and it did not disappoint.

The book opens with Joe driving through London traffic after picking up his four-year-old son, Will, from daycare. Ben spots his mum’s car. Melissa, or Mel for short, disappears into an underground garage at a hotel. Joe and Will follow and go into the hotel, where they witness Mel in a heated discussion with Ben. Ben is the husband of Mel’s best friend, Beth; however, Ben and Joe do not get along as well as Mel and Beth.

Joe waits in the garage for Ben or Mel to come out. Ben comes out first and Joe questions him about his meeting with Mel and the intensity of it. Ben, who is known for his quick temper, gets very angry and shouts at Joe. It evolves into a physical confrontation. Being much larger than Ben, Joe pushes him down very easily. Simultaneously, Will, who is an asthmatic, starts to have a severe attack with no “puffer” in sight. Joe leaves Ben there to rush home and take care of his son, vowing to come back as soon as he can and make sure Ben is all right. When Joe does go back to check on Ben, he is gone.

When Mel arrives home, Joe questions her about her volatile meeting with Ben. She at first denies even having a meeting and then makes up a credible lie about the subject. To make matters more complicated Ben’s wife Beth reports her husband as missing, thereby involving the police.
From that point forward, more and more lies are being told by everyone involved, one after the other. Everyone is lying about something. Joe is subsequently dragged into a murder investigation due to Ben’s missing person status.

Then off we go on a ride with lots of twists and turns. I did guess how this would end very late in the book, but it kept me guessing and sitting on the edge of my seat until the very end. This was a terrific book. I gave it 4* instead of 5* because a couple of times, I felt like I was reading the very same sentence or phrase in two places. Other than that, I recommend to all, especially psychological thriller fans.

About the Author

Tim was born in Berkshire and studied in London and Cardiff before becoming a national newspaper journalist. He currently writes full-time and lives in Nottinghamshire with his wife and two children.

His debut thriller Lies (2017) sold more than 350,000 copies and was one of Amazon’s biggest selling e-books of 2017. Together with his second standalone thriller, 29 Seconds (2018), his books are now published in a dozen countries around the world including the USA, South Korea, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Poland, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and the Netherlands.

HISTORICAL FICTION

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne

John Boyne never fails to blow me away.  Anything he writes is phenomenal.  This book was no exception.  I doubt that I can come anywhere close to describing how much I enjoyed this book, but I will try. 

Meet Cyril Avery.  He is the illegitimate son born to a teenager in Dublin, Ireland.  She is shamed by the entire village where she resides.  Thrown out of her parents’ house and shunned by the entire community, Cyril is put up for adoption.  Charles, an extremely wealthy good-for-nothing except chasing women, adopts Cyril.  Charles’ wife, Maud is a reclusive novelist whose greatest fear is writing a book that is successful thereby bringing attention is brought to her.  His adoptive father, Charles, basically ignores Cyril except when he is reminding him that he is adopted.  Not a true member of the family. 

Charles has an attorney who has a son that befriends Cyril at the age of seven.  Julian Woodbead is also seven, but is much worldlier than Cyril.  Cyril and Julian are lifetime friends. 

The book follows Cyril from his birth and moves in intervals several years apart through his life.  It was thought provoking for me and reminded me that everyone at one time or the other in their lives pretend to be someone they are not.  Most of the time they do this because of  self-loathing or fear. 

This book brought many emotions for me.  I felt pain, loss religion, and prejudice among several others.   Simply put, John Boyne never fails me.  He is one author that I always look to when I want a good book where the characters are developed and the descriptions are vivid. 

If you have not read The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne, you have missed a great read. I’ve read several really good books in 2019, but this one remains my favorite.

About the Author 

John Boyne was born in Ireland in 1971 and is the author of seven novels for adults and three for children. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas won two Irish Book Awards, was shortlisted for the British Book Award, reached no.1 on the New York Times Bestseller List and was made into an award-winning Miramax feature film. His novels are published in over 45 languages. He lives in Dublin.