The Dream Daughter

The Dream DaughterThe Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 2nd 2018
Pages: 384
ISBN: 1250087309
Buy on Amazon
three-half-stars

What would you do to save your child?

That really is the question in this book. Caroline Sears receives word that her unborn baby has a fatal heart defect. She is devastated, she has lost so much already. Her husband has gone missing and is presumed dead in Vietnam. Then one day her brother-in-law, Hunter comes to Caroline/Carly with some startling news. He believes there is a way that her unborn baby can be saved. She needs to suspend some disbelief. The reader needs to suspend some disbelief. As he explains to her how her child can be saved, some things begin to make sense and she decides to make a leap of faith!

I won’t say much more about the plot but to say, this book is about one woman’s journey to save her child and, in the process, grows as a person and learns what being a mother is all about. The reader is also given a glimpse into the progress of medical science and prenatal care. We are also shown the emotional scope of having a child with a birth defect and the struggles to keep your child healthy and the emotions (and exhaustion) of having a child with health issues. When being strong is not a choice but a necessity.

While reading this book, I felt many emotions and it was like a roller coaster ride. Would her baby receive the treatment she needs? Will the child survive? How will she make it back home? How will her sister react?

This was not my favorite book by Chamberlain, but it was enjoyable and as I stated, it does evoke emotion. Chamberlain continues to write thoughtful books which stir the emotions while dealing with real life issues. She does take a chance with time travel in this book and I appreciated that she did not get too technical with how time travel works, etc. I appreciated that she let Carly’s courage to save her baby take center stage and kept the time travel take a smaller but important role in this book.  Obviously the time travel is needed but it does not overshadow the love and sacrifice in this book.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this review are my own.

three-half-stars

How to Walk Away

How to Walk AwayHow to Walk Away by Katherine Center
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 15th 2018
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250149061
Buy on Amazon
three-half-stars

“Sometimes the last thing you want is the one thing you need.”

At the beginning of the book, Margret Jacobsen was right where she wanted to be in her life. She had earned her MBA, she was about to start a dream job, and was in a relationship with the “perfect man”. What could be better? Then on day, Chip, the perfect man, decided to take her flying. He knew that she was scared to fly, he knew that she had reservations, but he talked her into it. Never mind that although he is taking private pilot lessons and is so very close to getting his license – he was not a licensed pilot. He took out a plane and up they flew.

What was supposed to be a romantic flight where they became engaged, turned into a nightmare. During landing they crashed, and Chip walked away without any injuries while Margret was not so lucky. In the hospital, she learned just how extensive her injuries are. She also learned some family secrets, faces heartbreak, copes with her medical situation and prognosis for her future. Her sister, Kit, who has been estranged form the family for several years, comes back into her life and provides a cushion for Margaret (Maggie) as she copes with her current situation, her parents, Chip, Chip’s Mother and her own feelings about her physical injuries. As she struggles with her physical therapy and her attempts to get a smile out of Ian, her physical therapist, we watch as she learns she still has a future, can still enjoy her life, and move on from past hurts.

People show you who THEY are in how they treat you. Chip showed his true colors as he wallowed in self-pity, as did his Mother, who was just plain disgusting in my opinion, as did Ian, who the Nurses felt would be too touch on Margaret but proved to be the one who encouraged her to not give up. I enjoyed how Margaret and her sister, Kit, interacted. They had some humorous and touching conversations. There are some interesting characters in this book with distinct personalities.

A lot of research went into Margaret’s medical condition, burns, prognosis and physical therapy options. I kept wanting to hear the legal consequences for Chip. He was not a licensed pilot, took a plane and crashed. How is he not arrested for theft, held responsible for the crash, sued, etc? I know the focus on the story was about Margaret, but his aspect of the book annoyed me a little. Plus, I felt she was too nice. He should have been responsible for her medical costs.

But, I did like how she is depicted as having various emotions during her hospital stay when learning of her injuries and her prognosis: shock, fear, hope, determination, worry, acceptance etc. I found that part to be realistic and made the book more enjoyable. She didn’t just initially accept things and move on, she needed support which she mainly received form her physical therapist and her sister. Yes, her parents were supportive as well, but I really enjoyed her relationship with her sister and her physical therapist.

