Terese’s Thoughts: The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

First Line: “I remember, in no particular order:
–a shiny inner wrist;
–steam rising from a wet sink as a hot frying pan is laughingly tossed into it…”

Summary: Tony has lived a relatively unremarkable yet comfortable life and is now retired. He was married and divorced, but remains friends with his ex-wife. They have a good relationship with their adult daughter who now has a family of her own. After receiving a letter notifying him that his former girlfriend’s mother has left him a couple of things in her will, Tony begins a journey of reflection and reexamination, thinking back on his youth—his idealism, his friends, and the brief but formative relationship he shared with Veronica. This piece of mail also puts him back in touch with Veronica, whom he finds as enigmatic, frustrating, and exciting as when he was young.

My Thoughts: You know how you can be staring out the window and to an outsider it may look like you’re doing nothing but really there’s a lot happening behind the eyes? That’s a bit what this book is like. It is a man, past his middle-age, ruminating. The action is mainly of the thinking variety. And I’ve been thinking about Tony and his life and my life and how much you can know yourself or another person ever since. But because I’m also a simple being who is completely satisfied in life with a beverage and a good meal, this book also makes me want to take myself out to dinner at a cozy pub and order a bitter and fish & chips.

FYI: I’ve just now discovered that this book was turned into a movie with a stellar cast including Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Once Upon a Broken Heart

Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

First line: The bell hanging outside the curiosity shop knew the human was trouble from the way he moved through the door.

Summary: Evangeline Fox believes she has found her true love until the day she discovers that he is going to be married to someone else. In the hopes of stopping the wedding, Evangeline makes a dangerous deal with the Prince of Hearts. All he asks of her is three kisses to be given at a time of his choosing. But Evangeline learns quickly that making a deal with a Fate is not as easy as it seems. The Prince of Hearts appears to have a plan for Evangeline that could lead her to her happy ending or her doom.

My Thoughts: From the cover to the description to the world of Caraval, this book was excellent! I was desperately awaiting its release. I loved Stephanie Garber’s first trilogy. And when I learned that this new one is set in the same universe I knew it was going to be just as wonderful.

The story feels like a fairy tale. It has beautiful characters, magic and dark twists. You do not have to have read the Caraval series to understand this book but I highly recommend it. Several characters and references are made to the other trilogy. One of my favorite parts of Garber’s writing is how descriptive and beautiful it is. There are lots of colors, patterns and imagination. It is not like anything else I have read.

I love her characters as well. She always has a strong female lead. But best of all, as a reader you can never tell who to trust and what they are going to do next. Some characters, such as the Prince of Hearts, may appear to be bad but what if he’s not? Or is he? In the world of Caraval not everything is as it seems.

FYI: First book in a new series by Stephanie Garber.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife

Katharine Parr, the Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

First line: Katharine was five when death cast its black shadow over her life.

Summary: Katharine Parr, the sixth and final wife of King Henry VIII of England, grew up as a simple country gentry but she made several advantageous marriages. However, each husband died early leaving her a widow and childless. Then when she meets the handsome brother to the late queen, Jane Seymour, she believes she has found the love of her life.

But fate has different plans. Katharine catches the eye of the King of England. With the hopes of swaying the king towards the new faith, Katharine accepts his proposal. With her marriage comes the enmity of the Catholic faction at court. Bishop Gardiner and his men are determined to bring down Henry’s new queen.

My Thoughts: I liked this book. I liked how we got a look into Katharine’s early life. Many of the books about her center around her time as queen and afterwards but very little on her first two marriages. I enjoyed learning a little more about her time before the throne and how she became a strong proponent of the new religion, Protestantism.

Katharine is one of my least favorite queens. Her story is not very exciting and centers around religion a lot. She did much for the reformists in the court and even became the first woman to publish a book under her own name in English. It is quite an achievement. Alison Weir did a great job giving all the queens in her series a new life and bringing more of their stories to readers. I will be anticipating her next collection of books.

FYI: This is book six in the Six Tudor Queens series.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Every Vow You Break

Every Vow You Break by Peter Swanson

First line: She first spotted him at Bobbie’s Coffee Shop on Twenty-Second Street.

Summary: Just days before her wedding to millionaire, Bruce Lamb, the one night stand from her bachelorette weekend shows up trying to convince her to not go through with the wedding. She tries to ignore his attempts but then he appears at her wedding too. But she thinks that his stalking is over until he appears at the secluded island on her honeymoon. Does she tell Bruce or try to solve the situation on her own?

My Thoughts: When I looked at the rating for this book I was kind of surprised that it was so low. I found the book to be rather enjoyable with lots of dark and twisted moments. I found it to be more like an eighties horror movie than psychological thriller. And part of that can be found that several reveals were rather predictable. But I had a lot of fun reading it nonetheless.

