Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Mistletoe Promise

The Mistletoe Promise by Richard Paul Evans

Elise Dutton dreads the upcoming holiday season. When your husband cheats on you with your best friend, it's difficult to find joy and contentment even at the most wonderful time of the year. Christmas is just another day, a time to reflect on the past year; a time to reflect on past sins, a time for forgiveness. Unfortunately, Elise can never forgive herself.

Sitting alone in the mall  food court, as she is every day at lunch, a stranger approaches her with an intriguing proposition. She's noticed him before with his disarmingly good looks, but now he is actually sitting at her table introducing himself as Nicholas Derr, a partner in a prestigious law firm. Much to her surprise, Elise agrees to his unorthodox contract.....she has nothing to lose anymore.

For eight weeks they will pretend to be a couple and abide by the rules of The Mistletoe Promise. No drama or probing into deep personal issues, just an all expenses paid game of pretend for two lonely people. The contract expires on Christmas Eve and they'll go their separate ways.

As the charade continues, Elise finds her heart beginning to melt for a man she barely knows. She realizes the fairy tale will end when he learns of her secret and the devastating sorrow she carries with her each day. Perhaps Nicholas carries monumental secrets of his own.....

Written by the master of spiritual inspiration, Richard Paul Evans once again creates a short book that will fill your heart with hope and joy at this time of year. Healing begins with forgiveness, but we first must learn to forgive ourselves.

Wishing my readers Happy Holidays wherever you may be.....looking forward to a promising 2015!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Forever Christmas

Forever Christmas by Robert Tate Miller

"Only those who forgive earn the right to be forgiven".

Beth Farmer waits patiently for her husband to arrive so they can pick out the perfect Christmas tree. As the minutes tick by, she knows he won't come. He will disappoint her once again, as he has so many times before.

It's crunch time for Andrew Farmer, a successful literary agent who hesitates to tell his loving wife that he's leaving for Chicago to seal a coveted deal with a new author. He won't meet her to choose that perfect tree Beth dreams of; she'll be disappointed like so many times before.

Beth watches her husband rise the corporate ladder with mixed emotions. Their move from River Falls, Pennsylvania to New York City is difficult, but love involves sacrifice. However, when she suspects Andrew's infidelity, her aching heart can take no more. As she flees into the snowy streets of Manhattan on Christmas Eve, a tragic accident occurs; an accident that Andrew witnesses in horror.

Much to his disbelief, Andrew is given the opportunity to turn back time by an angel named Lionel. Second chances are rare. He has three days to relive with Beth, even though he knows her fate cannot be changed. Seventy-two hours are all he has to make her realize that she is his world, his life.

This is a short, heartbreaking yet warm story reminiscent of classic Hollywood movies like It's a Wonderful Life. Hope, forgiveness and prayer are central themes throughout the book. Perfect for those of you looking for the magic in the holiday season.

Perfect for those of you who believe in angels.






Sunday, November 30, 2014

Us

Us by David Nicholls

"I said I think our marriage has run its course. Douglas, I think I want to leave you".

Douglas Petersen is fifty-four years old. Son Albie leaves soon for college. The trials and tribulations of an enduring marriage are a distant memory. Long-awaited freedom to pursue hopes and dreams is a reality. Maybe that's why wife Connie's harsh, stinging words in the middle of the night are so upsetting. It's not supposed to be like this, not after all these years.

Douglas is a serious, straight-laced biochemist who somehow attracted the vibrant, spirited Connie twenty-five years ago. The novel examines the early romance between these characters, alternating chapters between past and present with a languid easy-going style. It sets the tone for the blossoming romance between two oddly matched people who manage to stay together despite their differences. He's never really connected to the creative, artistic Albie, always feeling like the outsider looking in on mother and son. Yet he is unwilling to forsake his family on a whim. Determined to fight and win, Douglas agrees to embark on an adventurous vacation with his fractured family, unsure what the future holds. It's one last attempt to resurrect a relationship hanging by a thread.

The "Grand Tour" planned for so long as a family vacation to exotic European locales, becomes the vehicle Douglas needs to win back the heart of a woman who probably was out of his league from the very beginning.  The escapades are amusing and thoroughly entertaining. A particularly harrowing experience in Amsterdam finally shows Douglas in a new light, one that surprises even himself. Is it too little too late?

From the same author who wrote  the successful One Day, Nicholls has an uncanny ability to tell a heartfelt story of a man who never quite believes he deserves success and happiness. In the end, the answers are quite clear. Emotions run high as you will laugh at the humor and cry at the pain of knowing when it's time to let go.






Saturday, November 22, 2014

Murder at the Brightwell

Murder at the Brightwell by Ashley Weaver

It's classy, charming and reminiscent of  the esteemed Agatha Christie. Perhaps you faithfully watched Jessica Fletcher solve perplexing crimes on the ever popular television series Murder She Wrote in the 1980s. Readers who fit into either category may find just what they've been looking for in this new mystery novel. No violence or gore in this one; just glamour, elegance, and fun.

It's 1932 in England and young, sophisticated Amory Ames arrives at the fashionable Brightwell Hotel on the arms of her former fiance, Gilmore Trent. Scandalous? Most definitely. She left him five years ago to marry dashing Milo Ames, an irresistible rogue in every sense of the word. Milo's frequent absences has strained their marriage to the breaking point. Gil arrives one day to ask for Amory's help in breaking up his sister Emmeline's romance to scoundrel Rupert Howe who are vacationing at the picturesque seaside hotel. Amory is more than willing to take a chance on this adventure with her past love. It may be just what she needs......

Upon arrival at the hotel, Amory and Gil meet an array of wealthy guests, all with their own little secrets. When Rupert is found murdered at the base of a cliff, Gil becomes the prime suspect. Determined to clear his name, Amory begins silently snooping into the affairs of fellow guests, joined by Milo who makes an unexpected appearance at the hotel. What are his motives? Jealously or something far more sinister? What begins as an innocent vacation in a luxurious locale, turns out to be very dangerous indeed.

Sit back and enjoy an engaging mystery far different than a gruesome suspense thriller. Feel and taste the salty ocean breezes, picture lovely socialites dressed in their finest attire, and envision the romance and mystique of a splendid, extravagant setting. Then add an unsolved murder. I imagine we'll be reading more in the years to come from Ashley Weaver and her dynamic duo of Amory and Milo Ames.

With the holidays rapidly approaching, I hope you'll have some time to relax and read. Many of the selections on my blog can be found at your local library, often in the "Lucky Day", "Hot Picks", or "Quick Pick" sections.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers!













Saturday, November 8, 2014

Crooked River

Crooked River by Valerie Geary

It can't be real. Sisters Sam and Ollie McAlister stare at the bloated flesh, the bulging black eyes, the mass of dark hair swirling in the murky waters of Crooked River. But it is real, this hideous sight before their eyes, and as they try in vain to lift the tangled body to shore, the corpse breaks loose and travels downstream. Horrified, they watch as it slips away.

There was a time when the sisters lived an ordinary, contented existence in Eugene,Oregon, even though their father, Bear, an eccentric beekeeper, no longer lived with them.  He simply traveled in and out of their lives. All of that changed when their beloved mother died of a heart attack on the Fourth of July. That's the day Ollie stopped talking. Bear reappears to move his daughters to rural Terrebone where he lives in a teepee surrounded by nature and his beloved bees. At fifteen, Sam is old enough to live in the wilderness with him at times, but Ollie stays with Zeb and Franny, an older couple who live nearby. They love the girls as if they were their own, but like many of the local townspeople, have an uneasy feeling about this elusive man called Bear.

Eventually, the dead body surfaces. Circumstantial evidence points to Bear's involvement. He can't explain his whereabouts and the fresh, bloody scratches on his face. When the dead woman's satchel is found hidden in the teepee, Bear is arrested.for murder, vehemently claiming his innocence. It's up to his daughters to prove it. Yet in their hearts, they're  not quite sure.

The determined sisters set out to clear their father's name while overwhelming obstacles stand in the way. Ollie still doesn't speak, but incessant thoughts about the murder continue to fill her mind. She must make Sam see the light, see the danger that lurks in their midst. Helping her is The Shimmering, the spirits that appeared after her mother's funeral. They hiss and moan; misty, swirling shadows surrounded by colorful hues. They are relentless. Ollie must save them all from the real killer, but if she speaks, she fears they will never leave, so she listens and follows, praying they will lead her to the truth and save her troubled family.

There seems to be an abundance at this time of debut novels from talented first-time authors. Valerie Geary falls into this category.  Part psychological thriller, part ghost story, the tale lets your imagination run wild with expertly written descriptive passages. It's all about good versus evil, hidden secrets too vile to conceive, and the unbreakable bond between sisters.

