@SGoodAuthor @AvonBookUK

Stranded by Sarah Goodwin

#reality #island #danger #mobrule @JanBelisle @absltmom

Book Cover

Jan’s review

Maddy had an overprotective upbringing and the untimely deaths of her parents have left her reeling.   She needs a change and signs up for a reality Survivor-type show where 8 contestants (four men, four women) are left on an island off the coast of Scotland, where they will live for one year. It’s an experiment to see how they will survive, and no one is voted off. But alliances are soon drawn, and Maddy, having few social skills, becomes the scapegoat for everything that goes wrong. If you wonder what would happen if society breaks down and it’s survival of the fittest, this is a prime example of mob mentality.

The book opens with Maddy sitting for an interview for a tv show. She’s painfully thin and bedraggled, after unspecified criminal charges and time in prison. Things obviously have gone terribly awry, and not everyone made it back from the island.  Maddy tells her story, and what a story it is!

Please note I hate camping or rustic anything. My idea of roughing it is making reservations at a luxury resort. But, still, I loved the setting and the descriptions of how the group uses their skills to forage and provide shelter and food for themselves. The second half of the book was riveting and unputdownable, and the ending…well, I needed to talk about it! 

As an aside, you do not have to be a fan of camping or roughing it in order to enjoy this book. My husband and I were huge fans of the show Survivor in its early days, and he would always joke (not really joking…) that had I been on the show I’d be the first voted off the island for two reasons: 
a. I would tell everyone once every 2 minutes that I was hungry. Seriously, I have an uncontrollable urge to voice it repeatedly. I don’t do hungry well
b. I have a 2-degree temperature level of comfort. I’m either too hot or too cold. The proper temperature is elusive and I have a need to repeatedly tell him how hot or cold I am.
My fellow survivors would hate me and couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. 

However, I do like living vicariously, and there was the Survivor nostalgic factor. Plus, this story was unique, which I appreciate. So many books are a variation of the same theme but this was different and I will likely remember it for that alone.

At the 50% mark, winter is setting in and conditions deteriorate rapidly after a surprising discovery.  The tension ramps up, and I simply could not put the book down. I was glued to the page to find out what would happen and who would survive.  I was at 95% at the end of a very long car trip where I would ordinarily be ready to get out of the car, but I found myself urging my husband to run an errand so I could finish the book. He wasn’t buying it. It’s been a long time since a book has affected me this way. 

Is it perfect? No. Told in the 1st person POV, we only hear Maddy’s story with no input from the others. It left me wondering why she was ostracized and if she was an unreliable narrator. But that also works in the plus column because it left me as a reader uncertain. Secondly, foreshadowing annoys me, and there was too much “if only I’d known how much worse it would get…”. To be fair, it DID get much, much worse, but I didn’t need to hear it repeatedly. Thirdly, the ending is problematic and requires some suspension of disbelief. The more I talked about it with my reading buddy Marialyce, the more I became annoyed. So, this isn’t a book for book clubs! Just read it, accept it as a purely entertaining read, and move on. The strengths outweigh any criticisms I had.

·       I received a digital copy via Netgalley for review. All opinions are my own.

Marialyce’s Review

One things for sure, you would never find me being on one of those survival shows. I love my creature comforts and would be the first to say plodding through a Forrest or taking an RV trip sends shivers down my spine.

Reading the book Stranded reinforced that view. To me, placing myself not only in the wild but with people who I didn’t know seems to be an exercise in stupidity. The main character of the story finds herself the eventual pariah of this motley group of eight left on an island close to Scotland, meaning this is no tropical oasis.

Things start to go wrong almost immediately as the division of duties and tasks seem to be inequitable and groups start to form eventually leaving Maddie out, seemingly because of her what one might call her common sense concerns.

The group, particularly their leader, comes to hate Maddie infusing this animosity into all. Eventually, she is thrown out of the camp left more or less to fend for herself.

Meanwhile time passes and various occurrences happen which start to boil over and tragedy in many forms stresses the group to a breaking point. Will Maddie or anyone make it out alive?

This was a somewhat interesting tale reminding me of Lord of the Flies but it did have many plot holes which decreased the enjoyment level for me. For a new author, it was a good effort but this book left me with more questions than answers.

