Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Just Jennifer

Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman (Ballantine Books, April 22, 2014)

Imagine going on a long-planned vacation with your family only to wake up and find your children missing from the hotel room.  Now imagine it is determined that your husband took your children and the police are unable to do anything about it.  Liz and her husband Paul have a nice life in a small Adirondack town in New York State.  Liz has a small farm plot and sells her harvests and products made from them and Paul is an adored professor at a nearby agricultural college.  They have decided to take their two young children, Ally and Reid upstate to visit Paul’s parents at their cattle farm; Liz is a little surprised as they haven’t seen Matthew and Mary in a very long time and Paul is mostly estranged from them.  As Liz begins to look for her children she realizes that there is a lot about her husband she doesn't know and there is a secret from his past, one that caused the estrangement between Paul and his parents, one that is very disturbing, and one that might just be the key to where Paul has taken the children.  Strange encounters with strangers at Liz’s house and threats to stop looking for her children make her all the more determined to find her children and bring them home no matter the cost.  Tautly plotted with many twists and turns, Ruin Falls will keep you reading long into the night as Liz’s worst nightmares are slowly revealed.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Just Jennifer

The Wedding Bees by Sarah-Kate Lynch (William Morrow, February 2014)

Sugar Wallace has been on the lam from the last fifteen years with nothing but her bees and good Southern manners.  She is not on the run from the law, however, but worse, from her proper Southern mother who is mortified that Sugar left her fiancĂ© at the altar just before saying “I do”.  Sugar has spent the past decade and a half going wherever the bees take her, making close friends, but never staying in one place for too long.  Her latest stop is Alphabet City in Manhattan where she turns her penthouse terrace into a rooftop paradise for her bees.  Sugar immediately realizes that her fellow apartment mates are even more standoff-ish than she expected them to be, but also realizes that each one is damaged in their own way and sets out to bring them out of their apartments and help them with her special brand of magic---honey and good manners.  Sugar can’t, however, seem to get past the things that hold her back, even when she is near handsome Scotsman Theo Fitzgerald who produces sparks just by looking at her and who, from the moment he met her, as avowed his love for her and his wish to spend the rest of his life with her.  Little by little, the bees, love and Theo work their magic on Sugar, help her to heal and begin to live her life with the zest and vigor she encourages in other.  Eccentric characters and sentient bees add a touch of magic to this story about being, letting be and letting go.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Just Jennifer

The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley (Bantam, February 4, 2014)

What secrets do we keep from even those to whom we are closest, what secrets do we keep even from ourselves, and how do the lies we tell ourselves become our truths?  These are all topics that Buckley considers in her latest novel.  Eve Lattimore has devoted her life to caring for her fourteen-year-old son who has a condition that prevents him from having any exposure to UV rays which will most likely kill him.  Eve has created a safe haven for Tyler, trying to keep as normal a life for the rest of the family, but ultimately alienated sixteen-year-old Melissa and her husband who has taken a job away from the family in Washington, D.C.  One rainy night, on the way to the airport to her husband up, Eve takes her eyes off the road for one minute while texting and hits something.  She is sickened and terrified when she realizes it is her best friend Charlotte’s eleven-year-old daughter Amy and that Amy is dead.  Eve quickly creates a story that convinces herself that it is for Tyler’s sake that she doesn't report the accident, but things slowly unravel for her, and her family, as the truth is finally revealed.  Flawed characters, not beyond redemption, a complicated, moral story line and a police investigation elevate this family saga a notch.  The ending allows some of the characters to examine themselves a little more closely as some startling admissions are made. 

Just Jennifer

After I’m Gone by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, February 11, 2014)

In another stand-alone by the author of the Tess Monaghan (who makes a cameo at the end) mystery series, Laura Lippman explores not only what happens when a cold case file from over thirty-years ago is looked at with new eyes, she also depicts women in society and the family from the turn of 1960 until modern day.  Baltimore gambling boss Felix Brewer would rather leave his wife Bambi, who he adores, and his three daughters, ages three, fourteen and seventeen, rather than spend fifteen years in jail.  He also leaves his mistress, Julie Saxony, who his wife knows about, and who is pretty certain Felix will send for her after a time.  Ten years, almost to the day of Felix’s disappearance, Julie also disappeared.  Everyone assumes Felix finally sent for her, but in 2001, her body is discovered behind Bambi’s house and the police department opens a murder investigation which is never solved.  Ten years later, Sandy Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective, is consulting on the department’s cold cases and decides to take another look.  As he does, he realizes that there is definitely a connection between Felix and Julie’s murder and tracks down all the players, including Felix’s lawyer and Bambi’s confident, Bert Gelman, and the bail bondsman Tubby Schroeder who took a bath when Felix went on the lam.  Writing back and forth from the past to the present, Lippman tells the story of Felix and Bambi’s marriage, the story of Felix and Julie, Julie’s sister and the story of each of his daughters and how each is connected with Felix and with Julie and how in the end, we are ultimately responsible for our own actions and cannot try and take the blame, or hide, what someone else has done.  Lippman slowly teases the truth out as she untangles over fifty years of lies and deception.  Strong characterization, especially the women, add another layer to the already rich narrative which is so much more than a traditional mystery.