Two for Thursday? The Vanishing Season by Dot Hutchinson

I know, I know… it’s supposed to be Two for Tuesday but since I’m so behind I have to keep going with these reviews and I definitely didn’t want to forget this one by one of my favorite authors: the final installment in the Collector Series by Dot Hutchison.

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We were first introduced to this series with The Butterfly Garden, a book that horrified and traumatized many readers several years ago. It continued with The Roses of May and last years bestseller, The Summer Children. (You can read my review of that book HERE) Each book has built on the development of the team members who originally found girls in the Butterfly Garden and their work within a special unit of the FBI. Now a child has been abducted, their specialty, but the case is eerily similar to kidnapping of Eddison’s sister years earlier. As the team members deal with their own haunting demons from past cases, they also must search through clues to see how and why this case may be linked to the cold cases from old before it is too late to save the missing child.

Let me state up front that absolutely is not a “stand alone” book. I read The Summer Children last year and only slightly fell through the cracks a few times. After that, I promptly went back and read the first two books in the series. All of these books are top notch, horrifyingly marvelous thrillers. This one, however, is the end of the story. For those of us invested in these characters it is a book that ties up all of the loose ends, answers questions from the past and allows us and the author to move on to new topics. It is a must -read for followers of Hutchison’s work, but I don’t recommend starting here. I do, however, recommend reading every single one of the books in the series. They are absolutely fantastic! Hutchison is a masterful storyteller whose tales you will not want to miss.

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The Poison Thread @laurapurcell

When I was a teenager I read Victorian gothic young adult books from sun up to sun down. I simply could not get enough of that genre. As I entered university, my tastes changed and I switched to more “grown up” British Literature but a part of me always yearned for the thrill of the gothic tale. Mary Shelley and Edgar Allen Poe are two of my favorite writers because of their dark, macabre imagination. It comes as no surprise, then, that I have fallen in love with Laura Purcell’s writing. Last year, The Silent Companions, took readers by a storm and now she has given us a new intriguing gothic noir tale, The Poison Thread.

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At first glance, this appeared to be an ordinary Victorian book about a young socialite, the daughter of a wealthy nobleman, with far too much time on her hands yet no interest in the usual coquetries of society. She was studying phrenology, a popular belief at the time that the skull could predict behavior and be re-shaped to alter such. Although we may sneer at this now, it was the precursor of modern behavioral science. As part of her “studies” and her desire for good works, also a very Victorian endeavor, she visits women in jail, listens to the woes of their crimes and examines their skulls. But one prisoner is unlike the rest: Ruth. This woman weaves a sinister tale about poison, and sewing and garments that can harm their owners. Is she mad? Does she belong is an institution or is she simply playing at being crazy in order to escape hanging? How can one know for sure.

Purcell alternates the chapters between the two women, the present and the past, and as she does so we, the reader, become as entwined into the threads of the story as the victims of Ruth’s garments became ensnared in hers. From the moment I began reading there was no stopping. I had to know how it ended and now, weeks after I finished, I cannot stop thinking about Ruth and her needles, her life and that of those around her. Purcell does an amazing job of bring to life Victorian England – the horrors, the poverty, the wretchedness of the poor, those in debt and, in contrast, those with money and their fineries. She also hints at the problems during this time between those who remained Catholic versus those who, of course, chose the Church of England. It was a strange and misguided time in England’s history – the age of coming knowledge combined with the ignorance of the darkness just left behind and Purcell does an commendable job of conveying all of that in The Poison Thread. This is gothic Victorian at its best and I highly recommend it for those who like this era, horror, magical realism, mystery and British literature. You will find all of that within this fabulous book.

Thank you to #Edelweiss, #LauraPurcell and @PenguinPub for my copy of #ThePoisonThread

The Last List of Judith Kratt @AndreaBobotis

Miss Judith has inherited all that the Kratt family had to offer: a pie safe, a copper clock and a murder no one talks about. 9781492678861_34d7d

Being born and raised in the southern part of the US, I came to love southern literature. It has a flow and charm to it, a rhythm that is unlike any other. When it is done well you can smell the gardenias and magnolias on every page and feel the grit from the dusty Delta roads. The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is such a novel, one that envelops you and transports you to the hot, humid backroads of the deep south complete with its oppressive heat and family turmoil.

Miss Judith wants to make a list of all that she owns before it is her “time to go.” She doesn’t have much; in fact, she doesn’t have anything of value really except memories and stories and secrets. She would like to keep the worst of those secrets all the way to her grave but she knows that will be impossible when her sister returns home hell-bent on exposing all that she knows regardless of the cost to anyone around her.

