REVIEW: BURIED IN A BOG, BY SHEILA CONNOLLY

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When Maura Donovan leaves her Boston home following her Grandmother Nora’s death, she is on a mission to connect with family in Ireland. It was her grandmother’s last request, and after her death, Maura found an envelope with just enough money set aside for the trip, along with her passport.

Nora Donovan’s family home was in Leap, by way of Dublin and then Cork, where Maura would meet up with her grandmother’s oldest friend, Bridget Nolan.

But what Maura finds there is not just her grandmother’s old friend, but a whole community of people who already know a lot about her, and who are ready to welcome her. Tea with Bridget led to stories, photos, and learning about Nora’s life before she left Ireland, widowed and with a young son (Maura’s father) in tow.

Everyone seemed ready to step up, offering a place for Maura to stay across from Sullivan’s Pub…and even the use of a car. Soon she is also helping out at the pub. It’s as if the villagers have taken her under their wing in honor of her grandmother.

But past events begin to surface, and Maura is suddenly swept up into a mystery involving a long-buried family secret. A mysterious man seems to be stalking Maura, making her question why someone is trying to scare her away.

Buried in a Bog was a story of community, secrets, and the strength of family bonds. I enjoyed it, although it seemed as though many things came together rather serendipitously for Maura. What I loved most, however, was how I felt as though I was visiting the Irish countryside along with Maura, having tea in an Irish cottage, and hanging out in the Irish pub. 4 stars.

REVIEW: MOTHER KNOWS BEST, BY KAREN MACINERNEY

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Margie Peterson, wife, mother, and private investigator, is not having a good week. Her husband Blake is attracted to drag queens, which she has just discovered. However, he claims this is just a phase.

Meanwhile, the children, Elsie, 6, and Nick, 4, are starting school, but Elsie is not at all pleased with where she is going: Holy Oaks Catholic School, a private school financed by Blake’s parents. Elsie has a little problem that might just stand out, and not in a good way: she has an obsession with being a dog, from wearing a dog collar to slurping from bowls on the floor. She also growls.

To complicate matters further, Margie and her boss Peaches have a new case that has them following a husband, and ending up at a place called the Sweet Spot…and an altercation with some of the performers there.

What can Margie and Peaches do now, since their cover is blown…and they are fired?

To top things off, one of Peaches’ former clients, a prostitute/student named Desiree, has asked for help from Peaches (and Margie) to move a dead body. Imagine Margie’s amazement when she discovers that the dead body belongs to the headmaster of Elsie’s new school, George Cavendish.

Mother Knows Best is a funny and somewhat intense book set in Austin, Texas. It takes us into the world of housewives, private detectives, and quirky kids and parents.

The humorous tone carries us through the pages, as Margie and her best friend Becky, who is a suspect in the murder, search for clues in the hope of solving the case before one or both of them ends up in jail. Along the way, Margie visits a support group called Warrior Wives…help for the wives of men like Blake.

Many of the situations were a bit over the top, but I liked most of the characters. Margie’s mother was a bit weird and so was Elsie. But eventually, they all seemed to settle down. 4 stars.

REVIEW: NORTH OF HERE, BY LAUREL SAVILLE

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From the very beginning of North of Here, I was totally engaged with the story of Miranda, whose brother and father had both died, within a few short years of one another, and her elusive, emotionally unavailable mother is soon gone as well.

What is Miranda to do? Her life has not been one that taught her self-reliance, or even the practical day-to-day ways to navigate its obstacles. The handyman, Dix, is someone she feels she can count on, and when he offers her a cottage on his property, she accepts. Soon they are very close, and life looks good. Until…

Someone from the past with his own agenda appears, and starts a commune of young hopefuls who are searching for answers and a better life. But should they put their faith in Darius? Because her own life is still a void, Miranda is drawn to Darius and his teachings, leaving Dix behind.

In the midst of this commune, however, is a thirty-something social worker named Sally, who is a bystander of sorts. She holds the mortgage on the property, so she is standing by to protect what she owns…and to see what Darius is all about.

Set in the Adirondacks, we soon come to know this world through the vivid depiction of the author, and as the characters’ lives unfold for us, we can see their flaws, their strengths, and even their destinies.

