Mystery, Reviews

Review: Sunset Beach

Sunset BeachSunset Beach by Mary Kay Andrews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my go-to authors for a fun beach-type read so I am grateful to NetGalley for the opportunity to read her latest novel, Sunset Beach. I am a fan of Andrews’s southern fiction that combines elements of chick-lit, romance, and mystery with a healthy dose of humor and beach community atmosphere to create a fun, light read.

Sunset Beach, which is the story of Drue Campbell who is having a rough year – a horrific injury ends her kiteboarding career, her beloved mother passes away, and she loses a boyfriend and her job as a beach bar waitress. When her estranged father reenters her life and offers her a lifeline in the form of a job at his law firm and a home that had once been her grandparents’, Drue takes him up on it when she runs out of options. She ends up getting caught up in two mysteries. This all seems like a pretty good setup for a fun Mary Kay Andrews novel. What it was was a disappointment. It lacked most of Andrews’s trademark humor and romance to focus instead more on the mystery (or mysteries in this case). As a mystery, it wasn’t even that well executed and the heroine, while as capable as some of Andrews’s others, wasn’t endearing, just whiny.  I really had a difficult time getting into this one but that probably had more to do with my expectations of a Mary Kay Andrews than the novel’s quality.

If you enjoy fun southern fiction, I recommend Mary Kay Andrews’s the first book in Weezie and Bebe Mysteries novels, Savannah Blues .  If what you want is a thrilling mystery with a healthy sense of humor and a feisty heroine, I recommend Janet Evanovich’s extremely popular Stephanie Plum series (at least the first four books, which is as far as I’ve gotten so far, are a lot of fun).
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Reviews, Woman's Fiction

Review: The Book of Polly

The Book of PollyThe Book of Polly by Kathy Hepinstall

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Kathy Hepinstall’s The Book of Polly is a story of mothers and daughters, the secrets we keep, and how our past affects our lives. What makes this book stand out, though, are the wonderfully complex and quirky characters. Polly of the book’s title is the most complex of them all. Seen through the eyes of her youngest child, Willow, who wasn’t born until Polly was in her late fifties, Polly’s character takes on almost mythical proportions.
Willow, who lives in fear of her mother’s death, describes her mother as uncompromising, all-knowing, and impervious to what other’s think of her. It is only as Willow grows into adolescence that she (and the reader) see Polly’s humanity. Under her tough as nails elegance, is a kind heart and a deep fear of facing her past.
But, with the help of more lovably unique characters, – my favorite of which is Phoenix, who is perfectly perfect – Polly does face her past and Willow gets answers to the questions she’s had all of her life. This all leads to an ending that, for me, was surprisingly satisfying.

If you enjoy southern fiction with strong female central characters like The Book of Polly, I recommend reading Joshilyn Jackson’s novels such as Gods in Alabama.  If it is the child narrator you like or the mother-daughter story, you can read J. Ryan Stradal’s Kitchen’s of the Great Midwest or Annie Weatherwax’s All We Had.  The Book of Polly is unique, therefore it is difficult to pinpoint just one other book like it.

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Reviews, World Literature

Review: Gods in Alabama

3 Stars

GodsIt’s been nearly a week since I finished reading this book and I’m still undecided about how I feel about Joshilyn Jackson’s Gods in Alabama. While the novel is extremely well-written, I could never quite get comfortable with the main character/narrator or her story. And I’ve never been more uncomfortable reading anything as I was reading the *gags* roach scene. I seriously considered putting the book down then and there but my librarian friend loves Jackson’s books so I felt compelled to push through and find out why.
Like I said, Gods in Alabama is well-written. The author writes in such a way that the reader feels as if they are being “not” lied to by Arlene/Lena (even her name isn’t straightforward) along with the other characters. There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot as the narrator tells and retells the story with strategic omissions. Even after it was all said and done, I’m still not sure I completely believe the truth.

If you enjoy Gods in Alabama perhaps you’ll also enjoy Elizabeth Joy Arnold’s The Book of Secrets, another novel full of twists and half-told tales.

Reviews

Review: Stargazey Point

Stargazey Point
Stargazey Point by Shelley Noble

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Stargazey Point is a fairly typical feel-good story set in the American south complete with the strong but troubled heroine, the unique geography and climate of South Carolina, the love interest that starts out as a possible antagonist, a colorful cast of characters, some moments of humor, and plenty of redemption. Abbie’s horrific past experience and the plight of the town make a bit edgier than most of the genre. Yet I often felt that the events in the novel were just a means to an end. As tortured as Abbie is, she never actually deals with her demons as much as fills the space with her new project and – and maybe this is just me – but I didn’t feel that she and Cab really had that much chemistry. This is a story that needed time to develop and it just didn’t have that. I felt that it was trying too hard to fit into its subgenre and get to the happy ending. Sorry if I spoiled that but it really shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise.

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