Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Husband's Secret

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

"To err is human, to forgive, divine." Alexander Pope

By the time you finish reading this novel, you will understand the power of these words.

One of the best novels I have read in a long time, this author introduces you to a sweeping  array of characters and then, remarkably, manages to intricately weave their stories into one. The result is a captivating, spell-binding page-turner. So let's begin...

Cecilia Fitzpatrick's life is perfection personified. Three precocious daughters, an impeccable house right out of Home and Garden, and husband, Jean-Paul; handsome, devoted, a man beyond reproach. She is the envy of all who know her. While Jean-Paul is away on a business trip, Cecilia accidentally discovers a letter written to her by him with instructions to be opened only after his death. Curiosity wins and the shocking content is revealed. Decisions made in a fleeting moment and lives are shattered.

Meet Tess and Will. Happily married with a six-year-old son, Liam, they successfully own a thriving advertising agency with Felicity, Tess's cousin. Best friends since childhood, Tess begins to notice that Felicity has changed  in the last few months. No longer overweight and dowdy, Felicity exudes a newly-found confidence. Yet when Will announces to a stunned and speechless Tess that he and her cousin have fallen in love, Tess is dumbfounded and feels like such a fool. Unable to cope with this shocking news, Tess escapes to her mother's home and enrolls Liam in her alma mater, St. Agatha's primary school. Here she meets an old flame, Connor Whitby.  A troubled man with demons of his own. Decisions made in a fleeting moment and lives are shattered.

Life ended for Rachel Crowley over twenty years ago when daughter Janie was murdered. Diligent police never arrested anyone. Yes, she continues to eat and breathe but that's just going through  the motions. Her only reason for living is grandson Jacob; what a joy it must be to view life through his eyes. Now even that is being taken away. Son Rob is moving to America, and she certainly isn't going there to visit. She vows to continue to vigilantly pursue Janie's killer. And Rachel feels sure she knows who it is; Connor Whitby, the P.E. teacher at St. Agatha's where Rachel works tirelessly as a secretary. When she gets the opportunity, he will pay for his sins. Decisions made in a fleeting moment and lives are shattered.

A riveting, engrossing novel set in Australia, home of the author. A wonderful choice for book clubs and lively discussion. We all question at one time or another the what-ifs in our lives. Do we really want to know? End the year on a high note with an edgy, compelling story by a gifted writer.

The New Year promises to offer many choices for enthralling , irresistible novels written by new authors and the tried-and-true. Hope you will continue to visit theezbooknook and find one that you enjoy. Please continue to tell new readers. Your continued support is invaluable, what a pleasure it is to share with you.....

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Theory of Opposites

YThe Theory of Opposites by Allison Winn Scotch

Fate. Some believe that one's destiny is written long before birth. Others contend that free will allows us to choose the path that becomes life's journey.

Willa Chandler-Golden has no complaints about her preordained life; solid marriage, a rising career, and continued hopes that she and husband Shawn will start a family soon. Growing up in the shadows of famous father, Oliver Chandler, Willa and her siblings seldom doubted this theory of fate. After all, he wrote the best-seller, Is It Really Your Choice? Why Your Entire Life May Be Out of You Control. Millions of fans worship him, this guru that inspires millions of readers to accept what life offers, no questions asked. However, Willa's life soon throws her a curve. She is fired from a bright, promising job, and the solid relationship she took for granted with Shawn, disintegrates. He proposes a two month break with no strings attached, her precocious twelve-year-old nephew moves in, her brother is indicted in a Ponzi scheme, and an ex-boyfriend, the one who got away, resurfaces. Complications that prove to be unsettling. Best friend Vanessa then suggests that she and Willa co-author their own book and appear on a reality show, challenging everything Oliver Chandler has ever written. She dares Willa to ponder the theory of opposites; instead of always listening to your instincts, do the exact opposite. "Write your own map" instead of following the one handed to you. Words that inevitably change Willa's life in ways she never envisioned.

Written by a favorite author of mine, Allison Winn Scotch once again captures the reader's attention by addressing a subject that resonates with many; taking chances, overcoming insecurities, and daring ourselves to become masters of our own fate. The author creates realistic characters with the same flaws, hopes and dreams we all have-it is easy to see this book becoming a movie that actress Jennifer Garner will produce. Thought-provoking with humor, it is a novel about decisions we make every day and the regrets that often accompany those decisions. " Asking yourself why you didn't know better when the answers were so obvious all along."

Changing the course of life and not always accepting fate...anything's possible.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

The Execution of  Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

Death Row. For ten years now Noa has called this God-forsaken cell her home, knowing that in six months her life ends. The jury has spoken. In all those years, not a single word was spoken in Noa's defense. No explanations, not even at the short trial that determined her fate. How does the salutatorian of her high school class become an inmate in a maximum-security prison?  How does a life once so promising become one of despair and hopelessness?

Noa was convicted of  murdering Sarah. A fairly non-descript young lady, she and Noa had only one thing in common; Caleb, Noa's estranged father. The endless days and endless nights in prison are interrupted when Marlene Dixon, Sarah's mother,  unexpectedly visits, bringing with her a young, eager attorney by the name of Oliver. Marlene assures Noa that if she is willing to tell the true story of why she killed Sarah, they will do everything in their power to get the courts to grant clemency and overturn the death penalty. Now the story begins as the reader goes back in time learning all the details of Noa's life leading up to the moment when she unwittingly fell into a trap resulting in her own demise.

We meet Caleb, the father she never knew, until ridden with guilt, he painstakingly maneuvers a way into her life-a life riddled with unfulfilled dreams. We meet Marlene, manipulative, bitter, vindictive with a hidden agenda. We meet Oliver who sees the good in another human being, still naive enough to believe that a life can be saved. And of course we meet Noa, a woman resigned to death, hiding secrets she refuses to reveal.

Far from light and not for everyone, this debut novel from Silver is brooding, complicated, and engrossing. We don't guess who committed a crime because we already know. As the story progresses, the reader is exposed to many, many details of troubled lives and secrets from the past. Characters linked to one another, all determined to find their own salvation.

A psychological thriller.

Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not by Fern Michaels

How well do you really know someone? What happens behind closed doors?

Illustrator Lucy Brighton has always lived the life of affluence, never wanting for material things. Growing up as the only child of distinguished physicians and the product of a boarding school education, Lucy honestly never really knew her parents. So when she receives a phone call relaying the news of their tragic deaths in an automobile accident, her heart is not filled with grief and pain, only ambivalence. Five years ago the only two people Lucy ever called family, moved to Florida giving her sole possession of a sprawling mansion in New Jersey. A house not a home. Five years not seeing or hearing from her parents. Now all this successful young woman wants and needs is closure.

Surely, a quick trip to the Florida retreat to tie up loose ends will enable Lucy to put this this chapter of her life behind her. Unfortunately, what she discovers leads her into a world of mystery and intrigue, arousing her suspicions that her childhood was a lie, nothing more than a well-written plot in a movie. Fake passports, bogus birth certificates, an arsenal of weapons all hidden in a high-tech safe; who were these people she once called Mom and Dad?

A cold, uninviting home where obviously no one lived. A cleverly staged arena-but why? When Lucy returns to New Jersey and finds the exact scenario hidden discreetly in this home, too, she realizes that she can't walk away from doing all she can to unearth the truth. Along with best friend, Angie, and new love interest, Luke, all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

This is an extremely easy read for those of you who might just want to slip away from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. A fun, playful story about a young, talented woman who longs to escape a life of loneliness......

And succeeds.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Little Island

Little Island by Katherine Britton

"Does anyone get the future they dream of?".......

Joy ponders these words as she drives aimlessly to the scenic family-owned inn on Little Island off the coast of Maine for her grandmother's funeral service. Everyone will be there. Her parents, Grace and Gar and the twins, Roger and Tamar. Maybe her sister can even muster the courage to bring her twin girls, Natalie and Haley. Mother-of-the-year she is not. But then Joy realizes she must look into her own soul, too. Now that her son has left for college, Joy knows she has lost her own identity. How sad and pathetic is she, leaving her husband behind, and engaging in loathing self-destructive behavior. And why or why would her mother choose this weekend? Twenty years ago a tragic automobile accident claimed the life of Joy's best friend. It also shattered the lives of their entire family because Roger was behind the wheel in a drunken stupor. So now they will gather to celebrate the last wishes of a grandmother who led a life of unbelievable sacrifice while the ghosts of their past lie in wait for them.

