Book Review: DEAR DAUGHTER by Elizabeth Little

Publisher: Viking Adult
Released: July 31, 2014
Source: Review copy through Penguin’s First To Read Program
Rating: ★★★★¼

A sensational debut thriller featuring an unforgettable heroine who just might have murdered her mother…

Former “It Girl” Janie Jenkins is sly, stunning, and fresh out of prison. Ten years ago, at the height of her fame, she was incarcerated for the murder of her mother, a high-society beauty known for her good works and rich husbands. Now, released on a technicality, Janie makes herself over and goes undercover, determined to chase down the one lead she has on her mother’s killer. The only problem? Janie doesn’t know if she’s the killer she’s looking for.

Janie makes her way to an isolated South Dakota town whose mysteries rival her own. Enlisting the help of some new friends (and the town’s wary police chief), Janie follows a series of clues—an old photograph, an abandoned house, a forgotten diary—and begins to piece together her mother’s seemingly improbable connection to the town. When new evidence from Janie’s own past surfaces, she’s forced to consider the possibility that she and her mother were more alike than either of them would ever have imagined.

As she digs tantalizingly deeper, and as suspicious locals begin to see through her increasingly fragile facade, Janie discovers that even the sleepiest towns hide sinister secrets—and will stop at nothing to guard them. On the run from the press, the police, and maybe even a murderer, Janie must choose between the anonymity she craves and the truth she so desperately needs.

A gripping, electrifying debut novel with an ingenious and like-it-or-not sexy protagonist, Dear Daughter follows every twist and turn as Janie unravels the mystery of what happened the night her mother died—whatever the cost.

DEAR DAUGHTER is the impressive debut novel by Elizabeth Little that kept me reading way past my bedtime. The protagonist is Jane (Janie) Jenkins, an obnoxious “celebutante” who went to prison at age 16 for murdering her mother. What’s worse for Jane is that she’s not sure if she did it or not, and there’s just one obscure clue from that night that could lead to answers.

When Jane is freed from prison a decade after her conviction on a technicality, she heads to a remote South Dakota town under a new identity in hopes of solving the gruesome mystery. Jane’s character was devious, manipulative, and at times down right awful. She had a sharp, sarcastic wit I couldn’t resist. Likable? No. Reliable? Maybe. Compelling? Yes.

This was the kind of book that I hated to put down. I enjoyed the dark and suspenseful atmosphere the author created. I loved the tension, the fast-paced plot, and the isolated setting – especially the creepy ghost town. My one complaint is that there wasn’t a clear explanation of why Jane couldn’t remember if she was the killer or not. Was it alcohol, or just the trauma of the whole thing? I don’t know.

DEAR DAUGHTER was a great book with an ending I wasn’t expecting. All I could say was, “Ha!” I’m hoping for a sequel.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Penguin’s First To Read Program.

Book Review: A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS by Deanna Raybourn

Series: A Spear of Summer Grass, #1
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Released: April 30, 2013
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★¼

Paris, 1923

The daughter of a scandalous mother, Delilah Drummond is already notorious, even amongst Paris society. But her latest scandal is big enough to make even her oft-married mother blanch. Delilah is exiled to Kenya and her favorite stepfather’s savannah manor house until gossip subsides.

Fairlight is the crumbling, sun-bleached skeleton of a faded African dream, a world where dissolute expats are bolstered by gin and jazz records, cigarettes and safaris. As mistress of this wasted estate, Delilah falls into the decadent pleasures of society.

Against the frivolity of her peers, Ryder White stands in sharp contrast. As foreign to Delilah as Africa, Ryder becomes her guide to the complex beauty of this unknown world. Giraffes, buffalo, lions and elephants roam the shores of Lake Wanyama amid swirls of red dust. Here, life is lush and teeming-yet fleeting and often cheap.

Amidst the wonders-and dangers-of Africa, Delilah awakes to a land out of all proportion: extremes of heat, darkness, beauty and joy that cut to her very heart. Only when this sacred place is profaned by bloodshed does Delilah discover what is truly worth fighting for-and what she can no longer live without.

