REVIEW: THE WIFE UPSTAIRS, BY RACHEL HAWKINS

Meet Jane. Newly arrived to Birmingham, Alabama, Jane is a broke dog-walker in Thornfield Estates—a gated community full of McMansions, shiny SUVs, and bored housewives. The kind of place where no one will notice if Jane lifts the discarded tchotchkes and jewelry off the side tables of her well-heeled clients. Where no one will think to ask if Jane is her real name.But her luck changes when she meets Eddie Rochester. Recently widowed, Eddie is Thornfield Estates’ most mysterious resident. His wife, Bea, drowned in a boating accident with her best friend, their bodies lost to the deep. Jane can’t help but see an opportunity in Eddie—not only is he rich, brooding, and handsome, he could also offer her the kind of protection she’s always yearned for.

Yet as Jane and Eddie fall for each other, Jane is increasingly haunted by the legend of Bea, an ambitious beauty with a rags-to-riches origin story, who launched a wildly successful southern lifestyle brand. How can she, plain Jane, ever measure up? And can she win Eddie’s heart before her past—or his—-catches up to her?

With delicious suspense, incisive wit, and a fresh, feminist sensibility, The Wife Upstairs flips the script on a timeless tale of forbidden romance, ill-advised attraction, and a wife who just won’t stay buried. In this vivid reimagining of one of literature’s most twisted love triangles, which Mrs. Rochester will get her happy ending?

I could not stop turning the pages of The Wife Upstairs, as we follow alternating narrators tell their tales. From Jane, to Bea, to Eddie, they all have secrets and we only begin to see how the pieces fit together at the very end.

There is always another twist to the tale, leaving us wondering: now what?

I really enjoyed Jane, but as I got to know Bea a little, too, I had to admire that special something that kept her landing on her feet. What really happened to Eddie and Bea at the end? Could they still be somewhere, around a corner, waiting to surprise us? Will Jane have her happy ending, or will she also be watching over her shoulder? A brilliant five star read.

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REVIEW: THE LAST WIFE, BY KAREN HAMILTON

Two women. A dying wish. And a web of lies that will bring their world crashing down.

Nina and Marie were best friends—until Nina was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Before she died, Nina asked Marie to fulfill her final wishes.

But her mistake was in thinking Marie was someone she could trust.

What Nina didn’t know was that Marie always wanted her beautiful life, and that Marie has an agenda of her own. She’ll do anything to get what she wants.

Marie thinks she can keep her promise to her friend’s family on her own terms. But what she doesn’t know is that Nina was hiding explosive secrets of her own…

Marie’s vow to step in and take care of her best friend Nina’s family after her death sounds like a loving thing to do. But is Marie truly who Nina would have chosen if she had known Marie’s secrets?

Will Marie’s plan include taking over Nina’s life, including her friendships and even her husband? The friendships included Camilla, who has secrets she has been keeping, too. Her connection to Marie runs deeper than previously known.

There were times that I found Marie very annoying, but then again, none of the other people in Nina’s life were who they seemed to be, either.

What will Marie finally do to step up, and will she be the right choice for the task? Will she keep her own darkness hidden as she tries to protect those she loves?

The Last Wife had many twists, and it was hard to give any of the characters a pass. They all had darkness that could come back to haunt them. 3.5 stars.

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REVIEW: A WEEK AT THE SHORE, BY BARBARA DELINSKY

One phone call is all it takes to lure Mallory Aldiss back to her family’s Rhode Island beach home. It’s been twenty years since she’s been gone—running from the scandal that destroyed her parents’ marriage, drove her and her two sisters apart, and crushed her relationship with the love of her life, Jack Sabathian. Twenty years during which she lived in New York, building her career as a photographer and raising her now teenage daughter Joy.

But that phone call makes it clear that something has brought the past forward again—something involving Mallory’s father. Compelled by concern for her family and by Joy’s wish to visit her mother’s childhood home, Mallory returns to Bay Bluff, where conflicting loyalties will be faced and painful truths revealed.

In just seven watershed days at the Rhode Island shore, she will test the bonds of friendship and family—and discover the role that love plays in defining their lives.

A Week at the Shore opens up with family history and years of secrets, all set aside for one week at the small Rhode Island town. The patriarch, Tom Aldiss, is failing and his recent actions may have put him in jeopardy.

Mallory has been away from the shore for twenty years, and she has loved her life with daughter Joy in Manhattan. But reuniting with her sister Anne, and possibly Margot as well, might be a place to start. But then there are memories and issues to deal with about Mallory’s first love Jack. Their differences involve her father and his mother, so there may be no way to patch up those old hurts.

