Kiss River by Diane Chamberlain 

Title: Kiss River
Author: Diane Chamberlain
Genre: General Fiction, Romance
Source: Library
Rating: Liked it (3 out of 5)

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Set 10 years after the events of Keeper of the Light, Kiss River is the second of a trilogy of books by Diane Chamberlain that follows lives, losses, and loves of the residents of Kiss River, a small town in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

The first novel focused on Alec, Paul, and Olivia and how they dealt with the sudden death of Alec’s wife Annie. This time round it is Annie and Alec’s children – Clay and Lacey – who are front and centre. Plus Gina, a beautiful amateur lighthouse historian, who appears on Clay and Lacey’s doorstep – and also appears to know very little, if anything, about lighthouses.

That’s because Gina’s interest in the lighthouse (or what is left of it – it was party destroyed in a hurricane at the end of Keeper of the Light) is much more personal. Fuelled by secrets revealed in the diary of the former lighthouse keeper, Gina is determined to raise the lighthouse’s lens – lost for a decade – no matter what. It is the reason she has come to Kiss River and the only reason she stays, at least until she starts to get to know Clay.

Clay and Lacey, meanwhile, have secrets of their own, demons they aren’t doing too well fighting. Clay is struggling to cope with the death of his wife, Lacey with secrets revealed about her mother ten years previously. She is it seems, doomed to repeat the past, until Gina arrives and provides her and Clay with a catalyst for change.

All of this leads to a book high on emotion, most of it built on secrets and lies that are bound to come out eventually, and – as with Keeper of the Light – I was drawn along. I wanted to know the truth and what happened next. This time though, I was a little disappointed when the truths were revealed, mainly Gina’s. It took the focus away from what I think Diane Chamberlain does really well – looking at human behaviour, the how and why we do things and also the fact that everyone has a chance to fix mistakes. It just felt too big and too complicated. I like simple and this wasn’t. As a result, it didn’t sit well with me and I was left liking the book not loving it.

Emma x

Cypress Grove by James Sallis

Title: Cypress Grove
Author: James Sallis
Genre: Crime Fiction
Source: Purchased
Rating: Liked it a Lot (4 out of 5)

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After a life where he has been a student, a soldier, a psychologist, a detective and a convict, Turner has moved to a small town just outside Memphis. His plan, to live his life in peace and quiet and maybe take a little of that peace into himself. All seems to be going well until the Sheriff turns up with a bottle of whisky and a murder.

The murder is ritualistic. A drifter has been found bound and staked by some local kids. The police don’t know who he is, why he was in town, or who might want him dead. Turner’s reputation as a good cop, it seems, isn’t something that he could hide from and the Sheriff asks for his help. Reluctantly, though not too much so, Turner steps in.

As with all James Sallis novels that I have read the crime and the solving are almost second place to the characters. Turner is a complex person with a lot of layers and in flashbacks his past is revealed one key event at a time. Nothing has been clear cut in his life and he is not a clear and easy character to read. At the heart of it though, he is a decent person and one I really warmed to.

The Sheriff, his deputy, and Turner’s potential girlfriend were on the periphery, their stories being told more to share how Turner responded I felt, to show what type of person he is. This is the first of a series though so I hope they are built on in future books as they were all interesting – or at least had the potential to be so.

The writing is very much what I had come to expect with James Sallis novels; clean, minimalistic. I love how he conveys so much, about a place and people, with so few words, not one of which is wasted. He has a great ability to paint a scene and make you feel you are there.

Overall, then, I really liked this book – I had expected to in all honesty – I didn’t love it though, not compared to others I have read. There was just a little something that didn’t hit me as powerfully as the others (or maybe I’m just getting used to the style); this is why I’ve given it 4 not 5 out of 5. However, it is a great book and one I think people would really enjoy.

Emma