An empty mailbox this week.
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The Good Sister by Gillian McAllister
Published: June 11, 2019 – G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Review copy courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley
Description: Martha and Becky Blackwater are more than sisters–they’re each other’s lifelines. When Martha finds herself struggling to balance early motherhood and her growing business, Becky steps in to babysit her niece, Layla, without a second thought, bringing the two women closer than ever. But then the unthinkable happens, and Becky is charged with murder.
Nine months later, Becky is on trial and maintains her innocence–and so does Martha. Unable to shake the feeling that her sister couldn’t possibly be guilty, Martha sets out to uncover exactly what happened that night, and how things could have gone so wrong. As the trial progresses, fault lines between the sisters begin to show–revealing cracks deep in their relationship and threatening the family each has worked so hard to build. With incredible empathy and resounding emotional heft, The Good Sister is a powerhouse of a novel that will lead readers to question everything they know about motherhood, family, and the price of forgiveness. (publisher)
My take: The Good Sister is a courtroom drama that pits sister against sister after a tragic event. The expert witnesses’ facts show what really happened so this is a cut and dry case. Or is it?
Gillian McAllister’s story is told from the perspectives of sisters Martha and Becky, other family members and assorted witnesses over the course of the trial. I had this case solved – a few times. I was so sure and then I wasn’t.
I was drawn into the novel because I could sympathize with both sisters in how they dealt with caring for a baby who cried almost constantly. Their guilty feelings over that and other individual issues added emotional layers to the story. Despite that, I didn’t quite connect to the characters. They seemed a bit flat. I don’t read many courtroom dramas so I don’t know how this fits in the realm for readers who do but I can say The Good Sister was a fast read that kept me invested to the very end when all was revealed.
About the author:
Gillian McAllister graduated with a degree in English from the University of Birmingham. She lives in Birmingham, England, where she works as a lawyer. She is the author of Everything But the Truth and Anything You Do Say, both Sunday Timesbestsellers in the UK. THE GOOD SISTER is her US debut.
Jackson by Emily March
Published: June 25, 2019 – St. Martin’s Press
Book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley
Description: Sometimes it takes a new beginning
Caroline Carruthers thinks she buried her dreams along with the love of her life…until a stranger named Celeste dares her to chase a dream all on her own. Moving to Redemption, Texas, is chapter one in Caroline’s new life story. Opening a bookstore is the next. Finding love is the last thing on her mind as she settles into this new place called home. But when she meets a handsome, soulful man who’s also starting over, all bets are off.
to reach a happily-ever-after
Jackson McBride came to Redemption looking only to find himself, not someone to love. Ever since his marriage ended, he’s been bitter. Sure, he used to believe in love—he even has the old song lyrics to prove it—but the Jackson of today is all business. That is, until a beautiful young widow who’s moved to town inspires a change of heart. Could it be that the myth of Redemption’s healing magic is true…and Jackson and Caroline can find a second chance at a happy ending after all? (publisher)
My take: Jackson is Emily March’s newest offshoot from her Eternity Springs series. The setting is Texas and will involve the McBride cousins, all who seem to be haunted by their pasts. Jackson has an ex-wife who just won a custody battle and he’s distraught over not being able to have contact with his daughter. His cousins convince him to return to Texas and a new business opportunity. That’s where he meets Caroline who also has come out of an emotionally draining time ending in the death of her husband. She’s ready for a fresh start. Jackson and Caroline find Redemption, Texas a perfect place to begin their next chapters. As in March’s other books the conduit to change is Celeste – a lady who knows a lot about everyone to the point of knowing what’s best for them and she has the ability to convince people to take her advice. Well, Celeste shows up in Redemption to help her cousin do what Celeste does in Eternity Springs. Their back and forth added some levity to the novel. I liked this book and am interested in reading the next because of the way things left off with Jackson’s cousin and one of Caroline’s close friends.
A Beach Wish by Shelley Noble
Published June 25, 2019 – William Morrow Paperbacks
Review book provided by the publisher
Description: Zoe Bascombe has never said no to her family. When she blew her Juilliard audition, she caved to their wishes and went to business school. But when her mother dies and leaves instructions for Zoe to spread her ashes at a place called Wind Chime Beach, she defies her brothers and starts out for a New England town none of them has ever heard of and discovers a side of her garden club mother that her wildest dreams hadn’t imagined.
Zoe has another family.
Her first instinct is to run home. Instead she is caught in the middle of her feuding new relatives. With one family fighting among themselves and the other not speaking to her, Zoe must somehow find a way to bridge her new life with her old.
For the first time in her life, Zoe must make a stand for her family—both of them. If only she can only figure out how.