This story has many intersecting sub-plots that the author manages to describe in detail. The touching moments when Grace finally discovers the truth about a mother who protected her from harm, the bond between twins that Joy will never penetrate, resentments, rivalries and secrets hidden for so many years; when they finally erupt, can a dysfunctional family such as the Littles weather the storm?  The reader meets a loving group of people who live in a fog both figuratively and literally.  Unable to see one another for their strengths and weaknesses, they will also fight dense, dangerous fog off the coast to save innocent lives of children who prefer to escape from a family they don't understand. Perhaps in that harrowing moment they are all rescued from the sins of long ago.

It may take the reader a few chapters to sort out these memorable characters and alternate between past and present. Once you do, I think you will enjoy an easy read with unexpected surprises. Joy and her mid-life crisis, Tamar's realization that bitterness,deceit, and regret have defined her, Roger, coming to terms with his past and hope for his future;  Grace embracing her heritage; ordinary people overcoming fears and believing in a dream......


Friday, November 22, 2013

Illusions of Happiness

Illusions of Happiness by Elizabeth Lord

The loss of innocence.

For eighteen-year-old Madeline, the summer of her return from an exclusive boarding school in Switzerland is one of leisurely afternoons and whimsical daydreams. Her parents, however, are determined to shape her future by choosing the man who will be her husband after a suitable courtship.  He is Hamilton Bramwell, hand-picked by them to provide for her all the comforts of a proper English life, while socializing in elite circles. He may not be sophisticated and suave, but her father has spoken, and no one ever,ever, disobeys him. Then one day the local milkman arrives at the back door of their sprawling, majestic home, and innocent Maddie finds herself caught in a whirlwind of ardent love and clandestine meetings with this handsome smooth talker.
Not exactly what her domineering father had in mind.

A child is born. A child is taken away. A dictatorial father and subservient mother sever all ties with their daughter. So with only a small pittance of an allowance from her parents, Madeline resumes her life alone, learning to survive in London during the War-torn years of the early 1900s. By chance, she meets wealthy stock-broker James Ingleton while out one evening with her new-found friends. So much older than she, James is kind and caring, looking for nothing more than companionship. A husband who would be willing to search for her missing child and bestow upon her all the material things she once took for granted. Once again Madeline makes a decision that will alter her life forever. In the years that follow she believes the words of so many, finally realizing that "life has a way of tearing down the strongest promise".

You undoubtedly have read the theme of this story before, this time from a British author who carves out a spirited character forced to deal with the innocence she lost so many years ago. Discover what she should have learned but never did; will it be too late for her to turn back time?  "Not so much made a fool of but having been a fool".  These words echo in her mind.

For some, true happiness is just an illusion.....

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dream With Little Angels

Dream With Little Angels by Michael Hiebert

Fourteen-year-old Mary Ann Dailey is missing. This can't be happening again.

Not in a small Southern town like Alvin, Alabama where everyone knows everybody's business. Twelve years ago Ruby Mae Vickers' lifeless body was discovered under a willow tree after weeks of searching through dense forests and murky swamp waters where the gators roam and wait.....

Police detective Leah Teal was assigned to that case back then and still bears the guilt of being unable to save an innocent child's life. Now a widow, she struggles to raise daughter Carry, and son, Abe. A daughter coming to terms with womanhood, a son wise beyond his years.  Eerily similar, another child, Tiffany Michelle Yates, disappears, and Leah feels not only an urgency to find her, but a terrifying realization that her own children may be in danger. Suspects abound. That elusive man next door who stays up all night while jolting, horrific sounds come out of his closed garage. The trusted family friend who finds a body, and suddenly faces scrutiny from even those who once respected him. As Leah feels the pressing importance to stop the insanity that encompasses her hometown, she must face her own resentments and fears.

This novel is short and simple, narrated by the voice of a sensitive, innocent boy who has the uncanny ability to help his courageous  mother uncover the truth.  Reminiscent of languid summer days sipping sweet iced tea on an old porch swing, the story takes the reader back to life in the Deep South in the late 1980s. Little do these townspeople know of the danger lurking in the shadows.  This book profiles small town bureaucracy, subtle racial discrimination, and the realization that children sometimes are the greatest teachers of all.

If only we would listen.

Friday, November 8, 2013

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion

The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg

The two-pump filling station. As the attendant wipes the dirt and oil from his hands, he rushes to the waiting car, pops the hood and checks the tires. All with a smile. As he cleans your windshield, enjoy a cream soda from the soda pop machine and trade some local gossip. Now picture lovely ladies doing a man's job....

Sarah Jane (Sookie) Poole from Point Clear, Alabama is finally breathing a sigh of relief. After planning three successful weddings for her daughters and knowing that her son is on his own, it's time for some rest and relaxation with husband Earle. Certainly he is ready to take some time off from his busy dental practice. Now if they can just slip away from the prying eyes of Sookie's meddlesome eighty-eight year old mother, Lenore Simmons Krackenberry.  Easier said than done. Domineering, overbearing, and always the life of the party, everyone in town knows Lenore. Sookie lives in her shadow. She resigned herself to that fact long ago. Then one day a registered letter arrives at Sookie's doorstep, and the person she thought she was is suddenly in question. Troubling news from a stranger takes Sookie on a journey of discovery to Wisconsin, California and the Midwest.  Her quest for the truth takes her back in time to the 1940s and  World War II days where she discovers a most remarkable woman, Fritzi Jurdabralinski and her amazing Polish family.  What Sookie learns about her past creates an inspirational beginning for her and the family she so dearly loves; in ways she never imagined.

Here we have two distinct story lines that intertwine with one another in a most delightful way. This is an endearing, laugh-out-loud novel filled with quirky, eccentric characters (just look at the names!), and little-known history about World War II. Meet the bold, courageous women of the War and learn about their dangerous chosen profession. Women that were pivotal in shaping the lives of those back home. Flagg has created a memorable, amusing tale worth reading. And yes, the title becomes oh so crystal clear.

Stop in and visit the All-Girls Filling Station.  You'll be glad you did.......

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Secrets She Carried

The Secrets She Carried by Barbara Davis

Skeletons in the closet. We all have them, lurking in the shadows long before we were born.  Now that the celebration of what used to be known as All Hallows Eve has come and gone, it seems fitting to review a book that tells the haunting tale of a mysterious death, a hidden grave, and puzzling secrets best left in the past.

It is the 1930s. Adele Laveau is on a train headed to Peak Plantation in North Carolina. As tears stream down Mama's face, Adele knows she will never see her again, but when you love someone you want to give them a better life. That's what Mama says. Now Adele must learn to cope with her new life in the Big House on this grand tobacco farm as a lady's maid to the Gavin family. Missus Suzanne is a bitter, pretentious, unhappy woman, addicted to the "tincture" prescribed by the doctor, desperate to bear a child. Who would marry such a woman?  Adele soon finds out when she meets Henry Gavin. Her life and the lives of those who follow her for generations to come will never be the same. The sacrifices we make for love.

New York City 2013. Leslie Nichols reluctantly returns to Peak Plantation , her childhood home, to claim an inheritance.  Half of the estate is now hers due to her grandmother Maggie's death; surprising since they have been estranged for over thirty years.  The other half is bequeathed to caretaker Jay Davenport, Maggie's confidante. As Leslie begins the overwhelming task of sorting through Maggie's possessions, she comes across a faded picture of a tombstone; a grave hidden high on the ridge.  Jay discloses that Maggie hinted in her dying days of a secret she longed to reveal. A powerful secret that Leslie is determined to uncover if only she can decipher the clues.

As you can see, two stories that combine the past with the present. In a span of  over eighty years, the author develops the characters of Leslie's family tree quite remarkably.  For those of you who enjoyed Whistling Past the Graveyard or The Kitchen House, this may be one to choose. It is a heartfelt, lovely portrayal of strong women. A story sure to keep you turning the pages.