Jan and I discussed all of the details plus the various omissions and inconsistencies of the story. Jan liked it a tad more than me but for the enjoyment level, we both agreed that this book managed to hold our interest.

Bottom line is point me in the direction of a Four Season hotel and I will be a happy “camper” This book convinced me I am not a roughing it girl.

and here’s the author:

Sarah Goodwin

Sarah Goodwin is a novelist who grew up in rural Hertfordshire and now lives in Bristol. She was raised on C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables and Little House on the Prairie by her parents and spent her summers in castles and on battlefields making up stories about women struggling for survival against war, poverty and dragons.

At Bath Spa University Sarah studied for a BA in Creative Writing and self-published seven novels across various genres, including YA magical realism, contemporary women’s fiction, romance and horror.

While undertaking her Master’s degree, Sarah participated in writing and performing in sketches for Bristol-based What Have You Comedy and now appears regularly on Bristol Youth Radio Rocks as part of a weekly mental health hour for young people.

Sarah graduated in 2014 with an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

Tunnel 29: The True Story of an Extraordinary Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall @helenamerriman @public_affairs #eastgermany #coldwar @absltmom

Book Cover

My review

What an amazing book and a true story as well. I do remember the Berlin Wall and how we did learn about it. Never, though did I fully realize the things that went on behind that wall, the struggle to escape from the totalitarian rule of East Berlin and its maniacal leaders.

The story centers on the escape plans, those of building a tunnel, in order to be free. It focuses on the hardships, the struggles, the loneliness, and heartbreak that occurred when the wall went up and families were separated, children from parents, wives from husband, and the road to ever seeing them again was cut off. It was a story of deprivation, of being watched all the time by hidden members of the Staci in their efforts to control all. The list of those who were spies showed, years later, the husbands who exposed wives, the children who turned on their parents, friend against friend, in an effort to appease those in control. The methods used when “traitors” were uncovered was cruel and inhuman, often resulting in death or years in prison, using mind control and other tortures to elicit the information the Staci needed. It was in essence a trip into hell from which no one escaped and if they were released the prisoners never were the same.

It was a story of authoritarian control, a time of Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and Communism, and others who felt helpless to intervene knowing that the tenuous thread of nuclear war hung in the balance.

There were the success stories, those who managed to escape and Tunnel 29, tells us the harrowing tale of those brave young men who dug tunnels to help those on the other side escape. They all knew their fate, if they were captured and the informants were running rampant so danger lurked behind every ear that heard a plan for escape.

This powerful story is both amazingly told and a caution to all of us as to what happens when a government holds total control over their people. It is definitely recommended as a non-fiction book that delivers on so many levels.

Thank you to Helena Merriman whose exhausted research made this such a moving story, PublicAffairs, and NetGalley for a copy of this story already published on August 24, 2021.

Helena Merriman #tunnel29 a Twitter: "30 yrs ago today the #BerlinWall came  down. For my podcast series, #tunnel29, I interviewed Joachim Rudolph,  Wolfdieter Sternheimer, Ellen Sesta & Wolf Schroedter about their incredible
The Berlin Wall – German Culture

and here’s the author:

Helena Merriman

Helena Merriman is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. She wrote, produced and presented Tunnel 29, one of the BBC’s most successful podcasts with over 5m downloads, listed by The New Yorker as one of their top five podcasts of 2019. Tunnel 29 won the Foreign Press Association’s Podcast of the Year, Rose D’Or Best Audio Entertainment and two Golds at the British Podcast Awards. 

Helena has worked as a BBC journalist all over the world, including Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Jerusalem, Sierra Leone and Washington DC. She lives with her husband and two children in London.

How a tunnel under the Berlin Wall saved people from Soviets

56 Days @cathryanhoward @blackstone @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Jan’s review

The anxiety, uncertainty, and eerie isolation of the early days of Covid is the perfect backdrop for this twisty tale.  Although this takes place during quarantine, Covid does not take center stage, but simply provides the unique atmosphere and set of circumstances for a perfect mystery. 

Ciara and Oliver met 56 days ago, and 35 days ago decided to move in together when everyone was ordered to shelter in place. Today one is found dead. But which one? And why?

