Friday, December 30, 2016

The Twilight Wife

The Twilight Wife by A.J. Banner

Why can't I remember?

Marine biologist, Kyra Winthrop, asks herself this unsettling question every day after a scuba diving accident results in a rare form of amnesia. It's soothing to know that husband, Jacob, is a constant companion, standing by her side with words of encouragement to help her recall lost details of their lives over the last four years.

But perplexing glints of the past gradually begin to emerge, creating a restless uneasiness in her life on this remote island in the Pacific Northwest. Jacob reassures her it's the perfect place to heal, surrounded by a small circle of friends and subtle reminders of the life they built together. It all sounds logical, so why is she increasingly apprehensive about trusting any of them?

This psychological suspense thriller starts strong, lags in the middle, but finishes with a flourish. Crime fiction aficionados will love the anticipation of paralyzing fear as Kyra's fragile memory returns and her terrifying ordeal begins.





Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Love, Alice

Love, Alice by Barbara Davis

"Young mothers shut up, never to be heard of again. Dead babies tossed into pits. Girls throwing themselves from cliffs".

Simple words of fiction? Sadly, no. These atrocities actually occurred starting in the mid-1920's at asylums known as the Magdalene laundries. Here, young pregnant women spent their days in hard labor because of their "sins," sent away by family members who looked upon their predicament as nothing less than shameful and worthy of the most severe punishment.

A heartbreaking historical fiction novel that details how a determined, strong-willed girl weathers deplorable conditions with one purpose in mind; to find the child she was forced to surrender at the hands of those who profited from her condition.

This tale of a mother relentlessly searching for justice, combines astonishing, little-known facts about a dark time in history, making this selection powerfully provocative.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Whole Town's Talking

The Whole Town's Talking by Fannie Flagg


Still Meadows is a very special graveyard overlooking an industrious little town by the name of Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Here, the dearly departed look down and observe the happenings in a place their Swedish ancestors founded over one hundred years ago.

It all starts with Lorder Nordstrom and his bride, Katrina, who arrived by mail back in 1889. Chapter by chapter, the residents struggle with the highs and lows of life. Surprisingly, they find their way back to one another in a place they never imagined. Existing in the afterlife while watching over the living, turns out to be most interesting, indeed.

Told with warmth, superb humor, and remarkable characters, this touching novel is a tribute to the indomitable spirit of love. Much like Flagg's The All-Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, (reviewed in 2013 under humor), this selection is a delight in so many ways.

Food for thought if you believe that life here on Earth is just the beginning.





Friday, December 16, 2016

When All the Girls Have Gone

When All the Girls Have Gone by Jayne Ann Krentz


Charlotte Sawyer's tedious, uneventful life takes a dramatic turn when her vibrant stepsister disappears after a dear friend's murder.

Charlotte realizes that being jilted by her fiance is trivial compared to the fact that her beautiful sibling, Jocelyn, is missing. Supposedly, she's on a rejuvenating retreat, but this is just another well-calculated deception. In pursuit of the truth, Charlotte teams up with a has-been private investigator to uncover the truth and what they find is puzzling and disturbing. Jocelyn and her inner circle of friends are involved in some dangerous dealings and now they're all in jeopardy. A sinister someone knows they are getting way too close to the truth and will stop at nothing to silence them.

With tangled plot twists and a sprinkling of romance, this new suspense thriller delivers in every way. It's fun, fast-moving, and filled with likable characters who just might find their way into future releases from this talented author.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Mothers

The Mothers by Brit Bennett

Haunted by the suicide of her mother, a defiant seventeen-year-old African American woman makes a life-altering decision and then silently watches as cherished friendships disintegrate and burn.

Nadia Turner doesn't understand why her mother chose to leave her without a simple goodbye. Her Marine father is vacant and distant, unable to raise a daughter while mourning a spouse. But what does seem comfortable and right is her relationship with Luke Sheppard, the decorated former football star and son of the esteemed pastor of the Upper Room Chapel. He's enthralled with her "prettiness",  and soon they forge a clandestine relationship resulting in a devastating secret that follows them into adulthood and beyond.

This debut novel from a new, rising author will attract an array of audiences, including young adults.  It examines the dynamics of open dialogue in family relationships, the fragility of true friendships, and the aftermath of idle community gossip and cover-ups, in this case perpetuated,  by "The Mothers" .


Friday, November 18, 2016

The Bookshop on the Corner

The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan


A quirky librarian who has the uncanny ability to match readers with that perfect book they've been looking for, discovers that taking a chance on her own life has unexpected rewards.

Nina Redmond loses the one thing she loves more than anything in the world; a job surrounded by books. She's at a crossroad in her career, short on money, and at odds with her roommate, Surinder, who's tired of housing all those books Nina has rescued from libraries that are giving them away. If only she could make her dream come true of opening her own little bookstore.

With keen ingenuity, Nina buys a lumbering old van, moves to the Scottish Highlands and opens a library on wheels, much to the delight of the locals. Just like the endless blue skies that follow the relentless rains in the village of Kirrinfief, Nina finds that deep disappointments can lead to everlasting happiness.

Fun, playful, and humorous, this feel-good novel is an ideal choice to usher in the holiday season.  Any reader who fondly remembers when the traveling "bookmobile" came to town, will enjoy this easy read.

It's like spending time with an old friend.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Faithful

Faithful by Alice Hoffman


How long do you punish yourself for living?

That's the question Shelby Richmond asks herself every day after the tragic accident on any icy road that left her best friend, Helene, in a peaceful coma, while she herself walked away with just a scratch.

So Shelby chooses to live in drug-induced darkness and despair in her parents' basement, speaking in monosyllabic sentences and shunning anyone or anything that reminds her of the past. After all that's happened, it's what she deserves.

But then the postcards arrive from an anonymous sender, each one beautifully sketched with one word of encouragement. Slowly, the armor around her broken heart begins to crack, revealing the slightest glimmer of hope. Shelby ventures outside, cautious to cover her shaved head and gaunt, waif-line appearance that makes bystanders stare at her in fear and disgust. She begins to look beyond the pain, buoyed by unlikely, newfound friends, a chance at romance, and the undying love of a mother she never understood. Secretly, she dreams of an elusive career as she remembers the girl she used to be.

This moving story from a distinguished author, examines the power of forgiving yourself and reaching deep inside your soul to believe in your own self-worth. The re-connection between mother and daughter is especially touching, revealing the possibility of redemption for the lost and lonely who dare to let go of the past and believe in a new tomorrow.






Thursday, October 27, 2016

Commonwealth

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett


A blended family of six children come to know and respect one another despite their unconventional upbringing.

Beginning with a stolen kiss at a child's christening, this story chronicles fifty years in the lives of step siblings struggling to cope with one another and the chaotic circumstances that surround them. The joys and sorrow of this diverse family eventually end up on the pages of a best-selling novel, much to the chagrin of those who actually lived the words on the written pages.  Parents' indiscretions, deceit, and lies permeate the tale but then, the children have a few secrets of their own.