The actual story itself is, for many of us, as old as the hills: a family that has grown apart due to a tragedy that had to be kept quiet, in this case a murder that was covered up decades before the story takes place. As Miss Judith tells her story, catalogues her belongings and her life, however, we realize that this is more than an ordinary tale, but rather one that is told beautifully, with eloquence and in a manner not unlike the great story-tellers of the past: Faulkner and Harper Lee, even a touch of Flannery O’Connor’s biting wit comes through in the tapestry that Bobotis has woven together.

Don’t be fooled, however. This is not just a piece of fiction, an historical account of Miss Judith’s life. There is a mystery here, deep and dark, that must be resolved for all those concerned. Regardless of your genre of choice, this is a book for everyone, a classic in the making.

Thank you to #Eidleweiss, @Sourcebooks and #AndreaBobotis for my copy of this amazing book on sale today at your favorite bookseller and Amazon.

Blood Relations @JonathanMoore

Lee Crowe is a dis-barred lawyer, now a PI who has a reputation of getting the job done – regardless. Even he doesn’t realize what that will mean when he finds a body of a beautiful woman, dead, on the roof of a Rolls Royce in the middle of the ghetto. Wait, can we still use the word ghetto? Well, you know…. Being the type of guy that Lee is, he snaps some great photos of the woman and sells them to the highest bidding magazine. That sets him a course that will take him from coast to coast with a trail of dead bodies in his wake.40796146

Blood Relations started off like any other PI/Crime/Detective story: dead bodies, downtrodden former somebody barely getting by in their new life with a beautiful ex-spouse who haunts them. But this isn’t just any ‘ole story; this is a Jonathan Moore story. If you know anything at all about this author then you know that there will twists, turns and a pile of noir throughout and I absolutely was not wrong or disappointed with this one. While the theme of the story, and the atmosphere remains constant – that of a gumshoe looking for a killer – soon we are on the trail of an errant FBI agent and a scientist who is so cutting edge that his work is either insane or genius or both. This is Mary Shelley meets Michael Crichton with some Mickey Spillane thrown in for good measure. How could it be anything other than amazing?

Obviously, I highly recommend Blood Relations and, if you haven’t already Moore’s other books, I absolutely loved The Dark Room. Check him out and let me know what you think.

Athena’s Choice #AdamBoostrom

The year is 2099 and all of the men are gone…

In a near future world, a Y-virus has killed all of the men and a smattering of women. In the aftermath, women have built what appears to be a utopian society. Through scientific breakthroughs and frozen sperm replication, they are still procreating, have quite nearly eliminated maternal and fetal deaths and have found cures for nearly all diseases. The female population discovered that, when using technology for good rather than for empire building and war, there were amazing discoveries just waiting to be had – and so they did create them. It is a world that is, quite literally, at our fingertips today except, well, you know. Men. And war.

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Athena is a 19 year old young woman who is at the heart of a mystery. There are some women who wish to bring back men – their sons, brothers and husbands – not literally, of course, they just miss the male presence. These women have initiated the Lazarus Project but someone has “stolen” the genome and for a mysterious reason to be explained throughout the book, Athena is at its core.

This is a bit more YA, perhaps because of Athena’s age and narration, but never the less, I found the story completely captivating. The Science Fiction portion of the story was mesmerizing and, upon further research, I discovered that nearly everything mentioned in the book, we are on the cusp of having – if only funds weren’t diverted elsewhere, namely WAR. This is very much (!) a book about feminism. At my age, through my experiences, as an American living with a president who is gunning for yet another needless war, who has humans trapped in a concentration camp in hellish conditions where children are dying, who believes that Twitter rants are more important that dealing with mass flooding in one-third of our country, where newborn and maternal deaths are on the rise for the first time in over 100 years… I’m not so sure that living in a female utopia would be such a bad thing. Every war, every disease, every horrific thing in our world’s history has been the result of male ego. So I found it completely enjoyable to read a book where there was none of this. None.

I loved that the book was enriched with so many different fonts and inserts. Throughout there were advertisements for various products that Athena was seeing or thinking about purchasing. It was a method to introduce the world building without going through the entire world building introduction in the beginning. I appreciated this because I often do not read sci-fi or fantasy because the world building part is quite boring for me. There also were throw-backs to Athena’s school work and, if you paid attention to it, you were being given clues to how the book would end. I suspect that some of the other reviewers skimmed over these and missed key parts of the story. They were hidden gems.

