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review 2017-09-24 20:17
The Blackbird Season
The Blackbird Season - Kate Moretti

By:  Kate Moretti 

ISBN: 9781501118456

Publisher: Atria 

Publication Date: 9/26/2017 

Format: Paperback 

My Rating: 4.5 Stars 

 
Kate Moretti returns following The Vanishing Year, landing on my Top 50 Books of 2016, with her latest THE BLACKBIRD SEASON – a scandal rocks a town with dark chilling secrets. An emotionally charged exploration of a family and community in crisis.

Haunting, complex, twisty, mysterious, and suspenseful — Moretti style. 

The whodunit suspense will keep you glued to the pages. The excellent writing, well-developed characters, and crafty plot will keep you entertained and absorbed. 

“The river is moving. The blackbird must be flying." —from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, Wallace Stevens

Nate Winters and his wife Alecia are well respected in the small quiet town of Mount Oanoke, Pennsylvania. A dying mill town, the people living in this small community have their struggles. Baseball is one highlight of their town.

Nate is a math teacher and baseball coach, well loved by all. A hero to many. Alecia, a former career woman, is now a stay at home mom with their 5-year-old autistic son, Gabe.

Things are quite tense in their relationship, marriage, and household. Of course, with Gabe, her plate is full. Alecia is consumed with his care and often resentful of her husband who spends time at school and on the ballfield helping others. 

She is miserable, bitter, angry, and sad. She has little time left over for her husband with a special needs child. Her only friend is Bridget. 

Told from alternating points of view: Alicia, Nate, Lucia, and Bridget. 
 

Bridget is a creative writing teacher at the school and a co-worker of Nate. She believes in him. She lost her husband to cancer the previous year. They had all been good friends. Of course, as teachers of high school students, a difficult task; there is always drama—they are self-absorbed glued to their phones, or bullying someone. 

Lucia is a senior at the high school. She is an eccentric teen, loner and everyone thinks is weird. A witch? A difficult childhood. She is in a writing class led by Bridget. Bridget feels uncomfortable with Lucia. She has no friends. She writes of death and dying. 

“Lucia tackled pain and death clinically, a biology lab dissection. She sees birds. She says they come to her and she knows bad things will happen.” Entries in her journal.

She is exotic with unsettling beauty. Crazy white hair, black-rimmed eyes, and red lips. She has a brother, Lenny, and dropout and a father Jimmy who had skipped town. Is she evil? She has obsessions with blackbirds, ravens, and crows. She reaches out to Nate for help.

How could this pillar of the community— father, husband, teacher, leader, and friend —Nate, find himself in trouble? He would be fired. Everyone would call him a murderer. They would accuse him of an affair. OR a student who came on to Nate and he rejected her —set out for revenge?

A thousand starlings fell from the sky. Not fluttering to the earth, but plummeting. Hard and fast in the middle of the third inning of the opening day at Mt. Oaknoke High field. 

Then the pandemonium. A cloud of blackbirds, thousands of them. The entire thing lasted less than three minutes. 911 was called, and everyone wondered where they came from. Why did they fall? What did it mean? 

After the falling which everyone thinks is a bad omen, everything bad begins happening. Nate is accused of having an affair. A motel. A reporter. He is fired. Did Nate have a flair for girls in need or was he innocent? A girl goes missing. Fingers are pointed.

A marriage and a town are torn apart. However, is Nate to blame or someone else? Is he being set up and if so whom? Is Lucia a victim or menace? An intriguing character. 

A slow-burning gripping tale, both haunting, spellbinding, and disturbing. 

A cautionary suburban crime story sprinkled with supernatural elements. The unsettling atmosphere gives a strong sense of fearful apprehension or darkness lurking. Foreboding, suspicion, and unease —a feeling that something bad will happen; a dark cloud. 

What lies beneath those dark clouds? 

Moretti delves deep into the lives of these flawed characters. Loss and danger—an ongoing theme. From the loss of a spouse, marriage, love, job, trust, and a town. From teens to adults. Bullying. Everyone has an opinion. With an array of emotions. Jealousy and obsession. 

