Friday, August 18, 2017

Emma in the Night

Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker

Teenage sisters, Emma and Cass Tanner, disappear from home in the middle of the night. Authorities find their abandoned car on the beach, keys in a purse, shoes aimlessly rolling in the surf.

Three years later, only Cass returns, with a harrowing story of isolation and mental abuse at the hands of a controlling man and woman on a remote island off the coast of Maine. She gives investigators a detailed description of their captors, the surroundings, and the circumstance that led her and Emma to find themselves at the mercy of strangers. Her pleas are deafening; find the island, and you'll find Emma.

To understand this story, one has to examine the dynamics of a dysfunctional family living on the threshold of catastrophe. Emma and Cass are the children of Owen and Judy Tanner. He's a wounded, pot-smoking, sad man whose vain, narcissistic wife left him for a more powerful, wealthy man by the name of Jonathan Martin. Owen  has a caring son, Witt, by his first marriage before he was seduced by the cunning, insecure Judy. And Jonathan has a son, Hunter, a calculating loser who secretly enjoys defying his father every opportunity he gets.

If you are dizzy already with this complicated entourage, then prepare to meet even more characters in a plot designed to make the reader question each and every one of them, which is part of the appeal.  Forensic psychologist, Dr. Abby Winter, is called in with her partner to asses the mystery, and finds herself ensconced once again in the case she couldn't solve years ago. Not to mention, the unsettling memories of growing up in a similar scenario hits way too close to home.

You may need to read a few pages again and again for clarification, but anyone with an interest in the study of classic narcissism will devour this one.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Watch Me Disappear

Watch Me Disappear by Janelle Brown

"Maybe this is why they say love is blind. Who you want people to be makes you blind to who they really are.".

It's been a year since Billie Flanagan presumably died while hiking alone on treacherous Desolation Trail in Northern California. Daughter, Olive, and husband, Jonathan mourn
her passing, but without a body, it's hard to find closure, especially when Olive begins to experience unexplained "visions" of her mother. Is this a result of an overactive imagination, a brain abnormality, a child simply missing her mother, or something far more sinister?

Jonathan's best friend is the bottle, as he fights financial woes and struggles to write a memoir about his loving wife; their whirlwind romance, her often unexplained absences, and the highs and lows of a relationship that's always been teetering on the edge of dangerous. He's worried about Olive, the awkward distance developing between them, her detachment from school, and her insistence that Billie is trying to send a message. And then, as he digs deeper into his wife's past, a startling revelation begins to take shape about a woman he thought he knew so well. Is she lurking in the shadows, peppering him with clues, watching him squirm, or is she in trouble, reaching out to the one person who can help her? So many questions that beg to be answered.

This thriller has all the elements to make for a tantalizing movie and that's exactly what The Gotham Group plans to do. There's nothing better than teasing your audience until the end, and this suspense novel, with a touch of the supernatural, does just that. Enticing.......

Friday, August 4, 2017

Goodbye, Vitamin

Goodbye,Vitamin by Rachel Khong

Reeling from her fiance's recent rejection, Ruth Young decides it's a good time to return home to help her mother. It seems that her father, a once esteemed history professor, is exhibiting the early stages of Alzheimer's. It's only for a year, she tells herself, feeling bittersweet about the move. At thirty years of age, she's disappointed in herself, her poor choices, and a future that looks awfully dim.

So restless Ruth quits her job as a sonogram technician, packs any valuable possessions, and sets off for an adventure to a place she once knew so well. But coming home isn't easy, especially when you find that things are far worse than imagined.

Ruth reflects on just about everything as the days go by. Her observations are astute, humorous, and tender. Like how her father's former students act out a charade in order to make him feel valued, even though he no longer has the ability to teach. Or how her mother handles a heartbreaking betrayal of trust from a husband riddled with imperfections. Or how her brother can't quite seem to forgive and forget the drunken tirades of a father out of control. And when she reads her father's insightful notes, written during those early years of discovery, they reveal a man bursting with pride and joy for his daughter. Ruth realizes their bond is forever strong, even though her father's misty memories are now beginning to disappear.

This could be a pain-filled story. Instead, it's a diary of love and laughter. A quick read that will leave you smiling, content, and satisfied.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Before We Were Yours

Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate

It's the 1920s, and for many couples, the Tennessee Children's Home Society orphanage is the answer to their fervent prayers of having a child. Georgia Tann, the operator and touted savior, promises happiness in exchange for a great deal of money. She's mastered the art of manipulation when it comes to matters of the heart.

Tann was an all-powerful, conniving, ruthless individual who ran this institution with cold, calculating cruelness. Poor, innocent children were snatched off the streets, and taken from hospital wards and mental institutions. Under the guise of helping parents in time of need, Georgia and her associates preyed upon the vulnerable and naive, who never fully understood that their signature virtually made loved ones disappear. To make matters worse, a corrupt judge and a Memphis mayor perpetuated this shameful period in history until as late as 1950.

