The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine

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My Review:

Amber Patterson has had a disappointing life and so she sets her eyes on a handsome, rich married man, Jackson Parrish, with her goal being to make him hers, in The Last Mrs. Parrish.  She befriends his lovely wife, Daphne, and weasels her way into the family, developing relationships with his inner circle, even his young children.  Amber’s sisterly connection with Daphne deepens as they have what seems to be unbreakable ties as they bond over similar experiences of loss, and their friendship appears to be genuine and strong.  But Amber is conniving and she works her way into Mr. Parrish’s office, ultimately getting a job as his assistant, and manipulating him into being interested in her and thinking his wife is becoming a bore.  Continually scheming to get what she wants, this psychological thriller draws you in.  And then there is a twist…We learn about Daphne Parrish’s past, her relationship with her husband, Jackson, and the truth behind her seemingly beautiful life and perfect marriage.  Secrets are revealed fast and furious; The Last Mrs. Parrish is not a book to put down…it is a one day read…maddening and tragic, addictive, thrilling and entertaining….a great escape!

As Seen of Goodreads:

A mesmerizing debut psychological thriller full of delicious twists about a coolly manipulative woman who worms her way into the lives of a wealthy “golden couple” from Connecticut to achieve the privileged life she wants.

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted. To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne and her husband, Jackson—the beautiful philanthropist and the confident real estate mogul—are a golden couple straight out of a fairytale, blessed with two lovely young daughters.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrish family, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces.

With shocking turns and dark secrets that will keep you guessing until the very end, The Last Mrs. Parrish is a fresh, juicy, and utterly addictive thriller from a diabolically imaginative talent.

 

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About the Author:

Liv Constantine is the pen name of USA Today and WSJ bestselling authors and sisters Lynne Constantine and Valerie Constantine. Separated by three states, they spend hours plotting via skype and burning up each other’s emails. They attribute their ability to concoct dark story lines to the hours they spent listening to tales handed down by their Greek grandmother. THE LAST MRS. PARRISH is their debut thriller. Visit them at www.livconstantine.com

Rights for THE LAST MRS. PARRISH have been sold in 19 other territories, including Spain, Brazil, Portugal, Poland, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, France, the Czech Republic, Turkey, Korea, the UK, China, and Russia.

 

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A House Among the Trees by Julia Glass

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My Review:

In author Julia Glass’s latest, character driven novel, A House Among the Trees, Mort Lear, a famous children’s author, vaguely reminiscent of Maurice Sendak, unexpectedly falls to his death off the roof of his Connecticut home in a fluke accident.  His longtime, live-in assistant Tomasina (Tommy) is left to pick up the pieces, address his fortune, complete unfinished business and come to terms with their co-dependent relationship.  In addition, surprising details of Morty’s past surface causing Tommy to question how well she actually knew him.

When Tommy was a child she saw an eccentric man sketching pictures of her little brother as she watched over him on the playground.  She gave the man the ok to continue as long as her brother remained unaware, and years later she came across Mort Lear’s popular children’s book with those familiar illustrations from long ago.  As a favor, and to pay her back for allowing him to draw her brother, Mort gives Tommy a job working for him, and 40 years later after setting aside her personal needs and living with Morty in the country, Tommy is left alone.

Mort’s best-selling children’s book has a movie deal, and the unlikely famous, British actor, Nicholas Greene, cast to be the lead, had been in touch with Mort via email, sharing private stories and developing an unprecedented relationship.  Both had experienced loss, fame and loneliness in different ways and Nick had been looking forward to continuing to bond with Mort in person prior to his unexpected death.    As a courtesy, Tommy agrees to host Nick for a few days and help him get a feel for what Morty’s life was like.  Little did she know To her shock and surprise, Nick had learned some personal details of Morty’s past that were very different from what he had shared with her during their lifetime together.

Tommy is faced with processing upetting information about Morty’s youth while hosting Nick at the Connecticut home, giving Merry the museum curator some bad news about artwork she had been expecting to receive, and reconnecting with her estranged brother who was never publicly recognized as the model for Morty’s popular illustrations.

Julia Glass provides well written back story to enrich the detail and provide depth as she weaves her story around the characters.  She touches upon issues such as fame and loneliness, nontraditional relationships between adults and children, what we think is owed to us, family, legacy, loyalty and the individual quest for happiness.  I enjoyed A House Among the Trees and highly recommend it for book clubs.

 

 

As Seen on Goodreads:

From the beloved author of the National Book Award winning Three Junes. The unusual bond between a world-famous children’s author and his assistant sets the stage for a richly plotted novel of friendship and love, artistic ambition, and the power of an unexpected legacy.

When the revered children’s author Mort Lear dies accidentally at the Connecticut home he shares with Tomasina Daulair, his trusted assistant, she is stunned to be left the house and all its contents, as well as being named his literary executor. Though not quite his daughter or his wife, Tommy was nearly everything to the increasingly reclusive Lear, whom she knew for over forty years since meeting him as a child in a city playground where Lear was making sketches for Colorquake, a book that would become an instant classic.

