Friday, July 26, 2019

Gretchen by Shannon Kirk

Release Date - July 23, 2019

I'm still not quite sure how I feel about Gretchen Kirk's Shannon. It started out in a way that had me thinking coming of age and suspense. It ended up taking a dark turn that was all psychological thriller. At that point, I really had tired of the characters and didn't care. Many were making foolish decisions and avoiding the best place to start once things got weird.

For as long as she can remember, Lucy and her mother have been on the run. Whenever anyone gets too close or suggests they recognize one of them, they pack up and disappear again. Now 15, Lucy is growing tired of constantly leaving and having to start all over. Leaving behind her friend on this last move was rough.

Now in New Hampshire, their potential new landlord has a daughter who is the same age as Lucy. This is an incredible chance for her to actually have a friend nearby. Though her mom isn't certain the rental home is right for them, she convinces her mom it is.

While Lucy and her mom have their own secrets, so do Gretchen and her dad. Gretchen starts showing her unusual side each time they get together, and it's starting to worry Lucy. Is it too late to change her mind?

I liked the opening chapters. A mom and daughter on the run. Someone else seeking someone and you can't tell if they're good or evil. I loved that part. Once Gretchen and her dad came into the story, it became almost apparent where this new storyline was heading and I grew to dislike it. So many things stopped making sense to me. The characters started making unrealistic choices and decisions that left me baffled. Some of the actions didn't fit with their characters at all.

As more plots were added, I started to lose interest. I had to struggle to finish reading it, and I found myself far too eager to flip through certain chapters because they seemed unnecessary. It ended up being a disappointment once that happened. It's a shame because I really had loved the opening.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Release Date - July 2, 2019

While waiting on his flight, Joshua Fields comes across an attractive woman. They share a passionate kiss and he's hooked. She disappears as quickly as she arrived. He makes an uncharacteristic decision to abandon his flight and get on hers instead. Once they've taken off, he goes to find her and she denies knowing him or being who he says she is.

Later, he's in the airport and sees a news alert that the mystery woman is missing. Rather than continue on his business trip, he opts to go to the town she says she's from and do some digging. He wants to find her and find out why she's been reported missing.

I've read several of David Bell's novels. I've found each one to be enjoyable. I liked Layover, but I never loved it. Part of that is that Joshua's behavior seemed out of character. He's been in a relationship that feels safe but doesn't feel permanent to him. He's been doing the same job for years with his dad mentoring him every step of the way. He's used to routines, but he throws it all away for a stranger he kisses once and then denies she knows him?

It seemed odd to me. His insistence on finding her was unusual to me. She made it clear she didn't want him around, he knows something is wrong, but he keeps pushing on no matter what happens, even going against police orders if it comes to it. Without giving away any spoilers, the one thing I did love was the ending. That was exactly how I needed it to end.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Goodnight Stranger: A Novel by Miciah Bay Gault

Release Date - July 30, 2019

When I learn there's a book by a Vermont author, I do make every effort to read it. Miciah Bay Gault lives in the state's capital city, but her story is mostly set in Massachusetts on a fictional island off Cape Cod.

Lydia Moore has been responsible for her brother since her mom's death. She and Lucas are more than brother-sister, they're two of a set of triplets. Their infant brother died tragically when he was just weeks old.

One day, a stranger comes to the island. Lydia can't help but feel drawn to him. It's Lucas, however, that is convinced this stranger is their deceased brother who has somehow returned. The man, Cole, knows too many things about their home and their mother for it to be a coincidence.

Lydia must uncover the truth. To do so, she has to leave the island, and that poses problems. She's been on the island so long that leaving it triggers anxiety. She knows something is wrong, but unless she can find out who Cole truly is, she'll never be able to convince her brother that the man he has become attached to is hiding something.

I really enjoyed Goodnight Stranger. I loved the setting. There's a story told by Cole that is a local legend and Emily's Bridge does exist, though the town listed in Goodnight Stranger is fictional. Having that level of familiarity always draws me into a story.

I will admit that the ending made me both happy and sad. No spoilers here, here I wish one aspect had been finalized a little more, but I can see why the author chose to leave it as she did.

All in all, Goodnight Stranger kept me hooked long into the night. As soon as I got up this morning, I had to finish it before starting my day. It was that good.

Monday, July 15, 2019

A Stranger on the Beach by Michelle Campbell

Release Date - July 23, 2019

I would have really loved this novel so much more had I not had it pegged from the start. The author builds suspense well. The situations are almost creepy at times. But, I had the "twist" figured out before I was too far into the story.

Empty nester Caroline Stark is delighted that her gorgeous, albeit expensive, waterfront home is ready. When her husband announces he won't be back from his business trip in time to be there for the housewarming party, she's heartbroken. Worse, she catches him in a lie. He claims to be in another state, but she tracks his phone and learns he's in a hotel in the city.

With her marriage in shambles and a mysterious stranger watching her house from the beach, Caroline finds her world is falling apart. That stranger, Aidan, ends up being the man she turns to for a one-night stand when she learns her husband has been with another woman. Little does she know that Aiden's dark history and unusual behavior will be far more than she ever could have imagined.

