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Book Review: Big Lies in a Small Town, by Diane Chamberlain

big lies in a small town
Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:  Big Lies in a Small Town
AuthorDiane Chamberlain
Genre:  Fiction
Rating:  4 out of 5

In 2018, Morgan Christopher’s life has been put on hold. Serving three years for a crime she didn’t commit, she’s given up all hope of a career in art and just wants her prison stay to be over—until a stranger offers her a deal that will mean her immediate release:  restore an old mural in a small southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, and the deadline is something not even an experienced restoration artist could meet, but as Morgan starts work on the painting, she realizes it hides evidence of madness, murder, and lies in a small town.

In 1940, Anna Dale wins a contest to paint a post office mural in North Carolina. She’s thrilled for the opportunity—but Edenton isn’t what she expected at all. Her life in New York gives her no frame of reference for understanding this small southern town—full of prejudice, secrets, and expectations she refuses to meet—which just might end in murder.

I didn’t immediately connect with the characters, but I ended up loving this book! I connected with both Morgan and Anna, and I admired them both. They are such strong women. They don’t always make the best choices, but they do stay true to themselves and grow from their experiences.

Diane Chamberlain is a bestselling author. Big Lies in a Small Town is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Shamus Dust, by Janet Roger

 

shamus dust
Image belongs to author and publisher.

Title:  Shamus Dust
AuthorJanet Roger
Genre:  Mystery
Rating:  4 out of 5

Newman is an American PI living in London just after World War II. The city is still a bombed-out wreck—and the people are worse. Early on Christmas morning, Newman receives a call from City Councilor Drake, who tells him to meet an investigator at the murder scene of Raymond Jarrett. The investigator isn’t there, so Newman stars asking questions. Jarrett was a blackmailer and a pimp, so there are a lot of people who might have wanted him dead—but who went through with it?

With the bodies piling up and his own life in danger, Newman is determined to find the killer. But as the suspects keep turning up dead and more questions keep stacking up, Newman realizes the truth has links all over the financial district—and the wealthy have more money and less scruples than he thought.

I’ll say straight away that detective noir stories are not my usual fair. They don’t normally hold my interest. This one did. The setting is incredibly well-realized and realistic—not to mention depressing—and the characters are…quite the character(s). I prefer more connection with the main characters I read, so the distance from Newman was a problem for me, but I realize that’s personal preference. This was well-written and very gritty, and I didn’t figure out who the killer was.

Janet Roger is an award-winning author. Shamus Dust is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #51

Well…writing didn’t go quite so well this week. I only got in two writing sessions. No book reviews written (because I haven’t finished reading anything this week.). But…I DID finish one of the timelines in my King Arthur story, so there’s that.

To be fair…writing got pushed to the side in order to facilitate me finishing up a big personal goal that I’ve put off for basically eight or nine months. But the really time-consuming part is behind me, and I should finish it this week, so yay!

 

The Best Books I Read in November (2019)

I read 22 books in November, bringing my total for the year to 210. Of those 22 books, I rated 6 of them 5 stars. But…top 3, right?

So, I’m picking a near-future thriller, a contemporary romance, and a historical. And 3 runners-up, because…just because.

synapse

Synapse, by Steven James. This was a wild ride from page one! AI with a Methodist minister main character, plus a terrorist plot? I never would have imagined those things went together.

lake season

Lake Season, by Denise Hunter. This was a lovely contemporary romance rolled together with a story of star-crossed lovers from the past. Such a good read!

A Silken Thread

A Silken Thread, by Kim Vogel Sawyer. This was an excellent historical novel set 30 years after the Civil War in Atlanta.

Runners-up (by which I mean “Three really excellent books from two of my favorite authors”):

Call Down the Hawk, by Maggie Stiefvater.

Navigating the Stars and Chasing the Shadows, by Maria V. Snyder.

Book Review: A Wedding in December, by Sarah Morgan

a wedding in december
Image belongs to harlequin/HQN.

