REVIEW: SUNSET BEACH, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

 

Drue Campbell’s life is adrift. Out of a job and down on her luck, life doesn’t seem to be getting any better when her estranged father, Brice Campbell, a flamboyant personal injury attorney, shows up at her mother’s funeral after a twenty-year absence. Worse, he’s remarried—to Drue’s eighth grade frenemy, Wendy, now his office manager. And they’re offering her a job.

It seems like the job from hell, but the offer is sweetened by the news of her inheritance—her grandparents’ beach bungalow in the sleepy town of Sunset Beach, a charming but storm-damaged eyesore now surrounded by waterfront McMansions.

With no other prospects, Drue begrudgingly joins the firm, spending her days screening out the grifters whose phone calls flood the law office. Working with Wendy is no picnic either. But when a suspicious death at an exclusive beach resort nearby exposes possible corruption at her father’s firm, she goes from unwilling cubicle rat to unwitting investigator, and is drawn into a case that may—or may not—involve her father. With an office romance building, a decades-old missing persons case re-opened, and a cottage in rehab, one thing is for sure at Sunset Beach: there’s a storm on the horizon.

 

My Thoughts: Sunset Beach takes the reader right into the setting, amongst a cast of interesting characters. Drue was my favorite, and her father’s wife Wendy was someone I loved to hate. The two had been friends as children, and then were not. Now, as her father’s newest wife, she is also the office manager, in a position to order Drue around with big yellow “SEE ME” post-it notes showing up frequently.

Coworkers Jonah and Ben brought unexpected flavor, especially as the twists in the story took us behind the scenes in some legal cases, with Drue following the clues to solving a murder.

An alternating timeline from the 70s revealed secrets from the past, and how the present day characters were connected to a mysterious disappearance.

I also loved seeing Drue’s joy at fixing up her grandparents’ old cottage, which she had inherited. Lovely memories brought out the sense of family and sentimental moments.

I liked how the story swept back and forth in time, culminating in some unexpected answers to some piercing questions. I couldn’t wait to keep turning the pages of this great 5 star read full of family, friends, loss, and mysteries.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “MY LOVELY WIFE”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download:  My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing.  Dexter meets Mr. and Mrs. Smith in this wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…

 

 

***

 

Beginning:  She is looking at me.  Her blue eyes are glassy, they flicker down to her drink and back up.  I look at my own drink and can feel her watching, wondering if I’m as interested as she is.  I glance over and smile to show her I am.

***

Friday 56:  The local news logo appears.  It is followed by that young, earnest reporter following Lindsay’s story.  His name is Josh, and I have been watching him every day since Lindsay’s body was found. 

***

Synopsis:  Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts grab you?

***

 

REVIEW: NEVER TELL, BY LISA GARDNER

 

A man is dead, shot three times in his home office. But his computer has been shot twelve times, and when the cops arrive, his pregnant wife is holding the gun.

D.D. Warren arrives on the scene and recognizes the woman–Evie Carter–from a case many years back. Evie’s father was killed in a shooting that was ruled an accident. But for D.D., two coincidental murders is too many.

Flora Dane sees the murder of Conrad Carter on the TV news and immediately knows his face. She remembers a night when she was still a victim–a hostage–and her captor knew this man. Overcome with guilt that she never tracked him down, Flora is now determined to learn the truth of Conrad’s murder.

But D.D. and Flora are about to discover that in this case the truth is a devilishly elusive thing. As layer by layer they peel away the half-truths and outright lies, they wonder: How many secrets can one family have?

My Thoughts: Never Tell offers another look into the world of Flora Dane and D.D. Warren, continuing in the aftermath of Flora’s captivity by Jacob Ness, a horrific monster, and trying to piece together any other connections to perpetrators who are still out there.

How could Conrad Carter be part of Jacob Ness’s world of evil? If Flora recalls meeting him while she was held by Ness, what, if anything, had brought them together? Could Conrad’s death have been a murder committed by someone else in that world?

Evie’s perspective, along with the alternating narrators, help us examine how she might have been involved in Conrad’s death, or at the very least, how she might have been covering up his secrets. D.D., Flora, and FBI Agent Quincy meet to examine the various aspects of the current murder with the hope of finding answers.

As always, I enjoyed the alternating viewpoints that swept between the past and the present, while each character tried to sort through how each event connected so intricately with various crimes in the past. A brilliant 5 star read.

***

SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAY: IMAGES FROM THE PAST…AND THE PRESENT

More blog header changes!  In this newest one, I kept the lofty photo on the left…one of my favorite places to live, over the years.  My bedroom was in that loft, and I loved the look of my “resting place.” The brass header, the wicker pieces, and the framed 1920s image over the bed.

Downstairs, I loved the coziness of the fireplace and the wing chairs, like this one my eldest son chose for his photo op. My daughter loved curling up next to him, since his visits were rare back then…in the 80s and early 90s.

Here she is in my loft space. Up there, I had chairs, a TV, a stationary bicycle…and a view of downstairs.  Plus…I could see when the teenagers came home at night.  LOL.