The author plotted this brilliantly with the discovery of the dead body in the beginning, followed by the alternating points of view of Ciara and Oliver in the days leading up to the death. We also hear from the detectives working the case, Leah and Karl, and I especially loved the humor and good-natured banter between them.

The characters of Ciara and Oliver were well-developed, and the underlying motives/psychology of both were explored as they each withheld information from one another (and from the reader). It’s obvious from the beginning that there are secrets and hidden agendas, but the reader is just as clueless as the characters.

Cleverly plotted and compelling right up to the last page, with perfectly timed twists, the pages practically turned themselves. My reading buddy, Marialyce, and I enjoyed peeling back the layers, where even if you think you know where the story is headed, there are surprises in store.  

Marialyce’s review

This is the third book I have read by this author and I am happy to say I left the land of the “where are those good books?” and entered one where the pages flew by ad had me totally involved in the story Ms. Howard created.

This was the book that enabled me to leave my slump behind and enter into a world where secrets abide and life for Ciara and Oliver veers off the track that they had planned for one another.

It is the beginning of the Covid disaster that Ciara and Oliver meet. They immediately develop, it seems, an attraction to one another. As the lock down seems to be approaching, the two decide to live with one another as Ciara moves into Oliver’s apartment. However, secrets seem to be another resident present, a silent one in the apartment.

They have fifty-six days to connect and fall in love, but things hidden tend to destroy what seems like a slice of heaven as both Ciara and Oliver bear witness to some harrowing elements that happened years ago. Will these elements be the end of their love, or will the couple be able to overcome the ghastly happenings of years ago?

Jan and I finally found what we were looking for in this book. Thank goodness, for we were rapidly losing our faith in the thriller genre.

I enjoyed this engrossing tale and want to thank Catherine, Ryan Howard, Blackstone Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of this intriguing story.

and here’s the author:

Catherine Ryan Howard

Catherine Ryan Howard is an internationally bestselling crime writer from Cork, Ireland. Her debut novel, DISTRESS SIGNALS, was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey/New Blood Dagger. THE LIAR’S GIRL (2018) was shortlisted for the Edgar Award for Best Novel. REWIND (2019) was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year and is currently being developed for screen by Clerkenwell Films (Misfits, Lovesick, The End of the F***ing World.) THE NOTHING MAN was a no. 1 Irish Times bestseller and a no. 1 Kindle bestseller (UK) and was shortlisted for Irish Crime Novel of the Year. Her latest novel, 56 DAYS, was published in August 2021. It is a thriller set in lockdown that Catherine wrote while she was in lockdown.

Prior to writing full-time, Catherine worked as a campsite courier in France and a front desk agent in Walt Disney World, Florida. She still wants to be an astronaut when she grows up.

The Noise: A Thriller @JP_Books @JDBarker @littlebrown #thriller #dystopian #sciencefiction #horror @absltmom

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My review

A wild ride, I so expect from J.D. Barker in association with James Patterson.

There is a vibration coming to town which does become annoying, overbearing, and then continues to build becoming so intense that one finds themselves screaming. For two young girls, Tennant and Sophia Riggin, saved for a time by their father’s quick action, the noise becomes overpowering. Inside the storm cellar, they are petrified but Tennant has placed wax in her ears, while Sophia doesn’t have protection. The noise seems to sweep everything away, their home, their town in the isolated woods neat Mt. Hood. Worse of all though is that their parents are missing and the world they once knew is turned upside down.

The government becomes involved sending Dr Martha Chase and Lieutenant Colonel Fraser, and others to contain the catastrophe and find out what has caused this noise that is unbearable to most, but where some have seemed to escape.

What follows is a wild ride into the who, what, and where was the origin of this tragedy. Sophie is affected, yet she can also provide the clues needed to solve this supposed enigma. There is a plethora of questions, starting with the elevated temperatures of those affected. As Sophie seems to become further entrenched in the noise, she starts to utter things that make no sense. Tennant is out to protect Sophie from harm and any government probing. However, there is little she can do, when her sister exhibits “otherworldly” traits. Both Dr Chen and Colonel Fraser are baffled and dig into all possibilities including an attack by a foreign nation, an attack from an alien source, or even a fulfillment of a prophecy.

