Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Guppy Book of the Month - Steeled For Murder - K.M. Rockwood

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.

1st Jesse Damon Crime Novel

After serving nearly 20 years in prison on a murder conviction, Jesse Damon has been released, a home detention monitor strapped to his ankle. Determined to make it and mindful of his parole restrictions, he struggles with life outside prison. He finds a basement apartment, a job on the overnight shift at a steel fabrication plant and a few people who treat him like anybody else. Especially Kelly, a woman who works in the shipping department. He seems to be making it. Until Mitch, forklift driver on the shift, is found murdered in the warehouse. Investigating detective doesn’t want to look any further than Jesse to close the case He’s not fussy about the methods he uses to gather evidence. If Jesse isn’t going down for this, he will have to be the one to figure out who killed Mitch—and why.


Info from the author's website:

KM Rockwood draws on a varied background for stories, among them working as a laborer in a steel fabrication plant, operating glass melters and related equipment in a fiberglass manufacturing facility, and supervising an inmate work crew in a large medium security state prison. These jobs, as well as work as a special education teacher in an alternative high school and a GED teacher in county detention facilities, provide most of the background for novels and short stories.


I was delighted to receive yet another book this month.  Steeled For Murder seems a little outside my usual type of book, but I'm game for sure.  I will freely admit that I know nothing about steel fabrication or the fiberglass industry.  This author does and I've seen some great reviews of this series.  And this is the first book of six (to date).  I'm curious about the protagonist - was he wrongly accused?  In any case, this author also has other books and short stories.  Can't wait to try them!  Thanks so much, K.M.!  

Monday, July 30, 2018

Final Girls - Riley Sager

Final Girls by Riley Sager

First Paragraph(s):

The forest had claws and teeth.
     All those rocks and thorn and branches bit at Quincy as she ran screaming through the woods.  But she didn't stop.  Not when rocks dug into the soles of her bare feet.  Not when a whip-thin branch lashed her face and a line of blood streaked down her cheek.
     Stopping wasn't an option.  To stop was to die.  So she kept running, even as a bramble wrapped around her ankle and gnawed at her flesh.  The bramble stretched, quivering before Quincy's momentum yanked her free.  If it hurt, she couldn't tell.  Her body already held more pain than it could handle.

My Thoughts:

Final Girls got a lot of press last year when it was published.  It was recommended by many notable authors and my copy came from Book of the Month.  When I decided to read it this year, I also added the audio, narrated by Erin Bennett and Hillary Huber, from my library.  As the blurb says below, this book starts with a teen horror movie type beginning, a girl running through the woods after her friends have been killed at a remote cabin.  And the action continues from there.  Quincy, the girl running, becomes one of the so-called 'Final Girls', a term coined by the media for lone survivors of horrible spree killers.  Quincy does not want to be a 'Final Girl' and refuses to consider herself by that term.  Instead, she has a baking blog and a quiet life with Jeff - until she doesn't.

I liked this book and definitely wanted to know how it would end.  Quincy was interesting, if a little clueless about many things.  Samantha was strange and creepy.  The reader doesn't get to know much about Lisa, but what we were able to glean was positive.  Was someone trying to get rid of the three 'Final Girls'?  Well, I'll let you read the book and figure that out on your own.  There was a bit of drama about the author, Riley Sager, a pseudonym for Todd Ritter.  Some asked why he used such a gender-neutral name and there was discussion.  His next book, The Last Time I Lied, was published earlier this month and I'll likely be reading it soon. 


Ten years ago, college student Quincy Carpenter went on vacation with five friends and came back alone, the only survivor of a horror movie–scale massacre. In an instant, she became a member of a club no one wants to belong to—a group of similar survivors known in the press as the Final Girls. Lisa, who lost nine sorority sisters to a college dropout's knife; Sam, who went up against the Sack Man during her shift at the Nightlight Inn; and now Quincy, who ran bleeding through the woods to escape Pine Cottage and the man she refers to only as Him. The three girls are all attempting to put their nightmares behind them and, with that, one another. Despite the media's attempts, they never meet.