This compelling, historical fictional story introduces readers to Avery Stafford, a feisty Southern lawyer who returns home to her privileged roots. Her beloved grandmother has strong memories hidden in the crevices of her mind about a spirited, poverty-stricken family that once lived on the Mississippi River. Avery is determined to dig deep into the past, even if it ruins the family's pristine reputation.

As a result of this true scandal, Tennessee adopted new, reformed adoption laws in 1951.

"For the hundreds who vanished and for the thousands who didn't. May your stories not be forgotten". 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine

Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor leads a simple life. After the daily grind of a menial job, she looks forward to the Friday evening ritual of pizza, Chianti, and plenty of vodka. Weekends are spent dreaming about a local musician she's never met, but loves from afar. And if someone at work or on the street, happens to stare at the hideous scars on her face, she understands. It doesn't bother her at all.

Things seem to change when she meets Raymond, the unkempt, geeky IT guy from work. By chance, they save an elderly man's life and become fast friends. Eleanor gradually ventures out of her sparse apartment, accepting luncheon "dates" with Raymond, boldly changing her drab appearance, and even socializing with total strangers.

What Eleanor doesn't share are the dreaded Wednesday night phone conversations with "Mummy". She doesn't like to talk about her painful childhood memories. Maybe her therapist can unlock the past she's tried so hard to forget. In any case, those painkillers she's been accumulating may eventually take care of the problem.

If a novel can be labeled a comedic love story, then this one falls into that category. Readers will laugh at Eleanor's hilarious, innermost musings about life in general. But expect to shed a few tears interspersed with the laughter, as Eleanor learns that she deserves a life filled with friendship and perhaps, even love. This character will capture your heart.

What a pleasure it will be to meet Eleanor when this novel becomes a movie for all the world to see.  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

The Identicals

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand

It's Nantucket versus Martha's Vineyard in this refreshing, truly entertaining story about estranged identical twins and the deep bond they share.

Tabitha and Harper Frost are separated as teenagers when their parents divorce and take each girl to a different island to live.

 The unlucky draw has Tabitha growing up on Nantucket with her famous, fashion designer mother. Polished and refined, she curses the everyday headache of running the financially strapped, stuffy boutique that caters to her mother's sophisticated, but somewhat passe designs. And then there's her rebellious daughter, Ainsley, who engages in self-destructive behavior, when all she really longs for is attention and a home-cooked meal.

Harper spends her life on Martha's Vineyard with their likable, easygoing father, finding that being carefree and irresponsible has dire consequences. People tend to gossip when you sleep with an admired married doctor and get caught delivering illegal drugs.

A series of circumstances force the now grown women to switch islands, essentially trading lives. Preconceptions they have of one another has taken a toll on the friendship they once shared. The root of their animosity dates back to a tragedy that occurred many years ago. Maybe it's time to shed the blame and become sisters once again.

What a delight this novel is...Hilderbrand cleverly meshes the twin islands with twin sisters for a thoroughly engaging story. Told with warmth and humor, readers will enjoy meeting memorable characters whose lives effortlessly intertwine. It's fun just anticipating what the next chapter will bring. Scandal, teenage angst, heartache, forgiveness..this one has it all.

 For those of you looking for the ever-popular beach read, put this selection on your summer list.
Outrageously good.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

He Said/She Said

He Said/She Said by Erin Kelly

Kit and Laura are eclipse chasers; that rare breed of people who travel to the far ends of the Earth to witness the magic of astronomy.

Their love is still new when they travel to a festival in Cornwall to see a total eclipse of the sun. It's here that Laura stumbles across what appears to be a brutal assault on a young woman. Horrified, she describes the scene to Kit who arrives moments later. He unsuccessfully pursues the assailant, who eventually turns himself into the police, fervently professing his innocence. But Laura knows what she saw and is determined to vindicate the girl who was violated, even if it means telling a little white lie at the trial.

What Kit and Laura don't expect, is to find the victim at their doorstep, months later. Her neediness becomes obsessive until one dangerous night that makes Laura question if she's trusted the wrong person all along.

Fifteen years later, Laura and Kit have changed their identities, making sure they leave no digital footprints behind. Kit leaves to view another eclipse, while Laura remains at home, awaiting the birth of twins. It's become a way of life to always look over their shoulders for the appearance of a familiar face from the past. And when that face finally surfaces, truth and fiction collide, revealing a long trail of calculated deception.

Tormented characters, intent on survival, do whatever it takes to win. Author Erin Kelly takes the reader on a wild ride of emotions in this one, and the result is thoroughly intoxicating.