REVIEW: BEST BEACH EVER, BY WENDY WAX

 

Forced to rent out or lose their beloved Bella Flora after the loss of their renovation-turned-reality-TV show Do Over, Maddie, Nikki, Avery, Kyra, and Bitsy move into cottages at the Sunshine Hotel and Beach Club believing the worst is over. Only to discover just how uncertain their futures really are.

Maddie struggles with the challenges of dating a rock star whose career has come roaring back to life while Nikki faces the daunting realities of mothering twins at forty-seven. Avery buries herself in a tiny home build in an attempt to dodge commitment issues, and Kyra battles to protect her son from the Hollywood world she once dreamed of joining. And Bitsy is about to find out whether the rewards of seeking revenge will outweigh the risks.

Luckily, when the going gets tough, the ladies of Ten Beach Road know that their friendship–tried and tested–can chase away the darkest clouds and let the sun shine in…

 

 

My Thoughts: I loved joining the gang on the beach and at Bella Flora for Best Beach Ever. I thought back at how it all began, the struggles along the way, and the wonderful friendships that developed.

By now, the characters feel like old friends, the kind who have suffered through hard times and come out the other side. The kind of friends you love to toast with at sunset when you share your thoughts about your “one good thing” of the day.

The story opens with Nikki, trying hard to lose the weight after giving birth to her twins. Her struggles feel so real, like the kind any new mother might experience, only double because they are twins.

Then there is Kyra, who is accompanying four-year-old Dustin to the movie set where she reluctantly will be allowing him to star with his actor father, directing his first movie. We know that there will be issues galore along the way. I applauded how Kyra finally could see beyond the surface that is Daniel Deranian.

So many other great moments kept me racing along, excited about each discovery on the way to the final page of this 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: THE COMFORTS OF HOME, BY SUSAN HILL

 

Susan Hill—the Man Booker Prize nominee and winner of the Whitbread, Somerset Maugham, and John Llewellyn Rhys awards—returns with a hair-raising new novel, the ninth book in one of the most acclaimed mystery series of our time. Featuring the enigmatic and brooding chief police inspector Simon Serrailler, this intricate and pulse-pounding series follows a collection of grisly crimes plaguing the city of Lafferton—and The Comforts of Home is the most chilling and unputdownable installment yet.In this gripping new thriller, Simon, eager to be back at work after recovering from a near-fatal injury, takes on a cold-case review for the Lafferton police about a girl who disappeared some years before. Meanwhile his family adjusts to changes of its own; namely his sister’s marriage to Chief Constable Kieron Bright. But when events take an unfavorable turn for the Chief Constable and an arsonist goes on a deadly rampage in Lafferton, Simon’s personal and professional lives intertwine in more complex and devastating ways than ever before in the tradition of the fabulous mysteries of Ruth Rendell and P.D. James.

My Thoughts: The Comforts of Home is my first read in the series, and while the relationships between recurring characters were filled in nicely by the author, I often had the feeling that I had missed out on some important details.

Simon was an interesting character, and I liked following along with his internal monologues and reminiscences of cold cases in the past. I also enjoyed feeling for him as he struggled to deal with his prosthetic device after a serious accident. The storyline alternated between several characters and how they all fit together in the various cases. The settings veered from West London to a Scottish island, and in each one I could feel myself walking along with the characters.

The story rambled a bit, but I was intrigued throughout. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: COLD AS ICE, BY JULIE MULHERN

 

Ellison Russell’s life resembles a rollercoaster ride. And rollercoasters make her ill. Her daughter Grace has a crush on a boy Ellison doesn’t trust and she’s taken to hosting wild parties when Ellison goes out for the evening. Worse, the bank which represents Grace’s inheritance from her father may be in trouble.

When a meeting with the chef at the country club leads to the discovery of a body, Ellison can’t afford cold feet. She must save the bank, find the killer, and convince Grace (and herself) that powerful women don’t need men to rescue them.

