“You can’t stop the tide.” Summer Wives by Beatriz Williams

Beatriz Williams is one of my summer read go-tos. For some reason, I never got around to this book last summer when it came out. My mother passed her copy to me and it has been sitting on my non-library book TBR pile ever since. I finally cracked it open and it did not disappoint.

Most of Williams’ books offer a little bit of mystery and a whole lot of star crossed loving. I’m more than fine with that. Her tendency to set things in two of my favorite decades: the roaring ’20’s and the 1950’s also checks some boxes for me. This book spans from 1930-1970 and follows the lives of the wealthy summer residents and full time islanders on the Winthrop Island in the Long Island Sound.

Recently graduated from school and heading off to college at the end of summer, Miranda arrives on Winthrop Island for the wedding of her widowed mother to a rich businessman, Hugh Fisher. Still mourning the loss of her father who died in the war, she is uncomfortable but doesn’t want to mar the new found happiness of her mother. Her soon to be step sister, the flamboyant Isobel, whisks Miranda around the island, offering a distraction from her conflicted feelings.

Thrown into a new world full of dinners at the club, lavish social gatherings and lots and lots of cocktail drinking, Miranda soon gets caught up in the clandestine relationship between Isobel and the son of an islander lobsterman, Joseph. Lives begin to unravel and decades old secrets held by both the wealthy summer residents and the islanders are exposed.

Williams brings the period and her characters to life in another page turner. While sometimes her writing can get a teeny bit overwrought, I love her novels. This one was no exception and read like a movie starring Natalie Wood. Super fun and absolutely perfect for a summer read.

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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“I am a liability” – 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

I read and loved “The Hating Game” based on many great reviews from fellow Cannonballers. I snatched this one up as soon as I saw it on the new book shelves at the library. It’s the perfect summer book and I devoured it in a few sittings out in my garden.

Darcy and her twin brother, Jamie “adopted” the boy who lives across the street, Tom, when they were eight years old. Their close friendship has lasted into adulthood with Tom providing a much needed buffer between the two fairly pig headed siblings. Out of undying gratitude for providing him stability and opportunities that his struggling single mother could not, Tom tries keep them both happy.

Enter the steamy romance portion. Darcy has been in love with Tom since she was a kid. Thinking that he is too good and decent of a person for her, she runs away the first time that the possibility of a relationship between them flickers to life. Years later when Tom is engaged to someone else, Jamie and Darcy have inherited their grandmother’s cottage and hire Tom to renovate it to sell. Tied down by the memory of her grandmother, Darcy isn’t happy with her brother’s plans to “modernize” the little cottage and strip it of its character. Having Tom traipsing around in a tool belt and work boots tearing the place apart with his bare hands is also causing her a different kind of problem.

Like her first book, Thorne creates a bunch of relatable people doing relatable things. While the will they or won’t they can get a teeny bit taxing, it’s refreshing to dip a toe in the water of mostly well adjusted folks trying to figure their stuff out without the added drama of higher stake issues like murder or abuse or mental illness. Sometimes I need a break from the heavy, and Thorne delivered.

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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“Your ignorance is their power” – Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

The whole “you never really know someone” trope seems to be prevalent in a lot of popular fiction. I tend to blame “Gone Girl” because after I read that book I quickly became knee deep in similar books. Not all have been as well written or have successfully navigated the twisty turns which are the nature of this particular beast, but they can generally make for a good read. This book falls into that category, but it’s a little less psychological thriller and a little more relationship mystery. It wasn’t on my radar until it was floated as the next book by my book club.

After Billie disappears on a hike and is presumed dead, her husband, Johnathan, and daughter, Olive, are struggling with her loss. Both are ill equipped to fill the hole that the free spirited and dynamic Billie has left in their lives. As the court date to officially declare Billie dead approaches, a year after her disappearance, both Olive and Jonathan begin to believe that she may still be alive.

