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My Mother’s Silence–devastating secrets

My Mother’s Silence

by Lauren Westwood

My Mother's SilenceI find genres and categories useful up to a point. When it comes to Lauren Westwood’s My Mother’s Silence, the designator “Women’s Fiction” seems to fail. It is definitely fiction, but I think a lot of men would like it too. The subtitle is A Gripping Page-Turner Full of Twists and Family Secrets. I usually associate “gripping” in this context with a thriller, a genre which doesn’t usually attract me. I am happy to report that “gripping” in this case could be defined as a plot that draws you in more and more tightly as you progress. It is full of secrets, life altering secrets—bombshells that explode after lying dormant for fifteen years.

Skye Turner leaves the little Scottish town of Eilean Shiel to fulfill her dream of making it big as a songwriter and musician in America. She carries a heavy weight, however, as her twin sister Ginny has passed away, and it is presumed that she slipped off a cliff and drowned. Skye returns home at the urging of her brother Bill. She hopes to be able to work things out with her mum and her brother, but she arrives to find her mother in mental disarray. Things don’t add up about her sister’s disappearance or the car accident Skye was in on that same evening.

Skye is not a perfect woman, but it seems she has made a lot of decisions based on the lies was fed. She tries to uncover and untangle the fabrications and piece them together with the help of a former DCI who is renting a cottage from her mother.

This book has a Christmas setting that is incidental to the plot but provides a reason for the family to gather. Westwood weaves a web with her amazing storytelling skills. The reader needs to discover what happened to Ginny as much as Skye does. Some romance is woven into the story as old boyfriends and new are included as important threads. There are several mysteries to be solved and parts of the book can claim to be called police procedural. Without a doubt, this book is a page-turner that made me glad I escaped from my comfort zone to find a new happy place.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Bookouture for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

Notes: Sprinkling of vulgar language

Publication:   November 11, 2019—Bookouture

Memorable Lines:

…the land doesn’t care that I once went away, or that I’ve come back again. My life is small, my little dramas and struggles unimportant against the vastness of sea and sky.

But there’s something about this land that gets in your blood. Even when I thought I might never come back, I still felt the pull of this place. No matter where I was in the world, if I listened hard enough, I could hear the whisper of home.

I can still remember what it’s like to be in a teenage strop. That feeling of isolation—that everyone else in the entire world is against you and complete morons to boot. But it’s only worth keeping up as long as there’s an audience.

A Son for the Mountain Firefighter–a firefighter’s struggles

A Son for the Mountain Firefighter

by Melinda Curtis

A Son for the Mountain FirefighterHonesty first! I know very little about firefighting. I had read one novel about a wildfire prior to reading A Son for the Mountain Firefighter. In traveling, I have seen groups of enthusiastic firefighters stopping for lunch on their way to fire camps. Of course, there is the occasional TV show with burning buildings, but they are pretty far removed from mountain firefighting. Melinda Curtis’ Mountain Firefighter Series contains an interesting blend of  romance and firefighter procedural.

Handsome Jackson Garrett, nicknamed “Golden” because of his luck, has demons to face: his status as a husband and father and his fear of fire after losing a rookie firefighter on his crew. Curtis takes us behind the scenes to see how hard the firefighting life is on the family back home and the difficulties of fighting fires fueled by dry foliage and fickle winds. We experience the firefighters’ camaraderie as well as the isolating necessity to show no weakness.

Although I was at times uncomfortable reading about fires, I learned a lot about the subject, which I consider a real plus. I enjoyed the characters who were realistically portrayed as simultaneously weak and strong. It was a fairly quick read and so interesting that I didn’t want to put it down. Now I’m looking forward to reading Twins for the Mountain Firefighter that focuses on Jackson’s best friend Logan, AKA Tin Man, a name given him by a “particularly disappointed woman” who “publicly proclaimed Logan to be lacking a heart.” 

I would like to extend my thanks to Melinda Curtis for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Action

Notes: #1 in the Mountain Firefighter Series—clean and heartwarming

Publication:   February 24, 2020—Purple Papaya Press

Memorable Lines:

“Love is about feeling closer to your partner than to anyone else on the planet. Feeling so close that you know what it is they need. And needing to be with them more than you need to breathe air.”

Oh, his anger. It tested her strength like a gust of cold, winter wind.

Not the honest sweat from clearing brush, but the cowardly sweat that clung to the body as tightly as the fingers of death.

