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.

 

 

 

REVIEW: The Last Chance Matinee

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THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE

Mariah Stewart

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Gallery Books

$16.00 Trade Paperback Original

ISBN: 9781501144905

Fiction

Book 1 in the Hudson Sisters series

Look for Book 2 in 2018 and Book 3 in 2019!

 

**DISCLAIMER: I received a free, advance copy of The Last Chance Matinee in exchange for an honest review and participation in the author’s blog tour.**

Secret siblings who only discover each other’s existence during the reading of a will. A bit  cliché, but it does make for an enticing bit of drama in The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart. The author of the popular Chesapeake Diaries series returns with the first book in her new series about the unwitting progeny of a deceased movie agent.

When Fritz Hudson dies suddenly, his daughters Allie and Des are summoned from their homes in California and Montana, respectively, to the Philadelphia office of Fritz’s best friend and attorney, Peter Wheeler, for the reading of Fritz’s will. Much to their surprise, there is a third party waiting : Cara McCann, Fritz’s daughter by his longtime New Jersey mistress.

It seems as if Fritz had some misgivings about how he handled his dual-family situation in life, because he sought to merge both families in death: in order for his daughters to each receive their share of their considerable inheritance, they all had to work together to restore a run-down movie theater owned by Fritz’s family in his hometown of Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania. Of course, Fritz upped the stakes of the inheritance: if either of the sisters refused to take part in the project, then none of them would receive their inheritance, and it would all go to earmarked charities instead.

The reluctant trio travel to Hidden Falls, where events reiterate the “Hidden” in the town name. Allie, Des, and Cara not only learn more about each other, but also about the layers of secrets that formed the father each of them thought they knew. Of course, each woman meets a man that is well-suited for her and discovers that small-town life , and theater restoration, and their new sibling relationships, aren’t all as bad as they thought it would be.

When I first started reading The Last Chance Matinee, Stewart’s use of the trite secret love child/inheritance battle trope made me roll my eyes. However, she inserted enough plot twists  (Addictions! More secret family members! Unexplained deaths! Missing heirlooms!) to rescue the book from being a carbon copy of most romances on the market. However, the characters of Allie, Des, and Cara are a bit stereotypical in their own rights (Allie as the high-strung, perfectionist firstborn; Des as the peacemaking, bleeding-heart middle child; Cara as the free-spirited youngest child).

Stewart’s secondary, yet important, characters are what keep the book from being boilerplate. Seth, the tattooed Army veteran; Nikki, Allie’s teenage daughter; and the indomitable and enigmatic Barney Hudson (plus her car) are among those that keep the story interesting, as their personalities provide welcome relief from, and add flavor to, the storyline.

The Last Chance Matinee is a beach read: light, airy, not too taxing on the brain cells. It’s a good escape. The plot moves steadily and while the “Happily Ever After” plot points (and subsequent setups for the next two books in the series) can be seen a mile away, even that obviousness doesn’t deter too much from the story. While I enjoyed the book, I was peeved that the entire story arc is being dragged out into three (or more) books.

I’m not a big fan of serials, and I would have liked to have the entire Hudson Sisters storyline packed into one book.  While I have a general idea of how each book is going to end (thanks to the obvious clues in The Last Chance Matinee), I don’t like waiting another year or two for the series to come to fruition. Blame the “now” culture of our society, but my interest in what happens to Allie and Des will likely wane between now and then, and I may not be inclined to pick up book #2 or #3 when they are finally released.

The Last Chance Matinee is a solid, entertaining read that doesn’t expect much from the reader. Fans of Stewart’s previous works will likely enjoy it, and it is a good entry to her writing for new readers (as I was).

 

Public Self/Private Self

I subscribe to a daily newsletter about the publishing industry; it is comprised of articles from both the company that oublishes the newsletter, and other industry professionals on various topics.

Today’s email included an article by a PR person (who shall remain nameless because I felt rather disguated afte reading her $.02). who listed the major mistakes authors make with regard to marketing/PR (and what she allegedly tells her clients). One of those mistakes was oversharing on social media. She emphasized that politics, religion, or even what you had for breakfast/lunch/dinner. should not be mentioned on your social media, lest an author alienate potential and current fans. In short, keep it light and fluffy.

Pause.

Now, I understand the oversharing part. Some things don’t need to be mentioned, like your cat’s yeast infection, or even your yeast infection. But authors are more than just sales numbers on a ledger sheet. We’re people. We have hopes,fears (writers moreso than others 🤣), likes, dislikes.