In this engaging story about family, missteps, secrets, and possible betrayals kept me rapidly turning pages. I didn’t like Mallory’s sisters, who were too bossy, and being the one in the middle, Mallory had often become the peacemaker. The sisters were blunt and sometimes abrasive with one another. The family felt real, so I was hoping they would find ways to overcome their issues…and find the answers to the past. I was also rooting for Mallory to reconnect with Jack. A 5 star read.

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REVIEW: THE SEA GLASS COTTAGE, BY RAEANNE THAYNE

The life Olivia Harper always dreamed of isn’t so dreamy these days. The 16-hour work days are unfulfilling and so are things with her on-again, off-again boyfriend. But when she hears that her estranged mother, Juliet, has been seriously injured, Liv has no choice but to pack up her life and head home to beautiful Cape Sanctuary on the Northern California coast.

It’s just for a few months—that’s what Liv keeps telling herself. But the closer she gets to Cape Sanctuary, the painful memories start flooding back: Natalie, her vibrant, passionate older sister who downward-spiraled into addiction. The fights with her mother who enabled her sister at every turn. The overdose that took Natalie, leaving her now-teenaged daughter, Caitlin, an orphan.

As Liv tries to balance her own needs with those of her injured mother and an obstinate, resentful fifteen-year-old, it becomes clear that all three Harper women have been keeping heartbreaking secrets from one another. And as those secrets are revealed, Liv, Juliet, and Caitlin will see that it’s never too late—or too early—to heal family wounds and find forgiveness.


In the beginning of The Sea Glass Cottage, we meet Olivia, who has gone through a terrifying experience in her favorite Seattle coffee shop, and now is suffering a form of PTSD. Despite her issues, she changes her schedule to head to her hometown when her mother, Juliet, falls and seriously injures herself.As she tries to step in to help, she has to deal with her own feelings from her adolescence, when her mother focused all of her energy on her sister Natalie, an addict, and then on Caitlin, the baby her sister had back then. Now Caitlin is fifteen and full of barely suppressed rage about her own resentments and secrets.

It was hard to like Caitlin, who had done something she shouldn’t have, and is allowing what she learned to interfere with her relationships.

Juliet has her own secret, which is also an obstacle that could prevent future happiness.

I was rooting for Olivia throughout, but also hoping that Juliet and Caitlin would own up to their fears and secrets, allowing the family to rebuild. A 4.5 star read.

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MONDAY SPARKS: MUSINGS….

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It’s Monday, and time to muse about books with Jenn, at Books and a Beat.

 

  • I’m currently reading…
  • Up next I think I’ll read…
  • I bought the following book(s) in the past week…
  • I’m super excited to tell you about (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I’m really upset by (book/author/bookish-news)…
  • I can’t wait to get a copy of…
  • I wish I could read ___, but…
  • I blogged about ____ this past week…

THIS WEEK’S RANDOM QUESTION: What’s your favorite horror novel (if you read that genre)?

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I am reading In Twenty Years, by Allison Winn Scotch.  It is a book that has been waiting patiently on Pippa since June 2016, and so far I’m enjoying it.

 

 

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Twenty years ago, six Penn students shared a house, naively certain that their friendships would endure—until the death of their ringleader and dear friend Bea splintered the group for good. Now, mostly estranged from one another, the remaining five reluctantly gather at that same house on the eve of what would have been Bea’s fortieth birthday.

But along with the return of the friends come old grudges, unrequited feelings, and buried secrets. Catherine, the CEO of a domestic empire, and Owen, a stay-at-home dad, were picture-perfect college sweethearts—but now teeter on the brink of disaster. Lindy, a well-known musician, is pushing middle age in an industry that’s all about youth and slowly self-destructing as she grapples with her own identity. Behind his smile, handsome plastic surgeon Colin harbors the heartbreaking truth about his own history with Bea. And Annie carefully curates her life on Instagram and Facebook, keeping up appearances so she doesn’t have to face the truth about her own empty reality.

Reunited in the place where so many dreams began, and bolstered by the hope of healing, each of them is forced to confront the past.

***

I do love books about friendships, especially when a rift has occurred.  Putting things right again might seem impossible, but it’s great when it can happen.

I am in the beginning portion of the book, which is narrated by alternate characters.

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What are you musing about today?

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FRIDAY SPARKS: BOOK BEGINNINGS/FRIDAY 56 – “CANCEL THE WEDDING”

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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?

I hope all those who celebrate it had a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Today I’d like to share an ARC from Vine:  Cancel the Wedding, by Carolyn Dingman.

 

 

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Beginning:  (Prologue – August 1956, Huntley, Georgia)

The strap from the overloaded canvas satchel dug into Janie’s shoulder as she made her way down the well-traveled path to the river.  She could feel that George was already there before she could hear him and long before she could see him.  They were only ten years old but they had been tuned in to each other like that for as long as she could remember.