Adventurous and entertaining, give this one a try.....






Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Killer Next Door

The Killer Next Door by Alex Marwood

If you enjoyed Marwood's debut novel, Wicked Girls, a mystery I reviewed in September 2013, then her second edgy, dark, and chilling novel may interest.you. A note to add before we begin; this author is using a pen name for her new crime novels. In reality, she's Serena Mackesy, an accomplished British writer and journalist who wanted a pseudonym for her new genre. Much like J.K. Rowling, Mackesy scores a hit with a fresh persona, but familiar writing style. The eeriness of Halloween sets the mood for a most absorbing tale about a serial killer looking for his next victim. A word of warning; this one is not for the faint of heart.

There's a sinister feeling when anyone enters the boarding house located at 23 Beulah Grove in South London. Cash only. Don't ask, don't tell. Your secrets are safe here. The individual apartments and worn hallways reek of stale cigarette smoke. Putrid mystery stains spot the frayed carpeting. The morbidly obese owner fits perfectly into the picture, blatantly taking advantage of his tenants who all have a story to tell.

Lisa, aka Collette, figures this dilapidated home is the best she can do considering the circumstances. Her mother is dying in a nearby nursing home. She needs to be close to her even though it's risky when you're on the run after witnessing a murder. All of her peculiar neighbors blend into oblivion, until one scorching summer night when they are drawn together by a horrible accident. These lost and lonely souls must reach out to one another in order to survive. Strangers form an uncomfortable alliance, initially not knowing that one of them is a cold-blooded murderer, waiting for the opportune time to strike again.

Each and every character in this book is meticulously dissected for the reader. The story builds and builds. Repulsive revelations may turn your stomach, yet you'll find it hard not to continue to turn the pages for answers because you care about the outcome of people you've come to know.  The novel is quite an amazing mystery for an author who has gained acclaim simply by changing her name. It's spooky, scary, and addictive for a particular audience, much darker than her previous work. Some humor is even added to ease the tension of the topic. Get through the many descriptive passages (of which there are many) to enjoy a satisfying psychological thriller that examines the psyche of a demented mind.

You may never trust your neighbors again.





Friday, October 17, 2014

The Silent Sister

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

Bystanders gawk as rescuers retrieve the yellow kayak from the icy waters of the Potomac. They whisper in hushed tones. It's tragic that a young seventeen-year-old girl like Lisa MacPherson would take her own life by drowning in frigid waters, but then again, she was an accused murderer. Surely the demons and guilt that haunted her each and every day, finally caused her to reach the breaking point. Yes, Lisa MacPherson just couldn't live with herself anymore, they say.

Her body is never found.

Riley never really knew her older sister, Lisa, the musical prodigy. After the tragedy, their parents moved the family to North Carolina to start over and escape abhorrent memories. Now a grown woman, Riley has returned home to settle the affairs of her father, Frank's, estate. Nearby lives her brother, Danny, an Iraq War veteran, who constantly battles depression associated with PTDS. He lives on land near the trailer park his father owned for years, contented to be left alone. He does not welcome his sister's return.

Riley cherishes fond memories of her childhood, and barely remembers the dark days surrounding Lisa's suicide. Danny, on the other hand, lives in a constant state of repressed anger and bitterness. But why? They had the same parents, after all. As Riley begins to sift through her father's belongings and valuable collections, she comes to a startling revelation. Her life has been nothing but a fabrication of lies and deceit, orchestrated by a man she called her father.

As the chapters unfold, you'll meet a litany of complex and riveting characters, all essential to the engrossing plot. Jeannie Lyons, a dear friend of Riley's mother, brazenly takes charge in helping Riley disperse of Frank's possessions. Riley is shocked and mystified to learn that Jeannie and her father were more than just friends. Tom Kyle was supposedly a good friend of Frank's, receiving unexplained monthly pay-offs for years. What is he hiding? And Verniece, Tom's wife, is insistent that Riley is not Frank's biological child. Reeling from her new found discoveries, Riley fears there is no one she can trust. Yet there is one thing of which she is certain.  Lisa is alive.

Veteran writer Diane Chamberlain writes an absorbing novel, guaranteed to keep you guessing. Full of twists and turns, it's equally entertaining in both book and audio formats, and a novel I highly recommend.

There's nothing like a good mystery to fill a relaxing fall evening, and this one delivers.

















  


Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Last Breath

The Last Breath by Kimberly Belle

Playing with fire. Ella Mae Andrews knows it's wrong to succumb to the undeniable attraction she feels for Dean Sullivan, the new next-door neighbor, yet she is powerless when it comes to his irresistible charms. But where there's fire, there's also danger.

As Ella struggles to breathe with the plastic wrap covering her mouth and nostrils, she knows the end is near. In one instant, she recognizes the eyes behind the mask. If only she hadn't played with fire.

Sixteen years later, global humanitarian Gia Andrews reluctantly returns to her birthplace in the remote back- country of Tennessee. It seems she has been given the unwanted role of caregiver for her dying father, Ray, who was convicted of stepmother Ella's murder, years ago. The courts are allowing him to return home to die under house arrest, but Gia's brother and sister want no part of helping a guilty man. Ray always maintained his innocence. Hot shot criminal lawyer, Cal Andrews, Ray's brother, was unable to clear his client, but then how hard did he really try?

The townspeople of this little village tucked into the heart of Appalachia don't welcome a convicted murderer in their midst. Their wild protests and death threats intended to make Gia abandon her father, only make her more determined to make his final days as peaceful as possible whether he's innocent or guilty. When she meets the local bartender who steals her heart, she finds a comrade who is willing to help her uncover hidden secrets and repressed memories. But when this new love admits his own startling secret, Gia realizes the mystery surrounding Ella Mae's murder is complex and twisted. The truth may be too much to fathom.

First time novelist Kimberly Belle writes a page turner that will keep you guessing until the end as to who committed a hideous crime. It's full of small town scandal and plenty of torrid passion that at times seems to be unnecessary for plot development. Nevertheless, it's a story that examines the tenuous and fragile relationship between siblings and parent, and the art of forgiveness, difficult as that may be.








Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Secret Place

The Secret Place by Tana French

Chris Harper is young and self-assured with mesmerizing hazel eyes that make the girls swoon behind his back.  Such a pity they won't enjoy his beguiling charms much longer. "He has eight months and two weeks left to live".

The investigators at the grizzly crime scene believe the weapon of choice had a long handle with a razor sharp blade. One shattering blow to the skull and a promising life ends. Chris Harper is dead.  Who could be so calculating and ruthless to carry out this deed?

"A kid could have done it, easy, if she got a good swing".

It is now a year later. The girls at the exclusive boarding school, St. Kilda's, have a bulletin board called The Secret Place. Shy and timid students have an opportunity to post notes they otherwise would never have the courage to say out loud. Sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey finds a photo of the deceased Chris Harper on the board with the words, "I know who killed him" plastered across his picture. With a little luck, perhaps Detective Stephen Moran can finally make a name for himself and be a part of the Murder Squad by solving this case. It won't be easy.

Moran and his partner find themselves engulfed in a maze of intricate and disturbing adolescent friendships. There are two factions of girls at St. Kilda's who intensely dislike one another. Yet their loyalty to those in their "gang" is unsurpassed. Clandestine meetings with boys from a neighboring school, secret text messages, and unexplained supernatural sightings of a ghost, challenge these veteran police officers to delve into new territory.  Somehow they must sift through the lies and deceit penetrating this picture-perfect setting to uncover the truth about what happened the night of the murder.

This is the fifth installment of Tana French's Detective Murder Squad Mysteries. It isn't necessary to be familiar with the characters from her previous books, although you will find references to them periodically
.
It's a superbly written crime novel about the inner workings of teenage relationships. Gritty, perplexing, tantalizing, and somewhat complicated, you'll need to pay close attention to all the details up until the last page. Then, and only then, are the answers revealed.

This is my first time reading Tana French. Author Harlan Coben writes, "she is, without a doubt, my favorite new mystery writer."

I wholeheartedly agree.
       















Sunday, September 21, 2014

One Plus One

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Jess Thomas faces a dilemma; pay the overdue electricity bill staring at her from the piles of statements marked "final notice" on the dirty kitchen counter, or use those precious funds to buy her daughter some trendy designer clothes. It breaks her heart to know her child is ridiculed and teased for her homemade attire. For some people, money is just a detail. Dejected and alone, Jess is reminded that "people who thought money was a detail were the kind who had never really had to worry about it." The electricity bill will just have to wait.

