Friday, July 21, 2017

Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate


It's the 1920s, and for many couples, the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage is the answer to their fervent prayers of having a child. Georgia Tann, the operator and touted savior, promises happiness in exchange for a great deal of money. She's mastered the art of manipulation when it comes to matters of the heart.

Tann was an all-powerful, conniving, ruthless individual who ran this institution with cold, calculating cruelness. Poor, innocent children were snatched off the streets, and taken from hospital wards and mental institutions. Under the guise of helping parents in time of need, Georgia and her associates preyed upon the vulnerable and naive, who never fully understood that their signature virtually made loved ones disappear. To make matters worse, a corrupt judge and a Memphis mayor perpetuated this shameful period in history until as late as 1950.

This compelling, historical fictional story introduces readers to Avery Stafford, a feisty Southern lawyer who returns home to her privileged roots. Her beloved grandmother has strong memories hidden in the crevices of her mind about a spirited, poverty-stricken family that once lived on the Mississippi River. Avery is determined to dig deep into the past, even if it ruins the family's pristine reputation.

As a result of this true scandal, Tennessee adopted new, reformed adoption laws in 1951.

"For the hundreds who vanished and for the thousands who didn't. May your stories not be forgotten". 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor leads a simple life. After the daily grind of a menial job, she looks forward to the Friday evening ritual of pizza, Chianti, and plenty of vodka. Weekends are spent dreaming about a local musician she's never met, but loves from afar. And if someone at work or on the street, happens to stare at the hideous scars on her face, she understands. It doesn't bother her at all.

Things seem to change when she meets Raymond, the unkempt, geeky IT guy from work. By chance, they save an elderly man's life and become fast friends. Eleanor gradually ventures out of her sparse apartment, accepting luncheon "dates" with Raymond, boldly changing her drab appearance, and even socializing with total strangers.

What Eleanor doesn't share are the dreaded Wednesday night phone conversations with "Mummy". She doesn't like to talk about her painful childhood memories. Maybe her therapist can unlock the past she's tried so hard to forget. In any case, those painkillers she's been accumulating may eventually take care of the problem.

If a novel can be labeled a comedic love story, then this one falls into that category. Readers will laugh at Eleanor's hilarious, innermost musings about life in general. But expect to shed a few tears interspersed with the laughter, as Eleanor learns that she deserves a life filled with friendship and perhaps, even love. This character will capture your heart.

What a pleasure it will be to meet Eleanor when this novel becomes a movie for all the world to see.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Identicals

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand


It's Nantucket versus Martha's Vineyard in this refreshing, truly entertaining story about estranged identical twins and the deep bond they share.

Tabitha and Harper Frost are separated as teenagers when their parents divorce and take each girl to a different island to live.

 The unlucky draw has Tabitha growing up on Nantucket with her famous, fashion designer mother. Polished and refined, she curses the everyday headache of running the financially strapped, stuffy boutique that caters to her mother's sophisticated, but somewhat passe designs. And then there's her rebellious daughter, Ainsley, who engages in self-destructive behavior, when all she really longs for is attention and a home-cooked meal.

Harper spends her life on Martha's Vineyard with their likable, easygoing father, finding that being carefree and irresponsible has dire consequences. People tend to gossip when you sleep with an admired married doctor and get caught delivering illegal drugs.

A series of circumstances force the now grown women to switch islands, essentially trading lives. Preconceptions they have of one another has taken a toll on the friendship they once shared. The root of their animosity dates back to a tragedy that occurred many years ago. Maybe it's time to shed the blame and become sisters once again.

What a delight this novel is...Hilderbrand cleverly meshes the twin islands with twin sisters for a thoroughly engaging story. Told with warmth and humor, readers will enjoy meeting memorable characters whose lives effortlessly intertwine. It's fun just anticipating what the next chapter will bring. Scandal, teenage angst, heartache, forgiveness..this one has it all.

 For those of you looking for the ever-popular beach read, put this selection on your summer list.
Outrageously good.





Saturday, June 17, 2017

He Said/She Said

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

Kit and Laura are eclipse chasers; that rare breed of people who travel to the far ends of the Earth to witness the magic of astronomy.

