Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: The Child by Fiona Barton

Title: The Child by Fiona Barton
Publisher: Berkley
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The author of the stunning New York Times bestseller The Widow returns with a brand-new novel of twisting psychological suspense.

As an old house is demolished in a gentrifying section of London, a workman discovers a tiny skeleton, buried for years. For journalist Kate Waters, it’s a story that deserves attention. She cobbles together a piece for her newspaper, but at a loss for answers, she can only pose a question: Who is the Building Site Baby?

As Kate investigates, she unearths connections to a crime that rocked the city decades earlier: A newborn baby was stolen from the maternity ward in a local hospital and was never found. Her heartbroken parents were left devastated by the loss.

But there is more to the story, and Kate is drawn—house by house—into the pasts of the people who once lived in this neighborhood that has given up its greatest mystery. And she soon finds herself the keeper of unexpected secrets that erupt in the lives of three women—and torn between what she can and cannot tell…

Review:

The Child by Fiona Barton is an intriguing mystery about a newspaper reporter who is pursuing a story about the recent discovery of a baby’s skeleton at a construction site.

Newspaper reporter Kate Waters’ instincts are immediately piqued after reading a story about of the unearthing of baby’s skeletonized remains and she quickly begins looking into the case. At the same time, the newspaper story is quite upsetting to Emma Simmonds, an emotionally fragile wife of a university professor and Angela Irving, whose newborn daughter was kidnapped from a maternity ward in 1970.  Kate’s research leads her to Angela who has never given up hope she will one day find out what happened to baby Alice and she eagerly co-operates with both Kate and the police who trying to identify the remains. Emma, on the other hand, is immediately filled with dread as she scours the newspapers daily for new developments in the case. Kate is, of course, interested in breaking a big story but she also becomes emotionally involved in learning the truth after she interviews Angela.  Will Kate uncover the truth about the baby’s identity?

Kate’s newspaper is in the midst of another round of employee cuts so she is definitely feeling the pressure to break a huge story. She has been in the business long enough to have a decent list of police contacts who give her just enough information for her to begin her investigation.  Initially keeping quiet about the story she is researching, Kate is instrumental helping the police discover the identity of the baby’s remains. The case then takes an unexpected turn and Kate is hot on the trail of story that she knows is going to be huge.

Angela cannot help but hope the discovery of the baby’s skeleton will finally give her the answers she has been searching for about baby Alice’s disappearance.  Despite having her hopes raised and dashed a few times over the years, Angela is certain the remains are Alice’s.  If she is correct, will she find out the truth about what happened to her daughter? Or will she forever wonder who is responsible for kidnapping her baby?

Emma’s emotional troubles first surfaced when she was a teenager but her depression and anxiety have been much improved for quite some time. The newspaper article sends her on a downward spiral and she is very distracted as the story unfolds. It soon becomes obvious she is heavily burdened by a secret from her long ago past, but Emma finds it impossible to discuss what is haunting her. With every new revelation about the baby, Emma becomes even more fearful that the truth about what she has been hiding will be discovered.

The Child is initially somewhat slow paced as Fiona Barton introduces readers to the key players in the unfolding mystery. Kate tenaciously follows each and every lead she uncovers but she is having a very difficult time figuring out exactly how the disparate pieces of the puzzle fit together.  Angela is desperate for answers about what happened to her baby and she is a very sympathetic character. Emma is a little harder to read and the truth about her past takes a very long time to be revealed.  Astute readers will mostly likely figure out the connection between the various storylines fairly early, but this knowledge does not lessen the overall enjoyment of the novel. While there are very surprises left by the novel’s conclusion, there is one final revelation that is instrumental in tying up all of the loose ends.

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Filed under Berkley, Contemporary, Fiona Barton, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Child

Review: The Light in Summer by Mary McNear

Title: The Light in Summer by Mary McNear
Butternut Lake Series Book Five
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Mary McNear brings you home to Butternut Lake and a novel filled with irresistible characters who you will want to call your friends.

It’s summertime on Butternut Lake, where the heat of noon is soothed by the cool breezes of the evening, where the pace grows slower, and sometimes, just sometimes, the summer light makes everything clearer…

For the lovely Billy Harper, Butternut Lake is the place she feels most at home, even though lately she feels the only one listening to her is Murphy…her faithful Labrador Retriever. Her teenage son, Luke, has gone from precious to precocious practically overnight. Her friends are wrapped up in their own lives, and Luke’s father, Wesley, disappeared before his son was even born. No wonder she prefers to spend time with a good book, especially ones where everything ends in perfection.

