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Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Perfect Stranger - Megan Miranda

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

First Paragraph(s):

The cat under the front porch was at it again.  Scratching at the slab of wood that echoed through the hardwood floors of my bedroom.  Sharpening its claws, marking its territory--relentless in the dead of night.
     I sat on the edge of the bed, stomped my feet on the wood, thought, Please let me sleep, which had become my repeated plea to all things living and nonliving out here, whatever piece of nature was at work each particular night.
     The scratching stopped, and I eased back under the sheets.
     Other sounds, more familiar now: the creak of the old mattress, crickets, a howl as the wind funneled through the valley.  All of it orienting me to my new life--the bed I slept in, the valley I lived in, a whisper in the night: You are here.

My Thoughts:

The Perfect Stranger was the second book I've read by Megan Miranda.  Her first adult thriller was All the Missing Girls and I remember liking that one, a story told backwards.  Some thought that was creative and interesting and some, I think, were just confused.  I thought it was clever.  I listened to The Perfect Stranger on audio, narrated by Rebekkah Ross.  It was a tense story with the reader not knowing which characters were reliable and which were not.  I'm usually fairly adept at spotting clues and twists, but I will admit that I was a bit baffled with who was a good guy and who was not.  Even the main protagonist, Leah Stevens.  She comes to rural Pennsylvania to be a teacher after her career as a journalist ends badly.  She wasn't fired from her job, but was forced to resign and really has to start over with a whole new life.  After her roommate disappears and a woman is attacked, Leah isn't sure if her troubles have followed her.  The police are initially helpful, but after Leah is unable to provide much information about Emmy, her friend, they aren't sure if Emmy is even real - and the reader isn't sure either.  That's all I'll say about the plot.  I liked it and I'll definitely be watching for the next book by this author.  The audio is well done and it's a good listen.

Blurb:

When Leah Stevens’ career implodes, a chance meeting with her old friend Emmy Grey offers her the perfect opportunity to start over. Emmy, just out of a bad relationship, convinces Leah to come live with her in rural Pennsylvania, where there are teaching positions available and no one knows Leah’s past.

Or Emmy’s.

When the town sees a spate of vicious crimes and Emmy Grey disappears, Leah begins to realize how very little she knows about her friend and roommate. Unable to find friends, family, a paper trail or a digital footprint, the police question whether Emmy Grey existed at all. And mark Leah as a prime suspect.

Fighting the doubts of the police and her own sanity, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Bone on Bone



I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

I've said before that I love the books in Julia Keller's Bell Elkins' mystery series.  Set in West Virginia, Bell is a unique and interesting protagonist, and this author, having been born and raised in WV, knows about the area and the troubles that appear.  I wasn't sure there was going to be a 7th book, but here it is!  This week I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  August 21st

How far would you go for someone you love? Would you die? Would you kill? After a three-year prison sentence, Bell Elkins is back in Acker's Gap. And she finds herself in the white-hot center of a complicated and deadly case -- even as she comes to terms with one last, devastating secret of her own.

A prominent local family has fallen victim to the same sickness that infects the whole region: drug addiction. With mother against father, child against parent, and tensions that lead inexorably to tragedy, they are trapped in a grim, hopeless struggle with nowhere to turn.

Bell has lost her job as prosecutor -- but not her affection for her ragtag, hard-luck hometown. Teamed up with former Deputy Jake Oakes, who battles his own demons as he adjusts to life as a paraplegic, and aided by the new prosecutor, Rhonda Lovejoy, Bell tackles a case as poignant as it is perilous, as heartbreaking as it is challenging.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

All We Ever Wanted - Emily Giffin

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

First Paragraph(s):

It started out as a typical Saturday night.  And by typical, I don't mean normal in any mainstream American way.  There was no grilling out with the neighbors or going to the movies or doing any of the things I did as a kid.  It was simply typical for what we'd become since Kirk sold his software company, and we went from comfortable to wealthy.  Very wealthy.
     Obscene was the description my childhood best friend Julie once used--not about us, but about Melanie, another friend--after Melanie bought herself a diamond Rolex for Mother's Day and then offhandedly remarked at one of our dinner parties that homemade pottery from her kids 'wasn't going to cut it.'
     'She could feed a Syrian refugee camp for an entire year with that watch,' Julie had groused in my kitchen after the other guests had departed.  'It's obscene.'

