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.

***

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.”

***

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?

***

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?

***

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.

***

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?

***

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.