REVIEW: THE WILDLING SISTERS, BY EVE CHASE

 

Four sisters. One summer. A lifetime of secrets.
 
When fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters arrive at Applecote Manor in June 1959, they expect a quiet English country summer. Instead, they find their aunt and uncle still reeling from the disappearance of their daughter, Audrey, five years before. As the sisters become divided by new tensions when two handsome neighbors drop by, Margot finds herself drawn into the life Audrey left behind. When the summer takes a deadly turn, the girls must unite behind an unthinkable choice or find themselves torn apart forever.

Fifty years later, Jesse is desperate to move her family out of their London home, where signs of her widower husband’s previous wife are around every corner. Gorgeous Applecote Manor, nestled in the English countryside, seems the perfect solution. But Jesse finds herself increasingly isolated in their new sprawling home, at odds with her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, and haunted by the strange rumors that surround the manor.


My Thoughts: A story that weaves the past with the present while spotlighting those secrets, lies, and broken connections that make all the difference between happiness and pain, The Wildling Sisters captured my interest immediately.

We begin with a moment in time back in 1959, watching while something mysterious is happening with four sisters, struggling to hide something.

Fast forward to the present, to Jessie and Will, a newly blended family that includes Bella, a sulky teenage daughter from Will’s previous marriage, and Jessie and Will’s toddler Romy, adorable, cherished, and the object of Bella’s jealousy.

What brought each of these families to the country estate named Applecote Manor, that place where disturbing things happened in a long ago summer?

The four Wilde sisters, nicknamed The Wildlings by their uncle, are spending the summer there while their mother is working in Marrakech. They discover that their cousin Audrey’s disappearance five years before is a defining event that mars this new summer, and suddenly they are caught up in what can happen to a family after a significant loss…and trying to fill the holes in the tapestry of their lives with the answers they seek.

For Will and Jessie, they need to leave London, where Bella has gotten into trouble. They are hoping the country will be a peaceful place of healing. But Bella’s problems are much greater than they can even imagine.

As we travel back and forth in time, the pieces of the puzzle come together, along with a kind of closure. 4 stars.

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KEEPING TRACK: AN UPDATE

Let’s take a look at my Challenge Progress.  Mostly I have been focusing on Books Purchased in 2017, but according to the rules, you can decide to include from July 2016 buys through December 2016.

Here are my book purchases falling into that latter category.  The ones linked to reviews have already been read.

Totals:  Out of 75 books purchased during that period, 14 remain unread. Several were read last year for the 2016 Challenge.

You may notice some that are crossed out, but not linked to a review.  Those are books already read, but purchased as re-reads.

I am feeling more optimistic, now that I’ve looked at these numbers!

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JULY 2016:

1. Coincidence of Coconut Cake, The (e-book), by Amy E. Riechert

2.  Girl You Lost, The (e-book), by Kathryn Croft

3. In Twenty Years (e-book), by Allison Winn Scotch

4. I’ve Got Sand in All the Wrong Places (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline, et. al.

5.  Melody Lingers On, The (e-book), by Mary Higgins Clark

6.  They May Not Mean To, But They Do (e-book), by Cathleen Schine

7.  This Must Be the Place (e-book), by Maggie O’Farrell

8.  Truly Madly Guilty (e-book), by Liane Moriarty

9.   Truth-Teller’s Lie, The (e-book), by Sophie Hannah

10. Valley of the Dolls, by Jacqueline Susann (50th Anniversary Copy – reread)

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AUGUST 2016:

1.All the Ugly & Wonderful Things (e-book), by Bryn Greenwood

2. American Girl, The (e-book), by Kate Horsley

3.  American Heiress, by Jeffrey Toobin

4.  Behind Closed Doors (e-book), by B. A. Paris

5. Book that Matters Most, The (e-book), by Ann Hood

6.  Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, by Anne Tyler (reread)

