Traveling Sisters Book Reviews

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.” ― Henry David Thoreau

Brenda’s review

The Family Ship is a deeply woven remarkable, unique family saga that explores a family in crisis when tragedy blindsides them. It’s a beautifully written story that pulls you into the heart of a family while exploring the dynamics of love, tragedy, grief, loyalty, healing, and hope.

The story is set in 1980’s when children needed to use their imaginations to entertain themselves, and the Vergennes family of nine children are a very imaginative, quirky close-knit bunch. They live on a small island property with a docked oyster boat they spend hours going on imaginary voyages. The ship is used to teach discipline and responsibility, with the oldest Verity as the ship captain and her siblings the crew.

The story is told through a few family members giving a well-rounded perspective of the family dynamics. The pace is slower to start as we get to know this large family, which helps keep them apart. I felt for each of the children and wanted to take care of them, and they tugged at my heart-strings in different directions with the emotional pull to the story.

For me, the center of the story was the father and son complicated dynamics between Arthur and estranged oldest son Jude, who comes back home when tragedy consumes the family. Sonja Yoerg has a way of emotional pulling you into the conflicts the family faces and at times I was shouting at them both and angry at Arthur with how controlling he was and how he treated Jude. Through their actions Sonja Yoerg shows us a deeper understanding of family relationships and I enjoyed the love, and hope that shined through the story.

“I used to think hope was something you had because you didn’t have what you really wanted.”
“hope is more important than what you actually have in your hand. You can lose what you have, but there’s always more to hope for” ~Verity

I loved this unusual hopeful story that shows how grief can break us apart and bring us together. It’s a thoughtful, insightful and unforgettable story. I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

Brenda’s review

When I see a new book out by Harlan Coben I get very excited, and I have to have it. His books are kind of like the excitement I feel when buying a new pair of shoes. I have to have them, but I want to save them for just the right time, and often I ended up admiring them and not wearing them. Well, I have been admiring Run Away since it was released and waiting for that perfect time to read it. Well, it came, and I finally dived into it. I have to say I can’t believe I waited so long!

“Perception is often more important than reality” ” Is this what you guys teach the kids” ~ Simon

Harlan Coben sets the mood here with one of a parent’s worst fears, with one of our adult children lost in danger and running away from us. Simon has lost his daughter Paige to a dark and dangerous world, “where criminal gangs rule, where drugs are the main currency, and murder is commonplace.” Simon is on a dangerous quest to find Paige and keep her safe when meets up with another character who is searching for someone who is lost. There are a few surprises along the way for both and for us!! Another storyline is weaved in, which adds more suspense to the story, and I was turning the pages as fast as I could to see how they all are connected.

While not my favorite from the master of suspense, Coben doesn’t miss a step here, delivering his nonstop twists and turns he is known for. My head was spinning so fast, trying to keep up with them. He takes his time revealing how all the storylines come together while delivering a few surprises that I didn’t expect. Those surprises shock me, and I was in shock Coben strung some of some on us! When I thought the story was starting to wrap up, I began to relax my neck when another twist snapped me to attention.

Maybe just a little over the top at times; however, the story delivers on the thrills, suspense, tension, and action. I highly recommend it.

Hot Diggity Dang!!! I loved it, and I love Christina McDonald!! Do No Harm is now available!! If you have not read this one, run to your device and get it now!!! It’s one I recommend not to miss!!

Warning: You will need to put on your lounge pants and lock yourself away with your favorite beverage because once you start this page-turner, you will not want to be disturbed! Well except maybe by this unforgettable story!!

Brenda’s review

As a doctor, Emma has been taught to “do no harm,” but what if the end justifies the means if it saves your child. When Emma’s son is diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, she is desperate to save him. Christina McDonald explores the lengths a mother will go to save her child while exploring the harm of one of our darkest realities we face today.

Christina McDonald boldly and bravely explores a topic that can bring out that hot sensitive side to me, and I was a little worried that hot-temper of mine could come blazing out. However, after a couple of Q & A with Christina McDonald and getting insight into her writing, I knew I was in good hands. Good hands I was in!!! While creating an intensely exciting, suspenseful page-turner, she explores the dark reality of selling drugs and the effects of the opioid crisis. She delves into addiction from a few angles while showing us different sides of the crisis, opening up some questions to ask ourselves. She creates strong, convincing characters here by showing us their motivations and the effects their actions have on each other and the crisis. She layers in depths and insight into motherhood that pulled at my momma’s heartstrings and I was turning the pages as fast as I could to see if doing harm ever justifies the means to an end.

While Christina McDonald nails it by creating an emotional pull to the story, she weaves in thriller elements of suspense, tension to create that exciting page-turner. There are some things you might need to go with it and not think too hard about. The stakes get higher as a heart-pounding cat and mouse game develops between Emma and her detective husband Nate. The lines become blurred while we see more into their relationship and I enjoyed the exciting dynamics between them. For me, it was a perfect balance of reality and thrills to make it an exciting and entertaining domestic thriller!!!

Christina will be joining me for a Q & A in our Behind the Pages Group. To join the group to get notifications when she does you can join the group here

I received a copy from Christina McDonald through NetGalley. Photo supplied by Christina McDonald.

