Recent Reads and Rapid Reviews: Watch Over Me/ The Prized Girl/How Quickly She Disappears

Recent and Rapid

For various reasons, I’ve struggled with writing reviews for these three books. I enjoyed reading each of them but I felt as though I was saying the same thing over and over again. Rather than be redundant, I decided to go with shorter reviews for them. That doesn’t negate the fact that I truly did like all three and I hope you will as well.

THE PRIZED GIRL by Amy K Green

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Told from two distinct points of view, The Prized Girl is a slow burning mystery revolving around a murdered former beauty queen, Jenny, and her older sister’s quest for finding the truth. When Jenny is murdered, the police quickly arrest a developmentally challenged man who was obsessed with Jenny. Virginia, the sister, thinks there is more to the murder and begins seeking answers. The story is told in such a way that Jenny is reliving the events leading up to her death  while Virginia is dealing with past demons, lies and suspicions that not all of what she thought of as the truth was actually true.

This is a debut for the author, Amy K Green, and I think she did an incredible job with her story telling. The writing was suspenseful, fluid and the characters were very realistic and believable. My only concern was that I felt as though I had “been there, done that” with the story line itself. In a genre that is saturated, it is difficult to be unique and, while this was a very good, interesting read, it offered nothing new to the genre. If you like crime fiction, I think you would like The Prized Girl. Just don’t set your expectations too high.

How Quickly She Disappears by Raymond Fleischmann

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Set in the early 1940s in a sparsely populated area of Alaska, How Quickly She Disappears is an atmospheric, suspenseful tale that is dark, gritty and psychologically taut.

Twenty years ago, Elizabeth’s sister disappeared. It changed Elizabeth’s life irreparably. Not a day passes when she doesn’t think about Jacqueline and wonder if she is still alive and, if so, where she might be. Living in a remote area of Alaska, Elizabeth struggles with her loveless marriage and extremely brilliant daughter who she loves more than life itself and who reminds her of Jacqueline. When I strange man suddenly appears in their village, Elizabeth’s world is turned upside down when the man murders her friend and then, when in custody, proclaims that he knows where Jacqueline is. However, in return for the information, Elizabeth must do three things for this killer. How far is she willing to go to find answers?

Ironically enough, my family actually has had someone vanish into thin air. While she was no one’s favorite person, except her daughter’s, her disappearance left an unusual hole in the lives of all those who knew her. From that perspective I completely understood what Elizabeth have been feeling when this monster told her he had information about her sister. However, the plausibility of the remainder of the plot was filled with too many holes and inconsistencies.

How Quickly She Disappears was, at once, one of the best atmospheric books I’ve read in a long time and also one of the most unbelievable. This is where I have struggled with reviewing the book. I both loved it and disliked it. I wanted more than it was offering, while I also relished the beauty of the prose. I think this is a book that readers will either love or hate. Into which category will you fall?

Watch Over Me by Jane Renshaw

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Watch Over Me was a complete surprise. I was expecting a simple crime story and what I got instead was a dark, twisty, psychological thriller. Yes, I know, it says psychological thriller right there on the cover but we know that what we readers think of a “thriller” is not always what publisher’s consider “thrilling.” Let me tell you, Watch Over me was suspenseful, edgy, creepy and, yes, thrilling!

A child, Beckie, is being torn between families. One is educated and wealthy and desperately searching for a child they can love and call their own. The other is, well, there aren’t a lot of kind descriptors for this family. They are poverty stricken, unhealthy, morally bankrupt and Beckie’s mother is in jail for murder. It doesn’t sound like the ideal situation, does it? The government didn’t think so and they removed Beckie from the squalor and “gave” her to Flora, a mother with so much love to give. However, Beckie’s family loved her. Her grandmother, a foul-mouthed obese woman, really did love Beckie. So, when is it okay to take a child from one family and give it to another. That is the question at the heart of this book as Beckie’s biological family goes to amazing lengths to get Beckie back. Their actions had me wondering if they were truly as ignorant as they appeared.

BUT – and that is a huge but right there – BUT, the ending and the twist is what will leave you sitting in your seat with your mouth hanging open. I generally do not like twists at the end and only appreciate them when they are amazing. Let me tell you, IT IS. I highly recommend Watch Over Me which grip you tight from start to the startling conclusion.

