REVIEW: THE FIFTH LETTER, BY NICOLA MORIARTY

A fun vacation game turns destructive, exposing dark secrets, deeply buried grudges, and a shocking betrayal in Nicola Moriarity’s intriguing debut.

Four friends . . .
Joni, Deb, Eden, and Trina have been best friends since high school, sharing a bond that has seen them through their teenage years and into adulthood. But now, time and circumstance is starting to pull them apart as careers, husbands, and babies get in the way. As their yearly vacation becomes less of a priority—at least for three of the women—how can Joni find a way to draw the four of them back together?

Four secrets . . .
During a laughter and wine-filled night, the women dare one another to write anonymous letters, spilling their deepest, darkest secrets. But the fun game turns devastating, exposing cracks in their lives and the friendship they share. Each letter is a dark confession revealing shocking information. A troubled marriage? A substance abuse problem? A secret pregnancy? A heartbreaking diagnosis?

Five letters . . .
Late on one of their last nights together, after the other three have gone to bed, Joni notices something in the fireplace—a burnt, crumpled, nearly destroyed, sheet of paper that holds the most shattering revelation of all. It is a fifth letter—a hate-filled rant that exposes a vicious, deeply hidden grudge that has festered for decades. But who wrote it? Which one of them has seethed with resentment all these years? What should Joni do?

My Thoughts: My eyes were glued to the pages as the stories in The Fifth Letter unfolded. There were many versions of these women, and the secrets, when revealed, would stun each of them.

But even after they thought they had told all, secrets and lies remained. I did not like the women very much, as they were pretty self-absorbed and competitive with one another. Especially Eden and Joni.

I did enjoy the alternate conversation between Joni and Father O’Reilly, a priest and former psychologist. His advice, his observations, and his very “un-churchy” view of life made me wonder more about him.

Guessing about who wrote that fifth letter, which we get to “read” along with Joni, kept me busy. I was going back and forth between two of the characters, but not until after the vacation, when the women and their husbands got together at Eden’s house for dinner, did it all come out. And then there was chaos, a little danger, and more to come. An epilogue shows us a peek into each of their futures. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE MURDER GAME, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE WRITING AS JULIE APPLE

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The four of them had attended McGill Law School in Montreal, back in the 1990s: Julian McCarthy, Jonathan Sayers, Meredith Delay, and Lily. Back then, they played games with pseudo murder cases, trying to figure out ways for a perpetrator to commit the act and get away with it.

The relationships between the four are complicated, so in addition to their law school fun and games, they are occasional sexual partners, with Lily hooking up with Julian, and Meredith with Jonathan. But the on again off again aspect disturbs Meredith enough that she finally ends things. But Lily is a mysterious character, like a cipher, close-mouthed about her personal life and her secrets. Even when she and Julian aren’t joined at the hip, she doesn’t talk about it. She was quite vocal in frequently announcing her high IQ, however, almost as if she didn’t quite believe it herself.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Meredith gets a mysterious phone call about Julian. We don’t know the exact content of that call, but as The Murder Game begins, we are ready for anything.

Back-pedaling to 2007, the news breaks that Julian McCarthy has been arrested for the murder of a man named Nick Allen, who was home on bail facing charges that he sexually abused his eleven-year-old son. Jonathan Sayers is his defense attorney, and before she can even stop to ponder the issues, Meredith, who works for the Crown Prosecutor’s office, will be prosecuting the case. She tries to plead conflict of interest, but her boss turns her down. And the defense attorney waives conflict.

So…the games begin.

Back and forth in time we go, learning bits and pieces about the four when they were young, moving forward a little at a time, until finally we begin to suspect something is amiss. Could the four of them have set these events in motion? Or could the unfolding events in the present have been pure coincidence?

As a big fan of legal suspense tales, and also having read and loved Fractured, with its main character being Julie Apple, I could not stop reading until I reached the final page. Then I had my answers. Or did I?

I can’t wait to see if “Julie Apple” continues with Meredith’s story. I loved this character, and want to spend more time with her. 5 stars.

cropped again 5***

REVIEW: BEACH BLUES, BY JOANNE DEMAIO

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Stony Point, Connecticut, is the perfect place for both old and new friends to enjoy the summer months.

Celia Gray is a newcomer who has arrived to stage cottages for local realtors, and to heal from a painful divorce, and while she stays in her friends’ cottage during her time here, she begins to form connections among the friendly residents.

