REVIEW: SUMMER SECRETS, BY JANE GREEN

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Our story begins in London, in 2014, with our MC Cat pondering her life: the choices she has made, the numerous mistakes, and the events that have led to her newfound serenity. She is a journalist; she is divorced, with a thirteen year old daughter, Annie; and her ex-husband Jason was the love of her life. But somehow she has made peace with what she has lost.

Flashbacks and fast forwards take us through Cat’s journey, and we soon learn about her addiction to alcohol, her numerous relapses, and how she finally bottomed out.

Nantucket is featured prominently in Summer Secrets, and as we connect with Cat’s mother Audrey’s story, we discover the very first big secret that defines their lives and informs what will come after.

Will Cat’s discovery of her mother’s secret change her life? Or will it lend itself to further disaster when she, too, visits Nantucket in 1998. What happens to finally alter Cat’s trajectory in life, and how will everything settle down for her? What will happen between Cat and her new-found half-sister Julia that will cause a rift that will last for years?

I loved settling into this story and feeling a connection to Cat. The descriptions of her drinking experiences echo some of mine, even though my journey did not lead to addiction. But hard partying was a common theme in the sixties and seventies, when I was young. I also loved the settings of London and Nantucket, even though I have never visited either place, except in books and movies. The author made me feel as if I were there.

As the story fast forwards to 2014 again, we see Cat returning to Nantucket to make amends…and when she believes that the past is truly behind her, she is stunned by an unexpected turn of events. How can she go on now, and what will ultimately bring about a resolution for her?

I loved this book and must give it five stars. Fans of Jane Green should enjoy this one.

SERENDIPITOUS WEDNESDAY: WAITING FOR “THE NEW NEIGHBOR”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday, our special day for sharing upcoming book releases.  Hop on over to Breaking the Spine to find out what everyone else is excited about.

Today I am excited to feature an upcoming release from an author I have enjoyed.  Leah Stewart’s newest book is The New Neighbor, coming on July 7, 2015.

 

 

 

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Blurb:  In the tradition of Zoe Heller’s What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, The New Neighbor is a darkly sophisticated novel about an old woman’s curiosity turned into a dangerous obsession as she becomes involved in her new neighbor’s complicated and cloaked life.

Ninety-year-old Margaret Riley is content hiding from the world. Stoic and independent, she rarely leaves the Tennessee mountaintop where she lives, finding comfort in the mystery novels that keep her company, that is, until she spots a woman who’s moved into the long-empty house across the pond.

Jennifer Young is also looking to hide. On the run from her old life, she and her four-year-old son Milo have moved to a quiet town where no one from her past can find her.

In Jennifer, Margaret sees both a potential companion in her loneliness and a mystery to be solved. But Jennifer refuses to talk about herself, her son, his missing father, or her past. Frustrated, Margaret crosses more and more boundaries in pursuit of the truth, threatening to unravel the new life Jennifer has so painstakingly created—and reveal some secrets of her own.

***

I do love books about nosy neighbors and elderly women who cross boundaries.  Who among us isn’t curious from time to time?  But, of course, most of us would not resort to pushing aside the niceties to discover the secrets in our neighbors. 

What are you eagerly awaiting?

***

REVIEW: IN THE BLOOD, BY LISA UNGER

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In upstate New York, a little village named The Hollows is filled with secrets, mysteries, and a kind of eerie ambience that hovers over everything. In the Blood: A Novel is rife with these kinds of tales, and central to this one is a mysterious character named Lana Granger, a student at the college, whose secrets from the past are so well hidden, or so she thinks, that what transpires one winter will seemingly bring together a series of unconnected elements in such a way that synchronicity would seem to be at play.

A girl (Beck) goes missing; a young disturbed boy named Luke will play out a series of games with Lana, who has become his babysitter; and a professor named Langdon Hewes will seemingly be a benevolent presence in Lana’s life.

But is everything the way it seems, or is something more sinister going on? Why does Luke seem to know everything there is to know about Lana, and why do his games appear to be more and more dangerous? Why do the cops believe that Lana has done something to Beck? And just what are those horrible secrets she is hiding?

