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Saturday, July 26, 2014

REVIEW: EVERYWHERE THAT MARY WENT, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

In a high-powered Philadelphia law firm, Mary DiNunzio is working hard to earn a position as a partner. She has a lot to prove, to herself and to her family.

But something is distracting her these days, threatening to derail her focus.

First there were the oddly threatening notes, hang-ups on the phone, and then the feeling that someone is always following her. But who? And why?

Mary hasn't felt like herself since the hit and run death of her husband Mike Lassiter a few months before. So is she imagining the menace that seems to be hovering over her?

But her best friend and co-associate at the firm, Judy Carrier, does not think so. Between the two of them, they start to piece together the clues. And then a second hit and run death leads Mary and Judy to believe that there might be a connection between the "accidents."

Everything ratchets up a few notches as various possible suspects come to mind. Could it be someone at the firm? A jealous associate? Or possibly a rejected suitor?

Everywhere That Mary Went (Rosato & Associates Book 1) was a page-turning thriller that had me guessing until the very end. I trusted none of the possible suspects, but I was blindsided by the identity of the perpetrator. And in between the mysterious events, there was a lot of fun dialogue and charming episodes with Mary's Italian family. I have read and enjoyed other books in this series, but it was delightful to read this one that introduces the main characters. Four stars.
 
***
 

Friday, July 18, 2014

REVIEW: PAIN, PARTIES, WORK, BY ELIZABETH WINDER

In the summer of 1953, Sylvia Plath and several other college girls were chosen as guest editors for Mademoiselle Magazine, to work on the college issue.

A month long frenzy of activities, from work in the bull pen, to photo shoots, to luncheons, and to a round of parties, would ultimately become a series of defining moments for the young women.

Entering her senior year at Smith following that summer, Sylvia's plans to write her senior thesis on James Joyce came to a screeching halt when she found herself struggling with the readings, her comprehension seemingly gone.

Self-confidence was at an all-time low when she attempted suicide, and subsequently spent time in a psychiatric hospital. But afterwards, in the Platinum Year of 1954, Sylvia seemed "golden" again, with her newly blonded hair and her revitalized attitude.

In later years, Sylvia would plumb the depths to write about the "hottest summer of her life." Those experiences, fictionalized, would become the core of The Bell Jar.

"Sylvia's experiences in the city that summer ignited her already harsh eye. The Bell Jar burns with a merciless bathing-suit-in-the-dressing-room fluorescent light. But this same garish illumination can be fresh, perversely flattering in a truthful/trashy way—like a snapshot where the skin has too much shine on it and there are too many dark shadows and everyone looks like a deer in the headlights, caught in the moment of reliving some recent humiliation."

The 1950s in America were a time before the big changes that would come. Before Betty Friedan's book illuminating "the problem that has no name." Before the protests and fervor of a generation discovering freedoms previously unexplored. I remember these times well. And the fashions of that summer of 1953 were some that I recall with distaste. The fabrics, the styles...they spoke of a hobbling of a woman's self as well as her physical being. Unattractive and binding, the subsequent decades could not come soon enough for those of us living then.

One of Sylvia's friends during that summer, Neva Nelson, summed up their experiences:

 "We were all immature adolescents—products of the middle 1950s, pre-Pill, pre-Feminine Mystique—expected to do something extraordinary, but left with the ambiguity of the female role, with its stress on home and family."

Pain, Parties, Work: Sylvia Plath in New York, Summer 1953 (P.S.) is a time-out-of-time series of experiences that revealed the girlish Sylvia Plath, still self-confident, for the most part...still golden. A portrait of the young woman, encapsulated in this moment in time, the story elicits sadness for the lost girl and the life cut short.  4.0 stars.

***


Friday, July 4, 2014

REVIEW: LITTLE LIES, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

In the middle of the night, Ellen Moore, social worker, receives a call that takes her out of her home, leaving behind her husband and three children.

She is used to these calls, but they never bring good news with them. And like the other times, this one involves a child. But abandonment is not the issue in this case. The child's mother has been murdered and left beside a statue in the park. Her four-year-old son was left next to her, alive and apparently unhurt.

Ellen's friend, police detective Joe Gaddey, is on the case. What about this situation rings a memory bell for the two of them? Is it a coincidence, or is there more to the story? They try to search out the possible connections.

Little Lies, a novella, is the prequel to Little Mercies, which will continue a story featuring Ellen Moore. This was an enjoyable read that whetted my appetite for the next book. After the unexpected resolution to the murder, the social worker wonders if the child should be protected from the knowledge of what happened to his mother. Is truth always the best thing? 5.0 stars.

***

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

REVIEW: SHE CAN HIDE, BY MELINDA LEIGH

After surviving a brutal attack three years before, Abby Foster is starting over in a small town in the Pennsylvania mountains. Westbury seems to promise the quiet normal life this high school teacher has been yearning.