But Billy is about to learn that anything is possible during the heady days of summer. Coming to terms with her past—the death of her father, the arrival of Cal Cooper, a complicated man with a definite interest in Billy, even the return of Wesley, will force her to have a little bit of faith in herself and others…and realize that happiness doesn’t always mean perfection.

Review:

The Light in Summer, the newest addition to Mary McNear’s delightful Butternut Lake series, is another heartwarming novel of family, love and new beginnings. Although this latest release is the fifth in the series, it can be read as a standalone.

Single mom and head librarian Billy Harper is going through a bit of rough patch with her thirteen year old son Luke.  The normally co-operative and outgoing teen is hanging out with the wrong crowd, getting into trouble and refusing to talk to his mom.  So when Billy meets Cal Cooper at a wedding, she is not sure the timing is right to bring a new man into their lives, but can she ignore the sparks that are flying between them?

After Billy unexpectedly became pregnant just as she finishing high school, her parents were extremely supportive and helpful.  However, five years earlier, Billy knew the time was right for her and Luke to strike out on their own and they moved to Butternut Lake. She and Luke have always been close so she is deeply trouble by the recent changes in her soon and she is at a loss as she tries to bridge the gap between them. Billy has not dated much over the years and she is quite surprised by how much she enjoys spending time with Cal.  The timing is definitely not right for a new relationship but Billy finds Cal much too irresistible to resist.

Cal’s life is in the midst of huge upheaval when he decides to spend the summer in Butternut Lake. He is looking forward to relaxing as he contemplates the next stage in his life.  Like Billy, Cal is not really looking for love but he is quite open to exploring their unexpected attraction. His laidback and easygoing acceptance of the complications in her life is quite refreshing but will their romance last once summer is over?

The Light in Summer is an engrossing, feel-good read that old and new fans of the Butternut Lake series are going to love. The characters are multi-dimensional with realistic strengths and true to life problems to overcome. Butternut Lake is a wonderfully charming community with eclectic yet caring residents.  Cal and Billy are appealing protagonists and their relationship is an absolute joy to watch unfold. Mary McNear continues to keep this wonderful series fresh and inviting with interesting storylines and the introduction of new characters.  Another outstanding visit in Butternut Lake that will leave readers grinning from ear to ear as Cal, Billy and Luke’s story comes to an uplifting conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mary McNear, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Butternut Lake Series, The Light in Summer, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin

Title: Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Two missing girls. Thirteen years apart.
Olivia Shaw has been missing since last Tuesday. She was last seen outside the entrance of her elementary school in Hunts Point wearing a white spring jacket, blue jeans, and pink boots.

I force myself to look at the face in the photo, into her slightly smudged features, and I can’t bring myself to move. Olivia Shaw could be my mirror image, rewound to thirteen years ago.

If you have any knowledge of Olivia Shaw’s whereabouts or any relevant information, please contact…

I’ve spent a long time peering into the faces of girls on missing posters, wondering which one replaced me in that basement. But they were never quite the right age, the right look, the right circumstances. Until Olivia Shaw, missing for one week tomorrow.

Whoever stole me was never found. But since I was taken, there hasn’t been another girl.

And now there is.

Review:

Girl Last Seen by Nina Laurin is a gritty, suspense-laden mystery.

In the ten years since her pedophile kidnapper inexplicably freed her, Laine Moreno has never fully recovered from her three year ordeal. Now twenty-three, she holds down two jobs to support herself and she relies on alcohol and drugs to keep her dark memories at bay. Laine comes face to face with her past when ten year old Olivia Shaw goes missing and Detective Sean Ortiz suspects there is a connection between Laine’s still unsolved case and Olivia’s kidnapping. Laine wants nothing more than to help find the young girl, but will she help or hinder the investigation?

Laine’s ordeal at the hands of abductor was horrendous but little was done to find her captor after her release. The daughter of a junkie, Laine was quickly forgotten as she became a ward of the state and soon turned to unhealthy methods of coping with what happened to her. Now on probation and still undergoing counseling, Laine is her own worst enemy as she numbs her pain with a plethora of prescription drug addictions and alcohol. She wants to help rescue Olivia, but Laine is impulsive and unable to cope with the traumatic memories from her time in captivity.

