REVIEW: THE LAST HOUSE GUEST, BY MEGAN MIRANDA

 
Littleport, Maine, has always felt like two separate towns: an ideal vacation enclave for the wealthy, whose summer homes line the coastline; and a simple harbor community for the year-round residents whose livelihoods rely on service to the visitors.

Typically, fierce friendships never develop between a local and a summer girl—but that’s just what happens with visitor Sadie Loman and Littleport resident Avery Greer. Each summer for almost a decade, the girls are inseparable—until Sadie is found dead. While the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother, Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name, before the facts get twisted against her.

In The Last House Guest, we follow a story that takes us back and forth in time, from a fatal party in the summer of 2017 to the present. Each time the story circles forward, we learn more tidbits. As if we bring fresh eyes to the scene.

I liked watching Avery as she pieces things together, circling through events and clues like the detectives who know that “follow the money” will take us where we need to go.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out, we leaped to a final reveal that shone a bright light on the corruption in small town life. 5 stars.

***

TUESDAY SPARKS: EXCERPTING “THE MELODY LINGERS ON”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Books & a Beat.

Today’s featured book is from an author I’ve enjoyed for years.  The Melody Lingers On, by Mary Higgins Clark, is a headline-making finance scandal and a breathtaking tale of deception.

 

 

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Intro:  Thirty-year-old Elaine Marsha Harmon walked briskly from her apartment on East Thirty-Second Street in Manhattan to her job as an assistant interior decorator fifteen blocks away in the Flatiron Building at Twenty-Third Street and Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.  Her coat was warm but she had not worn gloves.  There was a distinct chill this early November morning.

She had twisted her long auburn hair and fastened it at the back of her head.  Now only wisps of it blew around her face.  Tall, like her father, and slender, like her mother, she had realized after graduating from college that the life of a teacher was not the way for her to go.  Instead, she enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology and after receiving a degree had been hired by Glady Harper, the doyenne of interior decorating among the wealthy and the socially ambitious.

***

Teaser:  Back at the table, he unfolded the Times first.  Then with dismay he read the headline on the right-hand side of the page.  “Parker Bennett’s Secretary Indicted as Co-conspirator.” (p. 77).

***

Synopsis:  As the sole assistant to a famous upscale interior designer, Lane Harmon is accustomed to visiting opulent homes. So her latest job at a modest New Jersey townhouse is unusual. Then she learns the home belongs to the wife of disgraced finance magnate Parker Bennett, who vanished two years earlier, along with the five billion dollar hedge fund he managed.

The debate over whether Bennett was suicidal or staged his disappearance still continues. Both his clients and the federal government want to trace the money and find him. But Lane is surprisingly moved by Mrs. Bennett’s steadfast faith in her husband’s innocence. Gradually, Lane is also drawn to the Bennetts’ son, Mark, who is equally determined to prove his father is not guilty. What she doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to the notorious family, the more her life—and that of her five-year-old daughter—is in jeopardy.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts grab you?  Would you keep reading?

***

TUESDAY SPARKS: EXCERPTING “DEATH AT BREAKFAST”

Books & fairytales - TUESDAY EXCERPTS

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Books & a Beat.

Today’s features is one of my newest downloads from a favorite author.  Death at Breakfast, by Beth Gutcheon, the first entry in a stylish and witty mystery series featuring a pair of unlikely investigators—a shrewd novel of manners with a dark heart of murder at its center, set in small-town New England.

 

 

 

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Intro:  Maggie Detweiler, new-minted woman of leisure and not at all sure she was going to like it, had no sense of impending tragedy as she posed in front of the broad stone veranda of the Oquossoc Mountain Inn that bright October morning.  She didn’t really know what made her say to Hope, “When your picture’s being taken, don’t you always wonder if it’s the one that will run with your obituary?”

“Well, that one won’t be,” Hope Babbin said, consigning the image to the digital trash can.  “Hold still and smile, will you?”

Maggie did.

***

Teaser:  Sophie and Ada were sitting in the great room, waiting.  They burst into tears as they heard, at last, the sound of the dog’s scrabbling toes on the slate floor of the hall.  As Colette rushed toward them they were rushing the other way, into the two women’s arms.  They shook and sobbed there. (50%).

