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Monday, July 16, 2018

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE by Karen Witemeyer


MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE  by Karen Witemeyer
Three orphans form their own “family” in turn of the century Texas after a train wreck leaves them alone.  All are “cursed’ in some way. Twelve years after the train wreck finds them settled and succeeding until a stranger appears who wants to cause them harm. 
There is off screen violence toward women and several murders/attempted murders. There is no foul language. The love scenes are limited to kisses.
The main character, Evangeline, is fully developed: the others less so. The place is Texas but could be anywhere. The plot is interesting although the end too convenient and too short, while other parts of the novel drag.  The author tells us – repeatedly – exactly how the characters think and feel.
For the genre – Christian mystery romance – the book is one of the better written and plotted.
3 of 5 stars

Thursday, June 21, 2018

THE HIGH SEASON by Joan Blundell


THE HIGH SEASON  by Judy Blundell
This is definitely “women’s fiction.” The writing is okay. The characters are okay. The plot is slow moving and heavy on feelings. The house plays a big part in both the feelings and the plot. You will figure out the ending as soon as Adeline shows up.
Not much here. If you like to read for immediate pleasure and don’t mind stock characters and stock plot, you will like this book. If you are looking for a “mind stretch”, this one is not for you.  It is a little long.
3 of 5 stars

SHELTER IN PLACE by Nora Roberts

SHELTER IN PLACE  by Nora Roberts

SHELTER starts out as a horrific massacre in a shopping mall but quickly becomes a combination love story (an intelligent love story) and a thrilling search for a murdering mastermind.

Roberts has a genius for writing characters her readers fall in love with. SHELTER is no exception. Simone, CICi and Reed, the lead characters, are richly endowed with personality complete with interesting quirks.  The supporting characters, while not as intimately drawn, are fully developed.  The Maine coast is a major player in the tale. You will hear the waves crash and smell the flowers.   Two of the main characters are artists and their talent is clear from the text as are their methods of expression.

The plot is terrifying and builds to a crescendo of a climax.

Readers of mysteries will enjoy the twists and turns of the plot. Readers of love stories will watch as the characters grow into a satisfying relationship.  If you are squeamish, you may find the violence off putting, but it is necessary to the story line. The sex is present, but not overdone or gratuitous. Foul language is present, but, again, fits with the character and story line and is not omnipresent. 

Altogether an enjoyable read.
5 of 5 stars

Thursday, June 14, 2018

SALT HOUSES by Hala ALyan


SALT HOUSES   by Hala Alyan
The meaning of the title is noted three fourth of the way through the book when the family patriarch, Atef,  reminisces, “the houses glitter whitely…like structures made of salt before a tidal wave sweeps them away.”  His family – 4 generations – leave behind houses as war follows them from Palestine, to Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Boston, Manhattan and back to Lebanon.  One of the daughters in trying to identify her heritage is at a loss. Is she Palestinian – she has never lived there. Is she Lebanese or Arab or Kuwaiti or……..

And that is the essence of this tale. What is our heritage?  Is it the place of our birth, where we live NOW, where we lived before, how do we define ourselves?

Alyan describes loss and heartache in beautiful prose.  Her characters live and breathe.  The sense of place is palpable.  Although this tale is specifically Palestinian, the rootlessness of the refugee is timeless and placeless.

You will need the family tree at the beginning of the book to keep the generations straight. The time and place notations at the beginning of each chapter help the reader keep track of the family’s migrations and the time frame of the various wars and tragedies from just before the 6 Day War through the current Middle East uprisings.

Lots for book groups to discuss here.
5 of 5 stars

Thursday, June 7, 2018

THE PATCHWORK BRIDE by Sandra Dallas Dallas


THE PATCHWORK BRIDE  by Sandra Dallas
Dallas writes characters especially well. They live and breathe as naturally as you and I. In this book , a modern young woman is a runaway bride, unsure of her love and commitment. The woman she runs to tells her the story of a turn of the century runaway bride – one who runs three times!  This story within a story is the “real” story of this book. 
The tension grows as the young woman falls in love (or like) and then is disillusioned each time.  We watch her character change while she grows in maturity as heartache after heartache consumes her. Each time she (and we) learn a bit more about her character, her needs, the time she lives in and the men she chooses, or who choose her.  The modern runaway learns as well.   The middle of the book drags a bit, but stick with the story. There is a surprising twist near the end. The opportunities open to women and the strictures they live under are  presented with sympathy for the characters,  the place and the time.
This is not Dallas’s best, but it is a satisfying read.  You will be glad you stuck with it.
4 of 5 stars

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

VARINA by Charles Frazier


VARINA  by Charles Frazier
The person is eminently interesting – the wife of the Confederate President. The era is interesting – the decades before, during, and after the American Civil War.  The episodes are fascinating – a Southern white woman raising an enslaved child as her own: the escape of fugitives in a devastated land: the marriage of a 17 year old to a 40 year old.  So why didn’t I like it?
The episodes are just that – episodes that jump from decade to decade with no cohesion.  The story is not a story – there is no plot.  The tempo and pacing are erratic at best. 
BUT… the writing is wonderful. The conclusions are insightful.  The characters are real and well presented.
YOU might like it. I didn’t.
3 of 5 stars

Thursday, May 17, 2018

THE HIGH TIDE CLUB by Mary Kay Andrews


THE HIGH TIDE CLUB   by Mary Kay Andrews
Andrews is one of my favorite “women’s lit” authors. Her characters speak and act like real people. Her plots are intricate and satisfying. Her settings are richly described. The tempo is fast enough to keep up interest and yet slow enough for a well-paced read.  HIGH TIDE CLUB does not fail!

Murder, illegitimate babies, broken engagements, crotchety old ladies, absent boyfriends, a private island, a mean sexual predator,  a vast fortune, a dying heiress and skinny dipping under a full moon  -- what more could one want in the ultimate beach read.

This one is fun and will keep you guessing till the last pages, although one of the many mysteries I was able to figure out early on.
5 of 5 stars