For Olive, it becomes a quest to save her mother from whatever is keeping her from them. Jonathan, however, unearths information that points to a double life that Billie may have chosen to live instead of staying with her husband and daughter. As they both learn that the woman that they loved may not have been someone that they knew very well at all, each begins to discover a little bit about themselves.

I wasn’t wowed by it, but the characters were interesting enough to engage with. I could definitely see this as a good beach book. It’s light enough that you don’t have to hang on every word, and has enough intrigue to keep turning the pages.

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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“…the lovely cup of tea” – The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

The Keeper of Lost Things

I finally took a break from the library and started to chip away at my tbr pile of purchased or gifted books. The pile has been staring at me for a while but I have a hard time ignoring the siren song of the library. This book was from the CBR10 holiday book exchange last year (thanks kfishgirl!). Only took me five months to get to it, right? In any event, I’m glad that I did.

After the untimely death of his wife, Anthony Peardew begins a desperate search for a gift that she had given him just before she died. Spurred on by this precious “lost thing”, Anthony’s search only turns up things that others have lost along the way. Spinning vivid tales about the objects and how they came to be where he found them, Anthony catalogs these treasures and lovingly squirrels them away in his office.

When Anthony dies, he bequeaths his home and assorted belongings to his assistant Laura. However, this generous gift comes with a bit of a price: Laura must find out who the items belong to and return them. With only the day and place where the items were found to guide her, Laura struggles to honor her beloved former employer’s wishes.

Unwittingly enlisting Peardew’s gardener, Freddy, and Sunshine, the unusually perceptive girl next door, Laura sets out to track down the owners of all of the lost things. A little lost themselves, these three new Keepers begin to forge a bond with one another as they try to unravel the mystery of a lost button, a chipped cup or a single wayward glove.

The story of their search is also entwined with another taking place 40 years earlier at a small publishing company. Eunice is hopelessly in love with her unattainable employer, Boomer. After devoting both her personal and professional life to him, she also finds herself in search of a very precious lost thing.

It’s a lovely modern fairytale full of richly drawn, quirky characters, which I love. The plot is a bit twisty and I want to be careful of getting too spoilery. I did a little search to see if any other Cannonballers read it and found that my review starts almost exactly the same way as Caitlin_D’s from last June. It’s just that sort of kismit that fills this book.

Definitely worth the read and perfect to take along on a relaxing summer vacation.

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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“How can one drowning rat save another?” – The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I really try to write reviews shortly after I read the book. If I don’t, books often tend to quickly fall to the bottom of my memory well. I can tell you whether I liked a book or not, but that’s about it. I may have waited too long on this one, but here goes.

Psychotherapist, Theo Faber, is just starting a new job at an institution for the criminally insane. From the beginning of the novel, he is a little fanboy about a particular patient there, Alicia Berenson, who was convicted of murdering her husband six years ago. Alicia, who was found with her dead husband’s body, has not uttered a word since. Good old Theo seems a little overly confident that he is the man for the job and elbows his way into her treatment plan.

Told from the perspective of both Theo and Alicia (primarily from her journal entries), the mystery weaves around the men in Alicia’s life: her husband, a former co-worker and her brother in-law. Did Alicia really kill her husband? The “whodunnit” or “who could have dunnit” is also interspersed with Theo’s own domestic issues with his wife.

This was my book club’s pick for April and we discussed it what seems like 10 years ago. I remember that I mostly liked it but it was a little plot hole-y and slightly problematic. I will say that I easily tire of unreliable narrators and the two narrators here were both obviously unreliable. I also think that it is one of those novels where I tend to spend way too much time trying to figure out what’s going on, who is lying, and “who could have dunnit” to really sit with the story. Is that how mysteries like this are supposed to be read? I don’t know. I think perseverating over the mystery was a consequence of a host of extremely unlikable characters. With no one to root for, the mystery was what kept the story going for me.

It’s not a bad book and I’m sure it will make a great movie. However, while it is in the same wheelhouse as Gillian Flynn and Paula Hawkins, it wasn’t quite as good of a read.

