The Girl Before by JP Delaney

girlbeforeSo many books lately with the word “girl” in the title made me wonder about this one but I was soon immersed in this psychological thriller.

Predominantly about two women, Emma and Jane, both similar in looks and both haunted by personal tragedy, who years apart, meet a mesmerizing, secretive architect Edward.

Edward owns several real estate buildings and has an extremely rigid application process for potential tenants to go through. Sample questions are, would you sacrifice yourself to save ten innocent strangers? What about ten thousand strangers? If you pass his stringent list of questions, you may have the opportunity to interview with him, and he will make the final decision about if you get to rent the apartment.

Edward is a minimalist architect. The coveted apartment is a modern, tech-savvy, austere flat that is not allowed decoration or disarray. Why would anyone want to live in a place like this? Both women seem to desire and need a semblance of control in their lives after personal tragedies. Eventually though, flaws begin to appear.

The anonymous author, JP Delaney says the story was written from personal distrust of the apparently perfect lives he sees sometimes, saying that what is seen on the surface may hide holes in the heart. The book may be brought to the screen by director Ron Howard.

The Runaway Midwife by Patricia Harman

midwife

It’s always fun to read about someone starting over in life. That’s one of the reasons we love books, to escape from the world we live in. Not saying that we are dissatisfied with the life we live, but reading offers opportunities to learn about other locations, lifestyles, and feelings. Hopefully we learn something from the adventures that our characters take.

In the Runaway Midwife, the main character is Clara. She is a caring midwife who enjoys her work but everything goes wrong at exactly the same time. Her marriage is sour, a pregnant friend she is caring for dies from a rare disease and Clara is blamed, and her daughter is basically out of touch on the other side of the world.

Clara reacts by escaping to Canada, our neighbor to the north. Because we live in Michigan, I saw several discrepancies in the novel that perhaps those who do not live adjacent might not see. It did not detract from the main story but compels me to note, out of awareness.

The island in Canada that Clara snowmobiles to is inclusive, and the people who live there year-round are an eclectic group of independent souls, friendly but not necessarily welcoming. That’s fine because Clara is hesitant to allow anyone to discover her true identity. Clara takes on a new name and rents a cottage with cash, first for the spring and summer, later extending through the year.

Interspersed throughout the novel is Clara’s awakening to nature and herself, you can sense the beauty and solitude of the island. Clara has a journal where she notes birds arriving back after their long sojourn of winter vacation in the south. There is her tentative attempt at friend-making at the hippie camp. There is caring and birth and dying. There is flirtation, mystery, crime and yes, love. The author does a good job of character development and dialogue and this allows the reader to flow along with the story. This book has a feel-good ending as well. In my opinion, readers will enjoy this book.

With Love from the Inside

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Sophie lies when she tells her husband both parents are dead. Her mother, Grace Bradshaw, is still alive and on death row for killing Sophie’s baby brother seventeen years ago.

Grace has filed as many appeals as she can. Her husband has died after many years of trying to prove his wife innocent of killing their baby son. She has had nothing but time to contemplate her fate, and time to write a journal for Sophie about her memories. This book is not really about the death penalty that Graces faces. It is about the love a mother has for her child. For Grace has not heard from Sophie for years! Time is ticking for any reconciliation.

This book written by Angela Pisel has hope and it has tears. Whether readers are for the death penalty or not the book causes you to think, what if.

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Book That Matters Most

Cover art for The book that matters most  by Hood, Ann, 1956- author.

Book clubs are often more than reading a book. They can be companionship resources, support groups and more for people who enjoy reading.

The Book That Matters Most by Ann Hood is about a book club and more.

Ava’s husband has just left her after 25 years of marriage. Her good friend leads a book club so she joins because she needs people to talk to. Because she doesn’t really want to read the first book, she gets a movie about it and feels foolish during the meeting!

On book selection day, the book club members decide to each pick a book that mattered the most to them in their lives. Many of the members pick classics, or books they were reading during important events. Ava picks a book she remembers consoled her after double tragedies in her family, her young sister falling from a tree and her mother’s suicide.

The novel focuses mainly about Ava and her daughter Maggie, who is fighting a drug addiction and having relationship problems while supposedly studying in Europe.

Full of twists and an endearing character in Ava, you will find this a good book, especially for those who love literature and the written word.

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Behind Closed Doors

CoCover art for Behind closed doors  by Paris, B. A., author.ntrol issues with a sinister twist are the basic themes throughout this first novel, Behind Closed Doors written by B. A .Paris.

Jack and Grace are the perfect couple on the surface, but within the confines of their own home, life is a different story. This novel will keep you riveted. It also leaves plenty of room for your imagination. Jack has devious plans in store for Grace’s handicapped sister Millie. Grace is in a race with time and her wits to save her. She must use all her intelligence and resources to gain the upper hand in a battle for good. This book allows you to dwell on the forms and degrees of control after reading it. Even though the topic is rather uncomfortable, the story is creepy and seductive and reels you in.

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Vegetable Butcher

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The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini is satisfyingly compiled and creatively pictured. The book demonstrates exactly how to select, cut and use vegetables you may not even have been able to name as you see them freshly arrayed in your local grocery or farmers market.

Why not make this the year to try some new vegetables? I have never tried celery root, tomatillos and wouldn’t know what to do with sunchokes, but the author shows you how to prepare these and many more. Plus she includes recipes that look delicious.

After reading this book you will be able to identify types of lettuce, mushrooms (she names fourteen types), and herbs you find in the grocery store. You may discover a new favorite that you have deprived yourself of for years just because you didn’t know what it was or how to prepare it. An excellent resource, this book works well for anyone, especially for those who don’t have time to watch food shows on television.

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Glory Over Everything by Kathleen Grissom

glorySet in 1830, the tale follows Jamie, the son of a plantation owner and his slave Belle, characters from the Kitchen House, the author’s first book.

Henry, an escaped slave in hiding, helps homeless Jamie when he arrives in Philadelphia.

Confusion, truth and lies are at the heart of Jamie’s existence as he passes for white. The road he takes brings him to wealth and prestige but he is uncomfortable with the role he plays in society.

Jamie is compelled to assist Henry in finding his son Pan who has disappeared. They fear Pan is kidnapped and sold into slavery. At the same time Jamie is torn because if he goes south someone may recognize him as an escaped slave. His fears are warranted. Thus begins an escape from North Carolina through the Great Dismal Swamp. The bravery of the Underground Railroad conductors, both black and white are brought to life in the escape.

Especially compelling is Sukey, another slave from the Kitchen House, who tells her story about being sold over and again with resignation, sadness and strength. In the end, she takes control over the helplessness of the life she leads.

It is interesting to think about what attitudes have changed or have not changed in our country during the last 200 years.

If you enjoyed the Kitchen House you are bound to enjoy this story as well.