Title:  A Wedding in December
Author:   Sarah Morgan
Genre:  Romance
Rating:  4 out of 5

Maggie White is looking forward to a family Christmas at home. Decorating, cooking—it’s her favorite time of year. Of course, this year she’ll have to tell her daughters she and their dad are getting divorced. Until a middle-of-the-night phone call reveals her younger daughter, Rosie, is getting married. Now the family is headed to Aspen for the ceremony, and Maggie and Nick agree to pretend to still be in love, for the sake of their daughter’s wedding. Will the pretense turn to reality?

Katie, Rosie’s older sister, just knows Rosie is making a mistake. Her sister is impulsive and changes her mind all the time, so how can she know this guy’s “the one” when she’s only known him a few months? Katie’s determined to stop her sister from making a huge mistake—getting married—but the best man, Jordan, keeps getting in her way. And her thoughts.

Rosie is getting married. She knows she loves her fiancé, but is she really sure? With her sister interfering and her parents acting embarrassingly in love, Rosie’s just not sure anymore, but she knows she has to figure out what her heart wants.

I loved the White family, and that this was really three romances in one. I fall somewhere between Rosie and Katie, so I could relate to both of them. The switches in viewpoint were seamless, and every character’s journey was absorbing. An excellent read!

Sarah Morgan is a bestselling author. A Wedding in December is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Harlequin/HQN via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Sundays are for Writing #19

It’s hard to believe we’re 19 weeks into 2019. Time is flying. I wish I could say it’s because I’m having so much fun, but that’s not exactly true. More like it’s flying because I’m so busy.

My schedule was a bit different this week. I was off on Monday to recover from a race, so I got in two writing sessions that day, one on Tuesday, and three on Thursday to hit my word count goal for the week. I also outlined five scenes and completed two lessons in my writing class this week.

I’m feeling a bit restless and unhappy with this manuscript right now, so I’m trying to push through and get to my happy place again. I start my Directed Project on Tuesday, which is a sort of internship. I’m re-designing a blog for a local faith-based nonprofit. This will make my schedule even crazier, so we’ll see how the writing fares.

Happy writing!

What I Read in April (2019)

Books Read in April:  18

Books Read for the Year: 67/175

Topical Books/Monthly Goal Books:

That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis (classic). While I enjoyed the first two books in The Space Trilogy, this was a bit too much talking-heads to me. Or maybe I just wasn’t paying close enough attention.

I Declare War: Four Keys to Winning the Battle with Yourself, by Levi Lusko (spiritual). After hearing him speak last month, I was excited to read this book about beating the bad habits you don’t want to do anymore.

The Lost Girls of Paris, by Pam Jenoff (cultural). This is about female spies during WWII, and what happened to them.

Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis (nonfiction). I love Hollis’ voice!

Two Princes of Summer, by Nissa Leder (from the TBR pile). Please see the “Left Unfinished” section.

For Review:

the girl he used to know

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves. Ten years ago, Annika Rose and Jonathan had a relationship. But Annika isn’t like other people. She doesn’t like people, and she doesn’t know how to talk to them or how to interpret what they mean. Now that she’s run into Jonathan again, can she show him she’s different than she used to be? This is a solid read from the viewpoint of a character that looks at the world so differently…and knows it.

the devouring gray

The Devouring Grey, by Christine Lynn Herman. I thoroughly enjoyed this dark—very dark—modern YA fantasy. Everybody in this book has issues. Serious issues. And mysteries and secrets abound.

little lovely things

Little Lovely Things, by Maureen Joyce Connolly. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who is disturbed by violence involving children. Claire is driving her two children to daycare when she is overcome by sickness and has to pull into a gas station. She wakes up later on the floor of the bathroom…with her car and her daughters gone. The police have no clues, but Claire is convinced her daughters are alive…but the tragedy may destroy everything in her life. Emotional read.

