The Heights @louise_candish @AtriaBooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Jan’s review

The book opens when Ellen Saint sees Kieran standing on the rooftop terrace of a building. How is this possible? She KNOWS he died two years ago. Seeing Kieran creates a rage in her that can’t be extinguished. How is it possible this monster is still walking the earth and what will she do about it?

From here we go back in time to when Ellen and her family meet Kieran. She considers him the catalyst that sent her family down a path of pain and destruction. Kieran ends up paying for his actions but it’s not enough for Ellen so she starts a public campaign to destroy him in the court of public opinion. No punishment is enough for Ellen. I don’t want to give too much of the plot away here because most of the pleasure of reading this novel was in seeing the story unfold.  

Ellen is a flawed and most unpleasant and unlikable person. You’ve heard the saying, “Revenge is a dish best served cold”? In Ellen’s case, no amount of time will cool the burning hot fire of hatred and her desire for revenge.  Is Ellen’s hatred clouding her judgement and blinding her to the flaws in her own family? Her sighting of Kiernan sets in motion a series of events that ends in an explosive and surprising ending. 

The most compelling question I had: Is Ellen’s hatred of Kieran clouding her judgment and blinding her to the flaws within her own family?

Told in four parts, Part One details the events that destroyed her family, Part Two tells the story from the POV of Vic, Ellen’s ex-husband, and Part Three is the current day.  Interspersed throughout the book are magazine article and book excerpts, while Part Four is the explosive ending. Each part adds missing pieces and gives the reader more insight. Where does the truth lie? No one is likable so if that is a requirement then it’s best to steer clear. 

Ellen also suffers from a condition known as High Place phenomenon, which is an urge to jump from a high place. Her fear and obsessive thoughts add to the tension as a counterpoint to her obsession with Kieran. I was kept on my toes and although I got a few things right, there were still surprises in store. This could be considered a slow burn but I enjoy strong character-driven novels so I loved this aspect of the story.

A buddy read with my friend, Marialyce, we both found this to be  interesting and entertaining, as well as thought-provoking.  This was my first book by this author and won’t be my last. 

Marialyce’s review

Hate, it consumes one, makes you irrational, unable to use common sense, morals, and humanity while it drives deeper into your heart, mind, and soul.

When thinking of the character, Ellen Saint, I picture a ball of fire, consuming her every minute of every day. True Ellen and her ex-mate, Vic have a valid reason for hating Kiernan, a new friend of their son, Lucas, and believe Kiernan to have been the devil who led their son done a path to drugs, partying. After all, Lucas had been an angel of a son before Kiernan entered the picture. However, there was much more to the story of Kiernan, who seemed to immediately feel that Ellen would be his nemesis forever.

There were many things that made me grate my teeth about the parenting skills of Ellen, Vic, and her new husband. They seemed to omit the word “no” from their parental dictionary and one might call their skills (or lack thereof) progressive.

As foretold tragedy happens, when the car Kiernan is driving plunges into the water and Ellen is seething and as Kiernan is tried and sentenced to two years in jail, she demands more. She sets up on online group that demands longer sentences for crimes such as these, and of course attracts all the hate filled followers she can.(sounds like our social media platforms these days) In the meantime, her relationship with Vic has fallen apart, and she has met, married, and has a daughter with her new husband (aptly named Saint btw)

Time is a great healer they say, but in Ellen’s case, time only fuels the fire raging within her especially when one day she catches a glimpse of Kiernan in a building’s penthouse garden. She is appalled, nearly slipping out of her skin, for she knows that Kiernan is dead or so she thought. She and Vic had had taken care of this, had they not? What or how is Kiernan still walking the planet? Hell has not opened up and consumed him.

All this leads to a roundabout story of revenge that had five years to smolder, but burns ever so bright now. Ellen will have her revenge. She will make sure his life is one that ends in whatever way she can arrange.

There are lots of twists which set this story up to be an intriguing read, and although it had some holes, the web of the story held true. Jan and I enjoyed our foray into Ellen’s madness. There are never any guarantees that once revenge is accomplished that one will feel better. For Ellen, her end seems to make things come round full circle as she exchanges places with the boy she came to abhor.

Thanks to Louise Candish, Atria, and Edelweiss for a copy of this story that will publish March 1, 2022

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2’sDeadliestDay @peterzuckerman #amandapadoan @wwnorton @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Jan’s Review

One mark of a terrific read is when I go down a rabbit hole online to read more about the subject and search to see if a documentary was made. This book met those criteria.

