Tag Archives: women’s fiction

You’ll Never Know

hallie ephron dear

You’ll Never Know, Dear: A Novel of Suspense by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow, $26.99, 304 pages)

This is the year that two of my favorite authors have published books about sisters whose roots are in the South.  Joshilyn Jackson’s The Almost Sisters is an excellent novel that explores the deep-seated social rules that have persisted through generations.  You’ll Never Know, Dear by Hallie Ephron (Night Night, Sleep Tight) explores the haunting, mysterious disappearance of a little girl and the impact of that tragedy on her mother, older sister and law enforcement.

Seven-year-old Lissie was entrusted to look out for her four-year-old sister Janey.  Granted, the disappearance took place forty years ago in the front yard of a home in a sleepy, small town in South Carolina.  Perhaps even today a mom in a similar setting might do the same, maybe.  That same house is still occupied by the aging mom, Miss Sorrel.  Lissie (now Lis) is the divorced mother of Vanessa, a post-graduate student.  Lis cares for her mother and broods over the terrible time she was distracted by her imagination and wandered off into the woods near the house.  Her failed marriage and subsequent lack of support prompted Lis to return to South Carolina years ago.

Each year since Janey’s disappearance, a classified ad placed in the newspaper by Miss Sorrel marks the date.  A reward is offered for the return of Janey’s porcelain doll that vanished along with the little girl.  The suspense builds after a woman with a Harley-Davidson tattoo answers the ad.  Clearly, she is not the sort of person who possesses a hand-painted china doll.

Miss Sorrel and her next-door neighbor, Evelyn Dumont have a decades-long friendship centered around restoring antique dolls, including the personalized china dolls Miss Sorrel created in years past.  Each doll’s hair and features were fashioned to resemble the lucky girl whose parents commissioned Miss Sorrel to create the one-of-a-kind treasure.

Hallie Ephron provides readers with an in-depth look at the art of doll making.  The marvelous details include references to Madame Alexander dolls.  This reviewer has a modest collection of these lovely dolls that began with a much-loved eighth birthday present.  The book’s targeted audience is first and foremost ladies of middle age and older who have a fondness for the dolls of their youth.

Suspense and mystery novel lovers will appreciate the twisting story line that includes more than a few family secrets.  Ms. Ephron has written another spellbinding tale that does more than rest on the laurels of her past fine works.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.  This book was released on June 6, 2017.

Click here to read a review of The Almost Sisters: A Novel by Joshilyn Jackson:

https://josephsreviews.wordpress.com/2017/05/15/sisters-of-the-moon/

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

At This Hour

“We got the bubble-headed beach-blonde who comes on at five/She can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye/It’s interesting when people die/Give us dirty laundry.” Don Henley

newsmakers-amazon

The Newsmakers: A Novel by Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart (Thomas Nelson, $26.99, 352 pages)

Erica Sparks is a recovering alcoholic who capitalizes on a fluke event to rejuvenate her career. A former televison anchor, she is cast off to nowhere land but manages to be in the right place at the right time. With a convergence of looks, talent and luck, she finds herself back on the media map.

Sparks is separated from her daughter, falls in love with her producer, lands her own TV show, and confronts evil within a matter of weeks. She could easily be the next superhero in a Marvel blockbuster.

The book is co-written by Lis Wiehl with Sebastian Stuart, although the collaboration is not explained. It is the 12th book by Wiehl, seven of which are “April Henry” stories, and three of which are “Pete Nelson” stories. For those who are drawn to Sparks, there will be another Sparks story as is made clear by the final paragraph of The Newsmakers.

The story unravels a bit deliberately and then hurries along to its neat conclusion. It is, for the most part, enjoyable. However, it’s a bit much to accept that within within two weeks our protagonist is on site at a boat crash linked to terrorism, is a witness to the murder of a political figure, is offered a Cable TV position on the Global News Network, and comes within milliseconds of being part of an on-air tragedy. It sounds like the synopsis of a Lifetime made-for-TV film.

So this is not a deep read for serious thinkers. It’s more of a quick read for the beach or a plane ride. And, yes, there is an audience for such delightful if improbable fluff.

Recommended.

Dave Moyer

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

The Newsmakers was released on October 4, 2016.

Dave Moyer is a school district superintendent and is the author of Life and Life Only, a novel about baseball, love and Bob Dylan.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Good Night

night night

Night, Night, Sleep Tight: A Novel of Suspense by Hallie Ephron (William Morrow, $14.99, 320 pages)

The setting is Los Angeles, California, and the time is May 1985. Deidre Unger, a woman whose life was forever altered by an event that took place 22 years earlier, finds her father, screenwriter Arthur Unger, drowned in the swimming pool at his sadly neglected house. Deirdre has come from her home in San Diego to assist in readying the house for sale. Her father’s untimely death appears to be an accident but that might not be the case. Deirdre can’t rely on her brother Henry who lives at the house to help her make sense of what has happened. Henry is a slacker and he lives a hazy existence.

Much of Deirdre’s life has been spent limping along on the leg and foot that were crushed in the wreck of Arthur’s Austin Healy convertible back in 1963. The circumstances surrounding the middle of the night drive and subsequent crash are a bit cloudy for her due, in no small part, to the trauma she suffered as a result. As she works to uncover the reason her father has died, Deirdre encounters people from her childhood – a neighbor boy, Tyler Corrigan, and Realtor Joelen Nichol, her best friend.

night night sleep tight wide

Author Hallie Ephron uses her childhood in Beverly Hills and a true-life spectacular only-in-Hollywood event that fascinated her as a pre-teen to underpin this memorable suspense novel. That event was the stabbing death of super glamorous actress Lana Turner’s boyfriend, Johnny Stompanato. This was no ordinary lover’s spat; Turner’s daughter Cheryl Crane was the killer.