A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS was such an enjoyable story. It’s told from the first person point-of-view of Delilah Drummond, a worldly flapper who’s caused embarrassment to her family one too many times. She’s banished to her stepfather’s ramshackle estate in Colonial Kenya until her latest scandal in Paris blows over. Her journey to this majestic and dangerous place changes her in ways she couldn’t have imagined.

At first Delilah’s character is arrogant, selfish, and shallow, but she’s compelling nonetheless. Her experiences in Africa bring out the complex, yet flawed, person she is below the surface. Delilah forms a precarious relationship with Ryder White, a man just as broken as she is. Ryder was so different from the men Delilah used and tossed aside. He challenged her, which was exactly what she needed.

A SPEAR OF SUMMER GRASS is intriguing historical fiction with romance, mystery, adventure, and an absolutely breathtaking setting. The author’s engaging writing style and rich descriptions of the people, politics, and landscape of Colonial Kenya drew me in. I’m hoping for a sequel!

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: TROUBLE VISION by Allison Kingsley

Series: A Raven’s Nest Bookstore Mystery, #3
Publisher: Berkley
Released: June 4, 2013
Source: Borrowed from the library
Rating: ★★★★¼

In quaint Finn’s Harbor, Maine, cousins and best friends Clara and Stephanie Quinn run The Raven’s Nest bookstore. But thanks to Clara’s ability to read minds and see the future, selling books sometimes gets shelved in favor of saving lives…

When the new mayor calls a press conference about the controversial hotel resort being built on the edge of the city, the residents of Finn’s Harbor have an opportunity to express their concerns about traffic and tourists. But when the debating turns into outright fighting, Clara gets a premonition that’s nothing but trouble.

While Stephanie is enthralled with her cousin’s vision, Clara just wants it to go away. Then a customer comes into The Raven’s Nest talking about a fatal fall at the hotel’s construction site, and Clara knows better than to ignore her Quinn Sense. In a town full of citizens who want the project to fail, Clara and Stephanie have to figure out who made the jump from anger to murder…

TROUBLE VISION is the third book in the Raven’s Nest Bookstore Mystery series, and it’s probably my favorite so far. Clara Quinn helps her cousin Stephanie run the town’s Edgar Allan Poe-ish bookstore that specializes in the paranormal. In addition to bookselling, the cousins have a knack for solving murder mysteries, with a little help from Clara’s “Quinn Sense.”

Before, Clara’s woo-woo gift of clairvoyance has been all over the place, but now it’s getting stronger and more focused. When a construction worker is killed at the site of a controversial new resort project, it’s deemed an accident, but Clara’s visions tell her otherwise. The tricky part is convincing police that it was murder without exposing the family gift, which means it’s up to the cousins to find solid evidence.

This was a quick and enjoyable paranormal cozy mystery. I love that Clara has psychic visions, but they don’t tell her everything. She still has to track down and eliminate suspects, piece together clues, and somehow figure out how it’s all related. The police chief is stubborn and doesn’t want to listen to Clara’s theories, so she has to be persistent and present strong evidence. Of course, sometimes that gets her into trouble…

I absolutely love the Raven’s Nest Bookstore and the quaint coastal Maine town. It was also fun watching Clara’s romance with the hardware store man heat up. (It’s about time!!) I’m ready to go back to Finn’s Harbor.

Book Review: THE LEMON ORCHARD by Luanne Rice

Lemon Orchard
Publisher: Penguin Books
Paperback Release: May 27, 2014
Source: Review copy provided by Rock Star PR
Rating: ★★★★¼

Year after year, Luanne Rice’s fans eagerly await her next book. Their enthusiasm is soon to be rewarded with The Lemon Orchard, Rice’s romantic new love story between two people from seemingly different worlds.

In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope.

Set in the sea and citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains, The Lemon Orchard is an affirming story about the redemptive power of compassion and the kind of love that seems to find us when we need it most.

