Anna finds a teenage girl’s body on the beach in Lithuania while on a business trip to her textile factory. Prevented from leaving by a natural disaster, she meets a journalist named Will, who moves into her carefully constructed life. He and her friends warn her against pursuing the girl’s murder, but her own past urges her on, until she finds herself in danger, and Will is incommunicado. Beard portrays a workaholic with repressed emotions and memories vividly, though Anna seems to throw up a lot and has quite a few anxiety attacks, not to mention the breakdown from grief. The story seems as self-oriented as Anna, focusing on her distress throughout, when it could have explored the horrors of sex trafficking further. Even as Anna is justified in her wavering faith in Will, his character is not developed enough for the reader to make a judgment call either way. Though the story is a good one, it could have given a little more weight toward other characters, and even considered location a main character in its cultural presence, but Anna simply comes across as too neurotic to notice anything else. I was graciously given a digital copy by the publisher through NetGalley.
Grace Dalton watched her husband die after being struck in a hit and run accident. After a brief period of submerging herself in the grief, she begins to move on, speaking with his lawyer to learn of a secret bank account and life insurance. Then she sees her husband, sending her best friend into conniptions for some reason, and she ends up in several bizarre emergency sessions with her psychiatrist. Much of this story, once you get past the repetition (and the repetition continues throughout the book), lacks credibility, such as Grace’s phone sessions with her psychiatrist, and then her best friend dragging her to so many emergency sessions instead of listening to Grace. Her best friend comes across as more like a mean sister, making the ending even less likely. This story had such potential, and then Grace ended up being more crotchety than the damsel in distress. The reader does not need reminding in every chapter that Grace wallowed in her grief for six weeks. The story is in there if you want to earn it! I was graciously given an early copy by Bookouture through NetGalley.
Carrie Morgan turns back to her car after arguing with a parking attendant and finds her toddler Ben gone. Her story seems off to police, family, and friends. Over a year later, she finds him, in his crib, though he’s not aged a year. And he disappears again—from his crib the same night. Now husband John is in on the madness, which he spins into a possible, though improbable, story. An unlikely witness keeps Carrie’s secret, yet it eventually comes out. Carrie’s actions invoke suspicion and mental illness through ambiguous and incredible circumstances and revelations, and she reels from a long-held confession from her mother. Solving the crime may or may not absolve Carrie or prove her sane.
These characters are less endearing than interesting. Simmons keeps readers guessing whether Carrie needs compassion or justice. Even John isn’t sure in what way he could best help his wife, her actions at times eliciting horror. The way that the two investigative cops work independently as a veteran and a rookie read as a transfer from old school to new, and emphasizes the rookie’s discreet gestures of compassion. Different points of view, from family to law enforcement to newly met neighbors offers a kaleidoscope of opinions, as in real life, where the more information one gets, the more confusing it can be. The mother’s revelation about Carrie’s father at the end cheapened her gift, clearly evidenced throughout the story, though perspective painted various pictures for everyone involved.
If you believe even a little that we might have extraordinary powers that lie latent in most, this book will fascinate you. If you believe that extraordinary events can occur through prayer (whatever that means for you), you will appreciate this story. Check out the author on her website http://www.kellysimmonsbooks.com/, where you can find links to purchase her books.
Joe Lynch espies his wife in a heated debate with their friend Ben at a hotel restaurant after his son sees mommy’s car and they follow her to say hi. After she leaves too quickly to follow, Joe confronts Ben, who laughs off his suspicions. His wife explains away the argument as Ben’s obsession with her; then Ben disappears. Suddenly, Joe is being framed for Ben’s murder, seemingly by Ben himself, so that Joe must find the purposely evasive man to clear his name.
Logan deftly weaves in and out of the fast lane, with Joe’s wife Mel explaining away everything that Joe uncovers, to allay his fears until the next bombshell. The scene of resolution contains the dreaded trope of criminal shows, where the villain’s motivation and MO are thoroughly laid out—by the villain. The reveal explains questionable character actions that should have been questioned by Joe, but weren’t. All in all, the biggest bombshell will expose some readers’ unintended biases, and that’s okay. It’s good to shine the light into the nooks and crannies that seemed of no concern before, as uncomfortable as that can be, in order to become a better person. This book is a fast, fun read, and not soon to be forgotten. I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Suzette is convinced that her 7-year-old daughter Hannah is trying to kill her. The child is non-verbal, talking only through an invisible friend, the last “witch” burned in France, a piece of trivia she researched online. Alex, her husband—Hannah’s father, struggles to believe that anything beyond selective mutism is wrong with his beloved daughter, who adores him as much as she abhors her mother. An incident forces him to confront the truth, and they must take drastic measures to save their daughter from herself.