Although characters Joelen Nichol and her mother, Bunny, have a past not unlike Turner and Crane, the similarity ends there. Ephron uses her considerable writing skills to draw the reader into a cleverly woven plot while maintaining a tone that places this book in the category of literature. The treatment of the scenes is cinematic and yet subtle. Readers who are familiar with southern California will easily see the places and scenes in their minds.

Hallie Ephron

The initial attraction to this Ephron’s work was spurred by this reviewer’s enjoyment of her sister Nora’s writing; however, Hallie now has a new fan. I look forward to reading her past and future works.

Highly recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Don’t Talk

Things Unsaid B&N

Things Unsaid: A Novel by Diana Y. Paul (She Writes Press, $16.95, 300 pages)

“She had a college-age daughter now who needed her attention. Her daughter’s dream choice was Stanford. Everyone deserved to have dreams. But in order to make her daughter’s dreams a reality, Jules needed to change. Now. And fast. And her parents had to change, too, or they would all be destroyed.”

Leo Tolstoy said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Things Unsaid is a novel about a very unhappy family; it’s a tale which may prove Tolstoy wrong as they appear to be unhappy in a common way. This is a typical American family in which each member cares far too much about what other family members think, do and say; for some reason, each member of the family is afraid of every other member.

Paul’s novel makes for an engaging, yet often disturbing, read. My suspicion is that readers who hail from highly dysfunctional families will get the most from it; they will identify with its characters. Those raised in emotionally healthy families – where people actually speak and listen to each other, and value each other’s hopes and dreams, may find it nearly incomprehensible.

Things is about a woman who sacrifices almost everything in her adult life, including her husband and daughter, to please her extremely demanding, elderly, parents. She must hit bottom before seeing that she’s throwing her own life away. It’s a valuable morality play, but I’d like to see Paul tackle something lighter and brighter the next time around.

Recommended for a select audience.

Joseph Arellano

A review copy was provided by the author.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The New Voices in Fiction Sampler

New Voices Sampler

Click on the link below for The New Voices in Fiction Sampler: Summer Selection compendium that you can download for free onto an e-reader or Windows or Mac computer, courtesy of HarperCollins:

http://harpercollins.com/books/New-Voices-Fiction-Sampler/

Joseph Arellano

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

In Dreams

Now You See Me & Dead Scared (Lacey Flint Novels) by S. J. Bolton

Now You See Me (Minotaur Books, $14.99, 400 pages)/Dead Scared (Minotaur Books, $25.99, 384 pages)

Have you ever been afraid to read a second book by an author?   If the first one is as convoluted, terrifying and overwhelming as Now You See Me, you’d understand this reviewer’s hesitation to begin reading author S. J. Bolton’s latest novel, Dead Scared.   Bolton knows how to reach that deeply-hidden vulnerable spot in her reader’s emotions.   She has also perfected the scene switch that moves the story line beyond mere entertainment to fully conscious attention.   The locations for the book make like a travel guide for Britain which balances nicely with the sinister and often gory action.

The two books bode well for an engaging series; however, main character Lacey Flint will have to tone down her activities if she wants to reach middle age.   Flint’s shady past is revealed in Now You See Me and her career as a detective constable in England evolves as do her detecting skills in Dead Scared.   There’s a love interest, albeit experienced more as longing and yearning than romance.   The plot lines are not as important as the lessons Bolton puts forth regarding trust, loyalty and vulnerability.   What you see is not always what you get.

Perhaps the best indicator for the success of a book is the affinity a reader develops for the characters.   This holds true for Lacey Flint’s effect on this reviewer.   At least one or two more tales from Bolton that feature the spunky detective would be most welcome.   Let’s hope Lacey keeps her energy level high and finds more baffling mysteries to solve.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

Review copies were provided by the publisher.   “Readers will be caught up in the twists and turns that leave them hanging until the final paragraph.”   Library Journal  

  

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Bad, Bad Leroy Brown

Going to the Bad: A Lilly Hawkins Mystery by Nora McFarland (Touchstone Paperback, $15.00, 304 pages) Here we are back in Bakersfield with the crew of TV station KJAY.   Going to the Bad is the third episode in the excellent mystery series written by former news camera person Nora McFarland.   This time around the book retains the same attention to heart and action present in the first two books (A Bad Day’s Work and Hot, Shot, and Bothered).   The main character, Lilly Hawkins, is living with Rod, the handsome newsman turned behind-the-camera executive, in her Uncle Bud’s house.

The story develops around a shooting at the house.   As with anything related to Bud, there are layers of secrecy and shady dealings.   The timeline for the tale spans about 32 hours – from the morning of Christmas Eve until late afternoon the following day.   The significance of the time of year with its emphasis on family plays well given the interwoven families whose past secrets inform the solution to the identification of the assailant.

Author McFarland advances her characters with challenges to their loyalty, a recurring theme  of the three books.   There is also an undercurrent, a strong one, related to social classes and the disparity among them.   The homes inhabited by the characters are vastly different as are their financial situations.   When faced with challenges by outsiders, each of the families comes to grips with it in its own way.   This book is about both letting go and commitment.   The plot is engaging and makes it a speedy read, even though Lilly spends most of the time running on empty.

Well recommended.

Ruta Arellano

A review copy was provided by the publisher.   Going to the Bad will be released on August 7, 2012.   “An unforgettable heroine…  Funny, smart, and honest.   Packed full of adrenaline and attitude.”   Lisa Scottoline, author of Look Again.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized