REVIEW: LIES & OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, BY KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY

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For Annabelle, her grandmother Lovey was the voice in her head, the spiritual mentor who guided her with her inspirational messages, like “it is not the truth that sets you free. The truth is the thing that destroys lives, that shatters the mirror…”

Growing up in Raleigh, NC, Annabelle was also surrounded by a bevy of female cheerleaders, from her mother, Jean, the mayor, to her aunts: Laura, Martha, Louise, and Sally. Of course, there was also D-Daddy, her grandfather.

Alternately narrated by Annabelle and Lovey, Lies & Other Acts of Love wraps itself around us in the cozy comforts of a family of nurturing supporters. But as we meander along the pathways of the past with Lovey, or join Annabelle in her journey toward a true kind of love, we learn about the secrets, the lies, and even the almost lethal deceptions that live behind the curtain of each family. And we realize that sometimes you have to forgive the flaws of those you love.

I felt sad for Annabelle’s missteps, and could feel the angst of her emotional pull toward a man who turned out to be wrong for her. When she almost passed by the one who would be the perfect match, I was shouting from the sidelines. The characters were flawed, but fascinating, and the settings felt so real I could have been there in the flesh. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: BURIED IN A BOG, BY SHEILA CONNOLLY

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When Maura Donovan leaves her Boston home following her Grandmother Nora’s death, she is on a mission to connect with family in Ireland. It was her grandmother’s last request, and after her death, Maura found an envelope with just enough money set aside for the trip, along with her passport.

Nora Donovan’s family home was in Leap, by way of Dublin and then Cork, where Maura would meet up with her grandmother’s oldest friend, Bridget Nolan.

But what Maura finds there is not just her grandmother’s old friend, but a whole community of people who already know a lot about her, and who are ready to welcome her. Tea with Bridget led to stories, photos, and learning about Nora’s life before she left Ireland, widowed and with a young son (Maura’s father) in tow.

Everyone seemed ready to step up, offering a place for Maura to stay across from Sullivan’s Pub…and even the use of a car. Soon she is also helping out at the pub. It’s as if the villagers have taken her under their wing in honor of her grandmother.

But past events begin to surface, and Maura is suddenly swept up into a mystery involving a long-buried family secret. A mysterious man seems to be stalking Maura, making her question why someone is trying to scare her away.

Buried in a Bog was a story of community, secrets, and the strength of family bonds. I enjoyed it, although it seemed as though many things came together rather serendipitously for Maura. What I loved most, however, was how I felt as though I was visiting the Irish countryside along with Maura, having tea in an Irish cottage, and hanging out in the Irish pub. 4 stars.

REVIEW: AFTER SHE’S GONE, BY LISA JACKSON

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On a movie set in Portland, Oregon, Director Dean Arnette is closing in on the final moments, the final scenes. Then the unexpected happens. A gun is fired. The body double is shot, and all hell breaks loose.

Two months later, Cassie Kramer has checked herself into the psychiatric wing of Mercy Hospital, where she struggles with what seem like hallucinations and blackouts. And to deal with the disappearance of her sister Allie, who was the star of the movie Dead Heat, and whose failure to appear on the day of the last filming had led to her double being shot.

Had someone targeted Allie? Was the shooting an accident, or had someone purposely changed the blanks for real bullets?

Police are all over the situation, beginning with the shooting of Lucinda Rinaldi, who survived, and focusing also on Allie’s disappearance. Had someone abducted her, or was she missing as some kind of publicity stunt?

After She’s Gone delves into the lives of a Hollywood family: Jenna Hughes, mother, and her two daughters, Cassie and Allie. Since Allie has become the star, the rivalry between the two of them has caused some to think Cassie may have done something to her sister. The family had also suffered terrifying events in the past when a stalker targeted them…so now Jenna and her husband Shane have relocated to Falls Crossing, Oregon.

Determined to find her sister and clear her own name, Cassie has checked into Mercy Hospital’s psychiatric unit, worried that her occasional blackouts might mean that she knows more than she realizes.

After leaving the hospital, Cassie flies back and forth between LA and Portland, trying to find answers, and knowing that there is something suspicious about almost everyone who knew her sister. Her behavior, while understandable, seemed frenetic and illogical at times.

Then there are the secrets that surfaced as the story came to a close. Secrets that finally revealed who has targeted the family…and why. The novel was a page turner that moved at a fast pace, although there were so many red herrings and characters to wonder about that sometimes it was hard to keep everything straight. As the final denouement approached, there were some last minute misdirections that kept me guessing until the last pages. 4 stars.

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “JUST FALL”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author new to me:  Nina Sadowsky’s Just Fall will be released on March 22, 2016.

