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review 2018-11-10 19:34
The Death of Mrs Westaway
The Death of Mrs. Westaway - Ruth Ware

“Trepassen was too Gothic and gloomy to ever feel like a truly welcoming place.” 

 

I enjoy a good mystery with a creepy atmosphere and this one delivered. Hal's mother passed away leaving her completely alone in the world. She learned from her mother how to give tarot card readings in order to scrape by, but she is barely managing to pay her bills and now has goons threatening her if she doesn't pay back a loan.

 

“She didn’t believe in anything mystical, but she did believe in the power of the cards to reveal something about the querent, both to the reader and to the sitter themselves.”

 

Hal never truly believed the cards would reveal the future, but she has the skill to read people and because of this skill, she believes that she might have a chance at claiming an inheritance she knows doesn't belong to her. Desperation is what sends her to the estate pretending to be a long lost family member.

 

The only reason I didn't give it five stars was because a certain reveal left me completely confused. I had to reread this particular section multiple times trying to figure out what was really going on. I kept asking myself, "Who, and how? I think Ware got something backwards because this is not making any sense." I continued on and a chapter or two later it all finally clicked and I said, "OH! Now I understand." This one really made me think, almost a little too hard.

 

This is only my second Ware book, but I've enjoyed them both. The Lying Game was my first read and even though I really liked it, The Death of Mrs. Westaway is my favorite of the two. The characters were likable, the mystery was clever, and I loved the setting and the eerie old house.

 

 

-SW

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review 2018-11-08 12:51
Hollywood Heir by Ruth Cardello
Hollywood Heir - Ruth Cardello

This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I did like this romance quite a bit. I was really curious about how Eric's story would go after finishing the previous book in the series. He is a really interesting character and I was looking forward to learning more about him. I ended up having a great time with this audiobook.

Eric seems to have everything. He is wealthy and everyone seems to love him. He is a well-known actor that is best known for his portrayal of the superhero Water Bear Man. He is somewhat lost and is having a hard time figuring out how to move forward. Sage comes from a wealthy family but she takes care of herself. She works to help people through her chosen career as a plant psychologist. 

Eric is hiding in plain sight as an average guy named Wayne when he meets Sage. I liked these two together from the start and thought that they had a lot of chemistry together. Eric / Wayne does have a few moments where he makes some pretty bad decisions and doesn't always treat Sage in the manner she deserves. Some of that blame could be placed with Delinda who is busy making things difficult and interfering in things that really should be left alone. I was pleased to see the Westerly family back together before this book came to an end. It was great to check in with the characters from the earlier books and to see everyone start to come together. 

I would recommend this audiobook to others. I thought that Teri Clark Linden continued to do a great job with the series. She is able to cover both the male and female parts of the story without any problems. I think that she has a very pleasant voice and I was able to listen to the book for hours at a time. I wouldn't hesitate to listen to more from this narrator or pick up another book written by Ruth Cardello.

Initial Thoughts
Maybe 3.5 stars but I am feeling generous :) I did like this one better than the previous one in the series but I do prefer the first two books in this series. I did like Sage from the start and am pretty sure that I have never read a book with a character listing plant psychologist on her resume. Eric / Wayne did have a few moments were he acted like an idiot in the book. Delinda filled her role of overstepping boundaries once again. Besides Delinda, the rest of the family didn't play too big of a role until closer to the end of the story. I thought that the narrator did a great job with this one.

Book source: Kindle Unlimited

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review 2018-11-08 12:44
Royal Heir by Ruth Cardello
Royal Heir - Ruth Cardello
This review can also be found at Carole's Random Life in Books.

I liked this one but I think that it was the weakest book in the series for me. I don't usually look for royal romances and I am not really sure if I am a fan of the trope or not. I like the idea of a royal romance but I can't really think of any that I was excited to read either. I wanted to read this book because I really enjoyed the first two books from the series and wanted to see what would happen to the other members of the Westerly family. I was never completely hooked by this story but I did find it to be a decent listen.

