Blog Tours, Book Reviews

Blog Tour: One Little Secret by Cate Holahan

I received this book for free from Meryl Moss Media in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: One Little Secret by Cate HolahanOne Little Secret by Cate Holahan
Published on July 9, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 320
Format: Hardcover

Source: Meryl Moss Media

The glass beach house was supposed to be the getaway that Susan needed. Eager to help her transplanted family set down roots in their new town - and desperate for some kid-free conversation - she invites her new neighbors to join in on a week-long sublet with her and her workaholic husband.

Over the course of the first evening, liquor loosens inhibitions and lips. The three couples begin picking up on the others' marital tensions and work frustrations, as well as revealing their own. But someone says too much. And the next morning one of the women is discovered dead on the private beach.

Town detective Gabby Watkins must figure out who permanently silenced the deceased. As she investigates, she learns that everyone in the glass house was hiding something that could tie them to the murder, and that the biggest secrets of all are often in plain sight for anyone willing to look.

A taut, locked room mystery with an unforgettable cast of characters, One Little Secret promises to keep readers eyes glued to the pages and debating the blinders that we all put on in the service of politeness.

When are vacations to the Hamptons ever as relaxing as one wishes? If you’re reading a thriller and the premise follows a group of people headed to a rental home with uninterrupted views of the beach, you know someone is going to die.

It’s the guiding principle of Cate Holahan’s latest mystery novel, One Little Secret! For starters, I devoured this book in a day. When the central narrative kicks off, it demands you finish it to find out what happened.

However, where One Little Secret excels as a mystery, it doesn’t offer much in the way of thrills. The story plays out pretty much like you anticipate it will. Not that you shouldn’t read it. On the contrary, I still highly recommend the book. Holahan is a skilled writer.

Three couples decide they’re desperately in need of time away from the doldrums of their daily lives. But the moment they get together and the uber-expensive wine is poured, the secrets start to blot out the already darkened night.

Who knew one culdesac crew could have so many skeletons hidden among them?

The night ends in the murder of accomplished attorney, Rachel Klein. Her body is found on a jetty the next morning.

It’s hard to find the characters in this book likable, some far more than others, but to enjoy the mystery, you don’t need to like them, only understand their motives.

Holahan does a great job of constructing a complicated web between each adult. Everyone has a motive for wanting Rachel dead, which makes the ultimate culprit tough to figure out.

One character I had a hard time wrapping my head around was the leading detective on the case. Gabby flips between suspects on a whim. She felt more like a navigational tool to guide readers through the suspects than a fully-realized and capable detective.

Overall, One Little Secret is a suspenseful, pulpy mystery book full of juicy scandals and scintillating secrets. It’s the perfect beach read for the summer and will help you while away hours in the sunshine, where you, hopefully, won’t stumble upon the dead body of your suspicious neighbor.

About Cate Holahan

Cate Holahan is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widower’s Wife, Lies She Told, and Dark Turns, all published by Crooked Lane Books. In a former life, she was an award-winning journalist that wrote for The Record, The Boston Globe, and BusinessWeek.

She lives in NJ with her husband, two daughters, and food-obsessed dog, and spends a disturbing amount of time highly-caffeinated, mining her own anxieties for material.

She graduated from Princeton University in 2002.

Blog Tours, Book Reviews

Blog Tour: Once a Liar by A.F. Brady

I received this book for free from Meryl Moss Media in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Blog Tour: Once a Liar by A.F. BradyOnce a Liar by A.F. Brady
Published on January 29, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback

Source: Meryl Moss Media

Peter Caine, a cutthroat Manhattan defense attorney, is extremely adept at his job. On the surface, he is charming and handsome, but inside he is cold and heartless. A sociopath practically incapable of human emotions, he has no remorse when he fights to acquit murderers, pedophiles and rapists.