You may even shed a few tears.

Monday, October 28, 2013

After Her

After Her by Joyce Maynard

Imagination.  Oh, the places you'll see, the people you'll meet;  just use your imagination.

Sisters Patty and Rachel Torricelli live in a sleepy housing development in Northern California not far from San Francisco.  From their window they can see Mount Tamalpais.  Who needs an expensive playground in your yard when acres an acres of mountain trails and untouched treasures are waitung to be explored?  Patty loves basketball, dogs and  her older sister.  Rachel, the protector, can turn any mundane summer day into a memorable one with her ability to make-believe, tell tall tales, and create fantasies about the neighbors.  She also claims to have  the gift of knowing what is in the minds of those around her.

Two girls virtually on their own.  Parents who love them but not each other.  Father Tony is an incredibly handsome, charasmatic homicide detective.  Mother Lillian spends most nights alone reading in her room, no longer able to  live with her husband's infidelities.  A fractured family learning to cope, until murders begin to take place in the mountain area.  Hideous, horrific crimes of a serial killer (known as the Sunset Strangler)  leave the police baffled, most of all Detective Tony Torricelli.  He is thrown into the spotlight as the lead investigator, and as the months go by with no arrests, people begin to lose faith in him; he loses faith in himself.  Rachel and Patty must now take it upon themselves to trap the killer and save their father's reputation.

The story covers a span of over thirty years.  During that span of time, many other characters emerge that become a vital part of the novel.  Yes, the descriptive details of the murders are disturbing.  But the author also attempts to convey to the reader the undying love and loyalty between sisters, Rachel's relentless, dangerous journey to  vindicate her father, and a most astounding  family secret that is finally revealed.  Needless to say, a dramatic conclusion. 

Loosely based on a true story from the 1970s, this narrative is a suspenseful thriller.  It is also poignant and heartwarming as the bond of sisterhood is explored.  Two young girls with .....


Friday, October 25, 2013

The Prayer Box

The Prayer Box by Lisa Wingate

The written word.  So powerful.  Letters, diaries, and journals that reveal our private innermost thoughts not meant to be read by strangers.  But when  a young woman, struggling with demons of her own, discovers the insightful words of an old woman, she cannot resist the temptation......and so the story begins.

Tandi Jo Reese, her teenage daughter Zoey, and son J.T. are back on North Carolina's Hatteras Island living  in a rented bungalow.  Fond memories with Meemaw and Pap-Pap linger, but unfortunately, so do those days with her abusive, troubled parents and sister.  Desperate to escape her sordid past and  nearly destitute, she barters with the local church to clean out the massive, crumbling Victorian house next door in exchange for free housing.  While tackling the grueling task ahead, Tandi is inexplicably drawn to a room upstairs where she finds the body of ninety-one-year old Iola Anne Poole.  She also discovers the first of eighty-one prayer boxes that Iola filled every year with heartfelt words; her fears, secrets, disappointments, loves, hopes, dreams and so much more.  In the days and weeks that follow, Tandi learns by bits and pieces that Iola was a recluse, and many of the locals fostered a distaste for her. Why?  Little by little, as Iola's life enfolds before Tandi's eyes, the realization that this deceased woman's words of wisdom will begin to shape lives proves to be beyond anyone's wildest imagination.  Most of all, Tandi's.

With the turn of each page, Tandi realizes that the truth of this unselfish woman's life needs to be revealed.  Can a stranger's words heal Tandi's strained relationship with her own children, help her discover her own self-worth, and make redemption a reality?  Tandi begins to understand that perhaps a greater force is taking her life in a new direction-maybe there is a hidden reason why she feels an affinity to someone she never knew.  

This is a soothing, inspirational novel; one that lifts the spirits.  Hopefully, we learn lessons as we pass through the seasons of our lives, and good still prevails in this world.

For some of you....that's the power of prayer.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns

The Last Summer of the Camperdowns by Elizabeth Kelly

"Once you postpone doing what's right, you become a big part of what's wrong."

Words that play over and over like a record stuck  on an old phonograph in the mind of Jimmy "Riddle" Camperdown.  That's the problem with hindsight; you just can't go back to right a wrong.

Twelve-year-old Riddle is the only child  and daughter of Godfrey "Camp" Camperdown and his stunning, former Hollywood actress wife, Greer.  Most people coil in retreat when her caustic, biting, witty remarks leave them speechless.  They live in a spacious Cape Cod home high on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.  It is 1972 and Riddle is looking forward to a carefree, lazy summer  riding her horses and avoiding the constant petty arguments between her parents.  Camp is running for political office, launching a rigorous campaign for a seat in the state House of Representatives.  With a larger-than-life personality, Camp relishes his role as a candidate, hosting fundraisers, recruiting campaign workers, and espewing his views on the latest Vietnam atrocities.  Constituents know he served in WWII.  What they don't know are the secrets he hoped to leave behind there. 

Another powerful family lives not far away.  The Devlins.  Dashing, handsome  Michael arrives with his two sons, Charlie and Harry.  Michael and Camp were once the best of friends, having served together as snipers in the War.  Seems they also shared Greer.  This charming, debonair former lover left her standing at the altar before she married Camp.  Now Michael threatens to expose a volatile secret that could destroy Camp's life and a coveted career in politics. 

It is on one of those endless summer days that Riddle's life changes forever.  She accidentally overhears a violent scuffle in a neighbor's barn.  Frightened, in a panic, she flees, knowing in her heart that she has witnessed violence, perhaps murder.  Yet she chooses not to tell her parents. Then a missing person is reported, and Riddle must live with the consequences of her actions.  Her life and the lives of all those around her spins out of control.

Author Kelly certainly has a way with words.  In fact, at times, too verbose.  However, she has the ability  to transform the reader to a different place and time.  You can almost feel the salty spray of the ocean, hear the churning waves of the sea, and feel the icy, whipping winds that Riddle experiences as she stands on the cliff seeking solitude from her unconventional life.  Feel the fear and trepidation as the author describes the murder scene.  There is an eerie, sinister secret lurking behind the Camperdowns and the Devlins which Kelly reveals at the end.  But she keeps you guessing until then.

And with a title like this, aren't you just a liitle curious?  Take a chance on this one...


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Last Original Wife

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

Enticed by the title?   Yes, this novel is exactly what you think......

Leslie Anne Greene Carter's circle of friends is dwindling;  well, it has actually disappeared.  She finds herself without the comfort of cherished female relationships that molded her life as a wife and mother for so many years.  Her friend Tessa died of cancer.  Tessa's  husband Paolo easily replaced her with young, gorgeous she was waiting in the wings all along?   Then there is Harold who unceremoniously dumped Danette for sumptous, young (see the pattern?) Cornelia.  Leslie must face the realization that her children are spoiled, irresponsible adults while her husband, Wesley, who expects starched shirts and a spotless home, continues to rob her of dreams she once envisioned.  He is unwilling to show appreciation or love.  Maybe he just doesn't know how.  Maybe she is to blame.

Now Les finds solace and a therapeutic refuge at her brother Harlan's home in Charleston, S.C.

This historical, enchanting city is  just what Leslie needs to ponder a life-changing decision.   Oh how she has missed Harlan; pompous, gay, flamboyant, endearing to all who know him, and with a heart of gold.  She also reconnects with first love Jonathan.  Together they soak up all that Charleston has to offer, and gradually Les begins to understand the path she must choose at this stage of her life to achieve happiness.

This is a simple story of lives gone astray peppered with humor.  You will laugh out loud at the antics and escapades of the Barbie Wives On Parade.  Sugar-coated?  Perhaps.  However, one might consider rather than looking for the fountain of youth, try aging gracefully and embracing rhe benefits of the golden years.  Creating independence and self-confidence in our children?   The greatest gift of all.

As for Wesley, Harold, and Paolo....

Watch what you wish for, it may just come true.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bitter River

Bitter River by Julia Keller

Welcome to Acker's Gap, West Virginia.  "Old cars.  Old brick.  Old people."  A dated, forlorn town; you can almost hear its bones cracking, the gasps for air as it struggles to stay alive. High unemployment, poverty, and hopelessness. For many who live here, simply....home.

