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Archive for January, 2009

placesbytheseaPlaces by the Sea

By Jean Stone

Bantam Books, April, 1997

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Places-Sea-Jean-Stone/dp/0553574248/

 

 

I’ve always enjoyed books that are set on bodies of water; oceans, lakes, rivers… Perhaps that is why I was attracted to this used bookstore find, Jean Stone’s ‘Places by the Sea.’ The front cover featured seashells and a pretty cottage by the water, while the back flap promised an enthralling, emotionally charged story of friendship and betrayal, forgiveness and love. The novel did not disappoint.  

 

Forty-year-old Jill Macphearson seems to have it all — a glamorous career as the anchor on a popular Boston television news program, a handsome and successful fiancée, and two beautiful children. After her mother’s death, Jill finds herself with the unwanted task of returning to her childhood home on Martha’s Vineyard and settling the family estate. A lonely and unwanted child, Jill left the island twenty years before and never looked back. Sorting through the family heirlooms, she comes across her mother’s diary and learns some shocking family secrets, which cause her to re-evaluate everything she has ever believed about herself, her family, and her roots.

 

This story had a little bit of everything; mystery, romance, suspense. The author has an almost magical way with words which drew me into the setting immediately. She managed to weave an intricate storyline with many subplots, and made me care about every one of them. While the writing was superb, I have to admit that it took me awhile to warm up to some of the characters, mainly Jill’s childhood friend, Rita. While I understand that this character had a rough upbringing, I found her to be a little more vulgar at times than I thought necessary, and some of her scenes left me cold. Even so, I enjoyed the interaction between her and Jill. 

 

All in all this was a wonderful, emotion-packed story with just the right blend of soul searching, action, and romance. Definitely worth reading.

 

Reviewed by Honeybee  

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bookofthedeadBook of the Dead

By Patricia Cornwell

Berkley Reprint Edition 2008

ISBN: 978-0425216255

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Book-Dead-Scarpetta-Patricia-Cornwell/dp/042521625X

 

The nude, mutilated body of US tennis star, Drew Martin is found in Rome and forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta and her lover, former FBI agent, Benton Wesley are asked to consult. Contradictory evidence leaves both them and the Italian authorities stumped. Back in South Carolina where Scarpetta has started over with a private forensic pathology practice, the abused body of a young boy is found in a marsh. But the bodies don’t stop there. A wealthy woman is murdered in her beach home and clues begin linking the murders to a single killer with a possible connection to Scarpetta’s old nemesis, Dr. Marilyn Self.

 

Psycho psychiatrist, Dr. Self is out to destroy Scarpetta, nothing new there, but this time she uses Scarpetta’s colleague, Pete Marino, to get the job done. Marino’s long time delusions of a relationship between himself and Scarpetta are dashed when she returns from Rome sporting an engagement ring from Wesley. Although never encouraged by Scarpetta, Marino sees this engagement as a personal rejection and creates his own personal hell. Consumed by jealousy, drunk and enraged, he makes a brutal mistake that he may never recover from.

 

I wanted badly to be able to give Book of the Dead a five shoe rating, but unfortunately this, the fifteenth in the Scarpetta series, just didn’t do it for me. It didn’t have the emotional depth of the others. The characters seem deflated and although the killer was as deadly as any, he too seemed wanting. The mystery surrounding the murders was an interesting one. It managed to catch and hold my attention, as I tried to solve it and I was intrigued as well as saddened by Marino’s plummet to the dark side. I also enjoyed the differing points of view, although I realize many readers don’t. I felt the ending was rushed, as if the author suddenly realized the book was going on too long and had to wrap it up in a couple of pages. If you’ve read the other books in the Scarpetta series, then I recommend reading this one. If not, I suggest you start with the first one.

