Friday, December 30, 2016

Coming in February...

A debut thriller that will keep you guessing, a new, long-awaited book by Christina Baker Kline (The Orphan Train), the second book in Kelley Armstrong's new series about an off-the-grid town and so much more for the shortest month of the year!

What You Don’t Know by Joann Chaney
Seven years after a serial killer is caught, the detective who arrested him is working in cold cases, the journalist who told his story is selling cosmetics at the mall, and his wife is trying to hide in plain sight.  Then the murders begin again.  Is Jacky Severs manipulating someone on the outside from death row or does someone need to get Jacky’s crimes back in the spotlight in order to regain their life?  Told from three points of view along with an omniscient narrative observing the action from time to time, the unique structure of this novel helps propel the plot forward and keep tension high in this debut psychological thriller.

A Darkness Absolute by Kelley Armstrong 
Homicide detective Casey Duncan moved to the off-the-grid town of Rockton looking for safe haven from her past, but instead found murder.  Starting a new job in a new town, especially one as secretive as Rockton, is hard enough, but Casey has also started a relationship with her boss Dalton, the Sheriff of Rockton, who has his own set of secrets from his past.  As the winter comes to the Yukon, Casey finds herself, with Will, a sheriff’s deputy, searching for a runner in the woods outside of Rockton.  Stranded in a blizzard, they seek shelter in a cave system where they find a woman who disappeared from Rockton over a year ago and was presumed dead.  After Nicole is safely back in Rockton, Casey and Will find the bodies of two other women missing from Rockton in the cave system.  They still have a resident missing, are being stalked by a man in a snowmobile suit and need to find who is kidnapping the women of Rockton before another goes missing.  Not sure if it is a resident or someone from the groups of outliers who live in the woods and caves, further off the grid, if that is possible, than the residents of Rockton.  Once again, Casey and the people of Rockton pull readers into their world;  well-developed characters, a twisty plot and a strange setting will quickly pull readers into Casey’s world, wanting to stay as long as Rockton will have them. 

A Piece of the World by Christina Baker Kline 
This vividly rendered novel, by the best-selling author of The Orphan Train, tells the story of Andrew Wyeth and his muse for the painting Christina's World, Christina Olson.  Christina lives in her family's legacy, a home off the coast of Maine and has a debilitating disease that leaves her unable to walk.   Stubbornly, sometimes to her detriment, Christina pulls herself through life and it is only through Wyeth's painting is she able to see how others see her and how she presents herself to others.  The deceptively simple prose imbues so much detail the reader is quickly transported to early 20th century Maine were the story of Christina, her ancestors and her legacy is revealed.

The Young Widower’s Handbook by Tom McAllister
Hunter Cady is almost thirty but in many ways feels as if he’s sometimes still in high school and is startled and amazed when he meets Kaitlyn who is not only smart, beautiful, and funny but also loves Hunter to distraction.  The two marry and are planning to start a family when the unthinkable happens: Kaitlyn dies unexpectedly, and to compound the tragedy, she dies of an ectopic pregnancy.  Hunter doesn’t have the skill set to handle this tragedy and cannot deal with Kaitlyn’s family who are still very attached to her and feel they have a claim on her ashes.  Hunter feels they are “his” and puts them in his car and sets off on a cross country trip without much of a plan.  Along the way he grieves, and grows up so that his return to home and rather jarring reentry into his world that has been turned around finds him better able to cope with Kaitlyn’s death and the new life he must forge for himself.

                                      The Mother’s Promise by Sally Hepworth 
Alice and her daughter Zoe have created a tight family unit, Zoe, who has a severe anxiety disorder, relying heavily on her mother for shelter and protection until Alice is diagnosed with an aggressive cancer.  With no family to speak of, her parents are dead, her brother and alcoholic, Zoe’s father never acknowledged, Alice does not know where to turn for help and for assistance in caring for fifteen-year-old Zoe during her treatment and possibly longer term if the inevitable and yet unthinkable occurs.  Alice, and in turn Zoe, find help from two unexpected women, neither of whom have been in Alice’s or Zoe’s lives before yet become the most important part of their present and possibly future.  As Alice and Zoe each come to their own terms with Alice’s disease and prognosis and with Zoe’s need to gain some confidence and coping skills for her own disorder, they form an unusual partnership with Kate and Sonja and in the process, Kate and Sonja face their own demons, revealing secrets that have the potential to change everything for everyone, not only in a good way, but perhaps in a negative way as well.  Filled with love, heart, and the willingness to go to the ends of the earth for those we love and hold dearest, there is not one character in this book left unchanged by the courage show by Alice and Zoe as they face the hardest thing they must ever learn to do: say goodbye all the while keeping faith that love will abide.