Bell Elkins has returned to Acker's Gap after five years in Washington D.C.  Now the prosecuting attorney of Raythune County where she grew up, she misses her daughter, Carla, who lives miles away  with ex-husband Sam.  Mundane cases fill her days while Clayton Meckling fills her nights. The fact that Clay is fifteen years younger than her makes for juicy gossip at the local diner.

Now Bell is faced with one of the toughest cases of her career.  Pregnant, sixteen-year-old Lucinda Trimble's body is found in a car submerged in the murky waters of Bitter River.  Good friend and sometimes adversary, sheriff  Nick Fogelsong, confirms that this was not an accident.  It was murder.  And so, so many suspects to consider....

Lucinda's mother, Maddie Trimble, eccentric, hoarder of junk, Nick's former lover....
Shawn Doggett, Lucinda's high school boyfriend, timid, shy, and loyal....
Wendy Doggett, Shawn's mother, victim of domestic abuse, a woman who bitterly regrets her stagnant life in this God-forsaken place,  brimming with hate for the girl who ruined her son's life....
Matt Harless, former colleague and friend from D.C. who wants a place to unwind and  remain invisible from his mysterious past....

As the plot progresses, the author weaves suspense with an engrossing tale of the love people hold in their hearts for family and friends. There are untimely deaths of beloved residents,  rumors of an unlikely terrorist plot, a young man facing life with a debilitating injury, and the hope the townspeople share that a good life can be found even in a place riddled with anguish and despair.

Keller's first novel, A Killing in the Hills, introduces you to the character of Bella Elkins. She is the product of a dysfunctional family, a strong, determined, independent woman continuing her quest to make a difference in the heart of Appalachia.

Unravel a mystery as you enjoy your visit to a place they call Acker's Gap.


Friday, October 4, 2013

The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride by Nicholas Sparks

In 1973 lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman and composer Marvin Hamlisch wrote a haunting melody.......

Like the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were

Ninety-one year old Ira Levinson is trapped inside his car on a snowy, remote country road having crashed his car hours earlier, hanging precariously over a steep embankment.  As day turns into night,  he realizes there is little hope he will be rescued-his weary body can't sustain life much longer.  Then his beloved Ruth appears urging him to find the will to live.  But how can that be?  She died nine years ago.  Yet there she is, and as Ira slips away, the memories of their life together, the joy and the pain, flood his mind.  Her love of art and teaching,  the dark, ominous days of World War II, and the tender love letters commemorating wedding anniversaries.  It all seems so real.

Sophia Danko hopes a night out with friends at the rodeo will help her forget former boyfriend Brian's infidelity.  Here she meets a cowboy named Luke Collins and is introduced to his life as a bull rider.  They make a most unlikely couple-she an art major hoping to start a promising career in a prestigious museum, he a rancher, struggling financially with his widowed mother, risking his life in a dangerous profession.  But the attraction is there and love grows.  Their lives become complicated and Luke must decide if it is time to reveal a secret.

Two couples worlds apart; years apart with little in common.  But fate will intervene and bring this love story of four strangers to a dramatic conclusion.

Once again, Nicholas Sparks writes a poignant, heart-wrenching novel which his readers have come to expect.  The author touches upon many themes-unfulfilled dreams and disappointments that shape our  lives. Aging-the reality that  not one of us will escape.  This harsh truth will envelope you with emotion.  Ira and Ruth's journey as lovers and friends is truly a gift to celebrate. Without trust, honesty, and friendship a relationship cannot survive.  And of course the circle of life is inevitable.

After all is said and done, the lucky ones have...

Precious memories...   

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Silver Star

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

Mom always says you need to find the magic.  That is the secret to being creative and the secret to life.  "And if you can't find the magic, then make the magic."

Liz Holladay is fifteen, her sister, Bean, twelve, and they are accustomed  to their mom, Charlotte, leaving for days to chase her dream of being a singing star and musician.  This time, though, she doesn't return.  Instead she sends $200 in a letter telling the girls she misses  them and to carry on without her.  Money like that will buy a lot of chicken potpies.  It won't buy their love.

The bandersnatchers (social services) are soon alerted to the girls predicament.  So being the resilient young ladies that they are, Liz and Bean head to Virginia in search of Uncle Tinsley, Charlotte's brother. They eventually find him, and he reluctantly allows them to stay in the dilapidated mansion which was once the pride of the small town of Bayler. Years ago, the Holladay family owned the mill which employed just about everybody in town.  Now Jerry Maddox is in charge, a strapping, overbearing, obnoxious man who takes great delight in bullying the townspeople.  Short on money, the girls choose to work for him without telling Uncle Tinsley.  Unfortunately, this turns out to be a very, very poor decision, especially for Liz who faces many difficult days ahead.

This is a simple story that takes place in 1970-a time of unrest in this country with the Vietnam War and the beginning of desegregation in the South.  It tells the story of a mother's mental illness, a bright, motivated young girl wise beyond her years who refuses to conform, and a sister who admires and cherishes her family with a fierce loyalty.  Is it  possible to triumph over the injustices of the world?

An easy, enjoyable read with a hint of humor.

And a touch of magic.....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling by Robert Galbraith

Lula "Cuckoo" Landry's body lies sprawled on the snow covered pavement below her apartment.  Limbs mangled, her beautiful, highly photographed face will no longer grace magazines and entice her many admirers.  Suicide or murder?

Lula's brother, John Bristow, contacts Cormoran Strike, a private detective, to uncover the truth.  It is hard for him to believe that Lula would jump from her balcony when days earlier she seemed so happy.  She made repeated calls to friends, supposedly harboring a secret that she could not share in person.  Enter her world.  A highly dysfunctional family.  Adopted by a wealthy father and a pampered, selfish, indulged mother after the tragic death of son Charlie who just happened to be Cormoran's closet friend.  Surrounded by multimillionaires, submerged in the culture of a rock-star boyfriend, an obsessed clothing designer, and friends who want to latch on to her for their own gain.  Did any of these want her dead?

Cormoran Strike really doesn't want this case, but it is hard to turn down when you are broke, living out of your office, avoiding creditors, and unlucky in love.  So he accepts John's generous offer.  Temporary office secretary, Robin Ellacott, is growing on him, too.  She delights in this world of intrigue and mystery; of being a private eye's right hand.  Cormoran's skepticism  about murder slowly begins to disappear as he delves deeper into Lula's dark and complicated life.  When a friend of Lula's is found dead and tossed into the river like discarded garbage, the private eye realizes that other lives are in danger.  The  time to act is now.

Some pros and cons with this novel.  It is quite long and at times tedious.  Strong language with adult content-well, let's just say colorful.  Now for the pros...a true whodunit for those of you who delight in deciphering clues and examining the smallest of details.  The author has created a most complex character in Cormoran Strike.  A veteran of war who has lost a leg in battle.  A man who has touched bottom, the son of a famous star who never loved him. A man who longs for self-respect. An intelligent man with the perseverance to carry on. You might even like him.  Certainly an individual  that I believe you will read about again in subsequent novels to come from this exceptional author.

After all, Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling, created another memorable character you may remember.

Harry Potter....


Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Hundred Summers

A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams

It's official.  Autumn has arrived.  Hold on to those last, lazy summer days with this delicious beach read.....

As children, Lily Dane and Budgie Byrne enjoyed endless vacation days at their family homes on the beaches of  Seaview, Rhode Island.  Now they are both students at Smith College.  Budgie with her shiny dark curls, silver grey eyes and irresistible charm; Lily, meeker,  polished,  blessed  with a subtle beauty.  So different, yet what a strong friendship they share.  A road trip to a Dartmouth football game in 1931 will change their lives forever.  Budgie's boyfriend, Graham, introduces them to quarterback Nick Greenwald, and he is immediately attracted to Lily.  A romance ensues in the months ahead, marred by the fact that Nick is Jewish and her family's refusal to accept him. 