Two quirky children call Jess "Mom".  Daughter Tanzie is a math genius with an amazing opportunity to further her education at a prestigious private school that costs a fortune. Prize money could be hers if they can somehow find their way to Scotland for a lucrative competition. Stepson Nicky is bullied and taunted with vicious remarks by classmates who make fun of his macabre appearance. Husband Marty conveniently vanished two years ago leaving Jess penniless and overwhelmed. Her job as a cleaning lady for the wealthy barely keeps food on the table. She is disappointed in herself., but starts each day with the hope that better days lie ahead.

Geeky Ed Nichols is a self-made tech millionaire who had a momentary lapse in good judgement. He is now facing insider trading charges. While his attorney sorts out the mess he has made of his life, Ed finds the days and nights can be quite lonely until a chance encounter with a feisty woman named Jess Thomas who just happens to be his cleaning lady. Against his better judgement, he agrees to embark on a journey to Scotland to make Tanzie's dream a reality.  Along the way, the road trip becomes a comedy of errors. Bad food, sleepless nights spent in a car, and a huge smelly dog named Norman are all part of the journey.

And Jess can't make herself reveal the secret she has been hiding from Ed.

Jojo Moyes writes a novel filled with humor, romance, and heartache. Two vulnerable characters who at first instantly dislike one another, find that together they just may have the courage and strength needed to overcome obstacles in their way. This is a light, amusing story, easy to read and a welcome break if you are looking for a little levity. However, it also has heart-rending and agonizing themes that are the very essence of the story.

Once again, this British author delivers.  


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Close To Home

Close To Home by Lisa Jackson

As we say goodbye to summer, a classic ghost story may be just what you are looking for as the days become shorter and the cool, crisp nights become a reality. With autumn approaching, take some time to sit by a crackling fire and read the pages of this new release. Maybe, just maybe, you'll become a believer....

On October 31st, 1924, Angelique struggles with this drunken excuse of a man on the widow's walk of their majestic home, Blue Peacock Manor. As the blinding rain slices through the bitterly cold air, Angelique finds it hard to maintain her balance on the slippery, narrow walk high above the angry churning waters of the
Columbia River in remote Oregon. She is ready to die if it means saving the innocent children inside. The man she once professed to love forever is a crazed lunatic, and she will not succumb to his insanity without a fight. Suddenly they are both plummeting to their deaths, thus ending this tragic, twisted love story. Their bodies are never found.

On October 15th, 2014, Sarah McAdams vows to make a new start with her two reluctant daughters, Jade and Gracie, by returning to Blue Peacock Manor, her childhood home. The memories are not good; her cold, distant mother, a half-sister who mysteriously vanished, and a horrific night years ago when young Sarah was found on the widow's walk, delirious and frightened. A nagging memory of what really happened that fateful evening refuses to surface. She can't forget the rooms she was forbidden to enter or the constant uneasy feeling that permeated her childhood.

But this is home and Sarah needs to bring Blue Manor back to its once stately grandeur and put her fears to rest. Quite a task when Gracie begins to see a shadowy lady in a mist of white, traveling  from room to room. Sarah must face the facts: Blue Manor is haunted, and Gracie does indeed have a gift that enables her to communicate with the spirit world; a spirit that needs to be heard. She herself has seen a fleeting presence. Something evil and sinister happened behind these walls. If only Sarah could remember.

In the meantime, young, innocent teenage girls are disappearing in this small town, and Sarah is deeply worried about her own daughters' safety. There is a sinister, sick mind at work here. Could these troubling occurrences somehow be related to events that happened over ninety years ago?  Perhaps the one man she mistakenly thought she could forget is destined to be her savior. As troubling secrets begin to unravel, Sarah realizes the truth may be more than she can fathom.

There are many characters and plots all intricately woven into one another in this latest novel from Lisa Jackson.  It may take a moment to reread a few passages to solidify the relationship between past to and present. Once you do, it becomes a spooky and absorbing tale.

Just in time for Halloween.....








Saturday, September 6, 2014

Mean Streak

Mean Streak by Sandra Brown

The last thing marathon runner Dr. Emory Charbonneau remembers is forging ahead, praying that the end is near. Step by step, refusing to succumb to the frigid air, she is determined to finish what she started. Ice crystals cover her eyelashes making it hard to see the deserted road ahead. Why wasn't she better prepared ? She reminds herself it's simply mind over matter. Nothing can deter her from accomplishing her goal; nothing except the sudden, seething pain exploding inside her head.

Emory now finds herself in a stark one-room cabin. Nothing looks familiar, especially the imposing man who towers over her. Even as the pain rages in her skull, she feels panic and fear, knowing that her life may be in danger. The argument she had with husband, Jeff, hours earlier before embarking on her journey, means he won't be looking for her anytime soon. They both needed time to cool off, to take a break from the angry, accusatory words that they'd surely regret later. She's alone and afraid as the walls close in on her. It's only a matter of time before she dies.

As days pass, Emory realizes nothing is as it first appeared. This imposing stranger is not going to hurt her. Even though he refuses to reveal his identity, Emory begins to feel trust building with her captor. Her unwavering resolve to escape begins to gradually fade as she realizes her abductor may have a hidden agenda. When he finally releases her, the story doesn't end, it actually begins anew with startling revelations. Everything and everyone she thought she knew becomes a maze of lies and deception. Someone is determined she never knows the truth.

Sondra Brown once again writes a gripping thriller that challenges the reader to ultimately uncover the story within a story. The characters aren't particularly deep; there's the tall rugged  mystery man who Emory can't resist, with Brown's characteristic steamy passages, the shallow selfish husband with a mistress and secrets of his own, and the FBI agent who vows to never stop until he finds what he's been looking for, elusive as that may be.

 Full of surprises, this book is fun and entertaining, a romantic suspense novel that will keep you guessing with a startling conclusion.



  


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

What happens when kindergarten school politics turn deadly? Murder, that's what, or was it simply a tragic accident?

Delicious, juicy, and just a little bit naughty, this latest release from author Liane Moriarty follows her hugely successful The Husband's Secret. I'll predict you'll find this one hard to put down. It's just too much fun.

Allow me to introduce to you the mothers of Pirriwee Public School.

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with; she's witty and sarcastic and influential; a much better friend than enemy. It must be hard for Madeline to have her ex-husband's daughter (with his bubbly new wife) in the same kindergarten class as her own youngest child, Chloe. To outsiders, this blended family gets along famously. However, Madeline harbors resentment in the way her marriage ended. She looks in the mirror and realizes you can't turn back time. It's so hard to plaster a smile on your face day after day. Yes, it's not easy being Madeline Mckenzie.

Celeste is simply gorgeous. Strangers stop and stare while women envy her natural beauty. As the mother of rowdy, adorable, identical twin boys, she should wake up each morning counting her blessings. Husband Perry is a prominent businessman, doting father to his children, often traveling to faraway places, returning with lavish, expensive gifts for the family as the children squeal with delight. Celeste quietly puts away her trinkets and jewels with a sadness in her heart, knowing someday she will leave Perry. No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. Yes, it's not easy being Celeste White

Jane is the young, single, gum-chewing mother of Ziggy, the  result of a one night stand she'd rather not discuss. They moved to this coastal town in Australia to start over in obscurity but she now finds herself immersed in a world of back-stabbing gossip. When her son is accused of bullying, battle lines are drawn. There are those who believe Ziggy is innocent and those who shun him. Jane knows all too well how little lies can turn into big ones. Yes, it's not easy being Jane Chapman.

The reader knows from the onslaught that a horrible accident occurred on an evening of fun known as School Trivia Night. Spirited parents who have too much to drink turns into a lethal nightmare. From there it's one guessing game after the other as to the victim's identity and circumstances leading up to the shocking end. The clues are there. The clever plot twists and well-developed characters combine with wit, humor and the shocking reality of shameful secrets to make this novel one of the most compelling books I've read in a long time. You won't put it down.

It's just too much fun.



 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sing In The Morning, Cry at NIght

Sing In The Morning, Cry At Night by Barbara J. Taylor

Grief visits Grace again that day, just like he did twenty years ago when her father committed suicide. He never really leaves, just waits silently for the perfect time to surface again, taunting her this time with the horrific memory of the day her precious daughter, Daisy, died. It was supposed to be a memorable Fourth of July celebration, complete with a special surprise from her husband, Owen, for his two extraordinary daughters. Instead, a terrible accident involving fireworks propels a family into a dark abyss of sorrow and heartache that threatens their very existence. And once again, that old imaginary friend, Grief, returns in all his glory to torment Grace in ways she could never imagine.

The story takes place in the early 1900s in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the heart of coal-mining country. Owen Morgan labors daily in a dangerous, tedious job to put food on the table for his family. When tragedy strikes, he begins to realize that his family is torn beyond repair. Grace secretly blames her other daughter, Violet, for the accident as does everyone in town. Owen turns to drink, abandoning his family, unable to cope with life's injustice.