The subject is one of the worst climbing disasters in history on K2, the deadliest mountain range for high altitude climbers. The death toll is roughly 30%, so what drives climbers? I’m not sure, but one thing is certain, the Sherpa who accompany the foreign climbers do so because with a lack of opportunity in an area rife with political unrest and war, it’s the only way to lift them out of poverty, put food on the table and put their children through school.

This is not just another climbing disaster book. The authors do a fantastic job introducing readers to the culture, beliefs and customs of the ethnic Sherpas. We follow two, Chhiring and Pasang from their childhood to the fateful climb in the summer of 2008, and we meet their families. I particularly appreciated that we were given the story through a Sherpa’s perspective, giving them recognition and a voice in a sport that typically highlights the Western climbers who gain fame and fortune through corporate sponsors. Sherpas make the climbs possible, doing much of the laying of the lines and the heavy work.

In 2008 eighteen climbers started out, but only 7 survived. The factors that led to such a devastating loss of life are varied and still the subject of some controversy. One thing for certain is that it was not just one thing that went wrong, it was a perfect storm of circumstances, timing, and poor decisions. Failing to adhere to the turn-around time, necessitating a climb down from the summit at night, and a falling serac (a block of glacier ice) which destroyed the lines needed played a major role. 

The facts of what happened in this disaster are thoroughly and painstakingly recounted and it was riveting reading. The details of the grueling climb, the effects on the human body, the reach to the summit and the disasters and dangers during the descent kept me glued to the page, as if I was right there beside them.  As in all disasters, there are true heroes depicted.

The question that Marialyce and I had as we read was mostly “WHY?” But then we are both missing the ‘danger gene’ and are more couch potato than adrenaline junkie.

I finished this book with sadness for the lives that were lost, but also with a newfound understanding and admiration for the Sherpas.

Marialyce’s Review

Surely to climb mountains is a great aspiration for some. It takes preparation, stamina, strength, and a will to conquer what others have tried but few have succeeded in doing. It also involves the overhanging threat of death.

K2 is the second highest mountain on Earth, with an elevation of 28, 251 feet. It is also the second most dangerous mountain, a claim made by many climbers. On August 1, 2008, climbers from various teams around the globe were about to climb this treacherous mountain. They had prepared for the conditions they would face or so they thought. There are many obstacles facing the men and one woman, altitude sickness, oxygen deprivation, weather, the falling of seracs (,a pinnacle or ridge of ice on the surface of a glacier.) and of course avalanches. Assisted by Sherpas and high-altitude porters, the group prepares to head out. Along the way there are four camps for them to acclimatize themselves to and so the ten groups after waiting two months for good weather travel out to achieve their goal.

Time is of the essence and to start their issues, the groups head out later than anticipated. As the wonderful Sherpas head out at midnight to fix lines for the climbers, the most experienced Sherpa, Shaheen Baig has to go back down because he is suffering high altitude sickness (vomiting, tiredness, confusion, headaches and dizziness). His absence will be sorely missed as he was the only one to have previously climbed K2 and was able to communicate in the various languages that the climbers and their team spoke. It seemed like a foretelling of disaster. However, continue they did and after some issues involving which side to climb, they continued along unknowing that the rope lines had been laid out too soon, and they eventually ran out of rope. They were at the dead zone an area that contained the infamous Bottleneck where there was room for just one person at a time. So, at 3pm, a time that was surely too late, they set out. Delayed by having to climb back down to retrieve the rope previously used, more time was lost.


Soon, the deaths would begin. At this point two climbers fell Mandic and Baig when Mandic unlocked himself to let another climber go before him, he lost his balance and fell more than 300 feet. In a rescue attempt that ultimately failed, Jehan Baig, suspected of having high altitude sickness fell to his death. The mountain had claimed two people so far.
For the rest, the summit is reached much later than safety would require, and them they were required to climb in the dark. Disaster struck again as a serac fell cutting all the fixed lines leaving the area more treacherous than it originally was. The choice was to descend in the dark with no lines or spend the night in the dead zone.


The next morning, another serac falls, leaving the Korean team entrapped by their ropes hanging. Although some tried to rescue them, it was a futile effort, and the mountain claimed more lives. Another serac and an avalanche was to fall missing a climber by inches. He later found the remains of another climber.

Meanwhile some Sherpas went back up the mountain to try and assist those who remained. It was a futile effort as another serac and avalanche descended sweeping four men to their deaths.