This gifted writer draws on her own experiences in a warm family drama filled with humor and insight into the disharmony that inevitably occurs when different personalities collide. However, Patchett also reveals the fierce sense of loyalty and love needed to make a fractured family whole once again.

Friday, October 14, 2016

You Will Know Me

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott


In the world of competitive sports, young Devon Knox is truly a gymnast extraordinaire. She lives in her own bubble, supported unconditionally by her parents and the tight-knit community of other aspiring athletes. But that bubble bursts when their world is turned upside down with the news of the brutal death of someone very close to them all.

From an early age, Katie and Eric Knox knew that their daughter had the grit and determination to become an elite gymnast. With the intense regimen of a relentless coach, they paved the road for her success, even daring to whisper the world "Olympics". Their lives revolved around Devon; endless hours of practice and second mortgages to finance the growing expense of creating a world class prodigy, while quiet son, Drew, remained uncannily aware of what was happening to his crumbling family. Even with a debilitating injury, Devon seemed to overcome every obstacle. But along the way, Katie and Eric failed to see the inevitable changes in their daughter on the brink of becoming a woman. Now, in the midst of scandal, is it too late to save her and themselves?

Author Megan Abbott paints a vivid, behind -the-scenes look at the intimate world of competitive gymnastics, while adding the spice of suspense. Are the sacrifices required of aspiring to perfection worth the pain of losing your own identity?


Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Wonder

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue


Historical fiction blends beautifully with a puzzling mystery in the newest release from the Irish author of Room.

Florence Nightingale protege, nurse Lib Wright, is sent to an impoverished village in Ireland to observe and substantiate claims that despite going without food for four months, 11-year-old Anna O'Donnell continues to live. Lib has survived The Crimean War in her homeland of England and the humiliation of a failed marriage, but this assignment may be the hardest of all. Her training under the esteemed Nightingale doesn't prepare her for watching a young girl waste away, while listening to the rants of religious zealots who claim the child is on her way to sainthood. Along with the keen eyes of  devoted Sister Michael, the two women document the girl's every move. Lib's skepticism grows about this medical miracle, yet the facts seem to prove otherwise. Is Anna truly a religious phenomenon or will Lib uncover truths that expose a shameful hoax that will make her question the profession she so dearly loves?

Donoghue's insight and research into the religious mores and beliefs of Ireland in the 1800's is impeccable. Her story examines how evil can lurk in the shadow of love, how holiness becomes more important than saving the living, and how the horror of hidden family secrets seep into the very being of a young child, bent on entering the heavenly kingdom.

A  moving tale with rich characters and surprising turns, this tale about "The Fasting Girl of Ireland" will make you wonder, indeed, about the compelling power of persuasion.








Friday, September 23, 2016

Dark Matter

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch


From the creator of the Wayward Pines trilogy (which became a Fox TV series) comes a provocative science-fiction thriller sure to please aficionados of this genre everywhere.

Life as Jason Dessen knows it, will never be the same. He leaves the warmth of his Chicago home on a chilly October evening, fully intending to return soon to wife, Daniela, son Charlie, and domestic contentment.  Admittedly, there are times when those nagging questions of what might have been plague him. Like why is he teaching at a small college when he was once revered in the scientific world of quantum physics? And why is Daniela teaching private art lessons when she could have her own show at a prestigious gallery?

Jason is about to find out what might have been when he is viciously attacked by a grotesque masked man who seems to know him very well. The masked man takes him on a harrowing trip to an unrecognizable place. Could this be a dream?  He soon finds himself frantically struggling to reunite his family, while trying to escape a multi-dimensional world where countless versions of himself exist; a world he created during his days as a scientific genius.

"....we're more than the sum total of our choices, ..all the paths we might have taken factor somehow into the math of our identity."

Bizarre, unearthly, and eerily thought-provoking, this one is for readers who think outside the box.


Saturday, September 10, 2016

Behind Closed Doors

Behind Closed Doors by B.A. Paris

To friends and family, Jack and Grace are indeed the "perfect" couple. He's an incredibly successful attorney, defending bruised and  battered women who are the victims of domestic abuse. She's the lovely, demure partner by his side, flawless in every way.
Devoted to her mentally disabled younger sister, Millie, Grace appears to have the marital bliss she's dreamed about for years.

Esther and Rufus are new acquaintances that are lucky enough to be invited to one of Jack and Grace's impeccable dinner parties. It's Esther who can't help but notice the vacant look behind Grace's eyes, or the fact that Jack never leaves her side. Why would Grace abandon a successful career, cancel luncheon dates, and spend lonely days by herself in this shrine they call a home?  Could this pretense of happiness be a sophisticated show, designed to fool everyone?

With her debut novel, British writer B.A. Paris tells a terrifyingly frightening story, guaranteed to make you shudder.  As the plot nears the end, she tends to unnecessarily draw out events, but overall, this thriller is a chilling reminder of how easy it is to trust the wrong person, how vulnerable we can be to false promises, and how appearances really can be deceiving.








Thursday, September 8, 2016

Chinese Lanterns

Chinese Lanterns by Margie Hiermer


Chances are if you lived in the Georgesville, Ohio area in the mid 1970's,  you may have heard of the irascible, one-of-a-kind, Leona "Loany" Rice.

Even if you didn't spend time in this little community where the Little Darby and Big Darby Creeks meet, you can read about her colorful life in this memoir written by her grand niece, author Margie Hiermer.

 And what a life it was. This rags to riches story (and back to rags) is told with warmth and humor by someone who knew Loany well. Additional anecdotes from extensive research, are peppered throughout the book, passed down over the years from friends and relatives, revealing a strong, vibrant lady.

Loany's escapades included buried slot machines near Paradise Alley, the home she shared with Okie, the forbidden love of her life whom she refused to deny. Chapter after chapter describe in detail her life as a bookie (oh, how she loved the racetrack), a suspected murder (never proven), a penchant for the sparkling beauty and mystery of  fireworks (thus the book's cover), and the crude, rude language that somehow made her all that more endearing. Maybe that's because people recognized the kinder, softer side of Loany. When her beloved son died, her grief was agonizing. When she worked with her "tickies", the mentally challenged individuals she supported and loved, she beamed with pride. When friends were down and out, she reached into her own pocket to help. Yes, there were two sides to Loany.

There's an audience for this debut book written by an author who finally saw her labor of love come to fruition.  Written with tenderness from the heart, it must have been quite the experience to have known the exuberant Loany Rice.









Friday, September 2, 2016

Watching Edie

Watching Edie by Camilla Way


An obsessive friendship turns deadly.

There was a time when Edie's future was bright and she dared to dream. Attractive with a captivating smile, heads turned when she walked into a room. Edie enjoyed being a rebel, living a bit on the wild side, answering to no one.