Since Olivia is from a wealthy family, her disappearance is a high profile case with intense media scrutiny. There is also a great deal of pressure on the police to locate the missing girl and Sean’s reason for reaching out to Laine is two-fold: rule her out as a suspect and check to see if she has recalled any new details about her own case.  Laine implicitly trusts Sean due to their history but is her faith in him misplaced? Laine soon discovers she can rely on no one but herself as she continues trying to find Olivia on her own while she becomes progressively more paranoid as her downward spiral continues.

With plenty of unexpected twists and turns and an increasingly unreliable narrator, Girl Last Seen is a somewhat dark mystery that delves into some difficult subject matter. Although Laine is initially a sympathetic protagonist, it is easy to become frustrated with her erratic behavior and poor choices.  Sean is not exactly impartial when it comes to Laine and he, too, makes some very ill-advised decisions. Nina Laurin brings the investigation to an adrenaline-fueled (but slightly improbably) conclusion and the novel ends on a surprisingly upbeat note.

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Filed under Contemporary, Girl Last Seen, Grand Central Publishing, Mystery, Nina Laurin, Rated B, Review, Suspense

Review: Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis

Title: Lost and Found Sisters by Jill Shalvis
Wildstone Series Book One
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Romance
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes her first women’s fiction novel—an unforgettable story of friendship, love, family, and sisterhood—perfect for fans of Colleen Hoover, Susan Mallery, and Kristan Higgins.

They say life can change in an instant…

After losing her sister in a devastating car accident, chef Quinn Weller is finally getting her life back on track. She appears to have it all: a loving family, a dream job in one of L.A.’s hottest eateries, and a gorgeous boyfriend dying to slip an engagement ring on her finger. So why does she feel so empty, like she’s looking for a missing piece she can’t find?

The answer comes when a lawyer tracks down Quinn and reveals a bombshell secret and a mysterious inheritance that only she can claim. This shocking revelation washes over Quinn like a tidal wave. Her whole life has been a lie.

On impulse, Quinn gives up her job, home, and boyfriend. She heads up the coast to the small hometown of Wildstone, California, which is just a few hours north, but feels worlds apart from Los Angeles. Though she doesn’t quite fit in right away, she can’t help but be drawn to the town’s simple pleasures…and the handsome, dark-haired stranger who offers friendship with no questions asked.

As Quinn settles into Wildstone, she discovers there’s another surprise in store for her. The inheritance isn’t a house or money, but rather something earthshattering, something that will make her question everything she thought she knew about herself, about her family. Now with a world of possibilities opening up to Quinn, she must decide if this new life is the one she was always meant to have—and the one that could finally give her the fulfillment she’s searched so long for.

Review:

The first installment in Jill Shalvis’s new Wildstone series, Lost and Found Sisters is a spectacular story that is part women’s fiction, part romance and 100% heartwarming.

Quinn Weller has a fabulous relationship with her parents and a wonderful job she loves as a sous chef.  However, in the two years since her beloved sister Beth’s death, she has been emotionally shut down as she tries to navigate through life without her best friend by her side.  She has not been interested in anyone romantically since she stopped dating her longtime friend Brock Holbrook.  Quinn’s world is turned upside down a second time when lawyer Cliff Porter gives her stunning news that leaves her questioning everything about her life. Quinn makes a snap decision to go to Wildstone, CA in an effort to sort through her confusion.

Mick Hennessey worked hard to leave Wildstone and his controlling father behind once he graduated from high school.  With a successful career and life in San Francisco, he has only returned to his small hometown sporadically over the years. However, after his father’s unexpected death, Mick finds himself traveling back and forth between Wildstone and San Francisco as tries to help his mom deal with her loss.  He is not looking for another complication in his life when he meets Quinn, but there is an incredible amount of chemistry between them that is impossible to resist.

The surprises keep coming once Quinn visits Wildstone but she is extremely conflicted about what to do with the unexpected changes that are occurring in her life. She is understandably upset about a shocking revelation and she is extremely hurt by a lie of omission. Quinn is charmed by Wildstone but she is quite happy with her life in LA. However, she is torn by a decision she needs to make that will have far reaching implications for many other people. Her unanticpated feelings for Mick add to her confusion, but can Quinn bring herself to give up the man who is responsible for bringing her long dormant emotions (and libido) back to life?