In all, eleven climbers lost their lives attempting to conquer the mountain, while the others were injured losing toes to frostbite, hurt seriously trying to follow their passion of climbing the world’s most dangerous mountain.


In this book, we are given details, some of which are murky from survivors’ remembrances of this fatal adventure. Jan and I read this book, and questioned as to why anyone would want to do such a thing. This driving compulsion to climb, to place their life on the line, to challenge nature, to be one of the over three hundred who have summited this mighty mountain. Was it worth the risk, exposing one’s body and mind to subzero temperatures with death sitting on your shoulders. I guess only a mountain climber could answer that question.


What should never be neglected is gratitude and recognition for the Sherpas and high-altitude porters for without their unfailing courage, the climbs would not be possible. They are a special people raised in higher altitude conditions with an exceptional respect for their gods and goddesses who they feel dwell in these mountains. They risk life and limb for what to us seems little pay so that their families can live a better life than the poor lives many have in front of them.


This is an amazing story, scary grisly at times which points to the fact that people will always do the things that call to them, no matter the risks involved, or the death that may await them at the next step they take.

The Ballerinas @RKapelkeDale @StMartinsPress @absltmom

The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

My review

Requiring ultimate strength, endurance, precision and the willingness to literally give up your life, the life of a ballerina might to some look like a glorious adventure into the world of beauty and fairy tales. We watch these girls glide across the stage, perform amazing leaps, testing their balance as they place the weight of their body onto the toes of their feet.

This wonderfully done book makes the reader understand so well what indeed the life of a ballerina is like. We meet three young girls, Delphine, Lindsay, and Margaux who become fast friends at their esteemed ballet school, the Paris Opera Ballet. It’s a hard life as the girls whose goal is to be a solo dancer, the main ballerina involved them in a world of pain, love, and the reminders that life is more than the dance. Yet, to these girls, it is their life.

We enter into a world of jealousy and the underpinnings of the depth many go to in order to be the best. The physical strain the training puts upon their young bodies, the condition of their feet with blisters constantly forming, and bloody sore s amassing, makes one wonder why anyone would want to do this. The girls constantly eye not only themselves but those who might eventually surpass them. Always vigilant for the next best thing, the girls are encouraged to work harder, stay super slim, and not to grow beyond a certain height.

Delphine, the daughter of a famous Prima Ballerina, knows she has a sword hovering over her as she strives to be just like her mother. Eventually, as a solo ballerina, she walks away from the Paris Opera, and ventures to Russia where she meets a Russian choreographer who enchants her, but fourteen years later she is back in Paris, recognizing what this man really is, a user, one who harbors jealousy for Delphine when she embarks on a choreographer career. Delphine is ready to once again embrace the life she had with her friends. Over the years, the girls would meet up sporadically and the friendship endured with its bumps along the way and the secret that Delphine and Margaux hold is drawing them into a territory where they know they should venture but are afraid.

The author does a fine job of conveying the many intricacies of being in a competitive arena. I did reflect on the similarities I personally experienced with a daughter who was a competitive figure skater. The drive is in these girls, they can’t seem to deny the allure and attraction ballet has for them as if it is written into their souls. The devious men and women who enter their lives seemed only to be focused on one thing, a narcissistic need for them to succeed using the girls, entrapping them at times, while making their needs always foremost.

It was sad reading this story, but a totally believable story of lives ruled by passion and finally perhaps the ability to see beyond what you think you need to be. I know this book has not received glowing reviews, but for me the affinity I felt for the girls probably was enhanced by what we saw and dealt with when my daughter competed.

Ballet looks so exquisitely beautiful, yet it hides a dark secret it can often threatening the life of the people who want nothing else but to be seen.

Thank you to Rachel Kapelke-Dale, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this intriguing book.

The Cost Of Applause: 77 Pics To Celebrate Ballet Day | Bored Panda
Prima Ballerina | LoveToKnow
Misty Copeland: 5 Facts From Her New Book "Ballerina Body" | Allure

Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident @Deadmountainbk @ChronicleBooks @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Jan’s Review

Dead Mountain, in the Ural mountains, seems aptly named as this is where nine Russian hikers died on a 1959 expedition. What makes this story so compelling are the inexplicable circumstances surrounding their deaths, which remains unsolved to this day.

The hikers appear to have fled their tent in the middle of the night in sub-zero weather, without shoes and scantily clad. What would cause experienced hikers to do something so irrational and foolhardy? When a search party found the hikers some weeks later, autopsies revealed that several of the hikers experienced unexplained traumatic physical injuries. There were other strange details at the scene, which eliminated a natural occurrence as the cause of death.  