THE LEMON ORCHARD is a bittersweet love story set in a beautiful Malibu lemon orchard by the Pacific Ocean. It’s in this orchard that Julia, an anthropologist, and Roberto, an undocumented immigrant worker, meet and fall in love. Julia’s teenage daughter was killed in a tragic accident five years earlier, and she’s been living in a fog of grief ever since. A job as house sitter for her aunt and uncle at their lemon orchard seems like the perfect escape. Roberto has been living with his own grief too. He lost his daughter Rosa in the Arizona desert after crossing the border from Mexico, and she was never found. Living in the United States illegally makes it almost impossible to find Rosa again, but he won’t give up hope.

This book was so much bigger than the unlikely romance between two different individuals. It gave an eye-opening account of the lengths desperate people will go through to support their families. Illegal immigration from Mexico is a hot-button issue in the US, and I think this book brings to light the horror and suffering that individuals and families go through to cross the border. Throughout the book, the author compares the poor treatment of Irish immigrants in the 19th century with what is happening with Mexican immigrants today, which is compelling food for thought.

THE LEMON ORCHARD was an emotional and suspenseful read for me, and I enjoyed it. Luanne Rice has a beautiful, fluid writing-style that completely pulls me in. Her vivid descriptions of the lush orchard and the Santa Monica Mountains were so gorgeous. I so wanted to be there. This book left me with a couple of niggling questions, particularly about Julia’s daughter, but that’s okay. THE LEMON ORCHARD was heartbreaking and thought-provoking, and well worth a read.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the book tour company in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: FOUR FRIENDS by Robyn Carr

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Released: March 25, 2014
Source: Review copy from the publisher through NetGalley

Gerri can’t decide what’s more devastating: learning her rock-solid marriage has big cracks, or the anger she feels as she tries to repair the damage. Always the anchor for friends and her three angst-ridden teenagers, it’s time to look carefully at herself. The journey for Gerri and her family is more than revealing—it’s transforming.

Andy doesn’t have a great track record with men, and she’s come to believe that for her a lasting love is out of reach. When she finds herself attracted to her down-to-earth, ordinary contractor—a man without any of the qualities that usually appeal to her—she questions everything she thought she wanted in life.

Sonja’s lifelong pursuit of balance is shattered when her husband declares he’s through with her New Age nonsense and walks out. There’s no herbal tonic or cleansing ritual that can restore her serenity—or her sanity.

Miraculously, it’s BJ, the reserved newcomer to Mill Valley, who steps into their circle and changes everything. The woman with dark secrets opens up to her neighbors, and together they get each other back on track, stronger as individuals and unfaltering as friends.


I’m a huge fan of Robyn Carr’s contemporary romances, so I was excited to give her women’s fiction a try. Like the title states, the book is about four friends who live on the same block, and how they support each other through the toughest times in their lives. The story addresses the challenges many 40-something women face, such as infidelity, divorce, raising teenagers, and depression, in a relatable, down-to-earth way. Though the subject matter is heavy, Ms. Carr is able to leave readers with a sense of hope when it’s all said and done.

Reading FOUR FRIENDS stirred up all kinds of emotions for me. I got attached to this group of friends quickly, and though I might not have had their experiences personally, I could sympathize with them. The book starts with Andy throwing her husband’s things out on the front lawn, and within a couple of weeks, Sonja and Gerri are facing marital crises too. Gerri’s problems are particularly surprising because her marriage seemed unbreakable. BJ, the quiet neighbor on the block with her own dark secrets, comes out of her shell when the trouble starts and joins the group, saving Sonja’s life in the process.

Most of the men in this book were just awful, but there was one gem in the bunch – Bob. He’s the complete opposite of the selfish, egotistical jerks who Andy usually attracts, and I enjoyed watching their romance bloom. Thank goodness for Bob!

The constant throughout the book is friendship. It’s the strong bond between the four women that sees them through and makes them stronger in the end. I greatly enjoyed meeting these four friends, and I’d recommend their story to fans of poignant women’s fiction.

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.