When Charlie Doyle, the daughter of the Manhattan DA—and Peter’s former lover—is murdered, Peter’s world is quickly sent into a tailspin as the DA, a professional enemy of Peter’s, embarks on a witch hunt to avenge his daughter’s death, stopping at nothing to ensure Peter is found guilty of the murder.

Peter sets out to prove his innocence, and as he pieces together his defense, he finds that it’s those closest to us who are capable of the greatest harm.

Peter Caine is not your average protagonist. He doesn’t care about anyone but himself. Caine views his only son as an accessory built to aid in his climb up the career ladder more than a person. The same principle applies to every woman he’s ever dated, or worse, married.

Knowing this, it isn’t so unbelievable that someone like Peter Caine, an accomplished, cut-throat, heartless criminal defense attorney, could become the prime suspect in a murder investigation. Did Peter Caine brutally stab Charlotte Doyle thirty times? The daughter of his known adversary, Harrison Doyle? Maybe. Maybe not. Either way, Peter is the perfect scapegoat.

But just because someone exhibits antisocial and sociopathic tendencies doesn’t mean they’re capable of violence.

The sentiment mentioned above is the one at the heart of Once a Liar. One I didn’t feel the story explored to its fullest extent. Once a Liar is a compelling read. Brady does a fantastic job of intricately plotting the details of the central mystery.

I suspected the ending of this story long before the book arrived there. Once a Liar is a novel you could reread and find all the clues laid out perfectly for the untrained eye to gloss over. Predictability, in this case, works in favor of supporting Brady’s attention to detail.

However, I have mixed feelings about how the book ends. I’m not so sure I agree with the novel’s takeaway lesson of justice and morality. Does the punishment fit the crime? I don’t feel like it does, in this case.

Aside from the plot itself, Brady crafts and builds a complex world of chess pieces. Every character has a fleshed-out backstory, sometimes to the point of excess.

These characters breathe and jump off the pages — all except one, Charlotte Doyle. Her character is woefully underdeveloped. She is used more as a plot device than as a human being. It’s fitting, given her purpose in the story, albeit still a smidge disappointing.

If you’re coming into Once a Liar expecting a fast-paced, taut thriller, then I do think you’ll be disappointed. This book is more than that. The pacing is keeled, the reveals slow and deliberate, and it makes the story more engrossing.

Once a Liar works more as a character study and exploration of the criminal mind games at work every day in politics. You need to understand the rules of this world first before delving into the murder, which doesn’t occur until almost the mid-way point of the novel.

About A.F. Brady

A.F. Brady is a New York State Licensed Mental Health Counselor/Psychotherapist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brown University and two Masters degrees in Psychological Counseling from Columbia University. She is a life-long New Yorker and resides in Manhattan with her husband and their family. The Blind is her first novel.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Hideaway by Nicole Lundrigan

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Hideaway by Nicole LundriganHideaway by Nicole Lundrigan
Published on July 9, 2019
Genres: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 320
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

What if home is the most dangerous place you can be? Gloria Janes appears to be a doting suburban mother and loving wife. But beyond her canary-yellow door, Gloria controls her husband, Telly, as well as seven-year-old Maisy and her older brother Rowan, through a disorienting cycle of adoration and banishment.

When Telly leaves, Gloria turns on Rowan. He runs away, finding unlikely refuge with a homeless man named Carl, with whom he forms the kind of bond he has never found with his parents. After they are menaced by strangers, Rowan follows Carl to an isolated cottage, where he accidentally sets off a burst of heightened paranoia in Carl, and their adventure takes a dark turn.

Gloria is publicly desperate for the safe return of her son while privately plotting ever wilder ways to lure Telly home for good. Her behaviour grows more erratic and her manipulation of Maisy begins to seem dedicated toward an outcome that only she can see. The two storylines drive relentlessly toward a climax that is both shocking and emotionally riveting.

It takes someone of immeasurable cruelty to force their child out into the dark woods come midnight as a form of punishment. That is the kind of person Gloria is, a woman who never should have become a mother.