Elsa DeLuca is the first of many who engage her, sweeping her up into a cozy circle of warmth, bringing her into her own whirl of activity as she renovates Old Foley’s into an inviting bed and breakfast inn, which she has dubbed Ocean Star Inn.

Soon Elsa is joined by her son Salvatore, who is seeking to heal from his stressful job on Wall Street. But could Sal be harboring other reasons for his summer sojourn?

While new connections form, the old friends show up to provide a backdrop for the summer explorations, and remind us of why we love visiting the beach community populated by Jason and Maris, Kyle and Lauren, and Eva and Matt. We watch as all the old friends share the memories that are part of their legacy in this place, nourishing them during hard times, and how they now bring the newcomers into their circle of trust.

One newcomer, the new beach commissioner, offered an annoying yet humorous backdrop to the usual friendly interactions. He was constantly on hand to issue citations for supposed violations to residents and visitors, with a pompous air and inflexible attitude. The Hammer Law was another rather strange rule: no hammering between the first day of summer until Labor Day, which put a kibosh on any construction work. It was interesting to see how Jason, the resident architect, managed his way around the rules.

Beach Blues is a continuation of the adventures of the characters’ journeys from previous books, and we come to look forward to what they add to this year’s adventures. More secrets are revealed, and with a sense of hidden darkness hovering overhead, we begin to suspect that sadness is not far off. But can the love and romance and celebration of the new lives they have created bring joy, despite any potential sorrow?

This delightful read is a book to savor for the summer, which earned 5 stars.

TUESDAY INTROS: “BEACH BLUES”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Books & a Beat.

Today’s featured book is my current read, and a review book from the author, Joanne DeMaio.   Beach Blues takes us back to Stony Point,  bringing you right to a secluded fishing shack and weathered boardwalk, to its wooden rowboat and lantern-lit porches. A novel that welcomes you, as much as it may break your heart.

 

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Intro:  If a little beach cottage could look forlorn, this one does.  Though she’s not sure why.  It’s just a bungalow, really, in need of a fresh coat of white paint.  Still, that’s not it.  Celia considers the cottage before her.  It sits on a small hill, so the sea breezes will reach into its windows.  And those sheer curtain panels on the top of each paned window look like white sails, puffing in the wind.  It all perfectly suits the cottage name:  Summer Winds.

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Teaser: “Can’t believe summer’s here again.”  Kyle Bradford tips his glass of beer to Jason’s.  “Cheers, man.”

“What are we toasting?”

“Life.  Beautiful life.”  Kyle sips his beer.  “You saved mine, been two years now, on a night that started right in this very bar.  And I’m here to tell you, it’s good to be alive, man.” (p. 17).

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Blurb:  New York Times bestselling author Joanne DeMaio invites you to spend the summer by the sea, in a quaint New England beach town where friends and love await just outside the cottage doors.

Celia Gray finds herself house-sitting a silver-shingled cottage at Stony Point. She arrives with her guitar, a few staging jobs … and a bit of summertime sadness. That is, until an unforgettable group of beach friends draws her in like a breath of salt air.

Sal DeLuca heard the words in a dream: Take me to the sea. So after a decade of demanding work, he takes his first vacation in years. Trading in his suit and tie for blue jeans and boat shoes, Sal unexpectedly arrives at his mother’s shabby inn on the Connecticut shore, winding his way into the lives and hearts of the close-knit beach community.

When Stony Point’s two wash-ashores, Sal and Celia, meet, some say it’s a match made in beach-heaven. And so begins a sweet seaside summer … forging friendships, adventures and new love. But all is not at ease in the gentle sea breeze as a dark secret turns the tide for the Stony Point crew.

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I have loved every one of these beautiful books that bring the reader to gorgeous settings, reuniting old friends and introducing new ones.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

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MERRY CHRISTMAS!!

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“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

I’ll be spending Christmas in my daughter’s home, with her tree (above), some family and friends.  Hope you all enjoy the holiday and have everything you wish for!

Here is my own Christmas home:

 

 

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Today I’ll be reading and watching some movies before beginning the family celebration.  I already visited Amazon today and clicked on some “buy” buttons, gifting myself, LOL.  More about those books on Saturday.

Be good to yourselves over the holidays, and avoid stress as much as possible!

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