A Stranger on the Beach #MicheleCampbell

A perfect summer read just hit the shelves today and it is one that you will not want to miss: A Stranger on the Beach by Michele Campbell. 41150430Caroline literally has it all: a marvelous husband, a beautiful daughter and an amazing new beach house that has been transformed for exquisite entertaining, lavish parties and relaxing vacations on the beach. She also has a stranger who is very interested in her house. At first she is intrigued with him, when he shows up at her party as a bartender she is concerned by him, but when her life begins to disintegrate she turns to the stranger for comfort. But what if the stranger wants more?

Admittedly, I love Campbell’s writing and I knew going into this book that I was going to enjoy it – which I thoroughly did. Campbell’s characters also are layered, multi-dimensional versions of who you think they might be which enables her to keep you guessing throughout the story. Her plot, particularly in A Stranger on the Beach, never is quite you suspect it of being and just when you think you have the entire mystery solved, you discover that you were completely wrong. I’m not fan of plot twists for the sake of surprising the readers and that is not what Campbell does. She literally takes the reader into areas which the reader never thought to go and that makes her books very enjoyable and satisfying.

A Stranger on the Beach is not only a good summer read, it is a great mystery, thriller and suspense which I highly recommend.

Thank you to #Netgalley, @StMartinsPress, and @MicheleCampbell for my copy of @AStrangerOnTheBeach

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Two for Thursday? The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson

I know, I know… it’s supposed to be Two for Tuesday but since I’m so behind I have to keep going with these reviews and I definitely didn’t want to forget this one by one of my favorite authors: the final installment in the Collector Series by Dot Hutchison.

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We were first introduced to this series with The Butterfly Garden, a book that horrified and traumatized many readers several years ago. It continued with The Roses of May and last years bestseller, The Summer Children. (You can read my review of that book HERE) Each book has built on the development of the team members who originally found girls in the Butterfly Garden and their work within a special unit of the FBI. Now a child has been abducted, their specialty, but the case is eerily similar to kidnapping of Eddison’s sister years earlier. As the team members deal with their own haunting demons from past cases, they also must search through clues to see how and why this case may be linked to the cold cases from old before it is too late to save the missing child.

Let me state up front that absolutely is not a “stand alone” book. I read The Summer Children last year and only slightly fell through the cracks a few times. After that, I promptly went back and read the first two books in the series. All of these books are top notch, horrifyingly marvelous thrillers. This one, however, is the end of the story. For those of us invested in these characters it is a book that ties up all of the loose ends, answers questions from the past and allows us and the author to move on to new topics. It is a must -read for followers of Hutchison’s work, but I don’t recommend starting here. I do, however, recommend reading every single one of the books in the series. They are absolutely fantastic! Hutchison is a masterful storyteller whose tales you will not want to miss.

I’ll Never Tell – the perfect summer read

I’ve never read a book by Catherine McKenzie but have heard so many great things about her books that I wanted to try one to see what I was missing. Well, apparently I’ve been missing a lot. I’ll Never Tell was the perfect summer read for me: not too serious, super quick, a nice mystery and interestingly quirky characters. What more could a reader ask for in a summer book?40201006._SY475_.jpg

The MacAllister siblings grew up at Camp Macaw, the typical summer camp with cabins that surround a lake, stories re-told over and over, sports, games and art workshops. What wasn’t typical was the summer that Amanda, a popular counselor and friend of the siblings, washed ashore dead in a rowboat. The police never found the killer. When the siblings’ parents die and the will is read, they discover that the only way they will inherit the camp is to solve the mystery of Amanda’s death. However, what once was an unsolvable murder mystery is now shrouded in closely guarded family secrets as well. None of these siblings is who they appear to be.

I’ve come to love domestic noir especially when it is done well and I’ll Never Tell does, in fact, handle this genre very well. There are six points of view – yes six – which could get muddled and confusing but McKenzie deftly moves back and forth between the chapters and personalities so that never once does the reader lose focus on who is who. The book also jumps back in time through Amanda’s point of view but this also adds to the dimension of the story rather than detracts. We are able to put into perspective the tales that the siblings are weaving from the actual facts as they happened. This does not, however, give the reader a clear cut view of the actual killer. There are so many twists and possibilities that I was clueless until the very end.  Literally, it could have been any of them, or all.

I’ll Never Tell is a well written “whodunnit” and a great mystery, perfect for any season but even better for summer because of its setting. I highly recommend it and will be pursuing other McKenzie books for myself.

Thanks to #Netgalley, #CatherineMcKenzie @CEMcKenzie1 and #LakeUnionPublishing for my copy of this great read.

Southern Smoke by Matthew Register

One thing Southerners learn from the time they can walk is how to grill. Sunday dinners, birthdays, holidays all revolve around bbq hamburgers, cookouts, ribs, and good ‘ole fashioned pulled pork. Of course that also has to include all of the trimmings – the side and the marvelous desserts. Southern Smoke by Matthew Register, is compilation of some of the very best recipes from all across the south because each region has its own set of flavors and delicacies. As someone who has moved north, this book was a godsend. I thought that creole cooking would always be available to me, or the flavor of Memphis style bar-b-que sauce but sadly I was mistaken. Southern Smoke has helped me re-created some of the flavors I have been missing for the past decade.

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Whether you are new to grilling or bbq or a pro looking for new ideas, I highly recommend Southern Smoke.

