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: 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: THE LOVE STORY OF MISSY CARMICHAEL, BY BETH MORREY

The world has changed around seventy-nine-year-old librarian Millicent Carmichael, aka Missy. Though quick to admit that she often found her roles as a housewife and mother less than satisfying, Missy once led a bustling life driven by two children, an accomplished and celebrated husband, and a Classics degree from Cambridge. Now her husband is gone, her daughter is estranged after a shattering argument, and her son has moved to his wife’s native Australia, taking Missy’s beloved only grandchild half-a-world away. She spends her days sipping sherry, avoiding people, and rattling around in her oversized, under-decorated house waiting for…what exactly?

The last thing Missy expects is for two perfect strangers and one spirited dog named Bob to break through her prickly exterior and show Missy just how much love she still has to give. In short order, Missy finds herself in the jarring embrace of an eclectic community that simply won’t take no for an answer–including a rambunctious mutt-on-loan whose unconditional love gives Missy a reason to re-enter the world one muddy paw print at a time.

Filled with wry laughter and deep insights, The Love Story of Missy Carmichael is a coming-of-old story that shows us it’s never too late to forgive yourself and, just as important, it’s never too late to love.

It was easy to like Missy, and I could relate to her feelings and her issues.

Loneliness that can disappear when new people and a needy dog fill her life with comfort and peace made The Love Story of Missy Carmichael a delightful journey.

But as time passed, we learned more and more about what happened between Missy and her children, and also about her marriage to Leo. A surprising conclusion to the Missy and Leo love story changed everything. But the friendships Missy had developed brought a satisfying turn of events. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: NIGHT OF MIRACLES, BY ELIZABETH BERG

 

Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she’s hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn’t know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.

When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln’s parents aren’t the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community—just when they need it the most.

My Thoughts: I loved revisiting the characters of Mason, Missouri, especially Lucille Howard, along with Maddy and her daughter Nola, the other friends of Arthur “Truluv.”

Lucille is living in Arthur’s old house, which Maddy now owns, and many friends from the town, like Iris and Monica, gather for Lucille’s baking classes. Across the street live Jason, Abby, and their son Lincoln, who are new to town, but are soon caught up in a nurturing friendship with Lucille.

I enjoyed how Lucille brought little Lincoln into her circle of love and friendship during his mother’s illness. I also enjoyed how the warmth of the friendships remind us of life’s unexpected blessings.

Night of Miracles was a lovely story that tapped into all the emotions we experience, and remind us that friendship connections are the true miracles in life. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HOW TO START A FIRE, BY LISA LUTZ

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They met at university in Santa Cruz, CA, in the 1990s. Following the adventures and misadventures of Anna Fury, Kate Smirnoff, and George Leoni through the more than twenty years following their beginnings was a little bit like a rollercoaster ride, and the author’s narrative style adds to this sensation. The journey jogs from Santa Cruz, to St. Louis, to Boston…and to many points in between.

How to Start a Fire veers back and forth in time and place, almost raucously, resembling the lives they led. Sometimes it was challenging to remember what had happened in previous visits to each time period, as the story would pick up again a decade or two later, and not in any sequential way.

But then I lost myself in trying to learn all I could about each of these fascinating characters, watching with horror sometimes, as each seemed to be her own worst enemy.

Anna’s brilliance in her premed years and in her brief time as a doctor was overshadowed by her addictions. In some ways, her blackouts seemed to be a way to distance herself from her own behavior. What was she trying to escape?

Kate’s inertia, compounded by the way she ran away from her problems emotionally, was a precursor for a different kind of running away. What hid beneath Kate’s unique quest through the heartlands?

George was fascinating in her physical impressiveness and her outdoorsy way…and unfortunate in her choices of men. How did the events in her life lead to these choices?

An array of assorted secondary characters fill in as backdrop to the primary ones…and add depth to them. Due to the jumping around between time periods, we very slowly grow to see the whole picture. Throughout, we witness how friendships are tested, and we also see that what remains is often enough to sustain them. Themes of fire, how it is created, the damage it can do, and the metaphorical essence of it remind us of how nothing is ever just one thing or with just one meaning, and in its various forms, it can still provide warmth and hope. A sometimes frustrating tale, due to the leaps and jumps, I still could not stop reading it. 4 stars.