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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REVIEW: SECOND LIFE, BY S. J. WATSON

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When Julia Plummer attends an exhibit that will include a photograph she did years before, in Berlin, she is anxious. Her mind traipses back to that time and to the darkness that followed.

Memories of the past are still with her when she goes home to discover police cars. Fearful, she rushes in, worried about Connor, fourteen, her younger sister Kate’s son that she has been raising since infancy, but instead, she learns that Kate has been murdered in Paris. Julia’s husband Hugh, a surgeon, is there for her, just as he was in the dark days following what happened to her in Berlin. But nothing seems to alleviate the darkness that descends in the aftermath of Kate’s murder, and she becomes obsessed with finding out who killed her sister.

As she connects to Kate’s housemate Anna, she learns about her sister’s risky behavior. How she met up with online connections, and how they might have led to her murder.

Thinking she can learn more about Kate’s other life, Julia sets up her own profile, pretending to be someone else, hoping to find out more about her sister’s death.

How does Julia’s foray into the world of Internet sex fantasies become a kind of addiction? Why can’t she stop, once she starts? Why does she relent and start meeting one of the men? And how will one particular connection she makes turn into something malevolent and unexpected? Something that could ruin her family and expose them all to danger?

Secrets, betrayals, and a darkness from the hidden past will keep coming at her, as she races to save her son from certain danger.

The story is brought to us in the first person present tense voice of Julia, granting an immediacy to the action, as well as a glimpse of her thought processes throughout. The writing was engaging, but it was hard to root for Julia when she kept ignoring all the danger signs. Her foolish choices made me want to shout at her, warning her of how nothing good could come of this. Even Hugh was hard to like, as he seemed detached and not very forthcoming with information, especially since some of what he knew could have prevented tragedy.

I wanted to love Second Life: A Novel, and I certainly couldn’t put it down. The suspense accelerated as the book progressed, but I also saw the danger ahead not too long after Julia connected with the man she met online. And while I didn’t predict or expect the odd twists at the end, I knew that I was not going to like what would inevitably happen. 4.0 stars.

REVIEW: BETRAYED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

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In the Philadelphia law firm of Rosato and DiNunzio, Judy Carrier is an associate, and as such, must often take cases that are unappealing to her.

Such an assignment has just landed in the form of seventy-five asbestos cases referred from a big New York firm…and her job will be to defend the damages portion.

Before she is caught up in the cases, Judy and one of the partners, Mary DiNunzio, who is her best friend, have been shopping for wedding dresses for Mary’s upcoming wedding. But then Judy is called to her Aunt Barb’s house after learning sad news: her aunt has cancer and is going in for surgery. Plus, her mother Delia is at Aunt Barb’s, and their somewhat rocky relationship is about to come front and center in her life.

The cases go on the back burner so Judy can focus on her aunt, but then a friend of Barb’s dies under mysterious circumstances…after which a number of very strange happenings find Judy investigating and searching for answers.

How did more than $50,000 in cash end up hidden around Barb’s house? What is going on at the mushroom farm where Iris, the deceased friend, worked? And what happened to Iris’s friend Daniella?

Later, when there is another mysterious death, Judy finds herself up to her eyeballs in the mystery…and at the same time, she discovers a secret that her mother has been hiding.

Meanwhile, she decides that her boyfriend Frank, who acts more like a boy than a man, and focuses mostly on watching football on TV and playing sports instead of doing chores around the apartment, is really not a good match for her.

In the end, answers came swiftly and brought a satisfying conclusion to Betrayed: A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel (Rosato & Associates Book 13), one in a series of mysteries involving the women at the law firm. I have read and enjoyed several of the books in this series, each one featuring a different woman as the MC. I loved the fast pace, and how the author brought the reader right into the personal and work lives of the characters. 5.0 stars.

REVIEW: A FIREPROOF HOME FOR THE BRIDE, BY AMY SCHEIBE

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The time: the 1950s; the setting: small Midwestern towns in Minnesota and North Dakota.

Emmeline Nelson is our main character, and almost from the very first moments, I could feel for her plight. Controlling family, a husband already picked out for her, and all the options closed.

I have lived some of that life, except for the specific husband picked out.

But another point where mine and Emmeline’s differ is that under the surface of the world she had known were secrets, betrayals, hatred, and racism. Deep, dark racism.

Turning the pages of A Fireproof Home for the Bride: A Novel, I could not wait to see what would happen next, even as I wanted to throw things and shout at some of the characters, like Ambrose Brann, the fiancé, who showed his dark side almost immediately.

What would Emmy have to do to extricate herself from the strictures of the life planned out for her? Who would help her, and what would be the consequences? And how would the forbidden love of Bobby Doyle change her life, and would he be the one? How did the KKK figure into the lives of those closest to Emmy, and what did Ambrose have to do with it? How did the string of fires connect to the past and to the dark future planned by a nefarious group?