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56:  One didn’t have to be very present while Mrs. Chatham was speaking; she didn’t require much in the way of response.  At the moment she was retelling the family tree of nearly everyone in town.  It seemed as if everyone was knotted together in one way or another as she went through the names.

***

Amazon Description:  A heartfelt fiction debut that will appeal to fans of Emily Giffin’s Southern charm and Jennifer Weiner’s compelling, emotionally resonant novels about the frustrations of blood ties, Cancel the Wedding follows one woman’s journey to discover the secrets of her mother’s hidden past—and confront her own uncertain future.

On the surface, Olivia has it all: a high-powered career, a loving family, and a handsome fiancé. She even seems to be coming to terms with her mother Jane’s premature death from cancer. But when Jane’s final wish is revealed, Olivia and her elder sister Georgia are mystified. Their mother rarely spoke of her rural Southern hometown, and never went back to visit—so why does she want them to return to Huntley, Georgia, to scatter her ashes?

Jane’s request offers Olivia a temporary escape from the reality she’s long been denying: she hates her “dream” job, and she’s not really sure she wants to marry her groom-to-be. With her 14-year-old niece, Logan, riding shotgun, she heads South on a summer road trip looking for answers about her mother.

As Olivia gets to know the town’s inhabitants, she begins to peel back the secrets of her mother’s early life—truths that force her to finally question her own future. But when Olivia is confronted with a tragedy and finds an opportunity to right a terrible wrong, will it give her the courage to accept her mother’s past—and say yes to her own desire to start over?

***

What do you think?  Does it pique your interest?  Come on by and share your thoughts…and links, please.

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REVIEW: MERCY SNOW, BY TIFFANY BAKER

17869466Titan Halls, New Hampshire, is a small town ruled by the paper mill and its owners, the McAllisters. They are the “haves,” while the “have-nots,” like the Snow family, live on the fringes, dubbed as itinerant ne-er-do-wells and a blight on the community.

So when a tragic bus accident ends a life and seemingly destroys another, the McAllisters, like some others, are quick to place blame on young Zeke Snow, who has recently returned to town with his younger sisters, Mercy and Hannah.

But Cal and June McAllister are keeping secrets, while trying to railroad the Snows out of town. Will Mercy and her young sister starve before the truth comes out? Will the runaway Zeke prove his innocence? And what long-ago secrets might be revealed after a skeleton is discovered near the accident site? Was there more to the story than a simple accidental death?

Following the struggles of Mercy and Hannah made me root for them, even as their desperate choices only seemed to bring more doubt upon any possible innocence. Hazel, the local sheep owner and the wife of the bus driver, injured in the crash, is barely hanging on. Will her sympathy for Mercy put her on the wrong end of things when faced with June McAllister’s pressures? And what surprising connections will Hazel discover in an unexpected way?

Mercy Snow: A Novel is a story that shines a spotlight on the long-buried secrets in a small town, along with the hierarchy of power and how those who possess it will struggle to retain it.

The story comes to its conclusion with a surprising reveal, and then fast forwards into the future to unmask how sometimes the sinners can find redemption. 4.5 stars.

TUESDAY SPARKS: INTROS/TEASERS – “THE DEEPEST SECRET”

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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 Should Be Reading.

Today’s featured book is The Deepest Secret (e-book), by Carla Buckley.

 

 

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Intro:  Thursday, August 28 (Eve)

Birthdays are supposed to be happy occasions, so Eve plans a party.  There are the usual anxieties.  Who would come?  Would Tyler like his presents?  Then there are the special worries, the ones other people didn’t have to think about.  She won’t focus on those.

She makes a cake, a bigger-than-life-size iPad that takes a day and a half to decorate instead of the six hours the Internet site promised.  The problem is getting the paint the right consistency so the lake doesn’t bleed into the shoreline.  And all those tiny icons.  She’s tossed dozens in the trash, false starts where the Facebook f was too wobbly and the camera came out looking as though a giant thumb had pressed down hard.  She hesitates over balloons.  Do they even matter at night?   In the end, she decides, why not, and drives home from the party store with so many fat balloons crammed into her backseat that she can’t see out her rearview mirror.  She imagines being pulled over by the police for driving under the influence of helium.

***

Teaser:  They’d all been wonderful, in that imperfect way birthdays are, but the best had been his very first, before they knew. (p. 11).

***

Amazon Description:  For fans of Jodi Picoult, Kim Edwards, and William Landay, The Deepest Secret is part intimate family drama, part gripping page-turner, exploring the profound power of the truths we’re scared to face . . . about our marriages, our children, and ourselves.
 
