The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth

I absolutely loved (!) Sally Hepworth’s first novel, The Mother in Law, so I suspected that I would enjoy reading her second novel, The Good Sister. Holy cow – not only did I enjoy it, I thought it was better than the first! Well done Ms. Hepworth!

We are first introduced to Fern and Rose and it becomes apparent that Fern is somewhere “on the spectrum.” I add quotations because it’s never stated but implied. She leads a very simple life, works very quietly in the library, avoids bright lights, crowds and loud noises and this is before COVID so, you know, she’s a little different. Hmmm, she also sounds a LOT like me. Her sister Rose, on the other hand, is presented as the very responsible twin. We’re not to trust Fern, of course, because of her issues and Rose has to do so much to care for Fern. Their life has been difficult, their mother was, well, also difficult so the two of them are very co-dependent. Rose is unable to have children and Fern gets the bright idea to have a child for Rose if she only can find a sperm donor who will agree. Little did the two sisters realize that Ferns decision to have a baby would turn their lives upside down!

Oh gosh, so many innuendoes, so many twists and subtle hints and still I wasn’t sure until the end how this one was going to turn out! I truly loved this one think you will as well. It’s domestic noir at its finest!! Set to be published in 2021, this is one you will want put on your TBR now.

Little Threats by Emily Schultz

In the summer of 1993, twin sisters Kennedy and Carter Wynn are embracing the grunge era and testing every limit in their privileged Richmond suburb. But Kennedy’s teenage rebellion goes too far when, after a night of partying in the woods, her best friend, Haley, is murdered, and Kennedy is sent away for her murder…

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I read the opening pages of Little Threats during the “lock down” of the virus in April thinking that I would pick it up again later in the summer. Nooooooo, from the very first lines of this book I was hooked! The story is so intriguing – twins, a third girl added to the duo who wants to be one of them so badly, bad boys, sex and drugs and seriously messed up parental units! There was no way I could put down this book!

Carter and Kennedy, twins, were teenagers rebelling against their parents’ wealth and control. In the summer of ’93, they were testing the limits by running free and wild, shoplifting items they clearly didn’t need and hanging with a crowd that introduced them to drugs and an element of society that was far different from their own. On July 4th, after a bad acid trip, Hayley – the friend – is found dead in the woods between the wealthy/poor neighborhoods. Kennedy has no memory of the night but circumstantial evidence points to her – along with a desire to “stick it to the rich kid.” Now, fifteen years later, she is out of prison and along with old memories comes someone seeking revenge and and another who wants the truth.

The story is told from multiple points of view, including writing assignments that were given to Kennedy while in prison. The overlapping, often contradictory perspectives allow the reader to understand how confusing the summer really was for all involved and how incredibly out of control the situation became. As these same stories begin to converge with one another, the red herrings disappear and the shocking truth is revealed. Although I suspected who the murderer might have been, there were so many “what about them” or “could it have been…” thoughts along the way that I still was utterly shocked by the very satisfying conclusion to this riveting and well told story. While I missed Emily Schultz’ debut book, you can bet it is on my shelf now and I highly recommend Little Threats to you for your reading list this autumn!

Happy Pub Day to #TheVacation by T.M. Logan

It’s publication day for one of my favorite suspense/thrillers of the summer: The Vacation!

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Four best friends have planned a dream vacation in a semi-secluded beach house. Their families are joining them for a week of fun, food and relaxation. However, these four gals are bringing a LOT of baggage with them including suspicions, old rivalries and jealousy and that does not even touch the problems their families have packed away. There are so many secrets, so many lies, so much drama so that when one of them is found dead it isn’t even a surprise. The surprise is who it is and who did it – and why!!

I love Logan’s writing, the way he brings each and every character to life through vivid descriptions. The atmospheric prose puts you, the reader, onto the beach, on the edge of the cliff with each of the characters themselves. It’s marvelous. But what I love most is his ability to keep you guessing and in the dark until the very end of the book. You may think you know who but the why is always a surprise – or vice-versa. The Vacation is a perfect summer read and a fabulous suspenseful book. I highly recommend it!

Thanks to #Netgalley, the author and #Stmartinspress for my copy of #TheVacation

The House of Deep Water by Jeni McFarland

The House of Deep Water is a slow churning, atmospheric story of three women and the family that surrounds them as they come crashing together under one roof in the small midwestern town of River Bend.

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Jeni McFarland covers topics that many today are coping with: abuse – spousal and familial, racial tensions, small town poverty, and isolationism. She tells the story of these women deftly, with a stoicism that sets apart the midwestern people, gives them the appearance of being hard when, in fact, they are hurting like everyone else. The story flows slowly along much like the river does through the town but it never falters. The House of Deep Water is not a cozy, feel good women’s tale but one of reality about the hardships many women – and men – face in today’s society. If you are looking for a really good read that will keep your attention and make you more aware at the end than you were at the beginning, then this is the book for you this summer!

