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24 May 2017

Rambling About.. When We Danced At The End Of The Pier by Sandy Taylor

Sandy Taylor
Publisher: Bookouture (March 31, 2017)
First Line: I wasn't sure how long I'd been sitting in the tree -- I think it was a long time cos my leg was going numb from trying to balance on the branch.
Faves on 4s:
4% -- I'd stood at the window, looking out over all the gardens of all the houses in See Saw Lane and I'd felt something wonderful was about to happen. I'd felt suddenly as if my life was about to change.
24% -- 'Corpus Christi,' said the priest, which means 'Body of Christ'. We had to let the wafer melt because Sister Aquinas said that if we chewed it, it would be like putting a knife in God's heart.
54% -- They didn't have to be dripping in diamonds and pearls to get noticed, there was just something about the way they held themselves that said 'I'm rich'. Whereas poor people spent their time apologizing for breathing.
84% -- None of us knew what was going to happen, none of us knew the moment we'd end up in the bottom of a smelly bucket, we just joined in the dance until the music stopped.

I wasn't sure at first if I was even going to read it. It's the third of Taylor's Brighton Girls Trilogy and I haven't read the other two (yet). I was bummed when I saw it on NetGalley and instantly fell in love with the cover because you know how I am about reading things out of order. Luckily, this time, there's been a trick. While this is the third in the series, it's also first chronologically. Once I found that out I hopped back onto NetGalley and hit the request button. Once I received my approval I flew through the book I had been reading and then lost myself in the pages (or screens, since it's on my phone) of this one. 

And now I'm a mess.

This is one of the hardest reviews I've had to write so far. There must be somebody chopping a ton of onions nearby and that's why my eyes have been watering so much. This book, after all, was far too beautiful and, at times, hilarious to be making me ugly cry. 

It must be onions.

It's the story of Maureen O'Connell and we follow it through her eyes from her childhood in 1930 through World War II and her young adulthood. It tells of growing up on the council estates in Brighton with a mother who worked full time and a father who wasn't well (though, as a girl, she didn't know how or why). Her sister, Brenda, was just a couple of years younger and there were also aunts and uncles nearby -- one pair wonderful and other not so much. On Maureen's first day of school she and Monica become best friends and not long after they meet Jack and Nelson. Before she had ever even spoken to him, Maureen knew that she and Jack were destined to be together.

This book is so .... just .... real. It's like reading someone's diaries or memoirs rather than a piece of fiction. Sandy Taylor gave life to these characters in such a way that I want to meet their children and grandchildren (or at least follow them on Twitter). Jack, Nelson, Maureen and Monica would have been similar in age to my grandparents. And, of course, Brenda. Oh gosh how I love Brenda! She reminds me so much of one of my grams younger sister, Clara. A sweet little riot she was! And the two of them together was, undeniably my favorite relationship in the whole book.

I'm still a sniffly mess. I'm a sniffly mess who then remembers something that made me snort my coffee out of my nose by laughing too hard. Now I'm a sniffly giggly mess.

I was going back through to grab my quotes for "Faves on 4s" and accidentally hit the 20% mark where Maureen and Brenda are at church lighting a candle for Nelson ... and Maureen's "exchange" with the Blessed Virgin Mary:
Now I realize that maybe you don't go in for murder but I'm hoping you might know someone who does. Perhaps you could have a word with that sinner who was hanging on the cross next to Jesus. You must know each other pretty well by now.
Yep. Maureen is trying to arrange a hit via the Holy Mother.

Probably the most splenderific (it's a word. Really. I just wrote it.) thing about this -- the thing that makes it the most "real" -- is how the thought patterns and use of language advances as the ages of the characters do. The beginning reads like an adolescent is telling the story and it matures as she does.

I am absolutely in awe of Sandy Taylor and look forward to reading more from her. I think I might wait a handful of months before I dive in to The Girls from See Saw Lane -- if only to give my tear ducts (and my coffee filled nasal passages) time to recover.

Stupid bloody onions.