Several theories have been debated over the decades, which include an avalanche, animal attacks, a military conspiracy, attack by the indigenous Mansi people, and nuclear experiments. The suppression of information about the incident by the government fueled conspiracy theories.

The problem is that all these theories have evidence to the contrary, and none hold up to close scrutiny. The author, with access to the hiker’s diaries, official records, as well as interviews, decides to retrace the hiker’s steps and develops his own theory.  Despite the GR blurb claiming that: “here for the first time is the real story of what happened that night on Dead Mountain”, I’m not sure that is true, but it is certainly an interesting theory. 

The story of what happened to the hikers alternates with excerpts of the author’s experiences as he made the trek. Well-written and thoroughly researched, I found this incident so compelling I was inspired to find out more and watched a documentary on Amazon Prime, An Unknown Compelling Force, which I found fascinating. I love it when a book leads me down a rabbit hole to find out more.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident

What Happened on Dyatlov Pass? 'Dead Mountain' Reveals All - The Moscow  Times

Marialyce’s Review

Dead Mountain, the name alone might scare one. However, nine intrepid hikers decided to take on the mountain and not a one of them survived the incident. What exactly happened to these young experienced hikers and how does one explain the conditions under which their bodies were found?


The time was 1959 while Russia was still under the arm of being Soviet Union. Jump to the present and the author, Donnie Eichar, and others have decided to retrace the steps taken by the nine to see if they could find the reason for the unexplained deaths. The circumstances are eerie, finding the hikers having fled from their tent, in temperatures 20 to 40 degrees below zero, ill-equipped to handle the cold. Many of them were scantily dressed and when discovered had often come to violent ends. Interestingly, their clothes contained higher levels of radiation, and a frightening last photograph was found. Various theories abounded as to the why of this bizarre happening. Could it have been nuclear tests, and alien invasion, an attack by the local Masi tribe, or something else?


Donnie Eichar was determined to know and so he enlisted the journals, the records, and experts on science, hiking and weather conditions who lent a hand to a theory that seemed quite different than any that had been proposed.

I was glad to have read this story with Jan and though at times repetitious, this story was interesting and provided many details of a trip that cost so many their lives. It has always amazed me that people would find such pleasure in such a death-defying sport. The weather alone would have happily kept me indoors in front of a roaring fire. Jan and I both agreed that we do not do well in temperatures below 60!

This was a quick read and one that would be well received by those who enjoy hiking and searching for the unsolved mysteries of the world. Although Mr Eichar’s solving of this mystery left many doubts in our minds, perhaps we will never know the real reason behind this unfortunate loss of life.

https://www.the-sun.com/lifestyle/tech-old/2233832/dyatlov-pass-incident-mystery-solved/

The Dyatlov Pass Incident: What Killed Hikers at Dead Mountain?
Mystery of Russia's 'Dead Mountain' where 9 hikers found 'naked, missing  eyes and tongues' may have been SOLVED
Mountain mystery | Drama Quarterly

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dyatlov_Pass_incident

This was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce and one we both enjoyed. The bottom line is we will never know what really happened, but for those of us fascinated by unsolved mysteries, this is an engrossing account of the tragedy.

The Younger Wife by Sally Hepworth@sallyhepworth @StMartinsPress @janbelisle @absltmom #dorie

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So very pleased and thrilled to have Dorie join us on this blog for this fun and highly enjoyable book!

Dorie’s Review

THIS WAS MY LAST READ OF 2021!!!! This is the most fun I’ve had with a thriller in a very long time.

The plot was very clever and the characters were interesting – everyone has their faults and neuroses.

Except for our patriarch, Stephen Aston, OR SO IT APPEARS!!

He is a 60 something physician, still attractive, getting married to a much younger woman!! He has done well and has a beautiful home, one that Heather designed! He loves his family, including his ex-wife Pam whom he has just divorced!! The book opens with their wedding ceremony!

Looking on as “bridesmaids” are Stephen’s daughters, Tully and Rachel. Tully is married with 2 young children, Rachel is single with a thriving business. Neither is happy about the wedding and they are sitting with their still very much alive mother, who has dementia.

I started to get excited about this book and really couldn’t put it down!!

The book switches to before the wedding for a long time :

While visiting her mother at the nursing facility, Tully has heard her mother talk about how Stephen had hurt her so many times!! Rachel hears her mother complain that he was a terrible man!!