Now she's working a menial job, struggling to raise her daughter as a thirty-three-year-old single mother. Suffering from severe depression, she's finding it hard to function. So when her former best friend, Heather, shows up at her doorstep after all these years, Edie hesitantly welcomes her help, even though it seems suspicious that her schoolmate just happens to reappear when she's so vulnerable and needy. Has Heather been stalking her? What's the motive behind Heather's return after all the deception, jealousy and secrets from the past that the two of them vowed never to speak of again?

British author Camilla Way takes the reader down a winding path full of unnerving twists and turns. Frightening and hair-raising, this psychological thriller with a surprising ending will have you looking over your shoulder wondering...

Who's watching you?

Saturday, August 20, 2016

They Left Us Everything

They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson


In this poignant, moving memoir, Canadian author Plum Johnson writes how her mother's death didn't bring the relief she so often longed for; instead, she's left with the pain of regret over what might have been.

The novel chronicles Plum's life as the only daughter of a staid, strict, and proper British father and a flamboyant, eccentric, outspoken American mother. Along with her brothers, Plum grew up with parents remarkably different in temperaments, separated for months on end, yet bound to one another with a resolute belief in their Christian faith and commitment to family. While Plum's father slowly succumbed to the agonizing effects of Alzheimer's, her mother remained spirited to the end, finally surrendering to the effects of old age, never revealing the deep, enduring love she had for her child

After her death, Plum discovers many treasures revealing the person behind the woman she never really knew or understood. As she and her brothers prepare to sell their beloved family home on a picturesque lake in Ontario, they begin the daunting task of sifting through the "pocket litter" left behind. They discover over 2000 personal letters, mementos, and keepsakes from the past that offer a snapshot into the complicated lives of parents who loved one another in spite of the extraordinary obstacles they faced.

Anyone who has cared for an elderly parent will relate to this inspirational story, written with warmth and humor. Candid and reflective, this well-written narrative will undoubtedly bring the reader to tears as the author describes her feelings of grief and remorse about the impasse she and her mother faced in telling one another their true feelings. So often we wait until tomorrow to ask questions about the past, to express love, to forgive.

Sometimes tomorrow never comes.




Friday, August 12, 2016

Arrowood

Arrowood by Laura McHugh


Wistful and nostalgic, Arden Arrowood returns to Keokuk, Iowa, a sleepy little town along the Mississippi River, to claim the family home that bears her name. Bequeathed to her by her paternal grandfather, Arden is happy to leave behind the shambles of the life she's created. This unexpected gift may give her the chance to finally discover what really happened on that fateful afternoon so many years ago when her precious, tow-headed twin sisters vanished from sight. The circumstances surrounding the disappearance are foggy. All she knows is that she was somehow responsible.

Soon after that horrific day, Arden was whisked away by her despondent, pill-popping mother and her fast-talking shyster of a father, to begin a new life as a vagabond, traveling from town to town. Now she's back home in a  place filled with memories. Maybe somehow, in these familiar surroundings, she can relive that agonizing summer and truly remember what she thinks she witnessed. This town, its people, and a resplendent, once awe-inspiring home, may very well hold the answers.

 Readers will enjoy dissecting and examining clues to discover the answer to a complicated puzzle. Much like her first novel (The Weight of Blood suspense/ thriller) the author draws upon her childhood days spent in the Heartland of America and masterfully conveys images of the serenity of the Midwest.

 "Memory is a slippery thing". This theme is reiterated over and over throughout the novel as much as the mystery itself.  Along with nostalgia..."the bittersweet longing for a time and place left behind",  the reader will fully understand by the end of the book, how fragile our minds really are.













Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Wicked Boy

The Wicked Boy
The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale

In the summer of 1895, thirteen-year-old Robert Coombes murdered his mother, Emily, with casual coldness. His younger brother, Nattie, conspired with him, apparently aware of his brother's intentions. After executing their plan, they went about their usual daily lives, while their mother's body began to decompose and rot in a locked upstairs bedroom. Only when relatives began to question Emily's whereabouts, and an unbearable stench permeated the home, was the gruesome scene discovered.

In this true, incredibly well-researched novel, the author examines the lives of the brothers at home and in school before the crime. With a father often absent at sea, the boys appeared to have a love/ hate relationship with their mother. Nattie often followed the lead of his older brother, blindly succumbing to the great influence his sibling had over him. Robert was a peculiar, highly intelligent boy, prone to painful, persistent headaches. He was obsessed with "penny dreadfuls" (small, pocket books, popular during that period ) that  encouraged adventure and glorified crime. They spoke to the wanderlust within him.

The remainder of the book focuses on Robert's trial, Nattie's plea bargain, and the role a man by the name of John Fox played in the days following the murder. He was an older, somewhat feeble-minded dock worker whom Robert befriended and invited to stay at the family home, even with a decaying body close at hand.

Beyond the murder itself, this book sheds light on the social mores of England during the late 1800s. It's enlightening to learn how patients with psychological problems were diagnosed and treated during those years. Pages of photographs are intermittently added to enhance the story, as are the interviews with acquaintances and experts that share theories behind the perpetrator of this violent deed.

I encourage reading the epilogue at the end of the novel. The subsequent outcome of Robert's trial and life thereafter will surprise and mystify you.



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Nine Women, One Dress

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen


In this winsome, beguiling story, nine women discover that the proverbial little black dress has the power to dramatically change their lives forever.

Beginning with the creative genius who escaped the Holocaust and years later, designs the must-have dress of the season, this tale follows the path of a perfect little piece of fabric as it's passed from one woman to another, resulting in transformations they never thought possible.

Meet Natalie, a lovely Bloomingdale's salesgirl, lamenting over her failed romance. There's Felicia, fiercely loyal to her boss whom she's loved from afar for years, and Andie, the private investigator, who knows all too well the pain of a cheating spouse. Meet two Muslim sisters who privately shed their burkas for a moment in time, and a naive Southern beauty whose walk down the runway in a dress that's the talk of the town, leads to a welcome acceptance of her Alabama roots. A vast array of supporting characters join these women in discovering that the future may not be so bleak after all.

This quick read is a delight, combining humor and heartwarming scenarios into a story that will bring a smile to your face.

"A beautiful dress holds a little bit of magic in it".







Friday, July 22, 2016

The Woman in Cabin 10

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware


The dark, frigid, menacing waters of the North Sea are the perfect backdrop for a cold-blooded, calculated murder.

Travel writer, Lo Blacklock, is still reeling from her terrifying confrontation with an intruder who burglarized her apartment only nights ago. It's bad timing, and even though she's still shaken, she can't turn down the coveted assignment for her magazine to cover the maiden voyage of the Aurora, a small, exclusive, luxury cruise ship.  Perhaps, at last, her career as a journalist will earn the respect of her peers.

Lo is in awe of the sheer opulence that surrounds her on this elite ship; shimmering chandeliers, rich, polished mahogany, sumptuous culinary delights, and engaging, distinguished fellow passengers. The serenity of her luxurious surroundings is shattered, however, when she awakens one night to a loud splash emanating from outside Cabin 10 next door. When she rushes to her veranda overlooking the inky, ominous water, she sees a body slip silently into the deep, deep abyss of nothingness.

