Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Rust & Stardust Review

Title:  Rust & Stardust
Author:  T. Greenwood
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press
Release Date:  Aug. 7, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  5 Heart-Wrenching Hearts

*Many thanks to St. Martin's Press for an arc copy of this book via Netgalley.

Camden, NJ, 1948.

When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says.

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

I was first drawn to Rust & Stardust by both the title and cover.  Both are certainly unique and intriguing.  The dark, disturbing, fictional story is based on the real life kidnapping and abuse of a young girl by an ex-con in New Jersey in 1948.  The pain and suffering this girl and family endured for almost two years at the hands of a monster is completely unimaginable and utterly heart-breaking.  At that time, parents and children still felt safe in their unlocked homes as children often played outside, rode bikes, and traveled about unsupervised.  Sadly, their sense of security was shattered when every parents' worst nightmare became a reality for the Horner family.

Sally Horner just wanted to "fit in" with her peers when she acted on a dare to steal a notebook from a Woolworth's store.  She had no way of knowing that a man who confronted her claiming to be a FBI agent was actually a sexual predator.  Threatening eleven year old Sally with jail time, fifty-two year old Frank LaSalle kidnapped her, stealing her innocence while repeatedly mentally and physically abusing her as they crossed the country traveling as "father/daughter" - always one step ahead of the law and curious strangers.  Sally's fear, along with LaSalle's continuous threats, kept her mum and in line.  Through her point of view (and that of family and friends), readers gain a sense of the horrendous pain, suffering, doubts and despair that Sally and her family endured.  And yet, there was always a tiny spark of hope.

To say Sally's story touched me would be a gross understatement - it devastated me.  No child or family should ever be forced to live this nightmare.  Unfortunately, evil does exist and in this case, it has a name.  Needless to say, this is a tragic, deeply disturbing story of lost innocence and shattered lives, but it's one that I think needed to be told, and this author did so with as much grace, care, and sensitivity as possible.  Rust & Stardust is beautifully written and delivered, and I believe it pays homage to Sally Horner and her family with their remarkable strength and perseverance.  While this is a fictional rendering, it's obvious Greenwood did a great deal of research in delivering a story that closely mirrors the true story.  Like many other readers, after finishing this book I researched the real life story of Sally Horner's kidnapping, reading newspaper articles and looking at pictures.  It certainly drove home how all too-real and tragic this story was, but I can still say, with tears streaming down my face, this is a Must Read!  Well done, T. Greenwood!

My Rating:  5 Heart-Wrenching Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Monday, July 16, 2018

Pieces of Her Review

Title:  Pieces of Her
Author:  Karin Slaughter
Publisher:  William Morrow
Release Date:  Aug. 21, 2018 (first published 8/9/18)
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating:  4 Unsettling Hearts

*Many thanks to publisher William Morrow for an arc copy of this book via Edelweiss+.


What if the person you thought you knew best turns out to be someone you never knew at all . . . ?

Andrea Cooper knows everything about her mother Laura. She’s knows she’s spent her whole life in the small beachside town of Gullaway Island; she knows she’s never wanted anything more than to live a quiet life as a pillar of the community; she knows she’s never kept a secret in her life. Because we all know our mothers, don’t we?

But all that changes when a Saturday afternoon trip to the mall explodes into violence and Andrea suddenly sees a completely different side to Laura. Because it turns out that before Laura was Laura, she was someone completely different. For nearly thirty years she’s been hiding from her previous identity, lying low in the hope that no one will ever find her. But now she’s been exposed, and nothing will ever be the same again.

Twenty-four hours later Laura is in the hospital, shot by an intruder who’s spent thirty years trying to track her down and discover what she knows. Andrea is on a desperate journey following the breadcrumbs of her mother’s past. And if she can’t uncover the secrets hidden there, there may be no future for either one of them. . . .

A quiet birthday celebration at a local mall turns deadly in the opening pages of Slaughter's new standalone book, Pieces of Her.  A gunman opens fire, killing one woman and then turning his sights on mother, Laura Cooper and her 31 year old daughter, Andrea (Andy).  In the middle of the ensuing chaos, Andy watches, paralyzed by fear and shock, as her mother calmly and coldly not only faces down a killer but overcomes him.  Like most of us, Andy thought she knew everything there was to know about her mother, but in the aftermath of this tragedy, she's left scared, confused, and devastated . . . wondering who this woman she calls "mother" really is.

