REVIEW: COUNT THE WAYS, BY JOYCE MAYNARD

Eleanor and Cam meet at a crafts fair in Vermont in the early 1970s. She’s an artist and writer, he makes wooden bowls. Within four years they are parents to three children, two daughters and a red-headed son who fills his pockets with rocks, plays the violin and talks to God. To Eleanor, their New Hampshire farm provides everything she always wanted—summer nights watching Cam’s softball games, snow days by the fire and the annual tradition of making paper boats and cork people to launch in the brook every spring. If Eleanor and Cam don’t make love as often as they used to, they have something that matters more. Their family.

Then comes a terrible accident, caused by Cam’s negligence. Unable to forgive him, Eleanor is consumed by bitterness, losing herself in her life as a mother, while Cam finds solace with a new young partner.

Over the decades that follow, the five members of this fractured family make surprising discoveries and decisions that occasionally bring them together, and often tear them apart. Tracing the course of their lives—through the gender transition of one child and another’s choice to completely break with her mother—Joyce Maynard captures a family forced to confront essential, painful truths of its past, and find redemption in its darkest hours.

A story of holding on and learning to let go, Count the Ways is an achingly beautiful, poignant, and deeply compassionate novel of home, parenthood, love, and forgiveness.

an interior journey thoughts

I am a big fan of this author and couldn’t wait to dive into Count the Ways. Not only did I love it, I connected with the characters, the story, and felt so many emotions as I read. Even as the last page approached, I didn’t want it to end. And unlike some books, I couldn’t imagine saying goodbye to any of them.

Eleanor and Cam were the kind of couple you wanted to root for, but it was apparent from the beginning that there would be no happy ending for them. I didn’t like Cam for the longest time, annoyed with how he played his “fun” dad role, contributing little to the household in money or actual effort. But when tragedy struck, I also wanted Eleanor to find forgiveness so they could continue.

But since that didn’t happen, the biggest loss, in my opinion, was how he let the children see him as the victim in the tale, and this view of events continued throughout.

Our story unfolds over decades and as time passes, the ebb and flow of life itself is shown to the reader, and I felt the sorrow, pain, and joy of their lives together and apart. A brilliant family story that earned 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: DARK ROADS, BY CHEVY STEVENS

The Cold Creek Highway stretches close to five hundred miles through British Columbia’s rugged wilderness to the west coast. Isolated and vast, it has become a prime hunting ground for predators. For decades, young women traveling the road have gone missing. Motorists and hitchhikers, those passing through or living in one of the small towns scattered along the region, have fallen prey time and again. And no killer or abductor who has stalked the highway has ever been brought to justice.

Hailey McBride calls Cold Creek home. Her father taught her to respect nature, how to live and survive off the land, and to never travel the highway alone. Now he’s gone, leaving her a teenage orphan in the care of her aunt whose police officer husband uses his badge as a means to bully and control Hailey. Overwhelmed by grief and forbidden to work, socialize, or date, Hailey vanishes into the mountainous terrain, hoping everyone will believe she’s left town. Rumors spread that she was taken by the highway killer—who’s claimed another victim over the summer.

One year later, Beth Chevalier arrives in Cold Creek, where her sister Amber lived—and where she was murdered. Estranged from her parents and seeking closure, Beth takes a waitressing job at the local diner, just as Amber did, desperate to understand what happened to her and why. But Beth’s search for answers puts a target on her back—and threatens to reveal the truth behind Hailey’s disappearance…

 

an interior journey thoughts

From the beginning of Dark Roads, I was drawn into the story of missing girls and a police officer who is controlling his wife’s niece and is also seemingly following other girls.

When Hailey disappears, we get to follow her hiding out, with the help of her friend, and keeping her eye on the place she left behind.

Beth appears later, and we also watch her trying to figure out what happened to her sister…and realizing that Vaughn is someone to be wary of.

As the story moves along, I was surprised by the addition of another nefarious character who would turn out to be involved in the murders. A book I could not put down, this one earned 5 stars from me.

***My ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley

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REVIEW: THE FIANCEE, BY KATE WHITE

They had everything they needed for a perfect family vacation: close-knit relatives, a bucolic setting . . . and a murderer in their midst?

Summer’s looking forward to a break from hustling for acting work in Manhattan when she, her husband Gabe, and Gabe’s nine-year-old son arrive at the annual family get-together at her in-laws’ sprawling estate. On the agenda are leisurely gourmet meals, tennis matches, and plenty of relaxation by the pool.