Eve Lattimore’s family is like every other on their suburban street, with one exception. Her son Tyler has a rare medical condition that makes him fatally sensitive to light, which means heavy curtains and deadlocked doors protect him during the day and he can never leave the house except at night. For Eve, only constant vigilance stands between an increasingly restless teenage son and the dangers of the outside world.

Until the night the unthinkable happens. When tragedy strikes, it becomes clear that this family is not the only one on the quiet cul-de-sac that is more complicated than it appears. And as Eve is forced to shield her family from harm, there are some crises she cannot control—and some secrets that not even love can conceal.

Deeply moving and stunningly suspenseful, The Deepest Secret is a novel of rare power—a story about hope and forgiveness, about the terrifying ways our lives can spin out of control and the unexpected sacrifices that may save us.

***

Would you keep reading?  Come on by and share your thoughts and your links.

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TUESDAY SPARKS: INTROS/TEASERS – “THE INNOCENT SLEEP”

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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 Should Be Reading.

Today’s spotlight is shining on my current read, an ARC called The Innocent Sleep, by Karen Perry.

 

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Intro:  (Prologue – Tangier)

A storm is rising.  He can feel it in the strange stillness of the air.  There is no movement, no flutter of clothing, not a whisper of a breeze along the narrow streets of Tangier.

Beyond the lines of washing strung between the buildings, above the tiled roofs, he sees a patch of sky.  There is a strange luminous quality to it, a bluish hue and lights that look almost like auroras.

He stirs a cup of warm milk, blinks, and looks out again onto the changing and otherworldly colors of the sky.

***

Teaser:  And that was the start of our time in Tangier, something that began as a dream and ended a nightmare.  I can’t tell you everything that happened there.  I can give you an idea, a sense of what the place was like—that’s all  (p. 67).

***

Blurb:  When a couple’s lost child resurfaces they are forced to embark on a journey into their shared past—one rife with dark secrets and lies

Tangiers. Harry is preparing his wife’s birthday dinner while she is still at work and their son, Dillon, is upstairs asleep in bed. Harry suddenly remembers that he’s left Robin’s gift at the café in town. It’s only a five minute walk away and Dillon’s so tricky to put down for the night, so Harry decides to run out on his own and fetch the present.

Disaster strikes. An earthquake hits, buildings crumble, people scream and run. Harry fights his way through the crowd to his house, only to find it razed to the ground. Dillon is presumed dead, though his body is never found.

Five years later, Harry and Robin have settled into a new kind of life after relocating to their native Dublin. Their grief will always be with them, but lately it feels as if they’re ready for a new beginning. Harry’s career as an artist is taking off and Robin has just realized that she’s pregnant.

But when Harry gets a glimpse of Dillon on the crowded streets of Dublin, the past comes rushing back at both of them. Has Dillon been alive all these years? Or was what Harry saw just a figment of his guilt-ridden imagination? With razor-sharp writing, Karen Perry’s The Innocent Sleep delivers a fast-paced, ingeniously plotted thriller brimming with deception, doubt, and betrayal.

***

This story has captured me in unique ways.  What do you think, based on these excerpts and this blurb?  Would you keep reading?

I hope you’ll stop by and share your thoughts and your links.

 

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REVIEW: PLAYING DEAD, BY JULIA HEABERLIN

13147826When Tommie McCloud returns home to Ponder, Texas, it is for her father’s funeral. And sadly, it might as well have been for her mother’s, too, as she is in a nursing home, suffering from dementia, her health deteriorating.

The funeral is scarcely over when her father’s secretary hands her a letter from a stranger. A missive that will change her life in unexpected ways. A letter that makes Tommie question everything she thought she knew about her family and who she is.

Set on finding out the truth behind the secrets and lies of her childhood, Tommie’s journey takes her to Chicago, to various places in the Southwest, and to a bank vault, where more of her mother’s secrets are revealed.

But will any of the questions find answers? What is Tommie’s connection to mafia prisoner Anthony Marchetti? Who really murdered the family of an FBI agent, and what really happened to Tommie’s brother Tuck?

With the help of special friends and a reporter, Tommie tries to sort through the pieces to the puzzle. Happily, her time at home has given her special moments with her younger sister Sadie and her niece Maddie. But when she finds the answers, will her life as she knew it be over?

I enjoyed the settings, the characters, and the continual surprises that kept me from guessing the answers right away. I always love being surprised by who did what and to whom.

Playing Dead: A Novel is a story that engaged me from the very first page and kept me intrigued throughout. I recommend this book for anyone who enjoys a good mystery, with all the twists and turns and unexpected surprises that this author so brilliantly provides. Five stars.