Friday, July 31, 2015

Pretty Baby

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

A sincere act of kindness goes terribly, terribly wrong......

Chris Wood calls his wife a bleeding heart; "Every neglected, mistreated, overlooked, ignored, abandoned, forgotten, emaciated, abused, derelict creature on God's earth is Heidi's concern". This time, however, she's gone too far...this time she's put her family in grave danger.

Relentless, pounding rain drenches the young teenage girl and the tiny baby cradled in her arms. As Heidi waits for the train at Fullerton Station in Chicago, her eyes are drawn to the girl's thin, bony frame, sallow skin, and vacant expression. Commuters intent on getting home, eye the pair with pity and disgust. But not Heidi. She decides to extend a helping hand, not realizing what's about to enfold.

Chris and self-centered daughter, Zoe, are angry and perplexed to see a homeless, bedraggled teenager and infant taking up residence in their home. Heidi becomes increasingly obsessed with this girl named Willow and baby Ruby. What is supposed to be a  temporary situation, drags on and on. Chris begins to have serious misgivings about this stranger who has invaded their lives. Without Heidi's  knowledge, he begins an investigation of his own. Constant travels related to his job keep him unaware of how bizarre the attachment between his wife and these outsiders has become. When he finally realizes the extent of their involvement, it may be too late to salvage the life they've created.

Kubica presents the reader with three narrators, Chris, Willow, and Heidi, each one telling a part of the story from their own perspective. Even though it may seem complicated, the timelines and characters are easy to follow. After the success of the author's first novel ( The Good Girl, reviewed in July 2014) Mary Kubica is a name that suspense lovers will remember. A graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, she  makes the Buckeye State proud.

A guaranteed pulse-pounding thriller that hooks you from page one with unexpected plot twists and a surprising ending .

Friday, July 17, 2015

Eight Hundred Grapes

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave

"You have to grow about eight hundred grapes to get just one bottle of wine. If that isn't an argument to finish the bottle, I don't know what  is."

Wearing a tattered and torn wedding dress, Georgia Ford walks into The Brothers' Tavern, sits down at the bar, and stares at the two choices set in front of her; a shot of bourbon or a glass of smooth, fruity Pinot Noir. She chooses the wine. Her whole life has always centered around her father's award-winning wines and vineyard, so the choice comes naturally. She willingly left that life years ago. Now, despondent and confused, she's back where it all started. Coming home to her childhood roots means she can count on her family to offer guidance and support. However, Georgia soon discovers  that assumption couldn't be farther from the truth.

It's harvest week at The Last Straw Vineyard. A flurry of traditional events are scheduled, not the least of which is Georgia's wedding to Ben. No one knows that the bride recently uncovered a catastrophic secret that the love of her life has been conveniently hiding. That secret is named Maddie, his adorable five-year-old daughter with a stunning Hollywood actress. And he's known about the child for far longer than he cares to admit. The couple's anticipated move to London with Ben's ready-made family nearby, now seems premature and risky. Georgia retreats to the arms of her parents, hoping to find comfort and guidance while she makes life-altering decisions. Much to her dismay, what she envisions at home isn't reality anymore. Her mother is involved with another man, her father is selling the treasured  family vineyard, and her brothers are at odds with one another over a woman they both love. Georgia's once idyllic life is now a messy conglomeration of problems.

From the author of The First Husband and The Divorce Party (both highly recommended) this is an entertaining look at the power and strength of family bonds, the acceptance of harsh truths, and the realization that following our hearts may be the recipe for happiness. Laura Dave writes with honesty and humor which make her books so appealing.

So grab a Chardonnay, Merlot, or whatever suits your mood, and get ready to enjoy a visit to Sonoma County. In addition to a delightful story, you'll learn a great deal about the fascinating process that goes into making each and every mellow, satisfying bottle of wine.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Those Girls

Those Girls by Chevy Stevens

As Jess and Dani watch in horror, their drunken, glassy-eyed father attempts to drown their sister Courtney. They listen to his malicious, cruel comments, see his lips curl into a leering smirk on his distorted face. He doesn't realize that the years of abuse and abandonment on his part are about to end. At her breaking point, fourteen-year-old Jess feels the cool metal of the rifle in her hands as she pulls the trigger.

In an instant, she murders "Dad".

The three sisters bury their father's body in a pig pen reeking of foul waste and debris. They hide crucial evidence, then begin a journey on the run to Vancouver where they hope to start over. They don't count on their dilapidated truck breaking down in the creepy little town of Cash Creek. Here they meet brothers Brian and Gavin, two locals from a nearby ranch who offer to help them fix the truck in exchange for a hard day's work on the land they call home. But it's all a ploy by a bully and a deviant psychopath. The boys have a sick and twisted plan for the vulnerable teens. After five days of torture, the girls mange to escape from their captors and with the help of an ex-con, finally make it to Vancouver with new identities. Then Jess learns she is pregnant with Brian's child. Determined to never reveal the truth of her daughter's conception, she and her sisters begin a new life, praying no one will ever learn of  their dirty little secrets.

The second half of the story begins eighteen years later, narrated by Skylar, the daughter Jamie (Jess) vows to protect at all costs. The young woman's curiosity about her family's past takes a perilous turn when Crystal (Courtney) decides to avenge the unthinkable deeds of two evil men she and her sisters foolishly trusted years ago. Crystal sets off for Cash Creek with Skylar not far behind. They find themselves in dangerous territory when Brian and Gavin recognize Crystal as one of  "those girls" they victimized years ago. Older, but still callous and ruthless, the men swear to make them disappear once and for all.

Intense, brutal, and graphic, readers will cringe at many of the descriptive passages in this novel, while feeling the gripping fear endured by the characters.  It's a story of ultimate survival, mind over matter, and being "so scared that if I stopped being angry, there'd be nothing left of me".

Another winner from the master of suspense, author Chevy Stevens.