Big Lies in a Small Town @D_Chamberlain @StMartinsPress #mystery #artrestoration @absltmom

Having read a number of Diane’s Chamberlain’s book, I was quite anxious to dive into this story and of course was quite happy when I was notified that I was able to acquire an advanced copy from NetGalley. It was an extremely interesting premise and one that heightened my interest in the fascinating world of art and its restoration.

Big Lies in a Small Town

Seventy years separate the two protagonists in this story and yet even though decades separate them, there is something that connects Anna Dale, the young winner of a competition to create a mural for a small town post office in the South in the 1940s, and Morgan Christopher, a young girl of present day, who while in prison for a crime she didn’t commit, is commissioned to restore the mural that has been hidden for many years.

This is a story not only of lies and deceit, but also a story of the way in which art can and is restored to its former glory. In this mural, that was kept and held by a famous artist Jesse Williams, there are many clues to what had transpired in the life of Anna Dale, a person whose story and life seemed to end in a small town in the South. As the story continues with alternating chapters between Anna and Morgan, we learn more about these two artists, and the things that transpired in their lives that seem to culminate in the creation and restoring of this mural.

The story is cleverly told, giving the reader a few hints at a time to the things that seem to link these ladies together through time and distance. It’s a tale of the way things were in the South decades ago, and how one’s life can change and deviate in the blink of an eye. I recommend this book for the way in which Ms Chamberlain built up the suspense and kept one wondering how these protagonists were ultimately bound together.

Thank you to Diane Chamberlain, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for a copy of this book due out January 14, 2020.

and here’s the author

Diane hi res blue 2

Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and Sunday Times bestselling author of 26 novels published in more than twenty languages. Influenced by her former career as a social worker and psychotherapist, she writes suspenseful stories that touch both heart and mind.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCvZe6ZCbF9xgbbbdkiodPKQ for some wonderful information on art restoration

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz @exlarson @CrownPublishing #winstonchurchill #WW2 #England @absltmom

The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” (Winston Churchill)

As always is the case, books by Erik Larson transcend the usual historical novel. This author always goes above and beyond in his books and provides the readers with a story that not only flows smoothly, but also is able to provide facts that are fascinating, erudite, and ultimately educate the reader, in a way that is fascinating and captivating.

There are multiple books about Winston Churchill, but this one merged together flawlessly pieces of his life. Winston had the uncanny ability to unite a nation that was bombarded with everything Nazi Germany had in its arsenal, but still managed to carry through to victory. It was also a fine tribute to the men and women behind the scenes, those who carried on because of Winston, and those family members who so believed in their husband and father. Winston didn’t believe in failure and though there were many, his indomitable spirit seemed to transcend defeat and inspire in the British people that spirit, and drive that nothing could or would crush them.

Winston’s character, that tough cigar chomping man who had various idiosyncrasies, was a marvel among men. His spirit and determination led a beleaguered country to its ultimate goal, that of staying a free Britain. He was a masterful leader of people, who made those around him strive for things it seemed impossible to achieve. The populace adored him, as he made himself one of them, walking through the ruins of war so gallantly and heroically, delivering speeches to the people, standing tall in the face of an imminent defeat. He was the man England needed and he pushed through valiantly, providing his nation with the spirit and determination it so needed in its hour of darkness. “Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the hard may be; for without victory there is no survival.”

If you are at all interested in history, in a man, in a country that stood up to what others might have claimed as unbeatable odds this book is one for you. I recommend it most highly for its authentic look at a man and a time that should always be viewed as the epitome of the human spirit.

Thank you to Erik Larson, Crown Publishing, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this fabulous book due out February 25, 2020.

and here is the author:

Erik Larson

THE SPLENDID AND THE VILE: A SAGA OF CHURCHILL, FAMILY, AND DEFIANCE DURING THE BLITZ, due out in early spring 2020, is a story of geopolitical brinksmanship during Churchill’s first year as prime minister, but also an intimate domestic drama, set against the backdrop of Churchill’s prime-ministerial country house, Chequers, and his “full-moon home,” Ditchley, where Churchill, his family, and his “Secret Circle” convene when the moon is in its brightest phases and the bombing threat is highest.

