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Friday, February 23, 2018

Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Published by William Morrow ISBN 9780062389923
Hardcover, $26.99, 292 pages

Suspense writer Laura Lippman is best known for her crime novels set in the city of Baltimore. The city is as much of a character in her novels as the people she writes about. Her newest novel, Sunburn, leaves Baltimore for  the small beach town of Belleville, Delaware, a tourist town that booms during the summer months, and reverts to its small town ways the rest of the year. A town Polly describes as "put together from other town's leftovers."

While passing through town Polly stops into the High-Ho tavern and decides to get a job there as a waitress. Polly has just abandoned her husband and three-year-old daughter while on a beach vacation. What kind of woman does that?

Adam wanders into the High-Ho and gets a job as a cook in the kitchen. He has a reason for being there too- he is watching Polly for a client. Who is the client? Is it Polly's abandoned husband?

Slowly we get more information about Polly. She has a past, and many secrets to hide. She is adept at manipulating people to do what she wants, without them even knowing that they are doing it, and being grateful to help her.

Trouble begins for Adam when he falls in love with Polly. He struggles with his secrets, with his sense of responsibility to his client. Even with what he knows about Polly, he stiil loves her.

Polly has fallen in love with Adam too. Their casual affair becomes serious and then deadly when a death occurs in the town. Was it an accident or murder?

Lippman is at the top of her game with Sunburn. Her inspiration for Sunburn is the work of fellow Baltimore native James M. Cain, whose classic novels include Mildred Pierce, The Postman Always Rings Twice, and Double Indemity. Lippman includes elements from all three novels in her story- an insurance man, illicit lovers, manipulative women, even the restaurant angle- and are all brilliantly woven together in this spellbinding novel.

Sunburn is the perfect book to take on vacation; I read it on a three-hour flight from Florida to New York, and never looked up once until we landed and I had finished the book. The ending is a stunner!

Polly is a fascinating character, as she "fixes her gaze on the goal and never loses sight of it". The big question is what exactly is Polly's goal? Crime noir is frequently the purview of male protagonists, so it is intriguing to have a femme fatale running the show.

Sunburn is easily one of the best novels I have read in recent memory, and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes mysteries and good fiction.

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Laura Lippman's tour. The rest of her tour stops are here:

Instagram Stops

Tuesday, February 20th: Instagram: @jackiereadsbooks
Wednesday, February 21st: Instagram: @Jessicamap
Thursday, February 22nd: Instagram: @hippiechickreads
Friday, February 23rd: Instagram: @hollyslittlebookreviews
Monday, February 26th: Instagram: @writersdream
Wednesday, February 28th: Instagram: @ACaffeinatedBibliophile
Thursday, March 1st: Instagram: @acouplereads

Review Stops

Tuesday, February 20th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Wednesday, February 21st: The Book Diva’s Reads
Thursday, February 22nd: Into the Hall of Books
Friday, February 23rd: bookchickdi
Monday, February 26th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Tuesday, February 27th: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 28th: Novel Gossip
Tuesday, March 6th: A Book a Week
Wednesday, March 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Monday, March 12th: Staircase Wit
Tuesday, March 13th: Clues & Reviews
Wednesday, March 14th: Julie’s Bookshelf
Thursday, March 15th: Thoughts On This ‘n That

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt

Best Friends Forever by Margot Hunt
Published by Mira ISBN 9780778331131
Hardcover, $26.99, 384 pages

Sometimes you pair the perfect book with the perfect place to read that book. Last month I was lucky enough to have a few hours to sit on a warm Florida beach and soak up the sun, so I brought along a new book to read- Margot Hunt's Best Friends Forever. Three hours later, I finally looked up and took a breath, having finished the book. (Thank goodness I used plenty of sunscreen.)

Alice Campbell is making breakfast, getting her son and daughter ready for school, when two policemen ring her doorbell. They have questions for Alice about the death of her friend Kat's husband, Howard.

Howard had fallen to his death from the balcony of his and Kat's mansion. Everyone assumed it was a drunken accident, until the police came knocking. They asked Alice to come down to the station to talk about Kat and Howard.

Kat came from a wealthy family, and owned an art gallery on Worth Avenue, a fancy shopping district in West Palm Beach, Florida. Alice met Kat at JFK airport where she was waiting out a delayed flight to their new home in Jupiter. Kat bought Alice a martini and they bonded.

They became fast friends, even though their economic circumstances weren't exactly compatible. Alice and her husband Todd disliked Howard upon first meeting him. He was obnoxious, and  condescending and rude to his wife in front them. 

The story jumps back and forth in time, from the present, with Kat refusing to answer any of Alice's texts or phone calls, to three years before when the ladies meet and begin spending all their free time together, even taking girls' weekend vacations together on Kat's dime.

