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December 7, 2017

10 Books You Don't Want to Miss

by Susan Roberts

I seem to be reading a lot of different genres lately so there's no way to group these books into one subject.  We could call it a collage of books but that doesn't sound quite right, either. So here are reviews of a few books that I've read this year and enjoyed.
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The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs by Janet Peery

The Exact Nature of Our Wrongs
This is the first book that I've read by Janet Peery and I want to thank Goodreads for a copy to read and review.

This is a wonderful family drama that looks into the dynamics of a family and tries to help us understand why the family members act like they do. It's a family made up of parents Hattie and Able, who are now in their late 80s, and their 5 middle-aged children. There is the normal squabbling that takes place in families over things like who is the favorite and remembered slights from childhood but this family's problems are even deeper due to drugs, alcohol and divorces. The mother definitely plays favorites and is a real enabler for her youngest son Billy, something that her husband and the rest of the children resent. As the patriarch of the family gets sicker, all of the family problems bubble to the surface to be dealt with once again.

This book looks deeply into what makes families work. Despite all of the issues and problems in this family, there is strong love and unbreakable bonds that hold them together as a family.

Buy The Exact Nature of our Wrongs at Amazon

An Epiphany in Lilacs: In the Aftermath of the Camps by Iris Dorbian

Am Epiphany in Lilacs
I read a lot of books about WWII and many are about the concentration camps. This is one of the first books that was about what happened after people were liberated from the camps. Many of them were still very sick, they were searching for their families but because Europe was in so much chaos, it was difficult to find family and friends and most people didn't know what to do or where to go next. This book - based on a true story - addresses that issue for one young man.

Daniel was 14 when he was liberated from the camps. He was very sick and as he fights to get his health back, he is plagued with nightmares about his time in the camps and desperately trying to find his mother and his two sisters and to decide where he needed to go when he left the hospital. It was very difficult to go back to a normal day to day existence after all he had been through in his short life.

This is a beautiful and well-written book about the aftermath of a terrible time in our history. Even though it is Daniel's story, it was replicated thousands of times with the survivors of the concentration camps. Thanks to the author for sharing such a heartfelt story from her family's history.

Buy An Epiphany in Lilacs at Amazon

The Happiness In Between by Grace Greene

The Happiness in Between
This is a wonderful novel by Grace Greene about learning to love yourself and make the best of your situation no matter how old you are. It's really a 'coming of age' novel for a 30-year-old woman.

Sandra has left her controlling husband for the second time and returned to her parents' home in Virginia where she finds little sympathy from her mother who is packing up and selling the house to move to Florida with Sandra's dad who has Alzheimers. With no money and few opportunities, Sandra moves to Cub Creek in rural Va to house sit and take care of her aunt's dog. What she finds when she gets there is a totally messy house and a missing dog. She also has a strong feeling that her husband is following her. At the beginning of the novel, Sandra is a 'good girl' who has never learned to stand up for herself or make decisions based on her happiness - her decisions were always based on what either her parents or her husband wanted her to do. Will her time alone in her aunt's house and her fear of her abusive husband cause her to continue her life as it had been or will she learn to stand up for herself and find her own happiness?

This is a wonderful novel about Sandra learning to grow up and take charge of her life and look for happiness in small ways.

Buy The Happiness in Between at Amazon

These Healing Hills by Ann H. Gabhart

These Healing Hills
This was a well-researched historical fiction novel. The characters are extremely well done and the mountain areas of Kentucky are written about so beautifully that the reader feels like they are there when reading this book.

The year is 1945 and Francine has just found out that the man she planned to marry after he came back from fighting in Europe is bringing home his English fiancée. She doesn't want to deal with this heartache so she joins The Frontier Nursing Service to learn to be a nurse-midwife and take care of people in the Appalachian area of Kentucky. She not only has a real heart for her job but loves the people who live in the mountains. Some of the other nurses feel like they are there to teach the people but Francine soon realizes that she can not only teach but she can also learn from them. When she meets Ben, a mountain man who has just returned from the fighting, they realize that their lives are very different even though there is a spark between them.

This is a lovely novel about life in the mountains in the mid-1940s. It was beautifully written and a joy to read -- the word I want to use to describe it is 'gentle'. I highly recommend it.

