Government drone by day and book lover and geek girl by night!
Trigger warning: Rape
Dealing with some repairs at my home since Monday so since Sunday evening I have gone on a Cathy Lamb reading binge. I am also almost done with the two Clare Mackintosh books I have right now as well. I should have just kept up to date with reviews, but honestly hit a wall of not wanting to post any of my reviews. So today I am sucking it up and getting caught up.
First up, "My Very Best Friend." So I read Cathy Lamb years ago. I got annoyed by one of her books so badly though "If You Could See What I See" that I just stopped insta-buying her like I have before. So here's the thing about Lamb, her books are mostly comfort romance reads. Usually the heroine will have a dark past, she will fall for a very tall guy with broad shoulders, they will have hot sex (that won't really be described), someone will die, and then they will still (heroine and hero) have a happy ever after. I am always puzzled by Lamb being considered chick lit though, her subject matters are often not breezy enough to be chick lit.
On another note, I do love it best when her books all tie together though. So in some of her books will be references to the characters in her other books. This one though, I believe stands alone. The main reason why I didn't give this 5 stars though is the book gets quite repetitive towards the last 100 pages when the heroine's very best friend returns.
"My Very Best Friend" takes place in 1990. The main character, Charlotte Mackintosh is about to return to her childhood home in Scotland. Charlotte and her mother left Scotland after the death of Charlotte's father when she was just 15 and she has stayed in touch with her best friend Bridget through letters. Now that a tenant that was renting her family's cottage has died, and Charlotte's mother is off in South Africa, Charlotte is the only one left to return and see about assessing the cottage and getting it ready for sale. Charlotte is also thinking it's a good time to return to Scotland since she hasn't heard from Bridget in a long time and is worried about her. Charlotte though when she returns finds that the home is in bad shape, she's dealing with an awful case of writer's block, and she is starting to think romantic thoughts about Bridget's brother Toran.
So "My Very Best Friend" deals with some heavy issues. We have Charlotte still affected by her father's death and her wallowing at times in happier memories of her family and her three best friends, Bridget, Toran, and other childhood friend. The four kids often spent every day together. Charlotte we find out is a scientist, but also secretly writes time travel romance novels and is quite successful. Charlotte has been hit with a case of writer's block though and starts to wonder what is next for her. Charlotte is quite logical and I thought Lamb did a great job of slowly revealing Charlotte's first marriage and the supposed visions from her paternal grandmother about her life.
Lamb typically includes a group of women that get together in her books and this one is no exception. Charlotte is invited to a group that meets weekly and for the most part everyone is great, except for a narrow minded nasty woman.
The romance between Charlotte and Toran was a nice slow burn. I thought Lamb did a great job of showing off Toran more than she usually does with the heroes in her book. We get to find out about him via Charlotte's remembrances and also what he tells her. We find out that Toran and Bridget had a excessively religious father who beat them and berated his wife. Toran also provides insight into Bridget who is not in Scotland and that they are both looking for.
Lamb via letters though is where she shows the heart of most of the characters. We have Charlotte's letters to Bridget through the years and Bridget's letters back. We also after a time get to see letters that Bridget wrote to Charlotte and never sent. Those were heart breaking. We find out what drove Bridget from the family home years ago and we find out why Toran is so desperate to find her. I am not going to lie, the last part of this book had me in tears Sunday night. I went through a lot of tissues.
I thought the flow of the book was pretty good up until we get towards the last 100 pages. I think Lamb got too repetitive (which is always a problem) with going over the same ground via the towns people and how Bridget was her best friend and her very best friend.
The setting of this book is not typical for Lamb. Usually her books take place in Oregon so it was fun to see her move things from Washington state to Scotland. I was intrigued about Scotland, but didn't see enough things to have me feel it was Scotland except for some dialogue here and there. And also in the attitudes of the village towards the end of the book.
The ending was bittersweet and I really enjoyed it.