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan
As World War II comes to England, more and more young men are being called up, vanishing from the small villages, fighting in the war; Chilbury is no exception.  When the last of the men are called up, the Vicar declares the choir will be disbanded due to the lack of male voices; the women of the village band together declaring if ever there is a time for uplifting, spiritual music, the time is now, and form their own choir.  Told from the points of view of five choir members, through their letters and journals, a portrait of a village emerges, with romance, heartbreak, and all the foibles of human nature as a young girl pines for her childhood crush, her older sister becomes involved with a man who is not who he seems; a mother watches her friend bury a son and worries for her own son, and a mid-wife sees the chance to earn some illicit extra money, hoping that it will mend fences with her sister.  This debut will charm and warm the soul as endearing characters are introduced intrepid while they keep the home fires burning and hope alive.   

I See You by Clare Mackintosh
Commuting home on the London tubes one evening, Zoe is startled to see her face in a classified ad for a dating service called  Her live-in boyfriend Simon and her grown children Justin and Katie convince Zoe it is just a coincidence and only someone who looks like her.  Day after day, the advert changes and Zoe realizes the women in the pictures are victims of crimes ranging from petty theft to murder.  Finding someone to investigate is difficult, as when Zoe brings her concerns to the police they chalk it up to coincidence; Zoe chases down the advert’s purpose and finds a cop who will listen to her, but the closer Zoe gets to the truth, she realizes that the person behind this evil ad is closer to her than she realized.  This taut thriller has one surprise after another until at last, it seems all has been uncovered…or has it? A shocking last revelation will have readers turning back to see what clues were missed.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Just Jennifer

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell

After twenty-four thrillers featuring medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta and her colleague investigator Pete Marino Patricia Cornwell has regained her stride as she creates a story that on the surface appears chaotic and disorganized, but all leads back to Kay’s perpetual nemesis Carrie Gretchen who will not be happy until she bests, perhaps kills, Kay.  As the September heat builds to a crescendo in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Kay is walking to meet her husband, FBI profiler Benton, using the time to wrestle with the impending visit of her sister Dorothy with whom Kay has a difficult relationship in spite of having a mother-like relationship with Dorothy’s daughter Lucy who Kay often raised as her own.  While walking through Harvard Yard, Kay encounters a young woman on a bicycle, a young woman she ran into earlier when purchasing theater tickets.  Kay and Benton are used to their dinners being interrupted by the call of business, but even so it is odd to both of them when they each receive calls.  Kay’s is a summons to a body found along the path in Harvard Yard, found by pre-teen twins.  To her surprise, it is the young woman she saw earlier, and even more so, it appears the woman was struck by lightning, even though there has not been a drop of rain or a cloud in the sky for days.  Precisely timed messages that would mean nothing to most people but have no pattern or order to them, add to Kay’s chaos theory and brings the plot back to Kay and her family and those who will stop at nothing to bring them harm.

Just Jennifer

A Torch Kept Lit by William F. Buckley

Conservative commentator, founder of the National Review and talk show host of Firing Line, William F. Buckley was above all a keen, often wry, observer, even judge, of people.  In this collection of obituaries and eulogies (edited by Fox News’s Washington correspondent James Rosen) Buckley recaps and recounts lives of people, and the effect they had on others and others’ reactions to them, in encapsulated essays, sometimes only half a page.  Divided into six sections, Presidents, Family, Arts and Letters, Generals, Spies, and Statesmen, Friends, and Nemeses, no one is spared.  Entries range from the [mostly] obscure, Rosalyn Tureck, Buckley’s favorite performer, a classical pianist and harpsichordist, to some of the most famous deceased, John Lennon and Princess Diana.  The introduction essays to each piece is as keenly observed as the eulogies themselves.  One has to wonder what eulogy or obituary of himself Buckley would have chosen for this collection.

FTC Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Coming in January...

