REVIEW: IT’S YOU, BY JANE PORTER

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Grief has followed Alison (Ali) McAdams around in the more than one year following the death of her fiancé, Dr. Andrew Morris. She stays busy working in the dental practice she shares with Andrew’s father, the same practice that now has a hole in it where Andrew once worked.

She believes she is moving along okay, despite the rage she still feels as she goes over the details of Andrew’s death: his suicide. It came out of nowhere, of course, and that is the hardest part for her. How did she miss the signs? Were there any signs?

On this particular day, however, her anger is further aroused by a stupid, hateful note left on her car: Learn to park: Asshole.

Was the note the impetus she needed to take a break from it all? Perhaps. Or could it have been her dad’s fractured wrist? Whatever the motivation, Ali is soon arranging for a flight to Oakland, and then a shuttle to Napa, where her father now lives. In a senior citizen home, in the independent living section. She’ll be taking a break from Scottsdale, AZ, and the life she lived there with Andrew.

In the days she spends in Napa, she meets several of her father’s cronies in the home, including a ninety-four-year-old woman named Edie. There is something compelling about Edie, but she is also crotchety, feisty, and a bit abrasive. Still, Ali can’t resist the connection she begins to feel for the elderly woman, especially after Edie shares some of her stories from the war years in Germany. There were secrets and betrayals…and the sadness and loss could have defined her. Instead, Edie seems more engaged in life than some younger people. And then there are the two handsome grand-nephews of Edie’s: Craig and Chad Hallahan.

It’s You is alternately narrated in the first person voices of Ali and Edie. Edie’s perspective is interesting, in that we also read portions of diaries she kept during the 1930s and 40s in Germany. She first went to Germany to study music, but over time, became entrenched in her life there. We learn about her lost love, Franz.

Why does Ali impulsively decide to fly to Germany, after reading Edie’s diaries? What does she hope to learn there? Can this be a journey of healing? Of starting over?

I enjoyed the characters and the brief appearance of Meg, Kit, and Brianna Brennan, from the Brennan Sisters novels. I kept rooting for a romance for Ali, but it probably made more sense for her to very slowly begin again. The ending was lovely…although it was a bit rushed, after the slow build of the rest of the story. Definitely a 4 star read.

REVIEW: FREEDOM’S CHILD, BY JAX MILLER

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Most chapters in Freedom’s Child: A Novel begin with this opener: “My name is Freedom,” and then reveal bits and pieces of her story. We learn quickly that Freedom Oliver is not her real name; that she is in the Witness Protection program; and that she is hiding from some dangerous people.

Currently living in Painter, Oregon, and spending most nights in a bar, regularly getting drunk and arrested, one might think that her goal in life is self-destruction. But no, she has a larger purpose, and it governs most of her days. She wants to find the children she lost many years before. The children whom she knows were renamed by their adoptive parents as Mason and Rebekah Paul.

In Goshen, Kentucky, where the Pauls live, we see a glimpse of the life of their evangelical world and realize that they have dark secrets and a deadly plan.

In upstate New York, the Delaneys are set on revenge. Matthew Delaney just got out of prison, where he served time for killing his brother Mark, a cop, and the husband of Nessa Delaney, now hiding out as Freedom Oliver. The matriarch, Lynn, and the three brothers, Matthew, Luke, and John, are scary people that one would not want to encounter. The descriptions are vivid, and I can easily visualize what lies ahead for Freedom when/if they find her. Also headed toward Freedom is the kind brother, Peter, wheelchair-bound with Cerebral Palsy.

Multiple narrators show us the collision course that will bring the dangerous Delaneys into Freedom’s new life, just as she is headed to Kentucky to search for her daughter Rebekah, now reported as missing. A cop from Painter, James Mattley, is also looking for Freedom and her daughter, too; he has a soft spot for her and is hoping to find her before the others do.

Will Freedom find her daughter in time? Can she outrun the Delaneys? When she finally reaches Goshen, what will she discover about the small child Magdalene? The story is fast-paced with intriguing characters, and I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to them all. Themes of violence, dark legacies, and redemption kept me reading, even as parts of the story and the writing style bogged down for me at times. Recommended for those who enjoy stories that could be ripped from the headlines. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: A WEEK AT THE LAKE, BY WENDY WAX

 

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Friendships that go on for years can sustain a person, and when there is a break in the regular get-togethers and an absence of contact, feelings are hurt. People feel abandoned.

Emma Michaels grew up among Hollywood royalty, and was a child actor. She famously divorced her parents at a young age and lived with her grandmother. The cottage at the lake was a special gathering place for Emma’s friends, the ones she bonded with in their Manhattan days: Mackenzie Hayes and Serena Stockton.

Now, after a five-year absence, Emma has invited her old friends to the lake house for a week in the summer.

But when they arrive in Manhattan, before heading up to the Adirondacks cottage, they are stunned by the news that Emma is in the hospital, after sustaining major injuries. Her daughter Zoe, almost sixteen, is waiting for them at Mt. Sinai.

