Review of Everything We Keep – A Novel by Kerry Lonsdale

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Everything We KeepAimee Tierney has a perfect life.  About to marry the man of her dreams, her best friend since grade school. A chef close to opening her own restaurant. Until the unimaginable happens.

On our wedding day, my fiancé, James, arrived at the church in a casket.

These first powerful words of the novel thrust us into the tumult that has become Aimee’s new and unexpected reality.

Then into Aimee’s grief and bewilderment enters Lacy, a mysterious psychic who tells Aimee that James isn’t really dead.  But Aimee saw the casket with her beloved lowered into the ground. A cruel prank, or a scam for money, she isn’t sure which.

Aimee robotically moves through her life.  The sweetness of the bread she bakes every day no longer gives her a sense of home and self.  She and James had been inseparable since they were little, and now she feels she’s missing half of herself.

Aimee’s best friends Kristen and Nadia try their best to get Aimee to move on.  But Aimee can’t get the psychic’s words out of her head.  What if James weren’t dead?

At Nadia’s request, Aimee checks out an art gallery Nadia is renovating, and meets Ian, a talented photographer preparing to show his work.  Ian is charming and friendly, and Aimee is shocked by the electrical spark between them, one she hasn’t felt since James was alive. But Aimee can’t bring herself to let Ian become anything more than a great friend.

After an unexpected twist of circumstance, Aimee makes arrangements to open her own gourmet coffee house and café, working hard to make her dream of owning a restaurant come true, and making life more bearable without James.  But soon, Aimee receives a postcard in the mail that changes everything, Could James still be alive after all, and living in Mexico?  What are the family secrets James had kept during all the years they’d known each other? And what would she do if she actually found him?

Torn between the memory of James, and the warmth and love of Ian, Aimee must decide what direction the rest of her life will take.

I looked across the ocean, my mind as chaotic as the fierce waves. Seeds of doubt sprouted in the pit of my stomach and grew thorny vines, twisting around my bones. No, I wasn’t sure. Not anymore.

Lonsdale keeps the suspense in the forefront as Aimee tries to uncover exactly what happened to James, while also trying to find herself. I kept turning pages, wanting to solve the mystery of James’ disappearance, and to discover the next twist in Aimee’s life.

And just as I was satisfied with what fate had planned for Aimee and James, Lonsdale’s last two pages threw me for a loop, making me actually say Wow! and wonder how in the world they would deal with the truth!

I recommend Everything We Keep for those looking for romance, friendship, mystery, and suspense all rolled into an entertaining page-turner.

 

Review of Novel: The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster by Scott Wilbanks

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LemoncholyAnnabelle Aster, known as Annie, loves anything Victorian – vintage clothing, antique tea cups, hairstyles.  She even lives in a Victorian house.  Her best friend, Christian, loves her quirks and eccentricities, for he’s never fit society’s mold either. They seem to have been made for each other.

On May 17, 1995, Annie goes through her back door and is shocked to see a Kansas wheat field and cabin where her San Francisco neighborhood should have been.  As she marches to the house to investigate, she passes through a beautiful rose garden with a gate, separating her yard from the field, with an old brass mailbox peeking up through the flowers.  Annie is compelled to find out who lives in the cabin standing on the edge of the field. But when Annie tries to knock on the cabin door, she suddenly finds herself back at the mailbox.

On May 17, 1895, Elsbeth Grundy, a retired Kansas school-teacher, is just minding her own business, relaxing in her rocking chair, alone as always. She’d hoped to be surrounded with loving family in her older years, but that didn’t happen; she lives quite the solitary life out on the prairie. When Elsbeth makes her way to the well to draw water for her daily chores, she’s shocked to see a purple Victorian home sitting in the middle of her wheat field. She decides to give the owner of that house a piece of her mind, but when she tries to approach the porch, something strange happens. She finds herself back at the odd rose garden. She notices a brass letterbox sitting amid the roses, and decides to leave a letter for the owner of the purple house.

Lacking the disposition for subtlety, I’ll get directly to the point. Trespass is dealt with at the business end of a shotgun in these parts!

Annie and Elsbeth discover they can communicate by leaving each other letters in the mail box, and soon become friends. But Annie must figure out the mystery – how are she and Elsbeth sitting on either side of a rip in time?  After some investigation, Annie finally discovers the portal that allows her to see Elsbeth’s house, and Elsbeth to see hers. But her search also uncovers a murder which happened 100 years in the past, with their time-travel conduit at the center of it.  Annie and Elsbeth try to prevent the murder, but things get complicated, and both women must fight to save each other, and unravel the mysteries of Annie’s past.

There comes a moment, a precise instant, when your next move redefines you, erasing everything before it. You are a table upon which the future course of your life awaits instruction. This was Annie’s moment.

Wilbanks has seamlessly interwoven reality with mystery and magic. His characters are both quirky and endearing. His novel makes us consider the possibility of traveling to a different time, and connecting with our history.  What if we could meet the people who helped shape our lives? And Wilbanks reminds us that even with our eccentricities, our odd-ball moments, our unusual quirks, our differences, we all have a place that is truly home – where we truly belong.  Sometimes we just have to look harder to find it.