My Thoughts: The pages turn rapidly in Cold as Ice, and, as always, I am swept up into Ellison’s world of 1974 Kansas City, Missouri. The Country Club set figures into this new mystery, just as the ones before, and we meet some characters who might not have been in previous books, but they are all connected somehow to Ellison and to her mother Frances Walford.

Ellison and her mother have their issues, but in the end, they have each other’s back…but sometimes glare at each other and make choices that conflict.

Grace, Ellison’s teen, is as snippy and eye-rolling as ever, but she does surprise occasionally by stepping in and helping out.

Anarchy Jones, the detective who always seems to appear at the right time, is even more drawn to Ellison in this outing…but as the pages turn, he is more and more frustrated with her inability to stay out of his latest investigation. She is determined to save the day herself and not depend on a man, and he is determined to be the one to solve the case and her problems.

What will happen when their goals clash? Will they go their separate ways? Will there be anything for the two of them afterwards?

I loved this book…and enjoyed Ellison’s quirks: chatting with her Mr. Coffee; mixing it up with all the suspects in the case; and taking risks that could change everything in her life. Definitely 5 stars for me.

***

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: THURSDAY’S CHILDREN, BY NICCI FRENCH

20812083Can anyone ever go home again?

For Frieda Klein, therapist and woman managing in her solo existence in London, thoughts of the home she left behind in Braxton twenty-three years before have now intruded upon her, as she faces the young teenage girl, the daughter of an old school acquaintance from Braxton, who has confided a horrific secret. Something that arouses all of Frieda’s worst memories.

Young Becky has told about her rape a few months before, and how her mother, Maddie, did not believe her. Now Maddie is aware that Frieda knows the secret, and this only enrages her. Her feelings of intense dislike and fear are brought to the fore. For Frieda, the long-buried rage aroused in her by the release of this secret is like a strong gravitational pull into the past. Something Becky said to Frieda reawakened that long ago moment when she herself had been raped at sixteen, and reminded her of her own mother’s disbelief.

Can the past be repeating itself? Then, as if to ante up the stakes, Becky is found hanged in her room, presumably suicide. But the more Frieda learns, upon her return to Braxton, the more she is convinced that the man who raped her also raped Becky…and others in between. And that he has also killed.

Thursday’s Children is the story of the past, the present, and how the secrets come back to haunt us. The title also symbolizes the name of a musical group playing in Braxton on the night of Frieda’s rape. Can Frieda discover who has been raping and murdering young girls, and if she does, will the police even believe her? Her experiences with the police in this town have been less than satisfactory.

But she has her own occasional colleague, DCI Malcolm Karlsson…and seemingly the shadowy stalker presence of presumed dead Dean Reeve, that nobody believes is there–except, perhaps, Karlsson–and as time passes, her belief in his malevolent/protective presence is reinforced by events.

This fourth novel in the series is also populated by familiar faces from the previous novels, like Josef, the handyman and occasional cook; Reuben, a therapist colleague; and her niece Chloe. For the first time, we meet her mother, Dr. Juliet Klein, who is a hard, ironic, and cold presence in Frieda’s past, and with whom she now must interact. Will the ghosts of the past finally be put to rest? Will the secrets be unleashed and the perpetrators punished? And, in the end, will Frieda find peace?  Five stars.

REVIEW: CHRISTMAS AT THE BEACH (NOVELLA), BY WENDY WAX

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Like a final curtain call, the women whose lives revolved around the renovation of the old villa at Ten Beach Road have gathered once again for a final event: Christmas at the Beach (Novella) (Ten Beach Road Novella). The house has sold, and they have been granted one final celebration at Bella Flora.

Narrated in Kyra’s voice, we watch from her perspective as the group assembles: Nicole, Maddie, Avery, and Deirdre. And, as always, the paparrazi are flocking them, spotlighting their final goodbye, even as they each recall all that went into the renovation.

But some surprises are awaiting them. Kyra is stunned to learn who the anonymous buyer is…and something else shocks her. Something that changes her life as she knew it.

They are all poised to learn where they will next appear for another renovation for their reality show, Do Over. And that journey will be revealed in the new book coming in the spring: The House on Mermaid Point.