As Emmy struggles to find her place in the world as a writer for the newspaper, the answers will come to her.

I really enjoyed her Great Aunt Josephine, who was the kind of woman that would inspire a young girl like Emmy. And in the end, Christian, her father, turned out to be a sympathetic character, and the detached mother Karin had her own painful past. But the surprising rush of more unexpected connections would bring this intriguing story to a satisfactory close. 4.0 stars, primarily because some of the prose felt stilted to me; the story behind it was very captivating, however.

REVIEW: THE SECRETS OF MIDWIVES, BY SALLY HEPWORTH

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Floss, Grace, and Neva are three women joined by a family tradition: midwifery.

They each have brought their own unique experiences to their profession and to their family lives. Floss arrived in the US from England with baby Grace in tow, reporting her widowhood to those she met.

Grace grew up feeling the absence of a father like a hole in her heart. But she has found her true love in Robert, and together they built a family with their daughter Neva. But is the absence of a father affecting her ability to connect with Neva?

When Neva is forced to announce her pregnancy, after hiding it for several months, she is also keeping a secret: the name of the child’s father.

The Secrets of Midwives is alternately narrated by Floss, Grace, and Neva, and the story unfolds to reveal the layers of these characters and their lives, including the determination of each of them to maintain their dedication to midwifery, even in the face of the scorn of some medical professionals.

What happens to the three of them when Floss has a heart attack and is forced to reveal a secret from her past? How will Grace deal with an investigation into her performance after a doctor makes a complaint? And what will Neva discover about love and about her determination to go it alone after connecting with a handsome doctor and friend named Patrick?

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this story, but then again, the characters were fully fleshed out and their thoughts and feelings were brought into the story. There was nothing particularly new or different from other books on midwifery that I’ve enjoyed, but I liked this one enough to give it four stars.

REVIEW: THE TWILIGHT HOUR, BY NICCI GERRARD

22852979In her twilight years, Eleanor Lee, age ninety-four, is preparing to close up the house where she has lived for many decades. A place where she lived throughout her marriage and while raising her children; a place that contains the memorabilia of a life, including its secrets.

She has hired young Peter Mistley, a man dealing with his own ghosts. He will help her sort through the papers, books, etc. And in the process, she can protect her children and grandchildren from what she has kept hidden for so long.

A beautifully written story that sweeps across time, from the dawn of WWII to the present, revealing through Eleanor’s voice the life she lived, the choices she made, and the shadow self that remains in her core. We see the young Eleanor Wright, as she fiercely seeks to live an independent life, making her own choices. We then see what happens to her when she realizes that some choices will lead to sorrow and loss.

I thoroughly enjoyed Eleanor, with all of her flaws and mistakes, because she readily acknowledged them, even though she kept some secrets from those she loved.

Peter has become her confidante as he sorts through everything and as they chat at the end of each day. And now that the task is complete, Eleanor must face it all head on, as she thinks of what she had, as well as what she had lost. A glimpse of that contemplation is revealed in this excerpt:

“Of course something had been lost. There is always something lost. Hopes and dreams and possibilities. Shadow lives and shadow selves. Roads not followed, loves not taken, doors left closed. In the end you have to choose who you will become. You are your life’s work. Every moment of every day makes you. Only at the end, when your story is over, do you know what you have created.”

The Twilight Hour was an emotional, heart-wrenching story of loss, secrets, and what might have been; but it is also a story of the beautiful gifts that come to those who choose to be happy. To move on and accept what they have. 5 stars.

SERENDIPITOUS FRIDAY: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 — “THE TWILIGHT HOUR”

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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?

I am very happy to share my featured book today.  I’ve been lusting after it for a while, and finally found it on Amazon.  The Twilight Hour, by Nicci Gerrard, is a story that is sure to touch my heart.  I have been a fan of Nicci French (the combo team of Nicci Gerrard and Sean French), so imagine my delight to discover this book from this author on various blogs. 

 

 

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Beginning:  Eleanor woke to what was not there.  Outside, the wind still roared, dashing pellets of rain against the windows; inside it was too silent, not a breath or a heartbeat save hers.  The darkness felt uninhabited.  Before she reached out her hand, groping past the water jug and the vase of dying flowers to touch the bed and find it empty, the blanket thrown back and the pillow dislodged, she knew she was alone.

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56:  There was a carved little chest in the corner and inside that were board games and playing cards.  Peter imagined Sunday evenings, rainy afternoons, everyone together in the laughter and squabble of a large, close family.

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Goodreads Description:  Eleanor Lee has lived a fiercely independent existence for over ninety years, but now it’s time to tidy her life away – books, photographs, paintings, letters – a lifetime of possessions all neatly boxed up for the last time. But amongst them there are some things that must be kept hidden. And, nearing blindness, Eleanor needs help to uncover them before her children and grandchildren do.

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What do you think?  Could you connect to this character?  I know that I can…and I’m looking forward to learning more.

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