My Thoughts:

All We Ever Wanted is the first book I've read by Emily Giffin.  It seems like a bit of change-up for her - a story that contains perhaps deeper themes and elements for the reader to ponder.  It's certainly a tale that is relevant today (and always has been) and one that many women can probably relate to in some ways.  Told from the viewpoints of three of the characters - Nina, the teenage boy's mother, Tom, the teenage girl's father, and Lyla, the teenage girl, we see each of them deal with a very emotional time.  Who's to blame and what actually happened - yes, these things are important, but more important are the underlying attitudes and assumptions made by many of the characters, both young and old. 

I liked this book, though it was difficult to know who to trust and who to believe.  Nina's husband was pretty much a caricature of a privileged, racist jerk.  And her son is quite the manipulator.  Did Lyla, the teen girl, always make good decisions?  No, of course not.  What teen does?  However, as more of the story is revealed, the reader does understand that Nina and Tom both earnestly want to be good parents and set good examples for their kids.  And Lyla has a chance to definitely shine.  I was pleased that all the characters changed and grew by the end.  The climax was a little quick and things tied up maybe a bit too neatly.  However, I would try this author again.  A solid 'better than good' from me. 

Blurb:

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Secrets You Keep - Kate White

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White

First Paragraph(s):

I wake to the smell of smoke.
     It's faint but enough to rouse me, and I jerk up in bed, eyes wide open.  For a few seconds I freeze there, propped on an elbow and trying to make sense of it.  What's burning?
     I start to shove my legs out of bed, but the top sheet fights me.  I have to wrench it loose from the mattress so I can force my feet to the ground.
     As my eyes adjust to the dark, I realize that I'm not at home.  I'm in a hotel room.  I've been traveling on business...yet I can't remember where.  The burning smell intensifies, boring into my nostrils and propelling my head back.  Panic surges through me.  Fire, I think.  Fire.

My Thoughts:

The Secrets You Keep is, I think, the first book I've read by Kate White.  I've meant to read others, but have not as yet.  I've known that the author was the editor of Cosmopolitan and that she also writes a mystery series.  I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Amy McFadden.  This is a fairly gripping psychological thriller.  I was definitely invested in the story and listened to the whole thing over a two-day period.  Had to know how it would end.  I figured out some of it, but not all.  Of course, there were a few things that I might have changed or edited.  The main character, Bryn Harper, is a best-selling non-fiction writer.  She has come to Saratoga Springs, NY for the summer to recover from a car accident.  There are still parts of that day that she can't remember.  Bryn's husband, Guy, lives full time in Saratoga and works for an opera company, commuting to NYC and Bryn on weekends.  The two have rented a house and Bryn is slowly beginning to feel more 'normal'.  And then a woman is murdered and everything is tumbled upside down.

As I said, the story itself is compelling and page-turning.  I liked that.  Bryn herself is a bit annoying (or more than a bit at times).  She flips from someone I could get to know to snotty, overly dramatic, and entitled in the blink of an eye.  And she's constantly 'fatigued' (way overuse of that word by the author).  Yes, she's recovering from an accident, but use a different word occasionally, please!  Her decisions and thought processes are good at times and eye-rolling at times.  However, this is often the way with protagonists in jeopardy.  I was intrigued by the dreams Bryn was having, suspecting that her unconscious mind was trying to help her figure out not only the current day, but also the day of the car accident.  So, would I read another book by this author?  Yes, I'll try a second book.  The fact that I read this one so quickly says to me that she can keep me interested for sure.  Hopefully, I'll like the main character better.

Blurb:

What would you do if you realized that your new husband, a man you adore, is keeping secrets from you—secrets with terrifying consequences?

Bryn Harper, an accomplished self-help author, already has plenty to deal with. She’s still recovering from a devastating car accident that has left her haunted by recurring, smoke-filled nightmares. Worse still, she can’t shake the ominous feeling her dreams contain a warning.

