REVIEW: OBJECT OF MY AFFECTION, BY STEPHEN MCCAULEY

 

George and Nina seem like the perfect couple. They share a cozy, cluttered Brooklyn apartment, a taste for impromptu tuna casserole dinners, and a devotion to ballroom dancing lessons at Arthur Murray. They love each other. There’s only one hitch: George is gay. And when Nina announces she’s pregnant, things get especially complicated. Howard—Nina’s overbearing boyfriend and the baby’s father—wants marriage. Nina wants independence. George will do anything for a little unqualified affection, but is he ready to become an unwed surrogate dad? A touching and hilarious novel about love, friendship, and the many ways of making a family.

 

My Thoughts: I loved the movie based on Object of My Affection, starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Ruud, among others.

After reading another novel by this author, I was eager to see how this story played out in book format.

Just as in the movie, I enjoyed the settings (Manhattan, Brooklyn) and the issues of two roommates taking on the challenges of single life, especially when one of the characters is having a baby with another man.

The book ended on a different note, and while I liked it, I couldn’t help but wish for the movie ending. 4.5 stars.

***

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REVIEW: TELEPHONE LINE, BY JULIE MULHERN

 

Ellison Russell is planning the event of the season—and she’s stressed. Why not yoga?

Because the yoga instructor gets murdered during class—and Ellison’s stress level rises exponentially. Now, in addition to raising a ridiculous amount of money, she’s babysitting a deranged cat (named after the devil himself), taking ten million phone calls (most of them from Mother), and finding more bodies (they’re popping up like dandelions after a spring rain).

There’s no such thing as balance when the killer makes it personal. Can Ellison catch a murderer or will her next namaste be her last?

My Thoughts: Telephone Line, the ninth installment in the Country Club Murders Series, immediately thrusts our protagonist, Ellison Russell, into a murder mystery. As those who have followed the books know, Ellison is always front and center at murder scenes, finding dead bodies as if they are a hobby for her. Her relationship with Homicide Detective Anarchy Jones grows exponentially with each experience.

Yoga class seemed like a good way to relax, but the death of the instructor proved that theory wrong.

As Ellison studies the clues, explores the connections between old cases, and also tries to collect donations for the upcoming gala, I was gripping the pages and trying to help solve the cases. As usual, the perpetrator is another unexpected one. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: DEAR WIFE, BY KIMBERLY BELLE

 

Beth Murphy is on the run…

For nearly a year, Beth has been planning for this day. A day some people might call any other Wednesday, but Beth prefers to see it as her new beginning—one with a new look, new name and new city. Beth has given her plan significant thought, because one small slip and her violent husband will find her.

Sabine Hardison is missing…

A couple hundred miles away, Jeffrey returns home from a work trip to find his wife, Sabine, is missing. Wherever she is, she’s taken almost nothing with her. Her abandoned car is the only evidence the police have, and all signs point to foul play.

As the police search for leads, the case becomes more and more convoluted. Sabine’s carefully laid plans for her future indicate trouble at home, and a husband who would be better off with her gone. The detective on the case will stop at nothing to find out what happened and bring this missing woman home. Where is Sabine? And who is Beth? The only thing that’s certain is that someone is lying and the truth won’t stay buried for long.

My Thoughts: A missing wife, a runaway wife, and a predator. Who is Beth running from, and what happened to Sabine?

Immediately I was caught up in the stories of the narrators, from Beth, to Sabine, and even to Marcus. Parts of the story caught me off guard, and then everything made perfect sense.

I loved how the narrators told us how and why their lives were unfolding in this way, and I rooted for some of them…and not others.

Dear Wife was a riveting tale that captured me until the end. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THINGS YOU SAVE IN A FIRE, BY KATHERINE CENTER

 

Cassie Hanwell was born for emergencies. As one of the only female firefighters in her Texas firehouse, she’s seen her fair share of them, and she’s a total pro at other people’s tragedies. But when her estranged and ailing mother asks her to give up her whole life and move to Boston, Cassie suddenly has an emergency of her own.

