Chronicle of a Last Summer

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Chronicle of a Last Summer

by Yasmine El Rashidi

February 2017

I’m always interested in reading about different times and cultures so when I saw, Chronicle of a Last Summer (a novel about Egypt), I was excited to read it. As much as it was a quick, readable novel, I ultimately felt “meh” about it, which was disappointing. It was very political, and that subject is very hard for me to get into. It was beautifully written though and highlighted three points in the young woman’s life: childhood, young adult, and middle age. It was enjoyable to see her grow and form opinions throughout her life.

Summing it up: It wasn’t my favorite book, but I did enjoy parts. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

Designing Your Life

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Designing Your Life: How To Build A Well-Lived Joyful Life

by Bill Burnett & David Evans

February 2017

Designing Your Life was a short, sweet, excellent book that has given me a lot to think about. Parts were a little redundant, but overall the message came across clearly: you can design the life you want and not feel encumbered by making the “best” choice, simply because there is no “best.” I loved the look and feel of the book (it’s beautiful). Two points in particular stood out to me. The first is the concept of having more than one life. Throughout our life we have the opportunity to live multiple lives. We are not trapped in where we are at in any given moment, but can move onto a different “life” filled with different goals and activities. “There are multiple great lives (and plans) within me, and I get to choose which one to build my way forward to next.” And on top of that, if we’re unhappy in our life, we can design the life we want (and the book contains lots of exercises to guide you).

The second is the concept of choices and how there isn’t a best and worst. “There is no right choice — only good choosing.” You research your options, narrow them down, choose, and instead of worrying and agonizing about if it was the “best,” you let go and move on, accepting your choice and enjoying. I loved those two ideas and I have already started thinking about my life differently!

I really appreciated the conclusion as well. They sum up their points in a dysfunctional belief (what they’re rejecting) and a reframe (their new way of thinking). This is the last one in the book:

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Summing it up: I really enjoyed this book and definitely recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Mother, Can You Not?

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Mother, Can You Not?

by Kate Siegel

February 2017

Mother, Can You Not? jumped out at me because of the title and fun cover. This little book ended up being hilarious! I absolutely loved it. I loved “Spawn” and her mother. Their relationship is down to earth, humorous, and heartwarming. They have outrageous text conversations and are almost too close. The book covers all areas of their lives from boyfriends to jobs to celebrations in a clever format, incorporating their texts. It is both funny and sweet and was a very quick, enjoyable read.

Summing it up: I loved this book and I highly recommend it!

All the best, Abbey

Now and Then Friends

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Now and Then Friends

by Kate Hewitt

February 2017

After loving Rainy Day Sisters, I was eager to read the next Hartley-by-the-Sea novel. I loved the town and characters and I couldn’t wait to go back! Sure enough, I loved Now and Then Friends. The writing was raw and heartfelt; the characters filled with emotion. There were new people and new challenges, and I loved watching them grow and change. Reading Hewitt’s books (at least these two) is like coming home – comfortable and soothing. I can’t wait for the next book!

Rachel (the young woman who cleans Juliet’s bed and breakfast from the first book) takes center stage in this book, along with her former friend from primary school, Claire. Rachel is jaded from a life filled with hardship. Her younger sister, Meghan, has a son she’s raising on her own, and her other sister, Lily, is one test away from getting into a prominent college with a sold career. Her mother broke her back when Lily was only 6 weeks old and has been bed ridden ever since. Her father left them all after Rachel started going to college, so she had to quit, returning home to care for her mother and sisters. Ever since then, Rachel’s run the household and restarted her mother’s cleaning business.

Claire has always had it all. She’s been coddled and cared for her whole life and has no will or desire to make her own decisions. Everyone’s always made them for her – from her older brother, Andrew, keeping an eye on her throughout school; to her parents getting her a job and place to live after college; to her fiancĂ© dictating her every move and want. One day the apathy is too much and Claire gets drunk at a party, embarrassing Hugh. He recommends to her parents that she go to rehab for a drinking problem. Instead of arguing that she doesn’t have a problem, Claire goes. But when the few weeks are over she refuses to stay with her parents in London, deciding instead to live in their house in Hartley-by-the-Sea. There she embarks on a new life – one in which she can think for herself.