So this to me is not a typical Daphne du Maurier novel. There are hints of some Gothic elements here and there with a curse being flung about. But other than that, du Maurier just follows along following five generations of the Brodrick family from 1820 to 1920 following five of the male characters from the Brodrick family. I have to say that from beginning to end the tale of "Hungry Hill" is going to grab you. And you start to wonder if a curse is really what is affecting certain members of the family or is it simply fate? I loved the writing, the character development, the setting, and ultimately the ending. It seems that in the end, the last male surviving member of that family has changed his family's fate.
"Hungry Hill" starts off following a man that is named Cooper John (due to the cooper mine he opens up on Hungry Hill). Cooper John is a widower with two sons (Henry and John) and three daughters. Cooper John is focused on enlarging his family's castle called Clonmere and having enough money left to take care of his children's children. I don't think that Cooper John was a bad man, but he is very black and white on things and he loves his children though he is often left confused and frustrated with his second eldest son, also named John. From there, du Maurier follows the rest of the family line and the book is broken up into parts. From Cooper John we follow Greyhound John, Wild Johnnie, Henry, Hal, and finally we go into the last book called The Inheritance.
I have to say that all of the sections were fascinating. I don't think you will come away liking most of the people in this book, but you will love reading about them. I think my favorite book though had to be the one with Henry. My least favorite (as much as one was my least favorite) was the one with Hal. I don't want to get into talking too much and spoiling things, but you have to wonder at times if only so and so happened this may have meant a different fate for the characters that follow. Except for the character of Greyhound John, I don't think that any in the Brodrick family loved the land truly. And even then with him, he lost interest in it as soon as he finally gets the woman he has desired.
The Donovan family is another big piece of this book and we find out at the beginning of the book, Cooper John's grandfather was shot in the back by a Donovan. And the Donovan's of the present seem focused on ruining Cooper John and his family's fortune. There seems to be parts superstition and just plain rage towards the Brodrick's and I wonder if du Maurier contemplated showing their side of the story at all.
The writing was so good. I honestly felt sad when I got to the end. I would have loved to read on about this family past the 1920s. The flow was great too. From book to book it makes sense who we follow and why and I always loved books where I can follow characters through decades.
The setting of this book is Ireland in the late 1800s and the first World War. I have to say that it read as different to me than what I expected. I don't know what I thought about Ireland back then, but I honestly didn't know anything about cooper mines existing there.
The ending of the book though gives a glimmer that a new change is finally coming to the Brodrick clan and with that the end of the supposed curse.
Romantic Suspense: any romance which has a significant sub-plot that involves mystery, thriller or suspense; also gothic romance
My edition only has 408 pages, not 528. Don't know why the pages for the edition is wrong. Other than that, loved this book and could have read even more about the Brodricks.
Wow. Enjoying reading about Copper John and his family. Deciding to build a mine on Hungry Hill near his family’s home so far has caused Copper John riches. However there seems to be a darkness over his family as well. The Brodericks seems to have a curse or something following them.
The only reason why I didn't give this collection 5 stars is that not all of the stories grabbed me the same way as "The Red Garden." Also though there is the linkage of the Blackbird House, we have so many loose endings with the people who come and live in that house. I loved "The Red Garden" because many of the people in those stories popped up as young children and then as adults or were referred to in some way so you know what happened to them. That said, I thought the magical realism of the blackbird that turned white, and the young boy who lost him was sad and a perfect book to read around Halloween.
"The Edge of the World" (5 stars)-The first story tells you how the Blackbird House was built by the Hadley family and the tragedy that left Cora Hadley alone planting her garden and wishing for the return of her husband and two sons after a disastrous sea voyage. We also get to see how the youngest son, Issac came across a blackbird that refuses to leave his side.
"The Witch of Truro" (4.5 stars)-A young woman named Ruth who has a magical way with cows loses her father and mother in a fire. The young woman is thought to be a witch (due to her red shoes) and is eventually left to live with a young man who went to see and was almost killed by a fish. Something ties them together. Besides Blackbird house, we also get to hear how a tree that only bears scarlet/red fruit came to be planted here. The tree is referenced in some of the stories that follows.
