The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

The Great Alone – Kristin Hannah

I received an advance reader copy of this book in exchange for an objective review…

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Lenora Allbright is a pre-pubescent ‘tween’ in 1974 when her war veteran father makes an impromptu decision to move the family to Alaska. After losing yet another job, the PTSD ridden Ernt receives a letter from the father of a deceased military buddy offering him his sons’ home and land in the last frontier state. They pack their meager belongings and head to rural Kaneq, AK, where they quickly learn that Alaska is another world all together.

A small town with no electricity and none of the modern conveniences, Kaneq is full of colorful characters who quickly welcome the Allbrights into their midst. There’s Large Marge, who left behind a life as an attorney, and runs the towns market. There’s Mad Earl, the town eccentric, and Thomas Walker, who’s family once founded Kaneq, and whom Ernt rapidly comes to resent, and the lovable Thelma.

As summer gradually gives way to fall and into the long, dark Alaskan winter, Ernt becomes more and more irrational, planning for events that don’t come, and pitting himself against the whole town. He takes out his fears and frustration on wife Cora, while Leni does her best to protect her. However, Leni becomes close to Matthew Walker, Tom’s son, and Ernt refuses to allow the relationship to continue. But continue it does, and Leni finds herself in an impossible position – run away with the man she loves, or remain at home and attempt to protect her mother from an increasingly abusive and volatile situation?

When an attempt to run results in a serious accident that threatens Matthews life, Leni must remain home to safeguard her mother. On a dark winters night, violence flares once again, leaving Leni and Cora having to flee the land they’ve come to call home, and the man that Leni loves …

I LOVED this book, and like most of Kristin Hannah’s novels, it really resonated with me. I don’t believe I’ve ever made it through one of her books without tears – and this one is no different!! A must-read for Hannah fans, and for anyone looking for heartwarming characters, descriptive and colorful writing, and a story you’ll remember long after you put the book down!

Also, Alaska has just moved way up on my ‘bucket list’ of places I need to see!

Ellie Bean

So, like most pet lovers, I swore that I was done for a while after the loss of my Sophie (see last weeks post), and yet, I didn’t make it for more than a couple of days before the overwhelming loneliness got to me and I found myself at the local humane society, wandering through their collection of animals looking for forever homes. It was a painful couple of hours…there were so many dogs, cats and even rabbits looking for homes.

I selected a few that I wanted to meet, but none of them were quite what I was looking for, nor did I find an instant connection with any of them. I honestly went in there hoping that a dog would pick me – not the other way around. It was distressing to say the least – all of these poor critters in cages, and the noise was deafening. They were power washing and cleaning/painting cages that day, so add that noise to the mix of barking dogs.

Then, somehow, I spotted Ellie. This poor little brown and white dog was cowering on her little mattress, and had her head hidden and she wouldn’t look at, or come to anyone. When I asked to see her, she shook like a leaf and tried to run and hide. Her backstory was that she was found in a pack of dogs, along with her presumed parents and siblings (who had all since been adopted) and that she was from another shelter. She was about a year old and had been at this particular shelter for a few months. She was so frightened – I knew I had to save her. And so, Ellie came home with me.

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Her first day home, scared and hiding

I tend to come up with crazy nicknames for my critters. Sophie, for example, resembled the color of peanut butter (sort of) so she eventually became known as ‘Sophanutter’ or ‘Nutter Butter’. Ellie is little so we started calling her Ellie Bean, or just Bean, which is pretty much all that we call her now…

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Getting used to the back yard, and no leash!

It’s been an interesting couple of months! She’s still afraid of everything, but she has come such a long way! She is my constant companion, night and day, and is an absolute cuddle bug at night. She has chewed through any harness we attempt to put her in, has destuffed pillows, chewed flip flops, and some articles of clothing, pulled seams apart on comforters, chewed holes in my sheet sets, and I wouldn’t change anything! She still doesn’t seem to know how to play, but the absolute joy on her face as she’s running on the beach or in the back yard gives me hope that she’ll continue to progress and forget whatever may have happened to her in the past.

Beach days!!

We LOVE our Ellie Bean!! I think Sophie approves and would have loved her too…

I LOVED this book!