This was an enjoyable book about moving on, second chances, inner strength, family, acceptance and not giving up.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

three-half-stars

Black Star Renegades

Black Star RenegadesBlack Star Renegades by Michael Moreci
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 2nd 2018
Pages: 375
ISBN: 1250117844
Buy on Amazon
three-stars

Galaxy hoping, space rebels, evil characters, pilots, friends, foes, robots, sword fights, backstabbing and an epic quest all take place in this book. The galaxy is at war and they need the “chosen one” foretold by legend, to swoop in and save the day. But what happens when the chosen one meets his demise, and another must step up to the plate?

Cade and his older brother, Tristan, are orphans who travel to the caves of Quarry on a mission. There tragedy strikes, and Cade is the sole survivor. He was supposed to walk out with his brother Tristan who was the chosen one, but they were not the only ones in the cave, which left Cade in possession of the Rokura (mystical weapon), and the responsibility to right wrongs and save the galaxy. Cade does not really want to be the “Paragon” and becomes a reluctant hero in this book.

First and foremost: My advice is to read the glossary. I put a book mark in the back of the book, so I could easily turn to the glossary when I had a question as to who a character was, etc. I found it helped me to keep track of everyone and the places they went, implements they used, etc. I didn’t realize the book had a glossary initially. I wish I would have discovered the glossary in the very beginning of the book. I was struggling a little in the beginning of this book – keeping everything straight. I do not read a lot of sci-fi books and I have a hard time visualizing things/environments/etc and that do not “exist” so having the glossary helped immensely. Plus, characters and places have unusual words, so the glossary proved helpful again. Eventually, I did not need the glossary, but I did find it very helpful.

There is a lot of conflict in this book as one would expect with a “we-must-save-the-galaxy” book! There are battles, sword fights, revelations, and a rag tag group who ban together to save the day…errr, galaxy! The story is a little predictable but that should not deter anyone. Sometimes it is about the journey. This book is an homage to Star Wars and it shows. I think that this book should be read with that in mind. This book has a strong YA feel to it for me, which is not a critique or a bad thing whatsoever. I believe teens and sci-fi fans will enjoy this. I am not a big science fiction reader and I did struggle with parts of this book. Specifically, I struggled in the beginning but found as the book progressed, I enjoyed it more.

I received a copy of this book form the Author in exchange for an honest review.

three-stars

How Hard Can It Be?

How Hard Can It Be?How Hard Can It Be? by Allison Pearson
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 5th 2018
Pages: 352
ISBN: 1250086086
Buy on Amazon
three-stars

How Hard Can It Be? is a sequel to “I don’t know how she does it”. I did not read the first book and I did not feel that I was missing anything but not having read that book first. This book worked very well as a standalone novel for me.

Kate Ready is almost 50, she is returning to the workforce and finds herself having to lie about her age to be considered for employment. Her husband is distant and appears to be more into his self-help books and bike riding than he is in her or their marriage. Her daughter has taken an inappropriate picture of herself and it was posted on the internet, she has aging parents and is dealing with the onset of menopause. Kate has a lot going on in this book.

There are some zany moments of Kate getting caught, as in she is stuck and can’t get out of it, in her spanx-like underwear and trying to host her daughter’s Christmas party but overall the book this book failed to really blow me away. The main character is dealing with just about everything but the kitchen sink in this book, and although some of it feels cliched, the character is in the age range where she would be dealing with aging parents, teenager angst, pre-menopause, juggling a career with raising a family, etc. So, I can’t really fault the Author for throwing all of those into this book. A lot of readers will also be able to relate to a lot of the issues brought up in this book. To add to Kate’s woes, a man from her past comes into the picture and she feels those long-ago longing stirred up.

This book deals with a lot of issues: how social media can be used in bullying/sharing of inappropriate pictures, infidelity, the aging process, teenage angst, friendship, return to the workforce, and coping with change. This book does deal with some heavy issues but does so in a light manner. That does not mean that this book takes those issues lightly, it just chooses to deal with them in keeping with the characters personalities.

I liked this book, but I didn’t love it. I would not go out of my way to recommend it to someone, but at the same time, if I saw someone reading the book, I would most likely say “Oh yeah, I read that. Good book”. Good not great. There were parts that I felt went on a little too long. I know there will be readers who will pick up this book and love it, but when there are sections which I just want to skim so I get through them and back to the part of the book which I enjoyed. There were some things I found to be unrealistic in this book such as Kate not telling her husband about their daughter’s issues with her picture being distributed on social media. Perhaps this was done to show the distance between them in the relationship, but I found it unrealistic that she would not have told her daughter’s father about the incident and how this was impacting their child.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

three-stars

The Italian Party

The Italian PartyThe Italian Party by Christina Lynch
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 20th 2018
Pages: 336
ISBN: 1250147832
Buy on Amazon
three-half-stars

