Same Beach, Next YearThe Lowcountry of South Carolina is author, Dorothea Benton Frank’s favorite location for her acclaimed beach books. Some readers determine their signal of true summer and beach time by the addition of a new book from author Frank. Her book, Same Beach, Next Year, continues to give her readers another great story to include in their beach bag. What could serve as a better backdrop for a summer book…… ocean breezes, the beaming sunshine, fruit filled cocktails, and a beautiful, starry night……lending to those promises of excitement in love and friendship. Such is the setting for Same Beach, Next Year.

In one particular summer, two unlikely couples begin a friendship that lasts more than two decades. Every year, Adam and Eliza and their twin boys spend a few weeks on Isle of Palms, which is not far from their home. Adam owns a very successful construction business and Eliza is a great cook with aspirations of writing a cookbook. This particular year, a new couple rents the condo next door. As it turns out, the wife is Eve, who was Adam’s first love in high school…….pretty coincidental. Eve is married to Carl, who is a pediatrician, and hardworking in his own right. They have one daughter who is about the same age as the twin boys. The two couples also have parents who come with them to help with the children. The two families hit it off and become fast friends who then go back to the same places each year for several years.

Readers say that this format is a departure from Frank’s usual format, which they were pleased to see. Most reviewed it as a very moving story with well-developed characters and a good narrative from the couple of Adam and Eliza. They seem to be stuck in the past……each for different reasons. Eliza, even though thought to be quite shallow, was an obvious voice of reason among the four. The book follows their stories of both ups and downs, leaving the reader having no idea how the relationships would mature until the very end of the book. Most readers agreed that they were sorry to see the book end. Their testament to a very good novel.

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Into The WaterIf reading a “sleep snatcher” mystery is your forte` then London born author Paula Hawkin’s book, Into the Water is perfect for your next read. Hawkin’s Girl on the Train was a mega hit both as a book and on film. She has a method of telling the story using many characters, each with their own issues, then weaving them all into the finished plot. She has also been given kudos for making each chapter brief, yet jam packed with pieces of the plot puzzle.

Nel Abbott had lived in Mill House by the river her entire life. “The Drowning Pool” as it was called since medieval times was just as much a part of her memory growing up as anything else. It was an intimidating place of secrets, mystery, and witchcraft. Nel had been so consumed with interest in the stories of “troublesome” women who had their lives taken in the Drowning Pool……..some walked in of their own choice, but others had “assistance”………. unsolicited assistance. It is suspected that Nel, a single mother of a teenager, had unwanted assistance in her death in the “Drowning Pool”. And with that, Into the Water takes the reader on an unsettling journey to find the truth.

Hawkin’s “delivers an urgent, twisting, deeply satisfying read that hinges on the deceptiveness of emotion and memory, as well as the devastating ways that the past can reach a long arm into the present”. You know what “they” say……..”Beware a calm surface……you never know what lies beneath”.

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ThrawnEven though Thrawn seems to be one of the most iconic villains in the history of Star Wars, many avid readers find themselves rooting for him and The Empire in the book by Timothy Zahn. Of course, they are not the good guys, but his character development is the best of any of the main characters. Author Zahn chronicles the fateful events that gave the blue-skinned, red-eyed, master of military strategy and lethal warfare his rise into the highest levels of power……and infamy.

Reviewers generally seem to approve of Thrawn more in Zahn’s book much more than in the Legend series, and much better than he is portrayed in the Rebels film series. A definite plug has been given to the audio book format. Reviewers feel that the narrator, Marc Thompson is so good that he is by far the choice to narrate all Star Wars books. Lucasfilm does a great job in creating the perfect mood with the appropriate music and sound effects. One critic says it is more like listening to a radio drama, than an audio book.

As one reviewer adequately stated: “This is a perfect character study. It’s the Thrawn we always wanted but never got in Legends, and finally, he’s in all his glory, in the Star Wars canon”.

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The Black BookIt is quite a quandary when one is accused of murder and they cannot remember a single detail of the incident. And, that person was also caught up in the shooting and sustained near fatal injuries. Such is the premise of the story line in The Black Book by James Patterson. Author Patterson has been a very prolific mystery writer with several series over a period of several years. In this book, Billy Harney comes from a family of cops in Chicago, and has the ethic that he will do anything to excel at his job.