It is young Violet who perseveres through the hurt and misery. She meets scrawny Stanley Adamski and together they forge a friendship that becomes the anchor she needs to withstand the events that will ultimately shape the future.When a debilitating snowstorm tests every ounce of strength she has, Violet becomes her own mother's savior.

Based on true events in the author's life, this novel certainly is one worth reading. She accurately and forcefully describes the life of a coal miner, complete with the loneliness and imminent fear they face every day deep underground. You will empathize with the despair and hopelessness of losing a child. You will rally around a child that is forced to become an adult when those around her cannot cope with loss. And you will cheer a mother who has the strength to overcome Grief. In the end it is a story of survival.

Interspersed with compelling descriptions of religious tent revivals and verses from old church hymns, Barbara Taylor takes you back to a place and time that truly existed in coal mining communities. She manages to develop many minor characters along the way that play a pivotal role in the plot often with a touch of humor. This first time author writes with emotion and heart, of never looking back, only looking to what lies ahead.

"You can relive a moment again and again and again. But you can't change it. That's the tragedy of time".



   

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Good Girl

The Good Girl by Mary Kubica

Like "two tiny figurines in a snow globe that some child has turned over", she feels at peace; truly loved and cherished for the first time in her life. Not long ago, this man that stands beside her, shivering in the tranquility and solitude of newly fallen snow, had every intention of killing her.

Mia could never please her father, James Dennett, the powerful, arrogant, opinionated Chicago judge. He wants to mold her into his likeness as he did with her sister, Grace. Mia chooses a different path by distancing herself from the wealth and prestige her father clings to and desires. She fosters her passion for art by teaching troubled youth in an inner city school. Here she finds happiness, far away from the confines of a home that never welcomed her.

Jilted once again by her current boyfriend, Mia spends a lonely night drinking in the bar where they all know her by name. This night a stranger approaches her, and after exchanging pleasantries, they head to his apartment where Mia hopes to obliterate depressing thoughts that fill her mind, if only for a few fleeting hours. Colin Thatcher is his name, a puzzling man with dark, piercing eyes. It soon becomes apparent that he has other plans for this fragile, lonely young woman. The chilling extortion plot that Colin agreed to is under way. Deliver her to the dangerous thugs who orchestrated this scenario, and he'll have enough money to ease his growing financial woes. Really very simple if it all goes according to the script.

Inexplicably, Colin suddenly changes his mind and continues to drive through the night, hostage in tow, to a desolate, forlorn cabin hidden from civilization in the backwoods of Minnesota. Endless days and nights pass in this frozen remote tundra as Mia slips farther and farther into a world from which she may never escape. All the while, her meek and misunderstood mother, Eve, joins forces with a determined detective to find her daughter at all costs, even if it shatters an already broken family. The question remains. Can they save Mia from this hideous nightmare?

This is the debut novel of Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) graduate, Mary Kubica. It's being compared to Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, and the similarities are apparent but not identical. This novel stands on its own. The chapters alternate between past and present with three narrators, and once you understand the pattern, it is an engrossing, often exhilarating ride. Mia's harrowing tale takes unexpected twists and turns and not until the last few pages does the reader discover the smoking mirror.

Add this mesmerizing and intricately written suspense novel to your summer reading list.





 

         

    












Friday, July 18, 2014

All Fall Down

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

She dreams of a fairy tale ending. Allison Weiss marries David believing that contentment and wedded bliss will follow. He has a successful career as an award-winning journalist, they are doting parents to their endearing, precocious daughter Ellie, and their beautiful suburban home is a showcase. But slowly that idyllic life is eroding and slipping away. David's job has taken a back seat to Allison's budding career as a writer. She is the author of a successful blog that centers on hot topics women crave to read. This unwelcome role as the major breadwinner for the family overwhelms her. Ellie's recent erratic and demanding behavior is a cause for concern. Allison's once distinguished father suffers from Alzheimer's disease while her helpless mother stands by, and the spacious ostentatious house certainly isn't a warm and welcoming home. A bright and promising future is vanishing before her eyes, and Allison knows only one way to take away the pain.

Pills.

If you are a fan of Jennifer Weiner's books, you know she often interjects wry humor in her stories while exploring serious topics. This novel is no exception. The main character manages to find a bit of levity in her strife, struggling to maintain  normalcy in a life that is crumbling around her. But the author also departs from her usual path of humorous storytelling, by taking a serious look at an all too truth that exists today; the fact that addiction to painkillers, especially by women, has increased in the last few years and threatens the stability and happiness of many families. Obviously the author has done her research and feels strongly about this subject matter. She created a character who is strong and loyal to all those she loves, but misguided in her attempts to deal with deep-seated feelings that cloud her ability to function. Instead she turns to a secret, expensive, and destructive habit to dull the torment and heartache of reality. She is entering the dangerous world of narcotics, "like a warm, fuzzy comforter, a layer of defense between me and the world".

Follow one woman's emotional journey as she reclaims her life from the misery and hopelessness of drug addiction. As she confronts demons from painful childhood memories, she learns she isn't the only one in her family with a shameful secret. Harsh truths can't be ignored. With an inner strength and the belief that healing is possible one day at a time, Allison finds a thread of hope. Love and redemption are hers for the taking if only she has the courage to take the next step on the winding road to recovery.  



 





  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Invisible

Invisible by James Patterson and David Ellis

He's back.....

Prolific writer James Patterson teams this time with David Ellis to tell a chilling story about a devious serial killer who continues a spree of hideous murders across the nation; and no one even knows he exists.

Vivid nightmares plague Emmy Dockery at night. Scorching fire surrounds her as she valiantly struggles to breathe. She hears the pleading cries of her twin sister, Marta, while intense, deadly flames engulf everything in the room. Sizzling and destructive, the fingers of  fire crawl towards her.  Then Emmy awakens with a pounding heart and realizes that it's all a dream except for one horrific fact; Marta is dead. She is one of many who met their death at the hands of a deranged twisted mind. Emmy knows it's true, yet no one believes her, so now she must prove it.

Emmy is compulsively obsessed with her sister's death. In fact, she is on a leave of absence form the FBI as a researcher spending endless hours finding a common link between the hundreds of fire-related deaths sweeping the country. All of them have been deemed accidental with reasonable explanations. There is nothing to suggest otherwise; no weapons, no motives, no foul play, just tragic circumstances claiming innocent lives. Even Emmy's ex-fiance questions the credibility of her theory until a crucial piece of evidence emerges at one of the scenes. The possibility exists that a dangerous deviant individual is in their midst, taking great delight in mocking and taunting law enforcement. Somehow Emmy and her cohorts must decipher his pattern and unearth clues to stop the madness. The clock is ticking.

The subject matter in this novel is often gruesome and repulsive. There is a lunatic on the run trying to outwit everyone. It's a gritting suspense thriller that allows the reader to analyze the riddles and become a detective as the story moves at a fast pace to the riveting end. Get past the shocking details of grizzly murders, and you'll find this newest stand-alone novel from Patterson a winner. See if you can solve the mystery behind a cunning and clever mind with an unwavering desire to remain...

Invisible.    








Monday, July 7, 2014

We Were Liars

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

They had it all at their fingertips. Wealth, beauty, social standing. And then one summer it just slipped away......

Candence Sinclair Eastman is the narrator of this story but those who know her well call her Cady. Even her name sounds regal, as it should, considering she is an heiress to her grandfather's fortune. She's one of The Sinclairs; blonde, lovely, and privileged. Cady eagerly anticipates the summer because once again she and her cousins will spend languid days and nights on a private island off the coast of Cape Cod, walking the rocky shoreline, eating rich, buttery, fresh seafood and occasionally imbibing in the liquor hidden behind locked doors.

As well as being related, these four teens call themselves the Liars. There are cousins Mirren and Johnny and the illusive Gat.  He's the son of Aunt Carrie's boyfriend, and Cady is awestruck in his presence. She's in love. They've all known each other since they were eight years old. This posse of four must stick together as their dysfunctional family surrounds them. Granddad is rigid and controlling, the aunts bicker and argue over the many material possessions, and Cady's mom stills reels from the day her  husband walked out on her. Yes, the four Liars can weather it all, if they just stick together.

Then during her fifteenth summer on the island, Cady has a mysterious accident that leaves her in constant pain and suffering from amnesia. Now it is two years later and Cady still fights to remember what really happened that pivotal summer. If only she could remember.....

Much like John Green's The Fault in our Stars, this much talked about book appeals to an adolescent reader, but seems to have acquired an adult audience.  E. Lockhart is a National Book Award finalist with a distinct writing style. All 240 pages are written in a halting abbreviated manner which eventually you will come to expect as the pages turn. This book has almost a mystical quality. Continue reading and the heavy fog of uncertainty gradually lifts until Cady's story becomes painfully clear. Powerful and not easily forgotten, it's a book you'll either love or hate, but certainly one worth the discussion.

And by all means, don't tell anyone how it ends.

.      

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Stranger on the Train

The Stranger on the Train by Abbie Taylor

Emma looks away for a second to retrieve her shopping bags while her thirteen-month-old son, Ritchie, waits for her just inside the doors of  the train. An infinitesimal second in time. And in that brief moment the train doors close revealing the horror of the situation. Ritchie is now on the opposite side of the glass, oblivious to the fact that his frantic mother can't reach him as the sleek mass of metal lumbers down the track. As she runs screaming, begging for the train to stop, Emma sees a blonde woman at the window mouthing words that seem to say, "next stop". Hope swells in Emma's chest. Some kind stranger has rescued Ritchie. The chubby little boy will once again be in her arms. If only it were true.

Emma is a single mother with no family or friends, living on government assistance and struggling everyday with her lonely life. She harbors troubling childhood memories of her own mother. Ritchie's father doesn't even know he exists. Former friends have abandoned her or perhaps she abandoned them. Her son's pediatrician is weary of the constant complaints and whining that Emma brings to each visit. This is a young woman on the brink of a complete breakdown, haunted by what could have been, bogged down by the boring, tedious hours spent doing necessary chores. Yet in her heart she knows one thing. Despite all her faults, she loves her son and will do everything in her power to find him. First, however, she must convince the police and all those around her that the story is not fiction, because now she is at the center of the investigation.

In her debut novel, author Abbie Taylor shifts from past to present with alternating chapters that introduce you to the main character.  Maybe Emma really is a caring devoted mother desperately anxious to be reunited with her son. Then again, her dark secret thoughts might reveal another side of her; thoughts she wishes she could erase. There's a little haunting voice inside her head that refuses to stop filling her mind with sinister scenarios. Full of clever plot twists and action, you'll feel the panic, fear, and frustration that Emma faces as she races against time to rescue a child she may never see again.

This is a psychological thriller that promises to keep you guessing until the end.

   







  

Friday, June 20, 2014

Somerset

Somerset by Leila Meacham


All 607 pages of this saga will glide effortlessly through your fingers as you read about the pioneer spirit of three families and their harrowing journey to the land of promise, better known as Texas. Follow the mesmerizing story that begins in 1835 with the Tolivars, Warwicks, and DuMonts, an incredibly dynamic group of people who believe that happiness and prosperity lie just beyond their reach if only they have the fortitude and determination to forge ahead. In the grand style of Gone With the Wind,  Leila Meacham develops characters that possess a remarkable resoluteness and sense of purpose. Along the way, they just might capture your heart.

Jessica Wyndham is different from the rest of her aristocratic South Carolina family. No great beauty, she instead has a fiery disposition and lofty ideals that set her apart from the slave owners in the South, including her domineering father, Carson. This is her story. As each section enfolds, the reader learns of her life from a timid young girl to a self-assured abolitionist, fighting for the rights of slaves and women. By her side is Silas Tolivar, an unlikely partner who grows to love and respect her, and son Thomas, so like his father, but filled with admiration for his courageous mother. There is dear friend Jeremy who becomes Jessica's confidante in times of trouble. And Tippy, the talented slave Jessica calls her best friend even when Tippy's curious unconventional looks cause people to stare and whisper. Together they travel down a road filled with hardship and incredible odds until they find a place to call home.

This historical fiction novel provides a powerful insight into the tumultuous years of the 1800s when our country was in the throes of discontent between the North and the South leading up to The Civil War. The glamour and grandeur of plantation life are soon erased as these formidable men, women and children set out to fulfill their dream of owning land and creating new lives for themselves. First they must overcome the challenges that await them. Chapter by chapter the reader shadows their lives through the heartache and triumphs until the gripping end.

Leila Meacham has written three novels, all in splendid style. Tumbleweeds is a stand alone novel. Roses, however, is actually a sequel to Somerset but written earlier in 2010.  I would suggest reading both novels   (in no particular order) to fully appreciate the complexity of the story. You'll want to know the conclusion to this compelling tale.

If you are looking to immerse yourself in a good old-fashioned story filled with emotion, this is a wise choice. It reads like a soap opera with anguish and pain, joy and sorrow, laughter and tears. Jessica's story is one few of us could imagine.

An entertaining, engaging, and delightful  choice for a summer read ......



     


Friday, June 13, 2014

The Matchmaker

The Matchmaker by Elin Hilderbrand

"The summer wind, came blowin' in from across the sea
It lingered there to touch your hair and walk with me..."

As I turned the pages of this novel, the lyrics of this timeless song came to mind. Once again, this author writes a meaningful story of lost love, forgiveness, and redemption against a backdrop of white sands and sunny skies. If you are looking for a beach read on a mellow summer day, give this one a try.

Dabney Kimball Beech lives on the Island of Nantucket; she has most of her life. There are a few things you should know about her. With her trademark pearls and polished appearance, Dabney excels as the director of the local chamber of commerce, admired and respected by all who know her. She is known as the "Matchmaker" because of her uncanny ability to unite compatible couples that result in happy, satisfying marriages. Behind this facade of contentment lie undeniable truths. Her mother left her one day with no explanation. Those scars will never heal. She is married to John Boxmiller Beech, a revered professor of economics at Harvard who officially adopted  her lovely daughter, Agnes, many years ago. He has been by her side through all the ups and downs, yet decidedly distant to her wants and needs. Perhaps that's because Dabney truly loves only one man; Clendenin Hughes, her daughter's biological father. When he left her brokenhearted eons ago, she never expected to see him again. But he's back on the Island and faded memories come hurdling toward her. Her life is spinning out of control, and she is determined to right the wrongs with the time she has left.

You see, Dabney is dying of pancreatic cancer.

One month before publication of this book, Erin Hilderbrand began her own battle with breast cancer. Little did she know how her words of fiction would relate to her own life. It's all just a bit fear-fetched, but nonetheless a captivating, emotional read, intended to entertain and isn't that what beach reads are all about....

It may just open your mind to the precious, fragile moments of life.  Fleeting.  Just like the summer wind.




Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Forgotten Seamstress

The Forgotten Seamstress by Liz Trenow

No one believed her. They called her insane. But Maria Romano knows the truth. Her eyes close and it is 1910 again. She vividly remembers the flutter of her racing heart when she looked into the cool piercing eyes of the handsome man that captured her heart and mind. A poor, naive commoner like herself, summoned  to work at Buckingham Palace, would never attract The Prince of Wales. They all insisted it was just a crazy concoction from an imaginative mind.  Maria understands the absurdity of it all. Yet fantastic as it sounds, it did happen and the events and heartache that followed still reverberate deep in her soul. So she agrees to tell her story sixty years later.

 A young energetic college student turns on the cassette tape and begins to record the words of an old woman scarred from the wounds of days long ago. Maria looks back on her past with a forlorn wistfulness. She smiles and in a husky voice, begins the narration of her life. It is the story of an orphaned child who is summoned to the "Castle" as a seamstress because of her extraordinary talent. Little does she know she is working for royalty. As the story enfolds, she describes herself as an incredibly trusting girl of sixteen who falls in love with a future king. Her innocence results in a mistake that cannot go unpunished but she carries on in spite of the hushed whispers behind her back. With only her sewing to sustain her sanity, she creates a remarkable quilt, a "patchwork of life" made of the finest fabrics and lovingly stitched with nimble fingers that tell a tale of love and hope rather than bitterness and regret. Eventually, because of her unforgivable error in judgement, she is sent away to live in a dark, depressing mental asylum, where she endures cruel and brutal treatment. Robbed of her future and dreams, this fortress of oppression cannot take away Maria's strength and determination. Friends never abandon her. Maria survives.

Generations later, in 2008, Caroline Meadows finds the quilt in her mother's attic, an inheritance from her Granny Jean. Hidden in the intricate pattern is a mysterious message. When her friend reveals that the silks used in the quilt are rare and date back to the royal family, Caroline has an overpowering urge to begin a relentless search to uncover the truth behind this piece of  faded cloth. What she discovers about her grandmother's life is amazing. And somehow the circle always comes back to Maria Romano.

This is a beautifully written novel that will fill the reader with emotion. The past and the present are artfully combined, and each chapter reveals another piece of an astounding puzzle. Written by British author Liz Trenow and set in London, this work of historical fiction reveals disturbing facts about mental hospitals during the World War I era. This gifted author writes a compelling tale combining fact with fiction based on many of her own experiences.