Todd and Alice run into financial troubles and Kat helps them out. Then Kat confides in Alice that Howard is physically abusive to her, in addition to the emotional abuse that Alice has witnessed.

As the police investigation proceeds, it is clear that Alice doesn't know everything about her best friend Kat. The suspense builds quickly as the police decide that Alice knows more than she has told them, and she has to use her wits to figure what happened before it's too late for her.

Best Friends Forever is a terrific suspense novel, one that fans of Liane Moriarty's Big Little Lies will really enjoy. Like Moriarty, Hunt punctuates the day-to-day domestic life with a puzzle of a mystery to be solved. Also like Moriarty, Hunt sprinkles in a few clues that clever readers may be able to pick up on that help solve the mystery, and even though I thought I knew where it was going, the ending still caused me to gasp out loud. Suspense lovers should put Best Friends Forever on their TBR list, maybe for a long airplane trip. It will make the time fly by. (Just be careful who you talk to at the airport.)

Thanks to TLC Tours for putting me on Margot Hunt's tour. The rest of her stops are here:


Monday, January 22nd: Girls in Books blog and Instagram
Monday, January 22nd: Patricia’s Wisdom
Tuesday, January 23rd: The Literary Llama on Instagram
Wednesday, January 24th: Katy’s Library blog and Instagram
Thursday, January 25th: Clues and Reviews
Friday, January 26th: From the TBR Pile
Monday, January 29th: The Book Diva’s Reads
Tuesday, January 30th: LiteraryJo Reviews blog and Instagram
Wednesday, January 31st: Bibliotica
Thursday, February 1st: Books and Bindings
Friday, February 2nd: Chick Lit Central
Monday, February 5th: Caryn, The Book Whisperer
Tuesday, February 6th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Wednesday, February 7th: Girl Who Reads
Thursday, February 8th: A Holland Reads
Monday, February 12th: Novel Gossip blog and Instagram
Monday, February 12th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 14th: A Chick Who Reads
Thursday, February 15th: Bookchickdi
Friday, February 16th: Thoughts on This ‘n That

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones

An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
Published by Algonquin ISBN 9781616201340
Hardcover, $26.95, 320 pages

Five years ago, I went to my local Barnes & Noble to hear Judy Blume interview a young author, Tayari Jones, who spoke about her book Silver Sparrow.  Her novel, about a man who married two women and had a daughter by each, was so brilliant and moving, I was mesmerized by it.

Last June, I was thrilled to meet Ms. Jones again, at the Book Expo in NYC, and to get a copy of her upcoming book An American Marriage, which publishes Februrary 6th. Once again, Tayari Jones has written a stunning novel, and it has already garnered so much worthy praise, including being Oprah's Book Club's latest pick. (Hooray!)

Roy is a black man who grew up in a small Louisiana town called Eloe.  His mother worked at a meat-and-three restaurant, his daddy worked at a sporting goods store. They weren't poor, but "there was nothing extra."

Roy made it to Morehouse College on a scholarship for first generation college students. While there, he met and fell in love with Celestial, a young woman who grew up in Atlanta, the daughter of a well-to-do family.

Celestial and Roy were happy together- Roy had a good job as a salesman for a textbook company, Celestial was an artist, making cloth dolls and hoping one day to hit it big selling them. They were married for just over a year, when it happened.

While visiting Roy's parents, they stayed at a hotel. The visit with Roy's parents didn't go well (his mother wants grandbabies, Celestial wants to wait), and Roy and Celestial have a big fight.

When a woman is attacked that night at the hotel, she tells the police it was Roy who did it. In a moment, his entire life is turned upside down. He is charged, tried and convicted and goes to prison.

Not only is Roy's life upended, so is Celestial's. The story is told from three points of view- Roy, Celestial and her childhood friend Andre's.

We see how the bonds of Roy and Celestial's marriage are tested throughout their separation. Roy states "I believed that our marriage was a fine-spun tapestry, fragile but fixable. We tore it often and mended it again, always with a silken thread, lovely but sure to give way again."

An American Marriage is a heartbreaking novel that deals with the big themes of the difficulties and joys of marriage, race, class, loyalty, and the price of mass incarceration (both to the individual and society as a whole), through the prism of Roy and Celestial's marriage.
Tayari Jones at the Book Expo

I didn't want An American Marriage to end. It is a book to savor, and I was sad when I finished it. You feel so deeply for these characters, caught up in a situation not of their making. Tayari Jones is an amazing storyteller, and she weaves her way into your heart and soul with her words.

I give An American Marriage my highest recommendation- you must read this book!

Tayari Jones' website is here.
My review of Silver Sparrow is here.