Avid readers have, at times, become disenchanted with Patterson’s work, claiming that he was basically just pumping out books for royalties and not giving much attention to the structure and intensity of the plot, as he did in Along Came a Spider, and Kiss the Girls. However, The Black Book seems to have revived their enthusiasm for Patterson’s work. Even Patterson himself admitted that The Black Book was his best work in years. The plot is said to unfold at a frenetic pace, being told in two tenses at once……past and present. Even the most adept fans thought they had figured out the end of the book, only to find that the actual ending was a complete surprise and was excellently delivered.

Most of the time, Patterson’s books are checked out of the library by many readers, because they do not feel the commercialized mysteries are worth buying. However, The Black Book has changed their minds….. they are just hoping they do not have to wait another several years for another block buster mystery. The Black Book left its readers wanting more.

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Man OverboardAmerican novelist, Jeffrey Deaver, is a number one bestselling author who has published another (the thirteenth) book in his Lincoln Rhyme thriller series. Rymes and his partner Amelia Sachs, are investigating a kidnapping that occurred in broad daylight. The only “evidence”, or calling card as some would call it, was a tiny noose left lying on the street. Then, a bizarre recording surfaces with the sound of the victim being strangled, gasps being heard, as an eerie piece of music plays in the background.

Regardless of how they made every attempt, the perpetrator got away. To their chagrin, another similar kidnapping occurs in Naples, Italy. They immediately head to Italy to combine efforts with the Italian officials, which can prove to be very complicated. They can only follow the evidence before their time runs out to find the killer, who has identified himself as The Composer.

Some critics were not so thrilled with Deaver’s insertion of his political views into The Burial Hour, which has not been done in previous installments of the series. Not sure why he would choose to alienate at least half of his readers. Usually, accomplished authors are able to avoid such personal controversy in their literary works. The readers can evaluate for themselves whether they think the addition of political ideology is pertinent or immaterial to the success of the book.

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Man OverboardMan Overboard is a fast moving suspense thriller full of action on every page. J. A. Jance keeps her readers guessing as to where the story is heading. Her storyline is full of cyber bullying, betrayal, intrigue, suspicious deaths and manipulation.

Roger McGeary’s gets an all-expense paid cruise and he’s having the time of his life on it. That is until he falls over the balcony of his suite. Was it suicide, an accident or murder? The panama police called it a ‘misadventure’ to cover their bases. But Roger’s Aunt Julia isn’t happy with that and she wants answers. So she calls on Rogers’s childhood friend Stuart Ramey and his security team to solve the mystery.

Stuart, Cami, and Ali, part of High Noon Enterprise online security firm, soon find out they’re dealing with a killer who is targeting victims who lost parents to suicide and is attempting to drive them to the same tragic end. And on top of it all…the killer isn’t working alone…

Man Overboard is the 12th book in the series, and although you don’t need to read the others to be able to follow the characters…it will make you want to listen to the others.

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Charlton Heston: Hollywood's Last IconThe New York Times bestselling author, Marc Eliot, has presented another iconic biography in his series. Charlton Heston, who lived a larger than life existence, had a major presence in the history of American film, television, stage, and theater. Heston’s career lasted more than beyond the second half of the 20th Century, with his films being popular worldwide. Other icons in author Eliot’s books include: Cary Grant, Walt Disney, Clint Eastwood, Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, and others. Eliot has stated that he received unprecented access to Heston’s family, friends, private papers, diaries, journals, and writings. The book describes a tale of someone who lived an extraordinary life.

Like all human beings, Heston had great achievements, but also had personal failures. Sometimes we only see what Hollywood wants us to see in such a cultural great as was Heston. Eliot tells a very complex story of how a small boy from Michigan grew up to become one of Hollywood’s most legendary stars. Heston was also one of the Greatest Generation true-life war heroes, having seen action in the Pacific Theater during World War II. After the war, he moved to New York City to try to find success in theater. It was his performance on live television where he was “discovered” by Hollywood. The book explains the unparalleled saga of Heston’s three movies for Cecil B. DeMille, and two films for William Wyle which included film greats, The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur. It was Ben Hur for which Heston won his Best-Actor Oscar.

