Odd Child Out

Odd Child Out
Odd Child Out by Gilly Macmillian

The Western Star

The Western Star
The Western Star by Craig Johnson

Friday, October 20, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Friday- Finding Jake By Bryan Reardon - Feature and Review


A heart-wrenching yet ultimately uplifting story of psychological suspense in which a parent is forced to confront what he does—and does not—know about his teenage son, in the vein of Reconstructing Amelia, Defending Jacob, and We Need to Talk about Kevin.

While his successful wife goes off to her law office each day, Simon Connolly takes care of their kids, Jake and Laney. Now that they are in high school, the angst-ridden father should feel more relaxed, but he doesn't. He’s seen the statistics, read the headlines. And now, his darkest fear is coming true. There has been a shooting at school. 

Simon races to the rendezvous point, where he’s forced to wait. Do they know who did it? How many victims were there? Why did this happen? One by one, parents are led out of the room to reunite with their children. Their numbers dwindle, until Simon is alone.

As his worst nightmare unfolds, and Jake is the only child missing, Simon begins to obsess over the past, searching for answers, for hope, for the memory of the boy he raised, for mistakes he must have made, for the reason everything came to this. Where is Jake? What happened in those final moments? Is it possible he doesn’t really know his son? Or he knows him better than he thought?

Brilliantly paced, Finding Jake explores these questions in a tense and emotionally wrenching narrative. Harrowing and heartbreaking, surprisingly healing and redemptiveFinding Jakeis a story of faith and conviction, strength, courage, and love that will leave readers questioning their own lives, and those they think they know.


MY REVIEW: Finding JakeFinding Jake by Bryan Reardon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Finding Jake by Bryan Reardon is a 2015 William Morrow publication.

“Why are you sad?”

“You need to be more outgoing.

“You need to be more of team player.”

“You should get out more.”

Promoted as a book written in the vein of “We Need to Talk about Kevin” and “Defending Jacob”, I will lay you odds, that most people picked this book up believing the sole focus of the novel is about the gut-wrenching possibility by a couple, that their child could be involved in a mass shooting. Yes, that is what this book is about, and it’s disturbing on so many levels, as well as a scathing look at American society as we know it today. But, there are a few underlying messages inside this story, too.

School shootings have become a paralyzing fear for parents in the times we live in. In such cases, we immediately cast stones at the shooter’s family, blaming them for not seeing it coming, for not doing something to prevent it. How could they not know?

This is a theme that runs throughout this book, with people hurting on a level I can’t begin to absorb, trying to deal with the emotional trauma associated with the unthinkable loss of a child.

To lose a child is almost more than one could bear, but to lose them in such a horrifying way, would rip you apart heart and soul, but what if your child was a suspect? Can you even begin to imagine such a scenario?

The reader follows the first person narrative of Simon Connolly, a stay at home dad, as he faces, not only a parent’s worst nightmare, but one in which his beloved son, Jake, is possibly involved in a mass shooting at his school.

As his shocked mind attempts to digest the situation, he and his wife, Rachel, and daughter, Laney, must deal with the utter agony of not knowing where their son is, if he is injured, running scared, or dead, not to mention trying to cope with the accusations thrown at him.

As events unfold in the three- day period of time after the shooting, Simon begins to reflect back on his parenting skills, Jake’s quiet personality, parent-teacher conferences, the struggles of being a stay at home dad, before it was an accepted practice, and the divide his marriage was suffering from. He doubts every move he has made as a dad, what he should have done or shouldn’t have done. He is consumed by so much fear, and worry, he begins to lose faith, with so many seeds of doubt being planted about his son.

Everything about Simon and Rachel was so spot on, they could have been any couple in America, but they were also a couple who went against the grain. They did not always conform to the parenting rules set by others in their neighborhood or by teachers at the school their children attended, plus Simon was a stay at home dad, Rachel the breadwinner, with a high stress occupation that demanded a lot of her time.

The author did an incredible job of showing the judgment passed on Simon by other men, how hard he was on his own self, how he coped with watching his wife live a life so separate from his that resentment formed deep within his heart, and he was often unfair to her.

I approved of the author’s depiction of ‘role reversal’, showing that raising decent human beings is hard work no matter who is home with the kids and the stress of a job is the same for women as it is for the guys. While being a stay at home parent is a luxury many would love to afford, it also has its challenges and is much harder than you know.

