Category Archives: William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin

Title: Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

Sit! Stay! Speak! author Annie England Noblin’s novel takes one woman starting over, adds an aging pug named Teddy Roosevelt, and proves the power of a well-baked dog treat.

All she wants is a settled-down life.

What she gets is a dog—and a whole new normal . . .

There he stood in the doorway: overweight, depressed and nearly homeless—a pug named Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy was Brydie Benson’s latest problem, arriving on top of her messy divorce and sudden move. Brydie needed a place to start over, so this rent-free home seemed a great idea. She just never counted on Teddy, or his owner, the Germantown Retirement Village’s toughest customer, Pauline Neumann.

And because rent-free doesn’t mean bills-free, Brydie gets a night-shift job at a big-box grocery. Whoever guessed there were so many people who wanted baked goods after midnight?

Then, she gets an idea—why not combine her baking skills with her new-found dog knowledge? And so her store Pupcakes is born. Along with a new start comes a possible new love, in the form of Nathan Reid, a local doctor with a sassy Irish Wolfhound named Sasha. And as fall turns to winter, and then to Christmas, Brydie begins to realize that life is a little bit like learning a new recipe for puff pastry—it takes a few tries to get it just right!

Review:

Pupcakes by Annie England Noblin is a charming novel about new beginnings and coming to terms with a painful past.

Brydie Benson was blindsided by her divorce and she is starting over in Memphis, TN where her best friend Elliot Jones lives. Brydie is struggling to let go of the future she expected to have with her ex and with a little nudging from Elliott, she finally manages to become more engaged in life. Her progress in moving on does not really begin until she moves into a house where she receives free rent in exchange for taking care of home owner Pauline Neumann’s laconic but lovable pug, Teddy Roosevelt.  When she and Teddy visit the local dog park, Brydie is surprised by her interest in another dog lover, Nathan Reid. After their rather memorable first meeting, she hopes to avoid him for the foreseeable future but as luck would have, she runs into him when she goes to the nursing home where she and Teddy are visiting Pauline. When their paths continue to cross, Brydie reluctantly agrees to go on a date with him, but will her unresolved issues from her divorce derail their chance at happiness?

Brydie is a bit of a contradiction due to the vast difference in her behavior personally and professionally.  In her personal life, she is an avoider who ignores problems and she runs away from confrontation instead of dealing with it head on. She and her mother have a somewhat troubled relationship which has worsened in the years since her father passed away.

In sharp contrast to her personal life,  Brydie is quite confident when it comes to her chosen career as a baker.  Before she and her ex divorced and sold their bakery, she had a strong work ethic and put in long hours to ensure their business thrived. Since their divorce, she has avoided anything  do with baking. However, her new job renews her zeal for baking but instead of creating delicious desserts, Brydie now focuses on making dog treats.

Brydie’s relationship with Nathan moves in fits and starts as she overreacts and runs away at the slightest provocation. She is aware that she is deliberately sabotaging their slow moving romance but she finds it difficult to risk her heart again. When everything is  going well between them, she and Nathan are a well-matched couple who have a surprising amount of interests in common despite their very different careers. When trouble arises, Brydie continues her frustrating pattern of running away then avoiding any contact with Nathan. While her fears are understandable, Brydie’s continual overreaction to minor difficulties becomes extremely irritating.

Brydie’s friendship with Pauline is absolutely heartwarming and the older woman remains quite feisty despite her failing health. With a wealth of experience and more than a few regrets about some areas of her life, Pauline offers  sage advice to her young friend, but will Brydie be open to the her well-meaning suggestions?

Featuring an adorable pup, a thought-provoking storyline and a colorful cast of eclectic characters, Pupcakes is an uplifting journey of healing.  Despite the sometimes uneven pacing of the storyline and Brydie’s tendency to self-sabotage when she feels threatened, this latest novel by Annie England Noblin is an enjoyable tale that fans of the genre are sure to love!

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Filed under Annie England Noblin, Contemporary, Pupcakes, Rated B, Review, William Morrow Paperbacks, Women's Fiction

Review: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan

Title: Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan
Jim Clemo Series Book Two
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 432 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

How well do you know the people you love…?

Best friends Noah Sadler and Abdi Mahad have always been inseparable.  But when Noah is found floating unconscious in Bristol’s Feeder Canal, Abdi can’t–or won’t–tell anyone what happened.

