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......