Alternating perspectives of mother and daughter show exactly where communication is misconstrued, and the mother’s Crohn’s disease is woven into the story well as a contributing factor to her fear of being a bad mother. Though the author represents the main characters well, the father is flat and comes across as whiny and simplistic. A sense of ambiguity as to the child’s true problem and the mother’s true feelings is not achieved; rather, it feels made of conflicting storylines, with vague references left unexplored. The therapist recommended by the pediatrician seems to be poor at her job, crossing ethical lines (specifics here would be spoilers). The last line is killer!
I received a digital ARC of this story from the publisher through NetGalley.
Finn told police the half-truth about Layla disappearing from a rest stop on their vacation in Fonches, France. More than a dozen years later, strange happenings at home in England make Finn believe that Layla is alive and upset that he is about to marry her sister. Paris leads the reader on a wild adventure, implicating culprits right and left, with Finn alternately dismissing suspicions and accusing friends aggressively. Hints of Layla show up in objects significant to her life and emails with information only she would know, causing Finn dreadful hope. The author brilliantly traverses through the landscape of a troubled mind, then reverts to a trope of spelling out the resolution in a lengthy letter, a bit disappointing after such magnificent writing. The resolution itself may astonish the most clever reader in its unique take on the concept. It’s a definite must read. I was fortunate to receive an ARC of this fantastic thriller from the publisher through NetGalley.
Amber comes to from a coma, but realizes that she is not awake, only aware. While in her hospital bed, she hears her husband and sister discuss mysterious happenings related to her car accident. Flashbacks to a week before bring the reader up to date slowly through an unreliable narrator. Journal entries from childhood fill in blanks and spew a haze of ambiguity regarding the sisters, until the reader is delightfully confused and enlightened repeatedly, like the proverbial roller coaster ride. Feeney plops out a big, ole’ shocker at the end—twice!—that makes the reader go, “Hmm…” It’s a fun read and worth the time to try to figure out what’s going on between the sisters, and if anyone is trustworthy, or if all of them are constantly scheming. The journal is brilliantly done, without revealing anything. Much murder and mayhem ensue, beyond the family, a deliciously wicked family. I was fortunate to receive an advanced copy from the publisher of this fantastic novel.
Jorja sent me a friend request last year, and after looking at her page, I accepted. She’s a brilliant storyteller who is always supportive of other writers. She’s mystical and magical in an unseen universe (see what I did there?), and chaotically creative. I’m privileged to have a connection with Jorja and wished to share her stories—about her life and in her fiction. She’s a lovely human.
Tell me about your writing process, including environment, inspirations, schedule, strategies, and muse (if you have one!).
Is there ever a process for anything when you have kids? I try to steal time to write, but I do it every day. I journal, I write ideas when they pop up, and I write poetry. I am an emotional storyteller, because in all honesty, I struggle with my emotions, so in turn I heal. I don’t write from a desk or have an office. I write from my laptop, which is portable, so I can take it places, but mostly I write from my couch. I have been known to write in my car while my son is at football practice, I would say a third of Sisterly was written or edited there. It is for me, really, no different than reading a good book, an escape, but I get to choose the ending. As for a muse, this is the concept that I thought only I experienced. When I write I do feel as though I am channeling many muses. I like to think of them as my writing angels. My grandmother (my mother’s mother) was, in her lifetime, the best storyteller. When I was a child, she would tell us a story that I would visualize so vividly. I would like to think that she is still telling me those stories I loved to listen to as a child. Our stories are very important to generations to come. They learn from our mistakes and gain knowledge to what works. Life is not easy.
I love the story of how you started writing—elaborate upon that and how the relationship with your mother encouraged you in this direction.
My mother wrote for our local paper. She loved to write and would always talk about wanting to write a book. She could come up with stories that conveyed a message about love, friendships, and all the good things life has to offer (Hallmark channel was her favorite). Sadly, I lost my mother this year, February 2018. She unfortunately never published any of her works. She lived that dream through me I suppose. Let me step back and explain,–I talked my Mother into taking a class to teach you how to write a book. At that time I had no interest in writing a book. I just thought it was something we could do to spend time together and possibly help her achieve one of her dreams. I found a love for writing—it was my purpose, and looking back, I was always a writer. My Mother wrote many short stories through our adventure in this class, but my Mother always put her kids first. She became my biggest fan. By the end of the class I had created a book—Chasing Butterflies in the Magical Garden (2013). By the way, I plan to publish her work in the coming year. I see it like this—I have gained another writing angel during her time on earth and in her after life.
What finds its way into your stories and why?
I try to teach lessons or convey wisdom we learn through our lifetime by using every day stories. I love to entertain while doing this, which may be possibly why I add a little magic to my stories (I think I get that from my grandmother). I love to read stories that make you question or wonder, or have a spiritual aspect. I also love surprises. Metaphors are always welcome in my writing as well, and I like to hide them throughout my stories. So why not write what I enjoy reading?
Describe your support system—your team, everyone who works with you or gives you props.