Marriage, parenting, infidelity. Expectations. The wide variation in challenges, strains, and strengths of a special needs child with autism; the complex developmental disability, and the caregivers. The strains it can bring to a marriage. 

Guilt or Innocence. Good or Evil. Black and white magic. From malicious acts to loyalty and friendship. Self-discovery or destruction. Denial or obsession. A compelling complex book of contrasts, relationships, and expectations with shades of gray. 

The symbolic meaning of blackbirds is eternally linked to the "dark vs light" phases of the moon similar to the character’s lives. Blackbirds and birds of black or dark colors are special among their airy clan as they are symbolic of mystery, magic, secrets, and the unknown. 

The blackbird teaches you how to acknowledge your power and use it to its fullest. While the crow or blackbird can play the trickster, they are usually benevolent and bring news of good passage and protection.

The condition of the town with its ups and downs and tragedy, as well as the claustrophobic, toxic, bleak, and creepy outlook— also parallels to the character’s lives. Would make for an ideal selection for book clubs and further discussions. 

Fans of Jodi Picoult, Heather Gudenkauf, Paula Treick Deboard, T. Greenwood, and Lisa Scottoline’s One Perfect Life(also set in Pennsylvania), will enjoy this emotional thriller. 

THE BLACKBIRD SEASON also gave me the chills (psychologically) as so, when watching The Birds, (a 1963 American horror-thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock) as a child—this one did give me nightmares for weeks. 

Would love to learn more about the author’s inspiration for this unique book. Hats off to the author for courageously tackling this storyline with so many moving parts. Hint: (an interview Q&A is in order). 

A very special thank you to Atria and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. 4.5 Stars 

Have also pre-ordered the Audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell (My favorite narrator), Gibson Frazier, Joy Osmanski, Rebekah Ross. Look forward to listening!

JDCMustReadBooks
 
 

 

 

About the Author

 

 

Kate Moretti is the New York Times Bestselling author of  Thought I Knew You, While You Were Gone, and Binds That Tie. Her newest novel, The Vanishing Year will be available fall 2016. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two kids. She’s worked in the pharmaceutical industry for ten years as a scientist, and has been an avid fiction reader her entire life. 

She enjoys traveling and cooking, although with two kids, a day job, and writing, she doesn’t get to do those things as much as she’d like.

Her lifelong dream is to buy an old house with a secret passageway. Read More  

 
 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/02/02/The-Blackbird-Season
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review 2017-09-24 05:33
Don't Let Go
Don't Let Go - Harlan Coben

By:  Harlan Coben 

ISBN: 978-0525955115

Publisher: Dutton

Publication Date: 9/26/2017 

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating:  5 Stars 

 
Master storyteller, Harlan Coben returns following (2016) Fool Me Once and Home (Myron Bolitar #11) –both 5 stars; with his latest . . . Drumroll . . . His 31st novel! DON’T LET GO. Fans keep coming back for more; and the author consistently delivers, every time with another twisty explosive suspense thriller. 

Vigilante justice . . .

Note: — Have no clue how this author cranks out so many books and TV shows I suspect he may have a few clones. They definitely possess his fine talent for signature twists and suspense (oh and did I mention “emotional” as well). 

DON’T LET GO, most definitely will "not let you go" until this mystery is solved. Missing persons have always been intriguing. What led them to go missing? The circumstances. Where have they been? Dead or alive?

Coben excels with dramas surrounding this topic. His crime thrillers are more than just murders. Rich in character. Not just action. Motives, thoughts, fears, desperation. From the victims to the family members. They are desperate for answers. For any clues to provide answers.

Meet New Jersey detective Napoleon "Nap" Dumas. Is there more to this character than meets the eye.? An unreliable narrator? Dark and mysterious with a dual role. 

He is haunted by events of the past some fifteen years earlier. He is still mourning his twin brother, Leo, and Leo's girlfriend, Diana (cheerleader). They were found dead on the town's railroad tracks one night during their senior year. Accidental or suicide? 

Soon after, Nap's own girlfriend, Maura Wells, disappeared. Was this a coincidence? Why did she choose this night to disappear? Were the events connected? It was nearing the last few weeks of high school in the suburban Westbridge when the events occurred. Booze, sex, drugs? 
 