All of this adds up to a spine-chilling story where excitement mixes with possibilities and the nature of the human race seems to be at the beck and call of the noise. When the President is called to action, he does what would be considered unfathomable but will it stop the pervasive prevalence of the noise?

Definitely different, and definitely one that combines so many elements of science fiction, horror, and dystopian. It’s a dark read and one that can fill the reader with the sense of doom, and make one wonder could this ever be the ultimate end for humankind?

Thank you to James Patterson, J.D. Barker, and NetGalley for a copy of this eerie, intense, and mind blowing story that was published on August 16, 2021.

and here are the authors:

James Patterson

James Patterson is the world’s bestselling author and most trusted storyteller. He has created more enduring fictional characters than any other novelist writing today, with his Alex Cross, Michael Bennett, Women’s Murder Club, Private, NYPD Red, Daniel X, Maximum Ride, and Middle School series. He has sold over 380 million books worldwide and currently holds the Guinness World Record for the most #1 New York Times bestsellers. In addition to writing the thriller novels for which he is best known, among them The President Is Missing with President Bill Clinton, Patterson also writes fiction for young readers of all ages, including the Max Einstein series, produced in partnership with the Albert Einstein Estate. He is also the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on the New York Times adult and children’s bestseller lists.

J.D. Barker

J.D. Barker is the New York Times and international best-selling author of numerous novels, including DRACUL and THE FOURTH MONKEY. His latest, A CALLER’S GAME, released February 22. He is currently collaborating with James Patterson. His books have been translated into two dozen languages, sold in more than 150 countries, and optioned for both film and television. Barker resides in coastal New Hampshire with his wife, Dayna, and their daughter, Ember.

BLOG TOUR: Beyond the Olive Grove @author_kate @bookouture #WW2 #Greece #family suffering #blogtour@absltmom

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My review

War and its effects go on long after the last bullet has been fired. Its remembrance can carry through one’s lifetime and cause a great amount of sorrow and pain.

In Kate Hewitt’s book, Beyond The Olive Groove, we meet two main protagonists, one who lived through the war in Greece, while the other is a woman living presently. Both women have experienced intense pain, Sophia Paranoussis because of the ravages of war, and Ava because of the loss of her unborn child. The women are connected as Sophia is the grandmother to Ava. Always severe and never sharing her life in Greece, she leaves Ava her old home in Iousidous, a small village in Greece and because of the turmoil in Ava’s life, she decides to go and find the home along with the possibility of learning more of her grandmother.

Ava is separated from her husband, Simon, because he seems so cold and distant in their married life, plus with the loss of their daughter, his ability to grieve seems in question. It’s a dramatic choice to leave England and Simon, but one Ava feels is absolutely necessary. Once she arrives in the town, she is taken in by some of the villagers and befriends some with the hope that there still exists a person or persons who knew her grandmother and possibly the reason why she never spoke of the past.
The connection between 1942 and today was a good one and although there were instances of repetition, it still offered a valid story of how one can overcome peril and disaster, to learn not only how the past effects the future, but also that one is never alone when it comes to suffering and finally understanding.

I have so enjoyed Kate Hewitt’s former books. The ones that dwell on war have been most tender and sincere in their effort to makes us all better understand the nature of a war-torn environment. Troubles do not go away just because we cover them in many cloaks, but must be dealt with so that eventually we can move forward with life. It is with this hope possibly in mind that Ava can move forward and regain what she once had with Simon.

Thank you to Kate Hewitt, Bookouture, and NetGalley for a copy of this story due out August 13, 2021.

and here’s the author:

Kate Hewitt

Kate is the USA Today-bsetselling author of many books of both historical and contemporary fiction. Under the name Katharine Swartz, she is the author of the Tales from Goswell books, a series of time-slip novels set in the village of Goswell.

She likes to read women’s fiction, mystery and thrillers, as well as historical novels. She particularly enjoys reading about well-drawn characters and avoids high-concept plots.

Having lived in both New York City and a tiny village on the windswept northwest coast of England, she now resides in a market town in Wales with her husband, five children, and two Golden Retrievers.