***

Synopsis:  Indulging their pleasure in travel and new experiences, recently retired private school head Maggie Detweiler and her old friend, socialite Hope Babbin, are heading to Maine. The trip—to attend a weeklong master cooking class at the picturesque Victorian-era Oquossoc Mountain Inn—is an experiment to test their compatibility for future expeditions.

Hope and Maggie have barely finished their first aperitifs when the inn’s tranquility is shattered by the arrival of Alexander and Lisa Antippas and Lisa’s actress sister, Glory. Imperious and rude, these Hollywood one-percenters quickly turn the inn upside-down with their demanding behavior, igniting a flurry of speculation and gossip among staff and guests alike.

But the disruption soon turns deadly. After a suspicious late-night fire is brought under control, Alex’s charred body is found in the ashes. Enter the town’s deputy sheriff, Buster Babbin, Hope’s long-estranged son and Maggie’s former student. A man who’s finally found his footing in life, Buster needs a win. But he’s quickly pushed aside by the “big boys,” senior law enforcement and high-powered state’s attorneys who swoop in to make a quick arrest.

Maggie knows that Buster has his deficits and his strengths. She also knows that justice does not always prevail—and that the difference between conviction and exoneration too often depends on lazy police work and the ambitions of prosecutors. She knows too, after a lifetime of observing human nature, that you have a great advantage in doing the right thing if you don’t care who gets the credit or whom you annoy.

Feeling that justice could use a helping hand–as could the deputy sheriff—Maggie and Hope decide that two women of experience equipped with healthy curiosity, plenty of common sense, and a cheerfully cynical sense of humor have a useful role to play in uncovering the truth.

***

What do you think?  Does this one captivate you?  Would you keep reading? 

***

LET’S IGNITE SOME SPARKS: “ICE COLD”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book is one that has been languishing on Pippa, my Kindle, since last year.  I have never read the author, but I love a TV series based on the books.  Ice Cold, (A Rizzoli & Isles Novel), by Tess Gerritsen, promises to be suspenseful and engaging.

 

 

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Intro:  (Plain of Angels, Idaho)

She was the chosen one.

For months, he had been studying the girl, ever since she and her family had moved into the compound.  Her father was George Sheldon, a mediocre carpenter who worked with the construction crew.  Her mother, a bland and forgettable woman, was assigned to the communal bakery.  Both had been unemployed and desperate when they’d first wandered into his church in Idaho Falls, seeking solace and salvation.  Jeremiah had looked into their eyes, and he saw what he needed to see:  lost souls in search of an anchor, any anchor.

They had been ripe for the harvest.

***

Teaser:  Maura went to the dresser and picked up a photo with a simple tin frame.  Four faces gazed back:  a man and a woman, flanking two young girls of about nine or ten, their blond hair neatly bound into braids. (p. 66).

***

Blurb:  A spur-of-the-moment ski trip becomes a bone-chilling nightmare when a wrong turn leaves Boston medical examiner Maura Isles marooned—far from home and help—in the snowbound Wyoming mountains. Seeking shelter from the cold, she and her traveling companions stumble upon Kingdom Come—a remote village of identical houses that seems to have become a ghost town overnight. But the abandoned hamlet has dark secrets to tell, and Maura’s party may not be as alone as they think. Days later, word reaches homicide cop Jane Rizzoli that Maura’s charred remains have been found at the scene of a car crash. But the shocking news leaves Jane with too many questions, and only one way to get answers. Determined to dig up the truth, she heads for the frozen desolation of Kingdom Come, where gruesome discoveries lie buried, and a ruthless enemy watches and waits.

***

What do you think?  Would you keep reading?  Have you already read it?  I am eager to finally delve into this series.  What are you sharing today?

***

FRIDAY SPARKS: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT”

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

 

Today I am sharing from my current read:  Everywhere That Mary Went (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline.

 

 

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Beginning:  “All rise!  All persons having business before this Honorable Judge of the United States District Court are admonished to draw near and be heard!” trumpets the courtroom deputy.

Instantly, sports pages vanish into briefcases and legal briefs are tossed atop the stock quotes.

***

56:  As I leave his office, I see that Delia’s headset is off, resting at the base of her neck like a cheap choker.  As I walk by, she’s sipping tea in a genteel way from a white china cup.  An affectation she’s picked up from Berkowitz, who likes to stub out his Marlboro in the saucer.