Now, Quincy is doing well—maybe even great, thanks to her Xanax prescription. She has a caring almost-fiancĂ©, Jeff; a popular baking blog; a beautiful apartment; and a therapeutic presence in Coop, the police officer who saved her life all those years ago. Her memory won’t even allow her to recall the events of that night; the past is in the past.

That is until Lisa, the first Final Girl, is found dead in her bathtub, wrists slit; and Sam, the second, appears on Quincy's doorstep. Blowing through Quincy's life like a whirlwind, Sam seems intent on making Quincy relive the past, with increasingly dire consequences, all of which makes Quincy question why Sam is really seeking her out. And when new details about Lisa's death come to light, Quincy's life becomes a race against time as she tries to unravel Sam's truths from her lies, evade the police and hungry reporters, and, most crucially, remember what really happened at Pine Cottage, before what was started ten years ago is finished.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Bookish Nostalgia - July 2018

Welcome to Bookish Nostalgia for July 2018.  I've kept records of books I read for over 25 years and I enjoy looking back through my reading journals to see what I was reading 5, 10, 15, and 20 years ago.  Let's see what I remember about what I was reading in those years:

July 1998 - Miss Zukas and the Library Murders by Jo Dereske - A lot of my mystery reading was impacted by discovering other mystery readers on the internet.  In 1998, I was finding a lot of authors that I had not heard of or seen on my library shelves.  However, I'd read about them on the DorothyL list or on a YahooGroup (remember them?) and happily see if I could find the various books.  Jo Dereske's mystery series featuring Librarian Helma Zukas is one of those.  This is the first book in that series and I remember it was so much fun and Helma is an original for sure.  Now that these have appeared in e-book format, I ought to read them again.  

July 2003 - Murder With Peacocks by Donna Andrews - Another funny mystery and first book in a great series is Murder With Peacocks.  Donna Andrews is still writing this series and book #23 will be out in August.  Meg Langslow is scrambling in this one to be the maid of honor for three weddings in her home town - her mother's, her soon to be sister-in-law, and her best friend.  Each is different and each bride is relying on Meg for lots and lots of help.  Oh, and each bride keeps changing her mind about wedding details.  So many funny moments in this book.

July 2008 - Tilt A Whirl by Chris Grabenstein - Obviously, July is my month for starting fabulous, funny mystery series.  Here's another - Chris Grabenstein's first book in his Jersey Shore mysteries.  John Ceepak is a great cop - a little stiff, but perfect.  Danny Boyle is learning to be a cop, but in this first book, he's only part-time.  Ceepak and Boyle are one of the best cop duos around and this series comes highly, highly recommended by me.  So much fun and some serious issues as well.  If you haven't read it, I'll share a secret - the first three books in the series are available for only $.99 each on Kindle.  Just saying...

July 2013 - The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel - I've always been a bit fascinated by the wives of the astronauts.  I think that began when I saw the movie The Right Stuff.  And, of course, I'm from Texas and Houston has been a big part of NASA.  Anyway, I was excited to read a book about the Mercury 7 astronaut's wives.  I know this became a TV series, but I didn't watch it for some reason.  As we are now within a year of the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing (July 20, 1969), I'm interested in this book again.  Honestly, I don't remember much detail about it, even though it's only been 5 years since I read it.  Did you read this book or see the TV adaptation?


And so we end this month's Bookish Nostalgia.  Hope you'll join me again next month to see what August books I remember from my journals.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Chalk Man - C. J. Tudor

The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

First Paragraph(s):

The girl's head rested on a small pile of orange-and-brown leaves.
     Her almond eyes stared up at the canopy of sycamore, beech and oak, but they didn't see the tentative fingers of sunlight that poked through the branches and sprinkled the woodland floor with gold.  They didn't blink as shiny black beetles scurried over their pupils.  They didn't see anything anymore, except darkness.