Not That I Could Tell – Jessica Strawser

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An innocent wine filled Saturday night around a campfire amongst six neighborhood women with baby monitors in hand, sharing laughter and life. But the next day, one of these women is missing, with the evidence pointing to a hasty departure – children, clothing, luggage and money all missing. Did she really leave of her own free will? Or did her estranged husband have something to do with her disappearance??

This novel takes you on an intriguing ride, as you see the investigation unfold through each of the women’s eyes.

Kristin has vanished, an event that comes to light on early Monday morning, after her estranged husband Paul, receives a call from school, reporting that the children are not there. Puzzled, he comes to the house they once shared, looking for her, only to discover that certain items are missing from the home, with evidence of a hasty departure present. Mystified, Paul calls the police.

Clara and Isabel, two of Kristin’s closest neighbors, are also stymied by her disappearance. After interviews with the investigating Detective, Claire realizes how little she truly knew about her friend, and doubts begin to fill her head about Kristin’s estranged husband Paul. These doubts are further fueled when detectives report that Kristin had researched domestic violence in the hours prior to her disappearance.

The story unfolds through the eyes of Clara and Isabel, as well as past musings of Kristin, as time passes and no evidence of Kristin’s whereabouts can be found. Clara’s doubts about Paul grow, while Isabel, whom recently lost the love of her life in a strange twist of fate, struggles with loneliness, and finds herself feeling sorry for, and drawn to, Kristin’s bereaved husband.

Is Paul a jilted husband, or something far more sinister?

I have never read anything from this author before, and I thoroughly enjoyed this novel! One finds herself rooting for Kristin in the hopes that she escaped safely, all the while wondering is Paul is as innocent as he seems. Izzy and Clara become close to your heart as you learn about their lives and their concerns for their missing friend. As the novel races towards a stunning and somewhat predictable conclusion, it ends with a sweet surprise that ties it all together.

I LOVED this book!!

The Tracy Crosswhite series is fabulous!!

A Steep Price – Robert Dugoni

Detective Tracy Crosswhite and crew are back in this fabulous new novel by Robert Dugoni

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Asked by a colleague to assist in the investigation of a missing young college student, Tracy Crosswhite is only too happy to help. As she begins her investigation, Tracy quickly gets a sense that this is not just a co-ed on sabbatical – but a very driven student who has seemingly disappeared, and enlists partner Kins’s help. Meanwhile, Tracy is hiding a secret of her own – she’s pregnant. While returning to the station, Tracy unexpectedly meets Andrea Gonzalez, a new detective hired by Captain Nolasco to act as the ‘fifth wheel’, and Tracy fears is meant to replace her.

At the same time, Detectives Vic Fazzio & Del Castligiano catch a homicide involving the shooting of a young advocate, Monique Rodgers, in the South Park area of Seattle. While on the scene, a young drug dealer, ‘Little Jimmy’ does a drive by and mimes shooting a gun at Faz – Faz was the detective responsible for the incarceration of his father years ago. Coincidence? Or related? Faz has also just received devastating news from the home front – his wife Vera has just been diagnosed with invasive breast cancer.

As these investigations continue, newly hired Andrea shoots an unarmed suspect, and Faz finds himself sidelined as stories don’t mesh, and he finds himself implicated in the shooting. Determined to continue investigating on his own, Faz finds more than he bargains for and disappears. Will his team get to him in time?

Nothing is at it seems, lives are on the line, and secrets are revealed, as both of these cases roll to stunning conclusions!

Another fabulous read by Robert Dugoni! I first discovered him, and the Tracy Crosswhite series last spring on a discounted book site. Liking what I read, I immediately bought the remaining books in the series, and was fortunate enough to receive this as an advanced reader copy. If you love mysteries and police procedural type books, the Tracy Crosswhite series is a must!!

Kellerman is in top form!

Night Moves – Jonathan Kellerman

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Milo Sturgis & Alex Delaware are back again, as they team up together to solve another perplexing case.

A family goes to dinner one night, only to return to find a corpse in their father’s study – and not just any corpse – there’s no blood, no clues as to his sudden appearance, and the victim is missing his face and his hands, making identification difficult. Milo Sturgis lands the case, and quickly asks Alex Delaware to assist. The family in question appears to cooperate, but reeks of dysfunction – the brash overbearing father, the meek timid mother, the quiet, reserved daughter, and the son who acts out loudly and inappropriately. But collectively, no one knows the identity of the body in their home, or has any idea who might have left it there…or why.