Mick also finds himself standing at an unexpected crossroad.  He is extremely satisfied with his life in San Francisco but he is also quite dismayed to discover his hometown is slowly dying.  As he sorts through the detritus of his dad’s life, Mick is surprised by his new perspective on his childhood and a new understanding of his father.  Despite the fact he was not looking for love, Mick is comfortable with his new relationship with Quinn and he is willing to give her the time and space she needs to figure out her life. However, his patience has limits and their future together is far from certain.

Lost and Found Sisters is a breathtaking journey of healing, new beginnings and love. Jill Shalvis brings the town and its inhabitants vibrantly to life. The characters are incredibly appealing as they navigate their way through the unexpected twists and turns.  I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend this charming first installment in the Wildwood series to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Jill Shalvis, Lost and Found Sisters, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Wildstone Series, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham

Title: Love Like Blood by Mark Billingham
Tom Thorne Series Book Fourteen
Publisher: Atlantic Press Monthly
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Internationally bestselling author Mark Billingham’s riveting new novel Love Like Blood marks the return of series character Tom Thorne, “the next superstar detective” (Lee Child), as he pairs up with perfectionist detective inspector Nicola Tanner of Die of Shame on an investigation that ventures into politically sensitive territory.

DI Nicola Tanner needs Tom Thorne’s help. Her partner, Susan, has been brutally murdered and Tanner is convinced that it was a case of mistaken identity—that she was the real target. The murderer’s motive might have something to do with Tanner’s recent work on a string of cold-case honor killings she believes to be related. Tanner is now on compassionate leave but insists on pursuing the case off the books and knows Thorne is just the man to jump into the fire with her. He agrees but quickly finds that working in such controversial territory is dangerous in more ways than one. And when a young couple goes missing, they have a chance to investigate a case that is anything but cold. Racing towards a twist-filled ending, Love Like Blood is another feat of masterful plotting from one of Britain’s top crime novelists.

Review:

In Love Like Blood, DI Nicola Marsh turns to Tom Thorne for help following the murder of her girlfriend Susan Best.  The investigation focuses on honour killings in this fourteenth installment of Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series.

Having ruffled quite a few feathers while working for the Honour Crimes Unit, Nicola is certain she, not Susan, was killer’s intended target.  Currently on compassionate leave following Susan’s death, she enlists Tom’s help in an off the books investigation that might be linked to the four year old unsolved murder of Meena Athwal. Nicola’s theory that parents in the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh communities are hiring hitmen to kill their daughters whose behavior brings shame to their families is plausible but it has made her some powerful enemies. Eager to solve his cold case, Thorne agrees to investigate Susan’s death but will they uncover the truth before it is too late?

Tom is never afraid to step on toes, but he is uncharacteristically diplomatic as he tries to convince his boss DCI Brigstocke to let him investigate the current case of a missing young couple, Amaya Shah and Kamal Azim.  He is also surprisingly honest about the fact that he is looking into Susan’s murder but he is careful to downplay Nicola’s involvement in the investigation. Now he has Brigstocke’s blessing to look into the disappearance of Shah and Azim, Tom is deeply troubled after his interviews with the victims’ families. Fortunately CCTV footage gives Thorne and Marsh a strong lead that supports the hitman theory.  When Amaya’s body is discovered, Tom is frustrated when his boss insists he concentrate on locating her boyfriend Kamal after strong evidence leads everyone to believe he is most likely her killer.

The various investigations unfold at a rather slow pace but Tom and Nicola have many intriguing leads to pursue. Nicola has uncovered a possible link to three leaders in the Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh communities who are working together to combat the hate crimes directed toward them. Arman Bannerjee is the most charismatic of the three leaders and at the urging of his son, Ravi, he previously lodged a complaint against Nicola. Needless to say, Bannerjee is less than enthused to see her and Thorne at their meetings. Tom and Nicola cannot help but wonder if Arman’s animosity is an indication he is involved in the honour killings.  When an attempt is made on Nicola’s life, Tom is certain they are the right track, but will he locate the suspected hitmen before they strike again?

Love Like Blood is a leisurely paced mystery with an refreshingly unique storyline.  Nicola and Tom are a formidable team as they tenaciously pursue numerous leads in the investigation into the honour killings and Susan’s murder.  Mark Billingham brings the novel to a jaw-dropping conclusion with a shocking plot twist that is impossible to predict.  This latest release is another brilliant addition to the Tom Thorne series that old and new fans are going to love.