In the beginning, Bryn’s husband Guy couldn’t have been more supportive. But after moving into a new house together, disturbing incidents occur and Guy grows evasive, secretive. What the hell is going on, she wonders? Then, a woman hired to cater their dinner party is brutally murdered.

As Bryn’s world unravels—and yet another woman in town is slain —she must summon her old strength to find answers and protect her own life. Her nightmares may in fact hold the key to unlocking the truth and unmasking the murderer.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Special people and fun on our vacation...

One of the most fun things on our recent vacation to Oregon was getting to meet up with two wonderful ladies that also have blogs.  I've known Les from Coastal Horizons for about 20 years.  We met at a book site online in 1998, I believe.  And we've been friends ever since, along with Nan at Letters From a Hill Farm and some other ladies.  Even though we've been part of groups and emailed and chatted and shared our lives, this was only the 2nd time that I've seen Les in person.  It was wonderful!!

Les and I met up with Robin, who blogs at A Fondness For Reading, and had a delicious lunch in McMinnville.  It was a location between their two homes and it was perfect.  We enjoyed our food and talked and talked.  Robin has already shared a blog post here.  Les shared her post about this today as well - here.  After our meal, we walked through the downtown area of this charming town and shopped a bit.  Of course, there was a bookstore and did we stop and take a look?  What do you think?  Ha!



Here are Les (on the left) and Robin (on the right), just in front of Third Street Books.  They are holding our purchases.  Are you surprised that there were books purchased?  I'm not.



A lovely little independent bookstore.  We were chatting and pointing out books to each other, picking up this one or that one to say 'oh, I read this - it's good'.  The lady behind the counter looked at us and said - librarians?  booksellers?  We laughed and said, 'Yes!'.

I'm so happy that I got to spend several hours with both these ladies.  We could have talked for days and days, I suspect.  Bloggers that you've 'known' for years are truly dear friends.



Here are the two books that I bought.  I always like to see if I can find a good book relating some kind of history about an area where I vacation.  Tales From the Past by Jim and Reita Lockett is a compilation of stories about Yamhill County and the general area where McMinnville is located.  A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee is the first book in a historical mystery series that is set in early 20th century India.  I had been meaning to pick up this book for a while.  This was a great opportunity.



I also bought a new coffee mug for myself at the Made in Oregon store at the airport.  This is an 'Original Handwarmer Mug' - left-handed version.  Yes, I am left-handed.  That little cubbyhole on the left side is where your hand goes and basically, the mug warms your hand while you enjoy your coffee or tea or hot chocolate, etc.  I've found that since I've lost weight, my hands are much colder than they used to be.  I was charmed by this and, as I love beautiful pottery, I needed to have it.  It was made by the Clay in Motion Pottery Studio.



We also found the best little shop in downtown Depoe Bay called Knock Your Socks Off.  They sell - wait for it - SOCKS!  And other items.  We got some for our daughter and son-in-law as a gift.  The upper left is for our son-in-law.  He has really large feet - like size 16 or 17.  So, his have the proverbial 'Big Foot' on them.  The lower left are ones my husband picked out for himself and say 'I'm a really big Dill!'.  The upper right are for me, but I might go ahead and give them to our daughter - birthday cake sprinkle cozy socks.  The lower right are definitely for her - 'I'm not bossy...I'm the BOSS!'.  She is a charge nurse in her hospital department and, yes, she is a bit 'bossy'!  Are these hilarious?  OK, OK, maybe you had to be there.  Ha!

Again, our trip was great.  We had fun times and wonderful food - inventive salads and lots of fresh seafood - berries that were in season - coffee that almost made me weep with the wonderful taste of it.  Can't wait until we will be able to visit again.  Thanks for sharing our good times!
   

Friday, July 13, 2018

Vacationing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest...

Hello everyone!  I'm back!  As you can see or read or whatever...

I decided that before I got back to 'normal' around here, I'd share a few pictures of our recent vacation to Oregon.  I really think that summer is the perfect time to visit this lovely part of the country - for me, anyway.  I think I've said here that we lived in Portland, OR, for 3 years in the mid-90's.  It was quite the adventure for us native Texans.  And we love to vacation there these days.  So, I'm going to share some pictures and, hopefully, not so much narrative that you fall asleep.  Ha! 