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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“He had finished accumulating experiences and now he was shuffling around in the past, peeking inside boxes and then closing them quickly” – Extinctions by Josephine Wilson

I struggle with books that don’t offer characters that I can root for. If a story is told through the voice of a particularly unlikable character it becomes even more difficult for me.

Wilson’s novel is told from the perspective of a narcissistic widow who has little contact with his adult children, recently retired from his life’s work and moved into a retirement community. That Wilson could make this guy sympathetic is a credit to her writing.

Frederick Lothian has an interesting perspective on things. His love of design and dreams of becoming an architect morph into a career as a professor of civil engineering. Everything in his life is translated and equated to it’s structural soundness and the intent of its design. He is a man firmly entrenched in his own aesthetic and viewpoint. It comes as no surprise that his area of specialization is concrete.

Frederick becomes paralyzed when confronted with the messiness of being human. Unable or unwilling to give his wife or children the emotional support they needed, he now finds himself, at 69, alone. His wife, Martha, has died of cancer. Caroline, his estranged adopted daughter lives half a world away. Callum, his biological son, is a constant reminder of his own shortcomings.

He isolates himself inside his new apartment. It becomes easier to leave phone calls unanswered; demands unheard. Every box that he opens brings back memories that he cannot confront so he lives surrounded by unpacked belongings. He becomes obsessed with reading the daily obituaries.

When he meets his neighbor, Jan, after a mutual friend has an accident, he can’t hide as easily from her unashamed intrusion into his life. Shining an even stronger spotlight on what Frederick begins to understand about himself, Jan is the breath of fresh air that the novel needs to gradually make Frederick a more sympathetic character.

Frederick’s fixation on structure and function cannot be as easily extended to the human beings in his life.  Understanding how to build a bridge is not the same as bridging the gap between ourselves and others. Wilson’s novel is about the compromise, adaptation and empathy that is not just needed to survive, but to thrive. 

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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She was my other half when I had not realized I was incomplete – “A Dangerous Collaboration” by Deanna Raybourn

As soon as Goodreads alerts me that a new Veronica Speedwell mystery is coming out, I immediately put in a request at the library. Thankfully, most of the folks that utilize my library either are ill informed about the publishing date of these books or don’t yet know about them. I can generally get my hands on a brand new copy immediately. This is both a good thing AND a bad thing. I get to read it sooner, but I tear through the book too quickly. It’s like the let down Christmas morning when all the weeks of preparation and anticipation are over in minutes. All that is left is stuffing wrapping paper into the recycling bin.

If you have read these mysteries, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, read no further and start with the first one, A Curious Beginning. You will be glad that you did. For now, I have finished yet another wonderful romp of a book and now have to wait for either a Lady Sherlock, Emmeline Truelove or Custard Protocol book to come out.

The fourth book in the series finds our intrigue loving lepidopterist, Veronica, returning from a trip to Madeira. Using a butterfly hunting expedition abroad to flee her feelings for her partner in crime, Stoker, Veronica found that she could not escape them. However, a new distraction presents itself in the form of Stoker’s brother Lord Templeton-Vane.

When the elder Templeton-Vane lures Veronica to a small island off the coast of Cornwall with promises of seeing the rare glasswing butterflies that inhabit it, she gets more than she bargains for. The Romilly family that lives in the castle over looking the village is steeped in secrets: a bride that went missing on her wedding day, a strange little garden full of poisonous plants, as well as dark tunnels and priest holes scattered around the castle that provide many places to hide.

The emotional strains within the Romilly family, between the Templeton-Vane brothers and the smoldering tension between Veronica and Stoker up the ante. The superstitions of the island’s villagers fan the flames of the mysterious disappearance of Lord Romilly’s bride as the cast of characters, caught up in their own tumultuous relationships, struggle to solve the mystery. It’s witty, entertaining, and a terrific romp, as usual. I can’t wait for the next one!

Check out Cannonball Read 11. Lots of reviews from lots of good people and all for a good cause.

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