 Lo alerts security that she believes the striking, dark-haired beauty she met the night before in Cabin 10, has been murdered. Panic quickly dissolves into alarming fear when she's told that Cabin 10 is unoccupied, that the woman she believes she met only hours earlier, doesn't even exist. Suddenly, her past paranoia, anxiety, and history of hysteria, come back with a vengeance. Could she be going mad? Or is this an evil palatial palace on water?

Author Ruth Ware spins her own version of an often used tried-and-true plot, reminiscent of the famed Agatha Christie. The result is a satisfying murder mystery, much like her first suspense thriller,  In a Dark, Dark Wood (reviewed in October, 2015).  At times, some burdensome details seem to slow the story down, but overall, Ware infuses just the right amount of  terror and misleading smoke screens into another successful thriller her ever-growing group of fans will thoroughly enjoy.




Monday, July 4, 2016

First Comes Love

First Comes Love by Emily Giffin

Two sisters discover that time can't erase the secrets surrounding the tragic death of their "perfect" brother over fifteen years ago.

First grade teacher, Josie, is single, restless, and all too aware of the biological clock ticking inside her brain. She wants a child, and since the traditional way hasn't fit into her plans, she decides to follow her heart and choose a sperm donor. Should it be her best friend, Gabe, or Pete, a blind date with surprisingly admirable qualities?

Younger sister, Meredith, is a hot-shot  attorney, unhappy with her career choice and struggling in her lukewarm marriage to Nolan, her deceased brother's best friend. The shining star in her life is four-year-old daughter, Harper. Feeling the pressure of  Nolan's desire for another child, Meredith must make dire choices that may tear her family apart.

When Meredith learns of an appalling secret her husband and sister have hidden from her for years about what really happened the night her brother died, the fragile sister relationship shatters. A family is forced to examine the grief they never shared, the blame they harbor towards one another, and the realization that no one has the  "perfect" life, even the brother they cherished and loved.

Emily Giffin's command of family drama storytelling is once again evident in this latest novel. At the heart of this one, she examines the need to face overwhelming grief for what it is, a raw emotion that can destroy one's ability to move on and find peace long after a loved one is gone. Lies and deceit have a way of bubbling to the surface, and in the case of these two sisters, it's up to them to decide if love really does come first.


Sunday, June 19, 2016

Here's to Us

Here's to Us by Elin Hilderbrand


Here's to one of many addictive beach reads kicking off  the summer of 2016!

Three battling ex-wives unite on the dreamy island of Nantucket to spread the ashes and celebrate the life of a man they all once loved, the irrepressible, Deacon Thorpe.

Deacon's meteoric rise to fame as one of the best known chefs and restaurateurs in the country, is nothing short of astonishing, Considering his renegade childhood days, few people could have imagined this kind of success .But notoriety leaves Deacon restless and alone. He's filled with memories of the father he loved unconditionally; a father who walked out on him years ago after spending"one perfect day" with his son in paradise.

Summoned to the dilapidated island home Duncan loved, the former wives reluctantly agree to meet in order to settle their ex-husband's messy financial affairs. There's first love, Laurel, an idealistic social worker with such natural beauty, Belinda, a conniving Hollywood prima donna and award-winning actress, and Scarlett, the alluring Southern beauty and former nanny.  All so different. But they are soon to find out that they have far more in common with one another than they'd like to admit, including the shocking secrets they never thought they would share. A long weekend in a crowded home, filled with antagonism and distrust...who knows what can happen?

It wouldn't be summer without a visit to the trendy, tranquil island of Nantucket that author Elin Hilderbrand knows so well. This one is perhaps a bit edgier and raw, detailing the pitfalls that often accompany money and fame.

Choosing a high-profile celebrity chef as the protagonist of this novel, is a stroke of genius.The author actually commissioned new recipes from a food writer and blogger, which are sprinkled throughout the novel, making for a unique addition to a satisfying story that ushers in the mellow, lazy days of summer.









Sunday, June 12, 2016

I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh

Savor every chapter of this superbly written suspense novel filled with astonishing twists and turns.

While dodging relentless raindrops, a young mother and her son hurry across the wet pavement, anticipating the warmth that awaits them at home. If only she'd held on a little tighter to his small hand. In an instant, he darts into the path of the recklessly speeding car. Horrified, she hears the screeching tires followed by the deafening crash. As she sobs uncontrollably, holding her lifeless son in her arms, the car speeds away.

Jenna Gray needs to disappear where no one can find her. The remote, rugged coastline of Wales seems as good a place as any. Anguished and alone in a dilapidated cottage, she attempts to heal physically and emotionally from all that she has lost. As she begins to slowly recover in this faraway village, Jenna cautiously opens her heart to romance and friendship. But she soon learns the past has a way of finding you, no matter how hard you try to run away.

Detective Inspector Ray Stevens and protege Kate struggle to solve the tragic case of the hit-and-run driver who killed an innocent child. Pressure from above closes the unsolved file, but it's never truly forgotten. When new leads surface, explosive facts uncover a startling scenario that leaves them scrambling to piece together a complicated puzzle. And time is not on their side.

Not since The Girl on the Train, has a suspense novel earned the title of a true thriller like this one does. As a former UK detective herself, Mackintosh's writing captures the intricacies of a police investigation. She has the ability to write plausible plot twists that will take your breath away.  Along with vividly detailed, descriptive passages, this author's debut book is a delight to read and a scintillating choice for book clubs.





Sunday, June 5, 2016

Hanging Mary

Hanging Mary by Susan Higginbotham

On April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to the leader of the Union Army, Lt. General Ulysses S. Grant.

One of the bloodiest wars in history was over.

The joyous celebration was tragically marred six days later when a dashing, charismatic actor by the name of John Wilkes Booth assassinated  President Abraham Lincoln.

What most people don't know is the pivotal part a woman by the name of Mary Surratt played in allowing John Wilkes Booth to carry out his hideous plot. That's where this fascinating story begins. It's a true tale of a Confederate sympathizer who unwittingly paid the ultimate price for aiding and abetting a man who used her to carry out a devious plan.

 Mary opens a boarding house after her abusive, alcoholic husband dies. She carefully chooses those individuals with upstanding character to be part of the household, so she is naturally concerned when son Johnny brings home a parade of characters, some being quite unsavory. Mary's well aware of the fact that her son is a courier for the Confederacy, making clandestine "runs" and shielding spies, all for the good of "the cause". She often chooses to look the other way. But when affable Johnny introduces the famous, incredibly charming John Wilkes Booth to the delighted tenants, Mary approves, welcoming him into their home.. He and other Southern loyalists begin to make frequent visits, gradually embroiling Mary in covert plans that eventually result in the horrifying event at Ford's Theater on April 15, 1865.

 The questions remain. Was Mary really a conspirator with Booth and his cronies?  Could Mary have prevented the assassination of the President?