Narrated from Lana’s perspective, we soon learn that others see her as a compulsive liar, and by her own descriptions of events, it is clear that, at the very least, she is mentally unstable. But then so are many other characters: definitely Luke, who is eleven years old, but seems beyond his years in the knowledge one would expect, and behaves in such an erratic manner that he has been kicked out of most schools he has attended. And then there is the professor, Langdon Hewes, who seems kindly, but then begins to set off a strange vibe that fits right in with the ambience of The Hollows. Beck, the missing girl, is very manipulative and abrasive; and the only one in the story who seems balanced at all is Lana’s therapist, Dr. Cooper.

A mysterious diary alternately carries some of the narrative, and it took most of the book for me to figure out who was writing it. The final twists to the story kept me reading very late, turning pages and going: What? You are kidding me! Suffice it to say…I could not put it down. 5.0 stars.

REVIEW: UNDER A SILENT MOON, BY ELIZABETH HAYNES

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The first call they received was about a murder; the second one involved what might be suicide, but could be more. And both incidents were in Morden, where not many such events happen. Could the episodes be linked?

DI Louisa Smith (Lou), from the Briarstone station, is in charge of the team. The victims were Polly Leuchars and Barbara Fletcher-Norman, living on neighboring compounds.

Over the next few days, the team conducted interviews, gathered evidence, and just when they thought they had it figured out, a new discovery complicated it all. Would they now be back to Square One?

Immersed in the investigations and the detectives in charge, the reader soon learns that Lou and one of her team, Andy Hamilton, were once involved, and feelings between them now range from hostile to civil. Meanwhile, an analyst on the team, Jason Mercer, is now very much attracted to Lou, with the feelings being mutual. Will they act on their feelings? How will their relationship change the dynamics of the team?

But the most critical question is: who was Polly Leuchars, and how were her many casual relationships with both men and women connected to the murders? Polly worked as a groom at Hermitage Farm, owned by Nigel Maitland and his wife Felicity. The police have been watching Nigel for years for other crimes, none of which have led to charges. But they are alert.

Polly lived in a cottage on the farm, and seemed to be friends with Flora, the daughter of the Maitlands, who has her own flat…and a studio. She is an artist.

Meanwhile, at the Hayzelden Barn, where the Fletcher-Normans live in close proximity, Brian has been hospitalized for a heart attack he suffered on the crucial night. His daughter Taryn Lewis is estranged from him, but she could know many answers to the questions. Will she be cooperative? She is also friends with Flora…and knew Polly. Another critical question for the team: who is Suzanne Martin, and what, if anything, connects her to events? And how does she compromise one of the detectives on the team?

Such a complex mesh of relationships lead to numerous challenges in the investigations. More will be revealed as we move along, and the fun in Under a Silent Moon: A Novel (Detective Chief Inspector Louisa Smith Book 1) is trying to sort out the relationships while solving the crime(s).

While I enjoyed this story and could not stop reading, there were so many characters and there was so much complexity that I found it hard to keep them all straight. However, I liked the twists and turns, and I had most of it sorted out by the end. 4.0 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAY: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “THE DENIM BLUE SEA”

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we 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!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

Today I am featuring a review book from a favorite author of mine.  The Denim Blue Sea, by Joanne DeMaio.

 

 

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Beginning:  They stand at the edge of Long Island Sound, as close to the sea as they can get.  The setting sun sinks below the horizon while lazy breaking waves reach for their feet.

“There’s one.”  Eva points further down the beach where the twilight sky casts a golden hue on the sand.  “It’s a conch shell.”  She hurries over, dips the shell in the gentle sea for a rinse and holds it out to Maris.  “I’ll spray-paint some of them silver so they glimmer with the flowers.”

***

56:  “I’m on your team,” Maris says into Jason’s ear when she moves behind him, wrapping her arms around his waist.  “Dibs.”

But something in Kyle’s voice gets Jason’s attention instead.  He’s not sure what it is exactly, but it’s enough for him to look over at Kyle and lose the pinballs in play.

***

Blurb:  During two August weeks, denim designer Maris Carrington and coastal architect Jason Barlow prepare for their much-anticipated wedding. Guests arrive early, turning keys in charming cottage doors to begin their New England summer escape. The wedding is a reason for old friends to gather again; to meet in their shabby beach hangout and get the jukebox cranking; to walk that weathered boardwalk beneath a starry sky; to breathe the sweet salt air. “Cures what ails you,” one of the friends, Neil, always said long before his life was sadly claimed. But his legacy was not.

