The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

Reading is such an extraordinary way to escape reality, and distancing ourselves from the anxieties and uncertainties in our lives is so important for our health and well-being. One hidden gem I have recently reread (for the third time!) and would highly recommend is The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. This book journeys back-and-forth in time, place, and perspective, and features the voices of several young women who are bound by a century-old mystery.

Beginning in 1913 in Cornwall, England, this novel revolves around a young girl who is placed on a ship to Australia and arrives with nothing but a suitcase: not even a name. Twenty-one years later, this young girl called Nell discovers a secret that upends her entire world, leading her to question her identity and embark on a journey to discover who she really is.

The story then follows the narrative of Cassandra, Nell’s granddaughter, who inherits an estate in Cornwall upon her grandmother’s death. Not only was Cassandra unaware of the existence of this estate, she also never knew Nell had visited Cornwall, let alone planned to live there. Upon receiving this inheritance, Cassandra picks up the loose threads Nell left behind to unravel the mystery of her grandmother’s life, learning a lot about herself along the way. While Nell and Cassandra are the two focal characters in this story, readers also experience the journey of several other lives that are inextricably intertwined with theirs.

Filled with secrets and revelations that will keep you guessing until the very end, this novel features a mysterious, winding storyline; beautiful, elegant language; and intricate, relatable character development. On top of that, there is a dark book of fairy tales and a secret garden (I can never resist a secret garden!). Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone looking to be whisked away to a forgotten garden in Cornwall or immersed in a multi-generational story brimming with family secrets, mystery, and discovery. This book is also available as an eBook:

The Less People Know About Us by Axton Betz-Hamilton

I don’t know about you, but the amount of reading I have done recently has drastically decreased. I have been gravitating toward podcasts instead. Another librarian recommended The Less People Know About Us  by Axton Betz-Hamilton as a true crime memoir that I would like and she was right! This book may be nonfiction, but it reads like fiction: a riveting tale of family drama and one person’s journey to rebuild their life from bare bones.

The Less People Know About Us  by Axton Betz-Hamilton follows Axton from childhood to adulthood. Growing up in small-town Indiana in the early 1990s, Axton and her parents (and the occasional grandparent) found themselves struggling. Why? When she was 11, both of Axton’s parents had their identities stolen. Life changed forever for them after this happened: fights over money became more and more frequent and their credit ratings were tanked. Every time Axton mentioned going to the authorities or the banks to help, her mom said she would handle it, when in reality, there was nothing much they could do to help because identity theft was a somewhat new concept.

To hide from the identity thief, they moved to different addresses and changed all of their personal information. Going so far as to avoid answering the door and to try to live as quiet a life as possible, Axton and her parents completely cut off the outside world. Isolated from friends and family, Axton’s life became increasingly more lonely. She became more and more anxious and eventually developed an eating disorder, seemingly quarantined in her childhood home as the identity thief was always able to find them no matter where they moved.

Years later, Axton discovered that she also was a victim of identity theft. Unfortunately by the time she discovered this, she was already thousands of dollars in debt. Her credit was ruined. In order to dig herself out of this, Axton became an award-winning identity theft expert doing research into this topic and trying to figure out why people choose to steal the identities of others. It took her years to figure out who was responsible and that involved trying to untangle a massively intricate web of lies that formed before she was even born.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter

Karin Slaughter is one of my go-to authors. I have yet to run across a book of hers that I haven’t liked. Slaughter writes suspenseful mystery thrillers that leave you wondering about past lives, secrets kept, and relationships both broken and sustained throughout the years. I like my fiction a little bit dark and twisty. If I don’t figure out the whodunnit and why until almost the end, even better. For me, Slaughter writes successful fiction because I’m consistently surprised with the twist her fiction takes.

Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter is her newest book. I. Was. Blown. Away. This novel takes a close look at the relationships with parents and their children. While we may think we know our ancestry, this novel proves that these thoughts may be completely and totally wrong. There are so many different pieces to each person. (Play on the title, get it??) We also have different identities. One woman can be a mother, daughter, granddaughter, wife, etc, with each separate part of herself hiding something from the other.

In Pieces of Her, Andrea discovers that she never really knew her mother, Laura at all. Even though she has a very close relationship with her mother, even living in her garage apartment, one day throws everything apart. Andrea knows that her mother has spent her entire life cloistered in their tiny beach town of BelleIsle. Her mother has no secrets, but is seen as a steadfast and trustworthy member of the community. With Laura’s life changed by a cancer diagnosis, Andrea moves back home and becomes enmeshed in her life. This cancer scare is a deviation from the norm, but Andrea knows her mother’s reactions are only a result of her cancer treatment.