"The Token" (3 stars)-This is one of the few short stories that follows what happened to a previous characters. We have Ruth's oldest daughter in this one narrating the story of what happened to her mother after the death of her father. It was a solid story I thought, I just got bored by it and Ruth.
"Insulting the Angels" (4 stars)-This one has no ties to anyone in the previous stories. It follows a young man named Larkin who comes across an older woman named Lucinda Parker who is left with no choices. I don't want to spoil this, but I was surprised at how Hoffman handled this and the ending with Larkin and how he came to be the next owner of Blackbird House.
"Black is the Love of my True Love's Hair" (3 stars)-So this was another story that follows someone through two stories in this collection. We have a young girl named Violet who has a birthmark covering her face that leaves her feeling ugly and unwanted. When a young man comes to the town to investigate a possible monster, she finds herself drawn to him and focused on ways to keep him there.
"Lionheart" (3 stars)-I thought this was an interesting story. Violet is now married and has 7 children. Her favorite is her oldest though that she has named Lion. Violet loves Lion as much the same way she loved his father. I think this story is an interesting look at the secrets that families keep, I just though that this one and the next story should have been combined. The ending of this one kind of falls flat.
"The Conjurer's Handbook" (5 stars)-Lion's son, Lion Jr. and how he meets a woman in one of the darkest places after War World II and how this woman (Dorey) has some magic of her own. Lion becomes obsessed with Dorey and marries her though frets how his grandmother Violet is going to take to her. When Lion and Dorey return to Blackbird House though, Violet is focused on putting Dorey through trials to see if she deserves her grandson.
"The Wedding of Snow and Ice" (5 stars)-This one has a definitive date in it, 1957. A new family lives in Blackbird House, the Farrells and you get to see once again the secrets a family can keep about themselves and their neighbors.
"India" (3.5 stars)-This one didn't really grab me the way the other stories did. India follows a young woman who narrates how her family came to live in Blackbird House. She and her brother are both desperate to get away from their parents who are into living off the land and not working. It leaves their children often hungry and cold though. I think in the end you are supposed to think about how you never really know anyone, but I thought the parents in this story were kind of terrible.
"The Pear Tree" (3 stars)-Another family, the Stanleys have bought the Blackbird House and use it as a summer house. It's a sad story and I wish I had liked it more, it just didn't grab me at all.
"The Summer Kitchen" (3.5 stars)-This story is one that follows the last family I think that will live in Blackbird House. Sam and Katherine buy this home after dealing with their daughter Emma who is recovering from her bought of cancer and chemotherapy. Katherine is worried that she and Sam are falling apart from each other, but the house draws them in. Having the home as a summer getaway though draws Katherine closer to Emma, but farther apart from her son Walker. I get why Walker is a bit of a jerk, I just didn't like him at all in this story.
"Wish You Were Here" (4.5 stars)-This follows Emma all grown up and divorced. Her parents give her Blackbird House and she thinks about selling it. However, something about the house calls to her and brings her back to a sense of her self she hasn't felt for years.
So this was a really great book to choose for the Sleepy Hollow square. Taking place in a small town in Massachusetts, Alice Hoffman follows the town founders and descendants of Blackwell, Massachusetts. Mixing in historical incidents as well as some magical realism, the town and the residents feel like a very real place after a few chapters. The flow between chapters is great and sometimes a person you read about as a child appears in a short story later. I do wish that a family tree had been included so you could follow those you read in the stories and trace their antecedents. The biggest tie is that a garden that was started by a woman named Hallie Brady has soil that is red and anything that blooms there comes out red too. Readers get to find out what was buried there and the ties that the Brady, Partridge, Mott, and Starrs all have the oldest house in town as well as to the red garden.