Blog Tour – Sunrise on Half Moon Bay by Robyn Carr

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I admit that I joined the Robyn Carr fan party late having only just started reading her this year, but I’m so glad that I discovered her writing at last! Like many, I started watching the Virgin River series and then went back to read the books. Now I’m branching out to her other collections and, wow, there are many! Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is Carr’s latest book published this month and it is fantastic. I stopped reading one of her other books so that I could read this one because I love the area of Half Moon Bay, California. The book was calling to me!

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Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is a tale of two sisters born twenty years apart. I thought my own kids, born five years apart, had a lot of years between them but twenty is an entire generation! Needless to say, the sisters had very little, if anything, in common. Addie, the younger sister, dropped out of university to care for their ailing parents while Justine, a successful lawyer, covered the expenses. It was the best arrangement for all concerned but now that their parents are gone, the future has changed dramatically for both sisters. With a future filled with uncertainty and change, the two will need to find a way to come together to solve both of their problems and, perhaps, to find love along the way.

I have found that Carr is a master at creating characters that the reader will care about and relate to. Both sisters, although light years away from my own lifestyle or concerns, still resonated with me. The challenges they were facing were those that many of us will face at some point in our lives. I also found the secondary characters to be a tad bit more interesting than the sisters themselves and I hope that in future books we will see them again.

Sunrise on Half Moon Bay is well written women’s fiction and perfect for Carr’s fans as well as new readers to this genre, especially those who are new to Carr after watching Virgin River.

Carr_Robyn_11_ColRobyn Carr is an award-winning, #1 New York Times bestselling author of more than sixty novels, including highly praised women’s fiction such as Four Friends and The View From Alameda Island and the critically acclaimed Virgin River, Thunder Point and Sullivan’s Crossing series. Virgin River is now a Netflix Original series. Robyn lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Visit her website at www.RobynCarr.com.

 

 

 

 

One Perfect Summer by Brenda Novak

Imagine swabbing your cheek for 23andme and discovering that you have two half sisters that you never knew existed. That is what happened to Serenity when she took a DNA test for research for book she was writing. One sister had grown up in foster care, one was the only daughter of a single mother and Serenity was part of an intact family with both parents and more siblings. The sisters aren’t sure how they fit together but decide to spend a few weeks together getting to know one another, hoping that during that time they will also discover something in their past that they have in common. Little did the sisters know that the weeks would turn into a summer that would change their lives forever.

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I’ve never read a book by Brenda Novak and the pace and style took time for me to get used to. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be “chick lit” or “light romance’ or exactly which genre I was reading until, finally, I stopped worrying about it and just enjoyed the story. The sisters were similar enough, despite their upbringing, to become good friends and an encouragement to one another through a very difficult series of revelations. There were hints of romance throughout which kept the story interesting and light. There also was the underlying mystery of how the three girls had the same father by such totally different mothers.

There were times I felt the book had some believability issues, such as a hospital sending home an amputee without follow up rehab, therapy or the ability to use cutlery in his “good hand.,” but despite these moments, the over-arcing storyline was enjoyable and would make for a nice summer read.

The Familiar Dark #AmyEngel @aengelwrites

Everyone is a suspect.

Everyone has something to hide.

And someone will answer for her daughter’s murder.

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It has been a while since I’ve written about Southern Noir and I’ve missed it especially after reading the perfect book for this collection, The Familiar Dark.

Eve Taggert was raised on the wrong side of the tracks – far, far away from those tracks, in a trailer with a drug using/selling mother. Things didn’t get a lot worse than Eve’s home life. Her family had the reputation of being the worst of the very worst. Now, as adults, Eve has moved into town and has a daughter whom she adores. Her brother is a respectable cop. Eve lives entirely for her daughter, Junie, and is completely devastated when Junie and her best friend is found murdered in the park. In any other town in America, Junie’s death would be considered reprehensible but in this dirty backwoods Ozark town, it’s just another day in America. That is why Eve has vowed to find the killer herself, even if it means reverting to her mother’s brand of vigilante justice.

Let me just write a few WOWs here! WOW! Oh WOW! Seriously WOW!! Because I am stubborn, I didn’t read the first book by Engel, The Roanoke Girls, which was all the buzz a few years ago. That’s because I’m really stupid!! Amy Engel is a southern author to be reckoned with whose flair for noir puts Nordic authors to shame! From the opening lines, which perfectly capture the last horrifying dying moments of the two girls, to the volatile and satisfying ending, there is not one moment of The Familiar Dark that is not brilliantly written. Every.Single.Word. The characters are raw, gritty, dirty, corrupt and corruptible. Even the richest in this town are grimy and you know it, you feel it. Those of us who ever have lived in the Ozarks know towns exactly like this one. We’ve known people like Eve and her family and Engel skillfully brings the town and these people off of the pages and into our reality with a flourish of her pen-stroke.