Even though the island is supposed to be secluded and good for getting away from technology it also seems rather scary. You are secluded. On an island. With little communication. What if something bad happens? Well this book answers that question. And it was thrilling and scary.

FYI: Language, death, infidelity.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Nature of Fragile Things

The Nature of Fragile Things by Susan Meissner

First line: Interview with Mrs. Sophie Hocking conducted by Ambrose Logan, U.S. Marshal

Summary: When Sophie Whalen, a young Irish immigrant, answers a personal ad for a wife and mother to an man in San Francisco she sees this as an opportunity for a better life. She leaves her life in tenements of New York City for a man she has never met. Upon arrival she finds her new husband to be distant but she immediately falls in love with her step-daughter, Kat.

However, on a fateful evening a woman shows up on her doorstep with a story that throws her world into chaos. As these women decide what to do with their new information, tragedy strikes in the form of the largest natural disasters in California history. They must survive the earthquake, its aftermath and the secret that they now hold.

My Thoughts: Susan Meissner is a wonderful writer. She brings to life stories of remarkable women. I can always tell she does lots of research and builds intricate lives for her characters. I enjoyed the story, the history and the ending. It was a wonderful twisting plot with little surprises.

I was not too familiar with the events of the San Francisco earthquake. This was one of the main reasons I picked to read this book. It gave me a little bit more insight into what it must have been like. Having now experienced minor earthquakes here in Kansas, I cannot imagine having to live through one such as this.

And as always there is a little twist at the end which just makes the book that much better.

FYI: Perfect for fans of Kate Quinn and Marie Benedict.

What’s Ashley Reading?: I Found You

I Found You by Lisa Jewell

First line: Alice Lake lives in a house by the sea.

Summary: When Alice notices a man sitting on the beach behind her house in the rain she wonders what he could be doing there but decides not to get involved. Several hours later he is still sitting there. When she takes out a coat to the man she starts to talk to him and learns that he has lost his memory. With no idea who he is or how he ended up on the beach, Alice invites him to stay in her guest house for the night.

Lily Monrose has been married for three weeks. Her husband loves her very much but one night he does not come home. The police look into who he is and where he might have gone. As they search they discover that her husband, Carl Monrose does not exist. Lily is determined to find her husband and get some answers.

My Thoughts: I enjoy everything I have read by Lisa Jewell. Her books have a fun mystery with twists and turns. The story always moves along quickly with intriguing characters and situations. However, I was a little disappointed in this one. I enjoyed the story but it was really predictable. I kept hoping that the ending would have an OMG moment like her newest books have had but it did not. It wrapped up nicely and everyone ended up “happy”.

I did enjoy the characters and the events of the book. I really liked the flashbacks to 1993. It was dark and disturbing. It was the typical Lisa Jewell. Maybe I need to stick to her newer books rather than trying some of her older ones. But if you like a good story than this is one.

FYI: We have an audio version available on Hoopla.

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Perfect Wife

The Perfect Wife by J. P. Delaney

First line: You’re having that dream again, the one where you and Tim are in Jaipur for Diwali.

Summary: When Abbie wakes up in a hospital bed she has no memory of how she got there. There is a man who tells her she is his wife and that something terrible happened to her five years before. And through his determination and technological advancements he was able to bring her back. She is the prototype for a new technology called CoBots.

As Abbie acclimates to her new life she starts to wonder what happen to the real Abbie. Using Abbie’s memories, old text messages and the built in intuition she follows the clues to find out how and why Abbie disappeared.

My Thoughts: This was a lot of fun. It was modern day science fiction thriller. At the beginning there is a separate narrative by an unknown character who gives us a look into the past and the real Abbie. I was constantly trying to figure out who it was and I never would have guessed. I like the idea of being able to “bring back” someone who has died but it is also a little sad. I know that there is one person I would love to “see” again but this may make it harder too.

So many different scenarios were flying through my head while trying to figure out the ending. There were lots of twists and turns which make it a great psychological thriller.

FYI: Check out Delaney’s other books Believe Me and The Girl Before.

What’s Ashley Reading?: American Duchess

American Duchess by Karen Harper

First line: Everyone was calling it the wedding of the century.

Summary: Consuelo Vanderbilt, the American heiress to the railroad empire, is marrying the future Duke of Marlborough. However, she is in love with someone else and is being forced into the marriage by her strong willed mother, Alva Smith Vanderbilt. The marriage is an unhappy one but Consuelo hopes to use her influence as the Duchess of Marlborough to help the lower classes living around Blenheim Palace.