(My thanks to Netgalley and Edelweiss for my copies of these three interesting reads)

 

Three Shorts for Thursday: Snakes and Ladders/ Dark Pattern/ These Little Lies

Recent and Rapid

It’s time for some quick and short reviews from my “backlist” or TBR list. It is obvious that I read far quicker than I write!

SNAKES AND LADDERS by #VictoriaSelman

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I absolutely love and adore this series by Victoria Selman. Snakes and Ladders is the third book revolving around Ziba MacKenzie, former special ops now a profiler for the Met. She’s also known as the Serial Killer Hunter because finding serial killers is what she does best – primarily because she is fearless.  One such killer is now terrorizing London, cutting off body  parts and leaving a rose in their place. It appears to be a copy-cat killing or perhaps someone killing on behalf of the original murderer, Dr. Vernon Sange. It is necessary to talk with Sange to see if he is, in fact, conducting these killings from afar, but the only person he will talk with is Ziba. As the murders continue, the horrifying reality sets in that the killer is stalking Ziba as hard as she is stalking them.

Every book that Selman has written has been dark, gritty and frighteningly realistic. They are, in fact, everything one could ask for in a crime fiction thriller. Selman’s writing is on point, tough and, at times, quite harsh. That is what makes these books so fascinating. Nothing at all is “sugar-coated.” Her characters, not just Ziba who is one tough cookie, are very well written and developed. Once I’ve finished with one of Selman’s books, I feel as though I’m missing friends. Not that there is anything friendly about Ziba. She has her guard up due to past emotional trauma and that guard protects her from a lot – especially in this book!  While this is the third installment in the series, and I do highly recommend reading them all in order, Snakes and Ladders can be easily read as a stand-alone. The background on the characters is thoroughly laid out for readers who are just joining in the game. ALL the stars and more for Snakes and Ladders.

Genres – Noir Crime Fiction

DARK PATTERN by Andrew Mayne

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Every single book that I have read by Andrew Mayne has completely blown my mind! His series, both, are fascinating, sharp, in a word: brilliant. I can feel my brain expanding with the scientific, technological and mathematical information he includes in each of his books. He’s amazing.

Dark Pattern is the fourth in The Naturalist series featuring Dr. Theo Cray, a mathematician who is, literally, a genius. Using his expertise in maths and computer technology, he is able to see patterns in crimes committed that others cannot see. This time he is more vulnerable as a parasite may – or may not – be eating away at his brain. Even in the end, we are not sure what will become of Dr. Theo Cray. Dark Pattern is exciting, inventive and exceptional and, while I encourage you to read the books in order, I cannot recommend ALL of his books highly enough. This techno thriller will leave your reeling!

Genres: Techno Thriller, Crime Fiction

THESE LITTLE LIES by Gretta Mulrooney

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DETECTIVE INSPECTOR SIV DRUMMOND IS LOOKING FOR A FRESH START. WHAT SHE GETS IS TWO DEAD BODIES.

Gretta Mulrooney is well known for her brilliant police procedurals and you all know how much I love those! Now she is back with a brand new series featuring a tough, smart female Detective Inspector, Siv Drummond, a character you will thoroughly enjoy!

There are two dead bodies lying next to each other, one with a photograph of a young girl placed on top. The bodies appear to be totally unrelated to one another but their proximity would suggest otherwise. As DI Drumond begins to investigate she finds more questions than answers and dark secrets that no one in this small town want revealed. These Little Lies is action packed and so well written that I didn’t put it down from start to finish. Then, I hated that I was finished because I loved Siv! This is one series where I will be stalking the author to see when the next book is going to hit the shelves. If you are new to Mulrooney’s writing, These Little Lies is a great place to begin. I adore new series, especially when they are this well written.

GENRES: Crime Fiction, Police Procedurals

Three great books, three thrilling reads. Have you read these? What are your thoughts about them?