Just back from a mandatory leave following his last case, Detective Jim Clemo is now assigned to look into this unfortunate accident.  But tragedy strikes and what looked like the simple case of a prank gone wrong soon ignites into a public battle.  Noah is British.  Abdi is a Somali refugee.   And social tensions have been rising rapidly in Bristol.  Against this background of fear and fury two families fight for their sons and for the truth.  Neither of them know how far they will have to go, what demons they will have to face, what pain they will have to suffer.

Because the truth hurts.

Review:

Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillan is a suspenseful, character driven novel that also deals with complex issues such as immigrant bias and childhood cancer. Although this latest release is the second installment in the Jim Clemo series, it can be read as a standalone.

Abdi Mahad and Noah Sadler are best friends despite the disparity in their socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds. Abdi is the son of Somali immigrants who fled to Britain when he was just a baby. His father Nur supports the family by driving a cab and his mom Maryam volunteers at a local refugee center. Their parents’ plan for a better future for their children is coming to fruition as his older sister Sophia attends university as she pursues her dream of becoming a midwife. Noah is the son of a successful war photographer but his life has been a blur of hospital stays and treatment for his childhood cancer. Both boys attend the prestigious Medes College and by all accounts, their friendship is trouble free. However, after the teenagers sneak out one evening, Noah is clinging to life after a near drowning in the Feeder Canal and Abdi is so traumatized by what happened that he is practically catatonic.  Detective Chief Inspector Corrinne Fraser assigns the case to newly returned to duty Detective Inspector Jim Clemo who carefully begins his investigation along with Detective Constable Justin Woodley.

Needing to prove himself to both his boss and his co-workers, Jim treads lightly as he tries to uncover the truth about what happened to Noah. Since Abdi either can’t or won’t answer questions, Jim and Justin attempt to recreate the events from the evening Noah ended up in the canal. While nothing in Noah’s behavior is out of the ordinary, they quickly learn that something was troubling Abdi by night’s end.  Finally pinpointing what triggered Abdi’s unease, Jim struggles to understand the underlying reason for the teenager’s unrest.  How this figures into the events that precipitated Noah’s fall into the canal is unclear and Jim remains unable to tell if he fell or if Abdi pushed him.

Jim’s former love interest Emma Zhang is now a reporter and she is stirring up controversy with her inflammatory and oftentimes, speculative, accusations. She deliberately creates doubt with Noah’s mother Fiona who was not exactly a fan of her son’s friendship with Abdi. Emma deliberately exploits Fiona’s grief over her son’s accident and anti-immigration rhetoric threatens to derail Jim’s investigation.

Odd Child Out is a compelling mystery that touches on relevant social issues. The main focus of the story is uncovering the truth about what happened to Noah but Gilly Macmillan skillfully weaves the Mahad family’s heartbreaking past into the storyline.  The plot is complex and the characters are multi-faceted with realistic strengths and weaknesses. With a few startling revelations, shocking family secrets and unexpected plot twists, the novel comes to an action-packed, tension-filled conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Gilly Macmillan, Jim Clemo Series, Mystery, Odd Child Out, Rated B+, Review, Suspense, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary

Title: Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: 480 pages
Length: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the critically acclaimed author of Crooked River comes this fascinating novel about a young woman searching for answers about events that transpired ten years before when her brother disappeared without a trace—an utterly mesmerizing psychological thriller.

Lucy Durant was only fourteen-years-old when she lost her older brother. First to his paranoid delusions as he became increasingly obsessed with UFOs and government conspiracies. Then, permanently, when he walked into the desert outside Bishop, California, and never returned.

Now on the tenth anniversary of Nolan’s mysterious disappearance, Lucy is still struggling with guilt and confusion—her memories from that period are blurry and obscured by time, distance, and alcohol. Now an adult, she’s stuck in a holding pattern, hiding out at her father’s house, avoiding people, and doing whatever she can to keep herself from thinking about Nolan. But when a series of unsettling events leads Lucy back to Bishop, she is forced to reconcile with her estranged mother and come to terms with the tangled memories of her past to discover what really happened to her brother all those years ago.

Told in Lucy and Nolan’s alternating voices, Everything We Lost is a psychological mystery exploring family, beliefs, obsessions, the nature of memory, and fear of the unknown—a haunting, compelling story that will resonate with readers long after the last page is turned.