When Maris discovers Neil’s long-lost journal, its passages reveal a heartbreaking secret. Can truths be found within its timeworn pages? Can this leather-bound journal unite the friends as their lives begin to fray? A bittersweet family reunion, a surprising encounter from a devastating accident, a shocking confession leaving one marriage shattered–all will test the once close-knit circle. Suddenly this safe haven on the tranquil Connecticut shoreline churns with emotional turmoil, threatening even the beach wedding just days before it is to happen.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts pique your interest?  I hope you’ll share your own.

***

REVIEW: BALTIMORE BLUES, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

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In the first book of the Tess Monaghan series, Baltimore Blues (Tess Monaghan Novel Book 1), Tess is feeling adrift. It has been two years since her newspaper job ended, and she has yet to discover her new “true passion.”

Meanwhile, she does odd jobs and works in her Aunt Kitty’s bookstore, while living upstairs in a tiny apartment. She has regular routines, however, like daily exercise, including running and the occasional rowing with her friend Rock (Darryl Paxton).

One day, he asks her for a favor, for which he will pay her what will be a rather nice amount, so she agrees. He wants her to follow his fiancé, Ava Hill, who works for a well-known law firm in Baltimore. She is reluctant, but soon finds herself immersed in it all. Could this kind of work be her new passion?

But what Tess discovers leads to a series of unfortunate incidents. Ava seems to be having an affair with one of her bosses, Michael Abramowitz, and Tess somehow threatens Ava into telling Rock herself, before she does. What she hadn’t anticipated would be Ava lying and making it sound as if Abramowitz had “forced” her.

So when Abramowitz ends up dead, shortly after Rock had been to see him, Rock is arrested and charged with the murder.

His lawyer, another old rowing buddy, convinces Tess to continue working as an investigative assistant, searching for possible suspects or ways to create reasonable doubt.

From there, the story takes a number of somewhat curious turns as Tess follows one clue after another, revealing to the reader how much she still has to learn. Much of what she discovers could be considered accidental, and where it all ends up is rather serendipitous. But in the end, there is a satisfactory resolution. A few other casualties along the way make it all seem realistic for a novice detective.

I have read and enjoyed several books in this series, and my favorite parts involve Tess in her surroundings, with her friends, while enjoying an insider’s view of her world. This first outing was not my favorite, but I have added Tess to my list of intriguing detectives. 4.0 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: INTROS/TEASERS – “WHAT YOU LEFT BEHIND”

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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 Should Be Reading.

Today’s featured book is an ARC from Amazon Vine:  What You Left Behind, by Samantha Hayes.  I chose this book because of how much I enjoyed another book by this author:  Until You’re Mine.

 

 

 

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Intro:  (Chapter One)

Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher slowed as she pulled off the main road.  The journey from Birmingham was less than an hour but still long enough for her to make it only two or three times a year.

There was no space in her life for regrets and should-haves, therefore time spent with her younger sister in the country was usually limited to Christmas, birthdays, or the routine summer holiday visit as she was doing now.  An entire week away from work suddenly seemed like an awfully long time.  Or was it that an entire week in her sister’s company was daunting?

She loved Jo, had always protected her, watched out for her, picked her up and dusted her off, but there was usually a price.  Lorraine wondered what it would be this time.

***

Teaser:  While Jo and Stella studied the menu, she couldn’t help another look at Sonia’s family, and more especially her husband.  Lorraine had spotted his good looks when they were at the bar, although he’d got his back to her now. (p. 70).

***

Blurb:  Two years after a terrifying spate of teenage suicides, the remote village of Radcote has just begun to heal. Then a young man is killed in a freak motorcycle accident and a suicide note is found among his belongings. When a second boy is found dead shortly thereafter, the nightmare of repeat suicides once again threatens the community.

Desperate for a vacation, Detective Inspector Lorraine Fisher has just come to Radcote for a stay with her sister, Jo, but the atmosphere of the country house is unusually tense. Freddie, Jo’s son, seems troubled and uncommunicative, and Jo is struggling to reach out to him. Meanwhile, Lorraine becomes determined to discover the truth behind these deaths. Are they suicides, or is there something more sinister at work? Finding answers might help Freddie, but they’ll also lead to a shocking truth: whatever it is–or whoever it is–that’s killing these young people is far more disturbing than she ever could have imagined, and unraveling the secret is just as dangerous as the secret itself.

Wicked, intense, and utterly compulsive, What You Left Behind confirms Samantha Hayes as a top thriller writer.

***

What do you think?  Does it pique your interest?  I hope you’ll share your own excerpts.

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