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.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Map of the Heart

Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs

The arrival of a mysterious package takes a widow with an aching
heart on an adventure to France, where secrets from her father's past are waiting to be uncovered.

Camille Adams vows that she and her troubled daughter, Julie, are going to live a quiet, risk-free life in their Delaware coastal town, since a freak accident claimed her beloved husband's life five years ago. She spends days in a darkroom, using her photography skills to develop precious film that clients bring to her in the hopes of capturing memories long forgotten. She's oblivious to Julie's encounter with bullies at school or the significance of her daughter's declining self-esteem, until an alarming incident opens her eyes to reality.

Reluctantly, Camille agrees to leave the security of her tranquil town and  spend the summer with her ailing father and Julie in Provence, the place he called home as a child. The beauty and peacefulness of France begin to heal her broken heart, especially when she's in the presence of a handsome naval officer. Julie is exuberant in her new surroundings, making new friends, and experiencing the thrill of living life without fear.

Slowly and methodically, Camille's father begins to piece together the fragmented parts of what he remembers growing up in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Stepping back in time reveals astonishing facts about his courageous mother, and the sacrifices she made during the dark days of War. By taking a look into what came before, a family finds the strength to face what lies ahead.

An emotional, mellow, romantic story that satisfies the wanderlust in all of us.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Good Daughter

The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter

Absolutely chilling. Those two words describe the first forty pages of a novel that you will either put aside, unwilling to grasp the frightening details, or one that compels you to continue reading a story of murder, mystery, and revenge.

Twenty-eight years ago, sisters Samantha and Charlotte Quinn witnessed a home invasion by two masked intruders that left their mother dead. But it didn't end there. One girl was brutally shot, the other escaped into the night, bloodied and praying for her survival. Their idealistic, do-gooder attorney father, Rusty, mourns the horrific events, but is he somehow responsible?

Fast forward to the present and a middle school shooting in Pikeville, Georgia where Charlie and her estranged husband practice law. It's the same community where she and Sam grew up and the scars and whispers of that fateful night still linger. Charlie happens to be at the school to retrieve her phone from a regrettable encounter with a history teacher the night before. She finds herself an eyewitness to dead bodies and a young, shivering girl holding a lethal weapon in her hands. Repressed memories of the past mesh with the reality of the moment.

Now the intricate web begins to take shape as the reader learns how all of these happenings relate to one another. It's quite a remarkable task, one that will require the reader to pay close attention. There's all sorts of salacious secrets that combine to make this tale far more than just a typical suspense novel. Amidst the fear and panic, is also a story of empathy and compassion for the survivors.

Karin Slaughter has the ability to make her readers clamor for cold-bloodied terror, putting her latest release on the current New York Times best sellers. Take a look to see if you agree.

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".