In his later years, Heston became affiliated with political issues, the NRA, and being at one time asked to run for President by both Republican and Democrat parties. The novel covers Heston’s amazing life with great detail, that will please longtime fans, Hollywood movie lovers, and the new generation just discovering the work of Charlton Heston for the first time.

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Big Little LiesIt seems like any other school fundraiser, but P&C Trivia Night at the local public school in Pirriwee ends with disaster. Author Moriarty is known for her knack for creating main characters who are so believable that any one of us could know them as a next door neighbor, or a friend at PTO.

Big Little Lies is a complicated, yet also simple, story of ordinary people who end up in an extraordinary situation. The reader knows that one character will not be living at the book’s end, but they have no clue as to which character, until the very end of the book. Will it be gregarious, passionate Madeline, who does not use her “filter” if confronting a foe, especially her ex-husband or his new, younger wife. Will it be Celeste, the town beauty who can stop small town traffic with her looks, and the sight of her two energetic twin boys. Or, will it be the young newcomer, Jane, who is a very young single mom, who the others have decided to mentor. The reader finds out after reading through the “brilliant take on ex-husbands, second wives, mothers and daughters, school booard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive”.

Moriarty writes books that keep the reader page turning into the wee hours of the morning, just too good to put down. The film adaptation, by David E. Kelley, tells the tale of three mothers of first graders, whose seemingly perfect lives unravel to show the truth…… even to the point of murder. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley.

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Portraits of CouragePresident George W. Bush has published a new book (Feb. 2017) that is a beautifully done tribute to some soldiers that he had to send in harm’s way after 9/11. It has been described as a vibrant collection of oil paintings depicting 66 of the soldiers, and a four-panel mural. President Bush painted the portraits, then gave the story of each soldier written in his own words.

It is a very daunting job, as President of the United States, to have to ask our military to travel into harm’s way for months, sometimes years at a time. President George W. Bush has made it his mission to create an initiative, The Military Service Initiative, to help post 9/11 veterans and their families in making a successful transition to civilian life. They also address issues such as veteran wellness, post-traumatic stress, and traumatic brain injury. Readers can see the faces of those who answered America’s call to service, and learn life lessons from their bravery on the battlefield, but also from their journey to recovery and the contributions they are making as civilians.

Net profits from all books will be donated to the Bush Institute Military Initiative, through the George Bush Presidential Center on the Dallas campus of SMU. The exhibit is open from March 2 to October 1, 2017.

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A Million Little ThingsAs life can sometimes be, the main character in author, Susan Mallery’s newest book, A Million Little Things, finds herself inundated with relationship complications. Mallery is a very gifted story teller, with her previous books being best sellers and extremely popular with women. Those most popular are “The Girls of Mischief Bay” and “The Friends We Keep“. Her latest offering delves into the dynamics of the complications when family and friendship connections blur.

Main character Zoe Saldivar is not happy being alone. It is one thing to be single, but single and lonely is another matter altogether. She has a best friend who has been that for years, but that friend, Jen, just had a baby who now consumes all her time and energy. Zoe has decided that she must be responsible for finding new friends, and new activities.

Before she knows it, her life is filled with complicated relationships, and she wonders if being alone wasn’t that bad after all. Zoe befriends Jen’s mother, Pam, who is a widow, then the guy she seems drawn to is Jen’s brother, and were that not enough, Pam is being seduced by Zoe’s father, Miguel. “Pam’s flustered, Jen’s annoyed,” and that is when Zoe longed for her “lonely” lifestyle back.

A Million Little Things has romance, friendship, and love, but it also touched other themes such as loss, second chances, responsibility, trust, coping skills, and acceptance. The reactions of the characters have been described as feeling real and human. It has also been said that the characters seem relatable or those who you would enjoy knowing.

“Friendship isn’t just one thing…… it’s A Million Little Things, and no one writes them with more heart and humor than book club sensation Susan Mallery.

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