7. Family Tree (e-book), by Susan Wiggs

8.  Firefly Summer (e-book), by Nan Rossiter

9.  I Am No One (e-book), by Patrick Flanery

10. If I Forget You (e-book), by Thomas Christopher Greene

11. I Found You, by Lisa Jewell

12. It Ends with Us (e-book), by Colleen Hoover

13Map of the World, A (e-book), by Jane Hamilton (reread)

14. My Life, My Body, by Marge Piercy

15. Results May Vary (e-book), by Bethany Chase

16. Rosemary:  The Hidden Kennedy Daughter, by Kate Clifford Larson

17.  Silver Linings Playbook (e-book), by Matthew Quick

18. Siracusa (e-book), by Delia Ephron

19. Sister, The (e-book), by Louise Jensen

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SEPTEMBER 2016:

1.Come and Find Me (e-book), by Hallie Ephron

2. Finding Libbie (e-book), by Deanna Lynn Sletten

3. Kept Woman, The (e-book), by Karin Slaughter

4. Last Good Girl, The (e-book), by Allison Leotta

5.Life She Wants, The (e-book), by Robyn Carr

6. London Train, The (e-book), by Tessa Hadley

7. Some Tame Gazelle (e-book), by Barbara Pym

8. Sting (e-book), by Sandra Brown

9. Watching Edie (e-book), by Camilla Way

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OCTOBER 2016:

1. Commonwealth (e-book), by Ann Patchett

2. Dollhouse, The (e-book), by Fiona Davis

3.  Echoes of Family (e-book), by Barbara Claypole White

4.  Hot Milk (e-book), by Deborah Levy

5.  Hungry Heart (e-book), by Jennifer Weiner

6. Love Letters, by Debbie Macomber

7.  Mean Streak, by Sandra Brown

8. Mothers, The (e-book), by Brit Bennett

9. Red Car, The (e-book), by Marcy Dermansky

10.Saturday Requiem, by Nicci French

11. Send in the Clowns (e-book), by Julie Mulhern

12. Spelling It Like It Is, by Tori Spelling

13. Stealing Jason Wilde (e-book), by Dee Ernst

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NOVEMBER 2016:

1. After You (e-book), by JoJo Moyes

2.Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson

3.Hillbilly Elegy(e-book), by J. D. Vance

4. Home, by Harlan Coben

5.In a Dark, Dark Wood (e-book), by Ruth Ware

6. Inheriting Edith (e-book), by Zoe Fishman

7. In Her Wake (e-book), by Amanda Jennings

8. Murder Game, The (e-book), by Julie Apple

9. Never Alone (e-book), by Elizabeth Haynes

10. Other Widow, The (e-book), by Susan Crawford

11. Sleeping Beauty Killer, The (Under Suspicion)(e-book), by Mary Higgins Clark/Alafair Burke

12. Sweet Lamb of Heaven (e-book), by Lydia Millet

13. When All the Girls Have Gone (e-book), by Jayne Ann Krentz

14. While You Were Sleeping (e-book), by Kathryn Croft

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DECEMBER 2016:

1. Bad Things, The (e-book), by Mary-Jane Riley

2.Faultlines (e-book), by Barbara Taylor Sissel

3.Missing, Presumed (e-book), by Susie Steiner

4. Premonition, The (e-book, short story), by Chris Bohjalian

5.Princess Diarist, The, by Carrie Fisher

6.Stepmother, The (e-book), by Claire Seeber

7.Sweet William (e-book), by Beryl Bainbridge

8.Talking As Fast As I Can, by Lauren Graham

9.White Trash. The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America, by Nancy Isenberg

10.Woman in Cabin 10, The (e-book), by Ruth Ware

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How do you track your purchases/reads?  Do you participate in this challenge?  Any challenges?