  Mary's portrayal as a loving mother may explain her unyielding allegiance to her sons over her own survival.  Oldest son, Isaac, is fighting for the Confederacy. Johnny is putting himself in increasing danger. Mary conveniently hides facts from the authorities, believing the smooth, assuring words of a talented actor. Even when Johnny flees in her darkest hour, Mary steadfastly stands by her son, sacrificing all in the name of love.

With extraordinary research to back all claims, the author adds her own fictional bits and pieces to a compelling story that's hard to put down. She vividly captures the fervor of a divided country beginning to heal after the Civil War.

 Mary Surratt was the first female to be executed by the United States Federal Government.

Look at the facts, read the riveting story, and decide if her death was justified.



Sunday, May 29, 2016

City of the Lost

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong


Hidden deep in the rugged Yukon Territory, there's a little town of 200 residents called Rockton. It's a place where people with questionable pasts pay the right amount of money to disappear.

The newest citizens are homicide detective Casey Duncan and her best friend Diana Berry. One of these women got away with killing a man in cold blood, the other is running away from an abusive ex-husband she can't seem to shake, After much soul-searching, they decide to seize the opportunity to flee, putting their dubious lives behind them. It won't take long to discover that being one of the chosen ones comes at a very high price indeed.

Casey soon finds out that this mysterious town isn't a safe haven after all. It's clear that sheriff Eric Dalton needs her investigative skills in solving several gruesome murders from an unknown predator, Who or what is luring inhabitants to their untimely deaths? In this land where true identities are masked with lies, it's hard to know whom to trust. Casey learns that this "commune of lost souls" is far more dangerous than the world she left behind.

Fantasy writer Kelley Armstrong ventures into crime fiction with her latest release, weaving her trademark eerie, almost supernatural flavor into a captivating tale. The sinister setting, along with well-developed characters combine to tell a very unpredictable story.

Addictive and compelling to the very end, this one takes suspense to a whole new level.










Saturday, May 7, 2016

Most Wanted

Most Wanted by Lisa Scottoline


What would you do if you thought the precious child you are carrying could be the product of a deranged serial killer? Would you choose to end the pregnancy or choose to follow your heart and bring a wanted child into this world, fully knowing that the baby might inherit those hideous genes?

That's the premise of Lisa Scottoline's latest novel, and once again, this talented writer hooks her readers from the beginning with a relevant story that examines a moral dilemma.

Christine and Marcus Nilsson are madly in love, never dreaming that starting a family would lead to frustration and disappointment.  After fertility tests confirm that Marcus cannot father a child, the couple decide to use a sperm donor to make their family complete.

 Christine is two months pregnant when she retires from the teaching job she dearly loves to concentrate on preparing for her new role as a loving mother. By chance, she sees television coverage about the arrest of a handsome young man for a series of gruesome murders who happens to bear an uncanny resemblance to Donor 3319, a number forever etched in the Nilsson's minds. When Christine confronts Marcus with the unlikely scenario of being impregnated by a killer, he dismisses the idea as foolish and impossible. However, Christine can't let go of her gut feeling. She begins her persistent journey to the scene of the crimes to confront her worst fears. Marcus, angry and disgusted, drifts farther and farther away, unable to accept what could be a terrifying reality.

 Christine eventually hunts down and comes face-to-face with prisoner Zachary Jeffcoat, better know at the Homestead Bank as Donor 3319. Shrewd and persuasive, he soon has Christine believing in his innocence. In a matter of time, she's volunteering as a paralegal for a gruff criminal defense lawyer that agrees to take the case.  As Christine digs deeper and deeper into the slayings, she finds that her detective skills are putting her and the baby in grave danger. Zachary's been lying about so many things. Maybe he's a killer after all.

The research behind Scottoline's novels is always superb. Not only is this a gripping, fast-paced story, it offers pertinent information about fertility clinics and the struggles many couples face today. As always, I find the author's legal expertise a welcome addition to her subject matter.

Provocative food for thought for your Mother's Day celebration.




Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Nest

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney


The Plumbs are about to learn the foolishness of their ways.

It's never a good idea to spend a promised inheritance from your benevolent father until the money is actually in your hand. And when you don't heed valuable advice...well, let's just say the consequences can be devastating.

Siblings Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody know with certainty that their deceased father, Leonard, Sr., intended "The Nest" to be a comfortable cushion to help his four children with necessities later in life. No one could have imagined that a modest trust fund would expand into a vast fortune under the guidance of savvy attorney George Plumb. But that's exactly what happened, and now these grown adults, after waiting patiently for years, want what is rightly theirs.

Unfortunately, "The Nest" has been drained to quietly pay off a nineteen-year-old waitress who made the biggest mistake of her life when she agreed to go for a joy ride with the drunken eldest brother, Leo. In his usual smooth, charismatic way, Leo vows to devise a plan to pay back each and every penny to the family he's used to cover up his indiscretions. His brother and sisters have no choice but to reluctantly believe him, even though their own personal financial woes continue to mount, not to mention the secrets they are hiding from one another and their loved ones.

Jack's partner, Walter, can't know that he's taken a second mortgage on their quaint,beachfront cottage to keep his antiques store afloat, or that he's involved with the black market sale of a valuable piece of stolen art.  And widow Bea, once a successful writer, is living on a shoestring, ever since she failed to complete that second novel. She's become a source of ridicule and pity with former colleagues. Maybe her latest attempt about an anonymous man ruining a young girl's life in a tragic accident will be a hit. Youngest child, Melody, anxious mother of twin daughters ( she tracks their every move with the Stalkerville app ) thought her days of struggling to make those outrageous mortgage payments would soon be over. She can't fathom losing her house in an affluent suburb or worse yet, sending her children to a state college. But how well does she really know her daughters?

No surprise that this novel is on the best-seller list. It's a sophisticated soap opera told with humor and compassion. It all starts with the "idea of money...". How money can "warp relationships and memories and decisions".  But it ends with warmth and the fervent belief that family relationships do matter long after the money is gone. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Miller's Valley

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Beautifully written, emotionally charged, and remarkably poignant, Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen once again tells a moving story that readers will find impossible to forget.

Mimi Miller narrates her story beginning as a young girl living on the family farm in the rural Pennsylvania town called Miller's Valley. It's a place on the verge of a major upheaval, though the locals refuse to acknowledge the inevitable. Government officials start with gentle persuasion, attempting to sway the people to come around to their way of thinking about turning the flood-prone valley into a reservoir. Offers of relocation are met with skepticism and downright refusal, especially by Mimi's father, Buddy. His farm has been in the family for generations. He can't imagine living anywhere else.

Mimi's mother, Miriam, is a respected nurse at the local hospital, admired for her no nonsense, practical approach to life. She valiantly struggles to raise her three children to achieve contentment in life that has alluded her. Mimi's two brothers are decidedly different in nature; Edward, staunch and dependable, Tommy, charming and gregarious. But it's Mimi, with her superior intelligence, that Miriam hopes will escape the confines of  Miller Valley. Aunt Ruth, Miriam's sister, lives on the Miller property, too, She is an agoraphobic, refusing to leave her home and harboring a shocking secret she'll take to her grave.