The plot moves along quickly, the three young women start to question if Stephen is the perfect dad and husband that they thought! Pam was young when she was diagnosed with dementia and she often had bruises, although the girls don’t remember her being clumsy. Did her dad abuse her in some way???

Heather wakes up one morning after a girls night out. She remembers coming home to Stephen waiting for her, then she envisions what he did to her. She’s about to leave him when she sees Stephen at the kitchen table, HE HAS A BLACK EYE AND A SCRATCH ON HIS FACE!!

What is going on??? Are these women finally seeing who Stephen really is, or are they mentally creating a picture of a different man??

Lots of great surprises and mind games!! The ending is left to the reader’s design!

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher, St. Martin’s press, through NetGalley.

***This was a buddy read with Marialyce and Jan and we had great fun discussing this one and all enjoyed it! Check out their great reviews!

Jan’s Review

The book opens at a wedding when, as the happy couple go to the sacristy to sign the marriage license, the guests hear a thud, a scream, and the celebrant comes out covered in blood. What happened? We are kept in the dark as to who, what, why as we go back in time.  

Stephen is a successful cardiac surgeon, still married to Pam, who suffers from advanced Alzheimer’s disease and resides in a care facility. Imagine the shock and surprise of his two grown daughters, Rachel and Tully, when he invites them to a luncheon to meet Heather, his very young fiancé.

Heather is the product of a troubled childhood and  is unsure in social situations, always expecting the worst from people, including her husband-to-be. Rachel and Tully both have their own issues. Tully is married and living an upper middle-class lifestyle that is crumbling around her as she hides a dangerous secret, while Rachel is single and has a secret trauma from her past.

As the daughters go through their mother’s things, they find a hot water bottle filled with cash and the theories begin to fly. Told from the perspective of the three women, a group think begins to occur and past events and motivations are assigned to Stephen that may or may not be true. As they sift through their memories and come to conclusions, are they correct or have they been tainted by time, assumptions, and innuendos?

This is a brilliant exploration of memory, as well as early trauma affecting our perceptions and beliefs. The ending could be open to interpretation and it’s one I re-read several times. I have my own belief and interpretation based on my own experiences, as I’m sure others will interpret it differently based on their beliefs and experiences.  I didn’t find it ambiguous but other readers may. Which, when you think about it, proves the author’s point brilliantly. 

It’s been a long time since I had such a page-turner that I was glued to the page past my bedtime. I rate according to genre, how fast I flip the pages, and how much a book makes me think. This may not be an in-depth character study but for a terrific lighter read with substance you can’t go wrong. I read this as a buddy read with Marialyce and Dorie, and it inspired an interesting and lively discussion. This would make a terrific book club selection. 

*I received a digital copy for review from NetGalley

* Publication date April 5, 2022 by St. Martin’s Press

Marialyce’s Review

I have not been a big fan of Sally Hepworth, but I must say this book changed my mind. There is so much to it both in the story itself and the discussions I was able to have with my two book friends, Jan and Dorie, but the very questions it left in our minds as to who or what managed to complete an awful act.


So much is left to the imagination, and this book does make one wonder what lines might have been crossed and how often we can be deceived by what seems to be right in front of our eyes.


People with issues and problems present themselves in so many ways. Stephen, the head of the family, a successful doctor is currently married to Pam, but sadly Pam is in the hold of dementia and is confined to a home. Stephen has also met and fallen in love with Heather, a young woman his two daughter’s age who is ever so anxious to become something, to climb out of the hole her family seemed to have placed her in. The two daughters, Tully and Rachel are products of trauma and both hide their mental states to all, even in Tully’s case from her husband.


And so, this mixture of people come together to both prepare for the upcoming divorce and marriage of their saintly father. However, is he the saint we are all led to believe or is there once again a hidden self that lies within Stephen that seems to set them all down a road, they never believed they would travel.


Intensely interesting and page turning, this book keeps one engrossed in the happenings of this family and the inevitable end that they seem to be headed for. Definitely recommend this one for its probe into the very essence of family and what the mind believes.
Thank you to Sally Hepworth, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for this story due out April 5, 2022.

On the Way to Casa Lotus: A Memoir of Family, Art, Injury, and Forgiveness @ljuncomargain @absltmom #independentbooksellers #forgiveness #medical #memoir

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MY REVIEW

On the Way to Casa Lotus: A Memoir of Family, Art, Injury, and Forgiveness, tells the story of a beautiful, artistic, wealthy, young Mexican girl named Lorena Margain. She is married to a wonderful man and together with family and friends they share a perfect existence. Perfect that is until, Lorena, pregnant with her third child starts to feel sick.