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REVIEW: THE NIGHT THE LIGHTS WENT OUT, BY KAREN WHITE

 

Recently divorced, Merilee Talbot Dunlap moves with her two children to the Atlanta suburb of Sweet Apple, Georgia. It’s not her first time starting over, but her efforts at a new beginning aren’t helped by an anonymous local blog that dishes about the scandalous events that caused her marriage to fail.
 
Merilee finds some measure of peace in the cottage she is renting from town matriarch Sugar Prescott. Though stubborn and irascible, Sugar sees something of herself in Merilee—something that allows her to open up about her own colorful past.
 
Sugar’s stories give Merilee a different perspective on the town and its wealthy school moms in their tennis whites and shiny SUVs, and even on her new friendship with Heather Blackford. Merilee is charmed by the glamorous young mother’s seemingly perfect life and finds herself drawn into Heather’s world.
 
In a town like Sweet Apple, where sins and secrets are as likely to be found behind the walls of gated mansions as in the dark woods surrounding Merilee’s house, appearance is everything. But just how dangerous that deception can be will shock all three women….

MY THOUGHTS:
Small town Southern life feels familiar to me, having lived in such places, even when they were not actually in the South. Folks who migrate from that part of the world carry their values and traditions with them, along with the secrets of the past, and creating a mini-Southern enclave wherever they are.

Secrets are a core theme in The Night the Lights Went Out, and we have a couple of the characters that share some of their secrets, a bit at a time, as alternating narrators. Sugar, the ninety-something matriarch is technically Merilee’s landlord, but as time and secret-sharing bring them closer together, we see that a very strong bond is forming.

I loved Sugar, who reminded me of my feisty grandmothers. And like them, she knew how to hold a secret close…until its revelation would strengthen a friendship or save a life.

Heather was a character that I disliked from the beginning. First, because nobody is all that perfect and seemingly one’s best friend without an agenda. I worried about how willingly Merilee gave over her friendship to this woman, but it would be a while before we saw what was really going on behind that façade.

Alternating with Sugar and Merilee’s narratives are blog posts from an anonymous source, entitled “Your Neighbor.” A site that seems like a gossip fest soon reveals itself for its tidbits of wisdom, including Southern Sayings, interpreted for those who are new to them.

This intense story turned dark and threatening and kept me turning pages until the startling revelations and the delightful denouement, thus earning 5 stars.

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REVIEW: WHAT’S BECOME OF HER, BY DEB CALETTI

 

“Guilty people keep secrets.”

Isabelle Austen returns to her hometown on a small, isolated Pacific Northwest island to take over the family tourism business after the death of her mother, a disapproving parent and a hard woman to love. Feeling lost, Isabelle is also struggling with a recent divorce and wondering if she’ll ever come into her own. Then her life takes a surprising turn: The mysterious Henry North arrives on Parrish Island, steps off a seaplane, and changes Isabelle’s world forever.

From the beginning, their relationship is heady and intense—then Isabelle learns of Henry’s disturbing past, involving the death of a fiancée and the disappearance of a wife. Suddenly Isabelle is caught between love and suspicion, paranoia and passion, as she searches for the truth she may not want to find—and is swept into a dangerous game she may not survive.


MY THOUGHTS:
What’s Become of Her is alternately narrated by Isabelle and a stranger named Professor Weary, who has no personal interaction with her, but from afar, seems to be keeping an eye on her.Henry’s past, full of unanswered questions and mysteries, all point to the possibility of something dark and dangerous about him, and his secrets and lies raised a huge red flag that had me wanting to shout at Isabelle: Run!

But Henry was one of those men who can be so charming, and he did kind and loving things for her. Then something aroused his rage, usually as the result of his bruised ego, at which point, his “poor me” attitude reared its head, even as he turned frightening.

Why did Isabelle put up with him? Everyone who knew her kept warning her off, but she focused instead on the strange packages she kept receiving from someone, and even though each object hinted of bad acts by Henry, she kept hanging in there.

Even though I was turned off by Henry, and hoped Isabelle would make better choices, I wondered if I could be wrong about him. Could others, like Weary, be persecuting him, and would we discover that the real bad guys were out there, watching and waiting?