In the end, we are left with Athena’s Choice. Men or No Men or ….. you’ll have to read the book to know the other choices. There is no answer in the book. The choice is one for us all to think about. I know what my choice would be, without any doubt at all!

Winner of the 2019 National Indie Excellence Award for Visionary Fiction.
Winner of the 2019 Maxy Award for Science Fiction.
Finalist for the 2019 NIEA for Science Fiction.

I simply cannot recommend this book highly enough! Thank you to #Netgally and especially to the author, Adam Boostrom, for such a remarkable, thought-provoking, visionary tale!

The Wedding Planner by Eve Devon

Gloria, a rather sassy and bold gal with a habit of rubbing people the wrong way is determined to change her ways and get more people to like her, well… if not like her then at least not deliberately avoid her. So when her best friend asks her to help plan her wedding, Gloria immediately agrees. The drawback is her co-planner, Seth. Gloria and Seth create a tension while planning the wedding and it is all about to boil over. But is that tension anger or simmering romantic heat?

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The Wedding Planner is a light, enjoyable Rom-Com that is perfect for a summer read by the pool. While it is the third in a series of four books, the author – Eve Devon – has given us a handy character guide at the beginning so that we will know who is who, which is good because there are a lot of characters introduced and the story is told from multiple points of view.

Normally this is exactly the type of book that I enjoy as a palate cleanser between deep, dark, serious reads. However, something about the characters didn’t quite resonate with me. Even now I’m unsure if it was their personality or if it was the feeling of “been there, done that” once too often but I found myself doing quite a bit of skimming through this one and far too often for this to be a book that I would recommend to you. That said, if you really like this type of book, then maybe you can and will like these characters. It simply wasn’t for me.

Two for Tuesday Part Two: Bridesmaids by @ZaraStoneley

cover152396-mediumA wedding you’ll never forget and a Rom-Com you won’t want to miss, Bridesmaids is the must-read, hilarious book for this summer! 

 

I fell in love with Zara Stoneley over the holidays with her fabulous book, No One Cancels Christmas, and had a feeling that I would really like her newest book, Bridesmaids. I was absolutely right, except I had no idea how much I would enjoy this delightful story and the characters involved – including the precious kitty who will steal your heart!

There are four school mates, four friends and four members of the bridal party and lots and lots of secrets. Not all of the school mates are friends with each others. Not all of them are privy to each other’s secrets and not all of them are happy for the bride to be. Now they have all come together for the hen party and wedding and what a wedding this one will turn out to be!

Jane is our protagonist around whom most of the secrets flow. Not everyone likes Jane, but it appears that everyone talks to her, although what she hears is not always what is true. Sometimes Jane interprets things according to her own conflicted past. Rachel is the bride to be and so happy that she is oblivious to much of what is swirling around her: a fiancé who has secrets of his own, Jane who is struggling after her own failed engagement, and two bridesmaids who cannot stand to be in the same room at the same time. They are Maddie and Sally – one is married to the other’s old boyfriend and the other never gave up hope of rekindling that flame. And then there is Beth – the outlier, single, new mom whose secret makes all other secrets look like child’s play. Welcome to the wedding! Enjoy the ride!

When British Rom-Coms are done well, they are witty, smart, sharp and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Bridesmaids is all of that and more! I, quite literally, found myself laughing so hard  at Jane and her friends, crying at times and then cheering for them at the end in a way that I seldom do for women’s fiction or “chick lit.” Zara Stoneley writes her books in such a way that each character has a very vivid personality and is relatable to someone that you know or have known in your life. You find yourself saying “oh yeah, I completely understand,” right along with the characters in the book. They are very real people while you are reading along with them. More importantly, though, Stoneley creates a story that is more than humorous. All of these characters are going through very complex issues in their lives from broken engagements to job insecurity to single parenthood and broken dreams. We watch as they slowly grow, come to subtle realizations about the next steps in their lives and become stronger as women – and men – so that by the end of the book you are as happy as they are with the way things turned out for their lives. It does have a happy ending although, wow, I wasn’t sure we ever would get these gals to that point!

If you loved Stoneley’s holiday tale or are looking for a delightful, heart-warming summer read, then this is the perfect choice for you. I absolutely adored it!

Thanks so much to #Netgalley, @HarperImpulse and #ZaraStoneley for my copy of #Bridesmaids. amazon