Claire and Rachel bump into each other when Rachel comes to clean Claire’s house. It is awkward because their friendship is rocky at best. Back in primary school the girls were best friends, Rachel looked out for Claire and was the only true friend Claire had. But when they reached level 6, Claire acquiesced to her mother’s plans and became friends with the popular girls, expecting Rachel to join in. However, Rachel felt rejected by Claire and refused to show it. She tried once to go to Claire’s house, but it was her birthday party and Rachel got turned away at the door (and realized she didn’t get invited). Ever since, Rachel’s been hurt and Claire’s been indifferent.

Spoilers: throughout the book, Rachel faces her bitterness and blindness to the needs of those around her, from Claire, to her sisters, to her mother. Andrew in particular points things out, originally in an attempt to get Rachel to look out for Claire, but then because he genuinely cares for Rachel. Claire faces her ineptitude and starts to think for herself. She gets a job at the post office/general store, working for the bristling owner, Dan. It is a great start, and soon she is standing up to her parents, brother, and friends. She begins to know her own mind and is able to act on it. In the end, the girls make up and become friends again, even going into the cleaning business together. Rachel lets go of the chip on her shoulder, finally allowing people to help her, like Andrew, her sisters and Claire. Her mother has a stroke and she wants to go back to school, so letting people in is the only way she can live her life. She also falls for Andrew, which is super sweet. Claire stands up for herself and rejects a job offer from her parents. She wants to stay in Hartley-by-the-Sea, working for Dan (they totally fall for each other) and working with Rachel. It is a beautiful happy ending.

Summing it up: I loved this book and I absolutely recommend it! But read Rainy Day Sisters first!

All the best, Abbey

Two for the Dough

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Two for the Dough

by Janet Evanovich

February 2017

I finally got around to reading the second Stephanie Plum book, Two for the Dough. It was so good. I liked it better than the first one, only because the “villain” wasn’t quite as violent, even though he was a horrible, disgusting psychopath. I just love Stephanie Plum (and Morelli) and I enjoy her escapades.

This time around one, Stephanie is chasing down Kenny, a neighborhood boy who has always been odd, but recently has gone off the deep end and shot a friend. As a bounty hunter, Stephanie is assigned his case and is trying to track him down. Per usual, she doesn’t get off to a good start. She annoys everyone and Kenny starts threatening her (and later sends her body parts of dead people). Undeterred, she “works” with Morelli and gets help from Ranger. For this case, she has to frequent funeral homes and takes her grandmother along for various viewings. Her grandmother is feisty and determined, even after she gets attacked by Kenny (who is going after her to get to Stephanie). Spoilers: ultimately, Stephanie and Morelli realize that there’s a larger plot involving multiple men, caskets and army grade weapons. Stephanie and her grandmother (and Morelli) catch them all in the end. Thankfully, Kenny gets locked away.

Summing it up: I really enjoyed this second instalment. I loved the characters and the writing, and I recommend this book, especially if you enjoyed the first one.

All the best, Abbey

Silences, or a Woman’s Life

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Silences, or a Woman’s Life

by Marie Chaix

translated by Harry Matthews

February 2017

This book will follow me for a while. It was moving and beautiful, but also haunting and raw. I have never read anything like it. It was like reading a dream, the edges of the story being faded and vague, but the heart of the story staying clear. It reminded me of Me Before You because the story is about the choice of dignified death or not and the struggle to let go when the one you love is ready to leave. In this story a young woman’s mother is slowly dying. She has had a full and challenging life, including falling into a coma at 50 and coming out of it an old woman. She lapses back into a coma and the daughter has no choice but to take her to the hospital where the doctors and nurses keep her alive by any means, even though the daughter knows her mother is ready to go. In one particular paragraph the struggle is described by the daughter. She says, “I’m abandoning her. She’s in their hands. She belongs to them. They will do ‘everything they can to save her’ -to bring her back to life. What do they know of her life? By what right to they intend to bring her back to it? We are all now caught up in the mechanism of gradual death. We are passive agents in the useless struggle that will play itself out between four white walls, where ‘no trouble will be spared’ to try and delay the outcome already inscribed in the stats or on the brow or in the palm of the hand. There is an unknown date that follows us like a shadow from the morning to the evening of life, as indelibly inscribed on us as a tattoo: the moment when everything comes to a stop. Why are we so afraid of that moment when at last we sense it’s here, right next to us, just beyond the bedroom door? Why do we erect against it this tentacular human apparatus of impossible rescue that is bound to break down on the appointed day, at the appointed hour?” The whole book is written in this beautiful script and portrays the struggle. She recounts her mother’s story and dreams and is heartbroken over how her life is being drawn out. She says, “I can still remember how you longed for an ordinary life: you would have looked to be a serene old lady, sitting in the shade of lindens in front of the family house, watching your grandchildren scampering across the meadow. You would have enjoyed opening old cupboards, slipping lavender sachets between white sheets, something big copper pots full of red jam, and Sundays, after Mad at the village church, striking along paths of your garden counting the rosebushes in flower, your steps slow, your arm resting on that of a man whom the years would have chastened.” The fact that it wasn’t to be that way is sad. I think the contrast between what could have been and what was makes her mother’s death that much more heartbreaking. In the end, the doctors draw out her death by over a month before she takes her last breath.

