Friday, December 8, 2017

Little Broken Things

Little Broken Things by Nicole Baart

"I have something for you".

As Quinn reads the cryptic message from her estranged sister, Nora, she's puzzled and confused. And when they meet face to face, her curiosity only deepens.

Cloaked in secrecy, Nora arrives accompanied by a little girl with "cherry-colored curls and stone-colored eyes". She leaves without explanation, asking Quinn to take care of the child until she is able to return. Faced with this overwhelming responsibility, Quinn finds herself drawn to the child she calls Lucy and the circumstances of her birth. Hiding a child proves to be impossible, and it's not long before Lucy's existence becomes known to husband, Walker, and her widowed mother, Liz, who prides herself in being the perfect party hostess in this quiet Minnesota town. Her life as a social icon, however, is about to be change as she faces demons that have haunted her for years.

The reader soon learns about what it was like for two sisters growing up in the Sanford household, the secrets their mother struggles never to reveal, and the high-school friend who goes to any lengths to protect a child from harm. The plot slowly simmers chapter by chapter, page by page, leaving the reader ensconced in an absorbing mystery.

Flawed characters, exquisitely defined by love, ultimately find truth in a story so many mothers will embrace.

Thursday, November 16, 2017


Bonfire by Krysten Ritter

Attorney Abby Williams returns to her dismal hometown
of Barrens, Indiana, with one purpose in mind; to expose
the deceitful environmental practices of Optimal Plastics,
the company that residents worship and adore for restoring
hope and prosperity to a place that was slowly dying.

Things haven't changed that much in ten years. High school football still reigns supreme, gun-toting hunters still love the sport, and some of the girls who taunted Abby in school with their
cruel, callous remarks, still live in town, one even holding a
position of power. Painful, bitter memories haunt Abby, including the disappearance of her friend, Kaycee Mitchell, who loved being the center of attention among her posse of followers. But Abby wonders, what if  Kaycee's leaving years ago is all part of the current investigation of a corporate giant reviving a town in need?

One thing is certain...Abby has outstayed her welcome in Barrens. Colleagues working with her on the Optimal investigation begin to question her mental stability. Lonely and afraid, she trusts no one, not even herself, until one explosive night that proves her gut
instincts may have been right along.

Krysten Ritter, actress turned author, writes a thriller debut that has all
the elements for success. Her storytelling takes a flawed, vulnerable character
on a wild, wickedly suspenseful ride into the sordid darkness of  small-town secrets.
Definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Seven Days of Us

Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak

Christmas. That mellow time of year when petty differences are cast aside in order to spend quality time with loved ones. But the very British Birch family soon finds out that seven, solid days of suffocating togetherness can bring some very unexpected challenges and surprises.

It's holiday time, and eldest daughter, Dr. Olivia Birch, comes home to the family country estate to recuperate, after treating patients exposed to a deadly virus during her time abroad. Her gift to the family is seven days of quarantine for everyone and anyone unfortunate enough to cross over the threshold of this tired, old home. What she doesn't mention, is her recent, forbidden tryst with another doctor hospitalized with the virus, and the heightened risk she now faces of contracting it, too.

Home hasn't changed all that much since she's been gone. The strained relationship with her father remains, as he struggles with an unfulfilling job as a restaurant critic. The tediousness of being around her pert, sassy, engaged sister, makes her feel like an outsider
in her own family. And her loving, indulgent mother, still desperately
wants to keep the peace, while clinging to what's left of her marriage
and her own identity.

Olivia's not the only one being less than truthful. Her mother chooses not
to reveal a dire medical diagnosis until after the holidays, but inadvertently
shares the news with a young, incredibly appealing American she
meets at the airport while waiting for her daughter to arrive. In a matter
of just a few days, this same man reappears at their doorstep. He seems to know
quite a bit about Olivia's sister's fiance, far more than he cares to share with
this group of people who warily watch his every move.

Will the curse of seven endless days and nights, side by side, turn out to be a blessing?

A fabulously festive, family drama with a host of complex, likable characters that
arrive just in time for Christmas.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Without Merit

Without Merit by Colleen Hoover

 Merit Voss leads a very unconventional life.

She lives in a converted church that her atheist father, Barnaby Voss, purchased from a local pastor with financial woes. In an attempt to make this house of worship look more like a home, he adds a white picket fence, but decides to leave the marquee out front. Every morning, Merit's brother, Utah, updates the sign with bits of trivia that have nothing to do with The Lord. It continues to give the people in this tiny, Northeast Texas town, something to talk about.

Merit's parents are divorced, but her mother still lives in the basement due to a severe case of social anxiety. Added to the mix is twin sister, Honor, who seems to excel at everything while Merit crawls deeper into her hole of isolation, regularly skipping school, collecting cast-off trophies, and giving her family the silent treatment which no one seems to even notice. Then there's stepmother, Victoria, half-brother, Moby, and the mysterious Sagan, who Merit is wildly attracted to after a passionate kiss that turns out to be a case of mistaken identity. Out of nowhere, Victoria's estranged half-brother, Luck, shows up to make this eccentric family complete.

It's just a matter of time before simmering, pent-up secrets come to a boiling point. Festering wounds are exposed for all to see when Merit airs the family's dirty laundry. A near tragedy finally causes this maladjusted family to realize how close they are to losing one another and the love they share.