Their love is still new when they travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. It's here that Laura stumbles across what appears to be a brutal assault on a young woman. Horrified, she describes the scene to Kit who arrives moments later. He unsuccessfully pursues the assailant, who eventually turns himself into the police, fervently professing his innocence. But Laura knows what she saw and is determined to vindicate the girl who was violated, even if it means telling a little white lie at the trial.

What Kit and Laura don't expect, is to find the victim at their doorstep, months later. Her neediness becomes obsessive until one dangerous night that makes Laura question if she's trusted the wrong person all along.

Fifteen years later, Laura and Kit have changed their identities, making sure they leave no digital footprints behind. Kit leaves to view another eclipse, while Laura remains at home, awaiting the birth of twins. It's become a way of life to always look over their shoulders for the appearance of a familiar face from the past. And when that face finally surfaces, truth and fiction collide, revealing a long trail of calculated deception.

Tormented characters, intent on survival, do whatever it takes to win. Author Erin Kelly takes the reader on a wild ride of emotions in this one, and the result is thoroughly intoxicating.






Friday, June 2, 2017

Secrets in Summer

Secrets in Summer by Nancy Thayer


 Thirty-year old divorcee, Darcy Cotterill, finds that true friendship comes in all shapes and sizes during one memorable summer on the tranquil island of Nantucket.

Darcy leads a fulfilling life. Rescued many years ago from a dysfunctional family, she inherits her late grandmother's home, allowing her to live year-round on this little piece of paradise. Having a dream job as the assistant director of the children's library and spending time with a good-looking, mysterious carpenter, only adds to her contentment.

 The summer months bring in the usual onslaught of tourists, but she never imagined that her ex-husband and his new gorgeous wife and vulnerable, teenage stepdaughter would move in next door. Living on the other side, is a feisty, wise, elderly woman and her suave grandson. Darcy grows fond of them all, including a stressed out young mother with three rambunctious boys and a husband with a roving eye. Somehow, these new acquaintances become far more than just neighbors. In three short months, this motley crew of mismatched women share secrets and dreams, finding they are surprisingly alike in many ways.

If visiting Nantucket is on your bucket list (it's on mine), then close your eyes and travel there vicariously without spending a penny. Walk down the cobblestone streets and envision the sandy beaches. Author Nancy Thayer introduces the reader to a place she knows so well. As in any good beach read, there's desire and passion, but ultimately, this engaging plot speaks of lasting friendship, long after the season ends.

A smooth, savory slice of summer.

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Light We Lost

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

Perhaps it was fate that brought Lucy and Gabe together on that crystal clear morning in September. Two typical college students finding an instant attraction to one another.

But this wasn't just any day in September; it was September 11, 2001, and as they watched the Twin Towers fall, their lives and those of all Americans changed. "There's something about death that makes people want to live". And this young couple was determined to do just that. They vowed to make the world a better place after witnessing pure, unadulterated evil.

Lucy and Gabe's love story begins that day. They float in and out of each other's lives over the years. She becomes a producer and writer of children's television, he travels to dangerous parts of the world as a renowned photographer. The canvas of their lives includes marriage, children, contentment, disappointments, self-doubt, and wistful longings, until one defining moment changes everything that came before.

This particular love story will tug at your heart like no other. Is it fate that writes the story of our lives or is it choice that creates our destiny?  You may be angry with these extraordinary characters at the decisions they make, or joyous at their celebration of life. You may even write your own ending.

  But, most assuredly, you'll remember Lucy and Gabe, long after the last page turns.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

The Forever Summer

The Forever Summer by Jamie Brenner


The cover says it all...summer! Picturesque Cape Cod, with its rocky, sandy coast and brilliant blue skies, is the perfect setting for a story of  blossoming love, family turmoil, and well-kept secrets.

Marin Bishop's fall from grace is swift and certain. One day a polished attorney with a promising future and a pedigree fiance, the next day, she's relegated to office gossip about a scandalous affair. She dreads telling her parents that her life is in shambles, since they seem to have achieved marital bliss after thirty years. But in the days ahead, Marin is about to discover that losing her job and identity is just the beginning of a series of unexpected surprises and shocking revelations.