She’s more monstrous than anything one might find out in the forest. Gloria’s treatment of her two children, Rowan and Maisy, is the nexus of Hideaway, a gloomy, tragic, adventure story about a child who finds comfort in a mentally unstable man who lives under a bridge.

Hideaway is not an easy book to read. Stories about child neglect and abuse never are, especially because we know people like this exist in the real world.

I wish I liked this novel more. I think it has something to say and a compelling story to tell, but, I found myself unable to make it past the half-way mark. Telling the story from the perspective of the children was a smart move, yet I often felt bogged down by long passages winding nowhere.

Carl was a frustrating character too, the overuse of the “urh,” sound became grating after a while.

Hideaway is a great novel for some, the book has high reviews on Goodreads and other platforms, but for me, it felt too long and too bleak. It wasn’t to my liking, unfortunately.

I would still recommend it to anyone who finds the premise intriguing. It’s unlike many novels I’ve read, and its uniqueness makes it an excellent story for some. Be aware of the dark subject matter beforehand.

About Nicole Lundrigan

Nicole is the author of seven novels including GLASS BOYS, THE SUBSTITUTE, and HIDEAWAY (available NOW). Her work has been selected as a Top 10 pick by Canada’s national newspaper the Globe and Mail, a top 100 on amazon.ca, a top 10 by Now Magazine, was long-listed for the Relit Award, and given honourable mention for the Sunburst Award.

Book Reviews

Book Review: Bethlehem by Karen Kelly

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: Bethlehem by Karen KellyBethlehem by Karen Kelly
Published on July 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 304
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

With the writing chops of Ian McEwan and the story-craft of Lisa Wingate, Karen Kelly weaves a shattering debut about two intertwined families and the secrets that they buried during the gilded, glory days of Bethlehem, PA.

A young woman arrives at the grand ancestral home of her husband’s family, hoping to fortify her cracking marriage. But what she finds is not what she expected: tragedy haunts the hallways, whispering of heartache and a past she never knew existed.

Inspired by the true titans of the steel-boom era, Bethlehem is a story of temptation and regret, a story of secrets and the cost of keeping them, a story of forgiveness. It is the story of two complex women—thrown together in the name of family—who, in coming to understand each other, come finally to understand themselves.

Kelly’s debut novel makes a terrific splash in weaving together the tale of two complex women, both haunted by the tragedies of the past and the unrelenting nature of love in its most daunting form – uncontrollable.

Uprooting his family to the town of Bethlehem, PA and its lustrous history of the steel industry, Joanna discovers the faults in her marriage run deeper than she anticipated.

It is only under the cruel light of the endless blue skies she begins to see the dark truth of not only her own life but the thunderous echoes of the past. Often left to her own devices due to her husband’s busy work schedule, Joanna finds herself taken with the eccentric caretakers of the home.

She floated in Chap’s arms like a feather in a stream, with a strange, transcendental feeling of utter fulfillment, made more bewildering by the fact that she hadn’t realized it had been missing before.

Her new connections lead her to make a curious connection with her mother-in-law, a woman whose story mirrors Joanna’s in an almost uncanny way.

Bethlehem is a vibrant, soapy, and absorbing debut. It’s romantic without being sappy, mysterious without being dour, and realistic with its descriptive passages of aureate architecture and old-money opulence.

What makes Bethlehem such a startling novel and a departure from the tired and true romantic sentiments is its disavowal of a fated “to be.” There is a sadness to love, the idea that being enraptured by one may blind you to the truth.

Karen Kelly makes an exhilarating debut with this historical fiction novel. Stick with it. The beginning can be daunting due to its many character introductions and alternating usage of the timeline.

Rest assured you will be eased into the complicated family relationships between the Collier and Parrish families. The delicate intricacies of their family relationships form the underlying foundation of this story and beg the question of familial history – if one does not understand the past is it doomed to repeat?