Snowflakes over Holly Cove–reconciliation

Snowflakes over Holly Cove

by Lucy Coleman

Snowflakes over Holly CoveTia is facing her first Christmas without her mother. She also has a painful distancing from her brother Will and his family. She is returning to her job as a journalist after a breakdown, but as we see her take on a feature assignment in isolated Holly Cove, she is depicted as a strong and resilient woman.

As Lucy Coleman’s Snowflakes over Holly Cove unfolds, Tia finds herself in the middle of other familial dysfunctional relationships that include Clarissa, her successful but manipulative boss, and Nic, the owner of the house she is renting. She also meets Max, a reticent retired Navy officer who is her temporary neighbor. Everyone has secrets, and some of those secrets might tie the characters together.

There are many interesting, vying, plot threads as Tia interviews couples for her feature articles and tries to sort through what makes a relationship sustainable. The story ends with some surprising action scenes and lots of genuine moments of compassion and reconciliation. This is a novel that rises above the typical Christmas feel-good story; readers will appreciate its depth.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Aria for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Publication:   September 18, 2018—Aria

Memorable Lines:

Strangely, I find myself repeatedly drawn to the window to marvel at the hostility of the sea. It’s a top to bottom, wall-to-wall steely greyness, that is like a blanket and it’s hard to see where the water ends and the sky begins.

“Money and possessions, I came to appreciate, create mistrust and envy. They bring out the worst in people.”

I truly believe that the spirit of Christmas is embodied in this room, today. It’s not about the gifts, or the amount of money you have to lavish on the occasion. It’s about the desire to make it special for other people and in doing so, it makes it special for you, too.

The Healing Jar–challenges that require patience

The Healing Jar

by Wanda E. Brunstetter 

The Healing JarExamples of difficult situations and decisions abound in Wanda E. Brunstetter’s The Healing Jar along with positive, Godly responses to those circumstances. Frequently the characters pray and then continue with their daily activities as they wait on God to answer their prayers by changing their circumstances or their hearts. Often He acts in surprising ways.

The main characters in these stories are all connected to the Amish Lapp family, and they all independently stumble on prayer jars hidden on the Lapp property. What remains a mystery to the young ladies, until a discovery in this book, is who accumulated Scriptures and heartfelt petitions to God on slips of paper in old canning jars.

The matriarch of the Lapp family is Mary Ruth. The other main character in The Healing Jar is her granddaughter Lenore Lapp who longs to be a wife and mother. The story of Sara, a granddaughter who was not raised Amish, continues in this book as she tries to discover the identity of her biological father. Michelle, who in an earlier book pretends to be Sara, finds happiness in her conversion to the Amish way but faces challenges when her husband wants to move away from her new family and friends.

I enjoyed this gentle book and recommend this trilogy to those who are interested in learning more about Amish life and customs and to readers looking for romance with a Christian focus. I do think this series should be read in its entirety and in sequence as it is very character based. Perhaps because of the way the series builds and the closure this book provides, it is my favorite of the three books.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Christian, Literary Fiction

Notes: #3 in the Prayer Jar Trilogy. I recommend it, but not as a standalone.

Publication:  August 1, 2019— Barbour Publishing (Shiloh Run Press)

Memorable Lines:

“We must learn to trust the Lord, even with things we don’t understand. As we go through troubled waters, it should strengthen, not weaken, our faith. And remember, dear one, prayer is not a business transaction. We don’t give something to get something in return.”

It was frustrating how a person could think they had worked through a situation, even felt peace about it, and then out of the blue, the pain of it all came right back to haunt them.

“It just goes to show that even when people make terrible mistakes, God can take a negative situation and turn it into something good.”

I Owe You One–the power of guilt

I Owe You One

by Sophie Kinsella

I Owe You OneI have read and enjoyed a number of books by Sophie Kinsella who is perhaps most famous for her Shopaholic series. Then I read one that just didn’t have the same zing and humor, so I entered I Owe You One with some trepidation. I am pleased to report that Kinsella’s latest book lives up to her standards and my expectations. At first I was a little concerned there would be too much predictability. The main character’s name is Fixie, derived from her penchant for fixing things ranging from the placement of objects to personal relationships. OCD is definitely in play as she struggles not to rearrange things or declare her every thought. As Fixie’s high school heartthrob reenters her life, the reader is watching a foreseeable train wreck: “No, Fixie, don’t do it!”

The plot leaves the anticipated pathway soon after with lots of surprises in store. It does not focus solely on Fixie’s love life. Fixie also struggles with family relationships which are closely tied with the family business. You will like Fixie if for no other reason than she tries so hard in everything she does. She feels like a failure, is loaded with unwarranted guilt, and carries the torch for making everything turn out right and keeping everyone happy—a big burden for one person.