But, since Simon was the most hands on parent, his self- recriminations show the difficulties of having a child that is not like all the other children in temperament, as he chides himself, second guesses everything and places entirely too much blame on himself.

By contrast, Rachel deals with a different level of stress and is perhaps a little tougher, but would trade places with Simon in a heartbeat.

They may not have been perfect, but they were a couple many will find themselves relating to.

But, the underlying theme that many may not pick up on, at least not right way, is that being an introvert does not make one a criminal, insane, weird, untrustworthy, or stuck-up. Because Jake was quiet, didn’t engage with his classmates in the way our society expects, he was immediately a suspect. Because he tried to be fair to everyone, even those who were hard to like, even when they made him uncomfortable, he didn’t follow the crowd in making fun, or bullying, he was thus deemed guilty by association.

“Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” ~Anais Nin

This novel paints a fairly accurate view of American society. Follow along with the crowd, and you will not be suspected of a heinous crime. Join the play-date club, rub elbows with the right people, be outgoing, gregarious, loud, talk all the time, constantly surrounded by people, always attend social gatherings, look just like everyone else, talk like everyone else, do the same things everyone else does, because if you don’t, you may find yourself labeled as being weird or antisocial.

While the book is most assuredly a psychological thriller with the suspense becoming almost unbearable,  and so taut I could barely breath at times, it is also a cautionary tale, one that highlights our hypocrisy, that points a finger at society, and gives the introverted soul a slap on the back, and the permission to give society the cold shoulder without being punished for it.

Simon and Rachel also give us something to think hard about, because how often do we take life’s dull routines for granted, allow the small things to come between us, forget to count our blessings, or just live in the moment?

Simon may beat himself up forevermore, always worry endlessly, but despite their foibles and flaws, this family has so very much to be proud of, while setting such an outstanding example for us all.

It’s okay for you to view this book solely as a work of suspense, or as a thriller, because it is that, and if you understand why the book’s conclusion is considered inspirational, then that is all I could hope for.

But for some who are extreme introverts like me…

This book touched me on many levels and while I am not usually a weeper, I cried the ugly cry, as I felt so connected to this struggling family, and saw a strength in them, they never knew they had, which gives me hope, though the lesson here is so very hard.

But, I for one came away with a feeling of vindication so profound I can’t thank this author enough for not only having the courage to write about such a difficult topic, but to also take a stand and fight for all the Jake’s in this world, and hopefully, his message was heard loud and clear.

“Everyone shines, given the right lighting.” ~Susan Cain





Finding Jake is close to my heart. I've spent the last decade working from home while caring for my kids. I worry about them every day. Much of that angst fueled the writing of this book. Maybe the angst I feel waiting for the book to be released will fuel the next one.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Western Star by Craig Johnson- Feature and Review


The thirteenth novel in Craig Johnson's beloved New York Timesbestselling Longmire series, the basis for the hit Netflix series Longmire

Sheriff Walt Longmire is enjoying a celebratory beer after a weapons certification at the Wyoming Law Enforcement Academy when a younger sheriff confronts him with a photograph of twenty-five armed men standing in front of a Challenger steam locomotive. It takes him back to when, fresh from the battlefields of Vietnam, then-deputy Walt accompanied his mentor Lucian to the annual Wyoming Sheriff's Association junket held on the excursion train known as the Western Star, which ran the length of Wyoming from Cheyenne to Evanston and back. Armed with his trusty Colt .45 and a paperback of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express, the young Walt was ill-prepared for the machinations of twenty-four veteran sheriffs, let alone the cavalcade of curious characters that accompanied them.

The photograph—along with an upcoming parole hearing for one of the most dangerous men Walt has encountered in a lifetime of law enforcement—hurtles the sheriff into a head-on collision of past and present, placing him and everyone he cares about squarely on the tracks of runaway revenge.



The Western Star (Walt Longmire, #13)The Western Star by Craig Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Western Star by Craig Johnson is a 2017 Viking publication.

This is the thirteenth book in the Walt Longmire series.

‘He did it, she did it, or they all did it’

Walt never misses the parole hearing, which takes place every four years, for a prisoner over at Cheyenne, who happens to be the most dangerous criminal he ever encountered. This time, though, the prisoner in question is dying and seeking compassionate release. As Walt continues to oppose the release, he is taken on a trip down memory lane, back to the seventies, when he agreed to accompany Lucien to a Wyoming Sheriff’s Association junket, which was held on the excursion train called, ‘The Western Star’.