Review:

Everything We Lost by Valerie Geary is an intriguing mystery that explores UFOs, extraterrestrial and government conspiracies. This compelling novel centers around the still unresolved disappearance of then sixteen year old Nolan Durrant, whose increasingly erratic and paranoid behavior and intractable belief in all things UFO raises makes him an outcast among his classmates and an embarrassment to his younger sister, Lucy.

The ten year anniversary of her brother’s disappearance is the catalyst for Lucy’s return to the small town of Bishop, CA where she hopes to finally remember what happened the night Nolan vanished. The siblings were thick as thieves until Lucy catches the eye of Nolan’s former friend, Patrick Tyndale, and she begins hanging out with him and his friends. This coincides with Nolan’s new relationship with newcomer, Celeste, whose sudden appearance in town and mysterious past fuels his theory that space aliens walk among us. In the weeks leading up to his disappearance, Nolan’s paranoid, volatile and delusional behavior begins to worsen after a few altercations with Patrick. Lucy’s memories of the night Nolan vanished are lost in a drunken haze of disjointed impressions and overwhelming guilt.  Will Lucy’s return to Bishop finally lead her the truth about what happened to her brother?

Lucy and Nolan’s childhood was anything but normal due to their parents’ divorce and their mother’s slow descent into alcoholism. Lucy was more than happy to tag along with Nolan on his fantasy fueled adventures about other planets,  UFOs and space aliens. However, around the time Lucy becomes involved with Patrick, Nolan’s interest in UFOs and extraterrestrials takes a dark turn and he grows increasingly unstable and convinced the government is after him. Patrick is charismatic and Lucy easily falls prey to his manipulations as she tries to keep his interest.  With his lifelong fascination with outer space, Lucy’s attempt to distance herself from her brother and their mother’s neglect, Nolan’s slow descent into mental illness is easily overlooked.

Written from both Lucy and Nolan’s points of view and alternating between past and present, Everything We Lost is an engaging mystery. Valerie Geary does an excellent job keeping readers off balance as she delves into the possibilities of life on other planets and extraterrestrials in our midst. She also broaches the difficult topic of mental illness with a great deal of sensitivity. Although the novel’s conclusion is somewhat open-ended,  it is relatively easy to surmise Nolan’s fate.  All in all, a perplexing mystery that explores some interesting subject matter.

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Filed under Contemporary, Everything We Lost, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, Valerie Geary, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: The Quiet Child by John Burley

Title: The Quiet Child by John Burley
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Historical, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

From the award-winning author of The Absence of Mercy, comes a gripping and darkly psychological novel about family, suspicion, and the price we are willing to pay to protect those we love the most.

It’s the summer of 1954, and the residents of Cottonwood, California, are dying. At the center of it all is six-year-old Danny McCray, a strange and silent child the townspeople regard with fear and superstition, and who appears to bring illness and ruin to those around him. Even his own mother is plagued by a disease that is slowly consuming her.

Sheriff Jim Kent, increasingly aware of the whispers and rumors surrounding the boy, has watched the people of his town suffer—and he worries someone might take drastic action to protect their loved ones. Then a stranger arrives, and Danny and his ten-year-old brother, Sean, go missing. In the search that follows, everyone is a suspect, and the consequences of finding the two brothers may be worse than not finding them at all.

Review:

Set in the small town of Cottonwood, CA in 1954, The Quiet Child by John Burley  is a suspenseful mystery about the search for two kidnapped children.

How can an entire town blame a mute six year old boy for the ill health and death that have plagued them in recent years? Apparently quite easily in the absence of any other logical explanation. So when young Danny McCray and his ten year old brother Sean are kidnapped, does anyone outside of their parents, Michael and Kate, want them found? Thankfully part time Sheriff Jim Dent is not about to let fear and suspicion prevent him from doing everything he can to track down the kidnapper and rescue the boys before it is too late.

From the very second a stranger drives off in the McCray family car with Danny and Sean, there is an intense sense of urgency to locate the boys before something dire happens to them. Sheriff Dent is committed to finding the boys and he is completely honest with Detectives John Pierce and Tony DeLuca about the town’s opinion about Danny right from the very start. However, like Dent, both Pierce and DeLuca do not allow rumor and speculate interfere with the investigation and all three are committed to solving the crime. They are making very little progress in the days after the kidnapping but will Dent’s realization that Michael has gone looking for his sons change the course of the investigation? This discovery is the break they have been waiting for but can Dent, DeLuca and Pierce locate Michael in time to rescue him, Danny and Sean from a possibly dangerous situation?

