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Island Bluffs by Alan Winter
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Island Bluffs

by Alan Winter

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You’d never know it by the lovely cover, but this is a story that delves into the dark side.

And the title is an excellent choice as it can be construed different ways in the book.

Carly can’t conceive and she’s desperate to carry and deliver a child. She and her husband Gabe go above and beyond to have their baby, seeking help from a fertility specialist.

The doctor is supposed to work miracles and he does. Carly is now in her third trimester and it’s time to move.

When they first met with the doctor, he had some peculiar ideas. One deal breaker was, they had to move somewhere during the last trimester that was within a 30 minute drive of the clinic.

The other thing, the strange thing, is Carly must carry two embryos. One is from her and Gabe, the other is unknown. She will never see this other child. It belongs to the doctor.

Gabe is a boat nut. He never passes up a chance to be on the water. One day he spies a house on the peninsula of Island Bluffs. He’s inexplicably drawn to it. Despite Carly’s misgivings about the long empty and fixer upper, they buy it and move in.

So many angles in this book.

The strange doctor with his odd stipulations and deeply troubled past. What’s with the children? Why does he only want boys? My mind played havoc with the scenarios.

Megan, Gabe’s 17 year old daughter from his previous marriage. She’s still not over her mothers death and she’s playing the role of step-mother hate to the hilt. I had hopes she’d come around to Carly eventually. And her adoration and respect for her grandfather, Yehuda, is heartwarming.

You’ll like Yehuda. He’s a survivor of the holocaust, yet still sees good in people. He forms a friendship with Buck, the local eccentric and handy man. I loved their friendship.

Buck has his own story that ties into Carly and Gabe’s new house. Can’t tell you why though. Buck went off to war and had to leave his true love many years ago. When he returned he learned she’d gone missing and was never found. To this day, he still loves and misses her, and the police keep her yellowed missing poster up at the station in deference to him.

Then the house has a story. One that will surprise and chill you. Music is heard in the house when there’s no radio on. Voices are heard in the walls.

The town of Island Bluffs is shrouded in mystery. The people that live there are insular. They take time to warm up and accept the new family. And they keep many secrets.

This sounds like a horror thriller doesn’t it? You could call it that. But there’s mysteries in mysteries, darkness and light, and some very surprising revelations.

I was drawn in quickly and felt a connection to the characters. They each had their own flaws, which made them more genuine. I like strong characters and found plenty in this story.

Set aside some reading time when you start this. You won’t want any interruptions. ( )
  laura-thomas | Feb 1, 2016 |
Island Bluffs is the story of a family who moves into a house that has been unoccupied for years and is full of dark secrets. The house is located on the Jersey shore of Barnegat Bay. It is ouside a small town where some of the townspeople don't want the secrets revealed and want the house empty again. Island Bluffs has two storylines going-one about the past and secrets of the house and the other about the present and the family who has moved into it. Both stories blend together nicely. The plots are solid and the characters are well developed. This book has layers like peeling an onion,each layer a pleasant surprise. This book was an enjoyable read and kept me wanting to see what was going to happen next. It ended with a great finish, tying everything up nicely. I received this book free from NetGalley for an honest review, which is what I just wrote. Try the book. You'll enjoy it's many twists and turns. ( )
  BevAsh | Jan 24, 2016 |
Island Bluffs is the story of a family who moves into a house that has been unoccupied for years and is full of dark secrets. The house is located on the Jersey shore of Barnegat Bay. It is ouside a small town where some of the townspeople don't want the secrets revealed and want the house empty again. Island Bluffs has two storylines going-one about the past and secrets of the house and the other about the present and the family who has moved into it. Both stories blend together nicely. The plots are solid and the characters are well developed. This book has layers like peeling an onion,each layer a pleasant surprise. This book was an enjoyable read and kept me wanting to see what was going to happen next. It ended with a great finish, tying everything up nicely. I received this book free from NetGalley for an honest review, which is what I just wrote. Try the book. You'll enjoy it's many twists and turns. ( )
  BevAsh | Jan 24, 2016 |
What would a couple agree to in order to have a biological child? Is anything too much? Carly and Gabe Berk face that question when all conventional attempts have failed. Gabe has a daughter from his first marriage but Carly is determined to have the whole experience of giving birth to a child herself. When they hear about “The Baby Maker”, Dr. Isadore Teplitsky, Carly is determined to take advantage of his reputation. Dr. Teplitsky guarantees Carly will become pregnant but only if she agree to the terms of his contract … she must agree to carry twins, one her biological child and the other a child for him, which she will give up at birth and never see again and in her last trimester she must move within 30 minutes of his clinic.

