Monday, December 29, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: I Heard That Song Before by Mary Higgins Clark



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

In a riveting psychological thriller, Mary Higgins Clark takes the reader deep into the mysteries of the human mind, where memories may be the most dangerous things of all.

At the center of her novel is Kay Lansing, who has grown up in Englewood, New Jersey, daughter of the landscaper to the wealthy and powerful Carrington family. Their mansion -- a historic seventeenth-century manor house transported stone by stone from Wales in 1848 -- has a hidden chapel. One day, accompanying her father to work, six-year-old Kay succumbs to curiosity and sneaks into the chapel. There, she overhears a quarrel between a man and a woman who is demanding money from him. When she says that this will be the last time, his caustic response is: "I heard that song before."

That same evening, the Carringtons hold a formal dinner dance after which Peter Carrington, a student at Princeton, drives home Susan Althorp, the eighteen-year-old daughter of neighbors. While her parents hear her come in, she is not in her room the next morning and is never seen or heard from again.

Throughout the years, a cloud of suspicion hangs over Peter Carrington. At age forty-two, head of the family business empire, he is still "a person of interest" in the eyes of the police, not only for Susan Althorp's disappearance but also for the subsequent drowning death of his own pregnant wife in their swimming pool.

Kay Lansing, now living in New York and working as a librarian in Englewood, goes to see Peter Carrington to ask for permission to hold a cocktail party on his estate to benefit a literacy program, which he later grants. Kay comes to see Peter as maligned and misunderstood, and when he begins to court her after the cocktail party, she falls in love with him. Over the objections of her beloved grandmother Margaret O'Neil, who raised her after her parents' early deaths, she marries him. To her dismay, she soon finds that he is a sleepwalker whose nocturnal wanderings draw him to the spot at the pool where his wife met her end.

Susan Althorp's mother, Gladys, has always been convinced that Peter Carrington is responsible for her daughter's disappearance, a belief shared by many in the community. Disregarding her husband's protests about reopening the case, Gladys, now terminally ill, has hired a retired New York City detective to try to find out what happened to her daughter. Gladys wants to know before she dies.

Kay, too, has developed gnawing doubts about her husband. She believes that the key to the truth about his guilt or innocence lies in the scene she witnessed as a child in the chapel and knows she must learn the identity of the man and woman who quarreled there that day. Yet, she plunges into this pursuit realizing that "that knowledge may not be enough to save my husband's life, if indeed it deserves to be saved." What Kay does not even remotely suspect is that uncovering what lies behind these memories may cost her her own life.

I Heard That Song Before once again dramatically reconfirms Mary Higgins Clark's worldwide reputation as a master storyteller.

MY REVIEW:

I had read a few Mary Higgins Clark books back when I was in high school and I loved them, so I was excited when I came across a couple of her books in a thrift store the other day.  Mary Higgins Clark is the queen of suspense novels, and I Heard That Song Before was as good as I remember her other books years ago.

Kay Lansing is the daughter of a landscaper to the extremely wealthy Carrington family. As a six-year-old, she accompanies her father to the Carrington estate one day and sneaks in to the hidden chapel where she overhears a conversation between a man and woman.  She never tells anyone at the time about what she heard because she would have to admit that she had wandered off where she was not supposed to be.

That evening, there is a party at the Carrington estate, after which Susan Althorp, a young debutante who lives down the road, goes missing.  Peter Carrington is the college-aged son of the Carrington  family at the time and he becomes the primary suspect.  Years later, Peter's pregnant wife drowns, furthering everyone's suspicions that he is a murderer, yet there was never enough evidence to put Peter away for either murder.

As an adult, Kay meets Peter and they fall madly in love, marrying one another within just a few weeks.  But shortly after their honeymoon, the events of Peter's past come back to haunt them both.  Susan Althorp's grieving mother, just diagnosed with a terminal illness, begins her final quest to put her daughter's murderer away once an for all.  When evidence is found, Peter is arrested, but Kay is convinced her husband is innocent and she fights to find the truth of what happened twenty years earlier.

If you like suspense, I highly recommend this one.



Monday, December 22, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry and Gary D Chapman



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

On Christmas Eve twenty years earlier, Marlee and Jacob were married in a snowstorm. This Christmas Eve, they are ready to quit, divorce is imminent. Their relationship is as icy as the road they're traveling and as blocked with troubles as the piling snow. They take a shortcut to get to the lawyer's office, on a slippery, no-fault path. She thinks they need to stay on the main road. He disagrees. They fight. Story of their lives and they slam into a bank of snow , spinning, drifting, falling, out of control. Just like their lives. Reluctantly, freezing cold, hungry, scared, she trudges up the hill. Jacob is nowhere to be found. Her ears frozen, fingers and hands red, she comes to a house on the hillside, built like a Bed and Breakfast, a green wreath on the red door and the door-knocker is in the shape of a wedding ring.

The red door opens and the first thing she notices is the fire in the room, blazing hot, a warm, inviting, friendly place and the voice of an old man welcomes her in. There are three golden pots on the hearth, shining, glimmering things. The old man claims that they are used to restore marriages. She laughs-and begins a journey through her past, present, and future that will test how she views her lifelong love. There are two futures available. Which will she choose?

MY REVIEW:

On Christmas Eve (and their 20th anniversary) Marlee and Jacob set out to meet with their lawyer and sign their divorce papers. They'd tried everything -- counseling, retreats, countless books, but Marlee believes it's a lost cause.  Their love has died.

"When do we tell the children?" It begins.

But on their way to the lawyer's office, the snowstorm picks up and the car crashes.  Marlee finds her way to a nearby house where an old man takes her in, keeps her safe and warm and shares with her three golden pots which reveal the past, present and future of her marriage.

I'm sure you can guess the ending, but it's not about that exactly.  "It's about making good choices. It's putting one foot in front of the other on a good path, on that will lead you to a place down the road you can be proud of, no matter what response you get."

I recommend this book for anyone who is married.  It's a very quick read -- I read it in just a couple of hours.



Wednesday, December 17, 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson



ABOUT THE BOOK (from Amazon):

When Jenny Lawson was little, all she ever wanted was to fit in. That dream was cut short by her fantastically unbalanced father and a morbidly eccentric childhood. It did, however, open up an opportunity for Lawson to find the humor in the strange shame-spiral that is her life, and we are all the better for it.

In the irreverent Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson’s long-suffering husband and sweet daughter help her uncover the surprising discovery that the most terribly human moments—the ones we want to pretend never happened—are the very same moments that make us the people we are today. For every intellectual misfit who thought they were the only ones to think the things that Lawson dares to say out loud, this is a poignant and hysterical look at the dark, disturbing, yet wonderful moments of our lives.

MY REVIEW:

Jenny Lawson is a blogger (a.k.a. The Bloggess) who left her job in HR to see if she could write a book. Let's Pretend This Never Happened is that product of that endeavor. It is a collection of "mostly true" stories from Jenny's life -- from hilarious stories of growing up in Texas with a father who was a taxidermist and unbelievable tales from her years of working in HR to her very real struggles with multiple miscarriages, an eating disorder and depression.

Whether or not her stories are completely true, some will make you laugh out loud and a few may even make you cry. I enjoy humor books and thought this was definitely worth the read even though there were a few times where it felt a little bit rambly.

Let's Pretend This Never Happened is definitely not for you if you are offended by language.