REVIEW: THE PARIS APARTMENT, BY LUCY FOLEY

Jess needs a fresh start. She’s broke and alone, and she’s just left her job under less than ideal circumstances. Her half-brother Ben didn’t sound thrilled when she asked if she could crash with him for a bit, but he didn’t say no, and surely everything will look better from Paris. Only when she shows up – to find a very nice apartment, could Ben really have afforded this? – he’s not there.
The longer Ben stays missing, the more Jess starts to dig into her brother’s situation, and the more questions she has. Ben’s neighbors are an eclectic bunch, and not particularly friendly. Jess may have come to Paris to escape her past, but it’s starting to look like it’s Ben’s future that’s in question.

The socialite – The nice guy – The alcoholic – The girl on the verge – The concierge
Everyone’s a neighbor. Everyone’s a suspect. And everyone knows something they’re not telling.

 

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

Jess is trying to find her brother Ben, after she arrives at The Paris Apartment and finds him missing. She is amazed at how big and beautiful it is, and she is curious about how he can afford it. She is also curious about the people living in the apartment complex, who appear to be part of a dysfunctional family.

As she follows the clues, she learns that Ben was on a quest to find answers to what was happening with this strange family.

But what happened to him? Was Jess able to find him, or will he be lost to her?
A story that could have been compelling but was not. There were too many strange twists in the road. 3.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: WITH LOVE FROM LONDON, BY SARAH JIO

When Valentina Baker was only eleven years old, her mother, Eloise, unexpectedly fled to her native London, leaving Val and her father on their own in California. Now a librarian in her thirties, fresh out of a failed marriage and still at odds with her mother’s abandonment, Val feels disenchanted with her life.

In a bittersweet twist of fate, she receives word that Eloise has died, leaving Val the deed to her mother’s Primrose Hill apartment and the Book Garden, the storied bookshop she opened almost two decades prior. Though the news is devastating, Val jumps at the chance for a new beginning and jets across the Atlantic, hoping to learn who her mother truly was while mourning the relationship they never had.

As Val begins to piece together Eloise’s life in the U.K., she finds herself falling in love with the pastel-colored third-floor flat and the cozy, treasure-filled bookshop, soon realizing that her mother’s life was much more complicated than she ever imagined. When Val stumbles across a series of intriguing notes left in a beloved old novel, she sets out to locate the book’s mysterious former owner, though her efforts are challenged from the start, as is the Book Garden’s future. In order to save the store from financial ruin and preserve her mother’s legacy, she must rally its eccentric staff and journey deep into her mother’s secrets. With Love from London is a story about healing and loss, revealing the emotional, relatable truths about love, family, and forgiveness.

 

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

From the very beginning, With Love from London captured my obsession for books and romantic settings. Our narrators are Valentina and Eloise, and they alternate between the past and the present. As we turn the pages, we gradually learn about the characters and how their lives have been torn and twisted by events out of their control.

I couldn’t help but feel the pang of lost love and a broken relationship between mother and daughter that was abruptly torn apart by serendipitous events. We gradually learn more about those choices, and Valentina finally has her answers by the end, aided by a Scavenger Hunt designed by her mother. A beautiful story that was heartbreaking and satisfying at the same time. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: FINLAY DONOVAN KNOCKS ‘EM DEAD, BY ELLE COSIMANO

Finlay Donovan is—once again—struggling to finish her next novel and keep her head above water as a single mother of two. On the bright side, she has her live-in nanny and confidant Vero to rely on, and the only dead body she’s dealt with lately is that of her daughter’s pet goldfish.

On the not-so-bright side, someone out there wants her ex-husband, Steven, out of the picture. Permanently. Whatever else Steven may be, he’s a good father, but saving him will send her down a rabbit hole of hit-women disguised as soccer moms, and a little bit more involvement with the Russian mob than she’d like.

Meanwhile, Vero’s keeping secrets, and Detective Nick Anthony seems determined to get back into her life. He may be a hot cop, but Finlay’s first priority is preventing her family from sleeping with the fishes… and if that means bending a few laws then so be it.

With her next book’s deadline looming and an ex-husband to keep alive, Finlay is quickly coming to the end of her rope. She can only hope there isn’t a noose at the end of it…
 
 
 
mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

As we dive into Finlay Donovan Knocks ‘Em Dead, we are rapidly turning pages and trying to keep track of all the twists and turns.

As usual, Finlay is funny and a character we want to root for. I am not so sure about her nanny Vero, however, and hope that whatever she is up to doesn’t ruin things.

A unique website offers some answers about what might be going on with some of the characters. But will Finlay figure things out so she and those she cares about can be safe? I liked how the ending wrapped up, so I give this one 4.5 stars.
 
***

REVIEW: ME & CARLOS, BY TOM PERROTTA

A darkly comic short story about American class divides and coming-of-age regrets by Tom Perrotta, the New York Times bestselling author of Election and The Leftovers.