Erik is a former features writer for The Wall Street Journal and Time. His magazine stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s and other publications.

Dear Edward @ napolitanoann @randomhouse #grief #loss #lonliness #survivorguilt #hope #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Dear Edward

Always on the lookout for something different, something that will awaken emotions in our hearts and minds, something that will impact us, Jan and I decided to read Dear Edward. It was a book that touched us in so many ways.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggling, known loss, and have found their way out of these depths. (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross)

Jan’s review

It’s been a long time since I read a book where the story and the characters took hold of my heart and wouldn’t let go. Anyone who has followed my reviews for any amount of time knows that I don’t typically like child narrators. This is the exception. It’s a stunning piece of storytelling. I love a story that delves into psychological issues, and how one heals from unbearable tragedy is the ultimate psychological challenge.  I had the pleasure of buddy reading this with my good friend Marialyce, and it’s a book we both loved and tore through in record time.

Edward, his brother, and his parents board a plane to start a new life in California. They don’t make it, as the plane crashes midflight.  191 die while Edward is miraculously the only survivor. 

Edward’s emotional struggles with the loss of his beloved family, the burden of survivor’s guilt, as well as his sudden notoriety as the “miracle boy”, is dealt with in such a compassionate and authentic way that I wondered more than once as I read if the author has experience with grief. She knows you never get over a loss, and there is no timeline or “closure”.  But there is life after loss, although it’s a different life.

After Edward heals from his physical injuries he goes to live with his aunt and uncle, and does the hard work of learning how to live again. How do you move forward when you’ve lost everything, including yourself, the person you were before the loss?  He befriends Shay, the 12 year old girl next door, and it is one of the most delightful friendships I’ve had the pleasure of reading. 

All of the adults in Edward’s life, from his aunt and uncle, to the school personnel, and his therapist have a part to play in his recovery and all were incredibly knowledgeable and insightful, even when dealing with their own struggles. They were all terrific characters that felt realistic. But Edward still struggles until he makes a discovery that, along with Shay’s help, serves as the catalyst for his healing. 

The story alternates between Edward’s chapters and chapters that highlights the other passengers on the flight, from the quirky to the serious.  Learning their backstories put the losses into perspective but thankfully the author doesn’t manipulate the reader into an emotional response. They simply add interest and depth to the story. 

This sounds unbearably sad but it is a beautiful, heartfelt story that is never maudlin or manipulative. The ending brought tears through my smiles.  This is a book that is ultimately hopeful, a story that restores faith in the human spirit, and one that will stay with me a long time to come. Highly recommended!

·      I received a digital copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

Marialyce’s Review

“And how can you mend a broken heart?
How can you stop the rain from falling down?
How can you stop the sun from shining?
What makes the world go round?
How can you mend this broken man?
How can a loser ever win?
Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again” (Bee Gees)

Tragedy and death has confronted all of us. There has been loss in our lives be it a parent, grandparent, spouse, child, family, or friends. It touches everyone, but perhaps never as much as it touches a person who has been left alive after all others have perished. Why me? Why am I still here?

“I can still feel the breeze that rustles through the trees
And misty memories of days gone by
We could never see tomorrow, no one said a word about the sorrow” (Bee Gees)

Young Edward, his family and one hundred eighty three others, board a plane thinking to arrive at their destination hours later. No one thought of not getting to their destination, never seeing those they cared for again, of having their life end in tragedy and a fiery crash. However, Edward knows. He knows that he is the only survivor, the only one left of these many souls, the only one left to carry within him the nightmare of what he went through and how his life was irreversibly changed.