I must say that I missed the family drama from the first two books. This book takes Rachelle overseas to be with her brother, Eric, who has been largely absent from the series. Many of the characters that I loved from the first two books were not even in the country for this one. Rachelle wasn't my favorite from the earlier books in the series so I really missed seeing the rest of the group. 

I can't say that I really liked Magnus. I can see that he had some good qualities but I was never completely won over by him. I did like seeing Rachelle and Eric grow a bit closer and I thought that the charity work that the characters were involved in was quite touching.

I am glad that I listened to this book. Teri Clark Linden did a great job with the narration handling a large cast of characters with ease. She added a lot of excitement to the story. I think that readers who are fans of royal romances might like this one a bit more than I did.

Initial Thoughts
This was okay. I didn't like it nearly as much as the previous two books in the series. I think that I missed having all of the family drama that was in the first book. I didn't feel as much chemistry between Magnus and Rachelle as I would have liked. The narrator did a great job with the book.

Book source: Kindle Unlimited.

 

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review 2018-10-28 02:41
Ruth Bernhard: The Eternal Body: A Collection of Fifty Nudes - Ruth Bernhard

This is a photography book that attests to the work of one of the 20th century's finest photographers, Ruth Bernhard (1905-2006). There are 50 black & white photographic images, spanning from the 1930s to the 1970s, of the female nude that highlights the relationship of the feminine form to the universe. In Bernhard's own words: "By recognizing the model's presence as an eternal symbol of life and all existence. I experience my own identity ... as a woman I strongly identify with my model."

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review 2018-10-09 02:14
A Child Abduction Sets Off a Disturbing Chain of Events
Burning Secrets - Ruth Sutton

For a book that clocks in at 264 pages, Sutton packed in a lot of story. I'm having difficulty deciding what to focus on, I've got to say. If only all authors could present a guy with such problems . . .

 

This book starts off with a child abduction -- a child, Helen Helsop, that we get to know a little bit before she's abducted. Immediately I groaned, because the last thing I wanted to deal with is a book about a little girl getting snatched and then dealing with whatever abuse is looming. Without spoiling much, let me assure you -- nothing like that happens. This is not that kind of kidnapped child story. This doesn't mean that she's been taken for benign or even beneficial reasons, however.

 

Helen hasn't been living at home -- she's been staying with family in town so she can attend school. Because theirs is a farming community -- predominately, or at least heavily, a dairy and cattle area, and this is 2001 -- the height of the Foot and Mouth crisis. I'll be honest, as an American in a pre-social media age, I didn't have a strong grasp on the effect this had on smaller farmers -- I just never was exposed to it. I got what it meant on the national/industry front, but didn't think much more about it. If I had, it would've been obvious just how much this would decimate a community, an individual family, and why this was such a horrible crisis. Anyway, back to Helen -- she hasn't had a good time of it in this temporary home and is easily persuaded to leave. It's hours (of course) before anyone notices that she's missing, and even then, most of her family doesn't believe she's actually missing.

 

Before that, thankfully, the police are called in -- we focus on DC Maureen Pritchard -- a well-known fixture in the community (not as well-known as her father, however) and the newly-arrived DS Anna Penrose. There's a little professional jealousy between the two -- Pritchard envies another woman in a position she was denied and Penrose would love the acceptance and respect her fellow officers seem to have for Pritchard. But largely, they can put that aside to focus on Helen. It's obvious from the start that the foster family and Helen's actual family are both holding back from the police, but it's hard to tell if it's germane to the case, or if it's just things that no one wants to share with outsiders.

