The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

The Little Shop of Found Things by Paula Brackston

Published October 2018 – St. Martin’s Press

Book courtesy of the publisher

Description:

An antique shop haunted by a ghost.
A silver treasure with an injustice in its story.
An adventure to the past she’ll never forget.

Xanthe and her mother Flora leave London behind for a fresh start, taking over an antique shop in the historic town of Marlborough. Xanthe has always had an affinity with some of the antiques she finds. When she touches them, she can sense something of the past they come from and the stories they hold. When she has an intense connection to a beautiful silver chatelaine she has to know more.

It is while she’s examining the chatelaine that she’s transported back to the seventeenth century where it has its origins. She discovers there is an injustice in its history. The spirit that inhabits her new home confronts her and charges her with saving her daughter’s life, threatening to take Flora’s if she fails.

While Xanthe fights to save the girl amid the turbulent days of 1605, she meets architect Samuel Appleby. He may be the person who can help her succeed. He may also be the reason she can’t bring herself to leave. (publisher)

My take:  Xanthe and her mother are moving to Marlborough and opening an antiques shop – hoping for a major reboot of their life. When Xanthe buys a beautiful chatelaine she finds that not only is it a lovely piece but it will transport her to another time (1600s Marlborough) and the reality of a young girl who needs her help. Xanthe will make good use of her highly developed intuitive sense – at least that is the hope of one contentious specter who inhabits the antiques shop. Will Xanthe be able to accomplish her task and save her own mother from the wrath of the spirit? You’ll have to read to find out.

The Little Shop of Found Things is the first in a new series and recommended to fans of time travel and novels about fresh starts.


 

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Good Luck With That by Kristan Higgins

My take:

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley for granting my request to read Good Luck With That.

I’ve dealt with weight issues most of my life. More like body image issues when I come to think of it. Having grown up in the sixties and seventies I wished I could look like the girls on tv sitcoms (Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, etc). Those girls were slim and had long straight center-parted hair and I was average shape with dark naturally curly hair that had a mind of its own. I remember the day the female freshman PE teacher weighed us and measured our height. I was 5’6 and weighed 120 lbs. I felt huge – so much taller and bigger than my classmates. Talk about poor self-image, huh? So that’s what I brought with me when I read Good Luck With That.

Kristan Higgins is on my trusted favorite authors list – meaning I’ll read whatever she writes. But this one was a tough read for me. It hit so close to home on a few levels. Not exactly though – because my mother wasn’t as purposely (cluelessly?) hurtful as Georgia’s. No, my mom was well-meaning and thought she offered positive encouragement. Sigh.

So this novel is about three friends who met at a camp for overweight teenage girls. They formed a bond that carried over into adulthood. As often happens after college they met less often and kind of lost track of one friend, Emerson, because she lived hours away. Sadly, their last time to meet is when she’s dying.

After Emerson’s funeral Marley and Georgia open an envelope containing the list they compiled at camp when they were seventeen. It’s a list of things they’ll do when they are skinny. Emerson has requested they do the things on the list and that leads them to examining their relationship with food, men, family, etc.

Good Luck With That is written in Higgins’ usual warm, emotional style. Her characters’ families drew laughs and winces from me. I loved seeing Georgia and Marley take more control of their issues and discover how empowering that control can be. Filled with (mostly) delightful and endearing secondary characters I have to say this novel grew on me. What started as a book I had to put down a few times in the beginning due to certain scenes and topics, I finished the second half in a few hours. I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I think it would be a good selection for book groups – there’s a reader’s guide at the end.


 

Brief take: How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

How To Keep A Secret by Sarah Morgan

Narrator:  Laurel Lefkow

Length:  11 hrs. 16 min.

Published: July 10, 2017 Harlequin Audio

Borrowed from my library via Hoopla

My brief take:  I like novels about secrets and this one had plenty. The characters all seem to have secrets and their lives are in a state of flux. There’s Nancy, mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of a 17-year-old.  One daughter is a recent widow and the other wants nothing more than to have a child. Granddaughter Mac finds out the most important people in her life deceived her in a big way. Nancy is on the cusp of finally living the life she craves – but first she’ll have to make some tough decisions. Juicy secrets and the lovely Martha’s Vineyard setting all combined for a novel that made a long solo car trip surprisingly quick.


 

Love, Alice by Barbara Davis

  • love-alice-126Title:  Love, Alice
  • Author:  Barbara Davis
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  432
  • Published:  December 2016 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  A year ago, Dovie Larkin’s life was shattered when her fiancé committed suicide just weeks before their wedding. Now, plagued by guilt, she has become a fixture at the cemetery where William is buried, visiting his grave daily, waiting for answers she knows will never come. 
 
Then one day, she sees an old woman whose grief mirrors her own. Fascinated, she watches the woman leave a letter on a nearby grave. Dovie ignores her conscience and reads the letter—a mother’s plea for forgiveness to her dead daughter—and immediately needs to know the rest of the story. 
 
As she delves deeper, a collection of letters from the cemetery’s lost and found  begins to unravel a decades-old mystery involving one of Charleston’s wealthiest families. But even as Dovie seeks to answer questions about another woman’s past—questions filled with deception, betrayal, and heartbreaking loss—she starts to discover the keys to love, forgiveness, and finally embracing the future…  (publisher)

My take:  Love, Alice is a story of acceptance, forgiveness, and moving forward. Barbara Davis’s story involves two women: Dovie, whose fiancé committed suicide not long before their wedding date and Alice, an unwed girl forced to give up her infant after giving birth. Both grappled with questions of why as they tried to move on with their lives. Although they would never meet their stories would become entwined.