***

Blurb:  Mary DiNunzio is trying to make partner in her cutthroat Philadelphia law firm. She’s too busy to worry about the crank phone calls that she’s been getting—until they fall into a sinister pattern. Mary can’t shake the sensation that someone is watching her. Following her every move. Then the shadowboxing turns deadly, and she has to fight for something a lot more important than a partnership—her life.

***

This is one mystery from Scottoline’s various works that I have missed.  I am eager to read it.  What do you think?

***

FRIDAY SPARKS: BOOK BEGINNINGS & THE FRIDAY 56 — AFTER I’M GONE

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

 

Today’s featured book is an ARC from Amazon Vine:  After I’m Gone, by Laura Lippman.

 

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Beginning:  July 4, 1976

They left at dusk, about an hour before the fireworks were scheduled, and by the time they were at the old toll bridge over the Susquehanna, Felix could see glimmers of light through the one tiny window, little celebrations everywhere.  He had told Julie to take the old way to Philadelphia, up Route 40.  He was being cautious, yet nostalgic, too.  He had gotten his start out here, taking action in the bars.

***

56:  If only people knew how obvious their lies were, at least to him.  Maybe then they wouldn’t bother with them.  “Nothing important,” she said, and he knew it was at least somewhat important.

***

Blurb:  Laura Lippman, the acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of The Most Dangerous Thing, I’d Know You Anywhere, and What the Dead Know, returns with an addictive story that explores how one man’s disappearance echoes through the lives of the wife, mistress, and daughters he left behind.

When Felix Brewer meets Bernadette “Bambi” Gottschalk at a Valentine’s Dance in 1959, he charms her with wild promises, some of which he actually keeps. Thanks to his lucrative—if not all legal—businesses, she and their three little girls live in luxury. But on the Fourth of July, 1976, Bambi’s comfortable world implodes when Felix, newly convicted and facing prison, mysteriously vanishes.

Though Bambi has no idea where her husband—or his money—might be, she suspects one woman does: his mistress, Julie. When Julie disappears ten years to the day that Felix went on the lam, everyone assumes she’s left to join her old lover—until her remains are eventually found.

Now, twenty-six years after Julie went missing, Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez, a retired Baltimore detective working cold cases for some extra cash, is investigating her murder. What he discovers is a tangled web stretching over three decades that connects five intriguing women. And at the center is the missing man Felix Brewer.

Somewhere between the secrets and lies connecting past and present, Sandy will find the truth. And when he does, no one will ever be the same.

***

I am very eager to read this one!  I am addicted to this author’s mysteries.  Now I’m off to see what the rest of you are sharing.

FRIDAY SPARKS: BOOK BEGINNINGS & THE FRIDAY 56 — INNOCENT LITTLE CRIMES — JUNE 14

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Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

Today’s feature is Innocent Little Crimes, a review book by C. S. Lakin.

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Beginning:  Lila Carmichael’s massive face, frozen in Living Technicolor, bore down on them from the eight-foot-wide plasma TV mounted on the wall.

“Ugh—I’ve got a voice that grates cheese.”

Lila tossed sandwich crusts into her mouth as she half-heartedly trotted on the treadmill.  “I’m not that funny, you know.  People think a fat broad with a big mouth is an easy target.”

***

56:  Della downed her drink and fumbled for a cigarette.  Lila reached over the table and grabbed the bottle of water.  “This lady needs a refill.”

***

Blurb:  Six naïve guests plus revenge served cold equals a recipe for disaster…

Lila Carmichael may be a rich and famous comedienne, but she’s hidden her greatest talent from her adoring fans–her ability to simmer, spice and serve a carefully constructed tour de force at a cozy reunion on her private island in the Pacific Northwest.

Six unsuspecting guests have forgotten the innocent little crimes they committed against poor, gullible Lila fifteen years ago in college. All are teetering on the brink of ruin, hoping the famous Lila will come to their rescue. But their desperation plays them right into her hand.

One by one, Lila’s guests are figuratively killed off in a vicious parlor game called Wolves. And revenge turns bittersweet when the weekend is over…and one guest is dead for real.

***

I’ll be reading this one next week.  What are you sharing today?

FRIDAY SPARKS: BOOK BEGINNINGS & THE FRIDAY 56 — KIND OF CRUEL — MAY 31

4-30-curlupandread-001-framed-book-beginnings2friday 56

Welcome to some bookish fun today as we share Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and as we showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists!

If you have been wanting to participate, but haven’t yet tried, now is the time!

What better way to spend a Friday?