Buy These Healing Hills at Amazon

Margot by Jillian Cantor

I doubt that there are too many people who haven't read A Diary of Anne Frank and not cried over the loss of Anne and her family in the concentration camps of Germany near the end of WWII. First the book and then a stage play and in 1959 a movie - the story is at the top of most people's list of books about the Holocaust. Jillian Cantor takes Anne Frank's story into 'what if' territory with her book Margot! What if....Anne's sister Margot was still alive....what if she lived in Philadelphia (the city of brotherly love) as a Christian woman called Margie....what if she was still plagued with nightmares and thoughts of her family during their last years but had never contacted her father to tell him she was alive. The novel Margot takes place in 1959 as Margot struggles with how to live her life by hiding out in plain sight. She has told no one who she really is but as the movie version of Anne Frank is premiering and everyone is talking about it, she finds it more difficult to hide who she is from others but most importantly from herself. Can anyone really live a contented life by denying their history and hiding who they really are? I thought that Jillian Cantor did a fantastic job of combining real history with the 'what-ifs' of fiction to make this a truly memorable novel.

Buy Margot at Amazon

Seeking Sarah by ReShonda Tate Billingsley

Seeking Sarah
Bonds with our mothers are very important and Brooke Green had missed her mother for over 25 years old after mother died when she was seven. When her father dies, her grandmother tells her that her mother really isn't dead but had abandoned the family. Brooke finds her mother and her mother's new family not too far away in Atlanta and decides that she wants to confront her mother but boy does so go about it wrong. Instead of talking to her, she ends up wrecking havoc on her mother's family. I didn't really like the main character in this novel -- I thought that Brooke was childish and spoiled. However, the book was well written and I did enjoy reading it just to see how Brooke would solve her problems.

Buy Seeking Sarah at Amazon

The Summer Springsteen's Songs Saved Me by Barbara Quinn

The Summer Springsteen's Songs Saved Me
This was an uplifting fun book to read about a woman who finally decides to live her life the way she wants to and find happiness in her future. You'll laugh and you might even shed a few tears while you read about Sofia and her friends.

After 40-something Sofia returns home early and finds her husband in bed with another woman, she decides that its time to end her unhappy marriage. She moves to a small rental house at the beach in NJ and tries to put her life back together. With the help of her best friend, her new friend from the real estate office and the sexy guy next door, she works really hard to pull away from her old life and to find happiness. Will she be able to let go of her past and find joy in her future? 

This is a great book and if you are a Springsteen fan, it's even more fun. Every chapter is based around one of his songs and there's a lot of BRUCE references in the book.

Secret Sisters by Joy Callaway

Secret sisters
This is a well written historical fiction book about the founding of women's sororities in 1881 at Whitsitt College in Illinois. The main character Beth is the only female in the physician's program. Being the only female, she is constantly being harassed and made fun of for her goal of being a doctor in a time that almost all doctors are male. Most of the females on campus are either in the secretarial program or the divinity program, both acceptable for women of the time. Beth and two of her friends realize that they need to have 'women's fraternity' where they can talk about their classes and their plans for the future and support each other. Male fraternity is very accepted on campus but there is no place for women to make friends outside of the classroom. As Beth and her friends fight for their sorority to be approved and accepted on campus, they run into even more prejudice on campus.

Buy Secret Sisters at Amazon

The Yellow House by Jeroen Blokhuis

The Yellow House
This is an intriguing book about the time that Vincent Van Gogh spends in Arles in the south of France from 1888-9. He had grown tired of Paris and moved to Arles for the sunshine and the vibrant colors. Even though he wasn't accepted by the people in town, this was one of his most productive periods as an artist. His mental health deteriorated here and in late 1888 he cut off part of his ear and was sent to a psychiatric hospital to recover from his delusions. The book is written from Van Gogh's point of view and is a bit chaotic especially as the artist is losing touch with reality. If you enjoy paintings by Van Gogh or art history in general, this is an interesting book to read.

Buy The Yellow House at Amazon

Strings by Megan Edwards

Thanks to the publisher for a copy of this book to read and review because I don't think I'd have picked this one up and I really would have missed out on a good book! Why wouldn't I have found this book on my own -- it's about music and violins - two things that I know little about and it IS a love story - not a bodice ripper but a love story that develops over several decades. I am really glad that I had a chance to read it because it was a delightful story and one of the few that I've read recently that is told from a male POV.

Ted Spencer wants to go to Julliard in NYC but generations of his family have attended Yale and he knows that his parents aren't going to approve of his choice. They also aren't going to approve of his love for Olivia, the daughter of the cleaning woman at his prestigious private high school. Ted does go to Julliard but his relationship with Olivia ends. As he achieves fame as a violinist, he can't seem to move beyond thoughts of his first love. This is the story of a long-lasting love - both with music and with his first girlfriend -- was it just a crush or long lasting love? 

Buy Strings at Amazon

Susan Roberts lives in North Carolina when she isn't traveling.  She and her husband enjoy traveling, gardening and spending time with their family and friends.  She reads almost anything (and the piles of books in her house prove that) but her favorite genres are Southern fiction, women's fiction, and thrillers. Susan is a top 1% Goodreads Reviewer. You can connect with her on FacebookGoodreads or Twitter.                                             

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