Brenda’s review

I enjoyed The One! I read it, and then I listened to it. I loved The Passengers and thought John Marrs was on top of his game with this entertaining, chilling action-packed, fast track ride to the unthinkable where technology and humans collide in more ways than one. Both are not to miss, and it’s a good idea to read them before The Minders.

The Minders again draws us into the world of humans and technology, and hackers are upping their game here. The Minders is set in the near future after both The One and The Passengers’ events, and there are a few references to both. I loved how it brought a familiar feel to the story, and I enjoyed seeing some of the impacts both stories had on the characters in The Minders. It added some excitement and thrill to the story for me. There are spoilers to both books. However, if you are not planning to read The One and The Passengers, it works great as a stand alone.

Five people are selected to be Minders, who are programmed to store massive amounts of data with government secrets. Is that safer than computers? Well, John Marrs tests that here, and he is not afraid to put his characters through the wringer to see how secure it is. I was left a little stunned a few times while reading this one. The chapters alternated between the minders’ POV and John Marrs creates distinct characters and has a knack for juggling a few at a time.

The pace is slower and the action is not as thrilling, and I felt John Marrs was a little off his game here for good reasons. However, even when he is off, he is good!! I highly recommend it.

I received a copy from the publisher through NetGalley.

I am not sure how to put into word just how affecting Hidden Valley Road is, but I will give it a try here in this review. It’s a heavy and dense one that took me a while to read. It wasn’t one I wanted to pick up and read, but it was a book about a family I wanted to understand.

Robert Kolker delivers a powerful look at schizophrenia and the quest to understand it through the Galvin Family. Don and Mimi Galvin, the perfect American family image, had 12 children with six sons diagnosed with schizophrenia. Hidden Valley Road is a terrifying portrait of a family in crisis and swallowed up by blame and shame from society’s expectations of the perfect mother, wife, and family. Mimi raised her children in the baby boomers’ years when so little was known about schizophrenia. A time when psychiatrists spoke of “schizophrenogenic mothers” who caused “mental illness through bad parenting.” An overbearing mother who coddles her children were blamed by over-parenting their children.

“If bad parenting caused any of these diseases, we’d all be in big, big trouble.”

Drawing on interviews with family members, Robert Kolker tells us their heartbreaking story with empathy. Mimi is a hard person to understand and through Margaret and Mary, the two youngest siblings, we learn about Mimi mostly through them. Mimi devoted herself to motherhood and making a home for her family. I can only imagine she never questioned she wouldn’t devote herself or would not be a good mother.

“And so I was crushed,” Mimi said. “Because I thought I was such a good mother. I baked a cake and a pie every night. Or at least had Jell-O with whipped cream.”

My heart broke for Mimi as she hid in the wall of Hidden Valley in shame as she tries to cope and denies the madness around her. We see how mothers’ expectations and blame denied her of seeing and understanding her family’s crisis as her children slipped further into madness.

“She kept the family together. “One reason why there aren’t other families like the Galvins being studied is because any other family like this wouldn’t be a family. ~Kolker

“To be a member of the Galvin family is to never stop tripping on land mines of family history, buried in odd places, stashed away out of shame.”

“What sort of early interventions might have helped them before the medications took their toll, neutralizing them without curing them? And what about the thousands of people who couldn’t afford what her son had—who languish because of a lack of resources, or a stigma from a society that would prefer to pretend that people like them do not exist?”

As devastating as the Galvin’s story is, it is also a hopeful one for understanding more about schizophrenia learned from the family. My heart broke for the time lost for the family but hopeful for the living families’ future.

Brenda’s review

I started the DI Kim Stone series by Angela Marsons a few years ago and read the first two. I enjoyed both dark stories, and I am not sure why I haven’t read anymore. I guess those new and shiny ARCs always got in the way. What a mistake that was. Now at 13 books in the series, the author and the series are still going strong. So this year, I have decided to challenge myself and catch up on this series.

A few years later, after Lost Girls is written, the plot is still original with two young girls’ kidnapping. An intriguing and terrifying edge of your seat game begins for our twisted kidnapper. The families must bid for the release of their child, and only one will come home. It opens up the question of what a parent will do to save their child and explores if a parent would sacrifice a friend’s child to save their own.

Lost Girls is a sharply written story with a well rounded main female character with strong characters who support her throughout the story. I love DI Kim Stone, who isn’t that easy to warm up to! Her determination and no-nonsense attitude make her a prickly character; however, she is nicely balanced with a caring side to her. She has a vulnerable side to her that she hides from the people around her, and we start to get to know that side as we see bits of her past.

That ending had me grasping my kobo and clicking the pages as fast as I could as Kim races against time to try to save the girls. I loved the twists and turns that left me me surprised in the best way.

After finishing up the previous one Lost Girls, I continued my series challenged and dived into Play Dead. I am glad to say this one was just as good, and I love DI Kim Stone even more!!

My favorite thing about reading a series is seeing our main character grow with each book and with the other characters as a result of her environment or job. Here we see more into the supporting characters as they add depth and layers to the story and the crime. I loved seeing Tracy return, and she finds herself over her head and in danger. Tracey and Kim’s dynamics added some tension and excitement to the story for me.

Two exciting storylines are perfectly paced throughout the story and weaved together for a thrilling twisty end to the story that I didn’t see coming.

I highly recommend this series.

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