Gosh, I have a lot of support, sometimes so much support, I will never be able to retire from writing. My family supports me with my writing the most. When my mother passed, I have to say, my emotions held me back from taking her writing. They were the first to tell me that they were mine. I got the whole box! There is something very connecting reading someone’s writing. It is the truest form of them. I am truly blessed. I also have a wonderful writing community. We meet once a week to discuss our writing endeavors. We do not critique. We only motivate and challenge our own abilities. That is the best kind of writing community to have. I’ll tell you why—each of us is different, we learn in many ways, and we have different interests. Readers are the same, are they not? Don’t get me wrong; we do at times read each other’s work and give suggestions, which in turn gets our own creative juices flowing. Last is a good editor, but not for typos, because let’s face it, typos happen! During final edit we worry about those. I have been fortunate to have two wonderful and patient editors. I spend most of my time on editing and rewriting. I am not going to tell you it is my weakness. I am just going to say I don’t edit while I write. Editing interferes with my creative process. When most people think of an editor, they think of someone who comes in and cleans it all up. I’m sure there are some editors out there that do that, but that isn’t my case. I have two supportive editing coaches. They show me things I missed or need to elaborate on and we work together to prefect it. It is usually a 4 to 6 time go-over on the story. While this is happening, I send my story with a WARNING to everyday people to read and send me feedback. Usually I have at least 4 to 5 people of different ages and opinions. I have even sent one of my first drafts to my 4th grade English teacher, who is now retired. I can’t express the importance of having many people working with you to produce the best you are capable of producing.
What do you love most about your creativity?
I love creating! I love everything about the process of creating. I’ll admit, with my first book, I wasn’t fond of rewriting and editing, because it was work. Now after 4 books, 2 anthologies, many short stories, and a screenplay, I enjoy the rewriting and editing process as much as I do creating the story. The only thing I do struggle with is the ending to a creative project, the moment it is published. I’m like a lost puppy looking for a new story to write.
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This story opens in an interrogation room, with Angela prepared to tell her story to police, if they will only listen. Finally, Detective Novak allows her to share everything that she feels is relevant, beginning with her meeting H.P. in high school, where he changed her life. They became best friends who fell in love, or as Angela tells the story, soul mates. She leads Detective Novak through their complicated relationship, hampered by her lack of a healthy role model and his small town contentment, and further strained by Angela attending Oxford, where she’s befriended by Freddy, who dotes on her against her will. Detective Novak perks up at the entrance of Saskia, the missing wife, the reason for Angela’s interrogation, during H.P.’s visit to England. Misunderstandings ensue, emotions tangle, and new pathways are formed. Angela blames losing her first love on everyone else, spending her life from that point on waiting for him to do the right thing. When her mother moves in uninvited after leaving her father, she pursues an unhealthy friendship with H.P. as their houseguest and babysitter, which culminates in Saskia’s disappearance. Detective Novak pieces together the evidence through the long night of storytelling by Angela, who is either also an innocent victim or a truly unreliable narrator.
Nay leads the reader through a maze of Angela’s fears, internal struggles, unrealistic desires, and inevitable disappointments. Angela is brilliantly depicted as a minor character in her own life, for which she can then lay guilt at whoever she allowed to make the decisions for her, as she waits in vain for things to go her way without taking action herself. Failure to communicate is a key element in the derailment of Angela’s life, and Nay relays every misstep taken by those underestimating her. The ending is not as well captured as the entire novel leading up to it, subtlety left behind in the previous chapter.
I was fortunate to receive an early copy from the publisher through a giveaway.
Kimi spent her childhood in isolation due to an immune disease, her only friend, Rahul, the son of the police officer shot protecting her father, who sacrificed his own childhood to pay off the debt to her father for he and his siblings’ education. Love grew quietly, but was thwarted by class difference, complicated emotions, and, of course, things left unsaid. In this continuing story from the previous novel, the tone changes to the intimacy of an intense friendship created by Rahul supporting Kimi throughout her ongoing illness and eventual heart transplant. Switching from present tense to past tense when they first met, the reader watches their relationship grow and develop unevenly due to their differing class levels, and especially through the connection to her family through obligation on both sides. In the present, Kimi is in danger from the criminal operating the black market for stolen organs by murder. She must place all her trust in Rahul to aide her in finding out the truth behind her heart transplant, though in the end, it leads her back home to a horrifying secret.
The romance is deeply embedded in this suspense thriller, with hot and heavy hitting hard in intricate scenes of the back and forth of a couple who cannot allow themselves to be completely vulnerable. Dev does a superb job of crafting a relationship with obstacles seemingly too large to overcome, all the while ramping up the suspense of the danger to Kimi and the secret to which only the reader is privileged to know. The ending line will make the reader laugh out loud!
I was fortunate to receive this lovely novel from the author through a giveaway. Although it can be read as a standalone novel, A Change of Heart sets up the storyline and enriches the experience of this book. I highly recommend reading both.