Barbara Delinsky – Sweet Salt Air: A Novel

36. Sweet Salt Air: A Novel by Barbara Delinsky (2013)
Length: 404 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 13 July 2016
Finished: 18 July 2016
Where did it come from? From Paperback Swap
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 11 July 2016
Why do I have it? I like contemporary fiction and have read and enjoyed several books by this author in the past.

On Quinnipeague Island – just off the coast of Maine – hearts open up under the summer stars and secrets float in the sweet salt air. Nicole and Charlotte had once been the best of friends. Spending summers together at Nicole’s island home off the coast of Maine was an idyllic time for both of them, but sometimes memories – no matter how sweet they are – cannot last. Too many years and too many secrets have begun to color the women’s friendship and have succeeded in keeping them apart.

Charlotte is a successful travel writer who spends most of her time on the road. She is single, but is happy living as she does – on the road and out of a suitcase. Nicole is a food blogger who keeps house in Philadelphia; and she has been happily married to her surgeon husband Julian for the past ten years. When Nicole is commissioned to write a book about island food, she decides to invite Charlotte back for one final summer, to the place where the women had spent so many idyllic summers together – Quinnipeague, Maine.

To Nicole’s mind, this could prove to be the perfect partnership between them. Outgoing and passionate, Charlotte has a gift for engaging people – talking to them and making friends with everyone she meets. Nicole could use her own expertise to interview the locals. So, dearly missing a genuine connection with her former best friend, Charlotte eagerly accepts Nicole’s invitation.

Yet what both women don’t realize is that they are each holding on to secrets that may change their lives forever. For Nicole, what comes to light could possibly destroy her marriage, but it could also help save her husband’s life. For Charlotte, the truth could ultimately cost her Nicole’s friendship, but the revelation could also give her a second chance to find love again. And Charlotte’s second chance for love may lie with a reclusive local man, with a heart to soothe and troubles of his own.

First of all, let me say that I genuinely enjoy reading anything by Barbara Delinsky – she certainly can write an intriguing story and creates well-developed, sympathetic characters. Having said that, I must also admit that Ms. Delinsky has a tendency to be a bit of a hit-or-miss author for me. Perhaps I have mentioned this before, but some of her work seems slightly over-written and tremendously – if minutely – detailed.

This particular story was certainly interesting and an enjoyable reading experience for me. However, I would also say that it was slightly longer than I thought that it needed to be to tell the story. In my opinion though, this story was still well worth reading. I would still give this book a definite A!

A! – (90-95%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Anita Shreve – Fortune’s Rocks: A Novel

35. Fortune’s Rocks: A Novel by Anita Shreve (1999)
The Fortune’s Rocks Series Book 1
Length: 453 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Started: 7 July 2016
Finished: 13 July 2016
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 30 October 2001
Why do I have it? I like historical fiction and have read and enjoyed several books by this author in the past.

Olympia Biddeford is the only child of a prominent Boston couple. She is a precocious, well-educated young woman – alive with her own radical opinions and flush with the initial stirrings of maturity. On a beach in New Hampshire at the turn of the twentieth century – at a spot known as Fortune’s Rocks – she spends her summers with her family at their vacation home. This particular summer will undoubtedly be a life-changing one for her; marked by the arrival of John Haskell – a doctor and a friend of her father’s, whose new book about the plight of mill-town laborers has caused a sensation among those in well-to-do Society.

Olympia, herself, is thoroughly captivated by this man – by his intellect, his stature, and his drive to do right – even as she is overwhelmed for the first time by an irresistible sexual desire. She and the doctor – a married man, a father of four, and someone who is nearly three times her age – come together in an unthinkable, torturous, yet hopelessly passionate affair. So, Olympia casts aside any sense of propriety and self-preservation, plunging forward into a disastrous relationship that will ultimately have cataclysmic results. And the price of straying in such an unforgiving era is incredibly steep.

As Olympia is cast out of the only world she has ever known, she suffers the consequences of her choices. This is a profound and poignant story about unwise love and the choices which can transform a life. It is also the story of a remarkable young woman – her determination to reinvent herself and mend her broken life – and claim the one thing she finds she cannot live without.

I must say that I have always enjoyed reading anything by Anita Shreve – in my opinion, she is an absolutely wonderful author – and this book was no exception. Despite having read this book twice before, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. To me, this was a story that poignantly showed just how someone’s choices can affect so many more people than just that one person; everyone suffers from the consequences of someone’s personal choices – just like the ripples on a pond. Anyway, I would definitely give this book an A+!

A+! – (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Whitley Strieber – Unholy Fire

34. Unholy Fire by Whitley Strieber (1992)
Length: 327 pages
Genre: Horror
Started: 2 July 2016
Finished: 6 July 2016
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 10 October 2007
Why do I have it? I like horror and have read and enjoyed The Forbidden Zone by the same author in the past.

Father John Rafferty is a dedicated priest, yet he also struggles mightily against the temptation presented to him by one of his beautiful young parishioners – a seductive young woman whom he regularly counsels. Despite faltering in his faith, he nevertheless takes the tenants of his vocation very seriously, and so Fr. Rafferty ministers to those among his parishioners who desperately need his help. As he continues to counsel this troubled young woman, he has no idea how much his faith will ultimately be tested by his confrontation with true evil.

After he discovers the woman’s horribly mutilated body in front of the altar of his own church, Fr. Rafferty quickly becomes the prime suspect in her murder. However, as the death toll rises, he begins to suspect that someone close to him – someone with a very obvious and deep-seated hatred of the church is targeting his parishioners in their malevolent killing spree. Yet as each murder increases in brutality, Fr. Rafferty slowly begins to realize that he is battling against something truly diabolical.

As homicide detectives Kitty Pearson and Sam Dowd investigate the case, they struggle to reconcile the evidence that they find with the range of potential suspects. Although all the evidence that the detectives uncover seems to point toward a psychotic murderer, their primary suspect appears to be a dedicated, holy man – a man who seems utterly incapable of inflicting such severe brutality. Sometimes, though, such appearances can be deceiving…

First of all, let me say that this type of story always intrigues me. I’m not sure what it is exactly; maybe it’s the supernatural style of the horror, the mysteriousness of the plot, or maybe even the involvement of the Catholic Church, but I thoroughly enjoyed this story. I’m delighted to say that the story itself held my attention all the way through in an unexpected way. I would definitely give Unholy Fire by Whitley Strieber an A!

A! – (90-95%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Alice McDermott – Charming Billy: A Novel

33. Charming Billy: A Novel by Alice McDermott (1998)
Length: 243 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 27 June 2016
Finished: 1 July 2016
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 21 November 2001
Why do I have it? I like contemporary fiction and Alice McDermott is a new author for me.

The people who knew and loved Billy Lynch the best have all come to comfort his widow Maeve, and to eulogize a man whom many considered to be one of the last great romantics. From all accounts, the late Billy Lynch was such a wonderful man – a man who was an extraordinarily unique soul. As forty-seven members of his funeral party gather together at a local Bronx bar to reminisce over their memories of the past; each trading their own tales of his legendary humor, immense charm, and deepest, most profound sorrow – Billy Lynch will be remembered most by the people whose lives were touched by his presence.

As the mourners linger on into this extraordinary evening, their voices will eventually blend together to tell Billy’s own tragic story. What is finally revealed to all present is a complex portrait of an enigmatic man; a loyal friend, a beloved husband, a functional alcoholic. While Billy’s loved ones continue to hold Maeve in the highest esteem and admire her strength, there are those among the mourners who cannot remember Billy without also recalling the source of his unfathomable grief and sadness: “There was that girl.” Their various stories weave together to become a gentle homage to all the lives in their close-knit community fractured by grief, shattered by secrets, yet sustained by the simple dream of love.

In a voice that is resonant and full of deep feeling, Alice McDermott tells the tale of Billy Lynch within the complex confines of a tightly knit Irish-American community. Charming Billy is a poignant masterpiece about the unbreakable bonds of desire and memory. Ms. McDermott’s striking novel, is an intricate study of the lies that bind and the weight of familial love, of the way good intentions can be as destructive as the truth they were meant to hide.

I must say that I really enjoyed reading this book. In my opinion, this was a poignant and well-written story; one that I found both intriguing and intricately detailed. Having said that, I will admit that I found the book somewhat confusing with regards to some of the relationships between the characters and the frequent shifts back and forth between the past and the present. I would still give this book an A! and am happy to note that I have three or four more books by this author on my bookshelf.

A! – (90-95%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Ripley Enterprises, Inc. – Ripley’s Believe it or Not!: Ghost Stories and Plays

76. Ripley’s Believe it or Not!: Ghost Stories and Plays by Ripley Enterprises, Inc. (1968)
The Ripley’s Believe it or Not! Series Book 6
Length: 126 pages
Genre: Horror
Started: 28 November 2015
Finished: 29 November 2015
Where did it come from? From Bookmooch
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 25 November 2015
Why do I have it? I like horror and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! is a new series for me.

Each of these spine-chilling tales of ghosts, goblins, and ghouls is absolutely, one hundred percent true. Would you believe that a ghost would leave a map to a fifty-million-dollar silver mine? Is it possible that love could bring a dead woman back to life? Could a skeleton shoot its own murderer?