The Girl in the Striped Dress @EllieMidwood @bookouture #ww2 #auschwitz @absltmom

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My review

I am a big fan of well-done historical fiction stories where the historical greatly outweighs the fiction. I have found that in the book The Girl In The Striped Dress written by Ellie Midward.

The Denazification Court has convened and a different case is being presented, that of a young SS officer stationed at Auschwitz who fell in love with a Jewish girl, Helena. We all are aware that to care about Jews is a crime according to the Nazi way of thinking, so when Dr Hoffman and American psychiatrist, is called in to render his opinion about the case, he is entranced by the very thought of it.

Franz Dahler, the SS officer is brought to trial bearing with him a most unusual witness his wife, Helena. As the trial proceeds we learn of how Franz first met Helen as she was pulled from the gas chambers. Listening to her signing at his birthday celebration, he feels drawn to her, and then embarks on a way to keep her safe. That way is to place her in the Kanada area where women and men separate clothes and baggage collected from the many victims who are brought to Auschwitz. It’s a prized position where people are permitted to wear regular clothes, women’s hair was not shorn, but life was still hard and hazardous with evil and vile men and women in control.

All of this adds up to much danger for any burgeoning romance, although both Franz and Helena are drawn to one another. Their love seems to be their fate.

By the time of the trial with a Nazi Hunter looking for revenge, it seems like Franz might find a prison cell awaiting him.

This book, based on real people, was intense with many graphic scenes of what hatred does. If people are indoctrinated to hate and believe others are terrorists, deplorables, and vermin they will eventually believe. If newspapers, radio, and speeches are inflammatory placing all of life’s ills on a particular group of people, what else can we expect when instead of understanding and respect for others, we are taught animosity and hatred?

Interestingly, there might be a term for what Helena experienced called the Stockholm Syndrome when a captive falls in love with a captor. However in Helena’s case, it just might have been that Franz became the rock on which she built her life upon.

Franz, through Helena, learned a most important lesson for love will always win against hate.

Thank you to Ellie Midwood, Bookouture, and NetGalley for this most powerful story. It has already published.

and here’s the author:

Ellie Midwood

Ellie Midwood is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning historical fiction author. She owes her interest in the history of the Second World War to her grandfather, Junior Sergeant in the 2nd Guards Tank Army of the First Belorussian Front, who began telling her about his experiences on the frontline when she was a young girl. Growing up, her interest in history only deepened and transformed from reading about the war to writing about it. After obtaining her BA in Linguistics, Ellie decided to make writing her full-time career and began working on her first full-length historical novel, “The Girl from Berlin.” Ellie is continuously enriching her library with new research material and feeds her passion for WWII and Holocaust history by collecting rare memorabilia and documents.

In her free time, Ellie is a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, neat freak, adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama. Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.

Viaticum @PatrickMorgan89 @PhasePubLLC #addictiveread @absltmom

Book Cover

My review

This was certainly a very interesting and thought provoking read. You know when a story seems to come at you from nowhere? This is the one that hit me in so many right places and had me finishing it in two sittings.

Now that hopefully, I have you interested, the book’s title is Viaticum by Patrick Morgan. It is one of those stories that seem to have all the pieces fit together and then they don’t. The gist of the story is that Ethan Birch has lost his job, in a company that he and his best college buddy founded with some financial support from his wife’s wealthy father. His termination comes as a shock and as Ethan sits in a lonely bar trying to shut out the pain, he meets a mysterious duo where one of the men inquires if he is in need of a job. Manna from heaven right? but Ethan is hesitant as this seems something that could be a ruse. He is handed a business card in black with the word Olympus printed upon it. Ethan tucks it away and comes home to inform his wife of his sad situation. She then tells Ethan she is pregnant. Forced into a corner, Ethan calls the number listed but receives no answer but a full mailbox. Desperate, he seeks out the company and his journey begins.

It’s an awesome company where offices that seemed to have descended from a wild earthly dream. The floor is covered with grass and everywhere he looks waterfalls down the walls. What has he stumbled into? He meets the wife of the owner and “interviews” with her and is hired on the spot. It is truly a bizarre setup but Ethan has everything he could possibly desire. What has he fallen into but a dream come true?