Heading to the mall one afternoon with her mother, Andrea soon sees a completely different side of Laura. The violent scene that erupts in front of Andrea shows her that her mother was a totally different person before her, more so than her simply not having a child. The intense media scrutiny and the police’s desire to find answers brings unwanted attention to Laura and she quickly shuts down. Laura changes in front of Andrea’s eyes, telling Andrea to run away from the whole situation with only slight clues of where to go. Laura refuses to speak to anyone, instead lying low and trying to protect her daughter by pushing her away. Andrea leaves town, following the tiny bit of clues her mother has left for her. Digging into her mother’s secrets, Andrea quickly discovers that if she can’t figure out the real truth of her mother’s past, there might not be a future for either of them.

Reviewer’s note: Karin Slaughter is not shy when it comes to using graphic scenes, violence, and blood in her books. This book is no exception. If you’re squeamish, I would steer clear. In my opinion, this novel only benefits from her descriptions.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane

Conspiracy theories run amuck in Dennis Lehane’s Since We Fell. This piece of psychological fiction will pull your mind taunt with the heart-breaking, suspenseful story of a woman struggling to find herself while her life falls to shambles around her.

Since We Fell tells the story of Rachel Childs’ journey to find herself again after she has a mental breakdown on air while working as a journalist. Obviously many stressors piled up to lead to Rachel’s breakdown and watching Lehane plot out Rachel’s demise is fascinating. Readers are privy to Rachel’s close examination of her life and how she ended up where she is today.

Rachel’s childhood was fraught with turmoil. She was raised by Elizabeth Childs, a self-help author with a Ph.D. who spent her days criticizing Rachel and left her life as damaged as she could. Elizabeth relished in the fact that only she knew the true identity of Rachel’s father while Rachel was left wondering continuously who her father could be. The fact that her mother kept her father’s identity such a secret from her left Rachel missing a part of her identity and determined to do whatever necessary to find her biological father.

Rachel’s relationship with men is a testy one, yet she always finds herself looking for the good in them. Enter in Sebastian and Brian. Both men pop up at important moments in Rachel’s life. Sebastian is a producer at the TV station where Rachel works. Brian is a man that Rachel knows casually, a man that Rachel tried to enlist to help find her father. Both Sebastian and Brian propel Rachel forward and drag her back in life. They add both positivity and negativity to her life.

Rachel finally feels like she has everything under control filled with a loving husband and a worthwhile career. After she has her on-air meltdown however, Rachel becomes a shut-in and life becomes significantly more difficult. One rainy day while out of her apartment, Rachel has an encounter that drastically changes her life. She soon finds herself questioning everything. Rachel’s life starts to unravel and she can’t pull herself out of the conspiracy that she finds herself thoroughly enmeshed in. Dealing with her mental breakdown and subsequent psychological issues, Rachel has to work to discover what is actually true despite all of the madness, deception, and violence that continuously rock her life.


This book is also available in the following formats:

Quantico

quanticoIf you’re looking for a new television show that will immediately grab your attention and, most importantly, keep it until the very last episode, I recommend Quantico. This riveting mystery begins by introducing viewers to a set of new recruits going through training at the FBI Quantico Base. Alex Parrish is one of these New Agents in Training, aka “Nats”, a thoroughly vetted group of recruits from all across the US considered to be the best and brightest the FBI has ever seen.

Conspiracy, seduction, and suspense rock the recruits as they struggle to complete their training and not get kicked out of the program. Each recruit is subjected to high levels of scrutiny with their trainers digging into their lives and subjecting them to immense pressures all to prepare them for the rigors of daily FBI cases. Each NAT has their own secrets and complicated pasts, but they are all considered to be the best. This series flashes between Alex and her fellow agents training time at Quantico and the present where a bombing has rocked New York, shattering the FBI and the nation, while leaving Alex to try to figure out the truth of what really happened.

A deadly bombing has destroyed Grand Central. This event is the most lethal attack on New York since 9/11 and Alex is being framed as the mastermind. She must race against time as well as the judgments of her fellow FBI agents and the public to prove that she isn’t behind the attack. Alex is in a race against time to find the real culprit in order to prevent future destruction. Her task becomes even more difficult when it becomes apparent that the bomber is working from inside the FBI. Alex is forced to betray her friends and colleagues to find the truth and to prove that she is not a sleeper terrorist.