Little Pretty Things

In Lori Rader-Day’s Little Pretty Things, we explore the high school friendship of Juliet and Maddy. While they were the closest friends in high school, Maddy came in first in every track race they ever ran together, until suddenly they stopped running and stopped being friends. 10 years have past since they’ve seen each other and we meet Juliet in a dumpy motel on the outskirts of their hometown. She dropped out of college when her father died and she seemed to have lost all her drive and ended up in this dead end job. When in walks Maddy, beautiful, wealthy, and makes Juliet question all of her life’s choices up to this point. She sees in Maddy what she could have had, and once again she’s in second place to Maddy.

Or is she? Maddy is found murdered at the motel and Juliet is intent of finding who killed her former best friend. Juliet ends up tangled in a web of deceit that makes her realize that coming in 2nd place might be the better spot to have ended up. The entire town’s facade is ripped off as Juliet and Courtney, an investigating officer and classmate of Juliet and Maddy’s, uncover abuse that the town has been living with for decades.

A compelling read and a cautionary tale for teenage girls looking to find their way in this world on their own.

Read July 2017

 

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Revolver

What a great novel! Duance Swierczynski ties so many different things together in Revolver. This is a story about race relations in Philadelphia in the 1960’s, the evolution of criminal science, how family history affects everyone and their choices, overcoming racism in a race-seperated world, police officers relationships, Polish and Black culture in America, and so many relationships that are tied together between two different families.

Revolver is set in 3 different time periods and Swierczynski rotates between the 3 with 3 different narrators for each. In 1965, we meet Stan Walchek, a police officer, and hear his story that will lead up to his death. In 1995, we meet Jim Walchek, Stan’s son and also a police officer, who in addition to another major crime investigation, he is trying to revenge his father and partner’s murder. In 2015, we have Audrey Kornbluth, Jim’s adopted daughter and a Criminal Science student, who begins researching Stan’s murder as part of her final project. In each generation, intertwined are the stories of George Wildey, Stan’s partner; George Wildey Junior, George’s son; and Lieutenant Ben Wildey, George’s grandson. The Walchek and Wildey’s stories bounce off each other in ways that even the characters don’t know about. These families have been connected to one another for decades and both have police as well as criminals in them.

This was such an enjoyable book to read and to experience an intermingling of cultures during a turbulent time in American history.

Read April 2017

Whispers in the Mist

Lisa Alber writes about a quaint little village on the Irish coast that has an annual Matchmaker festival where the town is inundated with romantics looking for love and so many others taking advantage of the festive occasion. When the grey skies start rolling in, the myth of Grey Man starts scaring the children and when a stranger shows up dead, it begins to scare the adults as well. Whispers in the Mist was a great read with so many unique characters who all have history with one another, as happens in small towns.

The clues left along the way seem to cloud the story even more, but the ending was suspenseful and unexpected.

Enjoyable read. March 2017.

Among the Wicked

In Among the Wicked, Chief of Police Kate Burkholder needs to infiltrate a strict Amish community in upstate New York. Having been raised Amish, Burkholder knows how to befriend and investigate members of this exclusive group after a young girl dies mysteriously.

Linda Castillo weaves an incredible story in Among the Wicked. Her characters have to simultaneously live in multiple worlds and portray very different traits depending on whom they are talking with. Kate Burkholder is just one of many people living in different worlds and its up to her to find out about the secrets everyone is hiding.

This was a great glimpse of Amish life mixed with some cult-like traits of their leader. Great conclusion to this novel with unexpected twists.

Read February 2017

Finding Me – A Memoir of the Cleveland Kidnappings

Michelle Knight survived the unimaginable. She was held captive by a lunatic for over 10 years in deplorable conditions. In Finding Me, she tells her story of survival from childhood abuse, kidnapping, rape, beatings, abortions, and so much more. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus were held captive by Ariel Castro in a normal neighborhood where family members and band mates came and went from the same home.

This is a disturbing story for so many reasons, most of which is how alone Michelle is. She came from a large dysfunctional family and when kidnapped spent years chained to the same bed as another person, and now that she’s out, she’s utterly alone. How can anyone cope with what she endured? How can anyone trust? Michelle had very few good things happen in her life that it seems amazing that she’s functioning at all, yet she seems ok. She’s not nearly as resentful as I think she should be. She has a childlike quality to her writing and stories, which makes some of the horrific things weirdly easier and harder to read. This is not someone with a depth of knowledge of the world and yet she knows how horrible people can be and still walks one.

Interesting read. I wouldn’t recommend due to the highly disturbing contents of her life, but I hope writing this book helped her.

Read January 2017

If She Only Knew

Lisa Jackson’s If She Only Knew digs into the upper class of San Francisco after Marla Cahill crashes on a dark stretch of highway. She wakes up having forgotten everything around her. Slowly, her husband reveals their relationship as strained, as is the one with her teenage daughter. Nothing seems familiar to Marla, and everything that she begins to remember doesn’t match her life.

Marla’s brother in law is brought back into the fold to help Marla with her memory and to help the struggling family empire which appears to be on the brink of bankruptcy. Marla was driving someone else’s car, with an unknown friend, to an unknown destination when the car crashed. No one is able to help Marla figure out what happened. It isn’t until her memory starts coming back that the pieces start to fit together, but it threatens her life.

I bought this to read at the beach, and it was perfect for that. Barely scratches the surface of social issues, but the twists kept me entertained.

Read January 2017

Bitter River

Small West Virginian Prosecutor Bell Elkins is called out to the investigation into the murder of Lucinda Trimble, a pregnant teenage girl, in Julia Keller’s Bitter River. The poor teenager is found strangled in her car that was found mostly underwater in the Bitter River. Bell needs to look into her wealthy boyfriend’s family, her eclectic mother, and any one else in the small town of Acker’s Gap that might have a motive to kill.

This novel also provided a glimpse into rural West Virginian politics and life. A world has moved past them when jobs and hope left. Kids growing up in this area either are resigned to their fate or make plans or dreams to get out. Learning what motivated the teens in the town, shows how hope can spring up in even the least hopeful places.

As the investigation trudges along, a random shooting almost hits Bell’s secretary and the local diner explodes in a possible gas leak. With all this happening, its hard for Bell and the Sheriff Nick Fogelsong to not miss the important clues that will lead to the killer.

The murder mystery was well written and kept the clues so hidden as to have a real surprise at the ending. The other crimes, the shooting at the secretary and the explosion, I felt were too obvious. I read this book over a couple of weeks and I still pieced it together before Elkins and Fogelsong. But I still really enjoyed the characterization of many of the characters as well as the feeling of place in the novel.

Read November 2016