Posted in Beach Read, General Fiction, Southern Fiction, Women's Fiction

The High Tide Club by Mary Kay Andrews

Publication Info: I listened to the audiobook through my local library. Published May 8, 2018 by MacMillan Audio. Other editions available in bookstores and libraries.

Summary: Ninety-nine year old Josephine Bettendorf Warrick is dying of cancer. She owns a crumbling mansion and most of a barrier island off the Georgia coast. The state is trying to take the island and turn it into a park. With no direct heirs, curmudgeonly Josephine, determined to keep it out of the hands of the state, contacts attorney Brooke Trappnell and tells her that she wants to leave the island to her old friends and their descendants. All but one of her friends is deceased. They used to call themselves The High Tide Club.

Shortly after Josephine hires Brooke and reveals a shocking secret to her and several other people over dinner, she dies, leaving even more stories untold.

Comments: Mary Kay Andrews writes sympathetic and compelling novels that make fantastic beach reads. The High Tide Club is no exception. I love the gentle flow of her writing, but there is plenty of drama to keep me riveted. The High Tide Club’s themes include love, abandonment, betrayal, danger, acceptance and hope. I felt that I really got to know the characters, as their lives unfolded with every page and chapter. I really loved this book and look forward to reading more by the author.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Legal Fiction, Women's Fiction

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Publication Info: Expected publication date August 4th 2020, by St. Martin’s Press. I read the Kindle pre-pub edition courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher.

Summary: In the small seaside town of Neapolis, a young man is on trial for the rape of a teenage girl. Scott Blair is Neapolis’ athlete-hero, with a college scholarship and a good shot at a place on the Olympic swim team. His defense team presents multiple character witnesses who attest to Scott’s upstanding community spirit.

The underage teenage girl, known as K, only has her testimony and the report from a rape kit. It is a classic case of he said/she said. The victim desperately needs a witness to support her accusation.

Among the reporters at this trial, is Rachel Krall, a well-known true crime podcaster. After several seasons of covering past trials, Rachel is reporting on the case in Neapolis at the end of each day. Rachel is also receiving mysterious handwritten notes and emails from a woman named Hannah. The notes implore her to look into the death of her sister. Many years ago, Jenny was a teenager when she died in Neapolis, a supposed drowning victim. Her sister, Hannah, insists that Jenny was murdered. Intrigued by the amount of detail in the notes, Rachel is pulled into investigating Jenny’s death while reporting on the contentious rape trial.

Comments: In The Night Swim, Megan Goldin does an amazing job of conveying the emotional devastation of rape and the rule of good old boy culture in a small town. In painful detail, the author describes what a female goes through in a rape trial. In describing the violation of the victim after the rape and not dwelling on the intimate details of the act itself, the author empathically describes how the court treats sex-crime victims.

I thought that the primary voices in the book, both the podcaster and the letter writer, were the perfect means to differentiate the cases. The formats also allowed the reader to develop deep compassion for K and Hannah.

Very highly recommended for fiction readers of courtroom dramas, legal fiction and women’s issues.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Posted in Fiction, suspense

The Vacation by T.M. Logan

Publication Info: Expected publication date, July 21, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press. Previous editions available from other publishers.

Summary: Several long-time friends, along with their families, go on vacation in a secluded villa in France to celebrate the women’s fortieth birthdays. They almost all carry secrets with them.

Sean and Kate are on this vacation with their teenage daughter, Lucy, and nine-year old son, Daniel. Recently, Sean has been acting oddly and Kate suspects he’s having an affair. Jennifer and Alistair are there with their two teen-aged sons, Jake and Ethan. Jake has a history of disturbing behavior. Izzy arrives alone, her fiance having been killed by a bus years ago, but she hints at a new illicit relationship. Rowan, the successful businesswoman whose client owns the villa, arranged the vacation, making her less wealthy friends feel both grateful and inadequate. Her husband, Russ, drinks too much. Their five-year-old- daughter, Odette, is the youngest of the group and the only one with nothing to hide.

Based on a text she saw on her husband’s phone, Kate spends most of her vacation obsessed with figuring out which one of her friends is having a relationship with her husband. But when she learns what is really going on, it is far more disturbing.

