Review: Dune Drive by Mariah Stewart

Dune Drive (The Chesapeake Diaries, Book 12)

Mariah Stewart

Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster

Release Date: July 31, 2018

ISBN: 9781501154416 (mass market)

Price: $7.99 (mass market)

 

**Disclaimer: I was given a free advance copy of Dune Drive via Net Galley in exchange for an honest review**

 

New York Times bestselling author Mariah Stewart returns with Dune Drive, the latest installment in her Chesapeake Diaries series set in the fictitious beachside locations of Cannonball Island and St. Dennis on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Dune Drive sees another island descendant return to this ancestral home to escape the past and find a brighter future.

Christiana “Chrissie” Jenkins makes the painful yet necessary decision to leave New Jersey and her abusive boyfriend of five years with no warning. She returns to Cannonball Island to stay with her great-grandmother, Ruby “Gigi” Carter, and start the healing process in the place where she had such good childhood memories — and to stay off the radar so that her ex-boyfriend won’t find her. As she starts to put her life back together she crosses paths with Jared Chandler, the son of the owner of a diving recovery company and good friend of her cousin, Owen. Jared, who considers women a temporary distraction, finds himself thinking of a more permanent future with Chrissie while Chrissie, who is still working on her self-esteem and jump-starting her new life as a restaurant chef, wonders how someone like Jared could ever be with someone like her. As Chrissie and Jared find their way to each other, the cloud of Chrissie’s ex-boyfriend looms until everything comes to a head after a memorable birthday party.

Stewart’s return to the popular Chesapeake Diaries series is predictable yet charming and full of local color,  but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I have previous installments in the series. The character of Chrissie Jenkins, unfortunately, is one with which I have least connected over the series. One of the nitpicks I have with Dune Drive is the treatment of a weighty subject such as domestic violence in such a lighthearted novel. Since this is supposed to be a traditional contemporary romance instead of a suspenseful romance, it was expected for the domestic violence issue to be glossed over to a degree; however, Stewart’s self-improvement, “You go, girl” theme of Chrissie’s personal redemption was a bit too saccharine. The book almost read like she took the movie Sleeping With The Enemy and boiled it down to a palatable romance novel.

Another issue I had with this book was the sheer number of secondary and tertiary characters. While it’s admirable that so many characters are a signal to Stewart’s fans that the Chesapeake Diaries series will go on for quite some time, it got overwhelming at times, especially during the events of Delia Wright and Gordon’ Chandler’s wedding weekend. I had a difficult time keeping up with the convoluted genealogy.

A bright spot was the interesting twist involving Chrissie’s estranged mother and the disappearance of Chrissie’s brother Luke when she was eight years old. Stewart did a good job of hinting that there was a backstory to that situation without giving any type of clue to that backstory.

As is the norm in the Chesapeake Diaries series, the true star was Ruby Carter, the psychic, no-nonsense, island-dwelling matriarch who celebrated her 101st birthday in Dune Drive. Her character alone is a good reason to start any book in this series, and I hope that Stewart’s plans for the series include Ruby living for at least another ten years.

Dune Drive is a good beach read and fans of Stewart and/or the Chesapeake Diaries series won’t be disappointed.

Thanks for stopping by.

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REVIEW: American Cage by Ted Galdi

Disclaimer: I received a free galley from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

American Cage

Ted Galdi

ISBN: 978-0-9898507-1-1

Price: $2.99 ebook/$14.99 paperback

American Cage by Ted Galdi starts out as your typical jailbreak novel. Danny Marsh, Phil Zorn, and Monty Montgomery spent nine agonizing months planning a breakout of Thurgood L. Crick prison in Texas.  On the day of the breakout, everything goes smoothly…until it doesn’t.

When Monty is injured during the escape, the trio is forced to create a Plan B out of thin air. Unfortunately for them, Plan B coincides with an all-points bulletin about their escape across television and radio channels. The men are forced to do some things they preferred not to do in order to maintain their newfound freedom and achieve their primary goal: making it to Mexico.

Things go from bad to worse when Phil and Warren, his outside contact who provided crucial tools for the escape, decide to tweak the plan. Phil asks Danny to ask his family, which is wealthy, to give them $250,000 in cash in order to cover the price of the forged documentation that will be necessary for them to cross the border. Danny, who is estranged from his father, is reluctant to do so but finally does. Warren also decides to keep Monty as leverage for Phil and Danny’s return from the money pickup, which is a four-hour drive away. What happens during the drive–from the perspectives of Danny, Monty, and Danny’s father–is a tale of shame and redemption, as well as desperation and deliverance.