Nothing is wrong, the doctors say, but Lorena knows differently. All blame seems to fall on the pregnancy, Lorena’s busy life style, and the rigors of being a wife and mother. The family offers compassion, but there is little they can do other than to try and allay her fears. Lorena has her third child and looking for relief from the pain and suffering, she finds none to be had. She goes to see an endocrinologist and from there it is discovered that she has a growth on her adrenal gland. Although not cancerous, it must be removed and so Lorena schedules the surgery as soon as possible.

Of course, she and her family realize that the surgery will not make things better immediately, but as Lorena heals and goes home, the pain and suffering grow to major misery. She can’t function and for a woman who once had a zeal for life, she blames herself for not being better. Doctors suggest perhaps it’s psychosomatic and once again she wonders if indeed, she is the one creating this untenable life.

As she sinks deeper and deeper into pain, she becomes depressed knowing she is no wife to her beloved husband, Edwardo, or mother to her three young children. The family bands around her doing all they can to allay her situation. It is truly a loving family, one that supports each other no matter what.

Unbelievably, she eventually returns to her endocrinologist, and to both their shock and amazement, they find that the surgeon removed the incorrect gland and Lorena must endure surgery again on the other gland. The surgeon does her best and is able to save a part of the gland, but now Lorena must live differently from what she once was able to do.

Lorena and Edwardo, along with the family, are furious and want to sue the surgeon who made such a blunder, but as Lorena comes to fully understand both herself and life, she decides to not seek revenge against the surgeon.

In this horrible occurrence, Lorena learned that she must trust herself, know what her body feels and not rely on others’ opinions to set a course for her. It’s a cautionary tale, where so many of us who rush to find a cure to what ails us, perhaps, should listen more to our inner voice. We know ourselves better than anyone and we should always be our own health advocate, not afraid to question, and certainly always knowing when something is wrong.

This story of courage, strength, love, and the willingness to forgive and to move on, is a good lesson for us all. Perhaps if there was more forgiveness in our own life, we could go on as Lorena did, just happy to be alive with her husband, children, and family surrounding her.

Thank you to Lorena Margin, Independent Book Sellers, and NetGalley for this story.

And here’s the author:

Lorena Junco Margain - YouTube

Art collector, philanthropist, author of the USA Today & Wall Street Journal bestselling memoir, On The Way To Casa Lotus!

The Collective @alisongaylin @WmMorrowBooks @yayareadslotsofbooks

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MY REVIEW

A very interesting plot line makes for a ride on the wild side.

Perhaps a person has wronged you in so many ways, that all you see that person is with eyes that are full of hatred. It does seem sometimes that many a guilty party goes scot free, and our ire at the injustice of the world gets the better of us. We are consumed with hate, enough so that we can’t go forward and lose everything else that was once of value to us.

It’s been five years since the death of her daughter that Camille Gardener has been grieving. She has cut herself off from her former husband, her friends, and things that could allow her to move beyond the tragedy that had occurred.

Camille knows that the young boy who killed her daughter is free, a member of a privileged family, a boy who has it all. After all this time is there a way to extract revenge? When an invitation comes to join a secret, dark web group, that pledges to carry out acts of revenge in a clever and somewhat anonymous manner to those who escaped justice the first time, Camille decides to join.

The question comes down to are these people carrying out a vigilante justice or are have they themselves become the very people they have pledged to hate?

There are a number of plot holes, but overall it’s a tense story that keeps the reader engaged from start to finish.

and here’s the author:

Alison Gaylin

USA Today and international bestselling author Alison Gaylin has won the Edgar and Shamus awards, and has been nominated for many more, including the ITW Thriller, the Strand Book Award, the Anthony and the Macavity. She is currently at work on her 12th novel.

This book comes highly recommended!

The Island of Missing Trees @Elif_Shafak @Viking Books @yayareadslotsofbooks

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MY REVIEW

The trees know. They have through millennia been here. They are witness to our history as violent as it is. They have loved us and yet they see what we have become. They know what we are capable of and through the senses of a special fig tree, we are witnesses to a sad and tragic story.

What causes the most pain on our planet? Could it be death and destruction brought on by the many ways in which war starts?

It is a theme that runs through history, one that pits race against race, color against color, and the human race against what nature has said they are. Add to that religion which has divided us through the ages as if god considers one faith superior to another.