But while driving her car one day, Abby ends up in the bottom of an icy river, facing death again. Luckily, Officer Ethan Hale was passing by and helped save her. But as grateful as she is, Abby has her own reasons for not knowing if she can trust him. But as she watches him over the next few days and has seen how protective Ethan is, Abby begins to trust him a little, and something more is now brewing between them. Can she trust him with her heart?

With no memory of the two hours before her plunge into the river, the answers that follow thrust her into fear once again. After testing her water bottle, the police have discovered that a poisonous substance had been added. The river plunge was no accident.

Who is trying to kill her again? The man responsible for the previous attempt was supposedly still in prison, but new discoveries lead them on a quest to find out just who is behind both attempts. Who from Abby's past is out to get her?

Why is Abby traveling to Atlantic City to meet with a mob boss? What secrets is she hiding that might put her further at risk?

Great characters populate this story, and with lots of twists and turns and new surprises around every corner, She Can Hide (She Can Series) is a tumultuous ride toward solving all the mysteries and keeping the innocent safe. With mob bosses and meth addicts added to the mix, there could be plenty of violence before it all comes to an end. 5.0

***

Saturday, June 14, 2014

REVIEW: A MATTER OF CHOICE, BY NORA ROBERTS

Sergeant James Sladerman (Slade), of the NYPD, has mixed feelings about his career as a police officer. Writing is his first love, but for the time being, he writes after work. Everything in life is all about making hard choices.

So when his latest assignment takes him to a small Connecticut town to "babysit" Jessica Winslow, the owner of an antiques shop, while FBI agents circle, trying to find the kingpin of a smuggling operation that is using her shop, Slade is less than thrilled.

His cover, however, will be as a writer who will be helping Jessica organize her huge library.

It should have been a fairly simple assignment, but what Slade had not counted on was the powerful connection that developed between him and Jessica. Would crossing that line interfere with the assignment? Would he be able to walk away afterwards?

Set some time before computers became the go-to technology for authors, and before the regular presence of cell phones, A Matter of Choice is a fairly predictable romance with a familiar premise, and while I enjoyed the setting and how the author brings the reader right into the world of the characters, I had it all figured out fairly early. The story had a little more romance and less mystery than I would have liked, but it was an enjoyable read. 3.5 stars.
 
***
 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

REVIEW: SECOND CHANCE GRILL, BY CHRISTINE NOLFI

After her best friend Sadie Goldstein is killed, dashing their plans to take over the clinic in Cincinnati, Dr. Mary Chance is looking for solace. So when her Aunt Meg leaves her the struggling diner in Liberty, she takes on the challenge.

Best laid plans often go awry, and Mary had definitely not planned on falling in love with the handsome Anthony Perini and his eleven-year-old daughter Blossom, a precocious child in remission from leukemia.

Since Mary always knew she would be going back to Cincinnati, to take over the free clinic for Sadie's father Abe, how can she possibly make any commitments to Anthony and Blossom? But then when something unexpected happens that threatens everything for them all, what will Mary do next?

Second Chance Grill (Liberty Series) is a continuing saga, and the characters are full of small-town charm, as well as a few quirks. Some of the characters are mean-spirited, but Mary is determined to hang in there for Blossom...even when Anthony takes issue with some of her actions and risks their newly developing love.

A lovely story that reveals how second chances can be treasures that restore the human spirit, this tale was also a voyage of discovery. I loved seeing what small town life can be like when everyone pulls together, especially when empowered by social media. Even as I felt connected to the characters and the homey setting, I was touched by how, in the end, an inspirational and heart-lifting surge of love swept across the town like a benevolent firestorm, encompassing all in its path. I can't wait to rejoin the story in the next book. 5.0 stars.

***

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

REVIEW: EYES ON YOU, BY KATE WHITE

 Robin Trainer is back at her on-air job as a co-host, after a two-year hiatus. Ratings are climbing and a book she has written is turning into a bestseller.

But a dark and malevolent presence is threatening her very existence, not to mention her career. It is obviously someone she works with, because of the nature and timing of the incidents, but just when she thinks she has figured it out, her bosses turn against her with a startling decision.

How can Robin find out who has been destroying her life and even threatening her safety when everyone believes something different?

Can one friend at work help her find out who is responsible? Or will she discover that more and more of the people she trusted are not trustworthy?

In her darkest hour, Robin is reminded of childhood incidents involving her stepmother...and wondering if now, like then, she can ever prove her innocence.

Eyes on You: A Novel of Suspense was a quick read that I could not put down, and is a hard reminder of the cutthroat world of journalism. I had several suspects in mind, and didn't figure out the whole story until it started to fall into place at the end. Even then, some of the pieces didn't fit together completely for me...there were some loose ends. But overall, it was a stunning read. 4.0 stars.

***



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