 



Now Nap’s past connects with the present when Maura’s fingerprints are discovered in a car driven by a murdered Pennsylvania cop. Rex Canton was shot.

To further complicate matters. Leo, Diana, Maura, and Rex were all members of Westbrook High’s Conspiracy Club (a secret society for goofballs and like-minded nerds). 

Then, Hank, another member of the club is murdered. Leo, Diana, Rex, Hank and where is Beth? 

Nap is obsessed with connecting the dots. He soon learns Beth Lashley (the last of the surviving members of the former club), is missing. 

An old abandoned military base in town the club members were investigating. The Conspiracy Club (all geek geniuses) wanted to find out what happened after it closed.

Someone is killing off the old Conspiracy Club members. They have been killed before their thirty-fifth birthday. 

After meeting with Augie, (Diane’s father) a police captain and mentor, he soon suspects none of these incidents were accidental. The denial. He lost a beautiful vibrant seventeen-year-old daughter. She had been his life. 

What secrets could the Conspiracy Club have discovered?What did they see? Who is out to get the club members? What did (do) they know? 

Rumors were: a secret lab, experiments, Nazi scientist, mind control, LSD, UFOs, nuclear weapons? A government conspiracy, a teen prank gone wrong, or something more sadistic? The big question . . . Why would they wait fifteen years to kill the remainder?

Wow, this was once again a gripping page-turner. Coben is a master at churning up the past. The past does not stay buried. Regretable actions. If only we could get a do-over.

I enjoy how Coben always gives readers an inside view of the inspiration behind his novels. (legend -a Nike missile control center with nuclear capabilities near a school)

In addition to his award-winning books (if this is not enough), Netflix subscribers can now stream Coben’s first TV drama, "The Five." A 10-part series starring a group of friends who made a tragic mistake in 1995. A five-year-old Jesse gets in the way. Twenty years later at a crime scene and his DNA shows up. The dark secrets are unraveled. Read More 

Subscribed: currently binge-watching while multi-tasking: INTRIGUING! Something else to keep us in suspense and to look forward to: "Safe" his next project due next year. 

A very special thank you to Dutton and NetGalley for an advanced reading copy. 

JDCMustReadBooks

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/02/02/Dont-Let-Go
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review 2017-09-19 15:42
Lies She Told
Lies She Told - Cate Holahan

By:  Cate Holahan 

ISBN: 9781683312956

Publisher:  Crooked Lane Books

Publication Date: 9/12/2017 

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 4 Stars 

 

LIES SHE TOLD by Cate Holahan is a dark and twisty mind-bending thriller with more than one unreliable narrator. 

On almost every page, this imaginative psychological thriller forces the reader to reconsider what is real. A book within a book when the lines of fact and fiction are blurred.

“The most dangerous untruths are truths slightly distorted.” — Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Notebook H 

Manhattan author Liza, (of romantic suspense) is under extreme pressure with her upcoming novel. 

Trevor, a forty-two-year-old (editor) is telling a thirty-five-year-old woman in the middle of her target audience demographic, what her peers want in the sack. He thinks he knows trends. 

Alternating between Liza’s POV in the real world, and Beth (the protagonist) in Liza’s novel. Needless to say, both these ladies lives are complex. 

"Blurring fact and fantasy is my trade. I am a con artist. A prevaricator. I make up stories." So why does he think this one is real? 

David Jacobson, husband of twelve years. Nick Landau, David’s law partner is missing. Nick never liked Liza.

Liza and David have been unable to conceive. Both the anxiety of this plus her writing deadlines push her to get lost in her characters. Their marriage is strained. 

. . . She does not invent her characters. She steals them from her surroundings. To be a writer is to be a life thief. Every day she robs herself blind.

"It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place." —Henry Louis Mencken, A Little Book in C Major

As the pressure of the deadlines mounts, Liza becomes immersed in her heroine. Unfaithful? Murder?

Is she writing about her own life? 

Beth has a new baby and her husband, Jake is a prosecutor. He is cheating, while she is home taking care of the baby. The sexy officer, Colleen. The psychiatrist, Tyler, and an old friend.

Will both stories lead to murder? The lines are blurred. 

Who is telling the truth? Who is not? Two stories intertwined.