This story deals wonderfully with the consequences of a man and woman falling in love with other even though the mores of the times demand that their love is wrong, indecent, and immoral. However, love does not know country lines, religious bigotry, or boundaries. It transcends all making the above issues irrelevant and mindless.

This story is set in Cyprus where strict lines have been drawn between the Greeks and the Muslims. One traversing over these lines offers them so up to ridicule and ostracism.

Yet, Kostos and Defne do. They have the nerve to fall in love. Set inside the Cyprus civil war, the author takes us through the prejudices, the hated, the murder that occurs when people are trained to hate those who they live with. (Sounds familiar does it not?)

Wonderfully told with an open eye on war against neighbor and its repercussions that do travel through generations, this excellent story can show us how we might recognize from whence we come and make our impact felt on presenting a better future.

The trees point the way to life. They know our story since it blends with theirs. Perhaps their way to coexist with all is the future humankind needs to take as a way of life.

and here’s the author:

Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak is an award-winning British-Turkish novelist and the most widely read female author in Turkey. She writes in both Turkish and English, and has published seventeen books, eleven of which are novels. Her work has been translated into fifty languages. Shafak holds a PhD in political science and she has taught at various universities in Turkey, the US and the UK, including St Anne’s College, Oxford University, where she is an honorary fellow. She is a member of Weforum Global Agenda Council on Creative Economy and a founding member of ECFR (European Council on Foreign Relations). An advocate for women’s rights, LGBT rights and freedom of speech, Shafak is an inspiring public speaker and twice a TED Global speaker, each time receiving a standing ovation. Shafak contributes to major publications around the world and she has been awarded the title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres. In 2017 she was chosen by Politico as one of the twelve people who would make the world better. She has judged numerous literary prizes and is chairing the Wellcome Prize 2019.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty @praddenkeefe @doubledaybooks @absltmomMy review

Book Cover

It has taken me awhile to formulate my thoughts about this amazing book Empire of Pain. This nonfiction, written by Patrick Radden Keefe, will not only inform you of three generations of the infamous Sackler family, it will also made you incensed that their company, Purdue Froelich initially, later entitled Purdue Pharma was able to ensnare the public to the drug OxyContin.

The family became enormously wealthy donating to a plethora of institutions including hospitals, universities, museums, etc with always the one caveat, their name must appear on the donation. Across the word the name appeared which would one day be removed because of the insidious practices of their company. They were a family who flew under the radar, one that always remained in the shadows, never affixing their name to any company they owned and clandestinely operated. The family’s beginnings were traced back to Issac Sackler, who in 1904, immigrated to America, He sired three sons, encouraged them to become doctors which they did. He also told them ““What I have given you is the most important thing a father can give… a good name.” Unfortunate, in so many ways, his ensuing progeny didn’t consider his words as they did everything, they could to push their wonder drug OxyContin.

Labeled as an answer to pain sufferers dream, this drug’s side effects were hidden, as undocumented studies were used and often quoted in selling the drug. …and selling they did.
Offering huge benefits to doctors who prescribed the drug and a sales staff that was trained well, the drug became a word wide phenomenon. FDA approved added that additional push to Oxy’s fame and the money poured in making the Sackler’s one of the richest families in our nation. They encouraged their sales staff to target poor areas under the guise of knowing the spots where pain was most prevalent thus hooking countless people onto this drug requiring more and higher dosages to abate their pain.

The Sackler’s knew what was happening. The drug they claimed was nonaddictive was, but as their sales increased and millions were amassed, they didn’t care. Lawsuits that came in, were put down quickly by teams of high-powered attorneys would dig into the past of the plaintiff to disgrace them. The kicker to me was that the company (aka the Sackler’s) said that the people who became addicted were those who had an addiction flaw in their nature, already were addicts, not that the drug made them so.

The thousands who died because of their drug is immeasurable. Parents lost children, couples lost each other, children lost their parents, and the suffering mounted up for the people who were sucked into the Sackler web of deceit and deplorable practices. There is an excellent chance you know someone who perished, or is currently fighting their addiction.

It took many a year for the drug to be understood and although Purdue did try to make a pill that couldn’t be broken down, their initial push of this drug, started many down the path to heroin and morphine.

Thanks to the investigative talent of both the author and others, the Sackler family no longer remains hidden. The very infuriating thing was that they knew the end was coming so they pulled millions out of Purdue Pharma, hid the money in untraceable accounts, and finally declared bankruptcy for Purdue. However, in a turn of their need to be philanthropically recognized many institutions pulled their name from structures as well as refusing future donations. It seems the one good thing that Issac gave his family, they successfully destroyed.