It's not too early to start your New Year's reading list. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

This is Not Over by Holly Brown

Dawn and her husband stay at gorgeous upscale rental on the California coast and live the high life for a weekend.  When Dawn returns home, she is shocked to learn that Miranda, the home owner, intends not to return the full deposit as the sheets were, in Miranda’s opinion, ruined with a gray like stain in the center of them.  Now through threatening e-mails and bad reviews on the two women begin cyberbullying, each trying to teach the other a lesson.  Both women are stubborn and determined to hold their ground but as the story unfolds, told in alternating points of view, it becomes clear that neither woman is as stable as they think they are and each has secrets they are keeping, secrets that hold them back from uncovering the truth of what really occurred during that weekend.  But in the end, it is this ferociousness and stubbornness that will save both women from themselves and from each other.  A quick read that sometimes gets bogged down in repetition, but that has an ending worth waiting for even if neither woman is ever redeemed in the reader’s eyes.

The Sleepwalker by Chris Bohjalian 

Twenty-one-year-old Lianna Ahlberg’s world is turned on end when her mother Annalee disappears one night, sleepwalking, Lianna fears.  Annalee suffered terribly from sleepwalking, causing her family great concern over the years, Lianna even had to pull her off a bridge railing one night while Annalee was posing, naked, as one of the decorative angels.  As long as her husband, Warren, was in bed with her, Annalee didn’t seem to have a problem, but after years of treatment and no nocturnal wonderings, he decides it is safe to leave their Vermont home and attend a conference in Iowa for a short time.  Lianna’s twelve-year-old sister Paige is understandably upset by her mother’s disappearance, almost fierce in her quest to find her while Lianna is, by contrast, almost preternaturally calm.  A piece of Annalee’s nightshirt caught on a branch by the river seems to confirm everyone’s worst fears though Annalee had yet to be found.  Gavin Rikert, from the state police, has taken a special interest in the case, though Lianna cannot figure out why, and eventually, he develops a special interest in Lianna.  Lianna, deciding not to return for the fall semester of her senior year in college, attempts to hold the family together while at the same time continuing the search for Annalee, a search that takes her into places in her parents’ marriage a daughter shouldn’t have to go, a search that will lead her to places she never thought she’s have to go, places from which she can never return. 

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney
After filling out a detailed and unusually intense, probing application, Jane scores an ultra-modern, high-tech London apartment that seem to anticipate all her needs…but does it know her too well?  Once in the apartment, Jane learns that the previous occupant, Emma, died in the apartment under perhaps, mysterious circumstances.  Jane embarks on a dangerous cat and mouse game with her landlord but who is the aggressor and who is the pretty?  A tale of obsession that switches between Jane and Emma’s stories, weaving them together irrevocably in this tale of obsessions with twists and turns that don’t stop until after the final page is turned.

My Husband’s Wife by Jane Corry 

Lily, a young lawyer, has married Ed an artist, and plans to make a fresh start at life, moving on from family secrets and guilt she has been carrying since she was a teenager.  An appeal case, Lily’s first murder case, her firm has taken on changes everything.  When Lily meets the clever, smart Joe who has been convicted of killing his girlfriend, she is drawn into a dangerous cat and mouse game that will change her life for years in unforeseen ways.  At the same time, there is a nine-year-old girl living in Lily and Ed’s building who lives with her single mother who moved from Italy to London.  Carla has more secrets than any nine-year-old should have, but has also learned that knowledge is power and has learned to manipulate people to get whatever she wants.  Sixteen years later, Lily and Ed have an autistic son and Ed’s art has finally taken off, including some portraits he did of Carla when she was a child.  Now Carla returns with an agenda, an agenda that can only end in one way, and one that reintroduces Joe into Lily’s life asking questions that Lily is not ready to answer, even to herself. 