The tough, old-school Boston firehouse is as different from Cassie’s old job as it could possibly be. Hazing, a lack of funding, and poor facilities mean that the firemen aren’t exactly thrilled to have a “lady” on the crew—even one as competent and smart as Cassie. Except for the infatuation-inspiring rookie, who doesn’t seem to mind having Cassie around. But she can’t think about that. Because love is girly, and it’s not her thing. And don’t forget the advice her old captain gave her: Never date firefighters. Cassie can feel her resolve slipping…and it means risking it all—the only job she’s ever loved, and the hero she’s worked like hell to become.

 

 

My Thoughts: Things You Save in a Fire grabbed me right away. Cassie had fought her whole life to achieve her goals and to leave behind the pain of her mother’s abandonment. Something else happened to her just after her mother left, something that would leave deep scars. Something that would come back to haunt her just when she had earned an award of valor. On the heels of the award and the haunting memories of the past, her mother pleads with her to come help her with some medical issues.

An emotional storm pushed Cassie toward Boston, despite her resistance. Will she find a way to reconnect with her mother? Can she finally put the past behind her?

I thoroughly enjoyed Cassie’s challenges and her willingness to move forward. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE, BY REA FREY

 

Single mother Lee has the daily routine down to a science: shower in six minutes. Cut food into perfect squares. Never leave her on-the-spectrum son Mason in someone else’s care. She’ll do anything-anything—to keep his carefully constructed world from falling apart. Do anything to keep him safe.

But when her best friend Grace convinces her she needs a small break from motherhood to re-charge her batteries, Lee gives in to a weekend trip. Surely a long weekend away from home won’t hurt?

Noah, Mason’s handsome, bright, charismatic tutor—the first man in ages Lee’s even noticed—is more than happy to stay with him.

Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead.

But not all is as it seems. Noah may be more than who he claims to be. Grace has a secret—one that will destroy Lee. Lee has secrets of her own that she will do anything to keep hidden. And what will happen to Mason, as the dominoes begin to fall and the past comes to light?

Perhaps it’s no mystery someone is gone after all…

 

My Thoughts: What began as a story about friendship and the world of single parenting would morph into a suspense thriller with so many layers of deceit that it would take rapidly turning those pages to find out more. As we delve further into Because You’re Mine we learn snippets of those long-held secrets, but we won’t realize the extent of them until the very end.

What is the story behinds Mason’s paternity? What happened to each woman’s family members that would change the course of their lives? How did Noah fit into each of their lives, past and present?

Each revelation begins to offer a peek of those lives in the past, as well as the present, but it would only be in the final pages that we truly understand the depths of the duplicity. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE PERFECT WIFE, BY J P DELANEY

 

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives—and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

THE PERFECT WIFE

 

My Thoughts: At first glance, The Perfect Wife could be one man’s attempt to recreate his dead wife, unable to move on after the loss of her. Since he is adept at technological advances, what Tim does to create his dream wife seems almost sweet.

But it doesn’t take long for the artificial version to fill the reader in on the true motives, and even then, we have persistent questions about what is really going on.

The story unfolds in alternating narratives: Real Abbie vs. Artificial Version. We soon come to empathize with each part of her, turning pages rapidly to learn what she will ultimately decide to do when her very existence is threatened.

At the very end, I was stunned by what happened. Could there be some kind of happiness in whatever chosen existence prevails? Would the Real Abbie please stand up? 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: A GOOD ENOUGH MOTHER, BY BEV THOMAS

 

Ruth Hartland is a psychotherapist with years of experience. But professional skill is no guard against private grief. The mother of grown twins, she is haunted by the fact that her beautiful, difficult, fragile son Tom, a boy who never “fit in,” disappeared a year and a half earlier. She cannot give up hope of finding him, but feels she is living a kind of half-life, waiting for him to return.

Enter a new patient, Dan–unstable and traumatized–who looks exactly like her missing son. She is determined to help him, but soon, her own complicated feelings, about how she has failed her own boy, cloud her professional judgment. And before long, the unthinkable becomes a shattering reality….