Tommy returns a broken man after enlisting in the Marines and serving in Vietnam. Buddy suffers a debilitating stroke. And through it all, Mimi finds the strength to carry on with an unwavering belief in family. As she watches life in Miller's Valley begin to disintegrate, her wildest dreams begin to take shape, leading her back to where it all began.

If you are a fan of Anna Quindlen, a new release is always a cause for celebration. Much like her Still Life With Breadcrumbs (reviewed under general fiction in April, 2014), she writes with passion, humor, and empathy, creating characters that become so real, it's often hard to believe it's fiction.

Her keen observation of the human spirit is outstanding. Her ability to tell a touching story that holds the reader's interest is a gift.

Wherever life takes you, "maybe everyone stays the same inside, even when their life looks nothing like what they once had, or even imagined".







Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben


The prying eyes of a hidden nanny cam reveal startling images to a woman who is reeling from her husband's murder. Is he really dead?

Disgraced Special Ops pilot Maya Burkett is back home from the war, facing allegations from a whistle-blower that she ordered an airstrike that killed innocent victims. While overseas, her sister, Claire, was murdered in a home invasion. Now Maya witnesses the demise of husband, Joe, at the hands of a couple of thugs in Central Park. All that's left is precious two-year-old daughter,  Lily. So when a friend suggests installing a concealed camera to secretly watch Lily and nanny Isabella, Maya feels it's the right thing to do, even though she's hesitant to spy on a trustworthy employee.

Astonishingly, camera footage shows her supposedly dead husband lovingly interacting with their daughter. When Maya confronts Isabella with the unbelievable images, her nanny throws pepper spray in her face, and disappears with the evidence. Obviously, Maya's mind is playing tricks on her, conjuring up the possibility that Joe's alive, but why then, did Isabella run?  Is she in on some grand scheme that puts Maya in danger? As the fictional Sherlock Holmes said, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". Maya sets out to find out exactly what that truth is.

Her investigation is a lonely one. She doesn't know who she can trust. When the police determine that the same gun that killed her sister ten years ago, was also used to murder Joe, she knows that the two slayings are somehow related. As Maya digs deeper, she discovers disturbing facts about Joe's brother, Andrew, who presumably died in a boating accident when both boys attended a prestigious boarding school. Or was it suicide? The wealthy, influential Burkett family that are now her in-laws, are hiding lethal secrets that they desperately want no one to uncover.

Fast-paced and remarkably easy to read, this author once again delights his readers with an elaborate, plot that doesn't come to the stunning conclusion until the very end.  Enjoy untangling the lies and deceit. I have a feeling Harlan Coben will fool you more than once.










Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Girl in the Red Coat

The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

The anguish and heartbreak of a mother and daughter torn apart is exquisitely told in this story brimming with emotion and pain.

Single mom Beth Wakeford can't shake the feeling that someday her eight-year-old daughter, Carmel, will disappear. Irrational, perhaps ,but since her husband, Paul, left her for another woman, she's constantly fearful of losing another loved one. Carmel has always been a little "different",  a dreamy, spiritual sort of child that her teachers describe as "being on another planet". She loves her mother, but the hovering and over-protectiveness are hard for even a child to bear.

 On a foggy, dismal Saturday morning Beth's premonition comes true. She and Carmel visit a delightful outdoor festival.  The many tents are filled with puppeteers and storytellers dressed in glittering costumes. Try as she might, Beth can't seem to hold on to her daughter's slippery hand. Carmel finds a hiding place, seizing the moment to be alone, not realizing her little game opens the door for a stranger to abduct her. Minutes turn into hours and still no sign of the little girl in her signature red coat. Panic becomes hysteria and a mother's worst fears soon become reality.

Hours turn into days as Beth relentlessly searches for her daughter. Religious zealots claim Carmel must have special "powers" and false sightings lead to crushing disappointment.  Beth  marks each and every day on the calendar that goes by, while Carmel loses all sense of time. Never fully understanding the complexity of the reasons behind her capture, Carmel begins a journey that will take her farther and farther away from a mother and father who cling to one another, never giving up hope that someday their daughter will return.

Clearly, Hamer has a  commanding vocabulary and expressive style of writing.  She convincingly conveys the invisible thread that connects mother and daughter, even though they are physically apart. Although the minor characters are not always fully developed, the author's deep insight into the mother daughter relationship makes up for any shortcomings.

As the plot unravels piece by piece, readers will undoubtedly hope for a happy ending where mother and child find their way into each other's arms again.











Sunday, March 20, 2016

Flight of Dreams

Flight of  Dreams by Ariel Lawhon

In the twilight hours on May 3, 1937, the German dirigible know as the Hindenburg exploded and burned in a mere thirty-four seconds while attempting to land at The Naval Air Station in Lakehurst, New Jersey.  Of the ninety-seven people aboard, thirty-seven perished, thus ending travel in a rigid, floating airship called a zeppelin, forever.

Many notions remain as to what exactly occurred on the three day "uneventful" luxurious voyage from Germany to America, but the fact is, no one really knows. Author Ariel Lawhon fervently believes that this grand journey was far from "uneventful", even though the survivors eighty years ago steadfastly stood by their recollections of it being a predictable but splendid trip. In a riveting and compelling story, Lawhon combines her extensive research with a fictional take on what could have happened. The people are real, the tale is conjecture, and the result is thoroughly fascinating.

Each chapter introduces the reader to characters bearing names that become familiar as the plot unravels. Emilie Imhoff is the "Stewardess", a widow in mourning, hiding a deadly secret, and falling for Max Zabel, the "Navigator" who holds her heart in his hands. Endearing fourteen-year-old Werner Franz is the "Cabin Boy" who grows up quickly amidst the scheming and collusion on board. Sassy Gertrud Adelt is the "Journalist", stripped of her press pass by the Nazis, traveling with her charming, older husband, and missing the young son they left behind. She is determined to uncover the motives of the mysterious "American" while rumors swirl about a bomb on board. The hours and minutes tick by while passengers partake of savory foods and tempting cocktails in the smoky lounge. They unwittingly assume the voyage will end smoothly, never imagining impending doom.

The cleverly written plot offers great insight into what it must have been like to float effortlessly above the stormy, turbulent waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The author combines interesting facts with intrigue to write a story about a mystifying disaster that to this day, defies explanation. She has taken liberties with a sizable amount of research to write a plausible theory. I would encourage the reader to scan the author's notes at the end of the book. It explains how and why she decided to write about this perplexing catastrophic event in history. The heartache and anguish that followed are all too real. Immense sorrow only adds to this rich and well-told story, as do the moments of joy for some of the survivors.

At the end, speculation and questions still remain as to what really happened to the pride of Germany.










Friday, March 11, 2016

Under the Influence

Under the Influence by Joyce Maynard

Helen's life has officially hit rock-bottom. As a result of a DUI conviction, she's lost custody of eight-year-old son, Ollie, her social life consists of going to AA meetings, and her waning photography career amounts to nothing more than encouraging children to smile in school photos.