While entertaining readers with the antics of an offbeat family, this novel also takes a
candid look at the prevalence of mental illness in our society.  "Depression doesn't
 necessarily mean a person is miserable or suicidal all the time. Indifference is also a sign of depression." Just one of many symptoms too often ignored.

A refreshing novel, so easy to read, with just the right amount of humor, sending a message
of hope to those who suffer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Blackbird Season

The Blackbird Season by Kate Moretti

There's no explanation for the thousands of dead birds that rain
down from the sky on the baseball field in Mt. Oanoke,
Pennsylvania, a depressed little town still reeling from the
paper mill closing that cost so many people their livelihoods.

Nate Winters is the revered high school baseball coach in Mt. Oanoke.  He and wife, Alecia, seem to be perfectly matched, the ideal couple. Behind closed doors, however, the cracks in the foundation of their marriage are growing deeper. She struggles with the daily needs of their autistic son, Gabe, as her husband spends more and more time away from home. Rumors swirl that Nate is involved with student Lucia Hamm, that white-haired teenager with the ruby red lips. Many believe she's a "witch", responsible for that deluge of blackbirds on this unsuspecting town. When Lucia disappears, colleagues and residents turn on Nate, choosing to believe the gossip and innuendos that paint him as a prime suspect. Bridget, Lucia's creative writing teacher and Alecia's good friend, begins her own investigation, deciphering telltale words in a journal that point to a complicated maze of deception and secrets. What she finds is nothing short of astounding.

This gripping drama has so many layers; a wife consumed with
obligations and insecurities who doesn't quite trust her husband, a teacher overstepping his bounds, teenagers bent on destroying reputations, the ugliness of  social media, and a town on edge, quick to believe the worst about one of their own.

The ending isn't all tied up in a tidy little package. Yes, there's closure, or is there?  Lingering doubts remain about the future of this troubled place with the hypnotic spell.

And that's what makes this novel so very, very good.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fast Falls the Night

Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller

Welcome back to Acker's Gap, West Virginia.

 In 2012, author Julia Keller created the first book in her series about a place in the hills of Appalachia where good, decent folks struggle every day to survive. These people bleed poverty, despair, and the unbearable fact that finding a way out is easier said than done.

In  A Killing in the Hills, readers are introduced to Bell Elkins, the strong, determined prosecutor who, after some soul-searching, returns to her hometown, hoping she can make a difference. She and her sister, a convicted felon, are haunted by childhood abuse and the hurt and shame that accompanies being a poor, outcast adolescent. It seems that no matter hard you try, success is hard to achieve when the odds are against you."The past always has the last word".

This latest installment takes place in a 24 hour period as Acker's Gap deals with an onslaught of heroin overdoses unlike anything they've ever experienced before. One by one, the victims fall like dominoes as they consume a bad batch of the drug laced with a deadly additive. Along with law enforcement, Bell and her colleagues race to expose and arrest a local who has forfeited a conscience for the almighty buck,  and a chance to escape this forsaken town.

Inspiration for the story came from the real account of a rash of drug overdoses in Huntington, West Virginia, Keller's hometown. With tormented, unforgettable characters, and page-turning sub-plots, the author tackles a topic that plagues cities and villages across our nation. Whether you choose to start your journey in Acker's Gap with this latest book, or go way back to the beginning, be assured you won't soon forget Bell and the sorrow and hope her stories bring.

Thanks, Julia, for ending this one with so many burning, unanswered questions about what's next for Bell after her sister's shocking revelation. We look forward to the continuing saga about a weary, broken town in "this beautiful heartbreak of a world".  

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Glass Houses

Glass Houses by Louise Penny

There is an eerie, hooded figure dressed in black, lurking in the town square of  the quiet little village of Three Pines, Quebec. Perhaps, the people say, it is a prank from the leftover celebration festivities of Halloween. But as time goes on, the ominous, dark shape remains, day into night, never moving, simply staring, and the people begin to whisper and wonder; what evil has permeated their calm, peaceful lives?

The sinister scenario takes a deadly twist when murder takes a life in the dank root cellar of the church basement. Months later, Chief Armand Gamache testifies in court at the trial of the individual arrested for the crime, recalling how his wife found the corpse, dressed in the same cloak as the mysterious form that silently stood watch over their sleepy little town.

 As perspiration drips down his face in the oppressively hot courtroom, Gamache tells the prosecutor that in Spain the "dark thing" was said to be a"Conscience", capable of hunting down and shaming perpetrators of dastardly deeds. The courtroom spectators squirm in their seats. If true, which one of their neighbors is hiding a dreadful secret? The trial continues while Gamache carefully weighs his words, fully aware that his decision to commit perjury puts him on a dangerous precipice that could ruin his career and reputation. Only he and a handful of confidantes are aware of a far greater threat to the world than the frightening body in black.

If you are a Louise Penny fan, the Three Pines series will be quite familiar. If not, then by all means, take this opportunity to become a fan of her writing and meet the quirky, memorable cast of characters she has created. ( Don't forget the informative author notes at the conclusion. ) Penny writes a multi-layered plot dealing with a relevant topic. Deliciously unsettling at times, this one is a bewitchingly good mystery.