Leta’s Book Reviews

 The Trophy Child by Paula Daly

Copyright 2017    342 pages

4 stars (librarian pick)

Murder mystery about a “tiger mom” who has driven her young podigy daughter to wreckage pushing her to achieve unattainable perfection. Meanwhile, her step daughter is shunned and treated poorly…while a son lives a “stoner” life. Husband is so tormented by this crazy dangerous behavior of wife that he turns to women and booze to escape the terrible situation at home. One child runs away and then the mother comes to a tragic death. Who killed her and why ? This book really uncovers in a poignant way the power games played by family members and each their unique ways to rebel against the mother. Face paced and engaging story.

 the tea girlThe Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See

(author of Snow Girl and the Secret Fan) ( I have read six of this Chinese American author’s novels and this one doesn’t disappoint)

Copyright 2017

307 pages  4 stars

The story takes place mostly in present day China and follows a poverty stricken hill country village with their life work of harvesting tea trees.  The main character, Li-yan, rejects the village rituals and customs by having a baby our of wedlock and giving this baby up for adoption to Americans.  The book basically follows the lives of mother and daughter, both desperately seeking to find each other.  You learn fascinating information on how this village harvests their world sought after unique Pu’er tea, and how their lives change drastically as they benefit financially from its sales.  The author has done an enormous amount of research on the subject.  What a lovely celebration of the ties that bind!  The conclusion is both heart warming and spiritually satisfying.

 The Baker’s Secret by Stephen Kiernan     (Middlebury College Alumni)

Copyright 2017   305 pages

4 stars

Another stellar book Kiernan writes about WW2, and the occupation of a tiny French village by Nazi’s, and then their liberation, after the town has been ravaged by war.  The character development is so well done, and the story line unique and interesting.  I will never forget the heroine, Emma, and her courage to carry on, with unselfish sacrifices – her main focus being to secretly, yet dangerously, help her fellow villagers.  You will laugh, weep, and you will not forget this touching story!  The D-Day warring is graphic and not for the faint of heart, yet the book’s conclusion will have you cheering!

 

Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry

Copyright 2016    Murder Mystery   (Leta’s Pick)

4 1/2 stars

The main character, Nora, finds her sister brutally murdered and becomes obsessed with finding the killer.  She stalks a neighbor she is convinced is the culprit, but eventually, she, herself, becomes the suspect.  The book takes place in London, with all those funny terms for things.  The writer’s style can challenge you a bit in ways that you are often brought back in time without obvious clues.  The book skillfully reveals how those disturbing memories of your past can haunt and hold you captive for a lifetime.  I stayed up well past my bedtime to read the conclusion of this book with its shocking and unsuspected ending.  A superb and very exciting psychological mystery.

GoodFather

 The Good Father by Noah Hawley

(Author of Before the Fall) copyright 2012

4 1/2 stars (Leta Watkins Pick)

What if you had a son from a previous marriage that is accused of assassinating a Presidential candidate that almost the entire country wants elected?  He was their new JFK, their hopes for a fut

ure, and their dreams of a better country.  This all rode on his shoulders.  This is a quick paced psychological thriller which keeps you in this eerie kind of zone as his father sets out on a quest to, against all odds, free his sons from the death sentence.  But first he must follow in his son’s steps as he ties together that last year of aimless wandering his son embarked on across USA.  This read keeps you so captivated and helplessly engaged right through to the end.  What an honest and poignant look at parenting.

 

The IdenticalsThe Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

Copyright 2017 (my Adopted Author)

4 1/2 stars

Elin is at the top of her game!! – I’ve read all her 19 books and this one is a hoot and as juicy as can be! Story about twin identical sisters, one living on Nantucket Island, and the other, Martha’s Vineyard.  Twins are worlds apart & as different as can be, but estranged for over 10 years. Plot is original, but basically Parent Trap theme.  They find themselves in circumstances that have them switch lives and islands.  Tabitha has a completely out of control teenager, and Harper, a police record and enough

scandalous behavior that she is shunned by the whole island.  This book cannot be more outrageous and has an incredible happy ending that warms the heart.  Pack this book into your summer bag and have a perfect beach theme and fun-filled novel!

 

 Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

(A Memoir) Copyright 2016

4 stars (Stacey’s pick)

Melton writes about her troubled life, starting in her youth, and describes the brutal path that leads her to bulimia, drugs and wanton sex.  Once she hits rock bottom, pregnant and having drunken black outs every night, she marries and starts a journey which leads to the ultimate betrayal by the man she assumed she could trust.  We watch as she delves unto psychotherapy, yoga and healthy pursuits and cheer Glennon on as she finally makes her way back. We are also astonished by how this married couple can face their pain and dysfunction and finally find a beautiful deep and true love.  An inspiring account of what it is to be a Love Warrior.

 

The Punch by Noah Hawley

Copyright 2008

4 1/2 stars (Gary Watkins’ pick)

“Brotherly love never hurt so good!” An incredible story about the most dysfunctional family one could ever imagine, yet a family that displays fierce loyalty and love despite all odds against it.  Two brothers worlds apart with one obviously dead ended in life, the other by all accounts highly successful (until we discover that he has a wife and family on each side of the country.)  Mother is not dealing well with her new path into widowhood and we watch her unravel as they take a trip to NYC where they will have a memorial for the father and then on to Maine to bury his ashes at their childhood vacation spot.  Hawley spins the tale well and keeps you enraptured to the book’s astonishing and hilarious conclusion.  He writes with wit and a fresh approach to dialogue.  This book is at the same time desperate and funny, insane and addictive.

 A House Without Windows by Nadia Hashimi

Copyright 2016

4 stars  (An International Best Seller)

Book takes place in Afghanistan where a woman is found at the scene of her husband’s brutal killing, and is falsely accused.  The story takes you on a journey into prison where she is surrounded by other women accused of ridiculously insignificant crimes resulting merely from their plight of living in an old, traditional culture.  Her young Afghan-born American-raised lawyer wants to make a breakthrough into such an unjust system of law against women, but it’s a huge struggle and exhausting.  You really get a glimpse of life behind closed doors in this society, plus follow the woman’s mother who practices witchcraft.  Can she save her daughter from execution secretly knowing her daughter is hiding the shameful truth about the murder to save the honor of a child?  A gripping story with a real foreign feel to it.

 

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Copyright 2014

4.5 stars

Ng’s debut book…whew…this was a perfectly addictive novel that begins with a bang.  Lydia is missing, then found dead and her parents and siblings dive into destruction after this tragedy.  The book shows in an amazingly smooth and keenly observed style how a mixed race couple had driven their daughter to extremes by their obsessive pressure for her to achieve greatness and fit in.  You come to view how this family really functions in their dysfunctions and secrets.  I loved this read – it was highly emotional and a fast paced mystery.

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