Like a haunting melody, it just might play over and over again in your heart and mind long after you finish the last page.      





                  

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

"People tell boring lies about politics, God, and love. You know everything you need to know about a person from the answer to the question, What is your favorite book?"

Words to live by according to Mr. A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books, a small independent bookstore with cluttered, dusty shelves and dwindling sales. He fondly remembers those early days when eager patrons walked through the doors anticipating pleasure in finding a good book to read, certain they would never be disappointed. But dreams are sometimes shattered in an instance. When A. J.'s beloved wife, Nic, dies in an automobile accident, life suddenly seems irrelevant. Days and nights melt into one another with bouts of heavy drinking. When a valuable edition of Edgar Allan Poe's collections is stolen from the store, A.J. despairs but not for long. Soon he discovers a mysterious package sent anonymously to him at the store. It's a baffling, perplexing arrival that slowly allows a sour, dreary bookstore owner to see a whole new side of life. He finds himself making a surprising decision that will change the course of his life forever.

A myriad of characters touch and transform A. J.'s bleak and empty life. There's Amelia, the publishing sales representative who endures A. J.'s rude and obnoxious behavior only to find that he may be the love of her life.  You'll meet Ismay, the sister-in-law who feels it is her duty to save A. J. from his destructive behavior, while secretly longing for tranquility and happiness in her own life. Likable Police Chief Lambiase  truly enjoys spending time in the quiet, unassuming bookstore but is afraid to admit that reading is a passion of his; a passion that friends and townspeople would never understand. Gradually, with encouragement from family and acquaintances, A. J. begins to see that he has the opportunity to begin life anew; the chance to make it all right again.

Ardent readers will relate to this book in many ways. Even in our world that is constantly changing, there's nothing like a captivating book to erase your troubles if only for a moment in time. This charming, endearing novel has romance, mystery, humor, sadness and nostalgia from days of yesteryear. It is about hope, redemption, and the belief that the lucky ones really do get a second chance at life.

You just have to believe.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chestnut Street

Chestnut Street by Maeve Binchy

Author Maeve Binchy had a gift; the gift of observation. She watched and listened to everyday people with ordinary worries and troubles, then eloquently wrote about what she saw and heard. The end result is a collection of stories filled with joy and triumphs, sorrow and regrets, and ultimately a life lesson to be learned at the end of each chapter. This book is a treasure chest brimming with her astute reflections on human nature. It's not really a novel, rather a book of musings and contemplation.

You meet so many complex characters, each full of flaws and imperfections, always searching for a happy ending to their tangled lives. These neighbors all live in Dublin, Ireland on a quiet fictional road known as Chestnut Street. There's sixteen-year-old Dolly, plain and nondescript, envious of her own mother's enchanting beauty until she realizes that perception is not always reality. Friends Wendy and Rita dream of becoming successful entrepreneurs until they realize how foolish it is to put misplaced faith in those they trust. They begin the WR (Wronging a Right) Club. Let's see who looks foolish now. Bucket Maguire washes windows, a perfectly respectable way to make a living except when you are the object of ridicule from judgmental people, including his unsettled disrespectful son, Eddie. Yet it's Bucket's supportive and unwavering presence that saves Eddie in his darkest hour. Then there's Nan, raising three children on her own, working endless hours to carve out a meager existence when the doctors say she has a weak heart.  So odd, she thinks, because her "heart must be very strong indeed"  to endure a husband walking out on her. Nan surprisingly finds a most unlikely suitor who finds that she has a remarkable heart after all. There are thirty-six chapters of individual stories just like these told with insight, humor, and a delightful easy-going pace.

Much like her popular A Week in Winter (posted on my blog in May of 2013), Maeve Binchy proves once again that she was a talented storyteller. Upon her death in July of 2012, publishers were able to gather her many years of observations and release a final book for her devoted fans. She had an uncanny ability to create a series of memorable anecdotes representing life with all its ups and downs.

Have a cup of tea, relax and enjoy the entertaining residents who call Chestnut Street home.  

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Mimi Malloy, At Last

Mimi Malloy, At Last by Julia MacDonnell

Maire (Mimi) Malloy likes her life just as it is; uncluttered, simple, orderly. Unexpected early retirement brings leisurely days and nights smoking cigarettes, drinking highballs, and listening to Frank Sinatra croon her favorite tunes. Alone and divorced from John Francis Xavier Malloy, few people can comprehend why anyone would walk away from a lovely home, secure pension, and a classy late-model luxury sedan. But Mimi did just that and now  lives with the constant scrutiny and criticism from her loved ones, particularly her six daughters. They say it's time for assisted transitional living, or as the brochure says, for "people past their use-by date". Admittedly she has snippets of forgetfulness and confusion; a nagging feeling that her memory is fading. When an MRI confirms that Mimi's brain is filled with dark spots of atrophy, she realizes this fight is an uphill battle. Then one day she makes a surprising find; a blue and silver pendant belonging to her beloved deceased mother. This is not any ordinary piece of jewelry. Rather it turns out to be the trigger that unlocks a mystery hidden deep in the recesses of Mimi's mind. An otherwise insignificant bauble that may be the key to unlocking horrific memories of bygone days.

Mimi and her seven sisters, (yes seven), were born during the Depression into a happy but incredibly poor Irish-Catholic family. The girls were all beauties and worshiped their father, always overlooking his excessive drinking and bouts of irresponsible behavior. Their mother died tragically in childbirth and soon after, stepmother Flanna Flanagan entered their lives. Wicked and cruel, she dressed in their mother's clothes and conjured up tales of Irish lore and mythical faeries from across the sea. The girls were prisoners in their own home, while a loving father didn't have the courage to save his daughters. Then a sister was sent away to Ireland with no credible explanation, never to be heard of again. But why? So many unanswered questions...

This is a cleverly written novel filled with wry, witty humor, a bit of mystery and even some romance. It also has moments of great sadness and sorrow. A particular audience will enjoy this story, one who can relate to the passage of time as it slowly slips away with the promise of better days to come. There are an abundance of characters so I would suggest reading carefully but not focusing on each and every name. If you are looking for a book a little off the beaten path, try this one.  It speaks of love, hope, loyalty, and a little "Luck of the Irish".

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Everything To Lose

Everything To Lose by Andrew Gross

A half million dollars is a lot of money. Enough to pay the back taxes on her outrageously expensive home and catch up on the mortgage her ex-husband conveniently handed to her. It would help her loyal parents through a rough patch, and most importantly, continue to send her special needs son to a school where he shows vast improvement. As she caresses the crisp currency and daydreams about financial security, her inner self knows that this split-second decision will alter the course of her life. She knows right from wrong; but desperate times call for desperate measures. So she devises a way to take the money that clearly doesn't belong to her, setting in motion a series of events that will send her life spinning out of control...

While driving down a dark deserted road, Hilary Cantor witnesses a fatal car accident. She doesn't know the dead man whose contorted body is twisted in the mangled wreck but she soon will. He is a man with a secret. He is a man with an exorbitant amount of money that someone desperately wants back along with incriminating evidence from twenty years ago. Hilary unwittingly is now caught in a web of murder and blackmail with a very dangerous and sinister group of individuals who threaten the one person she loves the most; her son. She joins forces with a determined police officer from Staten Island that is reeling from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Many characters emerge as the story goes back in time. Like in a a game of dominoes, the pieces begin to fall revealing the final lone suspect. And it all begins with the enticement of money.

This is a fast-paced cliff-hanger; easy to read and hard to put down. From the same author who wrote 15 Seconds, the story touches upon relevant current issues of our times like the devastation of a storm that destroyed lives and fractured the human spirit, and a woman so overcome with despair and hopelessness, that she resorts to unthinkable measures in order to save her needy child. Who knows what the future holds and how we will react.  Life is never just black and white; rather it is a myriad of countless shades of gray.

Andrew Gross writes of hope, love and resilience, with suspense all around. Maybe not the ending you desire, but it will certainly keep you engaged for hours as you slip away into the thrill of it all.        

Friday, April 18, 2014

Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan

This book is for mothers and daughters everywhere.

Author Kelly Corrigan writes a poignant and touching memoir revolving around her own life and the trials and tribulations of the mother daughter relationship, eventually coming to the understanding that perhaps Mom's words of wisdom have some merit after all.