Comments: The Vacation is full of characters that I’m glad aren’t my friends. The most likeable ones were the two youngest children, Ethan and Odette. Reading it was like watching the proverbial train wreck. I really wanted to slap several of the adults for being selfish twits.

I really loved two other books that I read by T.M. Logan — Lies and 29 Seconds. While still a decent entry into the suspense genre, I felt that The Vacation wasn’t quite up to those standards.

My rating: 3.75 Stars

Posted in General Fiction, Legal Fiction, Legal Mystery, Multi-Cultural Fiction, Murder Mystery, Mystery

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

Publication Info: Published April 16th 2019 by Sarah Crichton Books. I listened to the audio edition. Other editions available.

Summary: For several families, hope lies in a blue hyperbaric chamber. The owner of the device, Pak Yoo, brought his wife and teenage daughter from South Korea in search of a better life. He promotes the hyperbaric chamber as a treatment for a variety of conditions ranging from autism to impotence.

When a deliberately set fire kills two of the children, suspicion initially falls on a group of protestors. But the police arrest Elizabeth, the mother of one of the victims. As the novel progresses, it is clear that the case isn’t quite as simple as the prosecution portrays.

Comments: Miracle Creek is an astonishingly complex and insightful novel. The author employs omnicient narration to peer deeply into the lives and motivations of everyone involved with the hyperbaric chamber. While the story line is centered around Elizabeth’s trial, the author skillfully weaves in the various events that lead to the fire. The reader’s sympathies and emotions are pulled in various directions as evidence unfolds.

Because the author is also a Korean immigrant, she is able to write with deep understanding about the experience the Yoo family had in coming to America. I found this part of the story particularly enlightening.

Highly recommended for readers of general fiction, multicultural fiction, legal fiction and mysteries.

My rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Fiction, Happy Fiction, Light Romance

Wedding at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild (Lakeside Resort #4)

Publication Info: Published June 25, 2020 by Longleaf Pine Press. I read the Kindle edition through Kindle Unlimited. Other editions available.

Summary: A year and a half after inheriting lakeside resort property from her father, Jenny Beckett is starting to breathe more easily. Her advertising and posted social media reviews are bringing in some steady guests and income.

However, her fiance, Luke, is still stuck digging his former business partner out of messes. When Zander calls with another crisis, Luke feels obligated to go on a business rescue trip. With a new house to build and a wedding that’s only five months away, Jenny is overwhelmed by the details and getting pre-wedding jitters. Even though Luke is a wonderful man, Jenny wonders if he can really be there for her.

Comments: I absolutely adore this charming series set in North Carolina. The over-forty-something characters deal with life’s challenges with maturity and grace. By book number four, the Lakeside Resort feels so real to me that I imagine what it would be like to stay there for a few days with my husband! Since we’re fairly homebound during COVID-19, it was wonderful to have an imaginary getaway.

I really get a kick out of the author’s music references in the novel. She and I must have the same taste.

I hope Susan Schild is hard at work on Lakeside Resort #5. I need to get more details on Jenny and Luke’s quirky campground honeymoon trip! When my husband and I got married, we Bed & Breakfast hopped through several southern cities and found a few quirky places ourselves, including the World’s Largest Frying Pan in Rose Hill, NC. Maybe Luke and Jenny will see that, too!

Highly recommended for readers of light fiction, light romance and happy stories!

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Psychological Suspense, suspense

The Safe Place by Anna Downes

Publication Info: Expected publication date July 14, 2020 by St. Martin’s Press/Minotaur Books. I read the pre-pub Kindle edition courtesy of NetGalley.

Summary: Emily Proudman’s life is a mess. She wants to be an actress, but struggles to get jobs. She’s klutzy. Her roommate is a slob. She fights with her adoptive parents. She suddenly gets fired from her temp job as a receptionist and gets an eviction notice from her landlord. As if all that weren’t bad enough, her agent informs her that she’s moving and Emily will no longer have any contacts for acting jobs.