One evening while working for a caterer, serving drinks to the sinfully rich at a posh art gallery, she meets philanthropists Ava and Swift Havilland. It's quite flattering to have people of their stature take an interest in you and your opinions. She willingly accepts their offer to get to know them better.

Soon Helen is a vital part of the Havilland household. She attends lavish parties at their palatial home, wears designer clothes ( with the tags still on), and busies herself cataloging the valuable art collection. No one ever speaks of the mysterious accident that left Ava in a wheelchair; in fact her fulfilling life as a paraplegic is celebrated every day with her gregarious husband, Swift. Helen is in awe of their kindness to the less fortunate, the money spent on rescuing dogs, and the passion for life that appears to define every aspect of their lives.

When Helen tenaciously enters into a relationship with Elliott, an accountant her new friends deem   "boring", she finds herself questioning her own feelings for him. They subtly remind her that a partner should be exciting and stimulating, not dull and tedious. Helen reluctantly listens ,even though her heart seems to tell her otherwise. When Swift promises to hire a prominent attorney to help her gain custody of her son, she knows this could be the chance she's waited for so long. A life with Elliott is no longer a priority.

When shy, sullen Ollie finally meets the Havillands, he turns into a different child. Happy and content, he is surrounded by Swift and all the opulence he and Ava can offer. Every waking minute is spent learning to swim, riding in fast cars, and accepting fabulous gifts showered upon him. They treat him like a son. While Helen delights in Ollie's resurgence and renewed interest in spending time with her again, she can't shake Elliott's warning. He's done some digging into the perfect couple's business dealings,.hinting that the grandeur and spectacular lifestyle are a facade. But Helen brushes her fears aside. Life is finally going her way.

Impending doom now builds as Ollie witnesses a tragic accident that puts Helen in a very compromising situation. It's abundantly clear that it's her turn to repay Swift for his extraordinary kindness, even at the expense of her own son.

This well-paced novel with rich characters and gripping plot, explores the vulnerability in all of us. How easy it is to fall prey to those we trust when we are at low points in our lives. And how difficult it is to pick up the pieces after we realize our mistakes.

From the author who wrote After Her (reviewed under suspense/thriller October, 2013), Maynard once again writes about a flawed family having the courage to start over again.

 




Friday, March 4, 2016

Black Rabbit Hall

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase


The rugged, windswept Cornish coastline sets the stage for this alluring, romantic mystery. At the center of it all, is the once majestic, sprawling countryside estate known as Black Rabbit Hall, an ancestral home belonging to the Alton family. Ominous secrets lurk behind walls now crumbling in disrepair.

In the late 1960's, Hugo and Nancy Alton escape from hectic London to spend mellow and magical vacations at Black Rabbit Hall with their four spirited children. It's here where time seems to stand still, where the stars shine brighter than anywhere else on Earth, and endless, carefree days of relaxation melt into cool, enticing nights.

In an instant, life changes for Hugo and his children when his beloved Nancy ventures out on a stormy night, riding her faithful horse, Knight. The resulting tragedy changes the very core of this close-knit family. Twins Amber and Toby struggle to cling to fond memories of their copper-haired, vivacious Momma while guiding and consoling little brother, Barney, and sister, Kitty. Nothing will ever be the same; even more apparent when Hugo brings home the cold, elusive, Caroline, and her dark, strikingly handsome son, Lucian. Responsibilities weigh heavily on Amber's shoulders, while Toby becomes distant and calculating. Their lives become increasingly intertwined with devastating outcomes. And somewhere in the dense forest that the children once gleefully explored, lies the truth behind what really happened to their mother.

Thirty year later, Lorna Dunaway is convinced that Pencraw Hall (known to the locals as Black Rabbit) is the perfect venue for her upcoming wedding reception.  Fiancee Jon heartily disagrees. There's a menacing, sinister ambiance to the place. But Lorna can't be dissuaded. The estate draws her into a trance that she finds impossible to escape. The current matriarch, Caroline Alton, extends an invitation to Lorna to stay for a few nights, much to Jon's chagrin. With her mind in a fog, Lorna uncovers morbid clues from the past that unlock repressed memories. Lorna realizes that she's in the middle of the lies and chaotic madness of events that happened years ago. Her struggle to understand the connection to Black Rabbit Hall, becomes an obsession, resulting in inconceivable truths.

Any comparison to author Daphne du Maurier is certainly justified. This ethereal, dreamy mystery combines suspense with forbidden love, adding enough twists and turns to keep the reader thoroughly engaged until the riveting end.

Cleverly written and positively entertaining, author Eve Chase's debut novel is a must read for romance suspense enthusiasts. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Forgetting Time

The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin

Reincarnation  The religious or philosophical belief that a person's spirit, after biological death, can begin life again in a new body.

 Certainly a topic that generates lively, animated discussion for believers and non-believers alike. Whatever your opinion, this debut novel by author Sharon Guskin guarantees the reader a wealth of information to make even the non-believer ponder the "what ifs"  of  the afterlife.

Janie enjoys a blissful, relaxing vacation on the island of Trinidad. When you're thirty-nine and alone, it's easy to fall for complimentary words and admiring glances from a stranger you'll never see again. It's when you return home to Brooklyn, facing an unexpected pregnancy, that your life suddenly changes in unimaginable ways.  This is where Janie's story begins....

 As a single mother, Janie has come to expect the frantic calls from Noah's preschool. Her four-year-old son is nothing short of a disaster waiting to happen, as far as his teachers are concerned. His constant talk about guns and Harry Potter is puzzling, but his assertions that he was held under water until he blacked out, cast suspicion on what happens at home. Janie admits that Noah has a water phobia, but doesn't reveal her child's piercing cries in the night,or his insistence on going "home" to see his "other mother". When a renowned psychiatrist suggests powerful medication to treat mental illness, Janie turns to Dr. Jerome Anderson, an "explorer" in the field of reincarnation. His studies describe young children with the ability to discuss past experiences in excruciating detail. Dr. Anderson seizes the opportunity to write one last believable American case study for his final book. He himself is slowly slipping away as a result of aphasia, a condition that will eventually take away his ability to communicate. This is his last chance to prove to skeptics that there is merit in what he has uncovered. He doesn't realize that a small, blond-haired, precocious boy will play a big part in his own redemption.

Janie, Noah, and Dr. Anderson warily set out to discover what Noah's outbursts and recollections mean. The ensuing journey takes the three to the home of a woman suffering from an irreparable loss. As the pieces begin to fall into place, astonishing revelations about the past come to the surface. Together, they find that what may seem to give them peace of mind, comes at a very high cost.

Emotional, overwhelmingly thought-provoking, and intense, this novel is a perfect choice for book clubs due to the controversial and intriguing subject matter, The story is pure fiction, but peppered throughout the story are real-life documented cases of reincarnation written by Dr. Jim Tucker from The University of Virginia School of Medicine.