Athena’s Choice #AdamBoostrom

The year is 2099 and all of the men are gone…

In a near future world, a Y-virus has killed all of the men and a smattering of women. In the aftermath, women have built what appears to be a utopian society. Through scientific breakthroughs and frozen sperm replication, they are still procreating, have quite nearly eliminated maternal and fetal deaths and have found cures for nearly all diseases. The female population discovered that, when using technology for good rather than for empire building and war, there were amazing discoveries just waiting to be had – and so they did create them. It is a world that is, quite literally, at our fingertips today except, well, you know. Men. And war.

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Athena is a 19 year old young woman who is at the heart of a mystery. There are some women who wish to bring back men – their sons, brothers and husbands – not literally, of course, they just miss the male presence. These women have initiated the Lazarus Project but someone has “stolen” the genome and for a mysterious reason to be explained throughout the book, Athena is at its core.

This is a bit more YA, perhaps because of Athena’s age and narration, but never the less, I found the story completely captivating. The Science Fiction portion of the story was mesmerizing and, upon further research, I discovered that nearly everything mentioned in the book, we are on the cusp of having – if only funds weren’t diverted elsewhere, namely WAR. This is very much (!) a book about feminism. At my age, through my experiences, as an American living with a president who is gunning for yet another needless war, who has humans trapped in a concentration camp in hellish conditions where children are dying, who believes that Twitter rants are more important that dealing with mass flooding in one-third of our country, where newborn and maternal deaths are on the rise for the first time in over 100 years… I’m not so sure that living in a female utopia would be such a bad thing. Every war, every disease, every horrific thing in our world’s history has been the result of male ego. So I found it completely enjoyable to read a book where there was none of this. None.

I loved that the book was enriched with so many different fonts and inserts. Throughout there were advertisements for various products that Athena was seeing or thinking about purchasing. It was a method to introduce the world building without going through the entire world building introduction in the beginning. I appreciated this because I often do not read sci-fi or fantasy because the world building part is quite boring for me. There also were throw-backs to Athena’s school work and, if you paid attention to it, you were being given clues to how the book would end. I suspect that some of the other reviewers skimmed over these and missed key parts of the story. They were hidden gems.

In the end, we are left with Athena’s Choice. Men or No Men or ….. you’ll have to read the book to know the other choices. There is no answer in the book. The choice is one for us all to think about. I know what my choice would be, without any doubt at all!

Winner of the 2019 National Indie Excellence Award for Visionary Fiction.
Winner of the 2019 Maxy Award for Science Fiction.
Finalist for the 2019 NIEA for Science Fiction.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough! Thank you to #Netgally and especially to the author, Adam Boostrom, for such a remarkable, thought-provoking, visionary tale!

The Wedding Planner by Eve Devon

Gloria, a rather sassy and bold gal with a habit of rubbing people the wrong way is determined to change her ways and get more people to like her, well… if not like her then at least not deliberately avoid her. So when her best friend asks her to help plan her wedding, Gloria immediately agrees. The drawback is her co-planner, Seth. Gloria and Seth create a tension while planning the wedding and it is all about to boil over. But is that tension anger or simmering romantic heat?

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The Wedding Planner is a light, enjoyable Rom-Com that is perfect for a summer read by the pool. While it is the third in a series of four books, the author – Eve Devon – has given us a handy character guide at the beginning so that we will know who is who, which is good because there are a lot of characters introduced and the story is told from multiple points of view.

Normally this is exactly the type of book that I enjoy as a palate cleanser between deep, dark, serious reads. However, something about the characters didn’t quite resonate with me. Even now I’m unsure if it was their personality or if it was the feeling of “been there, done that” once too often but I found myself doing quite a bit of skimming through this one and far too often for this to be a book that I would recommend to you. That said, if you really like this type of book, then maybe you can and will like these characters. It simply wasn’t for me.

They Call Me The Crazy Cat Lady @AmyMiller

Personal Note: I’m completely unsure who is still out there reading this but, for those who are, over the next week or so I’m going to be uploading reviews from all of the books that I listened to while I was “out.” I know it will be an overload and I apologize but I feel so badly for the authors and publishers who I’ve let down by not being able to post so please bear with me. Some of these books I realize most of you have already read but, hopefully, there will be some that still are new to you.

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When the kids were growing up we somehow manage to acquire more than our fair share of cats. Okay, truth be told, we had about 13 or more living in or around the house. We lived at the top of a mountain at the end of gravel road and it appeared to be the favorite dumping ground for those nefarious people who cruelly dumped cats. The kitties found a home with us and we all lived happily ever after – except my husband who thought we were crazy. I understand the “crazy cat lady” persona better than most and I wear the label proudly.

I assumed that this book by Amy Miller would be nothing more than good comedy or, at best, a Rom-Com. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They Call Me The Crazy Lady snuck up on me and grabbed me and did not let me go. It is an emotional, uplifting, hopeful book about letting go of the past, making changes and moving forward. I laughed, I cried and I was angry at times but in the end I was incredibly happy with the way everything worked out for everyone. The story is beautifully written, the characters charmingly created, and the cats wonderfully portrayed. I loved every single line of this tale. The book is gender neutral even though the word “lady” is in the title, it’s a delight for both sexes and all ages. I also found it to be a bit genre defying and would simply say that it’s well-done fiction. I highly recommend it!