Henry “Digger” Diller has never been anyone’s MVP—he’s the guy who gets called up from jayvee soccer when the star player gets hurt and who volunteers to take his crush’s best friend to the prom. But Digger is pretty happy with life in the middle of Warfield High’s pecking order. Then he strikes up a friendship with Carlos, a new student from Honduras, who faces his own set of difficulties beyond the drama of adolescent life. Everyone loves Carlos: he’s a welcome addition to the team and to Digger’s tight friend group. Digger and Carlos are inseparable—until Digger, who’s focused on his own future, thinks maybe Carlos is getting too popular.
 
 
 
mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

A brief but poignant coming-of-age tale, Me and Carlos reveals a friendship between two adolescent boys, fraught with the usual competitiveness while also offering a glimpse of widely divergent background experiences. When the young man and his family disappear abruptly, the friend left behind is forced to face how life can be upended for an undocumented family. He must then reconsider some of his own thoughts and feelings about his friend. 4.5
 
***
 

REVIEW: THE SHADOW BOX, BY LUANNE RICE

After artist Claire Beaudry Chase is attacked and left for dead in her home on the Connecticut coast, she doesn’t know who she can trust. But her well-connected husband, Griffin—who is running for governor—is her prime suspect.

Just before the attack, Claire was preparing for an exhibit of her shadow boxes, one of which clearly accuses Griffin of a violent crime committed twenty-five years ago. If the public were to find out who her husband is, his political career would be over. Claire’s certain her husband and his powerful supporters would kill her to stop the truth from getting out.

When one of Claire’s acquaintances is murdered, the authorities suspect the homicide is linked to the attack on Claire. As the dual investigations unfold, Claire must decide how much she’s willing to lose to take down her husband and the corrupt group of elites who will do anything to protect Griffin’s interests and their own.

 

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

The Shadow Box created by artist Claire Chase reveals the secrets that can take down a corrupt politician, and Claire is focused on bringing the evil members of his club to justice. They are a group of men who are determined to win and change the state to fit their agenda and eliminate those who know their secrets.

As Claire hides out until she can prove the evil around her, we watch others who are also at work to save those who are targeted by the men protecting Claire’s husband. In the process she discovers just who she can rely on when their job is done. An intense thriller that kept me turning pages. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE MAID, BY NITA PROSE

Molly Gray is not like everyone else. She struggles with social skills and misreads the intentions of others. Her gran used to interpret the world for her, codifying it into simple rules that Molly could live by.

Since Gran died a few months ago, twenty-five-year-old Molly has been navigating life’s complexities all by herself. No matter—she throws herself with gusto into her work as a hotel maid. Her unique character, along with her obsessive love of cleaning and proper etiquette, make her an ideal fit for the job. She delights in donning her crisp uniform each morning, stocking her cart with miniature soaps and bottles, and returning guest rooms at the Regency Grand Hotel to a state of perfection.

But Molly’s orderly life is upended the day she enters the suite of the infamous and wealthy Charles Black, only to find it in a state of disarray and Mr. Black himself dead in his bed. Before she knows what’s happening, Molly’s unusual demeanor has the police targeting her as their lead suspect. She quickly finds herself caught in a web of deception, one she has no idea how to untangle. Fortunately for Molly, friends she never knew she had unite with her in a search for clues to what really happened to Mr. Black—but will they be able to find the real killer before it’s too late?

A Clue-like, locked-room mystery and a heartwarming journey of the spirit, The Maid explores what it means to be the same as everyone else and yet entirely different—and reveals that all mysteries can be solved through connection to the human heart.
 
 
 
mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

A fascinating portrayal of a unique character, The Maid captivated me from the very beginning. Molly was a person who loved her routines and the lessons she had learned at her grandmother’s knee. When others misunderstood her, she found ways to cope through her diligent tasks at work.

But when a tragedy happens on her watch at the hotel, she struggles to make sense of the characters who betray her and find ways to turn her life lessons around to make them work for her.

A gentle reminder of how life can change and become more manageable, this story kept me turning pages until the very end. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE GOOD SON, BY JACQUELYN MITCHARD

What do you do when the person you love best becomes unrecognizable to you? For Thea Demetriou, the answer is both simple and agonizing: you keep loving him somehow.

Stefan was just seventeen when he went to prison for the drug-fueled murder of his girlfriend, Belinda. Three years later, he’s released to a world that refuses to let him move on. Belinda’s mother, once Thea’s good friend, galvanizes the community to rally against him to protest in her daughter’s memory. The media paints Stefan as a symbol of white privilege and indifferent justice. Neighbors, employers, even some members of Thea’s own family turn away.

Meanwhile Thea struggles to understand her son. At times, he is still the sweet boy he has always been; at others, he is a young man tormented by guilt and almost broken by his time in prison. But as his efforts to make amends meet escalating resistance and threats, Thea suspects more forces are at play than just community outrage. And if there is so much she never knew about her own son, what other secrets has she yet to uncover—especially about the night Belinda died?