Although reluctant to leave NYC Gabe soon enough finds a house for them on Island Bluffs, a sleepy community on the Jersey shore. It’s a decrepit foreclosure that has sat empty for 60 years, but Gabe feels unexplainably drawn to the place. Almost before he realizes it himself he has torn the “for Sale” sign out of the front yard and began negotiating the purchase and renovation. Even before the first piece of furniture is off the moving van it becomes clear that the town hierarchy does not want the Berk’s to move into their house. But why? And, what are they trying to hide?

When I read the book description I was expecting a book about a sinister doctor and his evil schemes ala “The Boys from Brazil”. I wasn’t disappointed – I got a little bit of that. But, I also got SO much more. “Island Bluffs” is a book that has several concurrent story lines, and although that can get confusing and frustrating at times, in this book it works brilliantly because they are so intricately intertwined that it flows seamlessly. The writing is nice and tight so even when Mr. Winter has to take a break and explain some point of history (and there are a lot of historical facts in this book) it is woven so skillfully into the narrative that the thread and pace of the story is never interrupted. Well-done Mr. Winter!

The characters I enjoyed the most were those of Gabe Berk’s father, Yehuda, and Buck, the handyman. Both characters are octogenarians with tragic pasts that they have overcome with grit and determination. They become fast friends over the course of the book and supply the story with both tenderness and some humour.

There is no way to describe all the elements in this book without having to put a huge “Spoiler Alert” banner at the top of this post, which is something I always try to avoid. Let me just say, taking some of the best elements from “The Boys From Brazil”, “The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming”, “Das Boot”, “Poltergeist” and “The Notebook” and rolling them into one cohesive story would come close to describing Mr. Winter’s page-turner.

The only negative comment I might have, and I am allowing some leeway since I received an ARC, is that it needed a better version of “Spellcheck”. Some of the errors were almost inexcusable, such as spelling the major character’s name wrong (Berk/Burk) and the little bit of dialogue that was written in German was really bad. Errors I hope are rectified in the final version.

Overall, I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone interested in a page turning read.
( )
  ChristineEllei | Jul 14, 2015 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 193750686X, Paperback)

Island Bluffs is a story of love, forgiveness, and understanding the dark side of the human spirit. It explores the age-old question: are children accountable for the sins of their parents and grandparents? Carly Mason is a successful New York City forensic dentist. She and her widower husband, Gabe Berk, are trying to start a family. Thinking they had exhausted the options by consulting with all of Manhattan’s fertility experts, Carly and Gabe learn of an eccentric scientist who runs an exclusive clinic. The doctor commits to helping the couple conceive the baby they so desperately want, but only if they agree to what seems like an outrageous stipulation; Carly must carry twins, one biological and one that she is a surrogate for. Once the twins are born Carly has to surrender the non-biological twin to the doctor at birth, no questions asked. Further, should the old doctor die before Carly gives birth, she has to agree to give the baby the name chosen by the doctor. As required for treatment, Carly and Gabe move into a new house, which is within thirty minutes of the clinic. They soon discover that their new home and town, Island Bluffs, are far from ordinary. Carly and Gabe feel eyes spying on them at every turn. Gabe’s father, Yehuda, hears strange noises that only he can hear. Megan, Gabe’s rebellious sixteen-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, is attracted to the son of a Neo-Nazi. The mysteries continue to deepen as a scavenger ship appears on nearby waters searching for sunken treasure along with glimpses of a lone swimmer lumbering through the waves of Barnegat Bay. Island Bluffs is a present-day town bound to the past by horrible secrets and pacts made long ago. Keeping secrets buried as some had hoped was no longer an option for the Berks. Their new and some thought long-forgotten home made that impossible by putting them squarely in the middle of it all. When the truths are revealed, the shocking twists and turns will challenge the very notions of what is right and wrong.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 06 Aug 2015 04:07:47 -0400)

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