Watching You by Lisa Jewell

I am a huge fan of mystery and psychological thrillers and Watching You by Lisa Jewell is a fabulous addition to the genre.  The twists and turns in this thriller will keep you guessing until literally the last paragraph.  The book begins with a murder in an affluent English town but the reader does not know the who, what, when, where or how.  With an opening such as this, the tension grows and every character’s motivations are suspect until the true killer is revealed.

Newlyweds Joey Mullen and her husband Alfie have just moved to the exclusive neighborhood of Melville Heights in Bristol, England.  Unable to afford rent on their own, they take up residence with Joey’s brother and sister-in-law.  As a newcomer in the neighborhood, Joey befriends Tom Fitzwilliam, the beloved local school headmaster who lives two doors away and her initial friendship turns quickly from infatuation to obsession.  But, unbeknownst to Joey,  someone is watching through their photographic lens.  It is Tom’s teenage son, Freddie, who documents the goings on in Melville Heights and sees the blossoming relationship his dad is starting with Joey.

But Joey isn’t the only person in this neighborhood who is obsessed with Tom Fitzwilliam.  Bess, a young student at the school, is observed slipping in and out of the headmaster’s office by Jenna, another teen in the neighborhood and the speculation grows.  Does Tom have secrets to hide?   To add to the intrigue Jenna’s mother is convinced a group of neighbors, headed by Fitzwilliam, is stalking her.  Young Freddie and Jenna join forces and with their prying eyes discover a decades old suicide which will bring motivations for murder to light.  Everyone has a reason, but who is willing to kill in order to keep a secret and enact revenge?

About half way throughout the book I thought I knew the ending, but I was completely shocked at the culprit and the twisted motivations behind the killing.  I highly recommend Watching You for suspense and thriller fans!

 

 

 

 

 

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White

The three women who wrote this book are all talented writers on their own, so when press started surrounding The Glass Ocean, I knew this novel would be something special. I’m usually pretty skeptical of books with multiple authors, but this book was a perfect blend of all three writers’ specific styles. I’m not sure how they managed this blend, but I couldn’t pick out who wrote what. Perfect.

The Glass Ocean by Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White crafts a well-written historical mystery with a hint of romance. Three women are linked years apart: two in the past and one in the present. All three are also tied to the RMS Lusitania, a passenger liner doomed from the minute it set off. Heading from the United States to England in April 1915, the RMS Lusitania ferried a large number of people heading to a new life, running away from the old, or heading back home. Whatever their reasons, the RMS Lusitania was seen as the perfect way to get wherever they were going.

April 1915. Caroline is a southern belle with a marriage in crisis. Her husband, Gilbert, used to be attentive, but as of late, something has seemed off. Caroline is hoping that this trip to London will reignite the spark that they are missing. The first-class accommodations afforded to them on the Lusitania will certainly help. What Caroline doesn’t account for is her old friend Robert Langford. He turns up on the ship, throwing all of Caroline’s well-laid plans out the window. Does she want to reconnect with Gilbert or start something new with Robert? Trapped on this ship and feeling restless, Caroline must decide how she wants her life to turn out.

Also on the ship is Tessa Fairweather. Her accommodations are much less lavish than Caroline’s. Having secured second-class lodgings, Tessa is returning home to Devon. Or is she? Tessa has really never left the United States and is traveling under an assumed name. She’s the daughter of a con man and has the ability to forge and steal almost anything. Tessa has been told that after she accomplishes this heist on the Lusitania she can start a whole new life. As Tessa begins scoping out this heist, though, it quickly becomes apparent that her partner is holding something back from her and that this heist is not as straightforward as it seems.

Flash forward to May 2013. Bestselling author Sarah Blake is struggling. Her finances are low, she can’t find an idea for her next book, and her mother has Alzheimer’s. Desperate to find a way to solve her problems, Sarah decides to open the chest her mother made her promise never to open. In said chest, Sarah finds items that belonged to her great-grandfather, who died when the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German U-Boat in 1915. Searching through his belongings, Sarah discovers something that has the ability to change history forever. Needing to validate her discovery she heads to England to hopefully gain help from newly disgraced Member of Parliament, John Langford. After all, given that his relative, Robert Langford, was on the RMS Lusitania, his family archives might hold the key to Sarah understanding what she found in her chest.

