Posted in BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: SIRACUSA, BY DELIA EPHRON

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Two couples now living in Portland, Maine, plan a trip together, destination Siracusa, in Sicily, but the odd history between them all foreshadows catastrophe ahead.

Lizzie, a journalist who grew up in Berkeley, has chosen the destination in honor of her now deceased father. She has memories of stories he told about the charming town, which others see as decrepit and decomposing.

Her husband Michael, a Pulitzer prize-winner struggling with a novel, is hoping to find what he needs to finish the book. He has a larger-than-life personality, and basks in the glow of others as he tells his tales. He is a “serial fabricator.”

Taylor and her husband Finn seem completely unsuited for each other. Finn still lusts for Lizzie, with whom he once had an affair, and Taylor is wrapped up in a very strange symbiotic relationship with her ten-year-old daughter Snow, who accompanies them on the trip.

Snow…what a strange child, and somehow, she ends up as the centerpiece for the darkness ahead. Her mother believes she is just shy, but brilliant. Others see her as charming, but Lizzie intuits the darkness in her. What unfortunate events will have them pondering the hidden depths of this child? Why is she so drawn to Michael, and will the “crush” she has on him lead to tragedy?

Meanwhile, an interloper arrives in the form of Michael’s latest conquest. What will her presence add and subtract from the vacation?

Siracusa was a tale of unraveling relationships, darkness, and the lies we tell to keep others interested. I enjoyed the multiple narrators that fleshed out the characters and the story, although I rooted for none of them, except possibly Lizzie. Flawed and somewhat jaded, they remind me of people I’ve known, so I couldn’t stop reading this book which earned 5 stars.

Posted in BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, BY SHARI LAPENA

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In upstate New York, new parents Marco and Anne Conti are enjoying an evening next door with neighbors Graham and Cynthia Stillwell. Actually, Marco seems to be enjoying himself flirting with Cynthia, while Anne feels troubled while she watches.

They were supposed to have a babysitter, but at 6:00 p.m., the girl cancelled. It would have made sense to take the baby along to the dinner party next door, but Cynthia has insisted that it should be an adults only party.

Later, she would say that she would have been fine with the baby there, if she’d known about the cancelled sitter.

But who knows what any of them would have done? Why were Cynthia and Graham so adamant about having an “adults only” party? Why is there a secret camera trained on the backyard?

When baby Cora disappears, sometime after Marco last checked on her—they’ve been checking every half hour—their world turns upside down. They only discover that she is missing when they return home around 1:30 a.m.

Police, reporters, and public scrutiny follow them in the upcoming weeks, and there is plenty of suspicion from everyone.

Anne’s postpartum depression becomes an issue…and then there are Marco’s financial difficulties. When Anne’s wealthy parents offer a large reward to the kidnapper, if the baby is returned, the suspicions increase as one can only wonder who actually took the baby.

What secrets from the past cast a shadow on every character? What will the police discover about Marco, about Anne, and about Cynthia? Does Anne’s strangely cold stepfather Richard have something to hide?

Behind every twist and turn is another possible scenario, until the reader must second-guess everyone and everything. The Couple Next Door kept me thoroughly engaged throughout. And then, when all the pieces seemed to fit, another shocker seemed to come out of nowhere. Until I thought about it, and realized that it all made sense. 5 stars.

***My copy of the eARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

Posted in BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: THE GIRL YOU LOST, BY KATHRYN CROFT

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In the opening pages of The Girl You Lost, we meet a character who has been victimized, and as we learn more about her, we are immediately curious as to her connection to a group of unknown narrators whose alternate passages draw us into the sick and nefarious world of a group of young men.

Meanwhile, Simone and Matt Porter are still grieving the loss of their infant daughter eighteen years before. Little Helena, age six months, was grabbed from her grandmother in the park.

Suddenly we are watching as a young woman named Grace Rhodes approaches Simone with a story that seems unbelievable…and incredible, at best. She is the young woman victimized in the beginning and she has a story to tell. Can she be believed? Could Grace be the missing child Helena? But just as Simone is pondering the story, Grace disappears. Did she give up when she realized that her lies had been uncovered? Or is there more going on?

Intense and thrilling, we are left wondering who the young men are and what, if anything, they have done to Grace and others.

In the end, while I was not completely surprised by the connections between the characters, the behavior of one in particular stunned me.

Set in London, the story kept me intrigued, even as I had a sick feeling of dread about what would ultimately be revealed. 4 stars.

Posted in BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: FLIGHT PATTERNS, BY KAREN WHITE

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A story with themes about journeys beginning and ending, the patterns of flight innumerable, the destination always being home, Flight Patterns takes us along for the ride. We find out more than we ever hoped to know about bees, we learn about loss and those who choose to stay apart rather than to forgive. And finally, we learn about how healing can begin.

Georgia Chambers, living her life in New Orleans, has stayed away from the family home in Apalachicola, Florida, ever since something happened between her and her sister Maisy Sawyers ten years before. Between the two of them, they are keeping the secrets and hanging onto the pain.

Meanwhile, their mother Birdie has not spoken a word for all that time, and the past is suddenly churning up, threatening to explode, right when Georgia returns to Apalachicola with a client in tow. James Graf is hoping to find out about a unique china pattern that belonged to his mother, a Limoges pattern with a unique design of bees circling it. And Georgia happens to be an expert in antiques. She also recalls seeing a soup cup in her own family home, one that might be part of the set.

