Monday, August 28, 2017

My take on: Everything We Keep

Aimee Tierney's wedding day should have been the happiest day of her life. But instead of a day filled with joy, Aimee spent that day burying her fiance, James. Aimee's struggles to move on and rebuild her life are at the heart of Everything We Keep by Kerry Lonsdale.

Aimee's dreams of spending the rest of her life with James are dashed when he dies in a boating accident in Mexico. A life without James is unimaginable. Moving on is unimaginable. Outside of working as a chef at her parents' restaurant, Aimee's entire life was James. Her friends, Nadia and Kristen, insist that Aimee needs to focus on what she wants out of life. But it's hard to move on when a psychic, named Lacy, contacts Aimee and insists that James is alive. Aimee never saw his body, James' brother Thomas didn't allow it. Some of James' artwork is missing from their home. Is all of this just a coincidence? Is he really alive?

Giving up hope on the love of your life isn't easy. Aimee and James were childhood sweethearts, best friends at first and then deeply in love until the end. Their marriage was supposed to be the start of the rest of their lives. They were both supposed to pursue their passions. Aimee was supposed to buy out her parents' restaurant and run it herself. James was supposed to leave the family business and pursue his passion for art and painting. But his death brings all of that to a halt. James came from a family with high expectations. His mother, Claire, was determined to have her sons, James and Thomas, take over the family business. Until that day came, there was only room for academics anything else, including a relationship with Aimee was considered a distraction. But teenage James had a passion for Aimee and for painting, so much so that he had to hide his artwork from his family -- keeping his paintings at Aimee's home.

Thoughts of James are never far from Aimee's mind, but even she starts to see the logic in moving on. She forges a new friendship with handsome photographer Ian. She opens a high-end coffee bar/cafe. She's finally starting to find her own happiness. A happiness that's not dependent on James. She even starts to imagine having Ian as more than just a friend, more than just a shoulder to cry, more than just a pretty face to stare at -- possibly he's someone to fall in love with. Ian feels the same saw, but it's hard to compete with the ghost of a dead man. Especially when Lacy continues to pop up, insisting that James is alive. How can Aimee move on if life won't let her. Maybe it's time to face her fears and get answers?

This story grabbed me and had my attention for two-thirds of the book. Why two-thirds? I can't go into great detail because that would spoil the latter part of the book. But I will say this, I thought some things were a little too convenient, a little too far-fetched. There were some things that I found to be unnecessary, like incest. Yes, there is an incest plotline toward the end of the book that seemed to come from nowhere. This is all to say that I liked most of the book, but not all of it.

Rating: Give it a try

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Lake Union Publishing) in exchange for an honest review. 

Friday, August 4, 2017

My take on: Shadow Girl

Is it ever a good idea to read book #2 in a series, if you haven't read book #1? I'm a staunch believer in reading a series in sequence. Not having all the background details of the prior book could make for a disappointing read. But sometimes the plot description wins me over. The review pitch for Shadow Girl by Gerry Schmitt sounded intriguing. And trust me, you don't need to have read book #1 to get sucked into this thrilling mystery!

Leland Odin is the wealthy CEO of Diamond Shopping Network, and he is on the verge of death. His days are numbered if he doesn't get a heart transplant. Leland's luck changes for the better when a donor heart becomes available. The joy is short-lived when the helicopter carrying the donor heart is shot down, killing both pilots, injuring dozens, and taking away Leland's shot at survival. Leland made a very powerful enemy in Mom Chao Cherry, and she will not stop until he pays for stealing from her. I should say I don't see that little nugget of information as a spoiler since it's revealed very early that Mom Chao is behind the helicopter crash. It's the why and the how that's at the heart of this mystery.

Enter lead detective Max Montgomery and his defacto partner family liaison officer Afton Tangler. Afton isn't a cop, she's called upon to be an advocate for victims and their families. But she aspires to be a cop. She's around them all day, Afton can't help but thinking and acting like a cop. She's a vital member of the local police department, and hopes that Chief Thacker will soon see how valuable Afton could be as member of the police force. Max supports Afton's dream, but cautions her to take things one step at a time. She's quick to put herself in dangerous situations, leading Max to constantly remind Afton how her impulsiveness could put her in danger. As a single mother of two daughters, Poppy and Tess, Afton is often reminded that she has a family that depends on her to come home safely every night. However, investigating the crash and the deep plot behind it, is full of danger.

With little clues to start with, Afton and Max are left to investigate everyone in Leland's life. Did his trophy wife, Sunny, have a hand in this? Did she want access to Leland's money sooner rather than later? What about his robotic stepdaughter, Terrell? She acts like she has no interest in her stepfather's money, but Terrell is definitely hiding something. Her aura of perfectionism is just a facade. Meanwhile, Mom Chao Cherry is just getting started in her revenge against Leland. She's one of the most powerful criminal figures in Thailand, if Leland knew what was good for him he would have left Mom Chao alone.

Each chapter peels back a layer of the mystery. Yes the investigation plays out like a by-the-book police procedural, but this is by no means a boring book. It's a fast-paced, engrossing novel and I highly recommend it!

Rating: Superb

Note: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (Berkley) in exchange for an honest review.
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