I recommend The Lemoncholy Life of Annie Aster to readers who love well written prose, excellent characterizations, and a unique story that forces the reader to ask what if?

You rock Annabelle Aster!

This Much I Know Is True (About Writing Fiction. And Me.) by M.M. Fink

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I didn’t always know these things. I discovered them like fossils. Some are elements of craft: I now know that every protagonist needs a secret that will eventually be discovered or confessed. That…

Source: This Much I Know Is True (About Writing Fiction. And Me.)

Book Review: The Memory of Us by Camille Di Maio

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The Memory of UsIn her novel The Memory of Us, Camille Di Maio carries us away in the love of a lifetime, forbidden by circumstance and overwhelming obstacles.

Julianne Westcott’s life is perfect. The daughter of an English shipping magnate and socialite mother, she has everything she needs and wants. But when she discovers a twin brother, Charles, who was institutionalized at birth – blind, deaf, and mentally challenged – she realizes her life is much more complicated than she knew.

Kyle McCarthy is a landscaper’s son, living within very modest means. Julianne first meets him during a visit with her brother. While taking a break from his landscaping duties, Kyle introduces Charles to the beauty of plants, using only touch and smell.  Her heart is taken with Kyle’s loving, gentle soul. But she soon learns that his heart has already been promised to another – Kyle is studying to be a priest.

Julianne’s best friend Lucille convinces her that it would be a sin to seduce a boy bound to God. But even though she tries her best to forget him, Kyle never leaves her thoughts. By chance, they see each other numerous times over the next year, and each time, Julianne feels her attachment to him growing stronger.  He is handsome, funny, and kind.  All the things a priest should be.  But all the things a husband should be as well.

Even if Kyle weren’t promised to the Church, his situation in life is far beneath the approval of her parents. They would never accept her marriage to a boy without station. Julianne would surely have to choose between him and the life she’s always known.

As time passes, Julianne and Kyle battle the devastation that World War II brings to England, coping with the love and loss each struggles to understand and accept.

Misery loves company, they say, and if the war had brought about misery, it had also created a company of friendships that were forged through common suffering.

It was bewildering to see the everyday aspects of life go on amidst such a ravaged landscape….Perhaps the most unnerving sights were the few children that remained in the city, prancing among this new concrete playground and making toys out of the scraps of someone’s former life.

In The Memory of Us, Di Maio surprised me with twists and turns. Just as I was expecting the plot to take one path, it would turn toward another. The first person narrative brings the reader into the brain of Julianne Westcott, following the longing of her love-torn heart as she tries to deal with her passion for a man she can’t have.

As I read, I was filled with the strong emotion of my past, as well as Julianne’s. I suffered the same struggle as a young woman – falling in love with a man whom the world didn’t see as a perfect match, but loving him none-the-less.  The conflict in the novel makes the reader consider the question: How much would you give up for the love of your life? And how would you deal with the consequences?

The people I’d loved, the people I’d left, their voices came back to me in a rising tide until, overwhelmed, I crumbled down onto the floor and wept with abandon. The tears burned my skin and I made no attempt to wipe them away. I was supposed to suffer – my eternal punishment – because of what I’d done.

 For a poignant look into the hearts of forbidden lovers who must question destiny to survive, The Memory of Us will wrap itself around your heart until you cry for what was never had, what was had and lost, and what was never meant to be.

Review of A Promise of Fireflies by Susan Haught

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Promise of FirefliesA Promise of Fireflies wraps us in the turmoil of a woman lost to herself, her life splintering into disconnected pieces that she can’t seem to put back together. But what she finally discovers amid the remnants will change her life forever.

Ryleigh Collins has just lost her mother, and grieves for the person who always gave her sunshine on cloudy days.

Not far from here, Ryleigh had brushed through her mother’s hair as white as the roses she so loved and held her misshapen hands for the last time. It seemed peculiar how quickly the memory had become engraved on her mind like the names carved in granite.

But while sorting her mother’s belongings, Ryleigh discovers her mother wasn’t quite the person she thought she knew so well.  After deciding to pursue answers to the riddles left behind, Ryleigh finds that the family she thought she had was only an illusion, white roses and fireflies defining the part of her life she knew nothing about.

Life’s earthquakes rattle our lives – sometimes they are mere tremors that moderately rock your world. Sometimes they split the earth beneath your feet and swallow you into hell. Then there are tornadoes – dust devils that stir the dirt a bit…then quickly die. But sometimes they pick you up, spin you around, and toss you to Oz. Life is not about how to survive… – it is how you weather the storm and your actions in the wake of the aftermath. You must learn to dance in the rain.

Ryleigh has had no enthusiasm for life since her husband Chandler left her for another woman. Now their divorce is final, and she grieves for the loss of her husband, and for the absence of her almost-grown-son’s father. Even writing her column at the local newspaper doesn’t excite Ryleigh anymore, not to mention the unfinished novel she just hasn’t had the enthusiasm to complete. Ryleigh is paralyzed in the quicksand of her life.