It is now seven years later.  Lily returns to Seaview.  Her constant companion is her "sister" Kiki, a precocious six-year-old child and the source of gossip to all the inhabitants of Seaview.  Lily's mother, cold and distant, seems perfectly content to have Lily raise the child.  Two other people return to Seaview this fateful summer. Mr. and Mrs. Nick Greenwald.  Yes, Budgie has recently married Nick, Lily's one true love. So begins the intricately woven story of why.  The chapters alternate between the early 1930's and 1938. The reader will marvel at hidden family secrets, the heartache of lost love, jealousy, insecurities, and the true meaning of friendship.

The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 plays heavily in the final chapters.  Not only does the author explicitly describe the destruction of the area, she also sets the scene for the final moments in complicated lives.

No murder or mayhem in this one-just a touching story of lost love and redemption.

Keep summer alive a moment longer....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Wicked Girls

The Wicked Girls by Alex Marwood

You can run but you can't hide.

Sins of the past never really disappear; they just simmer below the surface like a  kettle ready to boil.

Jade and Bel are unlikely friends.  Jade is one of the Walker clan, dirty, disheveled, a product of a slovenly mother who clearly is unable or unwilling to exhibit any affection for her own children.  Bel lives on the affluent side of town with her mother and wealthy stepfather.  She feels like a stranger in her own home, nothing but  a nuisance to her family, hiding unfathomable
secrets.  One fateful day in 1986 they are charged with the murder of a  four- year-old child named Chloe.  Forbidden to ever contact one another again, they are sent to two different detention centers to repent for the crime.

Twenty-five years later both girls have new identities.  Kirsty is a journalist covering a series of brutal murders in a seaside vacation town.  Amber is a supervisor at a local carnival where the most recent, gruesome death has taken place.  Their paths cross again.  Now they are forced to relive that horrible memory and somehow place trust in one another because no one, including their families, know the truth about their hideous past.  And when that past is revealed, Kirsty and Amber once again find themselves the targets of suspicious minds.  Ultimately, the sacrifice of one will save another.

This book is not for everyone.  Rough language, adult situations. Eerie and haunting.

A true psychological a word....wicked. 

And the ending? 

It will blow you away..........

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Fin and Lady

Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine

The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Vietnam War, Woodstock, sit-ins, hippies.......

Ah, the 1960s..........

Fin is just eleven years old, but he knows the meaning of being alone, so alone. His beloved mother has died of cancer, his stern, unreachable
father gone, too.  It seems that his older half-sister, Lady, is now his guardian-what a sight to behold with her stunningly beautiful good looks, haughty attitude, and progressive thinking. Apparently she had a  toxic relationship with their father.  Why?  Now Fin must leave the farm in rural Connecticut and move to Greenwich Village in New York where Lady maintains a most intoxicating lifestyle. 

Fin soon realizes that this relationship is destined to be quite unconventional.  Lady may be older, but not necessarily wiser, and he finds himself often taking on the role of the adult.  Lady attracts suitors with such ease it is frightening. Yet she finds it impossible to feel love. That is, until a trip to Capri.  Here she allow herself to become emotionally vulnerable. She  feels the pain of unrequited love for the first time.  And once again Fin is there for her as she has been for him.  As Lady's life takes a dramatic turn, a young, naive sibling may be the answer to her prayers after all.

This novel is quirky, playful, even comical at times. Also poignantly sad.  A coming-of-age story that highlights those turbulent times with references to music, politics, assassinations, and war.  A heartfelt, bittersweet story of two lost "orphans" who form an impenetrable bond.

Can you guess the identity of the narrator?       

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Whistling Past The Graveyard

Whistling Past The Graveyard by Susan Crandall

That's what Daddy called it when you done something to stop thinking about your worstest fear.

Words to live by for nine-year-old Starla Claudelle.  My, my, how she misses Daddy who works on an oil rig far away in the Gulf, but most of all she longs to reunite with her Momma who left six years ago seeking fame and fortune as a singing sensation in Nashville. At least that's the story she has always believed.  Living in rural Mississippi in 1963 with her grandmother, Mamie, Starla is often in trouble. No doubt  she is a spitfire, but Starla is tired of Mamie's threats to send her to reform school because of her sassy mouth and disrespectful attitude.

Starla longs to attend the annual Fourth of July festivities and parade this summer.  Yet another series of misbehaviors finds her on house restriction-the wrath of Mamie is something to behold.  Now, she rationalizes, is the time to run away, find her beautiful Momma in Tennessee, and when Daddy joins them, her dream of belonging to a real family will come true.  And so her ill-fated journey begins. Along the way, she accepts a ride with an African-American woman named Eula who is traveling with a white baby.  The demise of Eula's alchoholic, abusive husband lead these three unlikely travelers to harrowing adventures with surprising results.

The Civil Rights Movement is at the heart of this novel.  Life in the deep South in the 1960s is described in detail as the reader is exposed to the prejudices and injustices in this period in time.  You will feel the fear, humiliation, and intimidation  these characters endured. You will feel the acceptance, kindness, and love that transcends the color of one's skin.  It is a story of one child's life changing forever  because someone cared.

Thanks for reading my blog....
Thanks for the recommendation
Thanks, Joyce.....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sandrine's Case

Sandrine's Case by Thomas H. Cook

Sandrine-Popular French name meaning helper and defender of mankind

No wonder she has been blessed with this name.  Professor Sandrine Madison epitomizes all that is good.  A bohemian beauty, talented, kind, intelligent-a woman who enjoys teaching even the mediocre students that surround her at this small liberal arts college in Georgia.  She dreams of opening her own school someday.  Her husband, Samuel, often wonders why she chose him.  Meek, plain, far from handsome and dynamic, he dreams of writing a great novel while managing to tolerate the average student at the same college. Sandrine sees all this small village has to offer. Thomas,on the other hand, finds the common townspeople beneath him and his lofty goals. The thread that drew this couple to one another is beginning to unravel.

Now Thomas is accused of murdering Sandrine.  He maintains it is a suicide due to extenuating circumstances that were revealed to him months before her death.  Slowly but surely, Thomas sees his life crumbling around him-those residents he clearly rebuffed believe he is guilty, daughter Alexandria looks at him with doubting eyes, and many witnesses come forward at the trial with surprising revelations. His meaningless infidelity comes to light at the expense of others. Thomas begins to question his own innocence, as he relives that tumultuous night Sandrine took her own life.  Her angry words cause sleepless nights, and he begins to realize that perhaps his once tranquil life is over.  He now must now examine the love they once had and put together the puzzling last days of Sandrine's life.

Much of this book takes place in the courtroom as colleagues and neighbors make a case for the prosecution which makes for an easy read.  The cover of the book is definitely provacative.  You will come to understand why.  It is a fascinating tale of two people who have lost the art of communication.

Maybe love prevails even after death.....

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tell Me

Tell Me by Lisa Jackson

Guilty.  Guilty as charged. 

Blondell Henry is undoubtedly the most hated woman in Savannah, Georgia.  Twenty years ago she was convicted of killing her pregnant daughter, Amity, severely wounding son, Niall, and paralyzing her youngest daughter, Blythe. The prosecution maintained she wanted to be rid of family obligatons to be with her newest lover.  All of these charges she vehemently denied.  But when Niall testified he witnessed the shooting, the jury sealed Blondell's fate.  Guilty.

Now decades  later, Niall is recanting his confession, saying he was pressured  by the lead investigator on the case, whose son, by the way, was supposedly having a secret, illicit affair with Amity.  Blondell steadfastly maintained that an unknown intruder attacked the family and that she desperately tried to protect her children and unborn child.  Yes, Blondell was also pregnant at the the time. Seems men were defenseless againt the elusive beauty and charm of both mother and daughter.

Writer and journalist Nikki Gillette decides that if indeed, Blondell is telling the truth, who actually murdered Amity?  Not only is Nikki in need of a quality story for a new novel,  Amity was her best friend.  The night of her death, she begged Nikki to meet her to tell her something vitally important, but Nikki didn't go.  The guilt of not seeing Amity hours before her death haunts her. Favorite uncle Alexander just happened to be Blondell's defense attorney and saved her from the death penalty.  Could the rumors that he was one of her many lovers be true?  Nikki and her police detectective fiance, Pierce, find themselves in the midst of danger and intrigue to uncover the truth.