My Thoughts:

The Chalk Man is C.J. Tudor's debut crime novel and it's a doozy.  I wasn't sure if that was going to be my final assessment, but by the end...yes, a doozy.  I listened to this book on audio narrated by Euan Morton.  I really liked his narration and will be looking to see if he's voiced other books.  So, this book has gotten a lot of press and hype or it did when it was published earlier this year.  It harks back to the 1980's and things present in that era - Stephen King stories and novels, music of the time, those movies with scary bits and teens in peril.  Told in two time periods, 1986 and 2016, it's about Eddie 'Munster' Adams and his friends, a gang of five.  It's also about a girl who was murdered.  It's about what happens to the kids at that earlier time and also what happens after they are grown up.  It's about their messages to each other, written in 'chalk code'.  It's about secrets, lots and lots of secrets.  Everyone has them, right?  Everyone....and that's all I'll say about the plot.

I liked the book, most of it anyway.  There were some grim and gruesome parts.  There were some parts that made you angry about certain issues and sad.  I guessed some things.  I didn't guess others.  I'm excited to know that C.J. Tudor will have a second book published next spring entitled The Taking of Annie Thorne.  I'll be watching for it. 


In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he's put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank . . . until one of them turns up dead.

That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Transcription

I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

It's been a long time since I read a book by this week's author.  Many years, in fact.  She's continued to write and I've meant to read more, but other books have caught my fancy.  The blurb for this book rather shouted at me - 'you'll like me!!' - so, this week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  September 25th

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever.

Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Guppy Book(s) of the Month - Land Sharks by Nancy Raven Smith and The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill by Bradford M. Smith, Lynn Raven & Nancy Raven Smith

Guppy Book of the Month

Welcome to the next 'Guppy Book of the Month' post!  I'm very excited about highlighting the books that I'll be receiving as part of my special Live Auction win at Malice Domestic 30.  Each time I receive a book, I'll tell a bit about it and also a bit about the author.  No promises as to when I'll get it read and my thoughts shared, but if it looks great to you, check it out at your local library or bookstore.  Some of these books will be debuts and some will be from authors already established.

Lexi Winslow is a fraud investigator at a private Beverly Hills bank. As a favor to her boss, she's sent to fetch home the daughter of the bank's biggest client. So she's off to Sumatra, where the wayward daughter and her latest boyfriend were last seen. She has the added complication of having to take the boss' inexperienced son along for training. Once Lexi arrives at an isolated resort carved out of the remote Sumatran jungle, she discovers there are more deadly dangers inside the hotel than the crocodiles and head hunters outside. It is a hotel where women check in, but most don't check out. And of all the places in the world, Lexi runs into her ex-lover, who not only conned his way into her heart, but is always conning someone somewhere. Lexi is determined to find out what is going on and to get everyone out alive.

The hu-amorous true story of an animal-phobic, city robotics engineer who learns too late that his new bride's dream is to have a farm where she can rescue ex-racehorses. When the newlyweds take a Meyers-Briggs Personality Test for fun, it tells them that their marriage is doomed. There is only one problem: they took the test after the wedding. So whether he's chasing a cow named Pork Chop through the woods, getting locked in a tack room by the family pony, being snubbed by his wife's favorite dog, or unsuccessfully trying to modernize their barn using the latest technology, the odds are already stacked against him. It seems like everything on four legs is out to get him. Will the animals prove Meyers-Briggs right? Will he admit defeat, or will he fight to keep his family and the farm together?

Enjoy the true, warm, and frequently hilarious stories of a man's journey along the bumpy road from his urban robotics lab to his new life on a rural Virginia farm.


Nancy Raven Smith sent me both of these books, along with some extra goodies for my mystery group, and I was so excited!  I've never read a book set in Sumatra and Land Sharks sounds like an entertaining mystery.  I understand there will be a second book as well.  Brad Smith's book, which was co-written with Nancy and their daughter Lynn, sounds charming.  Truly.  And I'm eager to tell several members of our mystery group about it because they are true animal lovers.  You can check out more about the authors on their websites, which I've linked to above.  Such a treasure trove!  Thank you so very much Nancy and Brad!

Monday, July 23, 2018

Since I promised a before and after photo - here's a personal update...

