BOOKISH FRIDAY: “BEACH BREEZE”

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 I am featuring an author review book from a favorite series:  Beach Breeze, by Joanne DeMaio, a novel of summers you never forget and friendships that never fade.

 

Beginning:  Only a year ago, Jason Barlow considered his life fortunate.  Home was his family’s weathered cottage by the sea—a gabled house sitting on a stone bluff, the waves breaking down below.  He’d promised to be there for his new wife, always.  Standing at a church altar last summer and watching Maris, his beautiful bride, walk down the aisle, every star finally aligned for him.

***

56:  Jason’s had those days, too, years ago.  After the motorcycle accident that claimed his brother’s life—and Jason’s own leg—how many times did he pray, beg, plead with the powers above to just wake up and have it all be a fucking nightmare.

***

Synopsis:  After a heartbreaking summer on the Connecticut shore, a group of beach friends is as adrift as an unmoored rowboat. When a dismayed Jason Barlow drives as far away from the sea as he can, leaving behind his wife, Maris, as well as their stately cottage on the bluff, that news hits like a sudden wave. Gathering over an intimate meal in a coastal diner, the friends make a solemn pact to lean on each other and not make any more rash decisions.

Which is all well and good, until each friend wavers–testing relationships, commitments, and especially love in the little beach community of Stony Point. But can the magic of the weathered boardwalk, whispering lagoon grasses, and sweet salt air cure what ails them?

Like a swaying seashell wind chime, Beach Breeze is a book that leaves echoes of summer’s sweetness and sadness, long after the last page is turned.

***

I love this series.  What do you think, based on these excerpts?  Do you want to keep reading?

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REVIEW: ONE PERFECT LIE, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Jordan’s baseball games. But Jordan is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

My Thoughts: The story begins with our introduction to Chris Brennan, who has mysteriously presented himself in a false light in order to accomplish some unstated goal. We start guessing about his plans and what might unfold, but soon our imaginings are toppled as his true identity and mission are revealed.

In the small town of Central Valley, Pennsylvania, there are core characters whose lives connect with Chris almost immediately. I liked Heather, a single mom who is struggling to support her son while performing at a job she hates for a boss she does not respect.

Mindy Kostis, whose privileged life sets her apart and might make her unlikable, surprised me when I discovered unexpected depths and a moral compass that puts her in a great position to challenge her husband and her son Evan. Both have been keeping secrets and lying.

Then there is Susan, whose beloved husband Neil has recently died. Her sons, Ryan and Raz, are finding their way in a world without their father’s guiding presence, and they are making mistakes and bad choices.

How will Chris Brennan’s mission affect these small town residents? What will he do to achieve his goals? A page turner that kept me guessing, while biting my nails, One Perfect Lie was a perfectly fine-tuned read. 5 stars.  

***My e-ARC came from the publishers via NetGalley.

***

REVIEW: PERSONS UNKNOWN, BY SUSIE STEINER

Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant and has officially given up on finding romantic love. Instead, she is in hot pursuit of work-life balance and parked in a cold case corridor—the price she’s had to pay for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. This is fine, she tells herself. She can devote herself to bringing up her two children: her adopted twelve-year-old son, Fly Dent, and the new baby. Fly needed a fresh start—he was always being stopped and searched in London by officers who couldn’t see past the color of his skin. Manon feared that Fly, increasingly sullen and adolescent, was getting in with the wrong crowd at school, or that possibly he was the wrong crowd. Being home by five, for the sake of her children, is what Manon tells herself she needs.

Yet when a wealthy businessman is found stabbed close to police headquarters, Manon can’t help but sidle in on the briefing: The victim is a banker from London, worth millions. More dramatically, he was once in a relationship with Manon’s sister, Ellie, and is the father of Ellie’s toddler son.

The case begins to circle in on Manon’s home and her family. She finds herself pitted against the colleagues she once held dear: Davy Walker and Harriet Harper.

My Thoughts: I loved connecting with Manon Bradshaw in the author’s previous novel, “Missing, Presumed.” What I enjoy about her most is how we are privy to her personal life, with all of its flaws and foibles, and we are granted a glimpse of her thoughts as she struggles through the challenges she faces. Living in a house with her sister Ellie and Ellie’s son Solomon, we can sense from the beginning that something is not right. Ellie’s abruptness, her paranoia about her privacy, and the secrets she is holding close put me on high alert. What we do not find out until later is how much Ellie has done to protect her own turf, no matter how her actions will impact those around her.