As a fan of psychological thrillers, I was pleasantly surprised by American Cage. There were plot twists that I didn’t see coming (especially the ending), and the characters were mostly well developed. Some were a bit too over the top, like Lieutenant John Ramos. I was more disappointed in the Phil Zorn character; it would have been interesting to get some of his point of view in the book, instead of seeing just his reactions to what the other characters were doing or saying. The addition of hitchhiker Jane Pilgrim was a nice touch.

Overall, I would recommend American Cage, particularly for fans of Harlan Coben and Jonathan Kellerman.

Thanks for stopping by.

REVIEW: The Chesapeake Bride by Mariah Stewart

 

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THE CHESAPEAKE BRIDE

11th in The Chesapeake Diaries series

Mariah Stewart

Pocket Books

August 29, 2017

ISBN 9781501154355

$7.99

Treasures and home sales and history–oh my! Mariah Stewart returns with The Chesapeake Bride, the latest offering in her Chesapeake Diaries series.

Cassidy Logan, a respected architect, returns to Cannonball Island on the Maryland Eastern Shore in the hopes of renovating some vacant historical homes on behalf of her father’s real estate development company. Enter Owen Parker, local playboy, who has not spent extended time on the island in many years. The grandson of the oldest living person on Cannonball Island, Owen is hired by another island son to dive for what seems to be a historical ship that sank in the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812, along with another sunken ship that was long rumored to have contained treasure. Of course, the discovery of such historical finds would put a major wrench in Cassidy’s development plans (and could cancel them altogether), and it doesn’t help that Owen–with whom she shares a definite chemistry that she tries to avoid–constantly misconstrues her attempts to highlight the island’s history for marketing purposes as exploitation of that history. Owen’s footloose and fancy-free ways also grate against Cassidy’s need for stability, and how the two reconcile their vastly different personalities and world views with their growing interest in each other is yet another display of Ms. Stewart’s writing skill.

Ms. Stewart once again provides a light, entertaining read that is not your usual treacle-sweet romance. The subtle yet pointed commentary on history versus commerce, and gentrification, is an interesting thread and elevates the story beyond the traditional. The inclusion of strong female characters of different educational and socioeconomic levels (including island matriarch Ruby Parker, who is a spry 100 years old) is a treat; Ms. Stewart aptly demonstrates that a woman’s fortitude comes in different packages, and all are equally respected (and needed). The only drawback to the book is the somewhat clichéd pairing of Cassidy and Owen, especially so early in the book. While this is the traditional method of the “happily ever after” template of romance novels, sometimes readers would like a bit of a twist and challenge in their main characters reaching that happy ending.

The Chesapeake Bride also gives a nod to its predecessors in the series, and gives enough incentive to go back and read the rest of the books–although the mentions can be a bit heavy-handed at times. While the book can be dismissed as beach reading (and it certainly serves its purpose in that regard), there is enough substance in this book to make even the most romance-averse reader give it a shot. The Chesapeake Bride, as one of Ms. Stewart’s signature books, was pleasant from start to finish.

Want more Mariah Stewart? Well, Simon and Schuster is hosting an End-of-Summer giveaway! Win a free copy of Driftwood Point, the 10th installment in the Chesapeake Diaries series and the story of Lisbeth Parker (Owen’s sister) and Alec Jansen.  How cool is that?

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END OF SUMMER GIVEAWAY:

We’re celebrating The Chesapeake Bride and Summer 2017 with one giveaway for Driftwood Point, 10th  in The Chesapeake Diaries Series by Mariah Stewart! The last day for entries will be Friday, September 22nd (the official last day of summer!) The winner will receive one copy of Driftwood Point. U.S. only, please. Leave a comment (no spam, please) or shoot me your email address if you’re interested but remember – you can only win once!

NOTE FOR THE NEW YEAR:

Look for Gallery Books’ second installment in Mariah Stewart’s all-new trade original women’s fiction series, The Hudson Sisters, following a trio of reluctant sisters as they set out to fulfill their father’s dying wish—and discover themselves in the process. Book 2, The Sugarhouse Blues, will publish March 2018!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Mariah Stewart is the award-winning New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of numerous novels and several novellas and short stories.  A native of Hightstown, New Jersey, she lives with her husband and two rambunctious rescue dogs amid the rolling hills of Chester County, Pennsylvania, where she savors country life and tends her gardens.  Visit her website at mariahstewart.com, like her on Facebook at AuthorMariahStewart, and follow her on Instagram at mariah_stewart_books.