You, the reader, can interpret this research in your own way. "What if you had chances upon chances to love the people you loved, to fix what you screwed up, to get it right" This novel will most definitely be a source of enthusiastic dialogue about that very possibility.


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces by Heather Gudenkauf


In the small Iowa farm town called Penny Gate, "people either die or go crazy".

Jack and Sarah Quinlan leave their home in Montana to travel to Jack's hometown of Penny Gate, a place he left many years ago, hoping never to return.  But when his Uncle Hal calls to relay the news of Aunt Julia's life-threatening, nasty fall, Jack feels obliged to be near the woman who raised him after tragic events robbed him of his birth parents.

With great trepidation, he returns to his boyhood home where, as a fifteen-year-old boy, he found the bludgeoned body of his mother at the foot of the basement stairs.  His wild and reckless behavior and reported frequent arguments with his parents, made him a prime suspect in the murder. That is, until Jack's father, John, disappeared after his wife's demise. Everyone surmised it must have been John who committed the crime. Even though he was exonerated, Jack still carries the scars and innuendos associated with the dark days of his childhood. Now he's come home again, and finds that beneath the cornflower blue skies of this small town, lie dangerous, hidden secrets..

Police begin to question if Julia's unfortunate mishap was really an accident after all. Circumstantial evidence seems to implicate Amy, Jacks's sister. She's a disheveled, pill-popping drinker who insists that she's innocent. And what about cousin Dean and his wife, Celia?  How much does Jack really know about the relatives he hasn't seen in years?

Ultimately, the one person determined to unveil the truth is Sarah, Jack's wife. Twenty years of lies cause her to question the man she calls her husband. Puzzling emails, dusty boxes of discarded audio tapes, and a close encounter on a gloomy, deserted highway, are clues that bring her that much closer to exposing a cunning killer.

Gudenkauf's latest short, simple,suspense novel manages to keep the reader turning the pages even though it's fairly easy to unravel the mystery as the plot thickens. Tension builds with her descriptive passages of vast cornfields, endless dirt roads leading to nowhere, and spooky, whispering winds in the night, The characters are real, the writing is easy to follow, and most of all, it's a juicy read that asks the question..... how well do you really know your spouse?  

Saturday, February 6, 2016

My American Duchess

My American Duchess by Eloisa James

American heiress Merry Pelford has finally found the man of her dreams in Regency England after two failed attempts at the altar. His name is Lord Cedric Allardyce. Charming and incredibly handsome, she counts her blessings that a man of his stature has come her way. There's just one problem...she's in love with his twin brother, the Duke of Trent.

Just moments after accepting Cedric's marriage proposal, Merry encounters a mysterious stranger that she immediately feels drawn to; the inexplicable attraction can't be denied. How ironic that this stranger she just met is Trent, the brother of the man she promised to marry. It is apparent that the twins do not get along, and soon Trent begins to make Merry keenly aware of his brother's love of liquor and reckless, extravagant ways. She dismisses his warnings as simply a case of wanting a woman he cannot have. That is, until her engagement is sealed, and she begins to see that Trent's forewarning of impending trouble is valid indeed. Cedric wants to mold Merry into the perfect wife. He begins to find fault in his betrothed's unconventional, embarrassing ways. And the aristocracy is not blind to the outspoken Merry, either.Trent, however, accepts her playful, unabashed enthusiasm for life wholeheartedly, quirks and all. When a social blunder shames a hostess, Trent's response to the situation has surprising results. But can their attraction be enough to ensure happiness?

 Merry wants to follow her heart but another broken engagement will certainly mean ruin for this Boston socialite. Passion with the forbidden versus a marriage to the perceived perfect match....quite a quandary for this lovely heiress.

What a perfect book selection in the month of February from an author who excels at writing historical romantic fiction.The characters come to life in a make-believe world that readers will welcome during the dreary days of winter. Some may find it just a little too sweet and far-fetched, but if you are a hopeless romantic, it may be just what you need. With wit, royal grandeur, and memorable characters, this novel perfectly embodies the intricacies (and frustrations) of love.



Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Good Goodbye

The Good Goodbye by Carla Buckley

Cousins Arden and Rory share an indescribable bond; it's almost as if they are one. Only they know how deep the connection and how dangerous and obsessive it's become.


Both girls lie unconscious in hospital beds, badly burned in a mysterious dormitory fire, clinging to life. Arson is suspected and one life has already been taken. Their parents pretend to show solidarity while animosity and tension fills the air. A once successful business venture between Arden's mother and Rory's father is floundering, creating a financial crisis.  Jealousy, indiscretions, and regrets permeate the rooms where Arden and Rory's lives remain in limbo.What these parents don't know is that their troubles are minor compared to the secrets their children never revealed. Those secrets are ready to explode and shatter a once happy, peaceful existence.

Author Carla Buckley artfully tells a story that begs the reader to decipher each and every clue until the very end of a compelling story. How much do parents really know about the challenges their daughters face to be popular and fit in? What's it like to feel the shame of a learning disability? How far can you bully someone you love until she reaches the breaking point?  All of these relevant topics including a love triangle, and a child's burning desire to live up to unreachable standards, come together to create another engaging book by a talented author.

Much like her previous mystery, The Deepest Secret, ( reviewed under Mystery in February of 2014), this novel requires the reader to pay close attention to details. Perhaps the ending is just a little too compact, but overall, you'll find this suspense thriller a perfect addition to your 2016 "books I want to read".


Friday, January 8, 2016

Secret Sisters

Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz

It's a place she never wanted to see again. But as the heir of her grandmother's small hotel chain, Madeline Chase had no choice but to return. It was somehow reassuring to think that  the horrific, painful memories from eighteen years ago were safely hidden in the farthest corner of her mind. But now as she looks at the charred ruins of  the abandoned hotel, she realizes that was wishful thinking. It was here that Tom, the hotel's caretaker, attacked her when she was just twelve-years-old. Madeline and best friend, Daphne, her "secret sister' vowed never to reveal what they knew about the assault. The authorities had their man..He could never hurt her again....

Now Tom lays dying from an apparent fall, and his last words make it quite clear that someone knows all about those secrets the two young girls thought were hidden forever. After all these years, could they have accused the wrong man? An eerie unknown presence begins to follow Madeline making her believe that Tom was not the victim of an accident after all; he was murdered, and she may be the next target.

As panic sets in, Madeline contacts Jack Rayner, the head of security for the small hotel chain she's inherited from her grandmother. Along with reunited friend, Daphne, and Jack's friend, Abe, the four set out to find out the truth about the man who was the true attacker. The deeper they get into the mystery, the more dangerous their determination to unveil the facts becomes. Add in the mutual attraction between Madeline and Jack, and the plot becomes one of intrigue and smoldering passion, A winning combination.

Rich in character development, Krentz combines spine-tingling suspense with enough romantic sparks to satisfy the reader who is looking for both . If you haven't read this author before, her other novels may interest you.  Often writing under a pen name (Amanda Quick, being one) she is a talented writer who has the ability to cover different genres with ease.

Start the New Year with a sizzling mystery sure to please.