Today, I want to talk a little about my personal health journey.  I hesitated more than a bit about posting the 'before and after' shots.  It's hard (still very hard) for me to be comfortable with pictures.  Too many years of hiding behind the camera or other people.  However, I had shared a post at the end of April telling of my husband's amazing progress recovering from his surgery last winter.  I had also talked about my own weight loss quest.  At that time, I was 80 pounds less.  Now, I'm proud to say that I'm closing in on 90 pounds and am only about 15 pounds away from my ultimate goal.  For someone who has dealt with being overweight her whole life, that is a big accomplishment.  (It's also hard to give yourself compliments or take them, I'm finding!)

I am very proud though.  Really.  So, being 'brave', on the left is me at the Heceta Head Lighthouse in 2013.  On the right, me at the same spot, 2018.  My husband kept saying there was a big difference, but it took him putting these pictures together for me to really see it.   

I've done this with Weight Watchers (and, no, I don't work for them - LOL).  The first time I joined WW was in order to lose some weight before our wedding.  Well, next month, we will have been married 38 years.  It only took a 'little' while for me to 'get it'.  I think each of us has to figure out our own path in a journey to better health.  For some, it's earlier in their lives.  However, I don't think it's too late for anyone.  I know that I will never, ever go back.  I love being able to do so many more things.

As I said, it's been a bit scary for me to talk about this, but I hope that it will be an encouragement to someone else.  Honestly.  If anyone has questions or would like to talk about it with me, please feel free to reach out.  No pressure.  I want to help if I can.  I have a great WW group that I attend.  I'll be attending a group for the rest of my life.  I need that support and accountability.  And thank you all for being my friends!!

My promise to myself - NEVER QUITTING AGAIN!!

Friday, July 20, 2018

The Evening Spider - Emily Arsenault

The Evening Spider by Emily Arsenault

First Paragraph(s):

Special Dispatch to the New-York Times.

HARTFORD, Sept. 5, 1878--The dead body of Mary E. Stannard, 22 years old, was found at Durham, near the border of Madison, on Tuesday night.  She had been living with her father, and on Tuesday left home to go, as she said, into the woods half a mile away after berries.  As she did not return, a search was made and she was found dead in the woods, lying in a by-path on her back, with her hands folded across her breast.

My Thoughts:

The Evening Spider is the second book I've read by Emily Arsenault, an author who says she doesn't consider her books mysteries but more suspense or ghost stories.  I concur with that.  This book is rather interesting as it does include a real-life murder, the one mentioned above in the opening paragraph.  All the newspaper articles included in the story are real.  The Northampton Lunatic Hospital (later named the Northampton State Hospital) was also real and didn't officially close until the 1990's.  There are curious things in this tale told in two different time periods and featuring two young mothers who might or might not be suffering from some postpartum issues.  I listened to the audio and there were two narrators, which worked very well, Bernadette Dunne and Nan McNamara. 

I don't think The Evening Spider suited some readers - a lot of back and forth between time periods and characters and perhaps a less than satisfying ending for a few.  Maybe because there were two narrators, I found it easier to keep up.  Abby, in the current day, spends a lot of time going through the old journal/diary that she acquires and puzzling out what exactly happened to Frances, the young woman in the late 19th century.  Each woman was tired and exhausted, not sleeping well, and, of course, anyone who has had an infant knows that memories of those early days can be hazy because of the exhaustion.  I did like this book.  I liked the 'perhaps' supernatural aspects, but maybe they weren't - hard for a reader to decide.  The attitude in those earlier times and the way women were 'supposed' to act and be was sad and tiresome.  Frances loved science and was very analytical in her thinking, which was not a good thing for her era.  She wasn't emotional enough and felt just 'wrong' in her heart.  Abby, on the other hand, was maybe overly emotional about her baby and certainly was very protective and nervous about all kinds of possible 'dangers'.  They were quite a contrast.  Would I read another book by this author?  Yes, I would.  In fact, she has a new book, The Last Thing I Told You, that will be published next week.  I'll look forward to reading it soon.


Frances Barnett and Abby Bernacki are two haunted young mothers living in the same house in two different centuries.

1885: Frances Barnett is in the Northampton Lunatic Hospital, telling her story to a visitor. She has come to distrust her own memories, and believes that her pregnancy, birth, and early days of motherhood may have impaired her sanity.