 

Three for Thursday: Look Back at Christmas #ChristmasInSilverSprings #ComingHomeForChristmas and #AWeddingInDecember

Yes, I know it’s January but, seriously, when I’m sitting by the fire and drinking cafe au lait, my brain still wants to read holiday themed, cozy reads. Since it’s not quite time for Valentine’s Day yet, I’m still reading some great books from Christmas and pretending that they are “Winter” themed books instead. Won’t you join me?

CHRISTMAS IN SILVER SPRINGS – Brenda Novak

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Let me begin by pointing out that Christmas in Silver Springs in the 6th book in a series. While it is touted as being able to be read as a “stand alone,” it is not. I spent the majority of the book feeling like the sixth grade girl who got invited to the cool kids party but didn’t know anyone. Was I supposed to like Tobias? Know why he was in jail? Was I supposed to care who Harper was or her snotty sister? I think readers of Novak’s books are familiar with these characters and, most likely, has a relationship with them that allows the reader to overlook certain questionable aspects of a character. I didn’t have that luxury. Therefore, many of things that these characters said or did simply didn’t ring true for me.

With ALL of that stated, the book itself is well written, the characters are interesting and the story is a sweet one, full of angst and longing and hand wringing. If you are a fan of Novak’s then this is a “must read” for you. If you do not already read her books then I suggest that you start at the beginning which is what I intend to do. An added note to any and all publishers – PLEASE let us know when a holiday book is built on characters’ story lines from previous books. Not all authors do this, but many do and it is getting more and more annoying to pick up a book and realize you are starting at a disadvantage.

A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Sarah Morgan

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I absolutely adored A Wedding in December. This is exactly the fun, sweet, warm, witty story that I like to read any time of year but especially in the dead of winter. Don’t you just feel all warm and toasty reading a good love story? Okay, yeah,  I maybe stretching it a little but you know what I mean!

Rosie, an ex-pat from the UK, is marrying a yank from Aspen Colorado. Her family has flown in to celebrate the big day but not everyone is in the mood for festivities. Rosie’s parents are on the brink of divorce and her sister, Katie, who always has had a say in everything Rosie has done, is not happy about the groom, a man she has never met. When Katie meets his best friend, she is even less happy. Hi-jinks and shenanigans abound as the White family tries to keep secrets, break up the wedding, put everything back together again AND salvage their familial relationships. The writing is perfect, the characters are so realistic and the fun is abounding in this charming WINTER tale! I highly recommend it any time of the year.

COMING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – by RaeAnne Thayne

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I’m extremely conflicted about Coming Home for Christmas. RaeAnne Thayne is a well known, much loved romance author and her writing is wonderful. I cared immensely for all of the characters, Elizabeth and Luke, and their children. Despite the fact that this is part of an ongoing series, there was enough backstory that I never felt lost or needed more information to comprehend what was going on with the main characters or those in the town.My concern with the book is the story line itself and its lack of credibility.

Elizabeth was suffering from post-partum depression, severely, to the point that she became suicidal and thought that she would harm her baby. Fleeing from her home, she eventually gets into an accident in which the driver was killed and Elizabeth was gravely injured, both physically and mentally. After a very long rehabilitation from which she never fully recovered, she made the decision that it would be better for her family if she stayed away from them. Meanwhile, Luke is going to be charged with her murder by the new hot-shot cop in town. The only way he can save himself is find answers about where Elizabeth is and why she stayed away. Okay, so when I write it all out it doesn’t soooo unbelievable. What do you think? I really loved the story and read it in a nanosecond so I’m going to say that I should recommend it with a the warning that parts may be a teeny-tiny bit contrived. That works.

So what about you? Did you get all of your holiday reading finished or are you like me and still carrying over some of those last minute finds? Have you read any of these? What did you think about them?

@Netgalley @HarlequinPress @SarahMorgan

 

 

Recent Reads and Rapid Reviews

Recent and Rapid

Below are a few quick reviews of books I’ve read recently. First up is Cold Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty.

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The Cold Cold Ground is the first book of what has now become a series revolving around Detective Sean Duffy a Catholic cop in the middle of the protestant end of Ireland in the 1980s. Not a good place to stay alive so it’s a good thing they have Duffy, a sharp, educated “peeler” who is as tenacious as a bulldog. Duffy is a combination of Harry Bosch (in his younger days) and Harry Hole with his own brand of justice. I stayed up all night reading this one and I think you will enjoy it too. Now, I’m off to see if I can find the second in this series.