 

 

 

What I’m Reading: The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver

The Steel Kiss

Jeffery Deaver

Grand Central Publishing

March 2016

 

The Steel Kiss is the latest in the Lincoln Rhyme series by Jeffery Deaver. I received an advance copy through Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

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Rhyme, who is now teaching instead of working with the NYPD to solve crimes, is nevertheless drawn into an interesting case: a man was trapped in a moving escalator and died from the resulting injuries, and Rhyme is hired by the widow’s attorney to figure out how the maintenance door managed to spring open so that the man could fall through it.

On a parallel track, Detective Amelia Sachs is now working the Major Crimes squad as a direct result of her severe arthritis. She is hunting a killer who is targeting people who use “smart” apparatus: computer-controlled appliances and cars that can be accessed via smartphone apps and wearable technology. Rhyme and Sachs soon find out that their investigations dovetail, and former rookie Ron Pulaski–still dealing with head injuries incurred in The Coffin Dancer–is almost caught in the crossfire.

Deaver weaves his usual interesting story while continuing the not-so-subtle rant against our computer-dependent society that he began in The Broken Window. The divergent cases, as well as the plot twists that lead to a rather satisfying yet unpredictable conclusion, are classic Deaver. Still, I did not enjoy this latest Rhyme novel as much as I have others. While I understand the need for character growth in order for a series to remain successful, the direction in which Deaver is taking his Rhyme and Sachs characters aren’t as riveting as in previous books. Still, Deaver knows how to deliver a story, and both fans and non-fans alike will enjoy it.

What I’m Reading: The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow

Fiona Barton

Berkeley Publishing Group

February 2016

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-galley from Berkeley Publishing (via Net Galley) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 
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I was invited to participate in a blog book tour for the February 2016 release of The Widow by Fiona Barton. Here’s my review for this stop on the tour.

The Widow, by Fiona Barton, is a pretty interesting read. Set in the United Kingdom, it follows Jean Taylor, the recent widow of accused child kidnapper (and possible murderer) Glen Taylor. The story opens as Jean is still reeling from the sudden death of her husband after being hit by a bus. Glen had never been formally charged with the kidnapping of Bella Elliott, though he’d been questioned heavily after her disappearance. The interference of the police alienated the Taylors, particularly Jean, from their neighbors and forced them to rely on each other even more for support and camaraderie. The police, as well as reporters, had always suspected that Jean knew more about Bella’s disappearance than she said. With Glen’s death, Jean was free from any obligations that she may have had to her husband while he was alive. And Jean decided to start talking.

Barton did a very good job of building suspense throughout the novel. What I especially liked was the eventual humanization of Jean’s character. At first, she came across as somewhat of an caricatured automaton, a mousy wife who was completely controlled by her psychologically abusive husband. As the book progresses, we see the layers of Jean, alluded to by the character herself as “Jean” versus “Jeanie”. These hidden facets belied a keen cleverness and mastery of subtle manipulation, and I as a reader became hooked by Jean’s character as each layer was revealed.

Barton did another good job in the character of Kate Waters, the ambitious reporter who eventually scores a coveted interview with Jean. This was another case of a cookie-cutter character who becomes more than meets the eye. No apologies are made for Kate’s ambition or methodology, and there is no moral undertone to her success in the vein of “everything has a price.” Still, the character manages to garner sympathy as she manages to outwit her competition to garner an interview with perhaps the most famous widow in recent times, and strain her relationships with those who helped her get to Jean.

Unfortunately for Barton, she did rely on clichés with her male characters, particularly Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes. Sparkes became the quintessential over-obsessed law enforcement official who pursues a case to the detriment of his personal and professional lives. Sparkes’s boss, was the superior who wanted to make the headlines, even at the cost of those who worked under him. Likewise, Glen Taylor becomes just another garden-variety pedophile and narcissist; his behavior and personality are textbook, and leave little to the imagination. Perhaps this is because Barton wanted the women in the book–Jean, Kate, and Bella’s mother Dawn Elliott–to be the focus of the story. Indeed, the entire story is very female-centric and a statement on how women are actually the complicated creatures we are often made out to be, and are usually not how we appear to be.

The ending of the book was a bit anticlimactic, which marred an otherwise gripping story. There was also an issue with changing points of view near the end of the book, especially with Detective Zara Salmond. Her POV seemed abrupt and out of place, and Barton would have been better served sticking to those of the primary characters in the story–Jean, Kate, and Sparkes–and relegating Salmond to the background with the other characters.