My Thoughts: In the opening lines of A Good Enough Mother, psychotherapist Ruth Hartland is drawn to her new patient, Dan, who bears a striking resemblance to her missing son Tom. As the therapy proceeds, Ruth finds herself losing her sense of control over their sessions. Boundaries are crossed and the inevitable blurring of lines lead to horrific consequences.

The narrative takes Ruth back and forth in time, revealing the good and bad moments in her family life, and just when we see a glimmer of hope in Ruth’s personal life, a stunning breach upends both her personal and professional life.

From the outside looking in, one could anticipate the startling events, and afterwards, Ruth realizes that she should have seen how events would unfold…if she had been paying attention to the signs. I felt a connection to Ruth as she lived in a state of denial, constantly searching for her lost son. I liked how there was a glimmer of hope in the conclusion. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: BEFORE SHE WAS FOUND, BY HEATHER GUDENKAUF

 

For twelve-year-old Cora Landry and her friends Violet and Jordyn, it was supposed to be an ordinary sleepover—movies and Ouija and talking about boys. But when they decide to sneak out to go to the abandoned rail yard on the outskirts of town, little do they know that their innocent games will have dangerous consequences.

Later that night, Cora Landry is discovered on the tracks, bloody and clinging to life, her friends nowhere to be found. Soon their small rural town is thrust into a maelstrom. Who would want to hurt a young girl like Cora—and why? In an investigation that leaves no stone unturned, everyone is a suspect and no one can be trusted—not even those closest to Cora.

My Thoughts: Narrated via text messages, journal entries, and therapist notes, Before She Was Found probes beneath the surface into the disturbed psyches of three middle school girls in a rural Iowa town.

We learn about the secret and mysterious world of girls whose rivalries and fantasies unfold against a backdrop of an ordinary setting that turns out to be anything but ordinary.

A dark website binds them together, just as an urban legend tears them apart. Who can discover what has really happened? Just when I thought I had it all figured out, I was almost underwhelmed by what had actually happened…and a little disappointed. However, the book held me in its grip until the end, making the journey worthwhile. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: LITTLE DARLINGS, BY MELANIE GOLDING

 

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley—to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

 

My Thoughts: From the opening pages of Little Darlings, I was drawn into this creepy and sinister tale, a story with characters that made me want to root for them. Lauren, as an exhausted new mother to twins, felt like someone with whom I could empathize. I also liked DS Jo Harper, who is diligent and goes beyond the call of duty.

Patrick, as the new father, was unlikable, in my opinion, although some might view him as a man standing by his “sick” wife.

The story was hard to believe, but when we saw the events from Lauren’s perspective, we could almost buy into her fears. Who doesn’t imagine things when exhausted and disconnected from a real support system? I liked suspending my disbelief until the very end. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: LITTLE BEACH BUNGALOW, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

 

The cottage is nestled along winding Sea View Road, set back from the sandy street. Surrounded by swaying dune grass, it’s a shabby little beach bungalow with an open back porch overlooking a sparkling Long Island Sound. A sign propped in the front window says: For Rent.

Well, the cottage was For Rent … until one particular lobsterman booked a summer stay there. As Shane Bradford settles into the New England beach town of Stony Point, he unloads more than boxes and duffels. With his arrival, he unpacks secrets, and entwined histories, among his circle of beach friends. Old loves surface. New ones emerge, too.

Little Beach Bungalow follows Shane’s simmering summer days back on the Connecticut shore, and much is in store.

My Thoughts: Little Beach Bungalow brings together the Stony Point friends and adds another layer to the past.

Shane Bradford’s story takes the reader back fifteen years to a breach between him and his brother Kyle. We never do get the details of what happened between the brothers, but all of the regular friends in Stony Point are lined up on Kyle’s side, which annoyed me a little. But since they are Kyle’s friends, I could understand it. However, I am not a fan of Kyle and his temper tantrums. I was more intrigued to learn what had happened from Shane’s perspective.

In the end, we are left not really knowing what will happen next, which means the ongoing series will pull me in once again. 5 stars.

***