The beautiful setting on an island near Seattle kept me engaged, even though parts of the story were slow and even boring (Weary’s narratives). But I kept turning the pages, wondering what I would ultimately learn and what Isabelle would do about her precarious situation. What she did came as a complete surprise, and I wanted to celebrate. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: VIVIAN IN RED, BY KRISTINA RIGGLE

 

Famed Broadway producer Milo Short may be eighty-eight but that doesn’t stop him from going to the office every day. So when he steps out of his Upper West Side brownstone on one exceptionally hot morning, he’s not expecting to see the impossible: a woman from his life sixty years ago, cherry red lips, bright red hat, winking at him on a New York sidewalk, looking just as beautiful as she did back in 1934.

The sight causes him to suffer a stroke. And when he comes to, the renowned lyricist discovers he has lost the ability to communicate. Milo believes he must unravel his complicated history with Vivian Adair in order to win back his words. But he needs help—in the form of his granddaughter Eleanor—failed journalist and family misfit. Tapped to write her grandfather’s definitive biography, Eleanor must dig into Milo’s colorful past to discover the real story behind Milo’s greatest song Love Me, I Guess, and the mysterious woman who inspired an amazing life.

MY THOUGHTS:
A dual time line story with a mystery at its core, Vivian in Red captured my interest immediately. Why did the vision of Vivian Adair topple poor Milo, and catapult him into the past via visions he now sees and cannot describe, as he has lost his voice?

Granddaughter Eleanor is aware of the visions, although she does not know the meaning. She may be onto something, however, as a stranger named Alexander has called to ask about Milo, and to suggest a more than passing connection between Milo and Vivian.

I liked how the story unfolded by showing us moments in the past, along with Eleanor’s searches from the present while interviewing Milo as best she can. Through gestures and yes and no questions, she finds out more than any of the others have managed. I felt a connection with Eleanor, the grandchild without parents, the condescension she feels from the aunts, uncles, and cousins. The one they now turn to for this final tribute to Milo: a biography that will come out at the same time as a musical revival from the past.

Milo’s son Paul and daughter Rebekah were annoying in the way they demanded things from Eleanor, so I was happy when she started standing up for herself, making them realize that she will do what she can, but at her own pace.

Her boyfriend Daniel has left her, so moving into her grandfather’s home feels right. While interviewing Milo and doing her research, she has time to ponder her choices.

From the glimpses into the past that revealed Vivian’s layers, I had mixed feelings about her. She seemed like a manipulative user who somehow captivated Milo, and is now holding him hostage in his silence. What were the secrets between them? How can Milo be freed from the past? Another brilliant book from an author I enjoy, this one earned 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE ROANOKE GIRLS, BY AMY ENGEL

 

“Roanoke girls never last long around here. In the end, we either run or we die.”

After her mother’s suicide, fifteen year-old Lane Roanoke came to live with her grandparents and fireball cousin, Allegra, on their vast estate in rural Kansas. Lane knew little of her mother’s mysterious family, but she quickly embraced life as one of the rich and beautiful Roanoke girls. But when she discovered the dark truth at the heart of the family, she ran…fast and far away.

Eleven years later, Lane is adrift in Los Angeles when her grandfather calls to tell her Allegra has gone missing. Did she run too? Or something worse? Unable to resist his pleas, Lane returns to help search, and to ease her guilt at having left Allegra behind. Her homecoming may mean a second chance with the boyfriend whose heart she broke that long ago summer. But it also means facing the devastating secret that made her flee, one she may not be strong enough to run from again.

MY THOUGHTS:
It was not difficult to figure out the darkness hiding behind the walls of the beautiful estate called Roanoke. The charismatic grandfather/father, Yates Roanoke, had a way about him, a way that drew the girls to him. They were all wounded in one way or another, and his kind of love felt better than no love at all. Their mothers had died or run away, and they were left behind, not believing they were worthy of love. And Yates was there, promising them love and protection from the outside world.