My Thoughts: I have been a reader of Karen Harper for many years. I really enjoy her historical fiction even though she seems to elaborate her narratives a bit. Her most recent novel was a fast read about one of the American heiresses whose money helped sustain the British aristocracy. Having recently read, A Well-Behaved Woman by Therese Anne Fowler, I was familiar with the Vanderbilt family at the turn of the nineteenth century.

Alva was a force to be dealt with but it sounds like her daughter learned a lot from her mother. I loved hearing about Consuelo’s life and the way she tried to improve her circumstances and those of the poor. I cannot imagine living her life though. She was forced into a marriage, had unimaginable wealth and was very unhappy for many years. Harper does a great job of breathing life into her characters. I loved “meeting” Winston Churchill. As with most historical novels, I googled many of the locations and people to see what they really looked like. This was a fun romp through the Gilded Age and into the time of the world wars.

FYI: This is perfect for fans of Downton Abbey!

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Only Woman in the Room

The Only Woman in the Room by Marie Benedict

First line: My lids fluttered open, but the floodlights blinded me for a moment.

Summary: Hedy Kiesler was a young actress in Austria in 1933 when she meets Fritz Mandl, a munitions manufacturer. Her parents urge her to marry him in order to keep her safe with the threat of Nazi Germany looming over much of Europe. However, married life is not what she imagined. After fleeing her husband and the coming war, she travels to Hollywood and becomes the famously beautiful, Hedy Lamarr. As the path to war progresses, Hedy is determined to help save as many people as she can, even with very unconventional ways.

Highlights: Going into this novel I knew next to nothing about Hedy Lamarr. The one interaction with her was on the show, Timeless. I think this is one reason that I devoured this book. I did not know what to expect. Many authors have been taking readers back to the golden days of Hollywood but this is by far my favorite! Marie Benedict does a fantastic job of blending truth and fiction.

Hedy is not the normal Hollywood actress. She had other interests and was very intelligent. Her work on the guidance systems for torpedoes was leagues ahead of anyone else. It took months of work but she was not taken seriously by the men of the time. The technology is still used today in cell phones! Even though she has been called the most beautiful woman in the movies she wanted to be defined by more than that.

“Let me understand.  You are turning down our invention—which would have made your fleet unsurpassed in ocean warfare—because I’m a woman?  A famous one that you’d rather have shilling war bonds than helping build effective systems?  I can do both, you know—sell bonds and assist with your torpedoes, if that’s what it takes.”

After finishing her story I picked up the documentary, Bombshell, which goes past Benedict’s narrative but is a great companion to it. As with all the other Hollywood stories, I had to interlibrary loan several of Hedy’s movies. I cannot wait to watch them!

Lowlights: At first I was irritated that we spent such a long time in Austria and centering around her life with her husband as I read though the pacing made more sense. When Hedy arrives in the United States, she feels the guilt of leaving behind her loved ones. In addition, the knowledge she gains from her time with her husband help inform her for her inventions. I was sad that it ended so soon when there was still so much of her life to live but I think that now I have had time to reflect that the author made a good choice of ending it where she did.

FYI: If you enjoyed this than try books by Susan Meissner and Melanie Benjamin.

**Release date: January 8, 2019**

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Other Woman

There are so many good book clubs out there!  We have 3 here at the library.  Joyful Page Turners, our longest running book club.  Bemused Bibliophiles, our hot and popular book club.  And last but not least, Hauntingly Good Reads, our paranormal book club. I love to see how each club is expanding, adding new members and picks a wide variety of books.

It is great that we have options but sometimes it is not always easy to make it to a meeting.  Or you are an introvert who likes to read but not talk.  I have found several online book clubs that I like to follow.  I read the book and can chat on websites like Goodreads.com about my thoughts without leaving home.  The most recent one I have checked out is Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine book club.  Her book for November is The Other Woman by Sandie Jones.

The Other Woman by Sandie Jones

First line: She looks beautiful in her wedding dress.

Summary: Emily thinks she has found the perfect man in Adam. He is handsome and smart. However, she has a rival. His mother, Pammie, is determined to keep Emily and Adam apart. Will Emily be able survive a mother’s love?

Highlights: Debut author, Sandie Jones, brings us a psychological thriller with the mother-in-law from hell! Emily meets the man of her dreams and everything seems perfect until she meets his mother. I immediately hated Pammie. She was terrible to Emily in every interaction. She was so smooth about everything. However, the closeness of Adam and Pammie seemed almost too close. I started to doubt my theories after each interaction. I was a little surprised by the ending. It was one of the options I had considered but it was still shocking to read it.

Lowlights: I kept getting mad at Emily too. Is he really worth all this mental torture from his mother? She keeps sticking around and taking it. Why? I did like it when she tried to stand up for herself rather than just letting it go.

FYI: Did you like this?  Try Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris for something similar!