"Your father is the glitter, and I'm the glue." How many times did Kelly hear those words spoken by her mother?  Far too numerous to count along with those endless quotes about every trivial event and circumstance in her life. And what in the world do those words mean? In any case, it's time to move on after college graduation. The adventure and glamour of Australia beckons Kelly and friend, Tracy, so they depart for the other side of the world.. Soon her savings account is exhausted and she finds herself accepting a job as a live-in nanny for a widower named John. The package includes scrawny  five-year-old Martin, precocious eight-year-old Milly, lonely Grandpa Pop, and intriguing stepson Evan. The book chronicles Kelly's days and nights of making monotonous meals, wiping runny noses, and daydreaming of scuba diving on the The Great Barrier Reef. As time passes, however, an attachment grows to this grieving family, and she slowly begins to understand that the untimely loss of a mother has far-reaching consequences. To her surprise, Kelly begins to feel an unexpected love for a family that courageously attempts to move on after days filled with emptiness and sorrow. And in the process her own mother's advice begins to take on a whole new meaning. When she returns to the States, her past experiences in a faraway place in 1992 prepare her for the challenges she faces today, with mom by her side.

This is a heartrending emotional story filled with a bevy of "mom" quotes; I marveled at exactly how many were familiar to me, spoken by my own mother throughout those formative teenage years. Sad at times yet surely captivating, it also is very amusing. After all, laughter is good for the soul. It explores that mysterious ever-changing bond between mothers and daughters that evolves over time; that protective nature one experiences when a child enters your life.

"And it occurs to me that maybe the reason my mother was so exhausted all the time wasn't because she was doing so much but because she was feeling so much."  Yes, indeed, an insightful window into the phenomenon known as motherhood. And may I be the first one to wish you...

Happy Mother's Day.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Keep Quiet

Keep Quiet by Lisa Scottoline

"A father is supposed to be a parent, not a friend. It's Parenting 101, but you didn't get the memo."

Jake Buckman drives aimlessly through unfamiliar residential streets as wife Pam's words echo in his ears, over and over and over.  He never should have allowed his sixteen-year-old son, Ryan, behind the wheel.
He knew it was wrong. But Ryan was only months away from getting his driver's license, and Pike Road has little traffic in the late evening hours; a perfect opportunity to reconnect with the teenage son who seems to be drifting farther and farther away. But then the unthinkable happens; that terrifying moment when both father and son realize a crumpled, lifeless body lies beneath the wheels of their car. Jake must act quickly, making monumental decisions in a matter of minutes. The young female jogger is dead. There is nothing they can do to bring back an innocent life. It was an accident. But Jake knows that Ryan could go to prison and that can't happen.  So they drive away with a rehearsed plan, praying that this nightmare will end, knowing in their hearts it's only begun......

Secrets don't stay hidden for long. Unsettling texts to Ryan begin to unravel this young man already on the brink of self-destruction. When an unsavory character by the name of Lewis Deaner threatens blackmail, Jack knows that prying eyes witnessed every moment of that fateful night. He realizes that what was a horrible lapse in judgement on his part is now a complicated web of deceit and lies. When Deaner is found murdered, Jack begins to connect clues that point to several suspects, including Pam, who has deceptions of her own. It is now a race against time to shield and protect his wife and son from potential deadly harm. And when all the pieces begin to fall into place, Jack braces himself for the frightening conclusion to this agonizing ordeal.

Once again Lisa Scottoline writes a suspenseful, enjoyable page-turner with just enough mystery to make the reader curious as to how it all ends. As a former attorney herself, Scottoline always adds legal flavor to her novels and this is no exception. This one is an easy read, quite fast-moving and hard to put down. Perhaps you will guess the puzzle as you read the final chapters; nevertheless, I found it to be an entertaining read filled with moral and ethical questions. How far will a parent go to protect their child? Where do you draw that fine line between parent and friend?

Food for thought for many of us; of that I am sure.....        

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Still Life with Bread Crumbs

Still Life With Bread Crumbs by Anna Quindlen

The time has come. Sixty-year-old Rebecca Winter must reinvent herself. She finds it hard to admit, but this new catchphrase applies to her in so many ways. Her acclaimed black-and-white photographs once graced the walls of prestigious homes, the most famous being the Kitchen Counter Series that depicted the chaos of a typical harried housewife. At one time her fans adored her. People clamored to buy her work. The royalties from her esteemed prints paid for the Manhattan penthouse, the exclusive hairdresser, and the five-star restaurants. But fame is fleeting. Now Rebecca finds herself alone. Divorced from Peter with the wandering eyes, she faces dwindling finances, increased responsibilities with elderly parents, and the sinking feeling that her once creative self has disappeared.

Forced to cut expenses, Rebecca sublets the apartment overlooking Central Park and moves to the middle of nowhere, living in a run-down cottage in dire need of repair. A handyman by the name of Jim Bates comes to the rescue as he repairs her roof and opens her heart to the possibility of love once again.  And as she explores her newfound feelings for Jim, she realizes that her peaceful surroundings create the perfect backdrop for photography. The hours spent walking through the woods provide beautiful shots of nature. Then unexpectedly, she stumbles upon a series of small homemade crosses adorned with childhood mementos; a yearbook, a trophy, a tattered, faded picture of mother and child. Mysterious and perplexing. Yet she is compelled to photograph these makeshift memorials, only to find that the next day they have disappeared. Who or what is lurking in the shadows watching her every move?

This is a fun, quirky, often amusing story with a hint of mystery and surprise. The author deals with relevant issues many people face each and every day; the responsibilities of taking care of aging parents, the daunting prospect of making ends meet on a limited budget, the challenge of finding joy in life and overcoming obstacles that stand in our way. It is a novel both lighthearted and thought provoking. It is a simple little love story told with warmth and insightful observations from an award-winning journalist.

Reinvent yourself.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Winter People

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Spooky, scary, bone-chilling. This modern-day ghost story tells the tale of the "people who are stuck between here and there, waiting...."

It is 1908 in West Hall ,Vermont. Sara Harrison Shea  and her husband, Martin, live on the farm of her ancestors;  run-down, barren land  in a lonely space where folklore says you can hear the whispers of the dead that roam everywhere. Many peculiar and mysterious disappearances have occurred over the years in this desolate place. Gertie, their precious daughter, is missing now, too.  Eventually her body is found at the bottom of an abandoned well. Tormented and grief-stricken, Sara imagines that Gertie's soul is very much alive. She spends her days and nights communicating with the child she adored, steadfastly believing that this was no accident. It was murder. Months later, Sara is found dead  in the field behind their home, mangled beyond description. What sinister phantom spirits inhabit the town of West Hall?

Now 100 years later, nineteen-year-old Ruthie Washburne lives in Sara's old farmhouse with little sister, Fawn, and their eccentric mother, Alice. One day their mother vanishes without explanation, and Ruthie begins to delve into the history behind this place they call home. The sisters are shocked to find Sara's diary pages, hidden and tucked away long ago. With this discovery, the sisters begin a dangerous journey to find their mother, suddenly realizing that there is a distinct connection to a disturbing story from the past. It takes them into a deep, dark, and eerie world that Sara believed existed; a supernatural world filled with long-lost secrets. And the girls aren't the only ones searching for answers......

Jennifer McMahon has written a spine-tingling, frightening novel dealing with the hereafter. This is her first venture into a hardcover book after writing paperbacks. Somehow she manages to intertwine characters from the past and present into a stunningly engaging story from start to finish. As a reader, pay attention to all the details and watch the pages slip through your fingers as the captivating story unravels. She examines the power of undying love between mother and child and  the power of grief. You may not believe in ghosts. You may not believe in the paranormal, but you just might have a shadow of doubt at the end.

Keep the lights on.......

   


                                                                       

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Weight of Blood

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh


Her name is Lila, this raven-haired beauty with the moss green eyes. People around these parts secretly call her a witch. Nestled deep in the Ozark Mountains, the residents of Henbane, Missouri seldom welcome new faces to their small town. But Lila longs for stability, at least for awhile, after being tossed from one foster family to another. So she accepts an offer to become a contract employee on a farm owned by a Mr. Crete Dane. Soon this enchanting young woman casts a spell over many of the townspeople and falls in love with Crete's brother, Carl. They have a daughter, Lucy, who strikingly resembles her lovely mother. When Lila vanishes without a trace, folks whisper about her disappearance, but do little to uncover the truth. Last seen with a pistol in her hands, Lila was supposedly swallowed at the mouth of  Old Scratch Cavern. Truth or fiction? Tucked away in their own little world, the citizens of Henbane vow to protect one another at all costs. Who are they protecting now?

Now ten years later, another person is missing. This time it is Lucy's good friend, Cheri. A young girl from a troubled home, everyone believes she ran away from the neglect and abuse of her mother. Plagued by recurring thoughts that she could have done more, Lucy regrets not being there for Cheri when she desperately needed a friend. Her mutilated body is found after many months, displayed for all to see, and people assume a drifter committed the crime. Lucy believes differently when she discovers a necklace belonging to Cheri in a familiar place. The mother she never knew; the friend savagely killed. Could these two cases possibly be related after all these years? She knows the answers lie in the heart of this town. However, the revelations of her discoveries prove to be more unsettling than she could ever imagine. Sometimes it's best to let the past quietly slip away. If only ghosts could talk. "But ghosts never came when you wanted them to......"