And downstairs, by the sofa and desk, she is contemplating what will happen next.  The photos in the background:  compliments of eldest son.  The heart-shaped clock:  my daughter’s creation.

 

***

A couple of years ago, my eldest son, who lives in Prague, visited Amsterdam…and the photo on the right side of my header was captured there.  A coffee shop with an interesting sign.

 

The middle image in the header came from my Bitmoji Collection…Unicorns are “unexpected treasures,” the tagline of this blog.

***

I have probably displayed some of these photos in the past, but I loved bringing them together today to tell a different story.

What stories are you showing us this week?

Check in at A Web of Stories.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SOMEONE KNOWS”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download:  Someone Knows, by Lisa Scottoline, a riveting novel about how a single decision can undo a family, how our past can derail our present, and how not guilty doesn’t always mean innocent.

 

***

Beginning:  (Prologue)

Nobody tells you that you’ll do things when you’re young that are so stupid, so unbelievably stupid, so horrifically stupid that years later you won’t be able to believe it.  You’ll be on your laptop, or reading a book, or pumping gas, and you’ll find yourself shaking your head because you’ll be thinking no, no, no, I did not do that, I was not a part of that, that could not have happened.

***

Friday 56:  He picked up the pace.  He didn’t know if he was walking away from something or toward something else, but he kept going.  He thought of the bottle he had hidden near the recycling, but he didn’t want to sneak a drink tonight.

***

Synopsis: Allie Garvey is heading home to the funeral of a childhood friend. Allie is not only grief-stricken, she’s full of dread. Because going home means seeing the other two people with whom she shares an unbearable secret.

Twenty years earlier, a horrific incident shattered the lives of five teenagers, including Allie. Drinking and partying in the woods, they played a dangerous prank that went tragically wrong, turning deadly. The teenagers kept what happened a secret, believing that getting caught would be the worst thing that could happen. But time has taught Allie otherwise. Not getting caught was far worse.

Allie has been haunted for two decades by what she and the others did, and by the fact that she never told a soul. The dark secret has eaten away at her, distancing her from everyone she loves, including her husband. Because she wasn’t punished by the law, Allie has punished herself, and it’s a life sentence.

Now, Allie stands on the precipice of losing everything. She’s ready for a reckoning, determined to learn how the prank went so horribly wrong. She digs to unearth the truth, but reaches a shocking conclusion that she never saw coming–and neither will the reader.

***

I love this author’s books, so I always believe I’m in for a treat when I grab one.  What do you think?

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE NIGHT VISITORS”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a recent download:  The Night Visitors, by Carol Goodman, is a story of mistaken identities and missed chances, forgiveness, and vengeance.

 

***

Beginning: (Alice)

Oren falls asleep at last on the third bus.  He’s been fighting it since Newburgh, eyelids heavy as wet laundry, pried up again and again by sheer stubbornness.  Finally, I think when he nods off.  If I have to answer one more of his questions, I might lose it.

***

Friday 56:  I’m about to tell him no, we’ve got more important things to do, but then I think of all the promises he’s seen broken.  “Absolutely.  I know a great hill.  Go pick out a sled.  There are a couple in the barn.”

***

Synopsis:  ALICE gets off a bus in the middle of a snowstorm in Delphi, NY. She is fleeing an abusive relationship and desperate to protect…

OREN, ten years old, a major Star Wars fan and wise beyond his years. Though Alice is wary, Oren bonds nearly instantly with…

MATTIE, a social worker in her fifties who lives in an enormous run-down house in the middle of the woods. Mattie lives alone and is always available, and so she is the person the hotline always calls when they need a late-night pickup. And although according to protocol Mattie should take Alice and Oren to a local shelter, instead she brings them home for the night. She has plenty of room, she says. What she doesn’t say is that Oren reminds her of her little brother, who died thirty years ago at the age of ten.

But Mattie isn’t the only one withholding elements of the truth. Alice is keeping her own secrets. And as the snowstorm worsens around them, each woman’s past will prove itself unburied, stirring up threats both within and without.

***

Do the excerpts and blurb grab you?  Would you keep reading?

***

REVIEW: ALL THE WRONG PLACES, BY JOY FIELDING

 

Online dating is risky—will that message be a sweet greeting or an unsolicited lewd photo? Will he be as handsome in real life as he is in his photos, or were they taken ten years and twenty pounds ago? And when he asks you to go home with him, how do you know it’s safe? The man calling himself “Mr. Right Now” in his profile knows that his perfect hair, winning smile, and charming banter put women at ease, silencing any doubts they might have about going back to his apartment. There, he has a special evening all planned out: steaks, wine, candlelight . . . and, by the end of the night, pain and a slow, agonizing death.

Driven to desperation—by divorce, boredom, infidelity, a beloved husband’s death—a young woman named Paige, her cousin and rival Heather, her best friend, Chloe, and her mother, Joan, all decide to try their hand at online dating. They each download an app, hoping to right-swipe their way to love and happiness.

But one of them unwittingly makes a date with the killer, starting the clock on a race to save her life.