Others have compared The Widow to the novel The Girl On the Train, which is a bit of a disservice since I found the latter to be underwhelming and not deserving of the hype surrounding it.   The Widow is much better, and a psychological thriller worth trying.

What I’m Reading: The Alchemists of Kush

alchemists of kush minister faust originalAlchemists of Kush cover

 

Critically acclaimed author Minister Faust returns with his fourth novel, The Alchemists of Kush.  Set in both modern-day Edmonton and ancient Sudan, this speculative fiction novel follows the path of two boys who must harness ancient knowledge in order to combat a great evil.

Raphael “Rap” Deng Garang was just your average seventeen year-old war refugee hanging on the streets of Edmonton, Canada. Half-Sudanese and half-Somali, he had one foot in both worlds but truly belonged in neither, especially in the close-knit Somali community in which he lived with his mother. A joy ride in a stolen car with a good friend led Rap down a path of self-knowledge that transformed him into Supreme Raptor, the “conscious rap” sensation.

Hru was a child soldier in ancient Sudan, helping the other children of his village survive when raiders destroyed their village. Forced to rely on rudimentary fighting  skills, Hru and the other child soliders manage to eke out an existence in the forest until they arrived at the ocean, in which the Great Devourer of Souls resided. Hru becomes the sole survivor of an attack by the Devourer, which leads him on a quest to find his mother and claim a birthright he didn’t know he had—as Horus, the son of Osiris.

Faust does a riveting job in alternating between modern-day Canada and ancient Sudan by way of Kush; the book is divided into four parts, and each part has two divisions: The Book of Then (which takes place in ancient times) and the Book of Now (which takes place in modern-day Edmonton.  The title of each of the four parts is key to the occurrences in that particular part, and takes on a greater sense of importance as the story progresses. As readers follow Rap’s path from an errant teenage refugee  to a young community leader, they are treated to a parallel course in history in the guise of the Egyptian myth of Isis and Osiris. Indeed, the final portion of the book is the text of the Book of the Golden Falcon, which is the seminal text from which Rap and his cohorts are taught to elevate and expand themselves. The Alchemists of Kush is heavy on allegory, and readers would do well to take this into account while delving into this novel.  Faust has managed to make history cool, and the Book of the Golden Falcon gives a lesson not commonly found in neither public nor private educational institutions in any country. The underlying message of the novel is one of self-improvement, self-sufficiency, and elevating others to their best selves; while this message is imprinted upon the teenagers in the novel, it can be applied by all ages. Even better, you can read all of the Books of Then or the Books of Now in order, for a different yet equally entertaining reading experience which puts an entirely different spin on the novel.  Fans of Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, and Charles Saunders would enjoy The Alchemists of Kush.

Aside

CYBER WEEK SALE: 50% off ERRYTHANG!

AAAAAAGGGHHHHH! This was supposed to have been sent on MONDAY, but when I switched from “draft” to “publish” on the WordPress app, I guess the app/phone interface didn’t get the memo. Grrrr…

Anyway, here is the original post that SHOULD have gotten to you a few days ago. *sigh*

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Hi all,

I haven’t blogged in a long while because I was dealing with an ill family member, NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and the imminent publication of my fourth book.

Well, the family member is better, I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo this year (only got to 27K words), T-Day is over, and my fourth novel, Stormbringer, is out as of today. WOOT!

Since it’s that time of the year where everyone and their grandmother is offering a sale, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon. 🙂

Here ya go: my biggest. sale. EVER.

50% off (yeah, I said it), all titles through my website. Yes, that includes my newest book, Stormbringer.  Enter code CYBERTIFF at checkout.

You can find details in the latest email that went out to my mailing list (and if you aren’t on my mailing list, then what are you waiting for?)

http://eepurl.com/bHIIdL

This sale is going on all week through Saturday, 12/5. Free U.S. shipping on all orders of $10 & up. How cool is that?

For those of you who wanted to try my books but were frugally conscious, now’s your chance! And did I mention that I now offer the mass market versions of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott novel? The regular price for those is $8.00 each; if you buy them this week, you can get them for $4 each.  That’s two for the price of one, which is a pretty good incentive to buy both. 😀 And the larger paperbacks, which are $14.95 each, can now be had for about $7.50! At this price, you can get all the titles and stock up for your holiday reading.

Oh, what a bargain! What a bargain for you!

And did I also mention that the books come autographed? And that they make great gifts? Just saying.

The offer is only good through my website, and ends at 11:59 pm ET on Saturday, December 5. Remember to use the code CYBERTIFF at checkout. Come through and gitchu a piece.

Thanks for stopping by.

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