While wandering in a daze trying to figure out what she’s going to do with her horrible life, she doesn’t see the bus that almost hits her. In shock, she realizes that the man who pushed her out of danger is the CEO of her former place of employment, Scott Denny.

Scott Denny is handsome, rich and very successful. When he offers her an unusual lifeline, Emily jumps at the chance. The job details are rather vague, something about assisting Scott’s wife and small daughter, but the job includes a salary, car and relocation to a villa in France. It sounds ideal. Daydreaming about Scott is also a perk for Emily.

Little does Emily know that Scott is trying to find a solution to a huge problem of his own. As she spends time with Scott’s family and works doing odd jobs at the estate, she realizes that there is something very peculiar going on. When she figures out the mystery, she tries to run for her life.

Comments: I figured out the mystery long before clueless Emily did, but I found The Safe Place to be captivating anyway. There was just the right amount of weirdness without resorting to too many cheap plot twists. The characters were overdrawn and overly anguished, but had quirks that made them interesting. Overall, this was a fun read and I found I didn’t want to put the book down.

Recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense. This would also make a great beach or travel book!

My Rating: 4 STARS

Posted in 20th Century, Best Sellers, General Fiction, Historical Fiction, Southern Fiction

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

Publishing Info: Published June 6, 2017. I listened to the audio edition by Random House Audio through my subscription. Other editions available. Check with your favorite bookseller.

Summary: in 1939, five children live with their loving parents on a Mississippi river boat. Their mother goes into labor with twins. Unlike the other easy births, Queenie’s life is in danger. Her husband takes her to the hospital, where they are told their twins were born dead.

Meanwhile, a local boy helps look after the five other children, the oldest of whom is twelve year old Rill Foss. But he is helpless when the children are stolen and taken to the Tennessee Children’s Home Society orphanage. The children are now under the ruthless care of Georgia Tann. Georgia’s intent is to sell poor children to wealthy people at a great profit for herself. The children are fed minimum rations. They are punished by being tied up in small dark spaces. Pedophiles work at the orphanage. The only time a child is “spiffed up” is when a potential parent comes to visit. Georgia lies about their parentage and splits up families without blinking.

Growing up on the Mississippi river, Rill knows a thing or two about surviving. As the oldest, she feels responsible for her brother and sisters. But she is helpless when one of her sisters vanishes after being punished and two others are adopted away from her.

Meanwhile, Avery Stafford, a wealthy, privileged attorney, is trying to solve a family mystery. She comes across a photo of four women who all look very much alike — one of whom is her grandmother. As she digs deeper into this mystery, it changes the focus and foundation of her life and identity.

Comments: I’m very glad I finally got around to reading this book, which was on the best seller list for about two years. I’d never heard of Georgia Tann. When I looked her up after reading the novel, I realized that the author didn’t exaggerate anything in Before We Were Yours. In fact, she probably downplayed some of the horrors that the real children faced at the Tennessee Children’s Home Society.

I loved the characters of Rill Foss and Avery Stafford. Their voices, as narrated by Emily Rankin and Catherine Tabor rang true. I enjoy listening to some genres, because it forces me to slow down my reading speed and really get into the story. This was definitely a book that benefited from really getting into the characters and rich atmosphere.

Very highly recommended for readers of General Fiction, Historical Fiction and stories about adoption.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Happy Fiction, Happy Fiction, Light Romance, Women's Fiction

Summer at the Lakeside Resort by Susan Schild (Lakeside Resort #2)

Publication Info: Published May 15, 2019 by Longleaf Pine Press. I read the Kindle edition through Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited.

Summary: After her initial burst of guests and and enthusiasm, Jenny is worried about making a success of the Lakeside Resort. Her background was teaching, not property management or marketing. She is going to need some clever ideas and more than a small amount of cash to ensure a steady stream of lodgers.

Luckily, Jenny has some great friends with a variety of skills. One of her friends is a super bargain hunter, which helps stretch Jenny’s thin budget. A few more friends help her build a laundry facility, complete with flower boxes so it matches the cottages. One of her frequent residents hosts a writer’s workshop and another suggests a yoga retreat.