 

This is all so compellingly told -- the layers that Sutton is working on are something to behold. She's excellent at revealing more and more about Pritchard and Penrose while they're uncovering more about Helen's life and whoever took her. You could make the case (I think you'd be wrong, but you can make it) that the mystery in this novel takes a back seat to the drama surrounding the women and their superiors. Initially, probably because we meet her first, I was pulling for Pritchard to solve the case, rescue the girl and save the day to put Penrose in her place. But soon, I just wanted the two of them to knock off the nonsense and just work together -- preferably by being open with each other about what's going on. I won't say if I was ultimately satisfied in that desire, but I can say that Sutton deals with their relationship in a way that is absolutely believable and realistic -- a very satisfactory job.

 

The greatest impediment to the search for Helen isn't the fact that the family is hiding something(s), the difficulty in tracking down a person of interest, the cleverness of the kidnapper, finding a particular van in a decent size, getting a straight answer out of scared kids with overbearing/concerned parents interfering (for nefarious reasons or unintentionally), or any of the other absolutely understandable and inevitable roadblocks. Instead, it's Detective Inspector Stanley Bell -- he's too focused on the budget and on impressing his DCI, not that we can forget his obvious misogyny and blatant racism. It'd have been easy for Sutton to leave him as a buffoon, an obstacle, a foil for Pritchard and Penrose -- but she doesn't, there are times when he seems to be a perfectly capable police officer. But those times are the minority -- it is fun to watch his subordinates play him to get their way, Penrose learns from Pritchard's example quickly on this front.

 

If I tried to talk about the kidnapper, I'd spoil it -- if I tried to talk about Helen's family, I'd fail. I can't summarize what Sutton did there (I was reductionistic enough with the police -- and I'd still be reductionistic if I'd included everything I wanted to say about them) -- I've known men like her father and older brother. I could feel their pain, their frustration -- with their life in general, even before Helen's abduction, which just seemed like the next-to-last straw for them. Between Foot and Mouth, general hardships (physical and financial) related to this lifestyle, too much alcohol, and a wife who wants more than all this -- it's just too much for people to take.

 

The depiction of Helen is really strong, as well -- she is a scared twelve year-old doing the best she can in a horrible circumstance. At some point the police don't understand why she did X in a situation. I wanted to yell at them, "because she's a scared little kid!" Of course, she's not going to act like a rational adult. (The other thing I had a hard time buying was that given the emphasis the officers put on local knowledge, was that it was the outsider who understood the importance of getting his cows milked to a dairy farmer)

 

I've gone on too long, and haven't said nearly enough. So let's hit the important things as I try to wrap up.As I said at the outset -- this is not a typical kidnapping novel. Every assumption you make early on in the book will prove to be mistaken, but it all feels organic, it all seemed natural. This isn't one of those books where you can see the author moving pieces around to achieve her ends. I have no doubt she did -- but I couldn't see it. There's some good action, some very clever policework, and a strong psychological-thriller bent to parts of this as well. There's a strong Perry Mason-esque quality to the strategy the police employed at the end, which I appreciated. Burning Secrets ticks almost every box a mystery-fan will have on their list.

 

This is a novel about family secrets, family problems -- all families, on some level, I'm sure. There are strong threads about options various women take to take care of their families and themselves -- what lengths they may go to, what shortcuts they may take, what hard choices they may make -- to secure happiness, health, or survival. This is a novel about change -- individual and societal -- how difficult that is. But none of these themes detract from a heart-stopping and heart-breaking story about a kidnapping and the consequences radiating from it. All in less than 300 pages -- not a bad feat.

 

I have no idea if Sutton intends to write more about these characters (there's every reason to think she will, given her track record) -- but I'd love to spend more time with them. If Penrose and Pritchard can turn their détente into some sort of working understanding, or better, a real partnership, they'd be a fantastic combination (for drama, they'd still be interesting if they don't form any closer relationship, but it wouldn't be as fun to read). Sutton does have a pretty hefty backlist, and I should try to dive in -- and you should, too. Start with this, though, it'll whet your appetite for the rest.

Source: irresponsiblereader.com/2018/10/05/burning-secrets-by-ruth-sutton-a-child-abduction-sets-off-a-disturbing-chain-of-events
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