Pieces of Her explores Andy's search for the truth, as she goes on the run and begins digging into her mother's past - uncovering deadly secrets that threaten several lives.  The story unfolds through dual timelines, affording readers an opportunity to witness events as they happen in both the past and present.  I've come to really enjoy this method of story-telling as it makes me feel present in the moment and thus more vested in the character's lives.  As always, Slaughter delivers an intricately woven plot with some twists and turns that will leave you reeling even as she maneuvers the sometimes unsettling minefield of mother/daughter relationships.  The mystery and deadly secrets cast an immense shadow of imminent doom over the characters and story.  I found the "past" chapters to be intriguing and fast-paced, while the "present", much of which places the reader in Andy's head, was a bit convoluted and slow moving for me.  Having read most of this author's work, I can say that I didn't find this book to be as dark and graphic as many of her other books.  For some readers that may be a plus, for others a minus.  While it won't make my Favorite's List from this author, I still found Pieces of Her to be a complex, compelling thriller that mystery/suspense/thriller fans will enjoy.  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Unsettling Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Last Time I Lied Review

Title:  The Last Time I Lied
Author:  Riley Sager
Publisher:  Dutton
Release Date:  July 3, 2018
Purchase Link:  Amazon

My Rating: 4 Twisted Hearts

*Many thanks to Dutton for an arc of this book via Edelweiss+.

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their tiny cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. The games ended when Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin in the dead of night. The last she--or anyone--saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings--massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. The paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the socialite and wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale. When Francesca implores her to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor, Emma sees an opportunity to try to find out what really happened to her friends.

Yet it's immediately clear that all is not right at Camp Nightingale. Already haunted by memories from fifteen years ago, Emma discovers a security camera pointed directly at her cabin, mounting mistrust from Francesca and, most disturbing of all, cryptic clues Vivian left behind about the camp's twisted origins. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing threats from both man and nature in the present.

And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale, the more she realizes it may come at a deadly price.

My Review:
The Last Time I Lied is a disturbing, atmospheric thriller that had me jumping at threatening noises and looking over my shoulder from beginning to end.  The location sets a menacing, ominous tone that settles over the story and characters like thick fog descending over the woods and lake.  The story plays out through dual timelines that weave past and present events together, leaving hints of the truth hidden among the many secrets and lies. 

Emma was thirteen the last time she stepped foot in Dogwood Cabin at Lake Nightingale Camp.  And now, fifteen years later, she's returned to teach the art of painting to a brand new group of young campers . . . and to uncover the truth of what happened to her cabin-mates all those years ago.  As the youngest camper, she had watched three older girls sneak off into the night, and by the light of dawn, she awoke only to realize they had never returned.  Were they lost in the dark woods?  Or victims at the bottom of the dark, sinister lake?  For fifteen years, Emma's been haunted by ghosts of the missing girls who often appear hidden among the gnarly trees in her massive paintings.  She's back at Lake Nightingale to solve the mystery of what happened to them.

The Last Time I Lied is a creepy, mysterious suspense story that unfolds layer by layer.  At one time or the other, I suspected different members of the large cast of being involved, and yet found I was wrong in the end.  This story leads readers to suspect everyone, but trust no one just as it did Emma.  The more I read, the more a sense of dread spread in the pit of my stomach and a sense of danger invaded my senses.  The cabins, the woods, the sinister yet serene lake, the secretive cast - all lend a sense of fear and impending doom to the story.  Fans of mysteries and thrillers will love this complex, dark, edge-of-your-seat thriller!  A Must Read!

My Rating:  4 Sinister Hearts . . . And that's the truth!

Cross My Heart . . . xxx

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

IWSG: Ultimate Writing Goals

IWSG Question of the Month:  What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Goals.  Everyone has at least one, probably more, right?  Some are constant while others change over time.  Either way, in order to realize any goal, you need a plan of action and the perseverance to stay the course . . . sometimes easier said than done.  It's something I continuously strive to do.

When it comes to writing goals, my first thought is to say my ultimate goal is getting my book/s into the hands of readers (who will rave about them, of course! haha).  I'll venture a guess that's a high priority for most writers as it is for me.  It's one of the reasons we forego so many other activities in favor of writing.

Time management is another ongoing goal that ranks high on my list as I work to maneuver over, around, or through the obstacle course called  "real life" and maintain a disruption-free, regular writing schedule.  Honestly, until I started trying to keep a regular writing schedule, I didn't realize how many interruptions could occur in a 30 minute period of time.  So, a regular, uninterrupted writing routine always rates high on my list of goals.

But, I think my ultimate goal is to always feel a deep sense of satisfaction and pride in every aspect of my writing from start to finish - to feel certain when readers open one of my books and start reading, they're getting the best of me, each and every time.  My goal is to punch every reader's ticket to ride on an emotional rollercoaster all the way from Page 1 to The End.  I want to write the book that catapults them on a convoluted journey they won't escape before reaching the end - the same journey I've experienced from some of my favorite authors.  That's my ultimate goal.

How about you?  What are your writing goals and how have they changed?

The Insecure Writer's Support Group is a community of writers who share ideas and encourage each other. It's a great place to express doubts and concerns as well as offer and receive tribulations and guidance from other writers. IWSG posts the first Wednesday of every month. I know you'll find it to be a great writer's resource that's well worth your time. Be sure to stop by and visit with some of the other IWSG writers/bloggers at IWSG Members.

Please join me in thanking the awesome July co-hosts:
Nicki Elson,  Juneta Key,  Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne!