Thoughts on Books (#12): The Fifth of July / Where the Crawdads Sing


The Fifth of July
The Fifth of July by Kelly Simmons
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The well-to-do Warner family has been summering on Nantucket for decades – it’s tradition, after all – but this year tragedy strikes over the 4th of July holiday. The story is told from the points of view of several characters, including different family members, the housekeeper, and the caretaker, of the imposing, timeworn beach house.

Right away you can feel the undercurrents of dysfunction in this family. It keeps you wondering what tragedy is lying in wait for these troubled people, and who among them could be responsible? They may not be the most likable bunch, but I found all of their stories compelling. Actually we’re presented with three mysteries that may or may not be connected, one decades old and two recent.

Overall I enjoyed the writing style, setting, and story (Nantucket Gothic?), though I was disappointed that there were unanswered questions in the end. I felt like two of the three mysteries weren’t truly solved – or maybe they were? Anyway, the ending was confusing, but I still feel like THE FIFTH OF JULY was a worthwhile read.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


Where the Crawdads Sing
Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here we have it, my favorite book of 2018! I think this one will be hard to top. Amazing!!

A swamp and a marsh are very different environments. A marsh is a thriving and nurturing place, and it’s there, along the North Carolina coast, that Kya lived and survived after being abandoned by her family as a young girl. Kya spent her days alone, observing the surrounding natural world, and it served her well.

Though she loved her marsh dearly, sometimes the loneliness was too much, especially as she grew into a young women. But after being abandoned by everyone she loved and shunned by the locals, who could she trust with her heart?

I don’t want to ramble on too much about the plot. This stirring, character-driven novel is part coming of age story, part mystery, and part love story — between Kya and two young men who she allows in her hidden world, but most of all, between Kya and her treasured marsh.

WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING is a gorgeously written and haunting novel with an unforgettable heroine, the Marsh Girl. What a bittersweet ending!! Tears, tears, tears. Just lovely.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book through Penguin’s First to Read Program in exchange for an honest review.


“Nature and books belong to the eyes that see them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#11): What We Find / The Book of Lost and Found


What We Find (Sullivan's Crossing, #1)
What We Find by Robyn Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

WHAT WE FIND is the beginning of another heart-warming small town saga from Robyn Carr. She’s my “most read” author, so yep, I enjoy her books very much.

This series is set in Colorado, at a place called Sullivan’s Crossing, located near the intersection of the Continental Divide trail & Colorado trail. How gorgeous would that place be? *sigh* Yet another Robyn Carr location I want to live in…

At Sullivan’s Crossing, there’s a campground and general store, and it’s all run by Sully, a cantankerous yet kindhearted guy who’s been there forever. It’s to Sullivan’s Crossing that Sully’s daughter, Maggie, returns, during a turbulent time of loss and great stress in her life. At the campground she encounters the very private Cal, someone else searching for calm and healing.

The easy pacing of this book was enjoyable, giving readers time to get to know the characters and the beautiful setting. Maggie is a strong and courageous woman, and if I was ever in trouble, I’d want her on my side. I was touched by Cal’s back story and was rooting for him to find happiness again.

I didn’t think the plot was particularly strong, though I know what the two main characters were headed for. Things had to be worked through. Closure first, then possibly a second chance at love? WHAT WE FIND is a solid start to the Sullivan’s Crossing series, and I’d recommend it to any fan of romantic women’s fiction. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


The Book of Lost and Found
The Book of Lost and Found by Lucy Foley
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The cover of this book drew me in (American edition, 2015). That location is so gorgeous; I want to be there! Part of the book is set in Corsica, and the descriptions are amazing.

THE BOOK OF LOST AND FOUND is about a young woman’s quest to discover the story behind a portrait done 50 years ago, and one that her grandmother kept hidden for many years. The “present” (Kate’s story) was set in the 1980s, while the young artist’s love story was set in the 1930s. Who is the mysterious woman in the portrait who looks so much like Kate’s mother?