What will Georgia discover in her quest for the china’s history? How will it take her to a family secret in France, one that might just have something to do with Birdie’s silence? How will a stolen truck only recently recovered help them all sort out the puzzle? And what will finally bring Georgia together with her sister Maisy, her niece Becky, and start the forgiveness process?

What a great story! I must admit that Georgia was my favorite character, with Becky my second favorite. I never warmed up to Maisy, really disliking her tendency to blame everyone else and not acknowledge her own faults. But in the end, she started to grow on me. James was delightful, and I kept rooting for him and his own healing. 5 stars.

Posted in BOOK REVIEW

FRICTION, BY SANDRA BROWN

 

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Ranger Crawford Hunt is one of those legendary heroes who jumps into whatever fray he faces, saving the day. But some consider his behavior dangerous and even risky. Which is why, after his wife’s death four years before, his daughter Georgia ended up in the custody of her maternal grandparents, Joe and Grace Gilroy. Now Ranger is about to begin the fight of his life as he seeks custody of his daughter. A hearing that will bring out all the bad feelings between him and the Gilroys.

Judge Holly Spencer was appointed to her judicial role after the death of the previous judge, and now faces an election to make her job permanent. Her role to decide custody in the matter of little Georgia had brought her to the court room that day—a day that would change everything in her life.

Before the hearing is scarcely underway, a masked man in a strange uniform bursts into the courtroom, shoots the bailiff, and seems about to shoot the judge. Crawford jumps in, just as he tends to do, and saves Holly, and also, at the same time, kicks the man’s knee out from under him. But the man escapes, and later is cornered on the roof and killed.

Or so they thought.

The case becomes complicated when the shooter of the bailiff and the man on the roof turn out to be two different people. Who is the shooter? Why was he targeting Holly Spencer? Or was someone else the target?

Friction kept me turning the pages eagerly, hoping to find out more about the motivations for the crimes, and staving off my angst at the annoying characters that seemed hell-bent on focusing on Crawford as the one behind the events of that day.

Detective Neal Lester seemed to have a particular blind spot when it came to Crawford, to the point that his investigation continued down very strange pathways.

Joe Gilroy, the grandfather, was combative with Crawford, denying him visits, and taking out a restraining order based on something the inept Neal Lester had said.

I like a story that gets my ire up, though, as it keeps me going even when I’ve been reading far too long. I had some concerns about how things might work out in the end, especially between Crawford and Holly, for whom a romantic relationship seemed to be developing. In the end, things were wrapped up almost too quickly, after the mystery was solved and the criminals were dealt with. But I enjoyed this 4.5 read.

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REVIEW: WILDE LAKE, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

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They seemed like royalty, the family of State’s Attorney Andrew Jackson Brant, when they settled in Columbia, Maryland. But like many people elevated in the minds of those around them, they had feet of clay. And many secrets from the past. Would those secrets ultimately destroy them?

When Luisa (Lu) Brant took over the office of State’s Attorney, she looked up to her father, his legacy, and how he had done the job. Her first murder case after her election would take her back to the past, some secrets, and some stories that turned out to be untrue. Would Lu find out how dark that past was, and would it be too late? Would it change how she lived her life afterwards?

Wilde Lake was a page-turning story that was more about family than legal cases. How Lu, as a widow, is raising her twins as a single mother in her childhood home, while juggling motherhood and career. The story of what happened to Lu’s mother, and which would only begin to unfold many years later, would have a deep impact on Lu…and on her brother A.J., as well as her father, because of how they kept the secret.

But the biggest secrets of all would be about a fateful night in 1979 and how the actions of some, spurred on by the perceived actions of others, would turn into an event that would inform all of their lives decades later.

Can the secrets and lies be justified? Could the flawed memories of those who participated be counted on in the present? I could not stop reading, as, like other books by this author, I was immersed in the stories and the secrets…until the very end. 5 stars.

Posted in BOOK REVIEW

REVIEW: THE CHILDREN, BY ANN LEARY

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Lakeside Cottage in Harwich, Connecticut, had been a part of the Whitman family for generations. Whit Whitman, whom we met early on in The Children, when he was just a child, would figure largely in the story, but primarily as a legendary character. His marriage to Joan, who had two young daughters, Sally and Charlotte, would launch a whole new blended family that included Whit’s sons from his marriage to Marissa: Perry and Philip (Spin).

His death would set events in motion and unleash issues that would stay buried for years, but in one long hot summer, all would surface with a vengeance. Could the division of trusts and the cottage figure into the trouble? Whit had left Lakeside Cottage to his sons, a trust fund to Joan, as well as to his sons, with the understanding that Joan would stay in the cottage as long as she wished to do so. But maybe everything wasn’t as smoothly settled as they thought.

Our first person narrator is Charlotte, who some believe is agoraphobic, but she simply feels more comfortable in the cottage attic room writing her “fictitious” mommy blog. She makes quite a bit of money from advertisers, and all is well on that front…until it isn’t.

The first ripples of trouble appear when Spin brings his fiancée Laurel Atwood home to the cottage. She seems wonderful on the surface. Charming, in fact, and clearly she is beautiful. But Sally, who has some mental health issues, can seemingly see below the surface. Why does nobody believe her? But who would believe Sally when she “gets like that”? Frenetic and manic, she escalates quickly.

I loved this story. I wanted to stay with the characters well beyond the final pages, and I held my breath while experiencing the story as it unfolded, only releasing my breath when I finally learned the fate of the characters. A 5 star read for me.

*** My e-ARC was received from the publisher via NetGalley.