 

Willow  

 

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graceGrace

By: Richard Paul Evans

Published by Simon and Schuster 2008

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-5003-7

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Grace-Novel-Richard-Paul-Evans/dp/1416550038

Every now and then I come across a book so compelling that I set aside my Saturday chores and spend the afternoon curled up reading. January has been especially brutal this year and when icy roads spoiled our weekend plans that is exactly what I did. I knew I wouldn’t go wrong with the latest book by Richard Paul Evans (author of The Christmas Box). The story centers around a runaway girl, a love struck boy, his loyal brother and childhood dreams that clash with adult cruelty. This is a story of first love, first kiss, enduring connections, but no happily ever after. Grace, set in the early 1960’s, opens with Eric and his family forced to relocate from middle class stability to a “dumpy” house in a “crummy” neighborhood due to father’s illness and job loss. Mother is forced to go to work outside the home for the first time leaving the boys to go exploring all summer long. The only good thing Eric and Joel see about the move is the 5 acres of secluded woods at the back of the property. The boys spend their days climbing trees, exploring the woods, playing baseball and building a large clubhouse from odds and ends. Although they do their share of fighting and sneaking around readers will conclude that they are good kids with a strong brotherly bond.

As summer turns to fall the boys head to their new school and Eric gets his first job. It is at work one winter night that Eric meets Grace while she is looking for food in a dumpster. Grace is a teenager on her own running from an abusive situation. After hearing Grace’s woes, Eric invites her to stay in the clubhouse. You will be charmed by the protective efforts of 14 year old Eric, as he sneaks food, provides necessities and offers small gifts to transform the clubhouse into a home for Grace and gives her hope and happiness. His unselfish attempts to bring her comfort will have you rooting for this boy every time he takes a new risk. Even with all his efforts the sad reality is that Grace needs more protection than a love struck boy could ever offer. Themes running through the book are cruelty and protection, betrayal and compassion, love and regret.

When readers realize a teenage girl is hiding away in a back yard club house they naturally wait for her to be discovered. Skeptics might think that Grace would be discovered much earlier in the story however the author’s descriptions of the property, details of family dynamics and a few close calls by those in authority make it believable that she could go undiscovered for as long as she did. As the book draws to a close you will get angry right along with Eric and you will probably need tissues as your hope for a happy resolution clashes with a loss of innocence and a loss of Grace. The story doesn’t end at its saddest point. I found myself cheering Eric on, as he discovered Grace’s diary and tried to come to grips with his purpose in her life. I love books with happy endings where all the loose ends are wrapped up neatly and I can close the cover with a happy feeling in my heart. This is not such a book. Not all stories have perfect endings and readers seeking such an end may be disappointed or even horrified by events near the end of this novel. However, upon thoughtful reflection of the true ending, readers will realize, as Eric did, that when beauty leaves and innocence is lost; Grace remains.

This is a well written, thought provoking story that will grip you and may make you look a little more closely at those around you who need help. I am impressed with Richard Paul Evan’s foundation that is described in the back of the book. Christmas House International is an organization devoted to building shelters and providing services for abused and neglected children. I love it when authors use the power of the pen to give back to society.

Pearl

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singlethreadA Single Thread

By Marie Bostwick

Kensington Books, 2008

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Single-Thread-Marie-Bostwick/dp/0758222572

 

 

I so enjoy picking up those month-after-Christmas bargains! On a recent visit to my local K-Mart I made out like the proverbial bandit — turtlenecks with little embroidered snowmen and snowflakes for a dollar, pretty, colorful vests with cardinals and holly, even a few Christmas CDs marked seventy-five per cent off. On my way to the checkout counter I couldn’t pass by their nice selection of paperbacks without stopping for a moment to take a peek. Moments turned into… well, more than moments as I opened the covers of romances, mysteries, and spine tingling thrillers. What was I in the mood for?

 

At first I almost passed by this trade-sized paperback with its bold red cover featuring needles, tape measures, and spools of brightly colored thread. Because what did I know about sewing? But the gold foil sticker on its cover informed me it was a Need to Read book, so I skeptically opened to the first page. Written in the first person, the novel read like a letter from a friend and by the third paragraph I was completely hooked.

 

When her husband of twenty-eight years asks for a divorce, fifty-something Evelyn Dixon is devastated. On a spur of the moment decision she leaves her home in Texas for a visit to New England to view the fall foliage. When she stops for the night in the small town of New Bern, Connecticut, it seems she has discovered a storybook village come to life. A simple, white church dominates the town square, surrounded by charming red-brick storefronts with hand-painted signs and restaurants that serve good, sturdy meals.