23 May 2017

#20BooksofSummer 2017

We've got just over a week until June 1st and the official start of this year's 20 Books of Summer ... and I've got my first 20 picked out!!! I've been reading freakishly fast the past couple of weeks so I may end up going way over, but this is at least where I'll be starting from (not necessarily in order).

  1. Rejected Writers Take The Stage -- Suzanne Kelman 
  2. A Suitable Affair -- Erica Taylor 
  3. Death Around The Bend -- TE Kinsey
  4. Bad Housekeeping -- Maia Chance
  5. The Wardrobe Mistress -- Natalie Meg Evans
  6. Pemberley : Mr Darcy's Dragon -- Maria Grace *
  7. A Natural History of Dragons -- Marie Brennan *
  8. Heart & Stone -- Elle Katharine White *
  9. His Majesty's Dragon -- Naomi Novik *
  10. Tooth and Claw -- Jo Walton *
  11. Seraphina -- Rachel Hartman * 
  12. The Law of Attraction -- Roxie Cooper
  13. Summer at Buttercup Beach -- Holly Martin
  14. A House to Mend a Broken Heart -- Alison Sherlock
  15. Death Plays a Part -- Vivian Conroy
  16. The Quick and the Thread -- Amanda Lee
  17. Unmasking Miss Appleby -- Emily Larkin
  18. Hook's Tale -- John Leonard Pielmeier
  19. The One That Got Away -- Melissa Pimentel
  20. Xoe: or Vampires, and Werewolves, and Demons, Oh My! -- Sara C Roethle

* -- reading as part of #becausedragonsRAT

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor by Amy M Reade (Tuesday Intros & Teaser Tuesday)

"First Chapter First Paragraph Tuesday Intros" is from the first paragraph or two of a book being read now (or in the future) and is hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea [who's on vacation, it seems ... which I discovered after putting together this post]. "Teaser Tuesday" at The Purple Booker asks for a random line or two from anywhere in the book currently being read.

When I first started The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor I thought that I would be getting spooky gothic ghost story. Nope. 

Then I thought that maybe I was in store for a cozy mystery with the main character, a home restoration specialist, playing amateur sleuth. Nope again. 

I thought that I was going to be horribly disappointed with neither of these scenarios being true. Yet again, a big nope.

What I had was a compelling story of Carleigh Warner not only restoring her friend Evie's family home, Peppernell Manor, but also her own life and, in a lot of ways, the lives of the Peppernell family (at least, those who survive the telling of the tale). 

Carleigh and her young daughter left Chicago for Peppernell Manor, located in South Carolina just outside of Charlotte. Carleigh and Evie had been friends since college and when Evie's grandmother decided that she wanted the home revived to its original splendor, Evie knew that Carleigh would be the perfect one for the job. Recently divorced after her husband left her for a stripper named Jilly (or "Jiggly," as Carleigh calls her), it was a perfect opportunity for Carleigh and three-year-old Lucy to get away from the stressors of life for a bit. Of course, the Peppernell household has its own share of stress going on housing three generations of Peppernells. Evie is there while her boyfriend is off traveling for business, her brother Heath lives in the carriage house on the property, his twin brother Harlan is nearby in Charlotte, and then their parents, aunt and grandmother all reside in the house full-time. There's also Phyllis, the house manager who happens to be descended from the slaves who built the house for the original Peppernell owners generations before. (One of her ancestors, her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, Sarah, is still present .... according to Phyllis, anyway.) 

Evie's grandmother wants the house restored and then intends to bequeath it to the state when she dies. Her mother and brother Harlan want to turn it over to an investment group to turn it into a tourist destination. Her aunt doesn't say much of anything, nor does her father who spends most of his time working on his latest novel, and Phyllis is constantly warning people that Sarah isn't happy about what's going on. The family dynamics are a bit whack and become even more so after Evie's grandmother dies. Plus we have romance, another death, crazy ex's, a freaking hurricane, a potentially cursed dog, vandalism, and an alligator attack. It's so much more than a ghost story or cozy mystery would have been. 

It was a fast read for me thanks to my unwillingness to put it down for long once I had started. A great part of that might be thanks to me being a bit of a history nerd. I absolutely loved the details involved in the restoration -- especially after ..... oh, just read it for yourself.