Every one of these stories may seem totally beyond belief, yet they actually happened. In a book featuring sixteen eerie stories, nine spooky plays and twenty pages of ghostly cartoons, the eminent American cartoonist and entrepreneur, Robert Ripley’s legacy of eccentricity survives. Believe it or Not!

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t know that much about Robert Ripley before I read this book. I basically recognized his name and knew that he was a newspaper columnist who specialized in strange and unusual facts. Then, several weeks ago, Mareena and I watched a television documentary about the life of Robert Ripley and the creation of Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as a worldwide phenomenon. I asked Mareena to see if she could find any Ripley’s Believe it or Not! books and she did; I’ve received two books already, and two more books are coming soon.

I have to say that this book was thoroughly enjoyable. The ghost stories and plays are all purported to be true and are based on factually historical events. In my opinion, all these stories were absolutely amazing and so interesting.

Actually, none of the stories were tremendously detailed; they were just basically abrievated accounts of odd or inexplicable occurrences. The only section that I had a slight problem with were the plays – only because I didn’t really understand how that particular style would properly portray what happened. Overall, I loved reading this book and give it an A!

A! – (90-95%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Emma Donoghue – Room: A Novel

75. Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue (2010)
Length: 361 pages
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Started: 25 November 2015
Finished: 27 November 2015
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile Since 1 June 2015
Why do I have it? I like contemporary fiction and Emma Donoghue is a new author for me.

Jack is five years old. He loves watching ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’ and ‘Dora the Explorer’. He loves playing ‘Simon Says’ and singing nursery rhymes with his Ma. He loves the candy and chocolates they sometimes get for Sundaytreat.

Jack loves his Ma. He loves Room. To Jack, Room is his entire world. Jack doesn’t really understand why Ma doesn’t love Room as much as he does.

Room is where Jack was born; it’s where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, Ma makes sure to shut him safely into the wardrobe, where Jack is meant to sleep when Old Nick visits.

To Jack, Room means home; it means safety. But to Ma, Room means prison. Room is the place where Ma has been held for the past seven years.

Yet, her fierce love for her son has made it possible for her to make a life for him. She has created a life for both of them; inside this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But Jack’s curiosity is building alongside Ma’s own desperation – and she knows for certain that Room cannot contain either for much longer.

I must say that I absolutely loved reading this book. Yes, it was an extremely difficult story to read; terrifyingly and heart-breakingly sad, but also remarkably funny in parts. In my opinion, Ms. Donoghue’s writing style is absolutely fabulous; so riveting and poignant. This book is a gripping yet hopeful story – a truly fantastic novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. I give this book an A+!

A+! – (96-100%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight

Christopher Rice – A Density of Souls: A Novel

74. A Density of Souls: A Novel by Christopher Rice (2000)
Length: 307 pages
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Started: 20 November 2015
Finished: 24 November 2015
Where did it come from? From a Library Book Sale
How long has it been on my TBR pile? Since 1 June 2015
Why do I have it? I like contemporary mysteries and Christopher Rice is a new author for me.

Meredith, Brandon, Stephen and Greg were practically inseparable as children; playing hide and seek and constantly riding their bikes together through the New Orleans woods. The four friends shared an unbreakable bond and an undeniable connection with each other that they all believed would last forever. Such strong friendship should last forever; but teenagers can be fickle.

By the time Meredith, Brandon, Stephen and Greg enter high school, something has changed within the dynamic of their friendship. Suddenly, the four young friends are living drastically different lives; and deep feelings of envy, rage, and secret passions have succeeded in tearing their friendship apart. Soon, two violent deaths irrevocably disrupt the core of what these friends once shared, and they all go their separate ways – certain that they will never see each other ever again.

Five years later, the friends are reunited with each other. And, when one of the mysterious deaths that initially drove them apart is discovered to have actually been murder, secrets once thought to be deeply buried begin to unravel. And the casual cruelties inflicted by thoughtless high school students from the past, suddenly have the potential to develop into acts of brutal violence that threaten to engulf an entire city in the present.

First of all, let me say that I initially thought that this mystery was really quite good. I wanted so much to like this book. I thought the premise was intriguing and I found myself really feeling for the characters and what they were going through. However, by about halfway through the book, I noticed that the story was starting to slide slightly off track for me.

I wasn’t quite sure why I felt this way at first, but was finally able to put my finger on the specific reason for these feelings. In my opinion, as a debut novel, this began off as an intriguing mystery and initially had such promise. However, I must say that I found Mr. Rice’s writing style to be incredibly detailed and somewhat overwritten at times – some of the overly descriptive passages were hard for me to follow. Overall, I was disappointed to discover that this book was ultimately just not my cup of tea – I had to give it a C!

C! – (70-75%)

Till we Meet Again, Glow Brightly as Moonlight