This book was a delightful mix of three different characters whose lives were all drastically affected by the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915. Read this book and let me know what you think!

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman

I am a sucker for a good thriller with a mystery twist. I stumbled upon Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman while looking for a new book to listen to over the holidays. The light blue cover with the shock of red instantly made me think of murder. Even though covers sometimes don’t relate to the content of the book (which is a topic for another time), I was ready to give this book a try. Imagine my pleasant surprise when the cover actually related! Win!

Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman is the story of a married couple thrust into a troublesome situation with differing views of how to handle it. Erin and Mark are a lovely couple. Living in England and passionately in love, they live a bit of a charmed life, hardly lacking for anything. Erin works as a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough. Working her contacts, she is in the midst of filming a documentary following three people in prison. Promising to discuss their arrests, talk to them while they are in prison, and then follow up with all three after they are released, this documentary has the potential to shoot Erin to the top of desired filmmakers when it’s finished. Mark is a investment banker with big plans for their life together who seems to bankroll Erin’s dreams.

While in the midst of wedding planning, Mark is let go from his job. Since Mark brings in the bulk of the money, Erin and Mark are forced to tweak their wedding plans. They decide to honeymoon in Bora Bora, a dream honeymoon in the tropics. Jetting off to Bora Bora, Mark and Erin are ready for two weeks of relaxation in the sun and sand with just each other, exactly what they need after the stress of Mark’s dismissal.

A few years ago, Erin had a bad scuba diving experience. Despite this, she agrees to go scuba diving with Mark, since it is something  he really enjoys doing. While scuba diving after a major storm, they find something in the water. Erin understandably freaks out, leaving Mark to investigate on his own. What he finds isn’t good and leads the two down a dangerous path. Just when they think they have left that event in their past, Mark finds something else connected to what they found in the water. After trying to get their resort involved, Mark and Erin realize that they must decide whether to speak out even more or to keep everything they found a secret. What would you do if you found something that had the power to drastically change your life circumstances? If no one else knew you found something, what would be the harm in keeping it? Whatever they decide will lead them down a life-altering series of events that has the possibility to destroy their comfortable lives forever.

This book is also a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick from 2018, so you know it’s a good one. Get to reading (or listening) and let me know what you think!


This book is also available in the following formats:

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Jodi Picoult is a writer that never fails me. I know when I pick up one of her books, there’s a very good chance I will enjoy it. I recently finished her newest book, A Spark of Light, and found myself hooked from beginning to end. I seldom recommend you read a book over listening to it, but for this book, I recommend doing just that. My reason? This book is told backwards. If you have a somewhat short attention span(like I do), you might miss the verbal announcement of when they go to a different hour.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult takes on provocative issues in this book. Picoult shows that each issue presented needs alternate viewpoints in order to see the full truth. Trigger warning: this book deals with topics of abortion, gun violence, racism, and mentions rape and incest. These topics are all timely, presented equally, and are certainly worthy of debate in any society.

Morning begins like any other at the Center. Staff open the women’s reproductive health services clinic to a wide variety of people who need care. Whether you need abortions, birth control, cancer screenings, wellness checks, etc., the Center is there to help. The fact that the Center even exists is controversial, with demonstrators barricading the road and building every day trying to derail, confuse, and degrade the people who need the Center’s help.

Everything comes to a screeching halt when a single protestor makes his way into the Center armed with a gun and takes everyone hostage. Seeing events unfold from the viewpoints of staff, visitors, and patients allows readers to better understand their reasons for behaving the way they do. Unraveling the day backward hour by hour, this novel starts at the tensest moment with Hugh McElroy, a police hostage negotiator, negotiating for the release of all inside the Center. The gunman, negotiator, doctors, nurses, and women who have come to the Center have their lives examined as we start at their lowest point and move back.