Alternating narrators reveal much about the characters and how they came to the point in their lives where they intersected with one another. We learn more about Dix, who is not just a handyman, but someone wise and educated, with his own holdings in the forested area. We see how the supposedly philosophical Darius is nothing more than a con man and an entitled trust-fund brat. Miranda, who seems sympathetic in the beginning, is really hopelessly naïve and seriously flawed. Sally was the most intriguing character to me, as she appears brash and blustery on the surface, but underneath, she is kind and more aware than the others, despite being temporarily blinded by Darius’s charm. Then, an unexpected gift changes the lives of them all. A somewhat sad but enjoyable read, this one earned 4 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: “BREAKDOWN”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Books & a Beat.

Today’s feature is Breakdown, by Jonathan Kellerman, another thriller spotlighting Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis.

 

 

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Intro:  Noise was everywhere.  To avoid it, Tina figured you had to die.

When she and Harry lived in Manhattan, the nerve-scraping clangor of garbage trucks and delivery vans had served as early-morning alarm clocks.  Waking up to the din was jarring and souring for Tina but useful for Harry because he slept like a drunk and had to be on the subway by seven.

Here in L.A., nestled in the alleged luxe of upper Bel Air, mornings were quiet.  Until they weren’t:  the house groaning and creaking randomly, scolding reminders that they’d traded New York bedrock for the traitorous sand of earthquake country.

***

Teaser:  The hands dropped a bit.  The near-stuporous confusion behind them might’ve been mental illness but I bet the real cause was Kristin Doyle-Maslow’s manipulation.  Zelda had no conscious need to see me; The Hyphen’s project required an inaugural documented patient and I was the sucker who’d responded to a guilt trip. (p. 53).

***

Blurb:  Psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware meets beautiful and emotionally fragile TV actress Zelda Chase when called upon to evaluate her five-year-old son, Ovid. Years later, Alex is unexpectedly reunited with Zelda when she is involuntarily committed after a bizarre psychotic episode. Shortly after Zelda’s release, an already sad situation turns tragic when she is discovered dead on the grounds of a palatial Bel Air estate. Having experienced more than enough of L.A.’s dark side to recognize the scent of evil, Alex turns to his friend LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis for help in finding out who ended Zelda’s broken life.

At the same time, Alex is caught up in another quest: the search for Zelda’s missing son. And when other victims vanish from the same upscale neighborhood, worry turns to terror.

As Alex struggles to piece together the brief rise and steep fall of a gorgeous, talented actress, he and Milo unveil shattered dreams, the corruption of a family, and a grotesque betrayal of innocence. With each devastating revelation and damning clue, Alex’s brilliant mind is challenged as never before—and his determination grows to see a killer caged and the truth set free.

***

What is your verdict?  Keep reading, or not?  I always enjoy the author’s Alex Delaware stories, so I’m definitely in this one until the end.

***

REVIEW: THE PRICE OF SALT, BY PATRICIA HIGHSMITH

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Set in Manhattan in the early 1950s, The Price of Salt takes the reader into a forbidden love between two women: one, Therese Belivet, a set designer, and a wealthy suburban wife and mother, Carol Aird.

It is nearly Christmas in the year the two meet, when Therese was working as a temporary employee at Frankenberg’s, a department store. The author describes the first moments, as the two gaze across the room at one another…and then Carol approaches, followed by a shop transaction that takes place involving a delivery. Could something momentous be happening?

It doesn’t take long before they are drawn together again, for a lunch, then drinks, and then a visit to Carol’s suburban home, and, at the very least, a friendship is developing. Carol and her husband are separated, and their daughter Rindy goes back and forth between them.

Nothing overt happens between Therese and Carol, but within a few weeks, they are traveling across the country, toward the West…and their lives are changing dramatically.

Meanwhile, Carol discovers something very sinister is happening, at the hands of her husband. Will the two be ripped apart? Will it be a question for Carol of losing her daughter?