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

After Thea’s son is convicted and sent to prison, I was catapulted into the terrifying world she faces in The Good Son. Even after he has served his prison sentence and been released, Thea struggles to understand how the son she raised and loved could have done what he was accused and convicted of. There are so many unanswered questions.

But Stefan tries to move on and starts a community group that focuses on amends and healing.

Meanwhile, an unknown caller stalks Thea, hinting at secrets she has and offering to give her information. But she constantly evades Thea. A thin stalker with a terrifying aura also haunts the family.

Belinda’s mother, who was once Thea’s friend, has organized a group of protestors who are always there, in front of Thea’s home, showing up at events, and making the family’s life a living hell.

Just when Thea has begun to sort out the stalkers and question the messages, something totally unexpected happens that changes everything she believes.

I was suspicious about several characters and kept waiting for the reveal that could bring all the answers. When it happened, it was stunning and turned all their lives upside down. A 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: SAME BEACH, NEXT YEAR, BY DOROTHEA BENTON FRANK

One enchanted summer, two couples begin a friendship that will last more than twenty years and transform their lives.

A chance meeting on the Isle of Palms, one of Charleston’s most stunning barrier islands, brings former sweethearts, Adam Stanley and Eve Landers together again. Their respective spouses, Eliza and Carl, fight sparks of jealousy flaring from their imagined rekindling of old flames. As Adam and Eve get caught up on their lives, their partners strike up a deep friendship—and flirt with an unexpected attraction—of their own.

Year after year, Adam, Eliza, Eve, and Carl eagerly await their reunion at Wild Dunes, a condominium complex at the island’s tip end, where they grow closer with each passing day, building a friendship that will withstand financial catastrophe, family tragedy, and devastating heartbreak. The devotion and love they share will help them weather the vagaries of time and enrich their lives as circumstances change, their children grow up and leave home, and their twilight years approach.

Bursting with the intoxicating richness of Dorothea Benton Frank’s beloved Lowcountry—the sultry sunshine, cool ocean breezes, icy cocktails, and starry velvet skies—Same Beach, Next Year is a dazzling celebration of the infrangible power of friendship, the enduring promise of summer, and the indelible bonds of love.

 

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

From the very beginning of Same Beach, Next Year, I was reminded of stories and movies I had enjoyed that featured friends getting together in a special place on a regular basis.

We follow the characters through their lives as they experience marital issues, accidents, and family tragedies. Even the threat of infidelity stalks them.

My favorite part was when Eliza took a trip to Corfu on the Greek Islands to reconnect with her mother’s family, and rediscovered that she could make some independent choices that would be good for her and for her marriage.

A delightful excursion through a family’s life that brought friends into the family circle, too. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: MY DARLING HUSBAND, BY KIMBERLY BELLE

Everyone is about to know what her husband isn’t telling her…

Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

With riveting twists and a breakneck pace, My Darling Husband is an utterly compelling thriller that once again showcases Kimberly Belle’s exceptional talent for domestic suspense.

 

mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

When Jade and her two children are grabbed by someone who has been watching them, the home invasion turns into a frightening countdown to the final moment when Jade’s husband Cam will have gathered the ransom money and arrived in time to save his family.

But Cam is not as financially secure as Jade had believed, and furthermore, the home invader is not a passing stranger. He has a history with Cam…and a vendetta to resolve.  My Darling Husband is not who he seems to be.

As more details are revealed throughout the day, we soon realize that there are so many layers beyond what had initially seemed like a one-off scramble for money. Unexpected motivations stunned me by the very end. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE JANES, BY LOUISA LUNA

 

The page-turning follow-up to acclaimed thriller Two Girls Down features the tenacious PI Alice Vega and her electric partnership with Max Caplan, as they follow a shocking murder investigation to it’s even more shocking conclusion.

On the outskirts of San Diego, the bodies of two young women are discovered. They have no names, no IDs, but one of the Jane Does holds a note bearing the name, “Alice Vega.” The police and FBI reach out to Vega, a private investigator known for finding the missing. Fearing the possibility of a human trafficking ring, Vega enlists the help of her one-time partner, former cop Max “Cap” Caplan.

Despite a case with so few leads, Alice Vega is a powerful woman whose determination is matched only by her intellect, and, along with her partner Cap, she will stop at nothing to find the Janes’ killers before it is too late.
 
 
 
 
mythoughts-laurelrainsnow-serendipity

The intensity of the search for the missing girls increases as Vega and Cap work together to solve the case. Just as they are closing in on answers, they discover more girls are involved and realize how corruption in the department is at the bottom of these activities.

They carefully keep ahead of those chasing them and connect with others who are dedicated to discovering the truth and finding the rest of the missing girls as well. The Janes was an intricately woven tale that led to answers and freedom for the girls. 4.5 stars.
 
***