By the way, do you dislike snakes as much as I do?  Let's just say the slithering, venomous, hissing creatures play a part in the plot.

Be sure to check your bed tonight when you slip under the covers....


Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Engagements

The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan

Diamonds are forever.

Have you ever wondered where that expression originated?

It was actually penned in 1947 by Frances Gerety, a young copywriter working for the advertising agency N. W. Ayer.  DeBeers controlled the world's supply of rough diamonds at this time.  The company wanted to create a slogan that would epitomize a man's devotion to his beloved significant other. And so this beautiful gemstone became the symbol of everlasting love.

Sullivan interconnects five individual stories in this novel about love, commitment, heartache and despair, forgiveness and hope.  Fact and fiction combine in the segments about Frances and her eloquently written words.  She never married.  She never wore a diamond.  Even with all her success, Frances knows that the passage of time is inevitable.  Yet sometimes it seems that "it is only happening to her". 

James, a paramedic on the graveyard shift, longs to give wife Sheila everything she deserves yet knows such dreams are beyond his reach.  She could have done so much better.  Perhaps a pricey diamond will make up for all those broken promises.  He vows that his sons will not follow in his footsteps.

Kate and Dan have been in a relationship for ten years. They don't believe in the institution of marriage and certainly not in spending two months salary on an opulent diamond.  When Kate's favorite cousin, Jeff, and partner Toby announce their plans for a fairy tale wedding,  she finds it hard to celebrate. The extravagance of fourteen thousand dollars in diamonds takes on a whole new meaning when one of them is lost.    

Evelyn and Gerald share forty years of happiness.  Unfortunately, their son Teddy continues to disappoint them.  He has chosen to leave wife Julie and Evelyn's heart breaks each time she thinks of never seeing her granddaughters again.  The family diamond heirloom Evelyn wears with pride signifies her love for Gerald.  How can Teddy one day inherit this beautiful jewel when he has failed in so many ways? 

Delphine makes the decision to leave France and  staid, somewhat boring Henri. She follows the passion and excitement renowned violinist  P.J. offers in New York City.  But such a love affair is fleeting, especially to a much younger man.  A woman scorned leads to unimaginable destructive fury.  If only she hadn't lost her precious diamond.   

Sullivan flawlessly connects these stories. The reader will be in awe of her ability to tie it all together.  Her research is superb.  Surprises await you. 

After all, diamonds are a girl's best friend........

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Rage Against The Dying

Rage Against The Dying by Becky Masterman

"Do not go gentle into that good night.  Howl, howl...or rage, rage...against the dying of the light."

Former FBI agent Brigid Quinn certainly knows the meaning of rage.  She has delved into the innermost aspects of a serial killer's mind, and once again her rage is ready to explode.

Brigid is now living her forced  retirement years in Tucson with new husband, Carlos, and two lovable Pugs. It is not easy for her to live the life of leisure after a career of hunting sexual predators. Little does Carlos know the extent of his wife's former life or the deadly lethal skills she possesses.  Unexpectedly, a man named Floyd Lynch confesses to the presumed  murder and disappearance of young, energetic Jessica Robertson, Brigid's protegee from years ago.  Lives are now in danger.  Events from the past surface once more, and a dark chapter that Brigid thought was forever hidden is ready to be exposed.

Enter Laura Coleman the new agent on the case who emphatically believes that Lynch is not the killer.  Has he indeed incriminated himself with a fake confession?  Why?  To protect someone else?  Lynch has undoubtedly a sick twisted mind, but is he guilty of this crime?  Laura turns to Brigid, the one person she admires the most to help her prove this theory.  And in the process, evil is unleashed.  Brigid cannot turn away from uncovering  the truth even though it may cost her everything that matters.

This novel is not your typical "whodunnit".  It is not for the faint of heart.  Many disturbing topics are an integral part of the plot. It tells the compelling story of a dynamic woman who simply knows that she must follow her gut instincts in order to see that justice is served. 

The debut  thriller novel of a most intriguing author.  Masterman will have you suspecting many of the characters.  It will send chills up your spine.  You will remember Brigid Quinn.

As poet Dylan Thomas wrote, "Rage, rage against the dying of the light".

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Burning Air

The Burning Air by Erin Kelly

Obsession:  Compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea, an unwanted feeling or emotion, often accompanied by anxiety

Obsession can be dangerous...

The MacBride family seems to have it all.   Patriarch Rowan is headmaster at a prestigious private school in Saxby, England;  his three children attend tuition-free. Wife Lydia is a magistrate, respected and revered.  A happy family?  What we perceive may not be reality.  Events from this point in time will haunt their future.
Flash forward to November, 2013.  Eldest child Sophie is the mother of three sons and now dotes upon daughter Edie.  Her marriage is crumbling.  Tara struggles to raise son Jake without his father.  Felix is relatively happy as long as he doesn't look in a mirror.  Lydia has succumbed to cancer. Still, the family decides to continue with the tradition of traveling to Far Barn, their countryside retreat. For the first time, a girl accompanies Felix.  Her name is Kerry.  There is something unsettling about her, but it is hard to pinpoint why.  Rowan is unaccountably drinking to excess.  Perhaps Lydia's darkest secrets hidden in her diaries might be the reason.  He vows to never reveal the truth.  Tara's new boyfriend,  Matt,  makes her  happy by taking on the role of surrogate father to Jake. Too good to be true?  Will, Sophie's husband, struggles with guilt. Forgiveness seems to be elusive.     

Then the unthinkable suddenly disrupts this seemingly tranquil, healing  weekend.  Precious baby Edie disappears.  Hatred, revenge, mystery, and deception take hold.  This "perfect" family must unite as one in order to survive. 

The beginning of this novel may seem a little slow,  but by chapter three,  it becomes a fascinating story of a twisted mind bent on the destruction of others.  A well-developed intriguing plot.  A suspenseful thriller.  The author skillfully meshes past events with the present  and as you read, it all begins to make sense. 

With a surprising ending.......


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Sweet Salt Air

Sweet Salt Air by Barbara Delinsky

We all have regrets.  Secrets that are best hidden in the recesses of our minds. 

Charlotte and Nicole are childhood friends.  The years have kept them apart, but fond memories last forever, even when many miles separate friends.   Nicole's successful food blog easily lends itself to the dream of writing a cookbook filled with recipes from the habitants on the fictional island of Quinnipeague off the coast of Maine.   She and Charlotte spent carefree, happy summers  there.  Nicole knows that Charlotte, a well-known travel writer, could contribute immensely to the success of the book, so she invites her to return to this land of rugged coasts and salty ocean breezes.

Little do these friends know that each one is hiding a devastating secret. Nicole's surgeon husband, Julian, is facing a health crisis that threatens his career.  Charlotte's secret is twofold;  her reckless behavior years ago could destroy a life, it could save a life.  Nicole sees her husband slipping away.  Charlotte meets a reclusive stranger who fills her with longing, if only his own demons don't  stand in the way.  Ultimately, the meaning of true friendship is tested over and over again.

This book invites you to capture that one last breath of summer.  It is an easy read, an examination of the consequences of our actions.  You may guess the ending, you may sympathize with the characters.  And realize how vulnerable we all are.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Silent Wife

The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

Revenge....sweet, sweet revenge

Todd and Jodi  live together as husband and wife.  They have for the last twenty years.  He provides them with an affluent lifestyle in a posh, waterfront condo in Chicago while she works as a part-time psychologist, picking and choosing her clients-only those that fit into her chosen field of expertise.  Having no children, they have a satisfying, indulgent lifestyle.  No expectations, no obligations.  Jodi loves the domesticity of it all-delicious meals, doting on Todd, taking care of his every whim.  Todd loves Jodi. Certainly she accepts and overlooks his dalliances with other women.  After all, this is part of their perfect balance, their unorthodox relationship.  Who are we to judge?

From the very beginning, the reader knows a murder will take place. In fact, we know Todd will be the victim, Jodi the murderer. So why, after all these years, does this "marriage" begin to unravel?  In the months leading up to the murder, Todd's selfishness takes center stage, Jodi's seemingly perfect life crumbles, and childhood secrets are exposed.  She never knew that life "has a way of backing you into a corner."