 

 

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Synopsis:  Perfect for fans of Patricia Highsmith and Gillian Flynn, this sexy and seductive debut novel asks: How can you find out that the person you love is a killer . . . and continue to love him anyway?

THEN

Ellie Larrabee’s life is perfect. She’s thriving at work, living in a fabulous apartment, and engaged to the man of her dreams. To all appearances, Ellie and Rob Beauman are a golden couple—blessed with good looks, success, and romantic chemistry that’s off the charts. Surely their future together promises nothing but happiness.

But on what should be the most wonderful day of her life, moments after saying “I do,” a shocking secret threatens to shatter Ellie’s happily-ever-after. She learns that the man she just married and loves with all her heart hides a dark past beneath his charismatic exterior. And the more harrowing truth she uncovers, the deeper Ellie is swept into a vortex of betrayal and uncertainty from which she may never escape.

NOW

On the island paradise of St. Lucia, Ellie isn’t basking in honeymoon splendor—she’s grappling with the chilling realities of her violently derailed life: Rob has blood on his hands and some very dangerous people on his trail, and only Ellie stands between him and the lethal destiny he’s facing. Rob never dreamed that Ellie would be dragged into the deadly world he’s trapped in—or used as a pawn against him. And Ellie could never have imagined how far she’d be forced to go to save the man she loves.

***

What do you think?  Are you also waiting for this one?  Have you read it?  Come on by and share your thoughts.

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SERENDIPITOUS WEDNESDAY: “THE OPPOSITE OF EVERYONE”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author I enjoy:  Joshilyn Jackson, whose newest book, The Opposite of Everyone, is an emotionally resonant tale about the endurance of love and the power of stories to shape and transform our lives.  Release Date:  February 16, 2016.

 

 

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Synopsis:  A fiercely independent divorce lawyer learns the power of family and connection when she receives a cryptic message from her estranged mother in this bittersweet, witty novel from the nationally bestselling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and gods in Alabama….

Born in Alabama, Paula Vauss spent the first decade of her life on the road with her free-spirited young mother, Kai, an itinerant storyteller who blended Hindu mythology with southern oral tradition to re-invent their history as they roved. But everything, including Paula’s birth name Kali Jai, changed when she told a story of her own—one that landed Kai in prison and Paula in foster care. Separated, each holding secrets of her own, the intense bond they once shared was fractured.

These days, Paula has reincarnated herself as a tough-as-nails divorce attorney with a successful practice in Atlanta. While she hasn’t seen Kai in fifteen years, she’s still making payments on that Karmic debt—until the day her last check is returned in the mail, along with a mysterious note: “I am going on a journey, Kali. I am going back to my beginning; death is not the end. You will be the end. We will meet again, and there will be new stories. You know how Karma works.”

Then Kai’s most treasured secret literally lands on Paula’s doorstep, throwing her life into chaos and transforming her from only child to older sister. Desperate to find her mother before it’s too late, Paula sets off on a journey of discovery that will take her back to the past and into the deepest recesses of her heart. With the help of her ex-lover Birdwine, an intrepid and emotionally volatile private eye who still carries a torch for her, this brilliant woman, an expert at wrecking families, now has to figure out how to put one back together—her own.

***

I’m eager to dive into this one.  What are you excited about today?  Don’t forget to leave a link to your post.

***

REVIEW: CATCHING AIR, BY SARAH PEKKANEN

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Peter and Rand Danner have had their problems over the years, most notably because of Rand’s often irresponsible behavior. Now that the brothers are married to their lovely wives, Kira and Alyssa, they are trying to get along.

But when Rand tells Peter and Kira that he and Alyssa have bought a B & B in Vermont, and want them to go in on it with them, they are stunned. And reluctant. They are used to their home in Florida, but then again, their jobs could use some improvements.

Kira is unhappy with the law firm she works for, and Peter is ready for a change, too.

When they arrive, they have a lot to learn and even more to do to set everything up. And for fun, they take in some snowboarding. Kira envies Alyssa’s carefree attitude. Alyssa shares how she can ski and snowboard with ease: “It’s like the mountain knows when you’re nervous. But gradually I learned to just be in that glorious moment of catching air. Once I began trusting that I’d land safely, I always did.”

Before they have scarcely gotten off the ground with the B & B, they take in Dawn, a young woman who obviously needs a place to stay, and who shows herself willing and able to work for board and room. What are her secrets? Who is she hiding from?

Narrated from several perspectives, Catching Air unfolds in a realistic fashion that shows the reader about their struggles, the mistakes they make, and how one huge job, a wedding, will take over their lives for weeks. But good things could be just around the corner…if they hang in there.