Thanks to Sandy at Sandy’s Book A Day Blog for her fabulous review(HERE) that inspired by search for this book.

LAST DAY by Luanne Rice

Luanne Rice is a master storyteller and that truly shines in her latest novel, Last Day, the story of four friends, two deaths and the secrets kept hidden to the end.

Sisters Kate and Beth had survived a tragic ordeal in their teen years but, like so many, that tragedy pushed them apart rather than pulling them together. Kate is closed off from all emotion and Beth has infused her life with love, giving to the community, loving her daughter and caring for her friends. When Beth is murdered, Kate digs in to find the answers to her sister’s murder. What she finds instead are layers of secrets.

While I was a bit disappointed in the ending, the overall story is brilliantly told. Last Day was my January selection for Amazon First Reads and will be available on February 1st.

THE PASSENGERS  by John Marrs

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I have been on a John Marrs kick for the last year. I’ve loved every single thing he has written. He’s different, his ideas are original, his writing is superb. However I was a bit disappointed with The Passengers. The story itself, self-driving cars which have been “hacked,” is one that actually terrifies me to think about. For reasons I never could put my finger on, though, the characters never resonated with me and I simply didn’t care who survived and who didn’t. Of course I will continue to read Marrs’ books in the future but The Passengers just fell a bit short.

Saturday Shorts: #Bethlehem #SixthWickedChild#HerSistersSecret

Recent and Rapid

In my attempt to catch up on all of the reviews I missed while out sick (months ago, I’m good now) I’m writing some rather brief reviews of the books I read/listened to while away. Okay, they’re brief in comparison to what I normally write, recognizing that for some, they still are full reviews.

BETHLEHEM by Karen Kelly

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Honestly, I would love to have that cover in a frame in my Victorian house. I think it’s gorgeous! That also sums up my thoughts about the book – beautiful! As you know, this is the favorite era in US history – the Gilded Age as industry and new inventions are just beginning to flourish but the mass corruption hasn’t quite taken hold. The novel, however, has a dual timeline as it spans the multi-generational story of a family in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the second of which is the 1960s. Bethlehem is a tale of family secrets, heartbreak, survival and, most of all, love. Kelly has created characters that truly represent a generation as a whole and families in general. Most of all, it is a story of forgiveness and is one from which I think many readers and their families might benefit.

Bethlehem is shelved as “historical fiction,” and it is that but so much more. I’ve read where others have suggested that it be classified solely as “women’s fiction,” but that is selling the book short. Not every historical novel has to deal with major, monumental events in history, nor should they. It is the basic human story that has to be told or else we, as a people, tend to gloss over our past. Families are history. Every day mundane tasks are history. It is how we learn from the past so that we may do better in the future and to that end, Kelly has given us a marvelous example, a wonderful read. This is a must-own book for my shelves and I hope it will be a “must-read” for each of you.

THE SIXTH WICKED CHILD by J.D.Barker

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The Sixth Wicked Child is the action packed conclusion to JD Barker’s 4MK trilogy. If you have not read The Fourth Monkey and The Fifth to Die, do not read this one until you have done so. There is absolutely no way to fully understand the plot or the characters without reading the entire series. Unfortunately, I wish I had stopped at The Fourth Monkey. I thought it was one of the best books I ever had read. Not just thriller or horror or fiction, but one of the best in general. The characters were witting, biting, mysterious and thrilling. I loved the dialogue, the intelligence that went into the writing. Simply stated, I loved The Fourth Monkey! I was sorely disappointed with The Fifth to Die and, had The Sixth Wicked Child not been the conclusion, I would have passed on it entirely. The wit, the marvelous dialogue, the humor and the intellect were missing from the second and third installments.