Allegra was probably the most wounded, as her mother left when she was only a couple of months old. She knew she was not destined for a normal life, but she still loved having control over her lover Tommy, luxuriating in the belief that she could have him any time she wanted.

Lane’s mother, Camilla, had left when she was pregnant with her. They were together for sixteen years, but Lane never felt loved. She sensed that there was something dark about Roanoke that her mother would not talk about. It would be years later before she learned why her mother couldn’t seem to love her.

Narrated in the first person voice of Lane, The Roanoke Girls weaves back and forth in time, sometimes in a repetitive way, inserting brief snippets about the previous generation: Sophia, Penelope, Eleanor, Camilla, and little Emmeline. We learn about the summer Lane came to Roanoke for the first time, at age sixteen, and why she fled after that brief period, holding her own secrets close to her heart.

Coming back to search for Allegra will resurrect all the pain of the past. Will she find closure? Or will she simply experience, once again, the powerful pull of darkness that has kept all the girls fragile and in a suspended childhood world?

What happened to Allegra? Did she, too, run away, or did something nefarious happen to her? Why did Tommy’s jealous wife Sarah come to see Allegra only hours before she disappeared? Will the police find the answers, or will another secret be locked away behind the walls of Roanoke? 4.5 stars.

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APRIL WAS UNFORGETTABLE – MONTHLY WRAP-UP

April was a great month!  Every book had something to recommend it, and there were several that were unforgettable  I read in a few categories:

Thrillers/Mysteries/Suspense – 7 books

Contemporary Fiction – 4 books

Literary Fiction – 3 books

Memoir – 1

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Check out the books I read, which link to my reviews.  Visit Kathryn at Book Date to link up.

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APRIL 2017:

1.Arrangement, The (e-book), by Sarah Dunn – 368 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 4/21/17

2.Beach Breeze, by Joanne DeMaio – 322 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 4/8/17 – (Author Review Request)

3.Housekeeper, The (e-book), by Suellen Dainty – 320 pages – (psychological thriller) – 4/23/17

4.I Found You, by Lisa Jewell – 448 pages – (mystery) – 4/26/17

5.One Perfect Lie (e-book), by Lisa Scottoline – 368 pages – (suspense fiction) – 4/6/17 – (NetGalley – 4/11/17)

6.Perfect Stranger, The (e-book), by Megan Miranda – 352 pages- (mystery/thriller) – 4/9/17 – (NetGalley – 4/11/17)

7.Princess Diarist, The, by Carrie Fisher – 256 pages – (memoir) – 4/24/17

8.Secrets You Keep, The (e-book), by Kate White – 368 pages – (mystery/murder) – 4/18/17

9.Slightly South of Simple, by Kristy Woodson Harvey – 368 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 4/11/17 – (Author Review Request)

10.Small Hours, by Jennifer Kitses – 275 pages – (literary fiction) – 4/2/17 –  (Amazon Vine)

11.Sweet William (e-book), by Beryl Bainbridge – 136 pages – (literary fiction) – 4/28/17

12.Wait for the Rain (e-book), by Maria Murnane – 270 pages – (contemporary fiction) – 4/27/17 – (Author Request)

13.Widow’s House, The (e-book), by Carol Goodman – 352 pages – (thriller) – 4/16/17

14.Widower’s Wife, The (e-book), by Cate Holahan – 293 pages – (thriller) – 4/13/17

15.Woman No. 17, by Edan Lepucki – 305 pages – (literary fictiion) – 4/21/17 – (Amazon Vine)

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NUMBER OF BOOKS READ IN APRIL 2017:         15

NUMBER OF PAGES READ IN APRIL 2017:     4,801

BOOKS READ YTD:                                                                    57

FAVORITE FICTION:  The Perfect Stranger

 

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