After recovering from his wounds, Edward goes to live with his aunt and uncle, a kindly couple who themselves are suffering the loss of a sister and the loss of the dream of having their own child. Edward meets and forms a strong attachment to the girl across the street, Shay, who offers him hard won comfort and seems to be exactly the person he needs. There are also other wonderful characters. The principal of Edward’s school, whose love for plants nurtures Edward as well, allowing Edward to grow while giving him solace and a sense of peace in the ferns he keeps. There is Dr Mike, who so understands how to draw Edward out, how to allay his guilt, how to make him know that he has the ability to heal and only needs to discover the way to find that road to inner peace.

And then there are the letters, written to Edward from the families of survivors, the people who know loss, the people who want him to go forward almost as if Edward is living their loved one’s lives for them.

Sadness and melancholy pervade this story and certainly we understand why. Though sadness often does lead to times of happiness, times when you begin to understand yourself, and times that make for a way ahead that is filled with promise. This is what Edward needs to know and strives to learn.

This wonderful story, loosely based on a real event, will have you realizing what many of us know, that the joy and love of family can sustain you through the worst that life can dole out. Edward, only thirteen at the time, will progress down a road filled with thorns and brambles to come to a road that, while not always filled with sunshine, will always offer days that are.

“Please help me mend my broken heart and let me live again” (Bee Gees)

I most heartily recommend this story as Ms Napolitano has given us a detailed look at loss, survivor guilt, and grief. The depth of this story is truly amazing. We all have been there. We all know what it’s like to lose someone, we all know a portion of what Edward feels. We all are on his side wishing life’s very best for a young man who has experienced ultimate loss.

Thank you to Ann Napolitano, Random House and NetGalley for a copy of this beautiful story.

And here’s the author:

Ordinary Grace @WmKentKrueger @AtriaBooks #mystery #crime #familyties #morality @absltmom

I have my very good friend, Jan, to thank for recommending this gem to me. It was well worth her glowing review for it fulfilled all the wonderful things that she and many others have said.

Ordinary Grace

“The dead are never far from us. They’re in our hearts and on our minds and in the end all that separates us from them is a single breath, one final puff of air.”

After reading this author’s, This Tender Land, I knew I needed to pick up Ordinary Grace. Books from author’s that are written from the heart are definitely ones that earn both my love and respect for what author’s places upon a page. It is evident in this book Mr Krueger has put both his heart and soul into its creation. This is a book that touches the reader’s heart in so many places and leaves one disappointed when all the words have been said, and the last chapter read.

It’s 1961, in a rural town in southern Minnesota, as Frank Drum now fifty three, looks back upon his life particularly the year he was thirteen. In that year many heart rending things happened to Frank and his family. Frank’s dad was a minister, his mom a somewhat distant and frustrated wife and mother, his beloved sister, Ariel, and his younger brother who stutters but adores his older brother and sister are the family he reflects upon.

The descriptions of life during this time are truly wonderful and each member of the cast of characters is presented so that their humanity and also their human frailties are shown. When tragedy strikes the Drum family, the author guides us through how each and every person faces adversity. Everyone, the town included, are shown to jump to conclusions and succumb to gossip and innuendo.

Yes, this is a mystery story, but in reality it is so much more. It shines a powerful light on family relationships, the things that make us tick, the things that hurt and harm us, and the joy that often occurs as one realizes that they have come from calamity and will survive. for going forward is often a miracle when all is dark around you. “The miracle is this: that you will rise in the morning and be able to see again the startling beauty of the day.”

If you are looking for an extremely wonderful, loving look at family, small town relationships, and faith that behind adversity, I can’t recommend this book more highly as it is one not to be missed.

and here’s the author:

William Kent Krueger

Raised in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon, William Kent Krueger briefly attended Stanford University—before being kicked out for radical activities. After that, he logged timber, worked construction, tried his hand at freelance journalism, and eventually ended up researching child development at the University of Minnesota. He currently makes his living as a full-time author. He’s been married for over 40 years to a marvelous woman who is a retired attorney. He makes his home in St. Paul, a city he dearly loves.