During the earliest months of her baby’s life, Frances eagerly followed the famous murder trial of Mary Stannard—that captivated New Englanders with its salacious details and expert forensic testimony. Following—and even attending—this trial, Frances found an escape from the monotony of new motherhood. But as her story unfolds, Frances must admit that her obsession with the details of the murder were not entirely innocent.

Present day: Abby has been adjusting to motherhood smoothly—until recently, when odd sensations and dreams have begun to unsettle her while home alone with her baby. When she starts to question the house’s history, she is given the diary of Frances Barnett, who lived in the house 125 years earlier. Abby finds the diary disturbing, and researches the Barnett family’s history. The more Abby learns, the more she wonders about a negative—possibly supernatural—influence in her house. She becomes convinced that when she sleeps, she leaves her daughter vulnerable—and then vows not to sleep until she can determine the cause of her eerie experiences.

Frances Barnett might not be the only new mother to lose her mind in this house. And like Frances, Abby discovers that by trying to uncover another’s secrets, she risks awakening some of her own.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Perfect Stranger - Megan Miranda

The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

First Paragraph(s):

The cat under the front porch was at it again.  Scratching at the slab of wood that echoed through the hardwood floors of my bedroom.  Sharpening its claws, marking its territory--relentless in the dead of night.
     I sat on the edge of the bed, stomped my feet on the wood, thought, Please let me sleep, which had become my repeated plea to all things living and nonliving out here, whatever piece of nature was at work each particular night.
     The scratching stopped, and I eased back under the sheets.
     Other sounds, more familiar now: the creak of the old mattress, crickets, a howl as the wind funneled through the valley.  All of it orienting me to my new life--the bed I slept in, the valley I lived in, a whisper in the night: You are here.

My Thoughts:

The Perfect Stranger was the second book I've read by Megan Miranda.  Her first adult thriller was All the Missing Girls and I remember liking that one, a story told backwards.  Some thought that was creative and interesting and some, I think, were just confused.  I thought it was clever.  I listened to The Perfect Stranger on audio, narrated by Rebekkah Ross.  It was a tense story with the reader not knowing which characters were reliable and which were not.  I'm usually fairly adept at spotting clues and twists, but I will admit that I was a bit baffled with who was a good guy and who was not.  Even the main protagonist, Leah Stevens.  She comes to rural Pennsylvania to be a teacher after her career as a journalist ends badly.  She wasn't fired from her job, but was forced to resign and really has to start over with a whole new life.  After her roommate disappears and a woman is attacked, Leah isn't sure if her troubles have followed her.  The police are initially helpful, but after Leah is unable to provide much information about Emmy, her friend, they aren't sure if Emmy is even real - and the reader isn't sure either.  That's all I'll say about the plot.  I liked it and I'll definitely be watching for the next book by this author.  The audio is well done and it's a good listen.


When Leah Stevens’ career implodes, a chance meeting with her old friend Emmy Grey offers her the perfect opportunity to start over. Emmy, just out of a bad relationship, convinces Leah to come live with her in rural Pennsylvania, where there are teaching positions available and no one knows Leah’s past.

Or Emmy’s.

When the town sees a spate of vicious crimes and Emmy Grey disappears, Leah begins to realize how very little she knows about her friend and roommate. Unable to find friends, family, a paper trail or a digital footprint, the police question whether Emmy Grey existed at all. And mark Leah as a prime suspect.

Fighting the doubts of the police and her own sanity, Leah must uncover the truth about Emmy Grey—and along the way, confront her old demons, find out who she can really trust, and clear her own name.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday - Bone on Bone

I'm posting a 'soon to be released' book on Wednesdays.  These will always be books that I am particularly looking forward to.  I'll be linking up to 'Can't-Wait Wednesday' hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and plan to take part in this each week.

I've said before that I love the books in Julia Keller's Bell Elkins' mystery series.  Set in West Virginia, Bell is a unique and interesting protagonist, and this author, having been born and raised in WV, knows about the area and the troubles that appear.  I wasn't sure there was going to be a 7th book, but here it is!  This week I'm waiting on:

Publication Date:  August 21st

How far would you go for someone you love? Would you die? Would you kill? After a three-year prison sentence, Bell Elkins is back in Acker's Gap. And she finds herself in the white-hot center of a complicated and deadly case -- even as she comes to terms with one last, devastating secret of her own.