I’m not going to elaborate on the plot, I’m simply going to say that if you have not read The Familiar Dark yet, I have no idea what you are waiting for. Go. Get it right now and start reading it today and, if you haven’t read The Roanoke Girls, then make sure you get that one as well, because of course I had to go back and read that one too!

The Familiar Dark gets all the stars all the way up to the highest Ozark Mountaintop! WOW!

The Sea Glass Cottage @RaeAnneThayne Harlequin Blog Tour

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I am so excited to be part of the Harlequin Blog Tour for The Sea Glass Cottage by RaeAnne Thayne. I’m a recent convert to Thayne’s books and I’m discovering how wonderful each and every one of them is.

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First let me say that this cover is stunning! The inviting feel that it evokes is exactly how I felt about the book. In fact, I loved the cover so much that I’m in the process of landscaping my back walkway to look just like this one! 🙂

If you are a fan of Thayne, then you will be familiar with some of the characters and certainly the community of Cape Sanctuary. Here we find Olivia, a serious and successful programmer who moved away from Cape Sanctuary years before. Her past there holds tragedy and painful memories but when her mother is hospitalized, she drops everything and rushes home to care for her mother. Here Olivia will encounter her past, reunite with her best friend and cope with her some-what obnoxious niece, the daughter of her sister whose life and death were tragic. Throughout the book we discover secrets held by Olivia, her mother, niece and even her sister. The Sea Glass Cottage is a book about healing, understanding, and forgiveness, as well as recognizing the strengths each of us hold within ourselves. The book, the story and the characters are beautifully written, engaging and entrancing from beginning to its satisfying conclusion. It is a story you will not want to miss. Yes, it is part of a series but, as someone who hasn’t read the rest of this series, I can assure you that it works very well as a stand-alone.

The Sea Glass Cottage was published earlier in March, 2020 and can be found at any of the links listed below.

Publisher: HQN Books

Buy Links: 

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

iBooks

Kobo

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New York Times bestselling author RaeAnne Thayne finds inspiration in the beautiful northern Utah mountains where she lives with her family. Her books have won numerous honors, including six RITA Award nominations from Romance Writers of America and Career Achievement and Romance Pioneer awards from RT Book Reviews. She loves to hear from readers and can be reached through her website at www.raeannethayne.com.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @RaeAnneThayne

Facebook: AuthorRaeAnneThayne

Instagram: @RaeAnneThayne

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/116118.RaeAnne_Thayne

Thank you to Samantha and Harlequin for my copy of this beautiful story!

 

Recent Reads and Rapid Reviews: Watch Over Me/ The Prized Girl/How Quickly She Disappears

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For various reasons, I’ve struggled with writing reviews for these three books. I enjoyed reading each of them but I felt as though I was saying the same thing over and over again. Rather than be redundant, I decided to go with shorter reviews for them. That doesn’t negate the fact that I truly did like all three and I hope you will as well.

THE PRIZED GIRL by Amy K Green

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Told from two distinct points of view, The Prized Girl is a slow burning mystery revolving around a murdered former beauty queen, Jenny, and her older sister’s quest for finding the truth. When Jenny is murdered, the police quickly arrest a developmentally challenged man who was obsessed with Jenny. Virginia, the sister, thinks there is more to the murder and begins seeking answers. The story is told in such a way that Jenny is reliving the events leading up to her death  while Virginia is dealing with past demons, lies and suspicions that not all of what she thought of as the truth was actually true.

This is a debut for the author, Amy K Green, and I think she did an incredible job with her story telling. The writing was suspenseful, fluid and the characters were very realistic and believable. My only concern was that I felt as though I had “been there, done that” with the story line itself. In a genre that is saturated, it is difficult to be unique and, while this was a very good, interesting read, it offered nothing new to the genre. If you like crime fiction, I think you would like The Prized Girl. Just don’t set your expectations too high.

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

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Set in the early 1940s in a sparsely populated area of Alaska, How Quickly She Disappears is an atmospheric, suspenseful tale that is dark, gritty and psychologically taut.