Scottie and Michael are newlyweds living in Tuscany in the 1950’s. What could be better! Sound like the adventure of a lifetime and in many ways, it is. But they both have secrets they are keeping from the other. They really didn’t know each other for too long before they decided to get married. Michael liked that Scottie was educated at Vassar. That meant she came from money, right? She is a blonde from California and he believed she must come from a “good family.” Scottie looks good on his arm. She is quite beautiful, and Michael liked the image they presented. Scottie liked that Michael was educated at Yale. He wore a sharp looking suit and is a handsome man. He is kind, intelligent and charming. Plus, he has a good job. What more could a girl ask for? Plus, Scottie has a secret and has not been forthcoming about her past as she should have been.

Michael also has secrets he is keeping from Scottie. Michael has a secret job. Scottie believes he works for the Ford company and they are in Italy, so he can do business for Ford. Michael really works for the CIA and is in Sienna to make sure a certain candidate wins the election. His goal is to make sure that the current communist leader is not re-elected. That is not his only secret.

When Scottie’s Italian teacher goes missing, she learns many things. There are “truths” out there. The truths about herself, her husband, her marriage, and world affairs. When the “truths” come out, how will Michael and Scottie react? How will this affect them individually, as a married couple and as American’s living abroad.

This was an enjoyable book that touches on many things. It is part humor – part drama – part romance. It touches on living abroad, living with secrets, world affairs in the 1950’s, how secrets affect us, identity, duty, being true to yourself, and living a lie. I found it to be well written and engaging. Plus, the setting and the food will make you wish you were reading this book while vacationing in Italy! Plus, all the characters are likable, engaging and I felt for all of them. Both Scottie and Michael are likable, and I can’t say more about them without giving away some of the plot. What I will say is that this book is charming, entertaining and well written. It’s not a page turner but it will suck you in to these characters world and into their lives.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s press in exchange for an honest review.

three-half-stars

Baby Teeth

Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
on July 17th 2018
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250170753
Buy on Amazon
three-stars

Baby Teeth is a “psychological” thriller focusing on a dysfunctional family and their child with disturbing behavior. Alex, the father, does not want to see or believe that his daughter has behavioral problems. His daughter behaves around him, she is loving and, although she does not speak, she has her own way of communicating with him. Suzette, the Mother, is homeschooling her daughter while dealing with the symptoms of her Crohn’s disease. Suzette is the target or her daughter, Hanna’s, “bad” behaviors. Hanna begins to speak to her Mother and really wants her father all to herself. She is clever, manipulative, and unwilling to speak. She does not like going to traditional schools and engages in behaviors which result in her leaving the traditional school environment.

This book is told through POV chapters titled “Suzette” or “Hanna” The reader gets a glimpse into the mind of each. Hanna is the proverbial “bad” seed who acts out and has behaviors which get her into all kinds of trouble. Although she is seven years old, she had thoughts and actions, I would associate with a much older child. While reading the book, I kept waiting for the light bulb to go off over Alex’s head and for him to finally “see the light”. Suzette, being the target of most of her daughter’s bad behaviors, struggles with feelings ranging from wanting to help her daughter, fearing her child, and wanting to not have to deal with her child anymore.

For me this book was good not great. I thought of the movie, “The Good Son” while reading this book. Hanna has “evil” thoughts and is perhaps mentally ill. I won’t say more about the family or their family dynamic. Hanna is creepy, and this book is a fast read but most of the actions felt “gratuitous” and there for shock value to move the story along. There are a lot of negative behaviors, actions and thoughts in this book that it almost became too much. As characters spiraled out of control, the pace picked up but again things just felt gratuitous. Some may also be turned off by the way the Suzette speaks to her child. I would describe this book as good not great. For me there was something missing. Initially I really enjoyed the book but as I read more, I felt a disconnect but still wanted to know how the book was going to end. There was a battle going on and I wanted to see who won – even though no one really wins in these situations.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

three-stars

Rust & Stardust

Rust & StardustRust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 7th 2018
Pages: 352
ISBN: 1250164192
Buy on Amazon
four-half-stars

Rust & Stardust is based on the real-life kidnapping of 11-year-old Sally Horner, and her kidnapper, in 1948 whose story inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic book, Lolita.