I enjoyed the story and came to care about the characters, who felt like real people I might have known. I loved how the mix of problems and joys made me laugh and even cry a little. Recommended for fans of women’s fiction…and the author. 4 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAY: “THE LAKE HOUSE”

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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 A Daily Rhythm.

I am delighted to share an e-ARC from NetGalley that I’ll be reading soon.  The Lake House, by Kate Morton, is an intricately plotted, spellbinding new novel of heart-stopping suspense and uncovered secrets.

 

 

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Intro:  (Cornwall, August 1933)

The rain was heavy now and the hem of her dress was splattered with mud.  She’d have to hide it afterwards; no one could know that she’d been out.

Clouds covered the moon, a stroke of luck she didn’t deserve, and she made her way through the thick, black night as quickly as she could.  She’d come earlier to dig the hole, but only now, under veil of darkness, would she finish the job.  Rain stippled the surface of the trout stream, drummed relentlessly on the earth beside it.  Something bolted through the bracken nearby, but she didn’t flinch, didn’t stop.  She’d been in and out of the woods all her life and knew the way by heart.

***

Teaser:  (London, 2003)

A list of sites appeared on her screen and she skimmed through the options until she found an entry from a site called firstworldwar.com which seemed reputable.  Sadie clicked and started reading the definition.  A term used to describe psychological trauma…intensity of artillery battles…neurotic cracks in otherwise mentally stable soldiers. (58%).

***

Blurb:  Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone…yet more present than ever.

A lush, atmospheric tale of intertwined destinies, this latest novel from a masterful storyteller is an enthralling, thoroughly satisfying read.

***

Would you keep reading?  I have been very eager to open this book and discover the heart-stopping suspense and the secrets that stayed buried for a long while.   What do you think?

***

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: “PRETENDING TO DANCE”

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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 A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book is an e-ARC from NetGalley:  Pretending to Dance, by Diane Chamberlain.

 

 

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Intro:  (2014 – San Diego)

I’m a good liar.

I take comfort in that fact as Aidan and I sit next to each other on our leather sectional, so close together that our thighs touch.  I wonder if that’s too close. Patty, the social worker sitting on the other wing of our sectional, writes something in her notes, and with every scribble of her pen, I worry her words will cost us our baby.  I imagine she’s writing The couple appears to be codependent to an unhealthy degree.  As if picking up on my nervousness, Aidan takes my hand, squeezing it against his warm palm.  How can he be so calm?

“You’re both thirty-eight, is that right?”  Patti asks.

We nod in unison.

Patti isn’t at all what I expected.  In my mind I’ve dubbed her “Perky Patti.”  I’d expected someone dour, older, judgmental.  She’s a licensed social worker, but she can’t be any older than twenty-five.  Her blond hair is in a ponytail, her blue eyes are huge, and her eyelashes look like something out of an advertisement in Vogue.  She has a quick smile and bubbly enthusiasm.  Yet, still, Perky Patti holds our future in her hands, and despite her youth and bubbly charm, she intimidates me.

***

Teaser:  I have no old family photographs.  I’d taken a handful with me when I left home at eighteen, but I threw them away one day when my anger got the better of me.

I wish old memories could be as easily discarded. (Loc. 450).

***

Blurb:  Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family-the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison’s Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  I know I’m excited about this book, as this author is one of my favorites.

***

REVIEW: ALL THE SUMMER GIRLS, BY MEG DONOHUE

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The three of them had met at the Philadelphia Friends School years before, and their friendship bonds had cemented during the summers spent at the Avalon Beach house. They were very different from one another, yet their connections came from a common bond developed in the school: Katherine (Kate) Harrington, whose twin brother Colin often joined them; Vanessa Dale, whose hippie parents were a constant reminder of how different her life was from her friends’ lives; and Dani Lowenstein, whose father owned the house on Avalon Beach and provided the backdrop to the fabulous summers.

Now, years later, they come together for one more summer, hoping to heal from the secrets of the past and a tragic event that left them all reeling, and the problems in their present. Kate’s fiancé Peter has just broken up with her only weeks before their wedding; Vanessa is still reeling from her husband Drew’s betrayal with another woman; and Dani is suffering from her own guilt and unable to maintain any kind of life out in San Francisco.

Will their secrets break them apart, or will they find enough strength in their friendship to help them heal? All the Summer Girls: A Novel (P.S.) is alternately narrated by the three friends, and the reader can jog along with them as they agonize over the past and try to carve out a future.

An enjoyable and somewhat predictable read, it was also very satisfying and the perfect ending to a summer. 4.0 stars.

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.