The author cleverly draws readers into a world where truth blends with delusion, plus more. . . 

Dark, twisty, and sinister grip-lit. The author keeps the reader on its toes while switching from fact and fiction while questioning every move. 

Chilling, unique, intriguing, and disturbing, LIES SHE TOLD, will keep readers turning the pages. With all the books about LIES these days, this one definitely takes a distinctive spin. 

A special thank you to Crooked Lane and NetGalley for an early reading digital copy. 

I also purchased the audiobook narrated by Amy McFadden and Lisa Larsen, for a captivating performance.

JDCMustReadBooks

Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/05/12/Lies-She-Told
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review 2017-09-18 22:16
Lightning Men
Lightning Men: A Novel - Thomas Mullen

Darktown #2

By:  Thomas Mullen 

ISBN: 9781501138799

Publisher: Atria 

Publication Date: 9/12/2017

Format: Hardcover 

My Rating: 5 Stars + 

 

From the acclaimed author, Thomas Mullen who introduced readers to the hit, Darktown landing on my Top Books of 2016 —racial integration of Atlanta’s police department in 1948 — with an explosive multi-layered complex follow-up: LIGHTNING MEN. 

Racial violence and corruption continue in 1950’s Atlanta, with African-American police officers, Boggs and Smith. 

As they say in the South, these two find themselves in a "heap of trouble.” (Among others). 

“Hot Atlanta” is not just sizzling. It is blistering. Fiery. Tensions and emotions run high. Loyalties are tested between family and law. Color lines are threatened. Moral lines are blurred. 

The second in the Darktown series, Mullen uses his hard-boiled crime, cop procedural, to explore post-WWII racism in the South. 

The highly anticipated character-driven LIGHTNING MEN is much more than just a crime-fictional thriller. It is infused with critical historical details and timely controversial subjects we face today.

“Any candid observer of American racial history must acknowledge that racism is highly adaptable.” – Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow 

Highly-charged, Mullen turns up the intensity with characters facing moral, family, social issues and compromises. 

Tensions rise. From racial prejudice, moonshining, drugs, greed, conspiracy, Klansmen, fascist Columbians, white supremacist, corruption, bigotry, violence, Jim Crow laws, preachers, shootouts, paybacks, fear, power, and segregated neighborhoods.

In Darktown, we met rookies: Officer Lucius Boggs and his partner, Tommy Smith. 

From different backgrounds, their office was housed in the basement of the Negro YMCA, a makeshift precinct. They were not even allowed to arrest white men, nor allowed to drive a squad car. They could not patrol outside of the Negro neighborhoods that constituted their beat. No respect and little support. 

Only ten black officers patrolled those thousands of souls. A third of Atlanta were black, yet they were crowded into only a fifth of the land. 

Boggs and Smith had not taken bribes; however, with two years on the force, it appeared half of the white officers took bribes, so how long would the Negro officers resist? 

They were tiring of their powerlessness. The son of a preacher, Boggs was all too familiar with the fallibility of men, even men with power. 

Denny Rakestraw (white) is distrusted by his fellow officers for his suspected role in the disappearance of his former partner, Lionel Dunlow. 

Rakestraw is not a racist but finds it difficult to fit in with his fellow white cops and work with the ten black cops. Neither side, fully trusts him. 

Denny’s problems increase when his Klansman brother-in-law, Dale Simpkins, gets involved in a plot to stop the influx of African-Americans into his neighborhood, Hanford Park. 

Some cops are part of the Klan. Will they accuse one of the richest men in Atlanta of selling moonshine and marijuana?

Boggs had come to respect McInnis over the last two years. He had stuck up for his charges during a few disputes with white officers. How far can he go to protect them? 

Boggs (preacher’s son) is dating Julie with a young son, Sage. Soon to be married. His family opposes the relationship since she is not of their social status. She has a secret past. She is intimidated by their prestigious family. 

When a black man, Jeremiah is released from prison after five years, things get personal. Boggs life gets complicated when he learns the connection. 

Two years earlier, Boggs came close to resigning his position and had second thoughts after a near-death experience. Now, he is unsure again.