But this year, Gabe’s brother Nick has invited his new flame Hannah, whom Summer immediately recognizes from a few years before. Oddly, her brother-in-law’s girlfriend claims not to know her. Yet she charms the other family members, and after Nick announces that he’s proposed to Hannah, Summer doesn’t have much choice but to grin and bear it.

Then the reunion is rocked by tragedy when a family member is found dead. Though the doctors attribute the loss to natural causes, a grieving Summer fears that the too-good-to-be-true Hannah is involved, even as Gabe dismisses her suspicions.

How far will Summer go to expose the truth? As she investigates just what Nick’s fiancée might have done to keep her perfect image intact, she begins to fear that the first death might only be the beginning . . .
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

The Fiancee opens with a family celebration and some strange events that lead Summer to begin following clues suggesting that her brother-in-law’s new fiancée might be a murderer. But she finds no support for her beliefs from her husband or any others.

Then another person is murdered, and the similar clues support Summer’s theory, while a few additional details make another family member appear to agree.

When Summer is assaulted by one of the least likely family members, her beliefs are turned upside down.

Will the truth finally emerge before someone else dies? A twisted tale that had me guessing all the way through, leading to a 5 star award.
 
***

REVIEW: PACK UP THE MOON, BY KRISTAN HIGGINS

Joshua and Lauren are the perfect couple. Newly married, they’re wildly in love, each on a successful and rewarding career path. Then Lauren is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

As Lauren’s disease progresses, Joshua struggles to make the most of the time he has left with his wife and to come to terms with his future—a future without the only woman he’s ever loved. He’s so consumed with finding a way to avoid the inevitable ending that he never imagines his life after Lauren.

But Lauren has a plan to keep her husband moving forward. A plan hidden in the letters she leaves him. In those letters, one for every month in the year after her death, Lauren leads Joshua on a journey through pain, anger, and denial. It’s a journey that will take Joshua from his attempt at a dinner party for family and friends to getting rid of their bed…from a visit with a psychic medium to a kiss with a woman who isn’t Lauren. As his grief makes room for laughter and new relationships, Joshua learns Lauren’s most valuable lesson: The path to happiness doesn’t follow a straight line.
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

Pack up the Moon is a perfect journey of love and loss.

I enjoyed how Lauren left letters for Josh following her death, and while I thought the story would be too sad for me, I also liked that the letters and the grief journey were mixed in with tales of their love connection. Back and forth in time, we come to know this couple and love their unique story.

As Josh begins to move forward, we still catch the occasional glimpses of the life the two had together. I wanted to see more of them, and found myself smiling a lot, too, even though I had to keep a Kleenex handy for the sad moments.

As much as I enjoyed the two of them, sometimes I felt like Lauren was almost too good to be true. But the connection between the couple felt real.

An unforgettable couple with that something special we all want in our lives, this tale earned 4.5 stars from me.
 
***
 
 

REVIEW: THE NEWCOMER, BY MARY KAY ANDREWS

In trouble and on the run…

After she discovers her sister Tanya dead on the floor of her fashionable New York City townhouse, Letty Carnahan is certain she knows who did it: Tanya’s ex; sleazy real estate entrepreneur Evan Wingfield. Even in the grip of grief and panic Letty heeds her late sister’s warnings: “If anything bad happens to me—it’s Evan. Promise me you’ll take Maya and run. Promise me.”

With a trunkful of emotional baggage…

So Letty grabs her sister’s Mercedes and hits the road with her wailing four-year-old niece Maya. Letty is determined to out-run Evan and the law, but run to where? Tanya, a woman with a past shrouded in secrets, left behind a “go-bag” of cash and a big honking diamond ring—but only one clue: a faded magazine story about a sleepy mom-and-pop motel in a Florida beach town with the improbable name of Treasure Island. She sheds her old life and checks into an uncertain future at The Murmuring Surf Motel.

The No Vacancy sign is flashing & the sharks are circling…

And that’s the good news. Because The Surf, as the regulars call it, is the winter home of a close-knit flock of retirees and snowbirds who regard this odd-duck newcomer with suspicion and down-right hostility. As Letty settles into the motel’s former storage room, she tries to heal Maya’s heartache and unravel the key to her sister’s shady past, all while dodging the attention of the owner’s dangerously attractive son Joe, who just happens to be a local police detective. Can Letty find romance as well as a room at the inn—or will Joe betray her secrets and put her behind bars?
With danger closing in, it’s a race to find the truth and right the wrongs of the past.