The premise of the book is completely my kind of story, though overall I wasn’t “wowed.” While the descriptions of time and place were beautiful, I thought that it was too wordy and slow. The relationships presented weren’t all that convincing.

This book covers many things – love lost, grief, separation, and family secrets. An OK read for me, just never truly hooked me. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#10): Something in the Water / The Dress Shop of Dreams


Something in the Water
Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman
My rating: 4.25 of 5 stars

This anxiety-inducing book was A LOT of fun to read. It’s gotten major buzz since it’s a Reese’s Book Club pick. There were 200 holds for it at my library, but I noticed ONE copy was available on the Limited Loan shelf at the branch across town. Of course, I’m there when they opened that morning to elbow my way to the top. I had to know what’s in the water!!

The opening chapter starts with a bang. You’re left wondering, how in the heck did it come to that?? The set-up: A honeymooning couple make a shocking discovery on their trip to Bora Bora. OK, so after the stunning opening, the pacing was very slow until about the 30% mark. I think I was just TOO impatient – waiting, waiting, waiting – to find out what was in the water. And then, thunk thunk thunk…

SOMETHING IN THE WATER was such an entertaining book, but also made me very nervous! Some of the decisions the characters made (especially Erin) made me STOP to blink my eyes repeatedly. What were you thinking??

After the big discovery, the author did a fantastic job keeping the suspense going and the pages turning. I can’t think of a more perfect “beach” thriller to read this summer. This is Catherine Steadman’s debut novel (wow!), and I’m looking forward to reading more from her in the future.


The Dress Shop of Dreams
The Dress Shop of Dreams by Menna van Praag
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What a sweet and enchanting love story! Etta runs a very special shop where she sells dresses stitched with a wee bit of magic to help her customers’ wishes come true.

One person Etta longs to help is her granddaughter, Cora. Cora’s parents died when she was young, and for most of her life, she’s hidden herself away doing research as a scientist. She’s oblivious to the fact that her lifelong friend, Walt, is madly in love with her.

Worried that Cora will lose Walt, Etta does a little magical meddling with the best intentions. But, of course, things don’t always go as planned…

This book is a lovely blend of mystery, romance, and magical realism. Many characters are introduced, each with a compelling backstory to share. There are four separate romances happening in this book, and some overlap, but each one remains unique.

I would like to have learned more about Etta’s magical gift and where it originated, but I guess that will remain a mystery.

If you’re in need of a whimsical and uplifting novel, I’d definitely recommend THE DRESS SHOP OF DREAMS. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” ― Roald Dahl

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#9): Bring Me Back / The Last Telegram


Bring Me Back
Bring Me Back by B.A. Paris
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

I devoured this book in one evening. I love psychological thrillers like this, ones that are entertaining, fast-paced, and keep you on edge the whole time.

So, Finn’s girlfriend Layla disappears one night on their way home from a ski trip. Was she kidnapped? Murdered? After a massive search that turns up nothing, Finn has no choice but to move on with his life. Fast-forward 12 years, and Finn is now engaged to Ellen, Layla’s sister. All is well until odd little trinkets from Layla’s past start showing up at Finn & Ellen’s house. What could it mean?

BRING ME BACK was a lot of fun to read. I think to fully enjoy it, you need to suspend disbelief to some extent, though the author did a great job making the implausible seem plausible. There were a couple of fantastic twists in this book. One reminded me of another thriller I loved, but then – BAM! – the author twists it again for another shocking surprise. This was a unique and addictive thriller that I’d highly recommend.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a free ARC of this book.


The Last Telegram
The Last Telegram by Liz Trenow
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

An English silk factory makes for a unique setting in this lovely yet heartbreaking novel of World War II.

The main character is a young British woman named Lily whose plan to attend college in Switzerland is thwarted by the onset of the war. Instead, she begrudgingly agrees to learn silk weaving as an apprentice in her family’s mill, and grows to become quite savvy in the business. Supplying parachutes to soldiers becomes their mainstay. But at what cost?