The chapters alternate between Todd and Jodi's point of view.  We, as readers are privy to what motivates these characters, what inner thoughts they possess, what ultimately causes their world to shatter.  This novel is a true psychological thriller.  A continual guessing game until the very end.  A must read.

Never underestimate the revenge of a silent wife.  


Friday, August 9, 2013

Always Watching

Always Watching by Chevy Stevens

Someone is watching you.....

Dr. Nadine Lavoie is a psychiatrist in a mental hospital.  She encounters severely disturbed patients, those unable to cope  with everyday life.  One such patient is Heather Simeon.  After her attempted suicide, Heather is now under Nadine's professional care.  Little by little, bit by bit, Nadine uncovers Heather and her husband  Daniel's connection to  a commune on remote Vancouver Island led by cult leader Aaron Quinn.  The very mention of his name sends shivers down Nadine's spine, and she is forced to confront troubling memories bubbling to the surface of her mind.  Years ago, she, too, along with her mother and  brother, Robbie, were members of this same commune.  What horrors, evil, and mysteries lie beneath the tranquility and beauty of this retreat?

Nadine now realizes that danger lurks everywhere-her repressed memories scare her.  Why is she so fearful?  Her estranged daughter, Lisa, living on the streets, holds secrets too horrible to imagine.  Realizing that revealing the past is necessary, yet painful, Nadine begins a journey that takes her to drug-infested neighborhoods, confrontations with faces from the past, and  a venture into the walls of her former home.  She begins to unlock traumatic memories that will alter her life forever.

If you are in the mood for a mystery thriller, put this one on your list.  As in her previous novels, Stevens writes a chilling, eerie, unsettling story full of plot twists and interesting characters.  She examines the unbreakable bond between mother and daughter, and the undeniable fact that your past will always follow you.  Unlocking hidden secrets and facing her own inadequacies may allow Nadine to live again.

"Just because you can't see something, doesn't mean it's not there."

Someone is watching you....


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Life After Life

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

If you had the ability to turn back time, relive moments, change outcomes....would you?

Ursula Todd is born in 1910 to Hugh and Sylvie at their home, Fox Corner, in the English countryside.  She dies at birth.  On that same cold, wintry night Ursula Todd is born again, this time with a healthy set of lungs, much to the delight of her weary mother.  And so it begins...Ursula dies over and over and then is reborn, each time the events in her life result in a different ending.  Her feelings of deja vu haunt her even as a child.  Premonitions are unsettling to her.  Peculiar, indefineable thoughts fill her brain.  Sometimes she feels "as if a memory was being tugged reluctantly out of its hiding place."  Doesn't  everyone feel this way?      

You will meet many memorable characters.  Brothers, Maurice and Teddy-one snobbish, cold, and driven by ambition, the other, kind, caring, and  adored.  Sister Pamela, a refuge in times of uncertainty and the voice of reason.  Aunt Izzie, unconventional, eccentric, daring, and a thorn in Sylvie's side.  Much of the story takes place during World War II.  The brutal atrocities of  the war years,  from the British point of view, are described in detail.  The nightmare of the blitz conjures up gruesome scenes which I am sure the author intended.  One scenario has Ursula befriending Eva Braun and meeting Hitler himself.  Can she alter the course of history? 

The novel jumps between past and present.  You may feel that your mind is playing tricks on you.  The blurry line between life and death is examined.  This is a compelling, complex novel written by a gifted author.  Sorrow turns into joy, despair turns into hope,  death turns into life.  Same events, different endings.  You, as a reader, will turn each page wondering what comes next in Ursula's tumultuous life.  

The ability to live life over and over and over again until we get it just right.  A gift or a curse?  What would you choose?


Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Lemon Orchard

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

Time heals all wounds. Perhaps......

For those parents who have lost a child, old wounds may fester and re-open even with the passage of time.  Hearts continue to ache and closure may be out of reach.

It has been five years since Julia lost her daughter, Jenny, and husband Peter, in a tragic automobile accident.  Her marriage had already disintegrated into emptiness-both she and Peter knew the end was near. But Jenny was Julia's shining light-was the accident intentional? 

Roberto is an undocumented  immigrant from Mexico, now living in California and the overseer of the lemon orchard owned by Julia's Uncle John.  Roberto, too, has experienced the devastating loss of his daughter, Rosa. When the family attempted to gain entry into the United States from Mexico, she disappeared; lost in the relentess heat and danger of the desert.  Not knowing what happened to his daughter torments his mind.

Julia's uncle asks her to house-sit his home in Malibu, a refuge that holds fond memories for her as a child.  Peace and solitide, however, are elusive. She meets Roberto and together they form a bond so strong it cannot be ignored.  A most unlikely couple join forces to solve a mystery, love one another  without pretense, and find hope after years of despair.  Grief  unites them.

This novel may start slowly. Persevere in your reading, and I think you will find it is worth your time. So many current events are touched upon. The issue of border crossing is well documented.  The raging fires on the West Coast of our country that threaten to destroy valuable property and lives are described in detail.  Julia's work as an anthropologist  is profiled and intertwined  into the story.  Your mind will envelope the sheer, breath-taking beauty of the Santa Monica Mountains and the salty sea. 

And perhaps the sweet, lovely fragrance of lemons will linger for a while......

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Beautiful Day

Beautiful Day by Elin Hilderbrand

Wedded bliss
Happily ever after
A vision in white

Not necessarily....

Jenna Carmichael and Stuart Graham are getting married on the beautiful island of Nantucket. Her late mother, Beth, has left behind the Notebook, a detailed guide to the perfect wedding.  Little did Beth know that scandel, heartaches, betrayals,and fragile friendships would threaten to destroy Jenna's ideal wedding.

Doug, the bride's father, is seriously questioning his second marriage, sister Margot no longer believes in finding true love and harbors a secret she lives with daily, Ryan longs for acceptance and Nick continues  reckless behavior that could destroy those around him. Stuart's mother, married to the same man twice, still struggles with her own identity;  her insecurities once again surface. Jenna's best friend, Finn, spirals into a dark hole that emcompasses her. 

Hilderbrand has written a page-turning summer read.  The setting of Nantucket (her home) lends itself beautifully for a fairytale wedding. Those of you planning a wedding may relate to the frenzy that these characters encounter, although I doubt you have this much drama. Everyone has flaws-the question is, can love of family be strong enough to heal old wounds? Can a mother's presence, long after she is gone, unite a divided family?  This is an engaging story, expertly told which will hold your interest and might have you planning a trip to a magical location. Once again, this author delivers...

Ah, wedded bliss.....    

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Perfume Collector

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

Le droit de choisir....the right to choose

Young newlywed Grace Monroe has it all-or does she?  She is now a London socialite, having married into a life of wealth and decadence.  However, her sheltered upbringing triggers feelings of awkwardness and the inability to feel at ease in her new surroundings. Playing the role which is now expected of her may prove to be unattainable.

Unexpectedly, a most mysterious letter arrives from France.  Grace has inherited a great deal of money and property from a complete stranger, a Madame Eva d'Orsey. So begins her journey to France to uncover this  unknown benefactor. Many events weave themselves into the heart of this story. Grace's uncanny ability    with numbers takes her into the world of heavy gambling.  She meets brooding, dark people who lead her to new discoveries about the true identity of Eva. Her search takes her to an abandoned perfume factory on the Left Bank and slowly, pieces to the puzzle are revealed.

The chapters alternate between the 1920s and the 1950s-New York, London, Paris and Monte Carlo. Great, descriptive passages of the war years. The author expertly and cleverly relates the two main characters over the span of thirty years. And the reader experiences the world of creating seductive scents...

Heartbreak, hope, sacrifice, love. Grace decides the life she truly wants to lead.

Le droit de choisir....

Friday, July 19, 2013

Second Honeymoon

Second Honeymoon by James Patterson and Howard Roughan

Some things you can count on...

Hot, hazy, dog days of summer....
Precious minutes of daylight disappearing as summer slips into fall....
James Patterson releasing another thriller....