A Stranger on the Beach is very much a psychological suspense novel with the mystery involving the lies Caroline's husband hides and Aidan's infatuation with her. Everything does tie together at some point, but I never found the final revelation to be shocking. I liked A Stranger on the Beach, but it never shocked me. If anything, I found it to be a bit predictable.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Crashing the A-List by Summer Heacock

Release Date - July 9, 2019

One thing I was totally ready for was a heroine who didn't take things in stride. Crashing the A-List finds Clara Montgomery unemployed and desperate. She was at the top of her game in the publishing industry, but a merger led to many book editors being tossed onto the streets at the same time and finding a new job has proven to be more than difficult.

Rather than return home to a very passive-aggressive mother, Clara moves in with her brother and his fiancee. She's given up her plush bed for a lumpy sofa. She just needs that one break. The only one she currently has is a temporary job cleaning abandoned storage units.

Many of those abandoned units are packed with things that smell of beets or are of a questionable nature with things she cannot and doesn't want to imagine what they once were. It's the discovery of a locker filled with paperwork that seems most tedious and changes her life. That locker is packed floor-to-ceiling with paperwork from a former escort service.

With the help of her friend, she discovers a very popular actor among the list of escorts. One drunken call to him leads to a very embarrassing situation where he believes she was going to blackmail him and turns the tables by requiring her to become his "girlfriend" until his red carpet premiere. At that point, he'll stage a very public break up.

The dislike for each other is apparent, but that doesn't keep Clara from doing what she feels she needs to do to avoid jail. Meanwhile, getting through the next few weeks is proving to be harder than ever, and at any moment, the walls of Clara and Caspian's ruse could come crashing down.

So much about Caspian was completely unlikable. Like Clara, I found his pompous attitude to be very hard to take. I wasn't sure I would ever like him. In fact, I'm still not sure I really did become fond of him.

Yet, the story had me hooked. Clara is charming, witty, and exactly the type of friend I'd be proud to have. Her best friend is even better. What a pair they'd be to have over for drinks!

Crashing the A-List turned into a fantastic beach read. I started it and just couldn't stop. I may have spent a bit too much time reading rather than enjoying the beauty of Popham Beach that sunny day, but it was worth every minute. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The One Who Stays by Toni Blake

Release Date - July 30, 2019

This first book in the Summer Island series hooked me from the start. Unlike many romances, I wasn't always sure who Meg would choose. It's nice not knowing until the end.

Meg Sloan returned to Summer Island for unhappy reasons, but she's come to love her grandmother's island. After her grandmother passes away, she's remained on the island running her grandmother's inn. It's a roof over her head and a steady income, but she isn't sure it's all she wants from life.

Part of that lies in the part-time romance she has going with a local fisherman. He comes and goes as he wants, and she's tired of watching him go away for weeks at a time and waiting for his return. She wonders if Zack will ever want to be part of a committed relationship.

As spring arrives, Meg finds herself hiring a newcomer to the island. Seth Darden is only around for a few months, but he needs the money and agrees to be the Summerbrook Inn's handyman. He is really at the inn for another reason, but he hopes never to reveal the truth.

Meg finds herself torn between two men. She's definitely intrigued by Seth, even if he is younger. Meanwhile, Zack seems to be changing. He's talking more about how much he loves Meg. Is his sudden claim that he loves her enough?

To add to her confusion, Seth stumbles across an old diary hidden in the floorboards. It's her grandmother's diary. In it is a confession that Meg never sees coming. Her grandmother may be offering the best advice from the pages of her diary, but it's up to Meg to decide what her heart wants.

There were several things I found felt right at home. I, too, live for the scent of lilacs in the spring. My back deck is surrounded on three sides (minus the stairs) so that I can sit on the covered back deck and inhale that scent as I work. I related to Meg for that reason. Like her, I also have roses, but they're just not the same.

Now, I've never been to Michigan's islands, but as I read this book, I was thinking of Block Island. I fell in love with Block Island two years ago and would love to live there. I managed to avoid the island in peak tourist season, which is my preferred time to get to know an area. There is a charm to being on an island in the off-season as the summer crowds just start to return. While Meg was busying talking about the reasons she'd like to leave, I was thinking that they were the reasons I'd want to stay.

Spoilers are something I work hard to avoid. What I do want to say is that the man who loses out in this first book in the series will hopefully get to tell his own story in the future. I really want to learn more about what happens to him! Write as fast as you can Ms. Blake. I am eager for the next chapter in this island's tale.

Monday, July 1, 2019

The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Release Date - July 30, 2019

It's a team building exercise they believe. They're ruthless on Wall Street, but it's bonus time and somethings may not be as well as they'd hope. When Sam, Sylvie, Jules, and Vincent get an email that they are to meet up at a specific location, they jump. They're used to jumping, even if it means messing up plans with wives, boyfriends, and just about anyone else they know.

The escape room challenge seems easy enough. Solve the puzzles and get out of the elevator. Some of them soon learn that they may not make it out alive.

Here's a situation where I spent a lot of time rooting for the person I was sure was behind the creation of the escape room. This book is twisted and dark, but I never felt sorry for the four trying to escape the elevator. In fact, I was cheering every time they struggled to solve the next clue. I had them solved and knew what would happen next. There were no surprises. It was just an entertaining read from the first page to the last.

Sam, Sylvie, Jules, and Vincent are just not likable people. They're ruthless and enjoy stomping on others to get to the top. That makes them easy to hate. I liked the puzzles, loved the plot, and was very satisfied when it all reached the final page.

The Road to Christmas: A Sweet Holiday Romance Novel by Sheila Roberts

Release Date - September 20, 2022  Sit down and explore the holiday season through four sets of eyes in Sheila Roberts' latest holiday...