Krueger writes a mystery series set in the north woods of Minnesota. His protagonist is Cork O’Connor, the former sheriff of Tamarack County and a man of mixed heritage—part Irish and part Ojibwe. His work has received a number of awards, including the Minnesota Book Award, the Loft-McKnight Fiction Award, the Anthony Award, the Barry Award, the Dilys Award, and the Friends of American Writers Prize. His last nine novels were all New York Times bestsellers.

Ordinary Grace, his stand-alone novel published in 2013, received the Edgar Award, given by the Mystery Writers of America in recognition for the best novel published in that year. The companion novel, This Tender Land, is scheduled for publication in September 2019.

Girls Like Us @cristinaalger @putnambooks #policeprocedural #mystery #murder #trafficing #fictionfriends #duoreviews @JanBelisle @absltmom

Girls Like Us

Having really enjoyed this author’s The Banker’s Wife, Jan and I were quite anxious to read this new book of hers. We enjoyed our foray, and felt this book had some fine story telling and a story that concluded well.

Jan’s review

If you like smart, strong female leads then you will find much to like in this book. FBI agent Nell is on medical leave from her job and travels to her hometown for her estranged father’s funeral. As she reconnects with her father’s coworkers in the police department, Nell gets pulled into the investigation of the murders of two undocumented sex workers.  What follows is a complicated tale that uncovers a dark underbelly in her hometown that may involve her father.  An underbelly that anyone who follows the news will find familiar.

I appreciated the respect the author gave the young women who died, despite their status as undocumented sex workers. They are ‘girls like us’, even though the authorities saw them as less than deserving of a full-blown investigation. I also loved Nell’s determination and persistence to find justice for them despite all the dangers and roadblocks. 

Marialyce and I both enjoyed the author’s previous book, The Banker‘s Wife and looked forward to this one. If I had to choose between the two I’d say I enjoyed The Banker’s Wife a bit more, but this is a well-plotted, easy read that I would recommend for fans of straight up police procedurals with no crazy out-of-left-field twists or eye-rolling moments. I wouldn’t mind seeing Nell’s character developed further in future books, but either way, I’ll anxiously await the author’s next book.

*I received an e-galley of this book from edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Marialyce’s review

It’s been a very hard ten years for Nell Flynn. She is estranged from her father, her memories of home are not pleasant, and now that her father, a former police detective, has passed, Nell needs to return to the place where her memories haunt her.

The place she goes to is on Long Island. (I always enjoy a book that features my old hometown area.) She is not only confronted by memories but also by the murders of two young woman. As Nell steps into the investigation, brought along by her father’s partner, Lee Davis, she begins to uncover a world of human trafficking, sex workers, and a bevy of men, both those in high positions and places of authority that have been a part of the ominous goings on. There were shades of Jeffrey Epstein in the story as an extremely wealthy man seems to revel in underage parties, and provide sex partners for the high and mighty.

Adding to Nell’s dilemma is her continual wonder about the brutal murder of her mother, and with her feelings towards her father, Nell believes he might have had a hand in all the nefarious happenings in her old hometown.

Nell discovers a world of underhanded dealings, a world where money can buy you anything you want, a world where young women are commodities traded and bought by the highest bidder, a world where one might find themselves dead.

This was a fine story that was very straight forward in its writing and story telling. There were some moments that the reader might have anticipated, but the flow of the story was such that the events kept one moving along the timeline of the book.

As Jan mentioned above, I, too, was more partial to The Banker’s Wife. However for those who like a strong female protagonist and the ways in which some are drawn to the dark side of living, this book might just be one to pick up.

and here’s the author

Cristina Alger is the New York Times bestselling author of of Girls Like UsThe Banker’s WifeThe Darlings, and This Was Not the Plan. A graduate of Harvard College and NYU Law School, she worked as a financial analyst and a corporate attorney before becoming a writer. She lives in New York with her husband and children.

The New Husband @djpalmerauthor @stmartinspress #thriller #mystery #psychological @absltmom

The New Husband

There are times when a book calls to you and says why not take a chance and see how it goes. For this reader, that chance paid off. I was ready for the typical story about a missing husband and the man who comes to take his place. But this book was deliciously devious and offered a few heart racing moments.