It is always a treat to check in with Walt Longmire. This installment is slightly different as it bounces between the past and the present. But,for the most part the bulk of the story is focused on Walt’s past.

This does mean that once more a few of our very favorite characters have a much smaller role, but we do get to know Walt, a little better, and even get to hear from Martha, too.

As Walt boards the train, with twenty-four veteran Sheriffs, he could never have imagined how the events that unfolded would haunt him all these years, or how they would collide with the present in an incredible twist of fate.

In some ways, this story is like a backhanded compliment to Agatha Christie’s ‘Murder on the Orient Express’, the novel Walt carries with him aboard the train.

I thought this was a nice touch and enjoyed the tone of the story while Walt has a battle of wits with twenty-four seasoned sheriffs, and murder follows them aboard the train. Anyone familiar with Christie’s work will appreciate the homage to her techniques and how they applied to his story.

I never saw the surprise twist coming and was impressed with clever plotting, all of which was very entertaining… until the past catches up with the present. The story takes on a much more sinister tone at that point and ends with one of those awful – ‘to be continued’ storylines.

Once I finished the book, my first thought was how other devoted fans of this series would respond to this installment. I think some may have mixed feelings about it, but I thought it was a great bridge story that will segue nicely into what will most assuredly be the ultimate showdown.

I enjoyed the setting aboard the train, the ‘whodunit’ mystery, and getting a rare peek at the young Walt Longmire. I was enjoying the golden age nostalgia so much, I was ill prepared for the jolt out my reverie, dropping me back into the present with a thud. It was hard to wrap my head around how everything was tied up together, but it was pretty tense.

Overall, I enjoyed this book just as much as all the other Longmire novels, despite this being the second book in a row where key players took a backseat. But, I have a feeling, everyone will be back with a vengeance in the next installment, which promises to be one heck of a wild ride.





Craig Johnson is the New York Times bestselling author of twelve Walt Longmire mystery novels, which are the basis for Longmire, the hit Netflix original drama. The Cold Dish won Le Prix du Polar Nouvel Observateur/Bibliobs. Death Without Company, the Wyoming Historical Association’s Book of the Year, won France’s Le Prix 813, and Another Man’s Moccasins was the Western Writers of America’s Spur Award Winner and the Mountains & Plains Book of the Year. The Dark Horse, the fifth in the series, was a Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year and Junkyard Dogs won The Watson Award for a mystery novel with the best sidekick. Hell Is Empty, selected by Library Journal as the Best Mystery of the Year, was a New York Times best seller, as was As the Crow Flies, which won the Rocky for the best crime novel typifying the western United States. A Serpent’s Tooth opened as a New York Times bestseller as did Any Other Name and Wait for Signs, Johnson's collection of short stories. Spirit of Steamboat was selected by the State Library as the inaugural One Book Wyoming and included visits to sixty-three libraries. Johnson lives in Ucross, Wyoming, population twenty-five.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Little Fires Everywhere- by Celeste Ng- Feature and Review


In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned - from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules. 
Enter Mia Warren - an enigmatic artist and single mother - who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community. 
When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.



Little Fires EverywhereLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng is a 2017 Penguin Press publication.

A smart, but often scathing look at entitlement coupled with the endless dynamic layers between mother and child.

The Clinton era gets a sharp examination as we drop in on Shaker Heights, an ideal suburban community with plenty of unspoken rules for its financially comfortable residents. The Richardson family is the prototype of the community, with Elena Richardson embracing the lifestyle with unparalleled enthusiasm.

‘Perfection: that was the goal, and perhaps the Shakers had lived it so strongly it had seeped into the soil itself, feeding those who grew up there with a propensity to overachieve and a deep intolerance for flaws.’

By contrast, Mrs. Richardson’s new tenants, Mia and her daughter, Pearl, live a free spirited, nomadic life. Mia is a photographer, who works just enough to afford the basics in life. Pearl, though, has no trouble adapting to the stable home life of the Richardson’s, practically becoming a member of the family.

Things are working out well enough, until a chain of events unlocks long buried secrets, spawning a bitter custody battle, which exposes cracks in the Richardson’s perfect image, and will culminate in a fiery inferno, both physically and metaphorically.

This second novel by Celeste Ng is not quite as grim or heavy as her debut, but it is every bit as provocative.