Summing it up: this book was haunting and deeply moving. I definitely recommend it.

All the best, Abbey

The Good Girl

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The Good Girl

by Mary Kubica

February 2017

One of my good friends recommended The Good Girl, so it was without hesitation that I started reading it. This book is a thriller and I read it rapidly. It was so good and the ending was a total surprise. I’m still thinking about this book and trying to make sense of it. I am very impressed with Kubica’s debut novel and I can’t wait to read her next book.

This is a story of the disappearance of, Mia, a young woman from a prominent family. She has friends and a great job, so her disappearance is curious and alarming. The story is told from 3 different perspectives: Gabe, the detective; Eve, Mia’s mother; and Colin, the man who kidnapped Mia. The story also oscillates from “before” they find Mia and “after” she is found. It sounds jumpy, but it actually flows beautifully, keeping the tension while giving answers and pieces to the mystery. Spoilers: kidnapping Mia is an accident. Colin was hired to deliver her to a man, but he knows nothing more. He gets close, but finds he can’t hand her over. He never asked for this; he just needs money to take care of his ailing mother. So, instead of handing over Mia, he takes her to a hidden cabin where they slowly begin to trust each other and eventually fall in love. It’s little things like Colin giving Mia his gun and Mia choosing to stay, it’s Colin buying a notebook and pencils for Mia to sketch and Mia opening up about her life, it’s the two of them chopping down a Christmas tree and making plans to stay together. It’s an eerie and beautiful love story and I shamelessly routed for it. Meanwhile, Gabe refuses to give up on the case, even when it seems to go cold. He is slowly falling for Eve and she with him (her husband is a horrible man to both her and to Mia). Eventually, Gabe succeeds in finding Mia, but they’re not in his jurisdiction, so another chief gets to the scene first and instead of calmly taking them in, he shoots Colin to save Mia. It’s heartbreaking. Afterwards, Mia blocks out Colin completely and has no memory of her captivity. Gabe steadily works on how to trigger the memories and eventually finds the cat that Mia had at the cabin and brings him to her, as well as finally taking her to the cabin itself. Sure enough, when they arrive at the cabin the memories flood back and Mia is able to remember all that happened. It’s bittersweet. She’d like to forget, but she is pregnant and now she has a piece of Colin to hold onto. Major spoiler: the final piece, the jaw dropper, is that Mia blames herself for Colin’s death. Why? Because she hired the man who hired Colin to kidnap her. Mia was constantly put down by her father and disappointing him. He refused to pay for her education when she chose not to be a lawyer (her sister did follow in their father’s footsteps and he paid for law school), and was always more concerned with his reputation than Mia’s well being. He was nefarious and selfish both at work and home. Mia finally had enough. She dug up dirt on her father to use as blackmail when her captors demanded a ransom. While Mia’s plan was derailed, after she is found Gabe searches her father’s office, finding the blackmail letters and a lot of dirt, putting Mia’s father in his place (disbarred and on trial – he’s a judge). It was a satisfactory ending on that level. I was also happy that Colin’s mother got taken care of since she was so sick and helpless. But I was so sad that Colin died. I’m still sad about it.

Summing it up: I really liked this book. I loved the plot and the twist and the characters. I’m still haunted by them and thinking about them. I definitely recommend this book.

All the best, Abbey