"The Bear's House" (5 stars)-We found out that a town formerly named Bearsville, was founded in 1750, but changed it's name to Blackwell in 1786. Hoffman introduces you to the town's founders in this one, but focuses on a woman named Hallie Brady. Hoffman allows readers to see at this point, that what you may believe about someone is often messed up with white lies as well as outright falsehoods. We see how Hallie and others managed to survive in Bearsville and how a bear and its cub came to mean so much to Hallie.
"Eight Nights of Love" (3 stars)-This one was okay. It takes place in 1792 and you get to hear how the supposed Tree of Life in the town of Blackwell was planted by the one and only Johnny Appleseed. A young woman is infatuated with Johnny after the death of her mother and husband.
"The Year There Was No Summer" (5 stars)-This was one of the most heartbreaking of the stories. Reading about two sisters (Mary and Amy) who will be evoked time and time again in later stories in this book.
"Owl and Mouse" (3 stars)-This one takes place in 1848 and follows a young woman named Emily who sounds quite familiar.
"The River at Home" (4 stars)-This story takes place in 1863 and has the town men leaving to join the Union during the Civil War. A young widow along with her husband's father are left grieving. When a young man who also went to war and lost a leg returns, they both end up finding the strength to go on.
"The Truth About My Mother" (5 stars)-This story starts in 1903 and the narrator is the daughter of the school teacher that the town of Blackwell hires. We get to find out about both of their histories and how they left Brooklyn for Blackwell.
"The Principles of Devotion" (5 stars)-This story starts in 1918 and the young woman who was the narrator of the last story is the subject of this story. The narrator in this one is a young girl called Azurine. Azurine is devoted to her older sister Sara who is dying of the Spanish Flu that has killed off a lot of the town. The younger sister agrees to care for her sister's dog that refuses to leave her side and later her grave.
"The Fisherman's Wife" (5 stars)-This one has more magical realism than most of the stories and was really well done. A young man comes to hear about folk tails in Blackwell in 1935. Instead he finds that he may be part of one.
"Kiss and Tell" (5 stars)-This story takes place in 1945 and follows Hannah Partridge who we hear about in "The Principles of Devotion." Now she's older and living in her family home alone. Her sister Azurine has gone off to take care of injured and dying men due to the Second War World. When a traveling group of actors comes through Blackwell, something in Hannah finally wakes up.
"The Monster of Blackwell" (5 stars)-This story taking place in 1956 follows Hannah's niece Kate Partridge. Kate meets a young man who is not quite a man and not quite a bear. This story was more brutal than any that came before it I thought. I loved it though, and felt the ending was bitter sweet.
"Sin" (4 stars)-This story takes place in 1961 and a young girl desperate for a friend, meets someone new who moves to Blackwell. Too bad jealousy and shame turn things upside down. The ending of this one was very sad I thought, and the young girl who is the narrator in this one, Carla, we get mention of in one of the later stories though.
"Black Rabbit" (3 stars)-This one takes place in 1966 and follows the Mott brothers who we got introduced to in "Sin." I have to say that I thought this one was a bit draggy compared to the other stories. We also get to see how a commune gets set up near Blackwell that doesn't do so well with the whole peace and love thing.
"The Red Garden" (5 stars)-Taking place in 1986, this story follows Kate's daughter Louise who has returned home to her family's home to live again. She doesn't know if she wants to sell the house or move on, but finds herself drawn back to her family's red garden. The red garden causes something in her to change and has her thinking of a young man she hasn't seen since she was a child.
"King of the Bees" (5 stars)-Is the last story in the book and I would imagine takes place in the 1990s or there about due it being about Louise's son, James. I think this was a lovely way to anchor all of the stories. You get to see some echoes of past stories in this one. You have parents doing their best to keep their son alive and healthy and him pushing at anything that has him chained to them. But in the end, he realizes what his father felt for him after he passes and now what he feels as a father.
I have to say that I loved Red Garden just a little bit better than this one. This is still a solid four stars though.
Stone Cold Horror: this is a late addition because I had too much YA horror, so I combined a couple of categories into Fear Street & needed something else for the horror genre! Horror that takes place primarily in a winter/cold/snow type setting.