Each person with ties to the Center is equally fascinating. A police hostage negotiator is trying to work when his phone vibrates and his heart stops. His teenage daughter and his older sister are trapped in the clinic alongside a pro-life protestor disguised as a patient, a doctor working seemingly in opposition to his faith, a nurse attempting to calm her panic to save a wounded woman, a young woman there to end a pregnancy, an older woman who needs help understanding some devastating news she received, and the armed hostage taker who just wants someone to listen to what he has to say.

Even though this novel is told backward, the story unravels naturally as each characters’ lives are slowly peeled away. Readers are privy to the complexities involved in trying to balance the right to life with the right to choose as the reasonings for each person’s trip to the Center is slowly revealed.


This book is available in the following formats:

Library Closed for Martin Luther King, Jr Day

The Davenport Library will be closed on Monday, January 21 in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr Day. All of our locations will reopen on Tuesday, January 22 with regular business hours: Main (321 Main Street) 9am to 8pm, Eastern (6000 Eastern Avenue) 9am to 5:30pm and Fairmount (3000 Fairmount Street) noon to 8pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!

The Minimalist Home : a Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life by Joshua Becker

With the New Year, it seems like everyone is making a resolution.  One popular resolution is to get rid of the many possessions that you no longer use, which many believe will lead you to fill your home and life with items that are meaningful to you.  Popular blogger Joshua Becker’s new book, The Minimalist Home, is a guide to only filling your home with things that create a simpler life.  The author guides you from room to room within your home, helping you to decide what to keep and what to discard.  He addresses not only the easy stuff – the chair that is being used as storage in the corner – but even the most difficult things to part with   – the items that have sentimental value.  He speaks as to why so many Americans have so much stuff and how accumulating items begins in the first place.  His advice is practical, straightforward and helps with the tough questions that are bound to arise when discarding possessions.

One of the beneficial parts of the book is how the author came to be a minimalist by sharing his story.    Before Becker discovered minimalism, he was very similar to many others before their journey of owning less.   A casual conversation with a neighbor led him to question why he owned so many items when it was distracting him from what really mattered in life.  In his case, this was spending quality time with his wife and son and enjoying their time together.  After converting to minimalism, he boasts that he and his family were able to be more generous with their time and live a simpler life, surrounding themselves with things they use and truly enjoy.

The author’s main takeaway is that the reader can create their own journey of minimalism, making it unique to them.  Becker’s book supplies the framework to help readers make the journey.   Even if you do not decide to get rid of nearly everything you own, The Minimalist Home will make you think more about how you view the objects you possess in your home.

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg’s Night of Miracles  is the sequel to The Story of Arthur Trulov.  What a happy surprise to discover that some of the characters from Trulov continue in Berg’s newest novel.  Lucille and Maddy are back, as well as a lot of new folks from Mason, MO.

Berg does a great job of altering the prism through which we see the small Missouri town; it serves as the nexus for the various characters in this book.  For example, Iris’ story starts in Boston but, after her divorce, she makes a detour to Mason and her story comes to fruition there.

The town diner, Polly’s Henhouse, serves as a new setting with new characters. Polly and Monica work there, and interact with regular customers like Tiny and Iris. Iris, then, connects us back to Lucille. Iris eventually gets a job working for Lucille, facilitating her cooking classes. This web reflects how life in a small town works.

Berg changes point of view for each character, too, so we are privileged to peek into their interior life, and yet we also view how they are seen in the community. It’s a good reminder that we exist in other people’s minds in an entirely different way than how we exist in our own. We give ourselves much more latitude, and are much more forgiving of our own faults and idiosyncrasies. It’s interesting to see Lucille through Lucille’s eyes, rather than through Arthur’s, who thought, at least initially, that Lucille was pretty annoying. We see instead Lucille’s frailty and admire the lifetime’s worth of knowledge and skill that she puts into her baking.

Once again, Berg creates a world in which we gradually get to know and love the very human people who inhabit it. I wouldn’t mind spending time in Mason, myself but I’m pretty sure that it exists only on paper.

Online Reading Challenge – Mid-Month Check

Hello Fellow Challengers!

How is your reading going this month? Have you had any luck finding a great book about Medicine?

I have a confession to make. I’ve read not one but two books already this month! Ha! (I actually finished the second one on January 6!) “Overachiever” is not a word people usually associate with me, and don’t expect this to happen every (or any other!) month but this time I found two can’t-put-down books. And the month is only half over – maybe I’ll find another!