I have had a hard time writing this review because the layers in this story are many, with so many themes to explore. I have worked on it for days, feeling slightly intimidated, unable to find the words that would do justice to such an outstanding novel.


This book adeptly explores hot button issues prevalent twenty years ago, between episodes of Jerry Springer and Clinton’s sex scandals, when a different set of questions were raised, such as interracial adoptions.

“It came, over and over, down to this: What made someone a mother? Was it biology alone, or was it love?”

I was impressed with the various contrasts presented in the book, which included the mindset of the privileged juxtaposed against those who find themselves at their mercy. Was there an exacting price for that privilege and was it worth it? I must say, the judgmental hypocrisy is astounding!!

But, the heartbeat of the story is centered around motherhood. Every mother represented exposed that instant vulnerability motherhood creates. The pain of infertility and the frustrating process of adoption is examined right along with parental sacrifices and foibles and their consequences.

Mia and Mrs. Richardson's children also play an integral part in the story, their roles intertwined and connected in the most ironic of ways.

‘Izzy had the heart of a radical, but she had the experience of a fourteen-year-old in the suburban Midwest.’

One of the more interesting character studies is of Elena- mostly referred to as Mrs. Richardson, which I thought was a very clever way of hammering home a specific point. Her cluelessness, her arrogance, and relentless reproach is extraordinary in light of what is actually taking place.

Mia, in turn, may spark a little resentfulness in Mrs. Richardson, and despite my initial puzzlement about her, and I admit I certainly questioned some of her choices, I ended up respecting her a great deal.

So, as you can see, the novel is very driven by the characters, each offering a different perspective or new avenue in which to view the situation. Sometimes I felt deep empathy for one character, feeling the acuteness of their pain, but unable to choose a side. It is often heart wrenching and I found myself feeling torn on many occasions.

On other occasions, I had a very hard time mustering up any real empathy for a few of these characters.

The plotting was very tightly woven and on several occasions, I may have uttered an expletive out loud when misunderstandings exploded in the worst possible way, creating a mountain of tension in the process.

This is a very compelling family drama, drawing out a bit of nostalgia, prompting me to take a closer look in the mirror, to put myself in the place of others before passing judgement.

But, I also picked up on a bit of sarcasm here and there, almost as if the author was scoffing at some of the attitudes or the mindset of the era, although it was done so in an understated and sly way.

It’s been nearly a week since I finished the book and I still find myself mulling over the many layers and angles, and thinking about the characters and the choices they made and how it all came together in the end.

So, it is fair to say, this book has had an impact on me, and think it is a novel anyone who appreciates a well written, thought provoking work of fiction will appreciate. Highly recommend!!





Celeste Ng grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio.
She attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of
Michigan. Her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, won the Hopwood Award, the
Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature and the
ALA’s Alex Award and is a 2016 NEA fellow. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. To learn more about her and her work, visit her website at http://celesteng.com or follow her on Twitter: @pronounced_ing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo- by Taylor Jenkins Reid- Feature and Review


From Taylor Jenkins Reid comes an unforgettable and sweeping novel about one classic film actress’s relentless rise to the top—the risks she took, the loves she lost, and the long-held secrets the public could never imagine.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Filled with emotional insight and written with Reid’s signature talent, this is a fascinating journey through the splendor of Old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means—and what it takes—to face the truth.




\ The Seven Husbands of Evelyn HugoThe Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is a 2017 Atria Books publication.

A story so well written I had to remind myself it was a work of fiction.

The cleverly titled novel appealed to my interest in old Hollywood, the scandals and cover-ups the public never had the slightest clue existed.

Evelyn Hugo is a faded movie star in advanced years who has decided to write her life story- a deliciously scandalous tell all with a sharp focus on her seven marriages.

To help with this task, she lures Monique Grant to her home under false pretenses, but soon seduces her into agreeing to take the job, by making her an offer she couldn’t resist.

The story moves slowly at first while Evelyn settles into her story and Monique learns how to handle Evelyn, often using Evelyn’s own advice against her to gain leverage.

But, once they have come to an understanding, Evelyn’s story takes center stage and what a story it was.

The first question Monique asked Evelyn is:

‘Who was the great love of your life?'

It seems like a reasonable enough question, considering Evelyn’s numerous marriages, but it turns out to be much more complicated than what it may seem on the surface.