A prominent local family has fallen victim to the same sickness that infects the whole region: drug addiction. With mother against father, child against parent, and tensions that lead inexorably to tragedy, they are trapped in a grim, hopeless struggle with nowhere to turn.

Bell has lost her job as prosecutor -- but not her affection for her ragtag, hard-luck hometown. Teamed up with former Deputy Jake Oakes, who battles his own demons as he adjusts to life as a paraplegic, and aided by the new prosecutor, Rhonda Lovejoy, Bell tackles a case as poignant as it is perilous, as heartbreaking as it is challenging.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

All We Ever Wanted - Emily Giffin

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

First Paragraph(s):

It started out as a typical Saturday night.  And by typical, I don't mean normal in any mainstream American way.  There was no grilling out with the neighbors or going to the movies or doing any of the things I did as a kid.  It was simply typical for what we'd become since Kirk sold his software company, and we went from comfortable to wealthy.  Very wealthy.
     Obscene was the description my childhood best friend Julie once used--not about us, but about Melanie, another friend--after Melanie bought herself a diamond Rolex for Mother's Day and then offhandedly remarked at one of our dinner parties that homemade pottery from her kids 'wasn't going to cut it.'
     'She could feed a Syrian refugee camp for an entire year with that watch,' Julie had groused in my kitchen after the other guests had departed.  'It's obscene.'

My Thoughts:

All We Ever Wanted is the first book I've read by Emily Giffin.  It seems like a bit of change-up for her - a story that contains perhaps deeper themes and elements for the reader to ponder.  It's certainly a tale that is relevant today (and always has been) and one that many women can probably relate to in some ways.  Told from the viewpoints of three of the characters - Nina, the teenage boy's mother, Tom, the teenage girl's father, and Lyla, the teenage girl, we see each of them deal with a very emotional time.  Who's to blame and what actually happened - yes, these things are important, but more important are the underlying attitudes and assumptions made by many of the characters, both young and old. 

I liked this book, though it was difficult to know who to trust and who to believe.  Nina's husband was pretty much a caricature of a privileged, racist jerk.  And her son is quite the manipulator.  Did Lyla, the teen girl, always make good decisions?  No, of course not.  What teen does?  However, as more of the story is revealed, the reader does understand that Nina and Tom both earnestly want to be good parents and set good examples for their kids.  And Lyla has a chance to definitely shine.  I was pleased that all the characters changed and grew by the end.  The climax was a little quick and things tied up maybe a bit too neatly.  However, I would try this author again.  A solid 'better than good' from me. 


Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton.

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Secrets You Keep - Kate White

The Secrets You Keep by Kate White

First Paragraph(s):

I wake to the smell of smoke.
     It's faint but enough to rouse me, and I jerk up in bed, eyes wide open.  For a few seconds I freeze there, propped on an elbow and trying to make sense of it.  What's burning?
     I start to shove my legs out of bed, but the top sheet fights me.  I have to wrench it loose from the mattress so I can force my feet to the ground.
     As my eyes adjust to the dark, I realize that I'm not at home.  I'm in a hotel room.  I've been traveling on business...yet I can't remember where.  The burning smell intensifies, boring into my nostrils and propelling my head back.  Panic surges through me.  Fire, I think.  Fire.

My Thoughts:

The Secrets You Keep is, I think, the first book I've read by Kate White.  I've meant to read others, but have not as yet.  I've known that the author was the editor of Cosmopolitan and that she also writes a mystery series.  I listened to this book on audio, narrated by Amy McFadden.  This is a fairly gripping psychological thriller.  I was definitely invested in the story and listened to the whole thing over a two-day period.  Had to know how it would end.  I figured out some of it, but not all.  Of course, there were a few things that I might have changed or edited.  The main character, Bryn Harper, is a best-selling non-fiction writer.  She has come to Saratoga Springs, NY for the summer to recover from a car accident.  There are still parts of that day that she can't remember.  Bryn's husband, Guy, lives full time in Saratoga and works for an opera company, commuting to NYC and Bryn on weekends.  The two have rented a house and Bryn is slowly beginning to feel more 'normal'.  And then a woman is murdered and everything is tumbled upside down.

