REVIEW: COPPER BEACH, BY JAYNE ANN KRENTZ

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A story that features psychic/paranormal energy, the power within crystals, and family legacies, Copper Beach (Dark Legacy Novel) grabs the reader and doesn’t let go until the final page.

Offering up a rich variety of interesting characters and settings, primarily in the Seattle area and on one of the San Juan Islands, the author gives us the Coppersmiths, like Sam and his parents, along with Abby Radwell, who has been blackmailed into searching for a mysterious lab notebook. One that holds valuable formulas, but must be unlocked via psychic energy. Then there are a number of nefarious characters, like Lander Knox, not to mention annoying ones like Orinda Strickland, Abby’s step-grandmother. Another interesting subplot involved Abby’s father Brandon, his third wife Diana, her stepbrother Dawson, and Brandon’s focus on his “perfect family” image that led to Abby being placed in a school for troubled teens when she was younger.

And why are all of these people seeking the notebook? What can it bring to any of their lives? And how does a seemingly disturbed young man named Grady Hastings set everything in motion? And who has hypnotically controlled him?

I was intrigued by the puzzling elements, but the romantic aspects added a lighter note to the story. There was an obvious connection between Sam Coppersmith and Abby that shows promise for the future. And let’s not forget the contributions of Abby’s dog Newton. A delightful romantic suspense novel with a twist, I recommend it to all fans of the author. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: THE TULIP EATERS, BY ANTOINETTE VAN HEUGTEN

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In November, 1980, Nora De Jong, a young pediatric neurosurgeon arrives home from work, in the home she shares with her mother and daughter in Houston, Texas, to discover her mother’s dead body. And that her six-month-old daughter Rose is missing.

What the reader learns, in alternate chapters narrated from different perspectives, is that, presumably, Nora’s mother Anneke had an unsavory past in Holland, as a member of the Dutch Nazis during WWII. And that some of those from that very past may be bent on revenge.

From Houston to Amsterdam, we follow Nora’s quest to find her daughter. While the detectives at home believe that she is foolish, Nora has a sense that in Amsterdam, she will find answers.

What unexpected facts will Nora learn as she pursues unknown persons who may have her daughter? How will her reunion with Nico, the love of her life and Rose’s father, figure into the quest? And what final secrets will she discover back home in Houston again? What is the significance of the book’s title?

A fast-paced story that kept me rapidly turning pages, The Tulip Eaters is a reminder that the past informs the present, and that sometimes, the secrets from the past can bring peace. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: WHAT I HAD BEFORE I HAD YOU, BY SARAH CORNWELL

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It is summer when Olivia, newly single mom to Carrie and Daniel, takes them on a road trip to Ocean Vista, the place on the Jersey Shore where she grew up. A place where she is hoping to find something…she knows not what. But it might be the very thing that helps her understand and make sense of her world.

They are enroute to their new home In New York, a home that is half hers, and where she spent some of her teen years. It is where the moving pod awaits them.

In back and forth moments, Olivia’s past and present weave themselves around her, in a dreamlike manner. We see her as a teenager here at this very shore, exploring her independence and rebelling against her mother’s strangeness. Her mother’s psychic “otherness,” her disappearances, the very essence of her illness. Something that Olivia would not come to understand for many years. A thing that is part of her, and now is in Daniel.

He was diagnosed with his bipolar disorder the year before. Olivia blames the end of her marriage to Sam on his inability to cope. But she knows there is more to it.

So when Daniel disappears one day at the shore, Olivia’s search takes her into all the remote places of her life as she looks for her missing son. It is almost like a remembering and an exploration…a quest for herself, her mother, and now her son.

What is the meaning of Olivia’s flashes at the shore long ago? Those “sisters” she keeps seeing, who are fleeing from her? Are they her mother’s lost “twins,” the ones she described to Olivia? Are they ghosts? Or has she conjured them in her imagination? What will Olivia find when she goes to New York that summer as a teen? What unanswered questions will lead to even more?

A story about fractured families, mental illness, and one woman’s desire to know herself, while also rediscovering who her mother was, What I Had Before I Had You: A Novel is a disturbing, sometimes mystical, and oftentimes illusory tale about finding oneself. I loved some of the lyrical writing, although I was also lost at times; the shifting perspectives and scenes, going back and forth in time, were hard to follow. But I felt I had a complete grasp of Olivia’s first person voice, and really enjoyed this passage near the end, as she talks about her mother’s untreated illness:

“Here is what I would say to those people who would judge her, what I would say to myself on some days: What if all the transcendent moments of your life, the sound-track moments, the radiant detail, the gleaming thing at the center of life that loves you, that loves beauty–God or whatever you call it–what if all this were part of your illness? Would you seek treatment? I have, and sometimes I wonder if the greatest passions are just out of my reach. And sometimes I am so grateful….”

An unforgettable story….4 stars.

REVIEW: EAT, PRAY, LOVE, BY ELIZABETH GILBERT

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Leaving behind the outward marks of success, the author of Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia committed herself to a year of self-discovery. A journey away from the emotional pain of her divorce and a broken relationship afterwards…toward a spiritual awakening.

She divided the year into increments, beginning in Italy, where she would enjoy the pleasures and sensory experience of eating. And practice her Italian. In India, she lived in an Ashram and devoted herself to the art of meditation, in order to connect with her spirituality. And the final leg of her journey would be in Bali, where she hoped to find balance.

I must admit that I had some fascination for the story, and how devoted the author was to her quest. And I enjoyed following her journey through the months in Italy. The experiences in India bored me…and I could not relate to them, try as I would.

Bali felt a little more like a time of connecting to others, as she helped families and people she met there, and formed lasting relationships.

Sometimes our journeys in life yield just what we need. And sharing them with others can help them. But that didn’t happen for me with this book, which I almost gave up on several times. However, I must say that the book is well-written, and sometimes for several pages in a row, I could engage with it. But not enough to recommend it to anyone other than those who are on a similar quest. Therefore, I’m awarding it three stars.