 

an interior journey thoughts

The Newcomer gripped me emotionally from the very beginning. I loved getting to know all the intriguing characters that Letty met at the little Florida motel where she landed with her niece Maya. I couldn’t stop following her attempt to bring justice for her murdered sister Tanya, and I adored little Maya, who was cute and precocious.

The senior citizens who resided in the motel, some of them long term, added a special twist to a story that felt so real. I loved connecting with them, even the annoying ones.

Of course I kept rooting for the developing relationship between Joe and Letty, who didn’t appear to be a perfect match in the beginning, but who clicked before much time had gone by.

I also enjoyed watching Letty find her niche as she helped Ava run the motel, and I liked how she connected with Ava’s teenage daughter.

As I turned the final page, I wanted to keep going with these characters who had all found a place in Letty’s heart and in mine. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: YOU WILL REMEMBER ME, BY HANNAH MARY MCKINNON

Forget the truth.
Remember the lies.

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland with a gash on his head and wearing only swim trunks. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth uncovers more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Shared fates intertwine in a twisty, explosive novel of suspense, where unearthing the past might just mean being buried beneath it.

 

 

an interior journey thoughts

As we begin the story of You Will Remember Me, we are immediately introduced to two men with mysterious and secret pasts. Jack Smith and Ash Bennett have lived very different lives. One disappears, leaving no trace, and the other wakes up with no memory.

It doesn’t take long to realize that there is more to each of their stories. But what has happened to them to cause a loss of their identities and their memories?

I liked Lily, who was in love with Jack, and felt wary of Maya Scott, who had her own agenda, in my opinion.

As the story circled back and forth between the past and the present, and as we watch the characters play out their plans, we begin to see that nothing good will come from at least one of the characters. I was cringing as I watched them but hoping that perhaps right would win after all.

But would it? In the end I was biting my nails, knowing that this story would probably not have a happy ending. Nevertheless, I loved discovering the truth and will definitely remember the characters long afterwards. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE BREAK-UP BOOK CLUB, BY WENDY WAX

 
On paper, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara have little in common – they’re very different people leading very different lives. And yet at book club meetings in an historic carriage house turned bookstore, they bond over a shared love of reading (and more than a little wine) as well as the growing realization that their lives are not turning out like they expected.

 

Former tennis star Jazmine is a top sports agent balancing a career and single motherhood. Judith is an empty nester questioning her marriage and the supporting role she chose. Erin’s high school sweetheart and fiancé develops a bad case of cold feet, and Sara’s husband takes a job out of town saddling Sara with a difficult mother-in-law who believes her son could have done better – not exactly the roommate most women dream of.

With the help of books, laughter, and the joy of ever evolving friendships, Jazmine, Judith, Erin and Sara find the courage to navigate new and surprising chapters of their lives as they seek their own versions of happily-ever-after.

 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

 

As we begin learning about the lives of the individuals that form The Break-Up Book Club, we are soon eager to know more.

As different as they each are, there are common themes that form their lives, beginning with how they each love reading.

Are the lives they read about a way to connect them? Is the wonderful book club that meets in a carriage house behind a bookstore enough to keep them together?

I could not stop turning the pages and loved the characters as much as their book moments. Slowly we come to watch them grow and change, rooting for the progress they make with each get-together. Can their lives be completely changed by the connections they have formed?

I loved this book and award 5 stars.

 
***

REVIEW: FIND YOU FIRST, BY LINWOOD BARCLAY

Tech millionaire Miles Cookson has more money than he can ever spend, and everything he could dream of—except time. He has recently been diagnosed with a terminal illness, and there is a fifty percent chance that it can be passed on to the next generation. For Miles, this means taking a long hard look at his past . . .

Two decades ago, a young, struggling Miles was a sperm donor. Somewhere out there, he has kids—nine of them. And they might be about to inherit both the good and the bad from him—maybe his fortune, or maybe something much worse.

As Miles begins to search for the children he’s never known, aspiring film documentarian Chloe Swanson embarks on a quest to find her biological father, armed with the knowledge that twenty-two years ago, her mother used a New York sperm bank to become pregnant.

When Miles and Chloe eventually connect, their excitement at finding each other is overshadowed by a series of mysterious and terrifying events. One by one, Miles’s other potential heirs are vanishing—every trace of them wiped, like they never existed at all.