If you’re struggling to find the right book, or are short on time this month, why not try a television show movie? (Yes, movies are allowed!) Here’s a selection of movies and television shows that might interest you.

The Big Sick

Grey’s Anatomy

The Good Doctor

House

M*A*S*H

There are lots more – medical dramas are always popular. Stop by any Davenport Library location and browse the selection!

Speeches of Note compiled by Shaun Usher

Speeches of note: an eclectic collection of orations deserving of a wider audience – compiled by Shaun Usher (is) “An illustrated collection of 80 of history’s most interesting, profound, and sometimes unknown speeches from a range of scintillating personalities such as Winston Churchill, Maya Angelou, Barack Obama, Abraham Lincoln, Groucho Marx, and Tina Fey”– Provided by publisher.

This is an incredible compilation of speeches. Definitely worth your time to read. Highly recommend this book for anyone lacking inspiration in their life or in need of the greater element of the human spirit that we only sometimes exude – if ever. All the speeches in this book are….and no understatement here…..incredible. I especially enjoyed: President Theodore Roosevelt’s speech in 1912 after just having been shot….he went on to give his speech and said, “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible. I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot—but it takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose.” – seriously??? do you know of any politician who would go on today to give a speech for an hour and thirty minutes after just having been shot??? this is madness and no….I mean wow…this man…too bad he was not elected again in 1912 just think of what more he could have done – as we have him to thank in part for the United States National Park Service and protected lands through his conservationist actions.; Meghan Markle gave a beautiful speech on gender equality in 2015 to the United Nations (UN) on International Women’s Day; Malala Yousafzai’s first ever public speech at the UN which called for worldwide access to education; Donovan Livingston, a Master of Education graduate student, made a beautiful, verging on poetic, speech that echoed the need for change for students of color calling on all teachers and faculty to be that change – his speech created tremors  throughout the world via the internet giving Livingston instant international acclaim; and lastly, Anna Quindlen’s commencement speech that was never delivered….and..it made me cry. Check out this book. It is incredibly wonderful, inspiring, and moving.

Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Guest blog by Laura V.

I enjoyed the technique of intermingling two storylines in Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver but since I listened to the audio version, sometimes it took me several seconds to mentally shift gears into the other story when a new chapter started. One story takes place during the campaign leading up to the 2016 United States Presidental election where a controversial unnamed male candidate is simply referred to as The Bullhorn. After chasing the proverbial brass ring their whole careers, Willa Knox and her husband Iano Tavoularis have both lost their jobs due to closures. They move to Vineland and try to balance life with her super right-wing father-in-law, millennial daughter who Willa doesn’t understand, and her unemployed, Ivy League son’s new baby. All the while, their inherited home is becoming less stable on its crumbling foundation.

The other story takes place in the same location post-civil war. Thatcher Greenwood has a new position in a recently-founded utopian community, Vineland. He brings his new bride and her family back to their old home from before they lost their patriarch and his fortune. He struggles to keep up with his new family’s penchant for the good life, while they refuse to believe their patriarch built a house that was already in dire need of major renovation. Greenwood finds a friend and kindred spirit in his neighbor, Mary Treat. Treat was a fascinating real historical figure who was a frequently published self-taught botanist and a correspondent of Charles Darwin.

In some ways this book is a mirror for our current state of the union. I know many readers besides myself with be able to identify with the confusion and frustration brought on by having done “all the right things” only to be left with a severance package and a new job search at an age where starting over seems exhausting. My favorite characters were Mary Treat and Tig, Willa’s daughter. Mary was able to slyly outmaneuver the barriers against women in science and actually made a living out of it in the late 1800s! Tig seemed to have her feet more firmly planted in the reality that is the state of the world today, while Willa clung to the world as it used to be or should be.

Kingsolver writes beautifully, as usual. Her characters are interesting and have depth. Although I think she oversimplifies some topics occasionally and she made too much use of coincidence in this novel. If you haven’t read Kingsolver, this would be a decent introduction and if you’re a fan, you’re sure to enjoy it.

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