I felt frustrated by the rush to judgment of the police with regard to the murder of Jon-Oliver, who is Solly’s father. Someone in the police management team has pushed for the arrest of 12-year-old Fly. Why are the hasty judgments not investigated properly?

Manon is locked out of the investigation because Fly is her adopted son, but she manages to work her way into parts of the investigation via Fly’s attorney, Mark Talbot.

Davy Walker, who worked closely with Manon before Fly’s involvement in the case, is doggedly pursuing other angles, once his gut tells him that something is off.

Narrated by Manon, Davy, and a few other individuals, Persons Unknown begins to unfold slowly, and we soon see the crucial connections that will help solve the case. While one piece remains uncovered, we feel much of the satisfaction due us in a mystery with characters we love. 4.5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “PERSONS UNKNOWN”

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 I am featuring an ARC from Amazon Vine, from a newly discovered author.  A book that is second in a series:  Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner, is a  brilliant crime novel from the author of Missing, Presumed.  A complicated detective investigates her most personal case yet: a high-profile murder in which those she loves most become suspects.

 

Beginning:  (Day 1, December 14, Jon-Oliver)

Down.  Dizzy.  Pitching left.  He is draining away like dirty water, round and round.  Stumbling not walking, the ground threatening to come up and meet him.  And yet he presses on.  Something’s not right.

***

56:  (Manon)

“Oh, God, you need wine,” Manon says, pouring Sauvignon Blanc into a glass and handing it to Ellie, who’s sitting at the kitchen table pushing a balled tissue into a nostril.  Her eyes are red, her lips cracked.  She takes the glass gratefully.  “Hang on,” says Manon, making for the doorway, “—right back.”

***

Synopsis:  Detective Manon Bradshaw is five months pregnant and has officially given up on finding romantic love. Instead, she is in hot pursuit of work-life balance and parked in a cold case corridor—the price she’s had to pay for a transfer back to Cambridgeshire. This is fine, she tells herself. She can devote herself to bringing up her two children: her adopted twelve-year-old son, Fly Dent, and the new baby. Fly needed a fresh start—he was always being stopped and searched in London by officers who couldn’t see past the color of his skin. Manon feared that Fly, increasingly sullen and adolescent, was getting in with the wrong crowd at school, or that possibly he was the wrong crowd. Being home by five, for the sake of her children, is what Manon tells herself she needs.

Yet when a wealthy businessman is found stabbed close to police headquarters, Manon can’t help but sidle in on the briefing: The victim is a banker from London, worth millions. More dramatically, he was once in a relationship with Manon’s sister, Ellie, and is the father of Ellie’s toddler son.

The case begins to circle in on Manon’s home and her family. She finds herself pitted against the colleagues she once held dear: Davy Walker and Harriet Harper.

Can Manon separate what she knows about the people she loves from the suspicion hanging over them? Can she investigate the evidence, just as she would with any other case? With every fiber of her being, Manon must fight to find the truth.

***

Would you keep reading?  Do the excerpts grab you?

***

REVIEW: NEVER CHANGE, BY ELIZABETH BERG

You know people like me. I’m the one who sat in a folding chair out in the hall selling tickets to the prom but never going, the one everybody liked but no one wanted to be with.

A self-anointed spinster at fifty-one, Myra Lipinsky has endured the isolation of her middle life by doting on her dog, Frank, and immersing herself in her career as a visiting nurse. Myra considers herself reasonably content, telling herself, It’s enough, work and Frank. And it has been enough — until Chip Reardon, the too-good-to-be-true golden boy she adored from afar, is assigned to be her new patient. Choosing to forgo invasive treatment for an incurable illness, Chip has returned from Manhattan to the New England home of his childhood to spend what time he has left. Now, Myra and Chip find themselves engaged in a poignant redefinition of roles, and a complicated dance of memory, ambivalence, and longing.

My Thoughts: From the very first page of Never Change, the author captured the characters by revealing the small and ordinary details of their lives, and showing us how Myra, the protagonist, fit into their worlds and connected with each of them.

For a woman who grew up feeling alone and unlovable, Myra had certainly developed that unique skill that endeared her to those she cared for in her role as a visiting nurse.

I loved how she bent the rules, bringing her patients into her life, doing little extra things for them, and nurturing them in ways that each of them needed most.

Her growing connection to Chip, the man who was that high school golden boy, the one she loved from afar, grew into a sweet and loving story that could probably happen only in these circumstances: a man dying and the woman who nurses him to the end becoming the center of his universe.