 

When she stumbles across a cobbled alleyway and there discovers an abandoned drug store, Evelyn looks beyond the chipped and faded red door and sees her lifelong dream of owning a quilt shop. She takes the plunge and leases the building, renting the small upstairs apartment and thoroughly leaving her old life behind. With faith, creativity, and determination she creates in Cobbled Court Quilts not just a quilt store, but a quilting community. When she decides to host a quilting event to benefit breast cancer research, Evelyn makes friends with three of New Bern’s residents; Margot Matthews, an unemployed marketing genius, Abigail Burgess Wynne, town dignitary and millionaire, and Abigail’s brooding, Goth niece, Liza. When Evelyn receives the devastating news that she has breast cancer, these unlikely friends pull together and support her. The three start a Friday night quilting group, which turns out to be about so much more than quilting as the four women share friendships and hardships, sorrows and secrets. Each comes away having learned a life lesson and their lives are enriched one hundredfold.  

 

The short, crisp chapters make for easy and quick reading, and the story is alternately told from Evelyn and Abigail’s viewpoints, lending a delicious sense of intimacy to the story. The author’s descriptions of the town and the colorful collection of people who populate it are exquisite and the themes are as touching as they are timely. The only problem I had with this book was that its many happy coincidences made the story seem a bit unrealistic. Call me jaded, I had a tough time swallowing that perfect strangers would put their lives on hold, coming wholeheartedly to the aid of someone they barely know. Nevertheless it was refreshing to visit a world in which such a thing could happen. Despite its tear-jerking, soul searching moments of sadness, the overall tone of the book is very upbeat. This is a beautiful, feel-good story that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys books about women and their relationships.

 

Reviewed by Honeybee

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whistlinginthedark1Whistling in the Dark

By: Lesley Kagen

Published by Penguin Books

May 2007

ISBN: 978-0-451-22123-0

 

 

Troo and Sally, Sally and Troo, the sisters were two peas in a pod but in the summer of ‘59 life wasn’t as innocent as it appeared. Immediately before his death, for which Sally feels responsible, she promises her dying father that she will always look after her sister Troo. That is a tall order for any child and proves especially difficult for a highly imaginative ten-year-old once a murderer and molester begins to stalk the town.  After the loss of her husband, mother decides the only way to put food on the table is to marry Hall for whom she has no real feelings. He causes more problems than he is worth, as he basically abandons the girls for the bottle.

After their mother is taken to the hospital, teenage sister Nell is put in charge of the girls, but she is too busy with her boyfriend and wedding plans to notice what the girls are up to. Left to roam the neighborhood unsupervised, everyday brings a new adventure for the girls. Sally kicks into protective mode like never before when someone seems to be following the pair, and grownups refuse to listen to her theories about the murders. As the summer progresses Sally makes some startling discoveries about her own identity. The book is full of love and loss, death and devotion, truth and togetherness.  

I was immediately drawn to this book by the cover. That could be my sister and I pictured on the front. This book transported me back to my childhood and a time when my imagination ran wild. If you grew up with a sister and learned together to laugh, love and look out for each other, you will relate to this tale.  The O’Malley neighborhood is full of interesting characters that add flavor to the book. The characters are fresh and believable. The only issue I had with the book was that Sally seemed just a little too wise for her years and it seemed a little too much to believe that the girls really had no one to answer to for an entire summer at the ages of nine and ten. Nevertheless, I fell in love with Sally and Troo, as they applied their little girl thoughts to grown up situations. Their imaginations carried them away, as I bet yours did in your childhood.

This is the first novel of Lesley Kagen. I found it to be well written with excellent descriptions of the time period. There were characters to love and a few to hate. As I was reading this book, memories of my childhood came flooding back. Days after finishing the book, I found myself wondering about Sally and Troo. The book takes a few unexpected turns and I think you will get more than you bargain for when you read it.