Lily learns about love and friendship, survival and consequences, and dealing with the heaviness of guilt and the lightness that comes with forgiveness.

THE LAST TELEGRAM is a gripping and emotional read. The story alternates between Lily as an old woman telling her granddaughter about her past, and her days living, working, and surviving during WWII. It was part love story and part mystery. What were the secrets from her past that caused so much grief?

This is the second book by Liz Trenow that I’ve greatly enjoyed. I’d definitely recommend her novels to fans of historical fiction. Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” ― James Baldwin

THOUGHTS ON BOOKS (#8): Every Single Secret / Then She Was Gone (Audiobook) / The Storm King


Every Single Secret
Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

“Always us.” Daphne and Heath are an engaged couple, seemingly perfect for each other. Both have a dark, troubled past, and both are fine with keeping the secrets of their childhoods hidden from each other.

Their system works until Heath starts having terrible nightmares in which he becomes downright violent. Daphne begrudgingly agrees to go with Heath on a week-long retreat with an unorthodox psychologist. What could possibly go wrong in this remote mountain manor house cut off from the rest of the world? Daphne will soon find out…

EVERY SINGLE SECRET was a wonderfully creepy book that kept me on edge. The author did a great job creating suspense by gradually revealing these unsettling little tidbits, both in present day and also Daphne’s past. The ending was a whirlwind that I did not see coming!

I’ve read one other book by Emily Carpenter – Burying the Honeysuckle Girls – which I also enjoyed very much. She knows how to write compelling Southern Gothic Fiction.


Then She Was Gone
Then She Was Gone by Lisa Jewell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow, this was a brilliant and haunting and gut-wrenching thriller. To say it was gripping is an understatement! I listened to most of THEN SHE WAS GONE on audio, and I have to say first that narrator Helen Duff gave a stellar performance voicing the many characters in this book. Loved the audio. However, at about the 70% mark, I had to switch to the eBook so I could read FASTER!

Ten years after her teenage daughter Ellie disappeared, Laurel is still struggling with her loss. Not surprisingly, it took a heavy toll on Laurel’s life and relationships. Not long after new evidence is discovered that may lead to some sense of closure, she starts dating an intriguing man called Floyd, who has a precocious young daughter named Poppy. While Laurel is completely swept off her feet by Floyd, there’s something unsettling about Poppy that she can’t overlook…

This is the first book by Lisa Jewell that I’ve read, and I was totally riveted! Her characters and their reactions and interactions felt so real. I enjoyed how the mystery was more of a why/how situation and it kept me wondering how Laurel was going to fit all of the puzzle pieces together. The whole book was dark, emotional, and suspenseful, and yep, I’ll call it haunting again. Definitely a story that will stick with me now that it’s finished. Can’t wait to read more from Lisa Jewell!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Audiobook borrowed from the library.


The Storm King
The Storm King by Brendan Duffy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Storm King returns… Nate McHale left Greystone Lake 14 years ago, just after the disappearance of his high school girlfriend, Lucy. His sad and turbulent childhood led him and his small band of friends to punish those whom they felt had wronged them. But at what cost? How do your actions in the past ultimately affect other people? When human remains are found in the lake, Nate returns for the funeral only to find the tables have turned, and now someone is out for revenge on him and his band of vigilantes.

THE STORM KING is part coming of age story and part mystery/suspense. A rather complex mystery, at that. I do enjoy Brendan Duffy’s writing style — it’s descriptive and clever, and easily pulls the reader into the story. While the intertwining mysteries in this book had me curious, I felt like the plot moved too slowly and things were too drawn out. It was hard, too, because it was difficult for me to sympathize with any of the main characters or their motivations, which given Nate’s childhood tragedy, shouldn’t have been the case.

While this book didn’t grab me quite like his first, House of Echoes, I think readers who enjoy slow burn, atmospheric tales should give it a try. It definitely highlights the point that actions have consequences, even many years down the road.


“Man is not what he thinks he is, he is what he hides.” ― André Malraux