While Emma is in her coma, we see flashbacks of the friends over the years, learning about what kept them together…and pondering what might have separated them.

Mackenzie is going through her own angst, as her husband Adam is in LA, meeting with production companies about his screenplay. For the past twenty years, they have been living in Indiana, running a small theater. Mackenzie writes a popular blog.

Meanwhile, Serena, an actor, portrays a cartoon character, and she has received a lot of attention and some fame. But the loss of her long-ago love, Brooks Anderson, has left her bereft and making poor choices.

Why did Emma call her friends together? What does she have in mind? Explanations, or is there a deep, dark secret that will change everything between them?

Finally they are all at the lake, and as Emma heals, with the moments and days ticking away like a time bomb, we learn bits and pieces. I guessed the secret long before it was revealed. And it was a doozy. Despite that fact, I enjoyed seeing how the ramifications would all play out.

Will the friendships survive? Will Mac’s marriage go on after the decisions Adam made in LA? And what will Serena do when an unexpected brush with the past puts her in another quandary? A Week at the Lake was another novel from a favorite author that I enjoyed all the way to the end. 5 stars.

REVIEW: THREE WISHES, BY LIANE MORIARTY

 

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My explorations of this author’s work began with her later books, and I have subsequently moved backward to her earlier ones. Three Wishes was a delightful read, and I thoroughly enjoyed “meeting” the Kettle family, with the sibling rivalry intensified due to the fact that the Kettle girls are triplets.

Set in Sydney, Australia, the story moves back and forth in time, alternately narrated by various characters, including brief notes from random observers.

Lyn and Cat are identical, while Gemma is the fraternal one. Lyn and Cat are blond and Gemma has red hair.

Their parents, Maxine and Frank, divorced when they were six, but something seems to be happening between them now, as the girls, at age 33, approach birthday number 34.

Cat has a lot of issues, starting with her difficulty in getting pregnant. Then she discovers that Dan, her husband, has been unfaithful. She learns a few other things about Dan that throw her world upside down.

Lyn, on the other hand, is obsessively controlled, with her numerous lists…so why is she suddenly suffering from panic attacks in parking lots? As the “perfect” business woman and mother to Maddie, a toddler, why does she feel so estranged from her teenage stepdaughter Kara?

Gemma has a lot going on beneath the surface; why do her relationships seem to self-destruct before they barely get off the ground? What really happened between her and her fiancé Marcus?

With a great peek behind the facades that families present to the world, the story was engaging and kept me glued to the pages. I loved the dynamics between the siblings; the dialogue was often funny, which made me want to be a part of their family, or to be their friend. There were sad, angry, and emotional moments. They felt like real people, and I didn’t want the story to end. I wanted to stay connected to them indefinitely. 5.0 stars.

REVIEW: MONDAY’S LIE, BY JAMIE MASON

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Dee and Simon grew up in a world outside the norm, with a mother immersed in special ops, with secret missions and a handler whose presence felt intrusive.

Annette Vess had been a big deal in her time, with the nickname Spider, and even though she couldn’t tell her secrets to her kids, she taught them plenty of lessons along the way. Lessons that, in the end, could save their lives.

Monday’s Lie is an intriguing story with Dee Vess Aldrich as the first person narrator. When the story opens, we focus in on Dee’s memories of the past, and especially one particular night of terror, after which their mother is gone for seven months.

Moving between the past and the present, we see Dee zeroing in on a place and some answers she has been seeking for a while. What is the significance of Carlisle, Inc.? What is her husband Patrick hiding? How will his dark secrets affect her future, and what does her future hold?

Simon works in law enforcement and seems less disturbed by their past than Dee, but he is there to provide comfort and an assist now and then. What will Dee learn about Simon before the story ends? And how will Dee once again connect with the past through former operatives like Brian Menary and Paul Rowland?

Lots of twists and turns kept me turning pages until the somewhat dark conclusion. As much as I enjoyed the plot and the characters, the writing style was hard to follow at times. The sentences were flowery and beautiful, actually, but they interfered with my concentration. Otherwise, a satisfying read. 4.0 stars

SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAY: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “THE IDEA OF LOVE”

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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’s spotlight is shining on an ARC from Patti Callahan Henry:  The Idea of Love.

 

 

 

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Beginning:  In his mind, he was already writing her—the woman who stood at the patio table with her eyes closed and her face lifted to the sky.  She was only a subject, or more precisely, an object.  Her slumped shoulders folded inward and her beautiful mouth turned down.

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56:  Ella felt the panic of loneliness well up behind her chest, but she smiled anyway, because that’s what she’d always been taught to do.  “You are so sweet to invite me in and let me tell you my crazy story but I need to get on home.  I just wanted to…meet you.”

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Blurb:  As we like to say in the south,

“Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”
Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love–until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to.
When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers?

But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right?

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I am eager to dive into this one.  This author is one of my new favorites, and I can’t wait.  I also love the cover.  What do you think?

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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.

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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?

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