After a dare from a group of girls, 11-year-old Sally Horner attempted to steal a notebook from a Woolworths. She was stopped by a man who claimed to be an FBI agent and that she was under arrest. She had no way of knowing that this man was not an FBI agent but an ex-convict by the name of Frank LaSalle who was recently released from prison. He tells Sally if she does not cooperate, she will be in jail, so she does as he says.

The Author then takes us through the two years in which Frank LaSalle mentally, physically and sexually abuses Sally. The two of them travel from place to place, moving on when people begin to get suspicious of this single father and his “daughter”. Along the way, Sally meets people who are kind to her and who suspect the truth. Frank always seems to be one step ahead and keeps them moving so he is not caught. Sally’s mother initially believed that Sally was going on vacation with a friend (she walked her to the bus stating and left her with LaSalle!) but soon, the authorities were called in and the real authorities began a search for Sally.

This book lets us into Sally’s life and we see her fear, her doubt, her loathing, her anger, her resentment, her hope, her strength. She was taken in a time when people were perhaps more trusting, the internet did not exist, Amber alerts did not exist, the harsh realities of depravity were not widely discussed, and children were not warned pedophiles and teachers were not trained on detecting abuse.

This is not a happy book. It is sad and heartbreaking. It is a story about pain, about loss, about innocence lost, about fear, about pain, about abduction, about abuse, about hope and finding home. This book is extremely well written and captivating. I thought the Author did a wonderful and thoughtful job telling the story with such a sensitive subject.

The Author’s note at the end was very poignant and educational. I love books that cause me to think and feel and boy did I do a lot of thinking and feeling while reading this book. I believe the Author showed tact and caring while telling this girl’s (and her family’s) story.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

Not That I Could Tell

Not That I Could TellNot That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 27th 2018
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250107881
Buy on Amazon
four-half-stars

4.5 stars

A group of neighborhood women gather to drink wine and talk. What could go wrong? Their baby monitors can be heard, and they aren’t driving. Why not kick back and have a couple of drinks? Of course, with drinking, comes loose lips and several wakes up the next day wishing she would not have shared what she did raining from being in love with her sister’s husband to not liking the size of her breasts. The ladies wake up fuzzy and hungover the next morning and while attempting to nurse their hangovers learn that one, Kristen of them is missing along with her twins. What happened? Everything was great the night before, where could she be? Did she leave of her own free will or was their foul play involved? Was money an issue? Why has her ex-husband moved back into their home when he previously moved out and has his own apartment?

Kristen, the missing mother, always appeared to have been on top of everything. She never forgot the names of the other Mothers at the pre-school, she worked, was married to a doctor and she was always so polished and put together. Even while going through a divorce form her husband, Paul, she appears unfazed and composed. Kristen’s disappearance has sparked many questions in the community and as the police investigate, they don’t seem to find any answers.

Clara, lives next door and Kristen’s disappearance has stirred up memories and thoughts from the past when she lost someone. Izzy, another neighbor, confessed being in love with her sister’s husband during the women’s night of drinking. He was her best friend and she always dreamed that they would end up together but then he fell in love with her younger sister. Now that they are married and having a baby, Izzy is a mess and distancing herself from her family while getting closer to a “person of interest”.

As this case goes from an active investigation to a cold case, the women are left to deal with their frustrations, family issues, and outlook on life. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately that ask the question “how well do you know those in your lives?” This question serves as an interesting premise and story set up. Everyone has secrets. Everyone has things that they do not want others to know, which is probably why we all love learning about other’s secrets.

This book grabbed my attention from page one. I thought it was well thought out, perfectly paced and intriguing. This book may never be considered the best book ever written, but it sure is enjoyable and provides the reader a chance to escape their lives and delve into the lives of others. This book is billed as being “women’s fiction” but seriously, this really is a book for everyone. It touches on themes such as domestic violence, love, friendship, secrets and lies. Hard to put down, thoughtful and compelling. This book does not disappoint.

Thank you to St. Martin’s press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

four-half-stars

The Hush

The HushThe Hush by John Hart
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 27th 2018
Pages: 432
ISBN: 1250012309
Buy on Amazon
four-stars

Well, that was not what I was expecting…..but I really enjoyed it. I did not read “The Last Child” and found that this book worked well as a stand-alone novel for me. Although, I was not privy to the events of that book prior to reading this one, I felt the Author did a good job describing how close Johnny and Jack were and have been since childhood. How each feels a closeness and kinship with the other. Of course, there were references to events in the past, but I don’t feel that not having knowledge of them affected my enjoyment of this book in any way.