As missing persons reports eventually lead to the identification of the body, yet more questions arise, and the focus shifts to the reclusive neighbor, remembered for his unscrupulous cartoon drawings, yet rebuffs any interaction from his neighbors, or police. As Milo & Alex navigate each new lead, new motives, and long buried secrets are revealed, and the case reaches a stunning, yet unexpected conclusion! This is Kellerman in top form!

A Merciful Secret

A Merciful Secret – Kendra Elliott

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Mercy Kilpatrick is an FBI special agent living in rural Oregon. Raised in a very small town there, she remains close to her roots in her downtime, and is in the process of building a survivalist foothold deep in the mountains. As she’s leaving her mountain hideaway, she barely misses striking a child who comes dashing from the woods into the roadway, seeking help for her injured grandmother. Mercy finds a fatally injured older woman, who dies shortly after her arrival, despite her best efforts.

Meanwhile, three hours away, a similar death occurs, and the pathologist makes the connection due to the similarity in wounds. But who would want an old woman and a nationally renowned Judge with no apparent ties to one another, dead? And why?

So, begins Mercy’s next adventure. Despite being barred from the investigation due to her being a witness to a murder, Mercy inserts herself into all aspects of the case, with the help of fellow agent Ava, and boyfriend, chief of police Truman. As new clues are uncovered, and connections are made, yet another snowstorm is barreling in on Oregon, setting events in motion that will threaten all Mercy holds dear…

Kendra Elliott is quickly becoming one of my favorite new authors – her books are suspenseful, difficult to put down reads, and yet easily read – this one took me only a few hours – the perfect beach read!

A Sign from Sophie

As many of you who know me know, I’m not much for organized religion. Having lived in the deep south (North Carolina) for some time, I had the opportunity to meet many devoutly religious people – some were wonderful people, and some were the most racist, judgmental people I’ve ever come across. I do not for a second believe that your religious beliefs or practices can define you as a person. I do not go to church, have no desire to ever go to church, struggle with the thought that ‘God’ is an individual who is not only solely responsible for my life, but guides it daily, etc. However, I try to be a good person, and I DO believe that there is more than just us – fragile creatures of Earth – spinning on a blue marble in space, alone. I just cant fit my beliefs, or my assumptions, neatly into a box, as defined by a specific religion. None of them truly make any sense to me. I am at heart, a scientist. (NOT to be confused with scientologist!)

That being said, a couple of months ago, I lost my precious dog Sophie to complications from cancer. It was a quick, unexpected death for her, and while I knew it was inevitably coming, it happened with a suddenness that I did not expect. While I’m grateful that she didn’t overly suffer, and that I was with her when it happened (instead of the kids), I have found that I miss her profoundly. I don’t possess that sixth sense that some seem to have – I don’t feel her nearby – or see her in her favorite places (lying in the backyard in the sun). I have since adopted another rescue dog (a story for another time, for sure), but I still miss my sweet but stubborn Sophie terribly, and can literally count the days and hours since she had to go. (It’s been 56 days and 17 hours as I write this).

The other day, Ellie Bean (my new pup) and I went for a long walk through the nature trails that surround my neighborhood. It was a bit chilly and we were alone for the entire five miles we walked. Like most dog owners, I babble constantly to my pets, and today was no exception. I told her how Sophie and I used to take walks like this and that she and Soph would have been buddies, etc. Blah, blah, blah. I looked to the sky, told Sophie I missed her, and would love for her to send me a sign so I would know she’s okay. I also said, “you know me Soph, it cant be subtle either, else I’ll miss it”.

The next day, I had to work. I am an ICU nurse and work in an 18 bed unit. I had been hoping to care for the patients I had had before my day off, but was assigned to two other patients. Both were critically ill, on life support, with multiple medicated drips and other equipment at the bedside, so it was a crazy busy day. That morning, one of my patient’s daughters was in to see her dad, and said she’d be back later that afternoon. She did return, and she came in carrying a little ‘beany baby’ sized stuffed tan dog for her Dad. As she put in in his hand, she looked up at me and said that the stuffed dog was named Sophie, and that she was very special to her Dad. It took me a minute to realize what she called the dog, but as signs go, it wasn’t subtle. Soph had found a way to let me know she was okay.

Coincidence? Sure, maybe…but I asked for it, and I’ll take it. ♥

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I LOVE YOU, SOPHIE!!