In The Sixth Wicked Child, we pick up exactly at the cliffhanger of the second book. As it progresses we – and they – are presented with “facts” that show both Detective Porter and Anson Bishop as the possible serial killer. In addition, the girls who were rescued at the end of The Fifth to Die were injected with what is believed to be deadly contagion. Half of Porter’s team is in lock-down at the hospital and the other half, including the FBI, are on a manhunt for Porter. If this sounds confusing and conflicting that is because it is! There was so much information stuffed into this novel and so many questions to be answered that adding the contagion seemed like too many pieces of pie after a huge holiday meal. By the end of the book, I just wanted it to end, to give me the answers I needed to feel satisfied with the series, but no, it just kept going. The ending finally came with a “surprising twist!” Two surprises actually. Both of which were so incredibly unbelievable that I just shook my head in sadness. All that I had come to know and love about J.D.Barker’s writing was undone by the last chapters of the book. I detest twists that you know are just there for shock purposes. I also detest vigilante justice. That’s all I will say. If you like this series then I know you’ll read the conclusion. If you haven’t read the series – stop after the first. You will be glad you did.

HER SISTER’S SECRET by E.V. Seymour

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Her Sister’s Secret by E.V.Seymour begins with a woman killed in a car crash. We read her emotions, thoughts, fears and anguish as the car careens into another. We suspect, and eventually so do the police, that this was no accident and the driver intentionally killed herself via the fatal crash. But that is just the beginning to the twists, secrets and questions that we encounter within.

There are three Napier siblings – one is perfect and adored, one struggles to live up the image her sister has set while never quite achieving that goal in the eyes of their parents. The third doesn’t even try to meet the parental expectations and is now a recovering addict. When the perfect sibling dies in this car crash, one sibling withdraws back into their addiction and the other, Molly, goes on a quest to learn the truth. Why would her perfect sister with a perfect husband and perfect life kill herself – and did she intentionally attempt to kill the other driver as well? As Molly searches for the truth, she discovers more questions and secrets than anyone, including herself, are prepared to answer.

Everything about Her Sister’s Secret was interesting: the characters were complex, the writing was exceptional and the plot was riviting. There were plenty of red herrings to keep me guessing how the ending would play out. I had my own suspicions, but the nuances of the story line kept me intrigued to the very end. This is exactly how thrillers and suspense should be written. If you haven’t picked up Her Sister’s Secret yet, then I highly encourage you to do so.

And those are my “shorts for Saturday.” Have you read these three, one or all? What did you think about them? Let me know. As always, I’m appreciative to #Netgalley for my copies of these books and to @StMartinsPress and @HarperImpulse as well as to the authors who make it all possible. Happy Reading!

 

RecentReads and RapidReviews

Recent and Rapid I have two quick reviews for you today. Let me know if you’ve read them and what you thought about them.

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I actually read two books within a week of each other involving an “escape room” and I could have sworn that I reviewed both. Wrong. Luckily, the review today is for the one that I enjoyed most: The Escape Room by Megan Goldin.

The setting is Wall Street in a brokerage firm that either is everyone’s worst nightmare working environment or is dead-on regarding the cut throat nature of Wall Street. The book is told in present day and through flashbacks of one its workers, Sara, who was a brilliant recent graduate in need of a break. When she is hired at Stanhope and Sons, she believes that all of her dreams have been fulfilled and her problems are over. She could not have been more wrong. In the present, four fellow workers of Sara’s – the most successful team at Stanhope – are summoned to a late night meeting in what appears to be an abandoned building. After entering the elevator, the four discover that they are part of an escape room puzzle that goes horribly and terrifyingly wrong. As the team solves more of the puzzles’ clues, they realize that it is not a game, unless it’s a game to the death.

There were parts of the story line that were questionable and took a little suspension of belief, however, I absolutely loved this book. The characters are developed so well and so thoroughly that I despised each of the four in the elevator. By the end of the book, I was actually hoping they all would die. Seriously. They are bad people. At the same time, the background story of Sara was fascinating and realistically well told. I read this one in one night without stopping. If you like thrilling thrillers and despicable characters, then this is a must-read book for you!

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Laura Lippman is a “hit or miss” author for me, more often hit than miss. Lady in the Lake demonstrates why I keep coming back to her work. It is a stellar mystery set in the perfect era. She manages to capture the frustration of women in the 1960s, the racial tension of then and now and lays out an incredible mystery that keeps readers guessing until the very end. That she does all of this with a very likeable and witty character is “icing on the cake.”