There are many other interesting major and minor characters you will meet, but not all of them are likable, of course. The setting is West London where the denizens range from scruffy to posh. The book flows nicely with lots of humor and is a fast and enjoyable read.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Dial Press for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Publication:   February 19, 2019—Dial Press

Memorable Lines:

When I think how I believed his version of everything, how I rationalized everything he said and did, I feel warm with stupidity. But he was so convincing.

Ryan’s pathological, I’ve realized. He says anything to anyone to get out of whatever situation he’s in. Truth doesn’t count, integrity doesn’t count, love doesn’t even figure. Yelling at him would be like yelling at a rock. It’s never going to change.

I learned that failing doesn’t mean you are a failure; it just means you’re a human being.

Night of Miracles–tales of sweetly intertwined lives

Night of Miracles

by Elizabeth Berg

Night of MiraclesOne of the most interesting things in the world is people. Elizabeth Berg created a gentle, touching world in The Story of Arthur Truluv. Then she expanded on the core characters, adding more characters that tie into one another in Night of Miracles. The chapters are short; the novel is a character driven set of tales of common people living out their interesting lives looking for meaning in the everyday circumstances and the extraordinary ones.

Arthur Truluv’s legacy of calmness and kindness lives on in the family he adopted. His neighbor Lucille’s legacy is the culinary wisdom she imparts during an age of “fast” everything. Neighbors Jason and Abby learn the importance of living in the present. Tiny and Monica learn to share the love that has been in front of them all along. The chapters bounce back and forth from one storyline to the next. This is one of those stories I had to keep reading. I read the last of the book with tissue in hand, not because it is tragic, but because there is sweet sadness in knowing that life keeps progressing toward an inevitable conclusion and we can find happiness by reaching out to share life with others.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Women’s Fiction

Notes: For those who enjoyed The Story of Arthur Truluv, this is not a sequel in the traditional sense. It takes a few of the characters from that book and builds a story around them. Although it could happen, I wouldn’t expect any more stories in this line. From my perspective the story has been told.

Publication:   November 13, 2018—Random House

Memorable Lines:

It was true what they told her on the first day of teachers’ college: you never forget some of your students. For Lucille, it was the cut-ups she could never keep from laughing at, the dreamers she had to keep reeling back into the classroom, and little Danny Matthews, with his ragged heart of gold.

At least Link loves to read. There’s always hope when a kid—or an adult, for that matter—likes to read.

All those years, and not one person that she had truly opened up to, or kept up with. Probably she expected her husband to be everything to her when it wasn’t his place to do that, even if he wanted to or could. Another thing she regrets: having made him feel that he was failing her when she was the one failing herself.

Lemons–in search of Bigfoot and love

Lemons

by Melissa Savage

LemonsLemons is a delightful chapter book intended  for children ages 8-12. As an adult, I loved it, and I will purchase it for my grandchildren.

Lemons features Lemonade Liberty Witt, a young girl whose mother has passed away. Suddenly “Lem’s” whole life is turned upside down. She meets her grandfather, Charlie, for the first time when she moves in with him. Her first friend in her new town is Tobin who founded and is president of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc.

I laughed and cried as Lem and Tobin along with Charlie and Tobin’s mother, Debbie, live out the pain of losing their respective loved ones, at different times and in different ways. They help each other in their struggles and work to make lemonade out of lemons. The relationship of Lem and Tobin and their search for Bigfoot is both humorous and touching.

I recommend Lemons for independent reading or as a story to share in the classroom or with a parent. It explores issues of grief and the aftermath of expressions of grief for both adults and children. This book shows bullying from the perspective of a child who is socially awkward and what a friend can do to help. The tale abounds with humor as the dynamic duo spend the summer getting to know each other as they search for evidence of Bigfoot.

I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Random House (Crown Books) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

Rating: 5/5

Category: Children’s Fiction (Middle Grades)

Notes: provides many opportunities for discussions about feelings and how we express them

Publication:   May 2, 2017—Random House (Crown Books)

Memorable Lines:

The wrinkles are so deep and twisty, each one is like a road map to all the different stories of her life.

[Lemon, thinking about her mother:] It’s an important name. The most important name in the whole universe. I say it out loud every day so the universe remembers how important it is, and that it still matters to someone. And also so it doesn’t disappear. Like she did.

“So we let all our sad and mad feelings take over, and instead of loving and supporting each other, we hurt each other with our words.”

The most important thing to remember is to have gratitude for those we love and those who love us. Even if it’s not for the amount of time we had expected or wished for. If you don’t, you can be washed away by the sadness.

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