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Filed under Atlantic Monthly Press, Contemporary, Love Like Blood, Mark Billingham, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, Tom Thorne Series

Review: The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards

Title: The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 496 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Three women fight for the chance to raise the child they’ve all come to love 

When Lilia Swallow’s husband, Graham, goes into remission after a challenging year of treatment for lymphoma, the home and lifestyle blogger throws a party. Their best friends and colleagues attend to celebrate his recovery, but just as the party is in full swing, a new guest arrives. She presents Lilia with a beautiful baby boy, and vanishes.

Toby is Graham’s darkest secret—his son, conceived in a moment of despair. Lilia is utterly unprepared for the betrayal the baby represents, and perhaps more so for the love she begins to feel once her shock subsides. Now this unasked-for precious gift becomes a life changer for three women: Lilia, who takes him into her home and heart; Marina, who bore and abandoned him until circumstance and grief changed her mind; and Ellen, who sees in him a chance to correct the mistakes she made with her own son, Toby’s father.

A custody battle begins, and each would-be mother must examine her heart, confront her choices and weigh her dreams against the fate of one vulnerable little boy. Each woman will redefine family, belonging and love—and the results will alter the course of not only their lives, but also the lives of everyone they care for.

Review:

The Swallow’s Nest by Emilie Richards is an emotional novel of forgiveness, motherhood and second chances.

Lilia Swallow and her husband Graham Randolph’s lives were turned upside down by his cancer diagnosis. A year later, they have cause to celebrate after his cancer goes into remission following aggressive treatment.  However, Lilia’s joy quickly turns to devastation when Graham’s business associate Marina Tate shows up with a three month old baby boy named Toby.  Marina hands Lilia the baby and delivers a stunning blow with her vindictive announcement that Toby is Graham’s son.  Understandably upset and furious, Lilia leaves Graham and Toby to visit her family in Hawaii where she tries to figure out what to do next.  Despite her anger and hurt, Lilia cannot bring herself to walk away from her marriage until they are out from under the massive debt from Graham’s medical expenses.  Will Lilia’s tangled emotions about the circumstances of Toby’s birth prevent her from loving the baby?  Is there any possible way for their marriage to survive Graham’s betrayal?

Lilia’s decision to return to Graham is not arrived at easily nor does she know what the future holds for them as a couple.  She cannot in good conscience walk away from him considering their staggering debt. Despite Graham’s remission, he is not psychically strong enough to work long hours and they are relying on Lilia’s income to help them recover financially.  Needing to keep expenses to a minimum, she and Graham continue living under the same roof but they lead separate lives. Toby slowly but surely works his way into Lilia’s heart and without hesitation, she becomes his primary caregiver.

Marina’s abandonment of Toby is not for his well-being; it is completely self-serving and rather spiteful.  While Graham’s decision to begin an affair with her is selfish and uncaring, she entered into the relationship with her eyes open and completely aware of his marriage. Marina is entirely self-absorbed and lacks any empathy for the impact his cancer diagnosis and treatment has on his life.  She never regrets her decision to leave Toby in Lilia and Graham’s care and Marina feels nothing but relief that he is no longer her responsibility.

Just as Lilia, Graham and Toby are well on their way to becoming a family, tragedy strikes and Graham’s estranged mother, Ellen, sees her grandson as an opportunity to make up for her mistakes with her son. She sets in motion a plan without giving any thought to Toby’s well-being or her daughter-in-law’s feelings.  Gaining Marina’s cooperation is instrumental to bringing the plan to fruition and after some consideration, Marina agrees to help Ellen. Will Ellen’s reprehensible scheme succeed?

The Swallow’s Nest is a beautifully rendered novel that quite poignant yet ultimately uplifting.  Emilie Richards tackles very difficult subject matter with ease and the resulting story tugs on readers’ heartstrings. Lilia and Toby are wonderfully developed characters who are easy to like and root for. The secondary characters are marvelously developed and provide a wonderful support system for Lilia. Marina and Ellen, however, are not likable or sympathetic but they do undergo a great deal of growth by novel’s end.  A truly captivating story that I absolutely loved and highly recommend.

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Filed under Contemporary, Emilie Richards, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B+, Review, Women's Fiction