Who is the vicious killer—another heir methodically erasing rivals? Or is something even more sinister going on?

It’s a deadly race against time . . .

 

an interior journey thoughts

 

As we first meet up with Miles Cookson in Find You First, he is struggling with an impossible diagnosis. And to make everything worse, he is realizing that a decision he made as a young person could now have horrendous effects on a group of young adults.

Alternating between the narrative of Miles and his possible heirs kept me eagerly turning pages as he tries to find them before something terrible happens.

Who is chasing after them, hoping to reach them, and what is the motivation for this race against time?

Several nefarious characters are pushing ahead to wipe them off the face of the earth, including any sign of their existence. Miles’s wealth is a big factor, but there is more at stake for one of the evil characters.

Back and forth we go, and just when I thought I had it all figured out, there were a few stunning threads unraveling just when we needed to know more. A 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: THE NEXT WIFE, BY KAIRA ROUDA

Kate Nelson had it all. A flourishing company founded with her husband, John; a happy marriage; and a daughter, Ashlyn. The picture-perfect family. Until John left for another woman. Tish is half his age. Ambitious. She’s cultivated a friendship with Ashlyn. Tish believes she’s won.

 

She’s wrong.

Tish Nelson has it all. Youth, influence, a life of luxury, and a new husband. But the truth is, there’s a lot of baggage. Namely, his first wife—and suspicions of his infidelity. After all, that’s how she got John. Maybe it’s time for a romantic getaway, far from his vindictive ex. If Kate plans on getting John back, Tish is one step ahead of her.

She thinks.

But what happens next is something neither Kate nor Tish saw coming. As best-laid plans come undone, there’s no telling what a woman will do in the name of love—and revenge.

 
 
an interior journey thoughts
 
 
 
Alternating narrators tell the tale of The Next Wife. In the beginning, we are seeing Tish’s perspective, and she is not very likeable, in my opinion. Kate seems kind and smart, and we almost feel sorry for her.

Then there’s Ashlyn, the spoiled brat, who is playing both sides.

The husband, John, seems unreliable; after all, he is a cheater.

Something happens on that romantic getaway that makes us question all the characters, and we watch their lives implode.

In the end, we realize that none of them are good; in fact, we soon understand that we couldn’t trust any of them.

A riveting tale that earned five stars.

***
 
 

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REVIEW: WHEN I LAST SAW YOU, BY BETTE LEE CROSBY

Georgia, 1968 – Margaret Rose McCutcheon has just buried her husband and must now name a beneficiary for their estate in case of her demise. She is hard-pressed to do so because there is no one. No children. No family. At least none to speak of. At one time, she had two sisters and six brothers, but the lot of them were scattered to the four winds, with no one knowing where the others went. In the hope of finding at least one of her siblings, Margaret hires a detective and sets off on a journey to uncover the truth of why the family broke apart as it did.

West Virginia, 1901 – When Eliza Hobbs gives birth to her sixth child, her husband is not there to welcome his daughter into the world. No surprise, because Martin is seldom there. He works in Charleston and returns to Coal Creek only when he has a mind to. Yes, he sends money on occasion, but seldom enough to make ends meet. Although Eliza believes each new child a blessing, he sees them as yet another responsibility on his already overloaded shoulders. When he discovers another child is on the way, he demands she get rid of it. he stops returning home and there is no more money.

Left with the children, a mountainside patch of land, and a house in sorry need of repair, Eliza seeks help and turns to someone powerful enough to hold sway over Martin and force him into providing for his family. Pushed to the brink, Martin does something unforgivable and the family is forever torn apart.

Now, after all these years, will Margaret be the one to find the pieces of her broken family?
 
 
 
 
an interior journey thoughts

When I Last Saw You begins with Margaret dealing with the loss of her husband, which includes going through paperwork and discovering interesting details of what her husband had tried to do for her. Curious about why he didn’t pursue the investigation he had started, she reaches out to the last investigator, Tom Bateman. He wasn’t that interested in pursuing the case, but when they met up, she was able to persuade him to try.

From that point on, we follow Margaret and Tom as they pursue the trail of clues leading them to possibilities they had never imagined. Would Margaret find her family? Would the connection that has developed between her and Tom turn into something more than the working relationship?

The story had sad and heartfelt moments, and I laughed, cried, and held my breath as I waited to see what would finally happen.

I loved this book, so of course it earned 5 stars.
 
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