Only when Susannah recognizes the imposter, does she impart a moral to the woman who became so inexplicably linked to her in the past and the present.

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About Karen Kelly

Karen Kelly has a BA in English from Vanderbilt University,
and lives in Edina, Minnesota.

Book Reviews

Book Review: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis

I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book Review: The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea BobotisThe Last List of Miss Judith Kratt by Andrea Bobotis
Published on July 9, 2019
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fiction
Links: Buy on Amazon | Goodreads
Pages: 320
Format: ARC

Source: NetGalley

Some bury their secrets close to home. Others scatter them to the wind and hope they land somewhere far away.

Judith Kratt inherited all the Kratt family had to offer—the pie safe, the copper clock, the murder no one talks about. She knows it's high time to make an inventory of her household and its valuables, but she finds that cataloging the family belongings—as well as their misfortunes—won't contain her family's secrets, not when her wayward sister suddenly returns, determined to expose skeletons the Kratts had hoped to take to their graves.

Interweaving the present with chilling flashbacks from one fateful evening in 1929, Judith pieces together the influence of her family on their small South Carolina cotton town, learning that the devastating effects of dark family secrets can last a lifetime and beyond.

Told against the backdrop of customary Southern decorum, The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is the sprawling saga of the Kratt family.

The central narrator, Judith, is unreliable, not always likable. She cares more about the legacy of her family and the value of her heirlooms than she does about her surroundings. Borne into the prosperous Kratt family, Judith grew up under the rigid thumb of the oppressive and injurious Daddy Kratt.

Cotton and blackmail kept the Kratts in business for years until a tragic incident cast a permanent shadow over them. Quincy, Judith’s brother, was murdered.

Rosemarie, Judith’s sister, has always believed Judith was responsible for Quincy’s death. Because of this, she fled the suffocating small-town of Bound, never to darken Judith’s doorstep again.

Since then, Judith hasn’t left her home. She’s been in a shut-in for 65 years with only Olva, a family friend with secrets of her own, to keep her company.

The story is told with two alternating narratives, one from when Judith was only 15 and one in present-day Bound where Judith is 75. The segments of the novel set in the past follow the events leading up to Quincy’s death.

Andrea Bobotis is a competent writer. The world of Bound is fleshed out through lustrous descriptive passages. You can feel the swelter of Southern heat, feel the blanket of dust coating the untouched miscellaneous objects in the old Kraft house and see the splinters of the sun’s rays filtering through the windows.

This story less about the mystery and more about establishing the arcs of its central characters. It also focuses heavily on how the past can inform the present.

Because The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt is more intrinsically motivated, the ending feels somewhat anticlimactic. Everything de-escalates quickly, and the core conflicts in the book wrap up a little too neat.

But that doesn’t make this novel any less of a compelling read. Despite feeling underwhelmed by the final chapters, I felt wholly gratified by the understanding of Judith’s inventory. What makes her family history worth preserving?

One has to learn how to hang on, and also when to let go.

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About Andrea Bobotis

A native of South Carolina, Andrea holds a Ph.D. in English literature from the University of Virginia. She lives with her family in Denver, Colorado, where she teaches creative writing to youth at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She also teaches yoga and is a national parks geek.

Film/Television

Netflix’s The Perfection offers a subversion of the typical revenge film

Netflix film The Perfection set the internet ablaze last month. We’re looking into how the film quietly subverts the expectations of your standard rape/revenge film.

When The Perfection debuted on Netflix this past May, it caused a division among horror fans. Some lauded the film for its lack of inhibition and boldness while others criticized the movie for its ludicrous premise and over-the-top body horror.

On the surface, The Perfection is a shocking, brutal thriller told at a breakneck pace with enough twists and turns to give you whiplash. Stripped down to bare essentials, The Perfection is yet another rape/revenge film.

Continue reading on 1428 Elm.