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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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

The Family Next Door

The Family Next DoorThe Family Next Door by Sally Hepworth
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 13th 2018
Pages: 352
ISBN: 1250120896
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four-stars

Pleasant Court in Melbourne Australia seems like a pleasant place to live…or is it.? This is another book that asks the question “Just how well do you know someone?” You live with a person, share their bed, share meals with them, raise children with them, you know them right??? Well, do you?

Ahhhhhh, small towns. Lovely scenic places. They are supposed to be safe. Nothing bad ever happens there. How can it? Bad things don’t happen when things are so pleasant do they? What a joy to live in a community where you know your neighbors and your neighbors know you. A place where you can get together for neighborhood watch or just to chat about your day over a cup of tea or glass of wine. A place where one can smile and wave, believing that everything is okay, everything WILL be okay, everything should be okay…but what happens when it isn’t?

Have you ever know someone who looks like they have their shit together? Seriously, he/she is the one who looks great, smells great, is healthy, always smiling, always on time, never seems to have a bad day and you envy them…because life is hard and they make it look so easy. Well as they say, you never know what goes on behind closed doors. What drives someone to exercise excessively, what drives someone to always smile even thought their heart is breaking, who acts as if everything is honky dory even thought he/she is harboring a HUGE secret?

Every family/person in this book has something to hide.

Ange works out, gets her hair and nails done. She wants to look good for her handsome husband. He is a good looking man and women throw themselves at him. Ange wants to -no she needs to look good for him…..

Essie once took her daughter to the park and left her there. Her husband and Mother keep close eyes on her to make sure she is “Okay” Her mother, Barbara helps her out a lot as she had postpartum depression. She has even moved closer to Essie to help her out. A Mother’s job is never done…..

Fran runs all the time. Several times a day and she is uncomfortable when her husband is left alone with their youngest daughter. Why? She doesn’t seem to care when he is with their eldest. Their marriage seems fine so what is her issue?

Isabelle is the single woman who moved into the neighborhood. Single and childless, she sticks out and everyone wonders about her. But Isabelle also wonders about those in her neighborhood. She watches them and makes her observations.

It soon becomes evident that not everything is as it seems once you get behind closed doors. Characters have their secrets and as the book unfolds, their secrets come out. Some we see coming and there was one that was a shocker!

This was a really enjoyable read. It is fun, the plot moves along at a nice fast pace and nothing felt rushed or drawn out. I felt that the revelations came at just the right time. I liked how the story is told through the various women’s point of views. This is a great way to see what is motivating them, what is going on behind that smile, a look at their personal feelings and emotions. We learn their secrets and the secrets of other’s in their lives.

I have read a couple of Sally Hepwoth’s books (The things we keep, The Mother’s promise) and have enjoyed them! This is another wonderful book by her. So far she has not disappointed and I will continue to be a happy reader of her work.

I received a copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to them for the opportunity.

four-stars

Poison

PoisonPoison by Galt Niederhoffer
Published by St. Martin's Press on November 21st 2017
Pages: 320
ISBN: 1250085292
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three-stars

Cass met Ryan after the death or her first husband. Her Mother never liked Ryan but Cass was in love and wanted a second chance at happiness. After they were married, Cass and Ryan moved with her two young children to Portland to start a new life for their family. Soon they have a child of their own to complete their family. Cass and Ryan seem like the perfect couple and Cass appears to be happy until she starts to notice little things that are off. First lies, then angry denials, omission of the truth, acts of cruelty and eventually threats.

Just what the heck is going on in this book!?! This is a psychological thriller which captured my attention from the very first page. I sat and read this book in basically one reading. I had to know just what was happening, how it was happening, is what is happening real, is there an unreliable character or is one of the characters a dangerous and evil person?

I enjoyed how Cass started out as strong and intelligent but as the story progressed she appeared to weaken and make bad choices, as in really bad choices. I never really cared for her husband Ryan as he appeared manipulative and too syrupy sweet from the start and soon changed into a defensive, controlling and horrible person. I also did not find the whole neighbor angle to be believable and how Cass could trust someone she does not know so completely. That part seemed a little too convenient.

This book has a fast pace and there is always something happening which keeps the reader engaged in the story even if not everything is plausible or for me believable. The ending came really fast and out of left field for me.

Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed this book. I did sit and read it in one sitting. I just found some things to be off. Overall it is an enjoyable psychological thriller.

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

three-stars

The Stolen Marriage

The Stolen MarriageThe Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 3rd 2017
Pages: 384
ISBN: 1250087279
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three-stars

I’ll start by saying that I had really high hopes for this book. I really enjoyed Necessary Lies and was hoping this book would be just as good if not better. I struggled with this book. One thing I struggled with was that almost everyone is giving this book high ratings and I thought “Is it me?” but I realize that not every book is for everyone and what one person may feel that the book he/she is reading is a masterpiece, while another person may have a hard time finishing that particular book. As I mentioned I received this book in exchange for an honest review and honestly, I thought this book was okay at best.