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney
On New Year’s Eve 1984, 84-year-old Lillian Boxfish, once the highest paid advertising woman in America decides to take a walk from her Murray Hill apartment; through lower Manhattan, she meets new people, and revisits her life, making peace with her choices and with her future.  Heading out to get a pre-supper drink, Lillian has a final Negroni of 1984, finds she is too full from half a package of Oreo cookies to have supper at her usual restaurant; a restaurant she learns is going to be sold to the owner’s nephew in the new year.  Deciding to walk almost three miles to Delmonico’s where she and her ex-husband had their divorce dinner almost thirty years prior, Lillian takes the time to reflect on coming to Manhattan from Washington D.C.  in the 1920’s.  Her dry wit and delightful verse earned her a spot on R.H. Macy’s advertising team and quickly catapulted her to the top of her trade.  Lillian eschewed marriage and motherhood and was a surprised as anyone when she fell head over heels in love with a seventh floor carpet salesman Max and had to leave her job almost a decade later, pregnant with their only child, Gian.  Lillian recalls her books on “lunch time” poetry that were published in the 1930’s and muses on the state of the city mid-1980’s.  Along her walk, Lillian encounters kind people giving her hope that the city will get better as it always has in the past.  Alternating chapters recount Lillian’s present day journey and her journey in life, including a difficult time mid-century when she sunk into a deep depression that required intensive treatment, but Lillian came through with the grace and aplomb that served her well throughout her life, the same grace and aplomb she exhibits on her ten-mile-walk through Manhattan on a chilly evening.  Lillian Boxfish is an engaging heroine, someone to delight in and yearn to be like.  Her candid reflections of the growth of a city and the snapshot view of her present day city bring Manhattan to life the way many of the most beloved writers of the twentieth-century did, a remarkable feat for Kathleen Rooney a resident of Chicago.  Rooney, who is a young writer, also portrays an elderly woman reflecting on her life with the same acuity she portrays the hopes and dreams of a young woman of Lillian’s memory.  Lillian Boxfish is indefatigable in not only her instance on making this New Year’s Eve journey on her terms, but in the way she lived her life---so far---on her terms.

Home Sweet Home by April Smith 

Living in New York City during the 1950’s, Calvin Kusek, a World War II pilot hero and an attorney, and his wife Betsy, a nurse, should be at the top of their game.  They met after Betsy was arrested in a department store protest supporting unionization and a brief stint as a member of the Communist Party.  Eager to escape all the trappings  they fear for their family, they decide to move across the country to a small town in South Dakota where a war buddy of Cal’s offers the two a chance to start over and even try their hands at cattle ranching.  Hard work though it is, Cal and Betsy, and their daughter Jo and son Lance, quickly fall in love with this new way of life; though they are ideologically different than their neighbors they are respected and fit comfortably into the community.  When a State Assembly seat becomes open, Cal runs for and easily wins three turns.  When his ambitions turn to the U.S. Senate, his friends and opponents become suspicious of him and Betsy finds the FBI investigating her and her activities as a young woman and a smear campaign begins, turning neighbor against neighbor and entire state against Cal and his family; a libel lawsuit vindicates the family but causes deep ruptures in their relationships, ruptures that don’t heal until one night thirty years later when Lance and his family are brutally murdered in their home.  A town now comes to Jo’s side, though she has been living in the Pacific Northwest for many years, supporting her and offering their assistance into finding out who committed such a heinous crime, even if it means opening up wounds that never really healed, but have stayed dormant, a series of events that not only reunites families but will preserve the land for generations to come. 
Calvin Kusek and his family move from 1950’s New York City to South Dakota where they embrace a new way of life, learning to fit in with their new neighbors in spite of their liberal tendencies.  Everything changes when Cal runs for public office and the family finds themselves under a cloud of suspicion, one that will tear their lives apart until many years later, a horrific event brings a daughter back to her home town and gives everyone a chance to heal and move forward.  For fans of Jane Smiley

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson
Kate Priddy agrees to swap her London apartment with a distant cousin, Corbin Dell in Boston hoping that the time away will help heal her neurotic tendencies after being kidnapped and held hostage by an ex-boyfriend.  Once in Boston, however, Kate is shocked to learn that Corbin’s next door has been murdered and that the police are interested in talking with Corbin.  Curiosity gets the better part of Kate, especially after she meets her neighbor across the courtyard who, though he didn’t know the murdered woman, seems to know an awful lot about her, including the fact that Corbin frequently visited her in spite of his not admitting to knowing her that well.  The more Kate learns about her cousin, the less she knows what is real and as a killer is slowly revealed she finds herself in a dangerous maze in which she’ll have to trust someone, but will she pick the person who can keep her alive?  Full of twists and turns, Peter Swanson once again plumbs the depth of human emotion keeping the tension high, even until the last page that may leave some readers wondering if Kate has made the right choice, the choice that will keep her alive. 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
When Louise kisses the man at the bar she has no idea he is her new boss David, her new married boss, nor does she have any idea that she and his beautiful wife Adele will become close friends, keeping their relationship a secret from David. As Louise observes David and Adele’s relationship from the point of view of first a secretary, then a friend, then a lover, she knows something isn’t quite right in the marriage but the more questions she asks the more things don’t seem right. A frightening tale of coming undone with an unforeseen, shocking twist at the end; it has been said before "You'll never see this ending coming" but never has it been more true than with this debut.