However, all dreams are not those we wish to have. Some can turn into nightmares and as Ethan progresses into the oddities of the company, he becomes entrenched in something that seems somewhat otherworldly, somewhat sinister with an aura of mystery and deceit. Ethan is invited, or more exactly commanded, to a dessert retreat along with fellow workers, where things spiral out of control and what is real seems to blend with unreality. Ethan has gotten himself into a quagmire of something he has no control over. Will he stay with Olympus and its very odd, very mystical, very strange owner, or will he quit the “perfect” job?

Hold onto your hats fellow readers as his one will bend your thoughts into hundreds of pieces as you try to solve the allure and mystery of the Odyssey. Truly it was a very otherworldly journey.

My thanks to the author, Patrick Morgan, who was able to fill two days with the wanderings and wondering of this story……and that ending?

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 from me!

and here’s the author:

Patrick Morgan is a novelist, playwright, and poet. A graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in theater, Patrick has always enjoyed telling stories in one form or another.

After having spent a long and memorable stint in Los Angeles, Patrick currently resides in Austin with his dog Cider.

His two great loves are the ocean and the New England Patriots. He’s also partial to Nacho Cheese Doritos dipped in cold Tostitos Salsa Con Queso (don’t knock it till you’ve tried it).

BLOG TOUR: The Secret Diary @annastuartbooks @bookouture #blogtour #ww2 #dual timelines @absltmom

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My review

A hidden diary, a room, a cottage, brings about a merger between the past, of the 1940s into the present. Lorna Haynes, has recently lost her beloved husband, Matt. She and her two sons need to escape Norwich, where the memories of Matt pervade her every thought. With her children in tow, Lorna heads to Latham, where her mother, newly married to David have inherited The Gameskeeper’s Cottage. It is a chance for Lorna and the boys to get away and start searching for some peace. It is in the annex of the cottage that Lorna discovers the red leather covered diary with the introduction of “My name is Nancy Jones. ….and I have a secret.”

It is through this diary, that we learn of Nancy, and her friends, former ack ack girls whose job it was to fire at the Nazi planes that pervaded their town. It was a job never thought to be held by women but the scarcity of men out fighting the war in Europe and other environs, left the job to the girls. However, now the war is over, and for Nancy and her friends facing the “back to the real world” challenge was a trying ordeal. No longer were they content with the former life of being a housewife, a stay-at-home mother and other things considered “women’s work” and Nancy knows that part of the world is not for her. As she and her husband Joe return to the family’s home, Nancy finds herself as a part of the battle between new and old. She knows she is ever so proficient with a gun and could be a true asset to the family’s job of gamekeepers, but the men, particularly her father-in-law are extremely opposed. Nancy feels hemmed in. She wants to be Joe’s wife but struggles greatly with the choice she seems to be forced to make and as she pours out her heart in the diary, Nancy reveals many inner thoughts and desires, plus one large secret, she and her ack ack girlfriends have between them.

As Lorna becomes entrenched in the words of the diary, we get to relive both of the ladies’ lives, their hopes and dreams and of course their sorrows. Lorna is ever so anxious to get to the end of this diary, but finds the last few pages have been ripped out. The diary has so consumed her thoughts, that she is determined to find an ending, to track down these former ack ack girls and find an ending. However, so many years have passed that it is doubtful any of the girls are still alive, but Lorna must try.

I enjoyed the story and felt the author did a fine job of merging the past with the present with a bit of mystery and suspense tucked within its pages. Thank you to Anna Stuart, Bookouture, and Net Galley for an advanced copy of this story due out August 3, 2021.

and here’s the author:

Anna Stuart

I wanted to be an author from the moment I could pick up a pen and was writing boarding-school novels behind the sofa by the age of nine. Sadly the need to get an education and earn some money intervened for a few years but finally in 2015 I published my first novel – a historical one under the pseudonym Joanna Courtney. I will continue to publish under that name but am delighted, as Anna Stuart, to now also be able to write contemporary fiction.

The Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives @kristinmiller02 @ballantinebooks #mystery thriller @JanBelisle @absltmom

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Jan and I had a rollicking good time with this book and enjoyed every “delicious” trophy wife. We were surprised how much this story did appeal to us!