One of my favorite views - Mt. Hood.  You can often get a great glimpse of it as you fly into the Portland airport.  Provided the clouds cooperate.



We spent the first part of our time at Bandon Dunes on the southern coast of OR.  This is a golf resort for 'serious' golfers.  Which my husband is.  He played and loved it.  I took advantage of the hiking and walking trails all over the property.  This trail took me to the bluff above one of the courses.  The ocean is just beyond on the left, but you can't see it in the picture.



This was a glimpse of the 'Forest Trail'.  It was beautiful and peaceful and quiet.  Felt like I was in a fairy tale.



Just off the Forest Trail was a labyrinth, which I walked twice.  As I said, very peaceful and tranquil early in the morning. 



Here was another 'creature' that was travelling on the Forest Trail.  It's a banana slug, I believe.  Interesting coloring, right?  And if you think I sized it up - well, it was about 5 or 6 inches long.  No, I was not tempted to touch it.  Ha!



On July 4th, we drove up the Oregon coast to our second destination.  We stopped here at the Heceta Head Lighthouse and walked the trail up to the lighthouse itself and the lighthouse keeper's residence.  This shot shows how high and what a great view. 



Little 'Peter Rabbit' here was also travelling up to the lighthouse or rather up the trail.



The view from our balcony at the Salishan Resort just south of Lincoln City, Oregon.  This is another beautiful place to play golf and do all kinds of active things.  I walked their trail to the beach and also all around the resort.  Plus, as you can see, I sat in a comfy rocking chair and enjoyed the view.  I meant to read a bunch, but that view....gorgeous...got distracted.



This guy or gal was taking a bath and catching some breakfast as I walked by on the Beach Trail.  Was still there when I came back and I got to see him grab a fish.  Yum!  Ha!



Isn't this fabulous?  Can you imagine seeing a site like this every day?  Well, come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about my friend, Les.  She lives right there close.  Yes, I got to meet up with friends.  As I said, come back tomorrow to meet Les and Robin.  You may know them already.



On Saturday, we drove back to Portland in order to catch a plane home on Sunday.  We also visited the Oregon Zoo.  It had been 20 years since we had been there and, yes, it was crowded.  Fun though.



Lastly, we stopped by the International Rose Test Garden that is also located in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon.  I love that garden.  So many beautiful roses and other flowers.  Again, crowded, but so, so worth it. 

And we are back in our circle to saying goodbye to Mt. Hood as we flew out of Portland and home to Texas.  We had a marvelous trip!  Thanks for sharing it with me!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A short break...






I'm going to be on a short break.  I'll be back in a couple of weeks.  Don't have too much fun without me!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - The Craftsman



I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

I've read many of this author's books over the years and enjoyed them.  I haven't yet read her last couple of standalone tales, but plan to.  This week's book has already been published 'across the pond', so it's possible (and probable) you'll see a review here before October.  I've already ordered my copy and it's arrived.  However, the US publication is not until the fall and so this week, I'm waiting on:




Publication Date:  October 16th

Florence Lovelady's career was made when she convicted coffin-maker Larry Grassbrook of a series of child murders 30 years ago in a small village in Lancashire. Like something out of a nightmare, the victims were buried alive Florence was able to solve the mystery and get a confession out of Larry before more children were murdered.

But now, decades later, he's dead, and events from the past start to repeat themselves. Is someone copying the original murders? Or did she get it wrong all those years ago? When her own son goes missing under similar circumstances, the case not only gets reopened... it gets personal.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Summer Sail - Wendy Francis

The Summer Sail by Wendy Francis

First Paragraph(s):

Abby slid the invitation into the envelope.  It was a lovely invitation, on sturdy cream card stock with blue script and a jaunty little boat sailing across the top.  She knew it was silly to have ordered special cards in this day and age when everything got sent electronically, but a twentieth wedding anniversary seemed to demand a certain amount of decorum.  And it was the perfect reason to celebrate.  Every year, she and her two college roommates tried to meet up for a reunion somewhere in the States, but this year, she wanted to propose something different: a cruise, an island getaway to Bermuda.  What could be more idyllic?
     She sealed the envelopes, affixed the stamps, and addressed them in her loopy handwriting, one to Ms. Lee Minor in Charleston, South Carolina, and the other to Ms. Caroline Canton in New York.  Abby smiled at the thought of her roommates' spotting the invitation in a sea of advertisements and magazines in their mailboxes.  It was good to try something different every so often, and as she'd said to her husband, Sam, when first pitching the idea, If not now, then when?