I admit, I sat literally spellbound and mesmerized by Evelyn and her turbulent life as an actress and movie star, and the amazing twists and turns her life took in search of personal peace, love, and contentment. Her storytelling was an Academy Award performance.

Evelyn made concessions along the way to fame, allowing herself to be recreated by erasing her Cuban heritage and features, as well as leaving her first husband for a chance at fame and fortune.

Her love life takes many twists and turns as does her career, but what the public witnessed was nothing at all like what went on behind closed doors. Her life was like the old Hollywood is all ‘smoke and mirrors’ adage personified.

While Monique is the interviewer, her life and background deserves a close look. She is depressed over her failed marriage and her seemingly dead -end position at work. This gig is worth the incredible risk she takes, but she could never have guessed the monumental impact Evelyn Hugo would have on her life.

Naturally, I thought of Elizabeth Taylor and her many marriages, but the story also had a hint of Marilyn Monroe’s humble beginnings as well. However, a few of Evelyn's leading men mimicked or could have been modeled after real movie stars from that era as well.

But, the most significant points come from the relationships Evelyn developed, outside of the public eye, and how they managed to keep the situation a secret for so many years.

Each husband is given their own chapter with a special title that applies to them personally or to Evelyn’s relationship or opinion of them.

I disliked many of them, and really loved others, as did Evelyn. But beware of Evelyn’s spin on things. She is determined to tell this tale her way and her outlook is often a matter of perspective.

As things progress, I began to see how Evelyn’s influence on Monique begins to take hold. She gives good advice even if it sounds selfish, greedy, or cold. She didn’t get to be the great ‘Evelyn Hugo’ without some verve.

Although there are strong passages regarding sexuality, and the hidden secret lives people were forced to resort to in those days, for me, the powerful transformation Monique undergoes under Evelyn’s tutelage is what sticks with me the most.

Now, this story could have worked as a fictional tell all from Hollywood’s golden age, but there are a couple of 'Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night'moments you won’t see it coming, which left me utterly speechless and completely flabbergasted. My emotions exploded in a million different directions at that point.

The conclusion is riddled with rich bittersweet irony, but couldn't have been more fitting.

Overall, this is an incredibly well written story, very atmospheric, multi-layered, thought provoking, and utterly hypnotizing. Someday, I would like to re-read this one so I can absorb all those nuances I missed leading up to that stunning conclusion.

This one was so good I had a little book hangover for a couple of days. Highly recommend!!





Taylor Jenkins Reid is the author of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, One True Loves, Maybe in Another Life, and two other novels. She lives in Los Angeles. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @tjenkinsreid.

Monday, October 16, 2017

You Belong to Me by Colin Harrison- Feature and Review


YOU BELONG TO ME . . . Paul Reeves is a successful immigration lawyer, but his passion is collecting old maps of New York, tangible records of the city’s rich history in an increasingly digital world. One afternoon he attends an auction with his neighbor Jennifer Mehraz, the beautiful young wife of an Iranian financier-lawyer, but halfway through the auction a handsome man in soldier fatigues appears in the aisle and whisks Jennifer away. YOU BELONG TO ME . . . A long-lost lover from Jennifer’s rural Pennsylvania past, the man sets off a series of alarming events as those close to Jennifer try to figure out who he is and how the two are connected, including her high-powered and possessive husband, whose ultimate goal is to make this embarrassing intrusion into his marriage disappear. YOU BELONG TO ME . . . At the same time, one of the world’s rarest and most inaccessible maps suddenly goes on sale, but before Paul can finalize a deal, another buyer snatches it out from under Paul’s nose, sending him on a quest to find out who the mysterious buyer is and how to get the map for himself.

Eight years after his last critically acclaimed thriller, The Finder, Colin Harrison returns with You Belong to Me. Filled with compelling characters and a loving but biting satire of New York City, You Belong to Me is an exceptional novel, and Colin Harrison is at the top of his game.



  You Belong to MeYou Belong to Me by Colin Harrison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You Belong to Me by Colin Harrison is a 2017 Sarah Crichton Books publication.

Gritty noir, a stylish thriller and homage to New York, all rolled into one book.

Paul is a successful immigration lawyer with a seriously obsessive map collecting hobby. While attending an auction with his pretty, but very married neighbor, Jennifer, she abruptly walks out when she meets a solider she obviously recognizes and is very happy to see.