To remain in the shadows of grief seemed effortless. To move forward, an unwelcomed burden. Yet life drifted by – air, light, and sound. Only she stood lifeless.

Then a favor done for her best friend surprises Ryleigh with an unexpected chance for the love and romance she thought were forever lost to her. Or is she just torturing herself with what might have been?

Save for the occasional hiss of pitch from the fire, the room remained quiet. No one to remind her how silly she’d been. No one to emphasize her uncanny ability to create fiction from nothing more than an indiscriminate kiss and an overactive imagination, a talent that should have remained an imaginary scene on a disconnected flash drive.

Will Ryleigh Collins unravel the truth about her family? And will she ever know true love and trust again?

Susan Haught has woven a tale of loss and love, the search for truth and forgiveness, and the rebirth of souls which have lost their purpose. Her lyrical writing style painted magical images of both beauty and grief, thrusting me into the acute emotions of her characters. I was lost in Ryleigh’s pursuit of love, and her compromise with loss.

A Promise of Fireflies is a promise to its readers: they will be engulfed in a rich and tantalizing romance one can only dream about, and the gift of finally dancing in the rain.

Review of Summer Secrets by Jennifer Levine…

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SummerSecrets_CoverFNEveryone has secrets.  Some are big and some are small, but they’re there.  In Summer Secrets, Jennifer Levine takes us through a tumultuous summer in the life of Lauren Breckenridge. She discovers that each member of her family has secrets, and uncovering them nearly breaks her heart.

Lauren seems to have it all.  A loving husband, and two great teenagers.  The perfect family – or so it appears from the outside. But inside, Lauren is struggling.  Her husband, David, has been distant, caught up in his professional life, and his own issues.  He’s been more of a roommate than the romantic man she married.  Her handsome athletic son Jason hardly gives her the time of day, just home to sleep and eat.  And her rebel daughter, Audrey, is a closed book when it comes to sharing with her mother. She is sullen and rebellious; Lauren doesn’t even recognize her anymore. Instead of a mother sharing in the lives of her husband and kids, Lauren feels more like a live-in housekeeper and cook.

The image of her close-knit family is just a mirage.

To help them get to know each other again, Lauren takes her best friend’s suggestion, and plans a getaway vacation. The whole family will stay at an upscale club on the shores of Lake Charlevoix in Michigan for the entire summer. But will her plans for family togetherness mend the distance between them, or unravel right before her eyes?

Lauren painfully discovers that each of her children has been hiding the truth about their lives, and she and David have secrets of their own. How much trauma will they be able to endure and still stay together as a family?

Jennifer Levine has done an excellent job of taking us through a mother’s journey of revelations, disappointments, and dilemmas. Lauren’s raw emotion while struggling to keep her family intact is sewn into the very fabric of the narrative. I appreciate the way Levine makes us feel the pain of a wife and mother whose family may no longer belong to her. What must Lauren do to get a grasp on the life she thought she had? The answer may surprise you.

For a family drama that could be taken right from the newspaper, Jennifer Levine’s Summer Secrets is the perfect read.

Review of Missing Emily by Gerri LeClerc

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Missing EmilyWhat would you do if you were walking your four-year-old daughter down the street, and an unknown person jumped from a car and snatched her from your grasp? What would you do if your five-year-old daughter was destined to die from Leukemia if you couldn’t find a bone marrow donor? And how far would you go to protect your child from sickness and harm? These are the questions that Gerri LeClerc explores in her novel Missing Emily.

Thea Connor is a promising law student ready to graduate, looking forward to a stable life with her four-year-old daughter, Emily. But a week before they were to move home to Cape Cod from Boston, Emily is kidnapped in broad daylight. The police investigation moves ahead full force, but has few leads, and Thea Connor is distraught at the realization that she is a prime suspect. Thea refuses to believe that Emily isn’t alive, but the thought of a horrible outcome makes her numb.

Thea felt as if she was crawling through heavy fog as she made her way to the kitchen. She couldn’t stop the thought, the picture in her mind of why a medical examiner needed dental records.

But memories of her recently deceased mother give her the strength to keep hoping Emily will one day be returned to her.

Thea smiled. Her mother had seen the word through a mystic veil that softened all the sharp edges. Everything had the potential for a happy ending.

Katherine Anderson is a wealthy divorcee living in an upscale Boston neighborhood.  But she’d trade all of her wealth if she could only make her five-year-old daughter, Madison, well.  If a suitable bone marrow donor isn’t found soon, Leukemia will take her daughter. After considering every option, Katherine is willing to sell her soul, and take the only action she has left to save Madison.

Missing Emily is a suspense-filled story of two very different mothers, and the lengths they’d go to take care of their daughters.  One finds strength and hope in surviving the struggle; the other finds despair, with insanity lurking around the corner.

Gerri LeClerc has spun a very believable tale with characters that will pull your emotional strings, and will leave the reader considering what if this happened to me? I highly recommend Missing Emily for a thought-provoking and entertaining read.

How far would you go to save your child?