Johnny Merrimon lives in a Cabin on the six thousand acres of land that he inherited from his father’s side of the family. Johnny’s ancestors owned the land which contained the swamp and rocky sections. A distant relative signed over the land to freed slaves and the land reverted to Johnny when the last male relative of the freed slave died. Johnny values his privacy and enjoys living off the land. One part of the land he owns is called “the Hush” and he is drawn to the Hush and seems at times to be attuned to it. He mainly comes into town for supplies and has been known to run off anyone who attempts to hunt or travel onto his land. Johnny knows this land has secrets and he is more than willing to protect those secrets even if he means keeping secrets from the people who care about him.

Jack Cross is an attorney and he enjoys attempting to sneak up on Johnny in the woods but Johnny always seems to sense him coming. Jack understands Johnny’s desire for privacy, but he has concerns about the land and his friend’s connection to it. Jack fears what he feels and what he observes of his friend’s behavior in the swamp. He worries about his friend’s safety and his mental status. Jack does not appear to feel the heaviness or other symptoms other’s feel when they step foot on Johnny’s land, but he does feel the eerie cold and senses danger.

I do not want to say much else about the plot as I don’t want to give any spoilers. What I will say is that there is a magical/paranormal vibe to this book. I was not expecting this from John Hart. There is a whole other story going on here, but I don’t want to give anything away except to say that Johnny is not the only character in the book with a connection to the land. There are others who are connected to land as well. Their stories are also told, and we see more of them as the plot unfolds.

Well written, eerie, dark and entertaining. I found this to be good story-telling. Sure, you have to suspend some disbelief, but the tale is a good one. I can see how this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it worked for me.

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

four-stars

Gods of Howl Mountain

Gods of Howl MountainGods of Howl Mountain by Taylor Brown
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 20th 2018
Pages: 304
ISBN: 1250111773
Buy on Amazon
four-stars

“Because dying’s better than wishing you had.”

It’s the 1950’s and Rory Docherty has returned home from the Korean War with a wooden leg. It’s hard to find good paying legitimate work with a wooden leg, so Rory has become a whisky-runner. He makes deliveries to brothels, roadhouses, and private clients. Haunted by horrific dreams of the war, he lives with his grandmother, Maybelline “Granny May” Docherty. She is known for many things on the mountain, one of which is being a healer. People come to her for various cures and treatments but refuse to look at her as she walks down the street.

Granny May raised Rory after his mother was admitted to an Asylum after a horrific attack that left her lover dead and robbed her of her ability to speak and raise her child. The identity of the attackers has never been known; however, Granny has been known to carry around in her pocket the eye of a man – could this be the guilty party?

The whisky running has gained the attention of federal agents. Add into the mix stock car racing, romance, and a snake handling preacher and you have yourself an interesting novel full of quirky characters. There are a lot of secrets on Howl Mountain. Secrets that some want to keep a secret while there are others who desperately want to know the truth.

“Sometimes when you get what you want, you don’t like it so much.”

One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was the imagery. The descriptions are clear and evoked a feeling of being there. I felt as if I were there as a quiet observer watching everything that was happening in this novel: all the violence, the harsh words, the strutting around, etc. The imagery is really one of the stars in this book. I felt as if I was experiencing the action and not just reading it.

This book is a beautifully written “gritty” southern novel which showcases a mountain where everyone knows everyone, where people vie for power, where past insults are not forgotten, wrongs need to be set right, where families have secrets and towns have healers and snake handlers. It’s a rough environment – a dog eat dog type of community, if you will. The language/dialect fits the mood and the imagery in this book. This book has a melancholy feel to it. These people know poverty, they know crime, they know heartache, they know violence, they know love and they know how to survive.

Granny May was my favorite character. She’s a tough old broad as my Grandmother would say. She sits in her rocking chair smoking her pipe, another quiet observer of life on the Mountain. She has lived a hard life, has made hard decisions and has done what she feels is best to raise and protect her Grandson. She is a part of the Mountain and the mountain is part of her.

There were times while I was reading this book that I forgot this book is set in the 1950’s. Change the make of cars and the war Rory fought in and this could be a current day novel (perhaps exchange the whisky running for some other recreations drug).

I also enjoyed the sections that slowly unfolded telling the story of Rory’s Mother and her lover. I thought this was a very nice touch. I also enjoyed how writing was different. Not just the script but in the prose. I really appreciated this as it helped set these sections apart and shows their significance to the current story.

Gritty, raw and beautifully written. This isn’t a happy go lucky book, but it’s a damn good one!

Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

four-stars