I recommend this book. You will especially enjoy it if you want to escape for a few hours to a simpler time; a time of catching fireflies in jars on a summer night, of eating drippy popsicles on a sunny day and of sharing secrets with a sister. Just remember, nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Reviewed by Pearl

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blueWhere Blue Begins

By Janice Deaner

Signet Books, 1993

Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Where-Blue-Begins-Janice-Deaner/dp/0451179196

 

I love poking around in used book stores. Aside from the fact that these are tough economic times and it just plain feels good to buy a great book for a dollar or two, there’s the thrill of discovering something wonderful. You just never know what riches might lay at the bottom of  those dusty stacks, hidden away in those shadowy corners. A couple of weeks ago on a visit to my favorite used book store, I found an absolute treasure in Where Blue Begins, by Janice Deaner. Written in 1993, it’s easy to see how I missed it the first time around. The early nineties were my crazy, busy years of trying to work, keep my house in order, and raise a toddler. I was lucky to shave both of my legs in one sitting, in 1993, let alone read a 464 page novel.

 

Told from the viewpoint of ten-year-old Maddie, Where Blue Begins is the story of a young girl’s desperate search to understand her world, herself, and her emotionally disturbed and highly secretive mother. The story opens in the summer of 1967, when the family relocates from Detroit to the rolling, peaceful hills of New York state. Despite their lovely surroundings, the family relationships soon begin to disintegrate. Maddie and her older sister, Elana, are desperate to understand their father, Leo, and his stifled passion for jazz music; their mother, Lana, and the terrible unnamed illness that hangs like a dark cloud above them all. Soon after the move, Maddie is befriended by Lizzie, a young mulatto girl whose home life is even more dysfunctional than her own. When the girls discover Lana’s journals hidden away in a box in the attic, they begin to piece together the shocking mystery of Lana’s illness and Maddie learns the hard way that some of life’s secrets are better left undiscovered.

 

It is rare that I come across a novel of this caliber. The writing was so powerful, and the story so compelling it seemed to wrap me in a warm embrace that I could not free myself from until the very last page was turned. The writing was lovely, flowing effortlessly from one unpredictable scene to the next with a cast of characters so deeply flawed and endearing that I cared about them like they were my own family. Janice Deaner is not merely a writer, but a true storyteller. Where Blue Begins is one of those books that will stay with me for a long, long  time, if not forever.

   

Reviewed by Honeybee

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Things came together here at Working Girl Reviews a little faster than we thought, so we’re posting out first review a little ahead of schedule. Since our review site is geared toward helping busy women find great books for the leisure time they have so little of, I thought we’d kick things off with a short, fast paced romance perfect for a weekend read.

 

fortysomething2Forty Something

By Mary Eason

Romance – Sweet

September 2008

The Wild Rose Press

ISBN: 978-1601543493

E-book or Paperback

Paperback Buy Link: http://www.amazon.com/Forty-Something-Mary-Eason/dp/1601543492/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1232112752&sr=1-10

 

 

Laney Winters is living the life she thought she’d always wanted—perfect home, wealthy husband and a successful, if somewhat mediocre, romance writing career. At forty-one, Laney discovers she’s expecting her first child and can’t wait to rush home and surprise her husband with the great news. Her husband, Tom, has a surprise of his own waiting for her. She walks in on him in bed with his much younger secretary. He wants a divorce and wants Laney out of his house. Having signed a prenuptial agreement, she has little choice other than her oft-imagined murder scenarios.

 

Coming to the realization murder isn’t the answer, Laney leaves her shattered big city life and returns to the small town she grew up in and the two elderly, eccentric aunts who raised her. Sometimes life throws you a curve and forces you to make life-altering decisions. Wanting a place to hide and lick her wounds, the one thing Laney doesn’t want is to fall in love again. But life is full of surprises, the bad and the good.

 

Mary Eason’s writing is upbeat and often humorous, which served to suck me into the story from page one. Forty Something is a short, fast paced, delightful romance packed full of tender emotion and heartwarming moments. I found Laney and her aunts wonderfully flawed and completely lovable. The only issue I had with the story was with Jake, the hero. Although he was everything a hero should be, I could never get a true feel for him and to me he seemed a little one dimentional. I was more than pleasantly surprised by some of the more intriguing moments in the story and truly enjoyed reading it. I think those who love a sweet romance will like this one.

 

Reviewed by Willow – fourshoebanner2

 

 

 

 

 

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