I was completely absorbed by this book. The loss experienced by Alice is heartbreaking. Her story involves the Magdalene Laundries (click link for info). Hard to believe places like that were still in operation in the 1990s. Alice was young and, although still feeling the aftereffects of tuberculosis, had some strength of mind and body to carry on when she left the asylum. Her motivation was clear – she would find her baby.

Dovie would realize she had to face the truth about William – the things she’d chosen to ignore in the past – in order to move forward.

As bleak as it may sound I found the novel uplifting. I credit Davis’s gift of storytelling.  Love, Alice is a wonderful book. Recommended to fans of the author and women’s fiction. It would be a great book club selection. Included are a readers guide and recipes.

Days Like These by Sue Margolis

  • days-like-theseTitle:  Days Like These
  • Author:  Sue Margolis
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  December 2016 – Berkley
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Recently widowed, Judy Schofield jumps at the chance to look after her two grandchildren for six weeks, while their parents are out of the country. After all, she’s already raised one set of children—and quite successfully, if she may say so herself. But all it takes is a few days of private school functions, helicopter parents, video games, and never-ending Frozen sing-a-longs for Judy to feel she’s in over her head.
 
As weeks become months, Judy feels more and more like an outsider among all the young mothers with their parenting theories du jour, especially when she gets on the wrong side of the school’s snooty alpha mom. But finding a friend in another grandmother—and a man who takes her mind off all the stress—almost make it worthwhile. She just needs to take it one food allergy, one incomprehensible homework assignment, and one major meltdown at a time…  (publisher)

My take:  When Judy’s daughter and son-in-law, both MDs, volunteer their services to a country recently hit by an earthquake they ask Judy to care for their two young (school age) children for six weeks. Of course she agrees hoping that, along with helping her family, it might help her start to climb out of the grief she’s experienced since the death of her husband a year earlier.

Judy jumps into the children’s schedules and is soon overwhelmed with all of their activities. When the kids start to exhibit negative behaviors she realizes she needs to make some decisions. When the six weeks turns into a lengthier stint for the doctors Judy finds the challenges of grand-parenting increase as well.

I appreciated Judy’s predicament of being in the sandwich generation. Her mother added comic relief to the story as well as charm and warmth. Even though themes of bullying, grief, second chances at love, and parenting in the 21st century are addressed I found Days Like These to be a rather light and amusing novel. I liked it and would definitely read more from Sue Margolis.

Unraveling the Pieces by Terri DuLong

  • unraveling-the-piecesTitle:  Unraveling the Pieces
  • Series:  Ormond Beach #3
  • Author:  Terri DuLong
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction
  • Published:  November 2016 – Lyrical Press
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Petra Garfield has no real attachments tying her down to one place. She’s ready for an adventure, so what could be better than an extended stay at Koi House with new friends and old in enchanting Ormond Beach. Having recently lost her mother, Petra is riddled with questions about the father she never knew. She certainly never thought she’d begin to find the answers in a tiny town in Florida…
 
As much as she wants to search for the truth, Petra knows she can’t spend all her time wallowing in the past, and her friends at the Dreamweaver yarn shop aren’t about to let her. The ladies encourage her to volunteer at a local animal shelter, where she hits it off with a young boy—and his handsome father. Tangled in secrets she didn’t even know she had, Petra must learn to stitch her life back together even as she unravels lifelong mysteries—and perhaps she’ll find unexpected happiness along the way…  (publisher)

My take:  Unraveling the Pieces is the third book in Terri DuLong’s Ormond Beach series. It was fun to see familiar characters from the previous books. I recommend reading them in order.

Petra was in a previous book but as a friend to another woman – more of a support character. Now it’s her time to shine. Petra moves to Ormond Beach where she fits in perfectly with the friends she’d already made when visiting her friend the year before. She works from home so she can usually set her own hours which leaves her time to volunteer, knit, and enjoy her new friends. She also is searching for information about the father she never knew. The search will take her back to the places and people her mother knew when Petra was born.

I enjoyed this novel. There are two narratives: Petra’s and her mother’s. I liked the theme that sometimes you have to unravel the pieces of your past in order to move forward. There were some scenes in the book that were truly emotional. I don’t tear up very often while reading but I did during one particular scene when Petra starts to get answers to her questions.

Knitting is always happening in this series (as well as DuLong’s Cedar Key series). There is a pattern included that was part of the novel. I recommend Unraveling the Pieces to fans of Terri DuLong, Women’s Fiction, and knitting. I can’t wait to read the next novel in the series.


About the author: Born and raised north of Boston, Terri DuLong was previously a resident of Cedar Key, Florida. She now resides on the east coast of the state in Ormond Beach with her husband, three dogs, and two cats. A retired registered nurse, she began her writing career as a contributing writer for Bonjour Paris, where she shared her travel experiences to France in more than forty articles with a fictional canine narrator. Terri’s love of knitting provides quiet time to develop her characters and plots as she works on her new Ormond Beach novels.

You can find out more by visiting her website or Facebook fan page.

The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

  • the secret ingredient of wishesTitle:  The Secret Ingredient of Wishes: A Novel
  • Author:  Susan Bishop Crispell
  • Genre:  Women’s Fiction; Magical Realism
  • Pages:  304
  • Published:  September 2016 – Thomas Dunne Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown—and her past—behind for good.