Poor Nina Garrity! Not only is her husband missing, but it seems as if he was a two timing embezzler who had her fooled from the get go. So much for wine and roses! However Nina has a new man in her life, and although her daughter is bitterly opposed to this new match, Nina plows on ahead moving in with Mr Right and taking her two children with her.

There’s a lot going on and most of it is basically lies and rumors that are sending rippling effects into Nina’s family. As the story continues, we find out, as usual, things we thought we knew about the people we love are often not really so.

Yes, Simon Fitch is the perfect man making Nina, a year and a half after husband Glen went missing, presumably dead, jumping at the chance to become a couple and move him with him. Simon is a teacher, a catch really, but Maggie, Nina’s teenage daughter sees something in Simon that is off. Perhaps it’s jealousy that her mother has moved on, but there is something sinister in Simon and Maggie is determined to make her mother see the Simon that Maggie views.

It’s a game for Simon as he tries to ingratiate himself into the family, but with Maggie he has a capable adversary. As the secrets are revealed, we find once again what appears to be real is further from the truth than anyone thought.

This was a fine psychological thriller that had me wondering if all the pieces would finally come together wondering if Nina would eventually realize that all that glitters is not gold.

Thank you to D.J. Palmer, St Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this exciting thriller due out April 14, 2020

and here’s the author:

D.J. Palmer

DANIEL PALMER is the USA Today bestselling author of ten critically acclaimed suspense novels. He published his first novel, DELIRIOUS, after a decade-long career in e-commerce, where he helped launch first generation websites for major online retailers including Barnes & Noble and Dick Sporting Goods. Following the success of Daniel’s publishing career, he founded DAY IN THE LIFE MEDIA, a video production and communication company committed to helping brands identify their brand heroes so they can tell stories in a way that directly impacts the bottom line. A recording artist, accomplished blues harmonica player, and lifelong Red Sox fan, Daniel lives in New Hampshire with his wife and two children.

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4) @rachelcaine @thomasandmercer #stillhouselakeseries #mystery #thriller @absltmom

Book three in the Stillhouse series, Wolfhunter River was another powerful thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat throughout, although all of the previous books did as well. When book 4, Bitter Falls, become available I rushed to press that button and download this book hoping for the thrill I had experienced with the previous books. Thankfully, it was, and I embarked onto another thrilling path with wonderful protagonists and an electrifying read.

Bitter Falls (Stillhouse Lake #4)

Looking for a strong protagonist, one needs to look no further than Gwen Proctor. Gwen, formerly unknowingly married to a serial killer, is now involved in a search for a missing young man in Tennessee. This young man has been missing for three years, and though there are no clues, Gwen, now working as a private investigator, thinks she might be able to find this boy and if nothing else put his mother’s heart to rest knowing the fate of her son.

Gwen stumbles onto a cult, one whose origins were inherent in Gwen’s former life. It’s a cult that threatens, kills, and enslaves women in their clutches. They are evil and the cult’s leader mimics those like Jim Jones and others of his ilk. Gwen pits herself against the cult leader and this game becomes one that threatens the lives of her children and the man she loves. It a battle of wits and strength and once again Gwen proves that she is a formidable opponent.

She worries about he children, placing them in the line of fire, even though her goal is always to protect them no matter what. She constantly finds her town in opposition to her and one family in particular the Belldenes seem to have a personal vendetta against Gwen. Gwen is stuck between this family’s threat and the cult that is pledged to fight to the death to preserve their evil way of life.

I recommend this thriller and ideally the entire series to those who love to be whisked away for many hours eagerly turning those pages as Gwen fires up and let’s go on those who seem to want evil things to happen to her family. Gwen is the true mama bear, so do watch out to those who dare to cross her.

Thank you to Rachel Caine, Thomas and Mercer, and Netgalley for a copy of this great addition to the Stillhouse series. This book is due out January 21,2020.

and here’s the author:

Rachel Caine

Rachel Caine on Balancing A Successful Writing Career and Multiple Day Jobs