15 wonders

The Fifteen Wonders of Daniel Green, by Erica Boyce. When a dying farmer pays a secret group to make a crop circle and bring attention to a dying farm town, the artist finds himself drawn into the family’s lives. This was an interesting, rather magical read.

the mother-in-law

The Mother-in-law, by Sally Hepworth. Why does the mother-in-law always have to be the villain? Well…Lucy and Diana never got along, but now Diana is dead, and Lucy—and the rest of the family—is a suspect.

redwoods and whales

Redwoods and Whales, by Phil Joel. Loved this read about stepping into the identity God has for you, and looking at life for yourself, not the way everyone else does.

brief chronicles

Brief Chronicles of Another Stupid Heartbreak, by Adi Alsaid. When Lu’s boyfriend breaks up with her, writer’s block sets in for the relationship journalist, and she’s on the verge of losing her scholarship. Then she meets Cal and Iris, who plan to end their relationship at the end of summer, and is fascinated, and determined to write about them, slowly finding herself drawn into their dynamics.

a pack of blood and lies

A Pack of Blood and Lies, by Olivia Wildenstein. This is a solid read about an all-male pack of werewolves, and the girl who dares to challenge the status quo.

one summer in paris

One Summer in Paris, by Sarah Morgan. Grace intends to surprise her husband with a trip to Paris for their 25th anniversary. Instead, he wants a divorce, so she goes to Paris alone, lost in memories of the past. She meets Audrey, on her own for the first time, and keeping secrets about her family as she refuses to let anyone close. The friendship between Grace and Audrey teaches them both important lessons. I’ve never had any desire to visit Paris, but this book made me reconsider. A wonderful read!

Getting Hot with the Scot

Getting Hot with the Scot, by Melonie Johnson.  On the trip of a lifetime, Cassie meets a hot Scottish Highlander in a kilt and soon finds herself in more than a one-night-stand.

belly up

Belly Up,  by Eva Darrows. An unexpected pregnancy at 16 changes Serendipity’s whole life and brings people into her life she can’t imagine being without. Love the friendships in this book.

only ever her

Only Ever Her, by Marybeth Mayhew Whalen (review forthcoming). The small-town feel of this is spot-on, but I found most of the characters disagreeable at best, and didn’t really care why Annie had gone missing.

Romanov

Romanov, by Nadine Brandes (review forthcoming). This fictionalized tale of Anastasia Romanov and her family was completely engrossing, and I highly recommend it.

Just Because:

rosie's traveling tea shop

Rosie’s Traveling Tea Shop, by Rebecca Raisin. Can we talk about how much I love this book? SO. MUCH.

Left Unfinished:

two princes of summer

Two Princes of Summer, by Nissa Leder. Beautiful cover that definitely made me want to read this. But…I quit at the 20% mark. Scarlett’s mother committed suicide, and now she’s grieving. Believable. Mentioning how everyone—including her—thought her mother was crazy for seeing things over and over and over…makes the impact completely disappear. Scarlett, while drunk, goes into another realm with Cade, whom she basically doesn’t know…and doesn’t even question this decision. And Cade is a little rape-y for my taste, thank you very much. Raith was moderately interesting, but not enough to make me continue reading. Thanks, but no thanks.

Tinfoil Crowns, by Erin Jones. The MC was just entirely to self-obsessed for me. I read about 10%, but I couldn’t put up with her narcissism anymore.

 

Sundays are for Writing #16

I did get in three writing days this week, meeting my goal of 2,250 words. I’m happy with that, but so far, as of Saturday around noonish, I have not done any scene outlines or writing lessons.

I dohave that planned for Sunday morning, though, so we’ll see how that works out. I really need some kind of plot for this story…

Book Review: Between the Lies, by Michelle Adams

between the lies
Image belongs to St.Martin’s Press.

Title:  Between the Lies
Author:  Michelle Adams
Genre:  Thriller/mystery
Rating:  3 out of 5

Chloe Daniels wakes up in the hospital with no idea how she got there, who she is, o what happened to her. She doesn’t recognize the strangers who call themselves her family, and she desperately wants to find out who she is.

As Chloe starts working to recover, some things just don’t make sense, and she realizes her family is keeping secrets from her. Life-shattering secrets. About her life. Her past. And what really happened the night of the car wreck.

Chloe’s family is horrible, frankly, and they made this novel difficult to read because I disliked them so much. I had trouble relating to Chloe as well, but she’s lost all memories of herself, so that’s a bit understandable. This is a pretty bleak read, but it does have a lot of secrets in it.

Michele Adams was born in the U.K., but now lives in Cyprus. Between the Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.)