As the ideas flow and the guests respond, Jenny starts to relax a little — except for one major problem. Her boyfriend, Luke, flies off on an extended business trip to Australia, leaving her to deal with some major headaches — like getting a large, expensive boat back to the resort when she doesn’t know a thing about boating. Jenny also worries about her relationship with Luke, as the months drag by and he seems increasingly distant. But with the support of her friends and family, Jenny knows that no matter what happens with Luke, she won’t be alone.

Comments: Bright and cheery, Summer at the Lakeside Resort is the perfect getaway. I’d love to vacation there! It reminded me of some summer vacations with my parents. For a couple of years, my parents booked a tiny one-bedroom pine cabin near the beach. It was one of several on a dirt road. As an only child at the time, vacations could get a bit lonely, but these cottages always had other families. The feeling of temporary community made those vacations particularly happy and memorable.

The novel’s setting isn’t the only thing that made me feel relaxed and comfortable. The characters are older, very down-to-earth and relatable. The dogs are also amusing, but that miniature horse is absolutely adorable!

With continuing social isolation during Covid-19, I’m looking for books that take me to other places. Susan Schild’s novel was a perfect armchair getaway to a very happy, sunny place.

Recommended for readers of Light Romance and Happy Fiction.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Fiction, Psychological Suspense

Little Secrets by Jennifer Hillier

Publication Info: I listened to the Audible Audio edition, published April 21, 2020 by MacMillan Audio. Other editions available, including hardcover and ebooks. Check with your favorite seller.

Summary: Marin Machado’s life shattered the day her four year old son was stolen. He was right by her side at a busy market just before Christmas — and then he vanished. The security cameras showed him walking away with a man in a Santa Claus suit. No other traces were found.

A year later, she is still trying to cope. She is in a support group, attends therapy sessions, and has hired a private investigator to find her son, Sebastian. Her husband has become increasingly distant and their marriage is falling apart. The investigator hasn’t found any trace of Sebastian, but she informs Marin that her husband is having an affair. Marin becomes obsessed with the woman, searching for her on social media and even stalking her at work.

Marin’s closest friend is Sal, a man who has a bit of a shady past. When Sal offers Marin a permanent solution for her problem with her husband, she is certain it is the only thing to do. But that leads to an even worse secret.

Comments: I probably shouldn’t have been listening to this one in bed. It definitely kept me awake a few nights! Just when you think you have it all figured out, the twists keep coming.

Many years ago, at a very crowded event, I briefly lost my son, who was close to Sebastian’s age. I still remember the terror of realizing he was not by my side. It all ended well (and he hasn’t forgotten this either!), but this incident in my own past definitely ratcheted up the emotional anguish I felt along with Marin. This one was a nail biter!

Highly recommended for readers of Psychological Suspense.

My Rating: 5 STARS

Posted in Beach Read, Best Sellers, suspense, Thrillers

The Guest List by Lucy Foley

Publication Info: I read the Book of the Month Club edition published in 2020 by HarperFiction. Other editions available.

Summary: Jules Keegan wants the perfect wedding. As a style and home magazine publisher, she has a few connections. When one wedding planner offered a deep discount in exchange for a magazine promotion, Jules snatched up the opportunity.

Jules is marrying Will Slater, a gorgeous, hunky TV reality show star. The couple haven’t known each other long, but on the surface they seem as well matched as a wedding cake topper. Family and friends are invited to gather on a small, remote island off the coast of Ireland for a night of celebration.

But when the alcohol flows and the guests mingle, they start sharing some dark secrets. Jules’ fantasy wedding becomes the most memorable night of her life, for all the wrong reasons.

Comments: The Guest List has a whiz-bang finale, parts of which I definitely did not see coming! I loved the format the author used. The book is composed of mini chapters that use foreshadowing as a very effective suspense-building technique.

Reading this book was like riding a roller coaster. It starts out interesting, slows down a bit in the middle, then takes off like a rocket, whipping you along screaming every second of the thrilling ride. Bravo, Lucy Foley!

The Guest List was just chosen to be one of two books on Reece Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club this month.

Highly recommended for readers of Suspense and Thrillers, although maybe not if you’re in the middle of planning a wedding!

My Rating: 5 STARS