 

My Thoughts: The four women navigating online dating in All the Wrong Places reminded me of how everything has changed for newly single women. My favorite characters were Paige and her mother Joan, while Heather was the least liked one.

Chloe is still married when the story begins, but her husband Matt has proven to be unfaithful and bordering on abusive.

In the alternating narratives, we follow along as the women explore the ups and downs of life in the New Millennium.

An anonymous voice reveals the thoughts and feelings of a serial killer, and as we watch him move toward each target, while reminiscing about his previous ones, we wonder which of our main characters will be stricken.

I liked that the characters felt so real, and that the serial killer aspects did not take over everything. There was plenty of story dealing with friendships, rivalries, and dating issues. The intensity ratcheted up at the end, once the serial killer zoomed in on his final victim. Who would it be? We think we know, but a last-minute switch changes everything and leaves some unanswered questions. A page turner that earned 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE ASH FAMILY, BY MOLLY DEKTAR

 

When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.

At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.

 

My Thoughts: We meet Berie, the first person narrator of The Ash Family, as she veers off course, drawn in by a seductive man named Bay. Instead of flying off to college in Virginia, she leaves the airport and heads to a bus station where they meet. Together they journey to the farm community that promises to fulfill her need for something bigger than herself.

Berie apparently lacks something in her life that might be satisfied by such a community, and while I was almost sucked into its promise, I couldn’t understand what was missing in our protagonist that led her to such a community. We know little about her life up to this point, so her actions seem blindly unmotivated. If she had suffered abuse at home, or if she were fleeing something frightening, I could almost see why this young woman might be drawn in to its charms. Later we learn more about how sometimes not feeling anything at all can lead to wrong-footed choices.

The characters and the setting were beautifully described, and I could sense the appeal of Nature and a desire to preserve it in all its glory. Protecting the environment and the people in the family from the “fake world” could be a lure for someone like Beryl, now named Harmony.

It did not take long, however, to feel a sense of stultifying horror as nothing seemed to live up to that promise. A mix of cruelty and kindness, punishment and reward were the confusing elements that felt like a crazy-making scheme designed to hook in new family members. Searching for that sense of family and true purpose were powerful enough to blind new members to the underlying dangers…until it was too late.

In the end, we see hope come in unexpected forms, and the story leaves off just on the way to finding new possibilities. 4 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “ALL THE WRONG PLACES”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a new download from an old favorite author:  All the Wrong Places, by Joy Fielding: Four women—friends, family, rivals—turn to online dating for companionship, only to find themselves in the crosshairs of a tech-savvy killer using an app to target his victims in this harrowing thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of See Jane Run and The Bad Daughter

 

***

Beginning:  “So, tell me about yourself,” he says.  He smiles what he hopes is a sweet smile—neither too big nor too small, one that hints at a wry, maybe even off-beat sense of humor that he thinks would appeal to her.  He wants to charm her.  He wants her to like him.

The young woman sitting across from him at the immaculately set table for two hesitates.  When she speaks, her voice is soft, tremulous.  “What do you want to know?”

***

56:  “I need a drink,” she said, marching down the stairs into the kitchen, and reaching into the fridge for the bottle of wine she and Matt had shared at dinner the night before.

***

Synopsis:  Online dating is risky—will that message be a sweet greeting or an unsolicited lewd photo? Will he be as handsome in real life as he is in his photos, or were they taken ten years and twenty pounds ago? And when he asks you to go home with him, how do you know it’s safe? The man calling himself “Mr. Right Now” in his profile knows that his perfect hair, winning smile, and charming banter put women at ease, silencing any doubts they might have about going back to his apartment. There, he has a special evening all planned out: steaks, wine, candlelight . . . and, by the end of the night, pain and a slow, agonizing death.

Driven to desperation—by divorce, boredom, infidelity, a beloved husband’s death—a young woman named Paige, her cousin and rival Heather, her best friend, Chloe, and her mother, Joan, all decide to try their hand at online dating. They each download an app, hoping to right-swipe their way to love and happiness.

But one of them unwittingly makes a date with the killer, starting the clock on a race to save her life.

***

I love this author’s books, so I’m eager to dive into this one.  What do you think?

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE ASH FAMILY”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers, who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

What a great way to spend a Friday!

Today’s feature is a NetGalley ARC:  The Ash Family, by Molly Dektar:  the book will be released on April 9, 2019.  When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.

 

***

Beginning:  (Fall)

Bay and I approached the farm at dawn.  The first sun churned sideways through the trees, catching in the previous day’s rain, which the wind now shook down from the Carolina silverbells, the beeches, and the poplars.  I rolled down the window and heard the forest fizzing.

***

Friday 56%:  After lunch, I joined the family in our everyday chores.  We had to clean the sheep’s stables, clean the cows’ and horses’ stables, clean the chicken houses, feed and water the chickens, make the cheese and the butter, clean the dairy, move the electric fence, check the flock, and weed, weed, weed.  No one mentioned Queen.  Pear was nowhere to be found.  But I was no longer frightened.  They had questioned me, and they had let me go.

***

Synopsis:  At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.

Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.

***

I am eager to begin the journey with the characters.  What do you think?

***