Suddenly, Marin finds herself in trendy Provincetown, Massachusetts meeting family she never knew existed. Four ladies and an array of quirky characters spend an unforgettable summer learning how to accept one another's flaws and shortcomings, realizing that life is too short to do anything but live in the moment. Marin unlocks a passion she never knew she had, sees loved ones in a whole new light, and opens her heart to taking chances on a future filled with hope and happiness.

Usher in the new season with this delightful, breezy, refreshing novel. You'll wish indeed, that summer could go on forever.





Saturday, April 29, 2017

Anything Is Possible

Anything Is Possible by Elizabeth Strout


I'm in awe each time I read one of Elizabeth Strout's novels; such moving, insightful words that effortlessly flow page after page to the delight of her readers. Her latest collection of short stories is no exception.

You'll meet a janitor who lost his home in a sweeping fire, but didn't lose faith in humanity.  Reaching out to a troubled soul, he dares to unlock a secret that somehow,  just by revealing it to a lonely neighbor, transforms his view of the world and the existence of a higher power.

Then there are the sisters who choose different paths as adults. One, trading her dignity and self-respect for a guaranteed life of wealth and affluence. The other, finding words of wisdom in the pages of a book that give her the courage to ask for forgiveness after her hurtful words, spoken in anger, shatter a defiant teenager.

And a successful, weary grandfather who can't fathom the "ungraspable concept of time going by". An unlikely encounter with a has-been, eccentric actor opens his eyes to facing painful memories with a new perspective, while at the same time, facing a brush with death.

These stories and more are told flawlessly by the author of Olive Kitteridge, The Burgess Boys, and My Name is Lucy Barton.  The main character in the latter one is effortlessly weaved into the nine stories throughout this latest release. Readers can easily follow along, even if they haven't read that particular book, although I highly recommend taking the time to check it out. Lucy is now a successful author, having escaped the confines of her small town, Amgash, Illinois, where many of these rich characters still live, haunted by past sins, and the shame of poverty.

 Stout's interpretation of life is at times hopeful, other times, overwhelmingly sad. But in the end, it's her thought-provoking words and signature prose that make her novels a pleasure to read.




Friday, April 21, 2017

One Perfect Lie

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline


Sometimes the lie you tell is so perfect, so real, so appealing, you almost believe it  yourself.

Everybody at Central Valley High School loves the new government teacher, Chris Brennan. With his good looks and affable personality, it doesn't take long for him to blend in with the local community and students, who view him as a friend. His added responsibilities as the assistant baseball coach fit precisely into his well-executed plan. Yes, Chris Brennan, you see, is a phony, an impostor, and a master in the art of manipulation. The last step in his elaborate scheme is to pick the most vulnerable, trusting young male student athlete who will unwittingly help him. But Chris underestimates how dangerous it can be to hide behind lies. A wave of murder and destruction awaits him and an unsuspecting public.

Scottoline delivers a powerful, fast-paced story that her fans have come to expect. Mixed within the heart of the story are current topics on teenage rebellion, social media, and corruption. The author adds valuable insight and research into every novel she writes,  and she does it well.

 Cautiously trust those you meet....remember,  some people know how to tell that one perfect lie.





Friday, March 31, 2017

Behind Her Eyes

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Fair warning, readers....please, please don't reveal the ending of this book!

His kiss still lingers on her lips. David. She can't forget the charming, attractive stranger she met last night while out-on-the-town, alone. Being a divorced, single mom gives Louise little opportunity to socialize, let alone make a sizzling connection with a mysterious man.

Next day, as Louise heads into her part-time job with a prestigious psychiatric practice, she can't stop smiling. Maybe her dull, boring life is about to take a turn. When she sees her new boss from across the room, she instantly recognizes him as the man she met the night before; Dr. David Martin, married, and even more handsome in daylight. Before he spots her, a panicky Louise runs. She can't look into those piercing, brilliant blue eyes of his, without remembering one smoldering kiss.