What Myra learns about herself, her capacity to love and be loved, was poetic and beautiful. I was rooting for both Chip and Myra, even though there was bound to be sadness along the way. Would Myra find a way to move on and redefine who she was in the world? Could the gifts she received from Chip help her on that journey? A beautiful story that earned 5 stars.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “NEVER CHANGE”

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 I am featuring an older book from an author I enjoy:  Never Change (e-book), by Elizabeth Berg, a wry and beautifully distilled portrait of one woman’s resilience in the face of loneliness, and of a union that transcends life’s most unexpected and challenging circumstances.

 

Beginning:  (Prologue)

The Tuesday before it happened was a perfect summer day.  Driving through town on my way home, I saw two young girls holding hands as they tried to cross a street against the light.  They would start to cross, then stop; start again, stop.  Finally, all the traffic sighed and halted; and the girls bolted to the other side of the street and began to laugh and push each other, exhilarated by their survival.

***

56:   “I’d like to stay as normal as I can for as long as I can,” Chip says.  “And when things start to go, I’m going to go, too.”

***

Synopsis:  You know people like me. I’m the one who sat in a folding chair out in the hall selling tickets to the prom but never going, the one everybody liked but no one wanted to be with.
A self-anointed spinster at fifty-one, Myra Lipinsky has endured the isolation of her middle life by doting on her dog, Frank, and immersing herself in her career as a visiting nurse. Myra considers herself reasonably content, telling herself, It’s enough, work and Frank. And it has been enough — until Chip Reardon, the too-good-to-be-true golden boy she adored from afar, is assigned to be her new patient. Choosing to forgo invasive treatment for an incurable illness, Chip has returned from Manhattan to the New England home of his childhood to spend what time he has left. Now, Myra and Chip find themselves engaged in a poignant redefinition of roles, and a complicated dance of memory, ambivalence, and longing.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  I always love an Elizabeth Berg novel, for how each story pinpoints those moments in life that seem ordinary, but turn out to be extraordinary.

***

REVIEW: THE FUTURES, BY ANNA PITONIAK

Julia and Evan fall in love as undergraduates at Yale. For Evan, a scholarship student from a rural Canadian town, Yale is a whole new world, and Julia–blond, beautiful, and rich–fits perfectly into the future he’s envisioned for himself. After graduation, and on the eve of the great financial meltdown of 2008, they move together to New York City, where Evan lands a job at a hedge fund. But Julia, whose privileged upbringing grants her an easy but wholly unsatisfying job with a nonprofit, feels increasingly shut out of Evan’s secretive world.

With the market crashing and banks failing, Evan becomes involved in a high-stakes deal at work–a deal that, despite the assurances of his Machiavellian boss, begins to seem more than slightly suspicious. Meanwhile, Julia reconnects with someone from her past who offers a glimpse of a different kind of life. As the economy craters, and as Evan and Julia spin into their separate orbits, they each find that they are capable of much more–good and bad–than they’d ever imagined.

My Thoughts: As I began reading The Futures, I was drawn in by the NYC setting, the financial crisis that would soon be erupting all around the characters, and that ongoing sense of actually living the story along with them.

Julia and Evan could be any young couple starting out, fresh from university with all their ideals guiding them. Julia came from a privileged life with a well-to-do family in Boston, ready to pick up the pieces for her if she ran into problems. A sense of entitlement certainly contributed to how she handled the events that unfolded over the months following the beginning of their seemingly perfect life.

Evan had a different kind of upbringing. From a small town in British Columbia, he depended upon his employment to maintain his visa, so he was in a more tenuous position. But he, too, had the strong ideals of a new graduate, and he certainly had the naivete of someone from small town life set down in the midst of a sophisticated and high-pressured environment.

It wasn’t surprising that Julia and Evan had a failure to communicate, partially due to their parallel lives. Evan worked until late at night, and Julia, with a shorter work day and time on her hands, fell prey to a burgeoning tendency to feel sorry for herself for not having the attention she thought she deserved.

When secrets and betrayals brought their relationship to a crashing halt, Julia escaped back to Boston, while Evan tried to keep his head down at work, as if hoping that everything would blow over eventually.

Alternately narrated by Julia and Evan, the reader has the opportunity to live inside their individual heads throughout the story, feeling empathy for each of them, while wondering how they would extricate themselves from their bad choices. Definitely engaging, I could not put this book down. 5 stars.

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