Today’s feature is an ARC of Kind of Cruel, by Sophie Hannah.

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Beginning:  Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Amber:  Look:  there is nothing special about this place.  Look at the gaps between the bricks in the gateposts, where the pointing has fallen out.  Look at the ugly UPVC window frames.  This is not a place where miracles happen.

***

56:  The notebook wouldn’t stay open at first.  Simon had to bend the covers right back.  “You all know Charlie’s handwriting,” he said.  “Those of you who can be bothered to look can see it’s her writing.”

***

Amazon Blurb:  “Kind, cruel, kind of cruel.” Amber thinks it’s just nonsense, a side effect of being hypnotized for the first time. But when she’s arrested for a brutal murder two hours later, those four words are the key to clearing her name… if only she could remember where she’d seen them.

Amber Hewerdine suffers from chronic insomnia. As a last resort, she visits a hypnotherapist, doubtful that anything will really change. Under hypnosis, Amber hears herself saying, “Kind, cruel, kind of cruel.” The words awaken a vague memory, but she dismisses the whole episode as nonsense. Two hours later, however, Amber is arrested for the brutal murder of a woman she’s never heard of, and the only way she can clear her name is by remembering exactly where she’s seen those words.

Kind of Cruel
is the latest page-turner in Hannah’s Zailer and Waterhouse mystery series, and will enthrall Hannah’s ever-growing readership.
***
I love this series!  Can’t wait to dive in….what are you spotlighting today?

ONE CHILD & ONE WOMAN ON A COLLISION COURSE WITH DANGER — A REVIEW

In a complex world of the juvenile court system in San Diego County, bureaucrats and individual social workers struggle daily to save the children in danger. For one social worker, Bo Bradley, the daily battle is enhanced because of her own condition of manic-depression (bipolar disorder). Only one person with whom she works knows of this condition—her friend and colleague, Estella Benedict. But whenever the symptoms begin to reappear, a difficult job becomes almost impossible.

When one day a four-year-old boy, tied to a mattress in an old shack on an Indian reservation, is rescued by an old Indian woman, life just got a whole lot harder. Saving the boy, who turns out to be deaf, from whoever hurt him and is still trying to kill him, becomes a full-time obsession for Bo Bradley. Like a one-woman army on a hunt-and-capture mission, she digs into the clues at hand, flies to a neighborhood in Houston, Texas, and begins to realize that the only way to save the boy is to hide him.

Intermingled with the tale of rescuing the boy called “Weppo,” the author weaves a bit of Bo’s history, including the loss of her own sister—also deaf and plagued with manic-depression–many years ago. A Native American theme casts Child of Silence and its characters into a tapestry of mysticism and spiritualism that lends beauty and hope to the story of one child and one woman on a collision course with danger.

Five stars!

REASSEMBLING THE MISSING PIECES OF THE PAST….

Therapist Kate Sinclair seeks to repair other people’s lives. Her own stable marriage and handsome home are like the icing on the cake of a perfect life.

But when Kate’s emotionally fragile sister Jo Lynn develops an obsession with alleged serial killer Colin Friendly, the first signs of trouble begin to appear. At around the same time, an old love interest from Kate’s past surfaces and starts making overtures, even tempting Kate with her own call-in radio show (he owns several radio stations). Adolescent hijinks from Kate’s oldest daughter Sara add just enough high drama to the mix to tear into the now fragile fabric of Kate’s stable life.

As her life begins to unravel, missing pieces of a puzzle about the past begin to trouble Kate, with nightmares interrupting her sleep. Her mother’s symptoms of Alzheimer’s add to the confusion. Meanwhile, Jo Lynn and Sara become bosom buddies, both lashing out at everyone around them.

Once Colin Friendly is convicted and given the death sentence, Kate believes that things will finally calm down. Unfortunately, the trouble is only beginning.

What new pieces of the puzzle from Kate and Jo Lynn’s past will come to the forefront? What surprising move will Jo Lynn make, and what will finally bring the whole family to the point of crisis?

The suspense builds while all the characters are suddenly thrust into a highly dangerous situation. Missing Pieces, told in the first person voice of Kate, is one of those books that you cannot put down. (If you do put it down, like I did briefly, it may disappear; that is why I had to get the book from the library to finish it). It was well worth the slight delay in my reading momentum. Once I picked it up again, though, I was drawn again into the very real world of the characters that is believable and memorable.

Five stars.