****As a caveat, there is so much money to be had in this industry, that many can be “bought” both in government agencies and legal services. Most concerning of all to me is that drug companies have been indemnified by our government, meaning that they can’t be sued or held accountable for the havoc that might ensue. Makes you wonder does it not? Hopefully the Sackler’s will have a wing in hell with their name over it awaiting their arrival!****

A most excellent book that will infuriate you as well as fascinate you with the family’s arrogance and evilness. Kudos to Patrick Keefe for writing this masterpiece.

and here’ the author:

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Snakehead and Chatter. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, New York, and The New York Review of Books. He received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, for his story “A Loaded Gun,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and is also the recipient of an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at the New America Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Rock Paper Scissors @alicewriterland @Flatironbooks #mysterythriller #psycologicalthriller @JanBelisle@absltmom

Book Cover

Jan’s review

Adam & Amelia win a weekend away to Scotland and decide to use it to celebrate their anniversary. Adam is a screenwriter and a workaholic, which isn’t helping their marriage. Maybe a weekend away will be just what they need to repair their relationship. Adam suffers from prosopagnosia (face blindness), but in public his wife stays by his side and helps him out when someone they know approaches. Sometimes. She can be a little passive-aggressive. This feature adds a fun and unique element to the story.  

The couple, along with their dog Bob, arrive at the remote location in the midst of a raging snowstorm, and strange things begin happening, starting with a bedroom that is decorated exactly like the one they have at home. Add in a spooky old church, a graveyard, lost power, and a strange face that appears in the window, and you have all of my favorite elements in a thriller. 

The story alternates chapters between Amelia, Adam, and a mysterious woman named Robin.  Interspersed between these chapters are anniversary letters, which his wife would never want Adam to read. They both have their secrets, which we learn about through the letters. No one is likable here, which is not a deal breaker for me. 

It’s clear something devious is afoot. Who will win this game and will all come out alive? This one kept Marialyce and I furiously flipping the pages, and playing amateur sleuth. Once again, the author fooled us with brilliant twists and turns. By the final reveal everything I thought I knew was in question, and I wanted to start over and read it again, knowing what I now know. Were there a few inconsistencies and loose ends? Maybe, but I didn’t care, because I was engaged and thoroughly entertained throughout. I loved how the author laid out the story and how the secrets were revealed to the reader. 

This would be a terrific winter read, and if you live in the northern climes, reading it in the midst of a snowstorm curled up by the fire would be perfect. 

Marialyce’s review

Take a couple whose marriage is on shaky ground, a very spooky old church in the middle of nowhere, a person who is spying on them, and a plethora of weird occurrences and you have the makings of Alice Feeney’s book Rock, Paper, Scissors.

From the beginning of this tale, a blizzard is blowing, and our main characters, Adam and Amalia, are on their way to a free weekend away in Scotland. Both of them have their secrets which Ms Feeney lets out in drips, and from Adam, we see a man who has been plagued with face blindness, not being able to recognize even those closest to him. They have been married for ten years and each year in the spirit of giving, they exchange gifts symbolic of the year. Year one was paper, year two was cotton and so on. What Adam doesn’t know is that each year, his wife also pens a letter which she doesn’t give to him. How very strange indeed!

As the wind blows and the electricity goes, the couple start to discover their surrounding accompanied by doors that are locked and suddenly open, a cellar that provides its own level of eeriness, and strange sounds. This is not turning into a getaway weekend that will aid their marriage indeed! Add to that there is an old strange woman, reputed to be a witch, who lives in a dilapidated cottage down the lane.

The snow falls, the wind blows, and we are entrenched in a story that takes many turns as it is revealed what is occurring and how their lives or in peril.


Jan and I enjoyed this telling, holes in the story and all. It was downright spooky fun and did manage to keep our sleuthing going. We both decided that we would have left that setting pronto! Definitely, a story you will enjoy in the midst of winter with the snow and wind setting you up for a blustery and frightening evening.

and here’s the author:

Alice Feeney

Alice Feeney is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist. Rock Paper Scissors is her fourth novel and is being made into a TV series for Netflix by the producer of The Crown. It will be published around the world in 2021.

Her debut novel, Sometimes I Lie, was an international bestseller, has been translated into over twenty languages, and is being made into a TV series by Warner Bros. starring Sarah Michelle Gellar. His & Hers is also being adapted for screen by Jessica Chastain’s Freckle Films.

Alice was a BBC Journalist for fifteen
years before becoming an author. She lives in Devon with her family.