Distracted and reeling from this revelation, Louise literally bumps into Adele, who looks oh, so familiar. The unsuspecting wife. Her lovely photo graces a frame on David's desk. The chance encounter is the beginning of a deep friendship between two needy ladies. But it isn't long before Louise witnesses the signs of a troubled marriage between her new friend and her new secret lover. Caught in the middle, she's unable to escape the lair of duplicity that surrounds them all. If only she had walked away from the good doctor and his wife when she had the chance.

Some readers will love this novel. Some readers will hate it. But whatever you decide, you'll be talking about the ending, and I think author Sarah Pinborough had exactly that in mind.

Happy April Fool's Day.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Never Let You go

Never Let You Go by Chevy Stevens


It's been almost twelve years since Lindsey Nash and daughter, Sophie, fled in the night to escape a life filled with domestic abuse. Ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to prison and for a few years, Lindsey dared to dream of a life without him.

But now Andrew has been released, and the familiar cycle of terror begins again. Lindsey feels the presence of anonymous eyes constantly watching her from the shadows. Frightening home invasions make her question everyone around her. She's losing control of her needy daughter, while living in fear. Andrew insists he's a changed man, incapable of hurting her, but Lindsey has heard false promises before from this charismatic charmer she fell in love with as a teenager. Why would she believe him now?

The author captures the trauma, secrecy, and stigma of spousal abuse with pinpoint accuracy. A remote small-town in snow-covered Vancouver is the ideal setting to tell a story of obsession and retaliation. Intense suspense builds chapter by chapter, culminating in an unanticipated ending. As in two of her previously reviewed novels (Those Girls and Always Watching), Chevy Stevens seems to have a knack for writing chilling scenarios guaranteed to keep you reading late into the night.







Friday, March 10, 2017

Girl in Disguise

Girl in Disguise by Greer Macallister

Kate Warne knows the streets of 1856 Chicago are no place for a lady, but she's run out of options. Without a husband and a dwindling bank account, this may be her last chance for survival. So, on that hot, sultry day, she walks into the famed Pinkerton National Detective Agency, determined to persuade the intimidating Allan Pinkerton himself to hire her as the first female private investigator in the country. And she succeeds.

Follow this fascinating story of a remarkable woman in history who hid behind a shroud of mystery. As a woman operative, Kate battled male colleagues for recognition while facing danger around every corner. With her keen mind and flair for the dramatic, she managed to outsmart swindlers and hardened criminals alike. Her key part in thwarting an early assassination attempt of Abraham Lincoln is just one of many tales readers will relish. The author adds her own imaginative take on this real life lady who became the master of disguise.

Author Greer Macallister's name is now synonymous with captivating historical fiction novels. I knew when I reviewed The Magician's Lie in January, 2015, that her next release would be on my list of must reads. Loyal fans will not be disappointed as they decide, who really was the elusive Kate Warne?




Friday, February 24, 2017

The Dry

The Dry by Jane Harper

Sweltering Heat. Drought. Despair. Murder.

Federal agent Aaron Falk returns to his Australian childhood home with apprehension. Times are bad here. Parched land, withering crops, vicious gossip. He and his father were run out of Kiewarra twenty years ago, suspects in the gruesome drowning death of sixteen-year-old Ellie Deacon. Aaron thought those dark, shameful memories were safely tucked away, until that cryptic message arrived from the father of a boy he once called his best friend. He dreads what awaits him in a place best forgotten.

 Now he stares at three cold caskets, trying to wrap his mind around the thought that Luke Hadler, the mate he once idolized, may have murdered his wife and young son before turning the gun on himself. There's a nagging uneasiness in this town, impossible to shake, and somehow,  Aaron knows the past is rearing its ugly head once again, with danger and hostility around every corner.

Immerse yourself in the rich imagery and complex characters so artfully created by a skilled author the U.S. will soon embrace. Visualize this novel coming to life on the screen; actress Reese Witherspoon has already acquired the film rights for an intensely riveting story about small-town people teetering on the brink of losing it all. Readers may meet Aaron again in a second book, already in progress.

Mystery, thrills, and suspense in a dazzling debut.





Monday, February 6, 2017

Idaho

Idaho by Emily Ruskovich

Wade's mind is slowly slipping away. The onset of early dementia is robbing him of memories, some joyful, others excruciatingly sad.