Later, Paul spies the couple making love, which requires Jennifer to explain about the affair. But, Paul is not the only one who knows about her tryst.

Jennifer’s husband is an Iranian lawyer, who is more than aware of his wife’s movements while he is away from home.

In the meantime, Paul has a very valuable map sitting in the palms of his hands, but before he can close the deal, it is snatched away from him, sending him into a fevered quest to find the buyer and get his hands on that map.

The city of New York plays a prominent role in this crime thriller. The atmosphere of the city and Paul’s collection of city maps, creates an intimacy with the history and knowledge of it, making it the perfect backdrop for this dark and complex crime drama.

The characters are also stellar, very well drawn, but a bit stereotypical at times, and not necessarily the type of people you want to root for. The the cast is quite large, which causes me a great deal of trouble in many cases, but I didn’t have much trouble keeping them all straight. Everyone had a specified role and they seldom veer too far off script. But, there is a lot going on here. Murder for hire, relationships and families, obsession, shady underworld characters, and even opportunism.

There is also an interesting age gap between Paul and some of people whose drama he finds himself entangled in, which also provides a thought provoking take on the way age and experience taints your viewpoints. Yet everyone involved was surrounded by an aura of desperation or urgency.

This novel may be billed simply as a crime drama, but there is a pronounced noir quality to the story that greatly appealed to me. I thought the story was well written, a little sarcastic, with some very subtle dark humor hidden inside the cynicism.

I have not read Colin Harrison’s previous novels, so my expectations were no higher going into this novel than with any other, which may have worked to my advantage in this case. I was caught off guard by the tone of the novel, but pleasantly so, and was also very impressed with the style of the writing.

I absolutely love this type of gritty and twisty crime novel and found myself savoring it and absorbing it in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.

I loved the details, the dialogue, the action, the pacing, and of course the rich irony that brings the show to a close.

I highly recommend this book to those who appreciate noir fiction especially, but anyone who likes a good twisty crime thriller will enjoy this one.





Colin Harrison is a crime novelist. He is a vice president and senior editor at Scribner.
He lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn, with his wife, the writer Kathryn Harrison, and their three children (Sarah, Walker and Julia).

He attended: Haverford College, BA 1982; University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. MFA 1986

His short nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, New York Magazine, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, Vogue, Salon, Worth, and other various publications.

Friday, October 13, 2017

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal- Feature and Review


A Top Ten Finalist for Best Historical Novel, Goodreads Choice Awards, and a LibraryReads and Okra Pick

A big-hearted coming-of-age debut set in civil rights-era New Orleans—a novel of Southern eccentricity and secrets

When Ibby Bell’s father dies unexpectedly in the summer of 1964, her mother unceremoniously deposits Ibby with her eccentric grandmother Fannie and throws in her father’s urn for good measure. Fannie’s New Orleans house is like no place Ibby has ever been—and Fannie, who has a tendency to end up in the local asylum—is like no one she has ever met. Fortunately, Fannie’s black cook, Queenie, and her smart-mouthed daughter, Dollbaby, take it upon themselves to initiate Ibby into the ways of the South, both its grand traditions and its darkest secrets.

For Fannie’s own family history is fraught with tragedy, hidden behind the closed rooms in her ornate Uptown mansion. It will take Ibby’s arrival to begin to unlock the mysteries there. And it will take Queenie and Dollbaby’s hard-won wisdom to show Ibby that family can sometimes be found in the least expected places.

For fans of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt and The HelpDollbaby brings to life the charm and unrest of 1960s New Orleans through the eyes of a young girl learning to understand race for the first time.

By turns uplifting and funny, poignant and full of verve, Dollbaby is a novel readers will take to their hearts.



  DollbabyDollbaby by Laura Lane McNeal
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dollbaby by Laura Lane McNeil is a 2014 Viking Adult publication.

This highly praised novel has oft been compared to “The Help”, and to a lesser extent “The Secret Life of Bees”. However, I would advise you to avoid going into this book with that type of preconceived notion. This book is nothing at all like “The Help” with the exception of it being set in the south in the 1960's, and featuring strong black women, but the similarity ends there.

When Liberty's ( Ibby) father dies suddenly, her mother abruptly drops her off at her paternal grandmothers' home without Ibby ever having met the woman, and with no indication when her mother might return for her.