My Thoughts:

The Summer Sail is the first book I've read by Wendy Francis and, truthfully, it's a little outside the type of book that I tend to read as a general rule.  However, as you might have noticed from my recent 'Bookish Nostalgia' post, I do read some 'women's friendship' books and thoroughly enjoy them when I'm in the mood.  Lately, I've been in the mood.

First of all, I am very much not a person who takes an ocean cruise.  I can barely be on a boat at all.  Motion sickness is a problem for me.  I did enjoy reading this story of three college roommates and 'forever' friends who take a cruise from Boston to Bermuda in order to celebrate the 20th wedding anniversary of one of them.  Abby, Caroline, and Lee have stayed close and each of them comes to this trip with issues they are dealing with.  Some of the issues are more serious than others, but all deserve some thought by the worrier.  I liked all the characters and also liked the descriptions of not only the cruise, but their time in Bermuda.  A charming book that was perfect for the beginning of summer. 

Blurb:

Three college roommates are celebrating a twentieth wedding anniversary by taking a cruise to Bermuda. As the ship pulls away from the pier, everyone is looking forward to lounging by the pool, sipping sunset cocktails, and reminiscing. Abby, the mother hen of the group, will be celebrating her wedding anniversary in style, even as she and her husband keep a secret from the group. Ambitious career woman Caroline happily anticipates several stress-free days away from her magazine job with her boyfriend, Javier, who may or may not be finally inspired to propose. And single mom Lee (annoyingly gorgeous and irresistibly popular in college) hopes she’ll win back the affections of her formerly sweet daughter Lacey, who after her first year in college, has inexplicably become a little bit of a monster.

As the balmy pink shores of Bermuda come into view, tensions simmer, and old jealousies flare, sending the temperature from soothing to scorching in this engrossing tale of three best friends on a vacation they won’t soon forget—but not for the reasons they expect.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - As the Christmas Cookie Crumbles - Leslie Budewitz

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.



5th in the Food Lovers' Village Mystery Series

In Jewel Bay, all is merry and bright. At Murphy's Mercantile, AKA the Merc, manager Erin Murphy is ringing in the holiday season with food, drink, and a new friend: Merrily Thornton. A local girl gone wrong, Merrily has turned her life around. But her parents have publicly shunned her, and they nurse a bitterness that chills Erin.

When Merrily goes missing and her boss discovers he's been robbed, fingers point to Merrily—until she's found dead, a string of lights around her neck. The clues and danger snowball from there. Can Erin nab the killer—and keep herself in one piece—in time for a special Christmas Eve?

Includes delicious recipes!


Leslie is an attorney who practiced in Seattle before returning to her native Montana to live and write mysteries and be a part-time lawyer.  She's the author of both the Food Lovers' Village series, set in Montana, and the Spice Shop series, set at Seattle's wonderful Pike Place Market.  Leslie is very involved in the Sisters in Crime organization and was one of the founding members of the Guppy Chapter.  The first Food Lovers' Village book is Death Al Dente.  And the first Spice Shop book is Assault and Pepper.  That series now has 3 books.  Leslie is also involved in the blog Mystery Lovers Kitchen, where a reader can pick up all kinds of wonderful recipes from several authors.  

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I was excited to meet Leslie at the Malice book convention a few weeks ago.  Both her series are ones that I want to try.  We chatted a bit about my 'Guppy' prize win and I told her that I was planning on sharing the books I received with our mystery book group.  She sent extra bookmarks and recipe cards for them - wasn't that kind?  Thanks for everything, Leslie!  Good luck with your writing and I can't wait to visit Montana and Seattle (which I love) in your books!