As I said, the story itself is compelling and page-turning.  I liked that.  Bryn herself is a bit annoying (or more than a bit at times).  She flips from someone I could get to know to snotty, overly dramatic, and entitled in the blink of an eye.  And she's constantly 'fatigued' (way overuse of that word by the author).  Yes, she's recovering from an accident, but use a different word occasionally, please!  Her decisions and thought processes are good at times and eye-rolling at times.  However, this is often the way with protagonists in jeopardy.  I was intrigued by the dreams Bryn was having, suspecting that her unconscious mind was trying to help her figure out not only the current day, but also the day of the car accident.  So, would I read another book by this author?  Yes, I'll try a second book.  The fact that I read this one so quickly says to me that she can keep me interested for sure.  Hopefully, I'll like the main character better.


What would you do if you realized that your new husband, a man you adore, is keeping secrets from you—secrets with terrifying consequences?

Bryn Harper, an accomplished self-help author, already has plenty to deal with. She’s still recovering from a devastating car accident that has left her haunted by recurring, smoke-filled nightmares. Worse still, she can’t shake the ominous feeling her dreams contain a warning.

In the beginning, Bryn’s husband Guy couldn’t have been more supportive. But after moving into a new house together, disturbing incidents occur and Guy grows evasive, secretive. What the hell is going on, she wonders? Then, a woman hired to cater their dinner party is brutally murdered.

As Bryn’s world unravels—and yet another woman in town is slain —she must summon her old strength to find answers and protect her own life. Her nightmares may in fact hold the key to unlocking the truth and unmasking the murderer.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Special people and fun on our vacation...

One of the most fun things on our recent vacation to Oregon was getting to meet up with two wonderful ladies that also have blogs.  I've known Les from Coastal Horizons for about 20 years.  We met at a book site online in 1998, I believe.  And we've been friends ever since, along with Nan at Letters From a Hill Farm and some other ladies.  Even though we've been part of groups and emailed and chatted and shared our lives, this was only the 2nd time that I've seen Les in person.  It was wonderful!!

Les and I met up with Robin, who blogs at A Fondness For Reading, and had a delicious lunch in McMinnville.  It was a location between their two homes and it was perfect.  We enjoyed our food and talked and talked.  Robin has already shared a blog post here.  Les shared her post about this today as well - here.  After our meal, we walked through the downtown area of this charming town and shopped a bit.  Of course, there was a bookstore and did we stop and take a look?  What do you think?  Ha!

Here are Les (on the left) and Robin (on the right), just in front of Third Street Books.  They are holding our purchases.  Are you surprised that there were books purchased?  I'm not.

A lovely little independent bookstore.  We were chatting and pointing out books to each other, picking up this one or that one to say 'oh, I read this - it's good'.  The lady behind the counter looked at us and said - librarians?  booksellers?  We laughed and said, 'Yes!'.

I'm so happy that I got to spend several hours with both these ladies.  We could have talked for days and days, I suspect.  Bloggers that you've 'known' for years are truly dear friends.

Here are the two books that I bought.  I always like to see if I can find a good book relating some kind of history about an area where I vacation.  Tales From the Past by Jim and Reita Lockett is a compilation of stories about Yamhill County and the general area where McMinnville is located.  A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee is the first book in a historical mystery series that is set in early 20th century India.  I had been meaning to pick up this book for a while.  This was a great opportunity.

I also bought a new coffee mug for myself at the Made in Oregon store at the airport.  This is an 'Original Handwarmer Mug' - left-handed version.  Yes, I am left-handed.  That little cubbyhole on the left side is where your hand goes and basically, the mug warms your hand while you enjoy your coffee or tea or hot chocolate, etc.  I've found that since I've lost weight, my hands are much colder than they used to be.  I was charmed by this and, as I love beautiful pottery, I needed to have it.  It was made by the Clay in Motion Pottery Studio.

