Book Review: The Girl from Station X: My Mother’s Unknown Life

Thanks to Lisa at Aurum Publishing Group for sending us not one, but two copies of The Girl From Station X: My Mother’s Unknown Life (Quayside Publishing Group and Union Books). Reading the blurb from the publisher it sounded like it would be a most interesting read and the packaging was just absolutely gorgeous:


From the publisher:

When her needy and troubled mother began a slow descent into Alzheimer’s, Elisa Segrave faced a host of unenviable tasks– not the least of which was sorting through the chaos of her old childhood home.

Although aware of aspects of her mother’s personal history– the privileged childhood, the early losses– Elisa had no knowledge of the life she uncovered in a box of diaries, stowed carefully in the attic. On those pages she encountered a woman of strength, passion, and purpose– a woman who left behind the sheltered world she’d always known to embark on a secret life of wartime adventure, intrigue and tragedy.

Elisa Segrave’s mother, Anne, was the daughter of Gladys and Raymond Hamilton-Grace, owners of Knowle– a sprawling and beautiful property located in Sussex, England. Although not part of the aristocracy, they were a well off family and her parents were madly in love. Tragically, Raymond never returns from WWI and Anne’s disabled brother is dead soon after the war is over. Gladys eventually marries another wealthy man when Anne is 5 and she is raised as a spoiled rich, pampered and indulged only child. Life is all finishing schools and fox hunts; balls and trips abroad; manor houses and servants (like Dowton Abbey!)– Anne never has to lift a finger to get what she wants. Continue reading

Book Review: The Girl You Left Behind

17572903What a tremendously wonderful read to close out the end of 2013!

Last weekend I was floundering trying to find a book that would draw me in. I  had two ready to go, but after opening both of them I knew they just weren’t the right reads at the right time. One had a writing style that was all over the place, whatever thought popped into her mind kind of style, and the other was filled with crude language in the first eleven pages. Nope, nothing that was what I was hoping or looking for at the time.

I ventured back down to the shelves and pulled down two more titles, one being The Girl You Left Behind. A quick consultation with my fellow Hoarder Jackie cemented this as the one. The Girl You Left Behind was indeed rising to the top, but Jackie only confirmed that reading JoJo Moyes would mean a solidly good read. Oh how right she was!

The Girl You Left Behind is about two women born a century apart but joined together by one painting. We first read of Sophie and her sister Helene in1916 France. The Germans have occupied the small village where Sophie and Helene operate the family bar, Le Coq Rouge. Both of their husbands are off at war and both do not know the fate of them. The war has been long and drawn out, food is scarce and hope is dwindling. The only thing of beauty remaining in the home and bar is Sophie’s portrait, painted by her beloved husband Edouard.

Each night the Germans come in to dine at Le Coq Rouge, and the Kommandant stops to stare at the painting and discuss art with Sophie. She is reluctant, uneasy and filled with disdain for this practice at first. As the war drags on and little to no news comes in about Edouard, Sophie becomes desperate. Knowing how much the Kommandant loves the painting she offers it, herself, anything at all to reunite her with her beloved Edouard. Following this, there appears to be a great act of betrayal as Sophie is arrested and thrown into a prisoners cart to take her away to one of the camps. This my dear reader, is the stunning cliffhanger you are left with when the story jumps to current day and we begin the story of Liv. And here, you wonder how on earth is Ms. Moyes going to connect these two people?

Liv is grieving four years following the death of her young husband. She is steeped in debt yet refuses to sell the “Glass House” that David has built and where every memory of him remains. Not only is she steadfast in her refusal to give up the house, she refuses to engage with life and will not set David’s memory aside to move forward. One painting in her bedroom, a gift bought by her husband on their honeymoon, is what gives her joy, hope and happiness. “The Girl You Left Behind” means everything to Liv.

One night, feeling particularly alone and bereft, Liv sits at a bar and drinks herself into oblivion. Here also sits Paul McCafferty, an ex-cop that has now established a business of returning art stolen during WWII to their rightful ancestors. What a sad twist of fate for Liv, for Paul becomes a person she can finally see herself moving on in life with, but his next big case happens to be finding and returning The Girl You Left Behind to Sophie’s family.

Of course I will not be sharing any of the details of what happens to Sophie, Liv or Paul, but will say that once again, JoJo Moyes has crafted incredibly rich and endearing characters. So vivid, so true, so wonderful these people were. While I do have to say I grew closer to Sophie and her story, the character of Paul and the one peculiar friend of Liv’s named Mo were so cleverly and expertly drawn it truly felt as though you were right beside them every step of the way. There is a scene where Paul does something so endearing for Liv that I felt like I could jump the man’s bones. I fell completely in love with him.

A warning label needs to be affixed to the covers of her books however, because you will become so deeply involved that when you close the pages of the book, you will blink in the harsh light of reality and come to realize that an entire day, afternoon and evening has disappeared. Poof! My poor dogs were left to quench their thirst from the toilet and my kids were closely clustered around the pantry stuffing themselves with crackers as a way to quell their hunger.  I had sorely neglected them, lost all touch with reality  — this is how deeply involved I became when reading this tremendously affecting story. And yes, of course, tissues are required when you reach the ending.

Again, a wonderful, wonderful tale to close out my reading for 2013.

Audiobook Review: The House of Silk

11093329The game is afoot Watson!

But could this case mean the demise of Sherlock Holmes? Is this case too involved, too complex and could it mean the end for Mr. Holmes?

Told from the perspective of his trusty sidekick Dr. Watson, he sits to tell the one final case about the House of Silk that had many years prior.  Watson fondly remembers his now passed friend Holmes. He sorely misses him and feels that now is the best time to put pen to paper to give the public one last Holmes adventure. But the tale of the House of Silk could not be written until this time, as it is a story that was far too despicable, far too shocking to share at the time it happened.

The case of the House of Silk is very complex, with many wishing that it remains highly classified and top secret. Holmes risks a great deal when he becomes involved in trying to uncover the what, who and why.

This was an exceptionally entertaining audio book to enjoy during the commute. The theatrical narration provided by Sir Derek Jacobi was positively perfect for a Sherlock Holmes tale. The final chapters leading up to the discovery, the chase and the confrontation are exceptionally well-delivered with Jacobi’s theatrical presentation. It builds to exciting and fast-paced solution and results in fantastic entertainment!

“The House of Silk”, with its true purpose is a disturbing discovery and one that will leave an indelible mark upon its readers, just as much as it left for Holmes himself.

The Arthur Conan Doyle Estate hand selected Anthony Horowitz to pen this tale “because of his proven ability to tell a transfixing story and for his passion for all things Holmes. Destined to be an instant classic, The House of Silk brings Sherlock Holmes back with all the nuance, pacing and almost super-human powers of analysis and deduction that made him the world’s greatest detective.

I couldn’t agree more with the choice of author and the description of the tale itself. Watson’s retelling of the case and of his fond love for his trusted colleague is very well done. Excellent read. Wonderfully entertaining. Again, the enjoyment this audio book presents makes it one very worthy of the listen for its enhanced enjoyment over reading the print version. Jacobi takes the fantastic and detailed description from the pages and breathes tremendous life into it. A 4.5 star read!

Book Review: This Dark Road to Mercy

17349104Wiley Cash has once again created a page burner in This Dark Road to Mercy.

With a similar structure to A Land More Kind Than Home, the reader is this time treated to another tale and battle between good and evil but now with two sisters, an ex-detective and an often absent father on paths that converge to battle one bad ass dude.

Easter and Ruby are left (somewhat) orphaned after their mother’s pervasive drug addiction takes her from them at a very early age. Their father, Wade, has been absent for most of their lives, and has indeed signed a court document relinquishing his parental rights to the girls. It is a document he is now sorely saddened to have signed and is desperate to have the girls returned to him now that their mother is gone.

Wade isn’t the greatest stand-up guy around and has done quite a few bad things in his past, and most recently has stolen a vast amount of cash and is desperate to get his girls back. He feels his only option is to steal them in the middle of the night and spend the rest of his days trying to turn his wrong by them into a right.

Brady Weller is an ex-detective turned home security salesman and also a volunteer guardian. He is also Easter and Ruby’s court appointed guardian. He is now on the chase to find and bring back Easter and Ruby. Mixed into all of this is the one big, huge and juiced up dude named Robert Pruitt. While Pruitt is essentially hired to recover the stolen cash from Wade, it’s only a quarter of the real reason he wants to get his hands on Wade.

While the bad guy in this story wasn’t anywhere near as evil, or gave me the creepy, scared feeling the way Pastor Chambliss did in A Land More Kind Than Home, Easter is a well-written, wizened old-soul and her story and her fight to keep her sister safe and loved is one that will tear at your heartstrings. This Dark Road to Mercy also has an ending with a few unexpected twists that will leave you with a few tears staining your face. Another great read and I’m once again looking forward to more from Mr. Cash! (and to discovering what intriguing title is given to it. I love his uniquely named novels.)