Laura McHugh's debut novel certainly suggests she is on her way to becoming  a successful author. This one is a compelling thriller. Be prepared for some dark, disturbing themes, all of which set the tone for a shocking intense mystery. Once again, alternating chapters are narrated by the main characters and give the reader an insightful window into their lives. McHugh does a superb job of describing the rural backwoods of small-town America in the Ozarks where she actually lived as a teenager. It is a story of secrets and lies; family loyalty and sacrifice. You may have a hard time putting this one down.

Blood is thicker than water....







Sunday, March 9, 2014

After I'm Gone

After I'm Gone by Laura Lippman

Five women love Felix Brewer. Now one of them is dead, and former homicide police detective, Roberto "Sandy" Sanchez is determined to uncover the truth after all these years....

When Bambi Gottschalk  meets Felix at a Valentine's Day dance in 1959, she immediately falls under his spell. He is not particularly handsome, rough around the edges, not at all what her parents envision for their only child. However, within months they are married, and Bambi begins to believe her husband's many outlandish promises. Yes, she knows that his business dealings are shady, but it makes life so much easier to put those thoughts in the back of her mind and enjoy all the material things Felix provides. He is a devoted father to their three daughters. He is a loyal friend to his lawyer and childhood friend, Bert. Unfortunately, another object of his dedication is the alluring Julie Saxony, his mistress.

Now Felix, facing prison, disappears into the night without a trace, leaving behind the women he loves. Bambi finds herself alone with financial woes and so many unanswered questions. Is Julie the recipient of all his money? Ten years to the day that Felix vanished, Julie also disappears. Everyone assumes the two have arranged a rendezvous. Then Julie's body is found in a secluded park, and Bambi and her daughters have theories as to who committed the crime. Theories they hide from one another. The murder remains unsolved until twenty-six years later when Sandy Sanchez, a lonely former cop, decides to re-open the cold case of Julie's demise. With each step he takes back in time, a story begins to unravel of greed, family secrets, jealously and bitterness. A complicated tale emerges of the women who love and adore one  man; women who are ultimately loyal to one another when all is said and done.

The chapters in this novel alternate over a span of  fifty years. A wide cast of characters provide the reader with many credible suspects in Julie's murder. It is a fun, fast-paced mystery filled with intricate details and clues. So many lies and suspicions; this story is a tangled web just waiting to be solved.

You'll have to wait until the very end to uncover the truth.  And of course finally discover...

What really happened to Felix Brewer?
       

Friday, February 28, 2014

Before We Met

Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse

Guilty pleasures. Like eating that last piece of chocolate or watching another Lifetime movie, author Lucie Whitehouse has written a scrumptious novel that readers won't put down until the final surprising chapters.

This story has all the classic components for a suspense-filled thriller. Hannah is an independent, strong-willed woman, apparently incapable of sustaining a long-term relationship until she meets fellow Brit, Mark Reilly. Suddenly, throwing caution to the wind, she finds herself in a whirlwind romance, followed by marriage. Forsaking a promising career in New York City, Hannah returns to her native home of London to begin wedded bliss with her new husband. She is content but restless, finding it difficult to find a satisfying job like the one she had. Mark is the founder of a successful software design firm, often traveling back and forth to America to conduct business. On a dark, blustery night she anxiously waits at Heathrow Airport for her husband's return from the United States. But this time he doesn't walk off the plane. As minutes turn into hours and then days, Hannah fears the worst. He calls at last with a credible explanation, but Hannah can't shake the nagging thoughts that fill her mind. "Something at the corner of her eye, just out of focus..." threatens to shatter the steadfast love she feels for Mark.  She begins her quest to find the truth as to her new husband's whereabouts while overseas, and in the process, uncovers a trail of deceit. Friends contradict the stories he tells. A mysterious woman continues to phone him behind closed doors at work. When Hannah discovers her bank account is depleted, fear and terror replace worry and concern. Who is this man she married? Could her life be in danger?

Perhaps you have read the premise of this book before; putting complete faith in someone you love only to realize later how vulnerable that makes you. This time the author adds so many turns and turns, it results in an entertaining roller-coaster read. With each chapter the tension builds. Who is lying and who is telling the truth?  Gripping and intense, the reader will undoubtedly enjoy the guessing game.

As the relentless winter weather continues, check out the latest release from this British author. Indulge yourself one more time with another guilty pleasure.....







Monday, February 17, 2014

The Deepest Secret

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

Fourteen-year-old Tyler Lattimore knows all about secrets. Oh yes he does. That's because late at night, when the stars glow and the trees rustle in the wind, he takes photographs of unsuspecting neighbors. Pictures that never lie.


Tyler lives in virtual isolation with his mother, Eve, and sister, Melissa, in a seemingly quiet suburb of Columbus, Ohio. His father, David, commutes to his law firm in Washington, D.C. rushing home on weekends, hoping to retain a life of normalcy. A typical family, struggling with the everyday challenges of raising teenagers, paying bills, and carving out precious time with one another. Except their family is far from typical. As a child, Tyler was diagnosed with XP, an extremely rare medical condition that does not allow him to be in sunlight. Even the slightest ray can be lethal. So Eve vows to protect her son at all costs, creating a most unusual life for them all; an upside-down, inside-out existence where darkness is their best friend. The love she feels for Tyler alienates her troubled daughter and begins to tear apart her once idyllic marriage. But she cannot stop her obsession to protect her son.

One fateful night, Amy, the precocious eleven-year-old daughter of Eve's best friend, Charlotte, disappears.
Fear and uncertainty fill the entire cul-de-sac. Could a deranged stranger be in their midst? Tyler knows Amy well. Even though she can be a pest at times, he treasures her friendship. As the police search for clues, Tyler's nighttime escapades with his new camera reveal more than anyone could ever know. Suspense builds as the senseless tragedy points to suspects close to home. Secrets are hard to keep.

What a page-turner Carla Buckley has written. She takes you on a winding, zigzag road trip with surprising twists at the journey's end. At the heart of it all  is a mother's love for her adolescent son; a mother who is willing to risk everything in order to protect a young man who dreams of a life he can never have. It is a story of hope and forgiveness. Thought-provoking and sensitive, I imagine each reader may come away with quite different feelings as the story ends.

On a side note, the author graduated from Oberlin College outside of Cleveland. For those of you living in and around Columbus, it is interesting to read about the references to the capital city.

Enjoy all this new February release has to offer.....



      


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Secret of Raven Point

The Secret of Raven Point by Jennifer Vanderbes

It is 1941. Juliet Dufresne ponders the crushing news that Tucker, her beloved brother, has decided to enlist in the Army. A talented star on the football field and popular with classmates, Tucker is willing to forsake it all to do his part in the World War II effort. Ignoring the pleas of his father and stepmother, Tucker chooses to go to battle. How can he know that his shy, awkward sister's heart is breaking....that it is the end of the world for her.

High school days spent in the chemistry lab lead Juliet to study nursing upon graduation. When she discovers Tucker is missing in action, she alters her age on her birth certificate in order to become a field nurse at a camp in Italy. She hopes that somehow her proximity to the front line will shed light on her brother's whereabouts. Slowly but surely, Juliet makes new friends and begins to gain confidence as her outstanding nursing skills are desperately needed. However, the bloody gore and mental anguish of so many young, innocent soldiers penetrate her nightly dreams. Then she meets Christopher Barnaby, a deserter awaiting court-martial whose mind is locked in a catatonic state after a supposed suicide attempt. Juliet learns he was in the same company as Tucker. Could his revelations lead her to the answers she needs? A psychiatrist, Dr. Henry Willard, attempts to unlock Christopher's mind, and in the process wins the heart and soul of Juliet. When she finally receives a puzzling letter from Tucker making references to their childhood days, she races against time to uncover the truth. Perhaps a secret code only siblings share can lead her to her cherished brother.

The author examines the impenetrable bond and love between siblings. She exposes the love that brave soldiers in World War II feel for one another while the horrors of war surround them.  Gradually they become family to one another as memories of home fade away. The reader learns in detail the misery, bloodshed, and sacrifices of combat. Love remains the only constant in their lives.

This novel combines mystery with emotion. As many reviewers have said, it is a coming-of-age story, a tale of a young woman faced with adulthood long before she is ready. I particularly like a book that allows the reader to interpret the words of an author in a variety of ways. Jennifer Vanderbes does just that. Moving and heartfelt, you just might write your own ending to this story. .