We also found the best little shop in downtown Depoe Bay called Knock Your Socks Off.  They sell - wait for it - SOCKS!  And other items.  We got some for our daughter and son-in-law as a gift.  The upper left is for our son-in-law.  He has really large feet - like size 16 or 17.  So, his have the proverbial 'Big Foot' on them.  The lower left are ones my husband picked out for himself and say 'I'm a really big Dill!'.  The upper right are for me, but I might go ahead and give them to our daughter - birthday cake sprinkle cozy socks.  The lower right are definitely for her - 'I'm not bossy...I'm the BOSS!'.  She is a charge nurse in her hospital department and, yes, she is a bit 'bossy'!  Are these hilarious?  OK, OK, maybe you had to be there.  Ha!

Again, our trip was great.  We had fun times and wonderful food - inventive salads and lots of fresh seafood - berries that were in season - coffee that almost made me weep with the wonderful taste of it.  Can't wait until we will be able to visit again.  Thanks for sharing our good times!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Vacationing in the beautiful Pacific Northwest...

Hello everyone!  I'm back!  As you can see or read or whatever...

I decided that before I got back to 'normal' around here, I'd share a few pictures of our recent vacation to Oregon.  I really think that summer is the perfect time to visit this lovely part of the country - for me, anyway.  I think I've said here that we lived in Portland, OR, for 3 years in the mid-90's.  It was quite the adventure for us native Texans.  And we love to vacation there these days.  So, I'm going to share some pictures and, hopefully, not so much narrative that you fall asleep.  Ha! 

One of my favorite views - Mt. Hood.  You can often get a great glimpse of it as you fly into the Portland airport.  Provided the clouds cooperate.

We spent the first part of our time at Bandon Dunes on the southern coast of OR.  This is a golf resort for 'serious' golfers.  Which my husband is.  He played and loved it.  I took advantage of the hiking and walking trails all over the property.  This trail took me to the bluff above one of the courses.  The ocean is just beyond on the left, but you can't see it in the picture.

This was a glimpse of the 'Forest Trail'.  It was beautiful and peaceful and quiet.  Felt like I was in a fairy tale.

Just off the Forest Trail was a labyrinth, which I walked twice.  As I said, very peaceful and tranquil early in the morning. 

Here was another 'creature' that was travelling on the Forest Trail.  It's a banana slug, I believe.  Interesting coloring, right?  And if you think I sized it up - well, it was about 5 or 6 inches long.  No, I was not tempted to touch it.  Ha!

On July 4th, we drove up the Oregon coast to our second destination.  We stopped here at the Heceta Head Lighthouse and walked the trail up to the lighthouse itself and the lighthouse keeper's residence.  This shot shows how high and what a great view. 

Little 'Peter Rabbit' here was also travelling up to the lighthouse or rather up the trail.

The view from our balcony at the Salishan Resort just south of Lincoln City, Oregon.  This is another beautiful place to play golf and do all kinds of active things.  I walked their trail to the beach and also all around the resort.  Plus, as you can see, I sat in a comfy rocking chair and enjoyed the view.  I meant to read a bunch, but that view....gorgeous...got distracted.

This guy or gal was taking a bath and catching some breakfast as I walked by on the Beach Trail.  Was still there when I came back and I got to see him grab a fish.  Yum!  Ha!

Isn't this fabulous?  Can you imagine seeing a site like this every day?  Well, come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about my friend, Les.  She lives right there close.  Yes, I got to meet up with friends.  As I said, come back tomorrow to meet Les and Robin.  You may know them already.

On Saturday, we drove back to Portland in order to catch a plane home on Sunday.  We also visited the Oregon Zoo.  It had been 20 years since we had been there and, yes, it was crowded.  Fun though.

Lastly, we stopped by the International Rose Test Garden that is also located in Washington Park, Portland, Oregon.  I love that garden.  So many beautiful roses and other flowers.  Again, crowded, but so, so worth it. 

And we are back in our circle to saying goodbye to Mt. Hood as we flew out of Portland and home to Texas.  We had a marvelous trip!  Thanks for sharing it with me!