Overwhelmed by the responsibility for Lear’s bequest, she must face the demands of all those affected by the sudden loss, including the lonely, outraged museum curator to whom Lear once promised his artistic estate; the beguiling British actor recently cast to play Lear in a movie; and her own estranged brother. She must also face the demons of Morty’s painful past the subject of that movie and a future that will no longer include him. A visit from the actor leads to revelations and confrontations that challenge much of what Tommy believed she knew about her boss’s life and work and, ultimately, about her own.”

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About the Author:

Julia Glass (born March 23, 1956) is an American novelist. Her debut novel, Three Junes, won the National Book Award for Fiction in 2002.[1]

Glass followed Three Junes with a second novel, The Whole World Over, in 2006, set in the same Bank Street–Greenwich Village universe, with three interwoven stories featuring several characters from Three Junes.[2] Her third novel, I See You Everywhere, was published in 2008; her fourth, The Widower’s Tale, in 2010; and her fifth, And the Dark Sacred Night, in 2014.

Glass was born in Boston, grew up in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and attended Concord Academy. She graduated from Yale in 1978. Intending to become a painter, she moved to New York City, where she lived for many years, painting in a small studio in Brooklyn and supporting herself as a free-lance editor and copy editor, including several years in the copy department of Cosmopolitan magazine. She lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts, with her partner, the photographer Dennis Cowley, and their two children, and works as a freelance journalist and editor. She is a previous winner of the William Faulkner – William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition.

Fiction You Shouldn’t Miss

Great new books are being published all the time and it is not easy to keep up.  Here are several of my favorite fictional novels from the recent past.  Have you read them all?

 

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Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

As stated in Goodreads:

Ruth Jefferson is a labor and delivery nurse at a Connecticut hospital with more than twenty years’ experience. During her shift, Ruth begins a routine checkup on a newborn, only to be told a few minutes later that she’s been reassigned to another patient. The parents are white supremacists and don’t want Ruth, who is African American, to touch their child. The hospital complies with their request, but the next day, the baby goes into cardiac distress while Ruth is alone in the nursery. Does she obey orders or does she intervene?

Ruth hesitates before performing CPR and, as a result, is charged with a serious crime. Kennedy McQuarrie, a white public defender, takes her case but gives unexpected advice: Kennedy insists that mentioning race in the courtroom is not a winning strategy. Conflicted by Kennedy’s counsel, Ruth tries to keep life as normal as possible for her family—especially her teenage son—as the case becomes a media sensation. As the trial moves forward, Ruth and Kennedy must gain each other’s trust, and come to see that what they’ve been taught their whole lives about others—and themselves—might be wrong.

With incredible empathy, intelligence, and candor, Jodi Picoult tackles race, privilege, prejudice, justice, and compassion—and doesn’t offer easy answers. Small Great Things is a remarkable achievement from a writer at the top of her game.

 

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

As stated in Goodreads:

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible “adult” around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.

 

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The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

As stated in Goodreads:

Despite their differences, sisters Vianne and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Vianne is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Vianne finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her.

As the war progresses, the sisters’ relationship and strength are tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Vianne and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.

 

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The Paris Architect by Charles Belfoure

As stated in Goodreads:

Like most gentiles in Nazi-occupied Paris, architect Lucien Bernard has little empathy for the Jews. So when a wealthy industrialist offers him a large sum of money to devise secret hiding places for Jews, Lucien struggles with the choice of risking his life for a cause he doesn’t really believe in. Ultimately he can’t resist the challenge and begins designing expertly concealed hiding spaces—behind a painting, within a column, or inside a drainpipe—detecting possibilities invisible to the average eye. But when one of his clever hiding spaces fails horribly and the immense suffering of Jews becomes incredibly personal, he can no longer deny reality.

Written by an expert whose knowledge imbues every page, this story becomes more gripping with every life the architect tries to save.

 

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Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

As stated in Goodreads:

In this striking literary debut, Carol Rifka Brunt unfolds a moving story of love, grief, and renewal as two lonely people become the unlikeliest of friends and find that sometimes you don’t know you’ve lost someone until you’ve found them.

1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life—someone who will help her to heal, and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart.

At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment, and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.

 

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The Rent Collector by Cameron Wright

As stated in Goodreads:

Survival for Ki Lim and Sang Ly is a daily battle at Stung Meanchey, the largest municipal waste dump in all of Cambodia. They make their living scavenging recyclables from the trash. Life would be hard enough without the worry for their chronically ill child, Nisay, and the added expense of medicines that are not working. Just when things seem worst, Sang Ly learns a secret about the bad-tempered rent collector who comes demanding money–a secret that sets in motion a tide that will change the life of everyone it sweeps past.

The Rent Collector is a story of hope, of one woman’s journey to save her son and another woman’s chance at redemption.

 

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A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

As stated in Goodreads:

A grumpy yet loveable man finds his solitary world turned on its head when a boisterous young family moves in next door.

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon, the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him the bitter neighbor from hell, but must Ove be bitter just because he doesn’t walk around with a smile plastered to his face all the time?

Behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.