Her answer lies at Wind Chime Beach where for generations people have come to add their chimes to the ones already left among the trees. And when the wind blows and the air fills with music, their secrets, dreams, and hopes are sent into the world. There’s a message for Zoe here—if she has the courage to open her heart. (publisher)
My take: When Zoe Bascombe’s mother dies Zoe specifically is tasked with scattering her ashes at a place she’s never heard of – without the help of her brothers. Being at loose ends professionally at the moment makes it easy for her to comply with her mother’s wishes even though her brothers are annoyed at not being included at their mother’s request. Zoe isn’t prepared for what she finds when she arrives at her destination. Once she finds her sea legs, so to speak, she’ll be on a path that could be the start of a wonderful journey or a terrible calamity. I liked this novel but it isn’t my favorite of the author’s books (my favorite: Whisper Beach). That said, I appreciated how Shelley Noble left her characters at the end and would recommend to anyone who enjoys a novel set at the beach.
About the author:
Shelley Noble is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Whisper Beach and Beach Colors. Other titles include Stargazey Point, Breakwater Bay, Forever Beach, Lighthouse Beach, and four spins off novellas. A former professional dancer and choreographer, she lives at the Jersey shore and loves to discover new beaches and indulge in her passion for lighthouses and vintage carousels. Shelley is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and Women’s Fiction Writers Association.
Praise for Shelley Noble:
“A novel that offers a beautiful setting and a cast of engaging characters . . . A compelling look at what it means to be a family.”
—Booklist on A BEACH WISH
“The Readers will appreciate the uplifting end to a complicated, heartrending story of love lost and anger relinquished at last.”
—Publishers Weekly on A BEACH WISH
“The latest beach read from Noble explores the healing power of friendship, appealing to fans of women’s fiction, especially works by Nancy Thayer and Elin Hilderbrand.”
—Library Journal on LIGHTHOUSE BEACH
“Shelley Noble’s Lighthouse Beach, with its blue, beach cover promising summer relaxation in a small Maine town, is secretly more than a light read. A broken-off wedding leads four friends to head to the town to sort out their various problems – infidelity, death of loved ones, lost dreams. Along with other residents of this struggling town, they sort through their issues and try – as they heal together – to build a better community than the ones they’ve left.”
—CNN Travel on LIGHTHOUSE BEACH
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The Friends We Keep by Jane Green
Published June 4, 2019 – Berkley
Book provided by the publisher and NetGalley
Description: Evvie, Maggie, and Topher have known one another since college. Their friendship was something they swore would last forever. Now years have passed, the friends have drifted apart, and they never found the lives they wanted—the lives they dreamed of when they were young and everything seemed possible.
Evvie starved herself to become a supermodel but derailed her career by sleeping with a married man.
Maggie married Ben, the boy she fell in love with in college, never imagining the heartbreak his drinking would cause.
Topher became a successful actor, but the shame of a childhood secret shut him off from real intimacy.
By their thirtieth reunion, these old friends have lost touch with one another and with the people they dreamed of becoming. Together again, they have a second chance at happiness…until a dark secret is revealed that changes everything.
The Friends We Keep is about how despite disappointments we’ve had or mistakes we’ve made, it’s never too late to find a place to call home. (publisher)
My take: Evvie, Maggie and Topher meet when they are first year university students. They become fast friends not knowing they are forming the relationships that will last the rest of their lives. As with similar friendships, life causes ebbs and flows that take the three on individual journeys but they find their way back to each other a few times over the decades. A thirty year school reunion brings them back one more time and the three friends decide it’s time to make a change. Can it possibly be as good as they imagine?
Jane Green tells her story in three parts: The Beginning (1986); The In-Between Years (1990s); and Present Day (2019). It all adds up to what I call a good beach read. Meaning it has compelling characters, a juicy plot (featuring betrayal and over-the-top drama), and a story that keeps me turning the pages. Kind of like the soap my dorm mates and I would watch when we were in college. Recommended to fans of the author and novels about friendship, growth, and forgiveness.
About the author:
A former journalist in the UK and a graduate of the International Culinary Center in New York, Jane Green has written many novels (including Jemima J, The Beach House, Falling, and, most recently, The Sunshine Sisters), most of which have been New York Times bestsellers, and one cookbook, Good Taste. Her novels are published in more than twenty-five languages, and she has over ten million books ini print worldwide. She lives with her husband and a small army of children and animals.
The Islanders by Meg Mitchell Moore
Published June 11, 2019 – William Morrow
Review copy from the publisher
The Islanders is a novel that, for me, is a good summer staycation read. Meaning, if I can’t vacation on an island I’d like to read about people who can!
Meg Mitchell Moore’s characters are people who have their reasons for being on Block Island. Joy, a divorced mom of a young teen, is a year-round resident whose business is going through a rough patch. On top of that, her daughter who used to be so easy going is now acting like a normal, emotional teen who doesn’t want to tell her mother everything.
Anthony is hiding out on the island hoping not to be recognized after a very public controversy that cost him his marriage, changed his relationship with his parents, and he hasn’t seen his young son in weeks.
Lu and her family are spending the summer in a rented house (courtesy of her in-laws). Her husband is a physician who is at the hospital more than he’s with his family. That leaves Lu as full time parent to two young sons while dealing with her judgmental mother-in-law.
Personal conflicts for all abound as they deal with family dynamics, secrets, and the truth. The epilogue wrapped things up neatly. It was an interesting trip to the island for this staycationer.