Fannie is nothing like Ibby thought she would be, and with Queenie and Dollbaby on hand, Ibby settles into a new life in New Orleans with these three special women who raise her into adulthood, while Ibby slowly unlocks the dark family secrets Fannie has hidden in the old house for all these years.

The hot, humid backdrop of New Orleans in the sixties where race tensions were high provided a
uneasy backdrop to this engrossing coming of age story. Queenie and Dollbaby are the real caretakers of Ibby, although Fannie makes most of the big decisions about her granddaughter's future, such as attending a prestigious Catholic school, despite the fact they weren't Catholic, as an example.

Queenie and Dollbaby know most of Fannie's secrets and moods, and slowly reveal them to Ibby until she finally has a clearer picture of who Fannie is and what is at the root of her instability. You will most likely begin to piece together the truth about Ibby's family as time passes on, but ultimately this is a story of friendship, love, and family.

 I had some mixed emotions about some parts of the story, but the south had its own way of handling things back in the day and Fannie and Queenie, especially Queenie, took an unorthodox approach in what was most certainly a no win situation. I still wondered at some of the ramifications of Fannie's story, but can't really dissect it in this review without giving too much away.

I think the story is though provoking, atmospheric, sad, yet ultimately the truth, as harsh as may have been, really showed that love transcends all manner of obstacles, especially with family. Forgiveness, acceptance, and peace often come at a high price and all the women in the story made sacrifices in order to do what they felt was right or for the best. We may not agree with all their choices, but I did find them to be strong and inspirational, in the face of much tragedy and difficult times.

Overall, I have some conflicted feelings about the novel, but any story that keeps me thinking about it long after I have turned the last page, means it left an impression, which is why i'm giving this one 4 stars.





Thursday, October 12, 2017

Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis- Feature and Review

Meet cute...

Run for the hills—temporarily. That's Colbie Albright's plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie's so over it that she's under it. She's also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she's pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won't be a stranger for long.

Make merry...

Spence's commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn't have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot chemistry—he's got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she's gorgeous and a great listener just because she gets Spence immediately doesn't mean he won't be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock's ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime.



Chasing Christmas Eve (Heartbreaker Bay, #4)Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis is a 2017 Avon publication.

A light, slightly offbeat, and humorous holiday tale set in romantic San Francisco.

This fourth installment in the Heartbreaker Bay series features two adorable socially awkward workaholics, in Colbie and Spencer, who literally take a fall… right into the ‘Make a Wish’ fountain.

Colbie is a famous Young Adult author experiencing a case of writer’s block, under a hard and a looming deadline, who needs a break from all the pressure and from her co-dependent family who is putting a serious drain on her mojo.

She decides to run away for a little vacation so she recharge and recapture her love of writing. San Francisco was not her first choice of destinations, but it just might be her best choice, after all.

Spencer is a very successful tech genius, but that success has come at a price. His workaholic habits have already cost him one serious relationship, making him wary of getting involved with anyone again.

But, when he meets Colbie, the two seem to really hit it off! That’s great, right? The two ‘get’ each other like no one else ever has. But, Colbie has promised her family she would be home by Christmas Eve, when she will have to return to the daily grind and back to her all responsibilities.

Can the couple find a way to make their newfound relationship work or will they have to say goodbye forever?

I’ve struggled to find just the right word to describe this novel. Compared to the other books in the series, this one is a little- eccentric? Maybe? It’s quirky, a little goofy, and zany and lots of fun. Of course, It goes without saying, there are some hilarious scenes, and the dialogue is snappy. The story has plenty of energy, the tone is very light, but the emotional elements are more subdued.

There are a few minor drawbacks, however, such as Colbie’s substitutions for ‘colorful metaphors’, which was cute in the beginning, but sort of lost their charm by the end of the book- at least for me.

The sexual chemistry is hot and steamy, but due to time constraints, I suppose, the build -up was too short, which stunted the emotional growth in the relationship.

But, the romantic comedy format is nice and maybe even somewhat of a relief..

There are a few touching and gooey moments, of course, but it did give me a break from the sugary sweet and sappy, overly emotional, heart string tugging holiday tales I'm normally inundated with. So, personally, had no problems with the lighter approach in this one.

For the most part, I enjoyed this slightly unconventional Romcom, which really did lighten my mood and made me literally laugh out loud once or twice.

So, if you are in the market for a light, fun, and sexy holiday story, this is the book for you. Enjoy!





New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill's bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit http://www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

or email her at contact@jillsha