Lady in the Lake is actually inspired by a true story of the unsolved murder of Shirley Parker in Baltimore. Although that case remains unsolved, Lippman’s indomitable character, Maddie, is on a mission to prove that she has what it takes to be an ace reporter and solve the mysterious death of Cleo aka The Woman in the Lake. The story is told from multiple points of view but Lippman seamlessly transitions through each of them as she makes each of their voices clear and understood. Lippman’s past as a reporter shows in her astute descriptions of the newsroom. Add to that the nuances of racial tension that was simmering throughout America at this time and you have a winner of book. To say that this was one of my favorite books of the summer is an understatement. I loved the characters, the era and the writing immensely.

Thank you to the publishers, #Netgalley, #MeganGoldin and #LauraLippman for my copies of #LadyintheLake and #TheEscapeRoom.

Recent Reads, Rapid Reviews

As most of you know, I was off for several months due to illness and, although I couldn’t read, thought I wouldn’t read, I somehow managed TO read a lot of books. I’m also determined to do justice to those authors who sent me books to review. What this means is that I am quite behind with my reviews and I really hate to be behind at anything. Recently I read a post on the Bibliophile Book Club’s blog where she did a series of short but thorough reviews. Taking off on her idea, I will be doing the same until – if ever – I am caught up once more. Fingers crossed and thanks to the Bibliophile Book Club for such a great idea. Please be sure to check out their blog!

Recent and Rapid

MONTAUK by Nicola Harrison

By now I’m quite sure or hope that many of you have read Montauk, one of the best summer reads for 2019. It is, however, a engrossing tale that surpasses the usual summer fare making it a delight to read any time.  Set in the pre-WWII days of New York, it is the story of a woman who married “above her station” without fully comprehended all that would involve. When her husband tells that they are going to travel to Montauk for the summer, she assumes they will be there together. Sadly, she was mistaken and soon learns that not only is she alone, her husband is cheating on her with any woman who will allow it. Feeling displaced with the rich at the resort, she turns to the people who actually live in Montauk, the town, where she discovers friendship, grudging acceptance and more.

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I don’t usually read books set in the era as it is one of my least favorite times in American history. However, Montauk – the resort area – was actually envisioned and created by a developer from my home state. He built a resort here in Indiana and also developed Miami Beach, Florida. Naturally, my curiosity got the best of me. Montauk, the book, is more than just a romance or even historical fiction, it is a story of a woman trapped in the male dominated world of the early 20th century, a world full of lies, hypocrisy, misogyny and class wars. Her struggle becomes the struggle of all women from that era and one that many women today can relate to as well. The writing is brilliant, the characters come alive off of the pages and the story line is unforgettable. I highly recommend Montauk to any and all!

POLITE SOCIETY by Mahesh Rao

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Polite Society is a modern day re-telling of Emma, by Jane Austin set in India. Normally I’m not a fan of re-tellings because I like the original too much, with the possible exception of fairy tales and fables. However, because of the caste system or class structure in India, this particular version works well. The story is cleverly written with a lot of wit and charm. Sadly, for me, I didn’t enjoy Polite Society as much as I had hoped. I think there is too much feminist in me to think anything about this type of social construct is acceptable. I prefer to imagine that all of this died with the Victorian era even though my intellectual side knows differently.

THE WISDOM OF SALLY RED SHOES by Ruth Hogan

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I have been a fan of Ruth Hogan’s work since I read The Keeper of Lost Things which I loved. The Wisdom of Sally Red Shoes was a quite a different story but Hogan’s flair and writing style remained constant. Two very different women come together in this story to create magic in this uplifting tale of wisdom, personal growth and grief. It touches on homelessness among women, the loss of a child, and the commonality that all women have with one another regardless of our social conditions. The characters are brilliantly written, so real you will feel as though you know them personally and the humor within keeps the story from becoming too heavy despite the subject matter. You will laugh, cry and fall in love these women and their story. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

NOTE: Many thanks to the authors, #Netgalley, #Edelweiss, #StMartinsPress, #CrookedLaneBooks for my copy of these books