It’s 1944 and Tess is engaged to Vincent, a man that she is engaged to and madly in love with. She can’t wait to be his wife and live happily ever after. Vincent is a doctor who is passionate about his work, when he goes to Chicago to help fight the polio epidemic. He keeps changing the date he will be coming home as he is passionate about his work. Tess naturally misses him while he is away but is also secretly upset that he keeps changing his return date.

When her best friend Gina offers to take her on a trip out of town, Tess jumps on the opportunity. This is a chance to take her mind off how much she misses Vincent and to have a little fun with her firend. When they arrive they learn they will be staying in a home with 2 other people – 2 men whom they do not know.

Too much alcohol, bad choices and poor judgement come into play. That one night changes Tess’s life forever. She abruptly ends her engagement to Vincent and informs everyone that she is getting married to Henry and moving to North Carolina. She really knows nothing about Henry, his life or his family. She is not welcomed with open arms and keeps hearing that “Henry is not the man you think he is” That would definitely get my attention.

A tragic accident occurs which further alienates Tess from Henry’s family and the town. She is unhappy, not in love and finding out that her husband has secrets. Tess who studied to be a nurse also feels as though she herself needs to help with the polio epidemic and eventually begins to help out at her local hospital where she is re-connected with someone from her past.

So I am in the minority with this book. What didn’t I like. For starters, I feel that Henry took advantage of Tess. She was in no position to give consent and the scene felt more like a rape to me. Also, if Tess knew Vincent all of her life, why did she not go to him and explain to him what happened? Could not all of this misery have been avoided? I do realize that if this happened there would not be a book but I just found that I wanted to take and shake most of the characters.

The description of the book sounded so good to me but while I was reading I found that I had to force myself at times to keep going. As I mentioned I saw so many high ratings and thought “what am I missing?” This book just was not for me. It was well written and obviously appealed to a lot of people but not so much for me. I will definitely read more from this Author as I did really enjoy Necessary Lies.

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

three-stars

The Other Girl

The Other GirlThe Other Girl by Erica Spindler
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 22nd 2017
Pages: 352
ISBN: 1250083656
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four-stars

Police Officer Miranda Rader is a respected officer in Hammond, Louisiana. She is known for her work ethic, dedication and professionalism. This was not always the case. When she was younger she spent 6 months in juvenile detention for possession of marijuana. She was known to engage in underage drinking and came from a troublesome family. At the age of 15, she was the victim of a crime and no one seemed to believe her as she was constantly in trouble and was known in her hometown to be a liar.

Miranda has worked very hard to improve herself and to become a respectful member of society. She has become a police officer who is looked up to and respected in society. Although she is not the same girl she once was, she is haunted by the past. She is haunted by a crime that no one believed occurred. What do you do when a crime has been committed against you, when you run for help, when another girl is being held captive and no one believes your story? No one goes to help the other girl. How does this affect your life?

One day Miranda is called to investigate the gruesome murder of a respected professor at a local college. While on the scene she finds a newspaper clipping referring to the heinous crime committed against her and another girl in the past. Just what was the professor doing with a clipping from her past? Who is this man? Does he know who she is and what happened to her? Is this just research for a book he is writing?

Just when she begins to put things together, her fingerprints are found at the scene of the crime. Her work ethic, honesty, integrity and professionalism are questioned. To make matters even worse, another murder occurs – a death which is related to that fateful night years ago. Why does she appear to be the only suspect? Who is the real killer and why does this killer seem to know everything that happened to her all of those years ago?

Miranda is a strong female character who cannot seem to keep from getting into trouble in this book. She continues to defy orders and break police procedures in order to get to the truth. She knows that the college professor is not the “nice” guy everyone believes him to be. She will not stop until she has uncovered the truth about his killer and has exposed the murdered professor to be the predator she knows him to be.

I really enjoyed this book. It was a fast paced read with a few twists and turns. There were a couple of times that I wanted to shake the main character as she acted without thinking on numerous occasions. This story jumps back and forth between the current day and when Miranda was a 15 year old girl. As the book progresses, the reader is shown what happened all those years ago. This book is a double “whodunit” as there is a killer in the current day, a predator from the past and also the question remains…what happened to the other girl all of those years ago?

This is a good mystery but not an earth shattering one. I think most readers will have figured out a couple of the plot points. The ending is not a big shocker but it is still an enjoyable one. I figured out a couple of things but even guessing the truth did not prevent me from fully enjoying this book. I found that the past and present story lines really worked in this book.

This was my first Erica Spindler book and it will not be my last.

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

four-stars