Despite Wade's violent episodes, Ann loves her husband unconditionally, unabashedly, with a pureness that only she understands. It's this devotion that inspires her to envision the story behind tragic events that tore Wade's first family apart so many years ago on a hot, dusty, Idaho day.

Wade's ex-wife, Jenny, rots in a prison cell, convicted of murdering their six-year old daughter, May. Older sister, June, vanished after witnessing the horrific deed, her whereabouts still a mystery.  What could prompt a loving mother to commit such a hideous crime? Wade is adrift in his own world, retreating deeper each day into a place Ann cannot enter. So she must begin her lonely quest for answers. In her darkest days, Ann reminds herself, " he has lost his daughters, but he has also lost the memory of losing them".

With her beautiful, melodic prose, Ruskovich's flowing passages are a marvel to read. The clues to this mystery are intricately woven in the author's poetic words. Forgiveness is power, redemption is within our reach. Sorrow is losing the memory of ever having loved at all.



Sunday, January 22, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

There was a time in the 1930s when her name was synonymous with success. She penned catchy, witty ads for R. H. Macy's, soared to new heights as the country's highest-paid female copywriter in advertising, and became a published poet.

But that was then; Lillian is now an eighty-four-year-old elderly woman (or maybe eighty-five, a woman has the prerogative to lie about her age, after all.) She prepares to celebrate New Year's Eve, 1984, with a friend, but first it's time to take a walk down memory lane, stopping by the old haunts that defined her life, now forgotten, in New York City. Probably not a wise decision with the recent violent crime, but then Lillian has never backed away from a challenge, and she's not about to begin now. So she dons a fedora, paints her lips with her trademark Orange Fire, and steps back in time to venture out on perhaps what will be her most memorable journey of all.

 The author found inspiration to write about the real Margaret Fishback (who we know as Lillian Boxfish) after impeccable research of her personal papers. Truly a pioneer in the advertising world during the years of the Great Depression, Fishback's extraordinary fictional life began to take shape over time, and the result is quite captivating.

Told with compassion, humor, and a deep understanding of growing old, I highly recommend taking a walk with Lillian...so glad I did.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Marriage Lie

The Marriage Lie by Kimberly Belle

A devoted wife discovers the extraordinary, calculated deviousness of the man she married....

It's been seven years since Iris Griffith committed her love and allegiance to husband, Will.  He still makes her heart flutter each time their eyes meet, and if luck is on their side, a child may soon add to their happiness.

The tranquility of life is abruptly shattered when Iris learns that Will has perished in a tragic plane crash outside of Seattle. Distressing, yes, except for the fact that Will couldn't possibly have been on that flight. He was headed to Orlando for a business conference that day. She even has the shiny brochure highlighting his credentials as the keynote speaker, right next to the photo of his handsome face. Panic gives way to fear as Iris is about to learn where the truth ends and the stunning lies begin.

Written with the precision that suspense lovers long for, this thriller's unexpected twists and turns make Belle's newest release a must read. Decipher the clues and enjoy one tantalizing tale.





Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Small Admissions

Small Admissions by Amy Poeppel


It's that time of year again, when anxious parents play the waiting game to hear if their precious darlings are accepted into Hudson Day School, one of Manhattan's finest private educational institutions.

Kate Pearson didn't exactly envision herself in the admissions department of an elite New York school, but when your world is shattered by the likes of a charming French lover, and your sister is hovering over your every move, a steady paycheck is most appealing. So she begins the tedious interviews with a selection of twelve-year-olds; some worthy of entering the hallowed halls of Hudson, and others who are the offspring of overbearing, obnoxious, status-seeking parents who need to satisfy their own egos with an acceptance letter.

Surprisingly amidst this chaos, Kate's life begins to change. While dodging the drama ( and secrets) surrounding her best friends, and heeding the advice of her misunderstood, bohemian parents, Kate discovers she has the talent, the heart, and the drive to make a difference.

The author's experience as an admissions counselor adds to the realistic view of this particular world of academia. Refreshing, enlightening, and often uproariously funny, this new release ushers in the New Year with a little bit of levity.