Whisper Beach by Shelley Noble

WhisperVanessa Moran has been gone from Whisper Beach for many, many years and still wouldn’t be going back if not for the funeral of her cousin’s husband.  Vanessa did not leave on good terms and, in fact, many people actually think she’s dead.  They are in for a bit of a shock but not to worry because she has no intentions of staying past this funeral.  She has a well earned vacation planned for herself instead … but as always plans never really go as planned.

Van left home for many reasons but among them was the death of her mother, an alcoholic father, an old boyfriend, and a secret she was trying hard to keep hidden.  Instead of staying she went on to become a successful Manhattan organizer so while she can’t always keep her own life in check she excels in helping others do so.  Despite wanting to leave town immediately after the funeral she manages to get sucked in by old friends into spending her vacation in Whisper Beach.  Being around old friends and old boyfriends brings up a lot of unresolved issues for Van.  Is she going to run this time or stay and tackle them?

While I felt the first part of this novel dragged a bit for me the second half was really good.  The setting of Whisper Beach is wonderful and as usual I’m always a little envious of those in a small community even though everyone knows your business.  I liked the characters too and the author weaves a complex relationship between them all.  There’s Dorie who was like a mother to the teens who worked in her restaurant when they were young.  I liked her.  She’s a no nonsense type of woman who worked hard at keeping the now adult women in line.  Then there is the interesting dynamic between the rest of the women – Van, Dana, Suze, and Gigi and a secret is revealed that had been the catalyst for so much that happened when Van left town.  Then of course there is the old love interest for Van – is it ever to late to rekindle an old flame?

Whisper Beach is an enjoyable read.  I liked the message that you can always go home.  Home is about friendship, love, and forgiveness.  Recommended for fans of women’s fiction!

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Source: Digital review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review. No compensation was received.

All the Single Ladies by Dorothea Benton Frank & Giveaway (Int’l)

singleAll the Single Ladies is the latest from best-selling author Dorothea Benton Frank and as usual she serves up a fantastic summer read!  I’ve been enjoying her books for years now and always look forward to a new one and a chance to visit South Carolina’s Lowcountry again.  All the Single Ladies is about the beauty of friendship and so much more!

Lisa is a geriatric nurse and has devoted her life to taking care of people.  She’s a single mother of a grown daughter and now only has her adorable dog Pickle as a housemate as there are issues with her daughter and presently they aren’t speaking.  So right now she’s more focused on caring for her patients and one of them is Kathy Harper who is dying from cancer.  Lisa has become close with Kathy and when she passes it’s difficult and she turns to the two women, Suzanne and Carrie, who were by Kathy’s side continuously.  As the women get to know each other better they find a strong bond of friendship developing.

Lisa, Suzanne, and Carrie begin to share everything with each other – their secrets, their hopes, wine, and definitely a lot of yummy food because of course women have to have munchies while they chat.  To add to the already interesting mix is Miss Trudie, Suzanne’s grandmother and she’s a ninety-nine year old pistol.  What I loved most is these women are all in their fifties and I have to say it’s quite refreshing to read a novel about women close to my own age with many of the same concerns or thoughts as I have.

Add to that a bit of a mystery concerning their beloved friend Kathy, some new men in their lives, and the ever present concerns of aging and things really heat up.  With almost every page I wished I would meet some ladies like these ones and join them walking on the beach or having a glass of wine on the porch.  While I think some things were a bit over the top I took it all with a grain of salt and just let myself enjoy the humor and also the important message that it’s never too late to form new and lasting friendships or relationships.  Just because you’re over a certain age doesn’t mean that life is over – you can still go out and enjoy each day and all it offers!  Highly recommended!

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Source: Copy received from the publisher for an honest review. No compensation was received.

Second Life by S.J. Watson (Audiobook)

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Second Life is the second novel from S.J. Watson with his first being the bestselling novel Before I Go to Sleep (my review) which was a favorite of mine.  Once again he delivers a psychological thriller; this time about a happily married woman leading a second life – a much more dangerous life.  It makes a person question the people around them.  How well do you really know your mate, your neighbor, or even your best friend.  I love books like this that have me trying to dissect the story as I go along only to be hit with a twist at the end that leaves me shocked.  There are things to like in Second Life and things to like not so much but ultimately it will keep you turning the pages to discover just how this twisted story will end.  I listened to the audiobook of Second Life which is narrated by Susan Lyons and she does a fantastic job of adding the thrill to this psychological thriller!

When Julia learns that her sister Kate has been murdered it sets her off on a very dangerous path.  Julia is devastated by her sister’s death but at the same time she feels relief.  Julia and her husband adopted her sister’s boy Connor when he was very young but lately her sister had been talking of trying to regain custody.  Still she didn’t want her sister dead and since she doesn’t feel the police are doing enough to find her sister’s killer she takes it upon herself to do a little investigating.

Julia’s investigation leads into her into the world of online dating.  She learns from Kate’s friend Anna that Kate had been meeting men she met online and Julia feels sure that it is one of these men that has murdered her.  So despite some misgivings Julia at first pretends to be her sister but then sets up her own profile and does indeed meet a man she finds very suspicious.  Yet as she talks with this man she finds herself being drawn more and more into this cybersex online world.  How far will she take this new obsession of hers?  Will she allow it to destroy her family and her life?

I’ve seen some mixed reviews for Second Life but I really enjoyed it.  It’s not the same as Before I Go to Sleep and I think if you go into it that way you really enjoy it.  I found Julia to be a very selfish person but we learn that she has an addictive personality early on and I wonder if that’s not why she focuses so solely on herself.  The novel also really highlights the dangers of the internet.  A person really has no idea who they are talking to when they’re online and it’s scary.  It also highlights the dangers of getting into things like cybersex or sharing personal information and all of a sudden finding your online life infringing on your real one. I loved the twist at the end and if I had one complaint it would only be that I wasn’t too fond of the very last sentence that left me looking for a bit more.  Highly recommended!

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Source: Digital review copy received from the publisher for an honest review. Audiobook personal copy. No compensation was received.

Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez

BalmBalm is the second novel from Dolen Perkins-Valdez and yet another fantastic book from this author. Her first novel, Wench, which was incredible, dealt with the lives of people living during the Civil War while Balm addresses the time after as people struggled to rebuild lives shattered by the war.

Balm takes us into the lives of three people who are trying to move on after the war and while their stories are separate their lives intersect throughout the novel. First we have Sadie, a white woman, who was married off to a soldier by her parents.  However upon arriving in Chicago she finds herself a widow. Then there is Madge who was raised as a freeborn slave by her mother and two aunts. They were healers and this gift passed down to Madge. Last there is Hemp who doesn’t even remember his real name. He worked as a slave during the war and was only freed afterwards.

These three have been affected by the war but also by things internally within themselves. Sadie finds herself a wealthy widow who is lost … until the spirit of a young soldier who died in the war begins to talk to her and through her and she learns that she is a talented medium. Madge grew up learning about the different herbs and such that are used for healing. Her gift of being able to lay hands on someone and know what’s going on in their bodies is something she wants to explore further. And Hemp finds himself at an uncertain point in his life as he desperately searches for his wife who went missing in the war. They all have to find ways to move on from their past hurts and make new lives for themselves.

Balm is a powerful novel both in words and descriptions of how people’s lives changed in the aftermath of the war. It is a novel of healing and of hope. I really enjoyed it. Highly recommended for historical fiction fans.

 

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Source: Digital review copy provided by the publisher for an honest review. No compensation was received.