While The Quiet Child is mainly a mystery, there is also a bit of a supernatural element to the storyline due to the speculation that Danny is somehow responsible for the town’s ill health and bad luck. The story weaves back and forth between the boys’ experiences at the kidnapper’s hands and the increasingly desperate manhunt and massive police search to locate them.  With no discernible motive for the kidnapping, plenty of action and some absolutely jaw-dropping plot twists, the novel is incredibly fast-paced with a compelling storyline. John Burley brings the novel to an astounding, twist-filled conclusion that will stun readers.

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Filed under Historical, Historical (50s), John Burley, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Quiet Child, William Morrow Paperbacks

Review: My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood

Title: My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Contemporary, Suspense, Mystery
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss

Summary:

In the vein of Fiona Barton’s The Widow and Renée Knight’s Disclaimer, a psychological thriller about a war reporter who returns to her childhood home after her mother’s death but becomes convinced that all is not well in the house next door—but is what she’s seeing real or a symptom of the trauma she suffered in Syria?

The One Person You Should Trust Is Lying to You…

Kate has spent fifteen years bringing global injustice home: as a decorated war reporter, she’s always in a place of conflict, writing about ordinary people in unimaginable situations. When her mother dies, Kate returns home from Syria for the funeral. But an incident with a young Syrian boy haunts her dreams, and when Kate sees a boy in the garden of the house next door—a house inhabited by an Iraqi refugee who claims her husband is away and she has no children—Kate becomes convinced that something is very wrong.

As she struggles to separate her memories of Syria from the quiet town in which she grew up—and also to reconcile her memories of a traumatic childhood with her sister’s insistence that all was not as Kate remembers—she begins to wonder what is actually true…and what is just in her mind.

In this gripping, timely debut, Nuala Ellwood brings us an unforgettable damaged character, a haunting , humanizing look at the Syrian conflict, and a deeply harrowing psychological thriller that readers won’t be able to put down.

Review:

My Sister’s Bones by Nuala Ellwood slowly builds into a suspense-laden mystery with very unexpected twists and turns.

War correspondent Kate Rafter’s return to her childhood home following her mother’s death contributes to her increasingly fragile mental state. Her recent experiences in Syria are horrific and the events leading up to her last assignment play a fairly large role in her declining emotional stability. Kate is suffering from extensive post traumatic stress disorder which makes her an increasingly unreliable narrator when she begins seeing and hearing things that cannot be corroborated by anyone else. Much of her story is revealed through her sessions with Dr. Shaw and no one is quite sure what to believe about Kate’s recounting of extremely traumatic events that have recently occurred.

Kate’s narration comes to an abrupt and shocking end and the perspective then switches to that of her younger sister, Sally, who is a raging alcoholic. Their relationship is badly fractured but Kate make a valiant effort to get through to her sister on her visit home. Sally consumes copious amounts of wine and spends her days in a drunken stupor as she laments the rift with her daughter, Hannah, whom she has not seen in several years. Her husband, Paul Cheverell is incredibly patient with her but their marriage is definitely breathing its last gasp. After a surprise visitor appears on her doorstep, Sally finally sobers up long enough to remember a desperate request from Kate. Will she then uncover the truth about whether or not Kate’s experiences at their childhood home are real or imagined?

A dark, twisted and incredibly atmospheric tale, My Sister’s Bones is an intriguing mystery that is initially somewhat slow-paced but dramatically hurtles to a twist-filled and shocking conclusion. Nuala Ellwood’s extensive research and subsequent portrayal of the devastating effects of PTSD are hard-hitting and incredibly realistic. Kate is a sympathetic character whose intentions to expose the damages of war are noble and eventually take a horrific toll on her psyche.It is impossible to predict what direction the storyline is going until the absolutely jaw-dropping plot twist. From that point, the novel moves at a breakneck speed in the aftermath of stunning revelations. An outstanding debut that I highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, My Sister's Bones, Mystery, Nuala Ellwood, Rated B, Review, Suspense, William Morrow Paperbacks

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