 I like it when my favorite authors share personal tidbits about themselves: pics from vacations, pets, favorite socks. It humanizes them and makes me even more inclined to buy their work, because they are not just robots sitting in front of a computer, churning out novels.

But to keep my thoughts silent regarding any issue that is important to me–be it Black Lives Matter or a BLT sandwich–for the sake of selling a book, does not sit right with me. And if someone doesn’t want to buy one of my books because I took a stance with which they do not agree, well…I’m not for everyone, and I wish that person well. 

It reminds me of the backlash when singers, athletes, actors, et al make their thoughts known regarding social and political issues. The mindset becomes, “Shut up and keep entertaining the masses. That’s your job, not expressing an independent thought.” Yet that is doing these people a disservice. They are human and have feelings; to try and shut them down for the sake of keeping stadiums, arenas, and theatres filled is hypocritical and oppressive.Yet many people concerned with an entertainer or athlete’s bottom line will attempt to do just that, all for the sake of making a buck (for themselves and their clients).

To paraphrase some quote that I saw on Instagram: I won’t dilute myself for those who can’t handle me at 100 proof. You shouldn’t either.

Thanks for stopping by.

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.

Reflections on the Old Year

On New Year’s Eve 2014, I wrote a list of goals that I wanted to achieve in 2015. It totaled over forty items, spanning four sheets (single-side) from a small, ruled notebook. I sealed that list in an envelope and scrawled “TO BE OPENED ON DEC. 31, 2015” across the front and the seal of the envelope. I tucked the sealed list in a journal and went about my business.

Yesterday, I opened that envelope and went through the list, checking off those things that I accomplished and making notes otherwise (e.g., maybe I accomplished part of a goal, or the goal needed to be modified during the year). Sadly, I didn’t check off most of my list, though I was proud of those things I did (the year wasn’t a total wash!). Among those was:

–Established a business banking account
–Found an accountant that specialized in small businesses
–Set up my author website
–Did book signings at independent bookstores
–Guest blogged on a site
–Got new glasses & a fresh supply of contact lenses
–Regularly exercised 3 times/week
–Wrote more handwritten letters, which of course led to
–Getting new stationery 🙂
–Got a new winter coat (not that I’ve had much occasion to wear it, what with temperatures being in the 60s & 70s for most of November and December 2015)
–Got more involved in my college alumni association and local chapter of the alumni club.

I also achieved some goals that I hadn’t listed, such as having my sports articles published in major, national publications such as Sports Illustrated (via The Cauldron on Medium) and Ms. magazine, and other articles published elsewhere around the web WOOT!  I was fortunate to make some cool connections with some like-minded folks in both the same and different industries, and I’m looking forward to our collaborations in the upcoming year.

I tried some new things and failed (applied for writing grants and submitted short stories to two publications), but got positive, valuable feedback that will set me up for success when I try again (and I was actually encouraged by The Powers That Be at each organization and publication to try again. How cool is that?).

Even those goals that weren’t accomplished were valuable. For some, they were only partially completed (I wanted to publish four books last year, but only did two: The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Stormbringer. That’s still better than zero. I also released BFC: Dominic and a previous book, Blizzard, in mass market paperback formats.).

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This a speculative fiction novel (a new genre for me!), written under the pen name Tai Daniels

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This is the second installment in the Bastille Family Chronicles series

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Now avaolable in mass market paperback, only on my website, tiffscribes.com

For others, they gave me an insight as to the work that was still to be done in order to check them off my list. Some goals were too vague, and some were too specific and didn’t allow for the twists and turns of life.

Still others became no longer relevant in retrospect, and these uncompleted goals are the ones to which I’m paying more attention. Their lack of relevancy to my life is forcing me to closeer inspect them and discover alternate routes that may be better suited to my needs.

Oprah Winfrey is often quoted as saying “Man’s rejection is God’s protection.” While some of my goals weren’t reached due to personal error, others weren’t due to circumstances beyond my control. There may be a reason for this, and that reason may be that Goal X isn’t what I really need–or, upon reexamination, what I really want. Not reaching those goals may have been a divine form of protection, and it’s up to me to figure out if this is true, and the way forward if it is indeed true. And for those unrealized goals that were my fault, having a long, hard look at some harsh truths is the best way to garner progress. As the Twelve Steppers say, admitting a problem is the first step. 🙂

Though 2015 didn’t shape up to be all that I hoped it would, the year ended up a lot better than 2014 was, for which I am truly grateful. I’m excited and optimistic for 2016, and I’m looking forward to opening the sealed envelope of goals that is now inscribed, “TO BE OPENED ON DEC. 31, 2016”.

Happy New Year, all, and thanks for stopping by.

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