The intense and somewhat obsessive love between them could end; in any case, their lives could be altered moving forward. Wondering what will happen and if the societal expectations of the times will dictate the course of their feelings is a reminder, once again, of how times have changed and how stultifying the world once was. A timeless tale that could be about any kind of forbidden love, gay, straight, or otherwise…and was captivating in its ability to describe the longing of two people reaching across barriers to be together. 4.5 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: “FRICTION”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Books & a Beat.

Today’s featured book is a new download that I’ve been eager to read:  Friction, by Sandra Brown.

 

 

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Intro:  (Prologue)

The two stalwart highway patrolmen guarding the barricade stared at her without registering any emotion, but because of the media blitz of the past few days, she knew they recognized her and that, in spite of their implacable demeanor, they were curious to know why Judge Holly Spencer was angling to get closer to the scene of a bloodbath.

“…bullet hole to the chest…”

“…ligature marks on his wrists and ankles…”

“…half in, half out of the water…”

“…carnage…”

***

Teaser:  She lay tense and wakeful, her senses highly attuned.

So that when she heard the noise coming from the backyard, she sprang upright, heart racing with fear. (p. 53).

***

Synopsis:  Crawford Hunt wants his daughter back. Following the death of his wife four years ago, Crawford, a Texas Ranger, fell into a downward spiral that left him relegated to deskwork and with his five-year-old daughter Georgia in the custody of her grandparents. But Crawford has cleaned up his act, met all the court imposed requirements, and now the fate of his family lies with Judge Holly Spencer.

Holly, ambitious and confident, temporarily occupies the bench of her recently deceased mentor. With an election upcoming, she must prove herself worthy of making her judgeship permanent. Every decision is high-stakes. Despite Crawford’s obvious love for his child and his commitment to being an ideal parent, Holly is wary of his checkered past. Her opinion of him is radically changed when a masked gunman barges into the courtroom during the custody hearing. Crawford reacts instinctually, saving Holly from a bullet.

But his heroism soon takes on the taint of recklessness. The cloud over him grows even darker after he uncovers a horrifying truth about the courtroom gunman and realizes that the unknown person behind the shooting remains at large . . .and a threat.

Catching the real culprit becomes a personal fight for Crawford. But pursuing the killer in his customary diehard fashion will jeopardize his chances of gaining custody of his daughter, and further compromise Judge Holly Spencer, who needs protection not only from an assassin, but from Crawford himself and the forbidden attraction between them.

***

Have you read this book?  Would you keep reading?  I am quite eager to immerse myself in this story.

***

REVIEW: IF YOU LIVED HERE, YOU’D BE HOME NOW, BY CLAIRE LAZEBNIK

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Rickie Allen, twenty-five year old single mother to Noah, age six, seems like someone you could root for. At first glance, you can feel sympathy for her situation, living at home with her parents and locking horns constantly with what appears to be an over-controlling mother, Laurel.

Her half-sister Melanie, newly separated from husband Gabriel, has two children, and occasionally stays at the family home, too. But she gets along great with her stepmother, Laurel.

Rickie’s first person narrative is definitely showing us her view of things only, and it’s when we see her interact with others that we begin to suspect that Rickie’s issues with her mother are only the tip of the iceberg.

Why is Rickie unable to commit to anyone or anything? Why does she oppose everything her mother suggests? What happened to derail her life when she was a teenage college student? And why is she constantly pulled into an unfulfilling relationship in a friends-with-benefits pairing with Ryan, her former brother-in-law’s brother?

Noah has many problems, too. He is small, with celiac disease and food issues. He isn’t very athletic, and as a student in a private school with lots of athletic kids around him, he bears the brunt of some bullying. Do some of his behaviors (whining, inability to try anything that is challenging) have anything to do with his mother’s behavior?

By the time I neared the end of If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now,  I was pretty frustrated with Rickie. But there was also something appealing about her, so I wanted her to find her way. I wanted her to finally discover a path and stick to it. I hoped that she would care enough about herself to make some changes.

There were some predictable elements, in that Ricki has a conflict with the school coach at first, and then begins to like him. As a friend. And perhaps more.

The relationship between the mother and daughter suddenly started to smooth out, with understanding all around. A nice, soothing touch, but again…predictable.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed this novel and was happy at how the author tied things up in the end. 4 stars.