Someone is targeting honeymoon couples-murdering them in the blink of an eye. A relaxing visit to a luxurious hotel sauna, then boarding a flight to Rome for an unforgettable vacation-both events prove to be deadly for innocent victims.  FBI agent John O'Hara becomes deeply involved in the case when a wealthy, desperate man asks him to find the answers to his son and daughter-in-law's murders. John can only hope the case will help to heal the pain in his heart and the revenge he feels after the tragic death of his own wife.

Meanwhile, another serial killer is at work and Special Agent Sarah Brubaker is hunting for the answers to this perplexing case. A common thread might just lie in something as simple as a name. John and Sarah must now join forces to solve two mysteries developing at the same time and in the process, unearth hidden secrets from long ago. They must somehow piece together a puzzle and interpret the killer's clues.

Fast-paced, surprising, exciting, suspenseful. The merging of two story lines may be a little confusing, but fun just the same. And the mention of Dublin, Ohio in the plot?  Just a bonus I guess!

Enjoy this latest summer read by Patterson and one of his many co-authors.

Some things you can count on...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

She says there is an ocean at the end of the lane behind the old farmhouse.  He thinks this notion is just plain silly-looks to him  like a small pond where ducks gather to swim.  After reading 178 pages of this mysterious,  thought-provoking novel, you decide.....

A middle-aged man returns to his childhood surroundings to attend a funeral. After the service, he finds himself driving the country roads of Sussex, England inexplicably searching for the past. He eventually finds himself at the dilapidated  Lempstock farmhouse, and memories flood his mind.

He is only seven, a quirky child, lover of books, cats, and rainy days. Financial woes force the family to move again and accept boarders to rent a room upstairs. One such gentleman steals the family car and takes his own life "at the end of the lane." This one incident introduces the boy  to a most remarkable young girl named Lettie, her mother and grandmother. But they are not of this world. They valiantly protect him from a series of dark, scary events which begin to enfold. The reader is taken into a magical world of ghosts, mythical creatures, and sheer fantasy. Yet it is also a story of survival. If we truly believe in good versus evil, can one girl's friendship and love for a small, frightened boy be enough to save his life? What magical qualities lie beneath the waters of the "ocean"?

Grim, terrifying, peculiar. Certainly this short novel is not for everyone, but if you want to read a book out of your comfort zone, try this one.

Sweet dreams.  

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Looking For Me

Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

Sometimes we do judge a book by its cover-or, as we are browsing through the library, the book jacket of an intriguing novel catches our attention. Happy to say I  found this endearing story worth the effort. The heartwarming characters will stay with you long after completion-a little bit of all of us in each one.

Teddi Overman lives in rural Kentucky on the family farm with her parents and brother, Josh. At the age of eighteen, Terri grows restless, and a chance encounter with an elderly gentleman convinces her to leave home for a new life in Charleston, S.C. After leaving goodbye notes for the family, she sets her sights on a most unlikely career, never fully realizing the pain left behind. Yet fond memories cloud Teddi's mind and upon returning for a visit, she finally  grasps her mother's discontent for life and begins to understand her father's past. Brother Josh, a wildlife enthusiast, has taken on almost mystical qualities as if he is part of a new universe. His mysterious disappearance sets the stage for a series of events that will keep the reader guessing. Teddi's many quirky friends and her eventual success as an antiques shop owner, never fully erase the loss of her beloved brother. Unanswered questions remain-clues that he is possibly still alive force Teddi to find the truth.

This book takes the reader on a wonderful journey and is a pleasure to read. Perhaps shattered families can be healed if we decide what is truly important and what we can leave behind. Dreams can never be fulfilled if we don't try. True friendships don't come easily. And in the end, never give up hope...   

Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Summer Girls

The Summer Girls by Mary Alice Monroe

Summer has officially arrived. Time for a beach read! So, so many authors from which to choose, but let's start with Monroe's newest release. If you have read any of her previous works, you know that she is an active conservationist-an expert in the many facets of sea turtles. Once again, Monroe's love of ocean creatures is at the center of this story-this time an astonishing dolphin that helps to heal old wounds.

Eighty-year-old Marietta Muir (Mamaw) invites her three granddaughters to spend the whole summer at the  ancestral home, Sea Breeze, located in South Carolina's Lowcountry near Charleston. Armed with a hidden agenda, she longs for the days when the girls spent carefree days on the beaches together years ago.  First to arrive is Carson from L.A.-an unemployed photographer, broke, restless and eager to accept the invitation. Dora, the eldest, finds her life in turmoil. Once a beautiful woman,  her husband, Cal, has left their spacious Victorian home unable to deal with their son Nate's autism. Harper then arrives from New York City. The youngest sister is a delicate beauty controlled by overbearing Georgiana. Born to three different mothers, the girls shared the same father, Parker, Marietta's deceased son. Over-indulged, irresponsible, and an alcoholic, Marietta fears that the sins of her son will torment his daughters' lives forever.

This is the first book of a trilogy, focusing on Carson. Her love of the ocean leads to her encounter with an amazing dolphin. Marine biologist, Blake, becomes a love interest. This airy, light, breezy plot also offers the reader an insight into the world of autism and how an incredible ocean mammal opens up all sorts of possibilities in a child's life. Soon you realize that sisterhood is complex, secrets perhaps should stay hidden, and forgiveness is easier said  than done. Anticipation of the next two books takes hold and you just might learn some interesting facts along the way.

Relax, close your eyes, feel the sea spray, and enjoy this book oozing Southern charm.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Olive Kitteridge

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

In 2008, Pulitzer Prize Winner Strout wrote this powerful novel. You may recognize the author's name from her most recent book  The Burgess Boys.  This book is a collection of thirteen narratives, all revolving around one central character, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, living in picturesque Crosby, Maine.

Easy to envision Olive-a large, out-spoken, imposing woman who has great difficulty accepting the changes in her small town and the world in general.  So many sides to Olive-patient, understanding, vulnerable, yet stern and judgmental towards those she loves the most. At times you will hate her and find her actions difficult to tolerate. Then again you may feel her pain and loneliness.  In each chapter you will meet the townspeople of Crosby, and what a motley, troubled group they are. Henry is Olive's loyal, long-suffering husband. Adult son Christopher is distant and removed. He  blames his mother for his tyrannical upbringing. There is a pianist playing night after night in smoky lounges, haunted by a past love. Meet Kevin, intent on ending it all, finding hope at the most unlikely moment. Chapter after chapter continues to introduce the reader to a myriad of characters with hidden secrets, conflicts, emotional upheaval, yet all possess the will to survive.

While reading this book, I experienced highs and lows. Some of the themes may or may not engage you. However, Olive will linger in your memory as an enduring  woman who comes to realize a deeper understanding of herself.

Bet you don't forget her.....      

Monday, June 24, 2013

The Kitchen House

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom

Kathryn Stockett wrote an immensely popular novel called The Help, later adapted into an Academy Award winning film. For those of you who enjoyed either the book or the movie, Grissom's debut novel will keep you captivated.  Find the answers to the gut-wrenching prologue... 

Lavinia is a seven-year-old orphan from Ireland who arrives as an indentured slave on the steps of a tobacco plantation. It is determined that she will work and live under the direction of the slaves of the kitchen house not far from the spacious, elegant big house. Belle, the master's illegitimate daughter, accepts her role as caregiver and mentor to the frightened child. As time passes, Lavinia bonds with her new adopted family, even though she is constantly aware of her  own skin color. It becomes increasingly difficult for her to straddle both worlds, especially when the opium-addicted master's wife Martha, expects Lavinia to spend countless hours  at the big house bringing comfort and consolation. Enter Marshall, the troubled  master's son who harbors a childhood memory destined to destroy him.    

Many, many strong characters fill each chapter of this book and you will delight in the revelations each one brings to the story. Belle and Lavinia alternate as narrators throughout the book. It is a story of friendship, loyalty, deep, hidden secrets and misunderstandings, tragic endings, and hope. Lavinia  is forced to make difficult decisions as the story of slavery is expertly examined. At the heart of it all-Belle and Lavinia's  profound love and devotion regardless of race or class.