Twenty years ago, Elizabeth’s sister disappeared. It changed Elizabeth’s life irreparably. Not a day passes when she doesn’t think about Jacqueline and wonder if she is still alive and, if so, where she might be. Living in a remote area of Alaska, Elizabeth struggles with her loveless marriage and extremely brilliant daughter who she loves more than life itself and who reminds her of Jacqueline. When I strange man suddenly appears in their village, Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down when the man murders her friend and then, when in custody, proclaims that he knows where Jacqueline is. However, in return for the information, Elizabeth must do three things for this killer. How far is she willing to go to find answers?

Ironically enough, my family actually has had someone vanish into thin air. While she was no one’s favorite person, except her daughter’s, her disappearance left an unusual hole in the lives of all those who knew her. From that perspective I completely understood what Elizabeth have been feeling when this monster told her he had information about her sister. However, the plausibility of the remainder of the plot was filled with too many holes and inconsistencies.

How Quickly She Disappears was, at once, one of the best atmospheric books I’ve read in a long time and also one of the most unbelievable. This is where I have struggled with reviewing the book. I both loved it and disliked it. I wanted more than it was offering, while I also relished the beauty of the prose. I think this is a book that readers will either love or hate. Into which category will you fall?

Watch Over Me by Jane Renshaw

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Watch Over Me was a complete surprise. I was expecting a simple crime story and what I got instead was a dark, twisty, psychological thriller. Yes, I know, it says psychological thriller right there on the cover but we know that what we readers think of a “thriller” is not always what publisher’s consider “thrilling.” Let me tell you, Watch Over me was suspenseful, edgy, creepy and, yes, thrilling!

A child, Beckie, is being torn between families. One is educated and wealthy and desperately searching for a child they can love and call their own. The other is, well, there aren’t a lot of kind descriptors for this family. They are poverty stricken, unhealthy, morally bankrupt and Beckie’s mother is in jail for murder. It doesn’t sound like the ideal situation, does it? The government didn’t think so and they removed Beckie from the squalor and “gave” her to Flora, a mother with so much love to give. However, Beckie’s family loved her. Her grandmother, a foul-mouthed obese woman, really did love Beckie. So, when is it okay to take a child from one family and give it to another. That is the question at the heart of this book as Beckie’s biological family goes to amazing lengths to get Beckie back. Their actions had me wondering if they were truly as ignorant as they appeared.

BUT – and that is a huge but right there – BUT, the ending and the twist is what will leave you sitting in your seat with your mouth hanging open. I generally do not like twists at the end and only appreciate them when they are amazing. Let me tell you, IT IS. I highly recommend Watch Over Me which grip you tight from start to the startling conclusion.

(My thanks to Netgalley and Edelweiss for my copies of these three interesting reads)

 

#LongBrightRiver by Liz Moore

Let me begin by saying that I have no doubt that Long Bright River will end up in my Top Ten Favorite Books for 2020. It really is that good.

Having said that, you may notice that I’m day late and always a dollar short with this review. I KNEW I had read the book. I thought I had written my review but I couldn’t find either one any where. After reading the review from Two Sisters Lost in a Coulee (review here) I was even more confused! I searched and searched and looked and looked and TA DA!!!!!! I didn’t “download” the book! The publisher was so incredibly kind enough to send me a copy (yes, I know this is the sign of hoarding) But what about my review!?!  After a lot of technical geek talk with WP, I discovered that I have about 20 reviews that got “backlogged” over the holidays and never, ever got published. It happened when I switched themes. So, sadly, now I have to swamp you with reviews BUT I have found the missing ones that were driving me crazy. Okay…. back to this fabulous book!!!!

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Long Bright River is women’s fiction disguised as a thriller or the other way around but really it is just an amazingly well written novel about two sisters who have had one helluva a hard life. Told in alternating time lines, we learn about the difficult lives of Mickey and Kacey whose parents were addicts and who died when the girls were young. Forced to live with a grandmother who made it pointedly clear that she resented having to raise them (and we wonder how the parents turned out bad, right?) the girls soon find themselves in trouble. However, Mickey soon joins an after school program and later becomes a cop while Kacey gets in with the wrong crowd and becomes a sex worker. When these workers begin to go missing and later are found dead, Mickey’s boss at the precinct really doesn’t care. After all, they’re just sex workers. But when Kacey also goes missing, Mickey decides to find out what is going on and what has happened to her sister.

That summary in no way does justice to this magnificent book. It was heartbreaking to read about their lives and it would have been easier if I thought for one minute that it was exaggerated, but I know better. This is the reality of far too many people all across the US. This is a story that, yes, is a thriller and will keep you in suspense until the end. But even more so, it is the story of dysfunctional families, families who need help and simply are not getting it. Children who need help and are falling through the proverbial cracks. This is a powerful story, a gripping wonderful, perfect for today’s society novel that truly is a 2020 must read!

Thank you to @LizMooreBooks and @RiverheadBooks for my copy of this incredible novel!