Jan’s review

This scratched the itch I’ve had since Desperate Housewives came to an end. And then some!  What a fun, frothy read, perfect for a summer read. 

Presidio Terrace, an exclusive gated community in San Francisco, where the lives of the rich and famous play out, is home to Erin, Georgia, and Brooke, the newest of the wives.  There’s plenty of dirty little secrets hiding behind the perfect façade of these well-manicured lawns.

A trophy wife used to be considered a much younger wife of an older, very wealthy man, a status symbol of his power, virility, and attractiveness. But it’s 2021, and the meaning now includes women who are attractive, yes, but also successful. 


This scratched the itch I’ve had since Desperate Housewives came to an end. And then some!  What a fun, frothy read, perfect for a summer read. 
Presidio Terrace, an exclusive gated community in San Francisco, where the lives of the rich and famous play out, is home to Erin, Georgia, and Brooke, the newest of the wives.  There’s plenty of dirty little secrets hiding behind the perfect façade of these well-manicured lawns.
A trophy wife used to be considered a much younger wife of an older, very wealthy man, a status symbol of his power, virility, and attractiveness. But it’s 2021, and the meaning now includes women who are attractive, yes, but also successful. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-new-trophy-wife_b_6207364

And that is what we have here with two of our three main characters. 

–       Georgia, aka, The Black Widow, so named after two of her husband’s conveniently turned up dead shortly after the vows were exchanged.  She’s the more stereotypical trophy wife.

–       Erin, a local news anchor, is constantly trying to keep her youth and stay relevant in a cutthroat industry where someone smarter, younger and prettier stands ready to take her place.

–       Brooke, the new wife on the block, is a successful novelist, busy at work on her second book.

When Georgia’s fiancé turns up missing, suspicious eyes turn towards her, Black Widow. And, suddenly, this frothy read turns into a whodunit.  The clues and secrets of these ladies are doled out strategically to keep me surprised and engaged throughout, flipping the chapters until the final shocking reveal. But lest you think this is all about the wives, the husbands have secrets of their own.

All of these are characters I would hate in my real life, but this isn’t real life. For a well-written, dishy soap opera that is over the top this is great fun! 

·      I received a digital copy for review via NetGalley. All opinions are my own

·      Published 7/20/21 by Ballantine Books

·      This was a buddy read with my friend Marialyce, one that we surprisingly enjoyed very much!

Marialyce’s review

Oh my, ladies you are something else! Presidio Terrace has such very interesting residents indeed! As Brooke Davis moves with her husband, Jack, a billionaire into the new neighborhood, she meets up with her new neighbors. It is a tony neighborhood with mansions, money, partying, money, fancy cars, money, and did I mention money? All of the neighbors are beautiful women. There’s Brooke of course, the newest resident , a successful mystery writer who soon teams up with Erin King, a news anchor, married to a renowned plastic surgeon, (lucky her!), and then there’s Georgia St. Claire, aka The Black Widow.

Of course, Georgia, is one who elicits lots of speculation, (gossip) as her two previous ultra-wealthy husbands have met their demise under some “slightly” suspicious ends. However, Georgia has found her true love in Robert, another ultra-rich man and is due to marry him shortly. Problem is as the nuptials approach; Robert goes missing and the conjecture is that Georgia has once again proved her mettle in slaying soon to be husband number three.

Brooke and Erin lend their support to poor Georgia, who oddly decides to hold the pseudo wedding while the groom is missing. Robert does eventually turn up, but not in the manner in which Georgia had hoped.

As the ladies’ cry, complain, and enjoy each other before and after the missing Robert, we learn of their life style, the sometimes aimless and sometimes dangerous way they lead their lives. But, what about the husbands? Are they the perfect mixture of wealth, handsome and rolling in charm and grace? Or is there something behind their actions when the door to their mansion is closed that bind the ladies together?

This was a fun charged thriller that initially seemed like Desperate Housewives From Wherever, but it indeed had some twists that while it didn’t knock my boots off, certainly made it a
fine romp into the world of fame, fortune, deviousness, and of course murder.

Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this published on July 20, 2021.

and here’s the author:

Kristin Miller

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Kristin Miller writes sweet and sassy contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormal romance of all varieties. Kristin has degrees in psychology, English, and education, and taught high school and middle school English before crossing over to a career in writing. She lives in Northern California with her alpha male husband and their two children. She loves chocolate way more than she should and the gym less. You can usually find her in the corner of a coffee shop, laptop in front of her and mocha in hand, using the guests around her as fuel for her next book.

Sinful Lives of Trophy Wives;thriller;suspense;psychological thriller;beach read;women's fiction

For Your Own Good @smariedowning @BerkleyPub #suspense #mystery #thriller @JanBelisle @absltmom

Book Cover

Jan’s review

"A slick and chilling thriller." - Megan Miranda

Featuring a dark and devious teacher/protagonist who shows little mercy to students he dislikes, the book was fast-paced and unpredictable with over-the-top character development. 

Oh, Teddy, you so deserved the Teacher of the Year Award, and have the plaque to prove it. If only you received the respect and accolades you deserve. You devious, cunning man! You just took 1st place for my favorite psychopath! And what better place to use your finely honed skills than a private elite school?  No one escapes your solution to problems.You will do anything  for your students. At least the ones who deserve it. It’s all for their own good, even if they don’t understand.  Right? Whoops, you sometimes make a little mistake but collateral damage is nothing to worry about. You will fix it.

And that’s all I will say about the plot! It’s such fun to discover it for yourself. Just know Teddy isn’t the only devious character at play here at #HomicideHigh 

It was SO FUN to be inside Teddy’s head, and listen to his thought processes. The characterization of the others were just as fun and over-the-top as Teddy, and kept me laughing at the dark humor. I haven’t had this much fun reading about a group of characters in a very long time. 

I listened to the audio and the narrator was EXCELLENT in the role, making a terrific book even better. I struggled to press pause and went looking for projects around the house just to get more listening time. This unique and deliciously devious story grabbed me from the beginning and didn’t let go until the very last page, and then I was sorry it was over.

I don’t give out 5 stars lightly, and this will be on my list of top books of 2021. 

·      This was a buddy read with Marialyce and one we both loved!

"Dark, sly and delicious... totally original - and totally compelling."  JP Delaney

Marialyce’s review

Welcome to Belmont Academy where the teachers have more “issues” than the teenage students! One of the teachers, Teddy Crutcher, has just won the coveted “Teacher of the Year” award receiving a plaque and what he hopes will be the acclaim he rightfully deserves. Teddy is an envious sort of fellow, in addition to his other “charms”, so when his day of glory comes to a foul end, due to the accidental death of a parent, he is crushed.

As jealousy works its way into Teddy’s soul, which by now is turning blacker by the moment, he plots a way to get back on top, for to him, that’s the only place he deserves to be. However, his best laid plans seemed to be thwarted by one of his former smart Alecky students, Zach.  In the past, Teddy has seen fit to deliver to these types of students their just desserts, with a nice finger up to the parents as well. Teddy feels the horror of these entitled rich people and in true sense of what he is deems himself, the arbiter of what constitutes the right kind of student. As Belmont Academy becomes known as Murder Inc High, Teddy shows the world what it means to be on top of the hill, and of course being Teacher of the Year does have its perks.

I have never gone wrong reading a Samantha Downing book. She is definitely one of my go to authors and always seems to deliver that sinister punch that takes one into “thrillerville”. Jan and I so loved the utter deviousness of this story that had us going “oh my” quite a lot. The characters, the plot all came together in a most compulsive read that was very hard to put down. (even had me carrying my book EVERYWHERE!)

If you are in the mood for a wonderfully done suspense thriller, do get this one, for you are soon to realize that you don’t ever want to go near Belmont Academy, where excellence is just a murder away!

and here’s the author:

Samantha Downing - B&W Photo.jpg

Samantha Downing is the author of the bestselling My Lovely Wife, nominated for Edgar, ITW, Macavity, and CWA awards. Amazon Studios and Nicole Kidman’s Blossom Films have partnered to produce a feature film based on the novel.

Her second book, He Started It, was released in 2020 and became an instant international bestseller. Her third thriller, For Your Own Good, will be released in the US on July 20, 2021.

She currently lives and works in New Orleans.