Too many mistakes that weighed heavily on his soul. He is sure there would be more guilt and an awkward relationship with his partner. Can he remain as a cop? 

Events will lead each character to major soul-searching. Smith had crossed another line as well. He was afraid. 


. . . The Armor. The façade victims’ families typically wore when they needed to protect themselves or the memory of their loved ones. Folks who wore The Armor sometimes had secrets to hide. 

The Armor was firmly in place as they parried the officer’s attempts to learn more about the deceased. They wore The Armor to keep the cops from learning things. The secrets. . . 

The Armor was worn by the innocent, who had nothing to hide but their dignity, and they were so deeply offended to be questioned by these employees of the corrupt City of Atlanta, these paid enforcers of Jim Crow, that they refused to play along. They may be innocent, hurt, or protective. 

. . . “And lines are only ideas people dream up, to govern what should be possible, to keep you from moving toward the forbidden.”


Three policemen struggle. Each has an agenda and react in different ways to protect. Loyalties are tested. Family versus law. 

Can they continue to work with one hand tied behind their packs without the proper support to do their jobs? Will the latest emotional events, their actions, and tensions make them second guess their current careers? Will they continue to serve and make Atlanta a better city, or is it a useless effort? 

After violence and a shootout, will Hanford Park be transformed? Will the lines between white and black be blurred after the postwar crowding, pushing blacks into areas formerly considered whites-only (without violence)? 

From racial politics and struggles of history, Mullen does not miss a beat! 

The complex emotions of each character are portrayed in depth, making the characters jump off the page. Others threaten lives. Others protect. Struggles both interior and exterior. 

Complications. Affairs interrupted. Old scores settled. Blood feuds magnified. Pride. Costs were high. Greed. 

Hard-boiled. Explosive. Riveting. Timely! 

Love this enthralling series and looking forward to seeing what is in store next for Smith and Boggs. 

When reading of Boggs at his dad’s house for dinner with Julie, reminds me strongly of Greenleaf (a favorite show) and their preacher/family dinners. Heaven forbid, their children do not follow their well-laid controlled plans. 

Movie-worthy! For those who enjoy good crime fiction, and historical fiction as Mullen meticulously traces the civil rights movement through his well-written crime stories and cop procedurals, that involve "real" characters you come to care about. 

Fans of TV mini-series: Underground, Greenleaf and Queen Sugar will enjoy this intense series as well as Michael Connley’s Harry Bosch and Greg Iles' Penn Cage series. 

In addition to the early digital reading copy (thank you) provided by NetGalley and Atria, I also purchased the audiobook, narrated by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – for an award-winning performance. Just finished. 

Move this series to the top of your list. If you reside in the South, this is a “must read.” Especially for those of us who found (find) Atlanta our home for many years. Another Southern winner! 

JDCMustReadBooks

****
Due to post-Irma, residing in South Florida with water damages, power outage, cell towers, and loss of internet for nine consecutive days; no gas, grocery, or mail service – late posting my review on pub day. Let's hope Maria does not pay us a visit. 

Yay! Today we have internet restored, power, cell towers, and mail service! Back in business. Ordered the hardcover copies of both DARKTOWN and LIGHTNING MEN for my personal library. So excited, they are out for delivery today, from Amazon! (Love the covers) Looking forward to receiving my copies. (Now, I have to figure out how to get the author to autograph) my copies. 

Busy catching up with posting reviews and my blog. Thanks everyone for your patience.
 
 
 

City on the verge of a race riot in ‘Darktown’ sequel


Thomas Mullen’s new novel examines brotherly hate  

By Tray Butler - For the AJC

 
 
 
 
Source: www.judithdcollinsconsulting.com/single-post/2017/04/19/Lightning-Men
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review 2017-09-17 21:01
Good As You
Good As You: From Prejudice to Pride – 30 Years of Gay Britain - Paul Flynn

[I received a copy of this book through NetGalley.]

This was a really interesting insight into gay culture in the UK, from the seventies to nowadays: how it shaped itself, the hurdles gay people had to go through, how other people’s views gradually changed...

The book’s chapters follow specific themes, such as TV, AIDS, politics, football or pop music, rather than going in a purely chronological order. This makes for a rather comprehensive view of various areas of British culture, in the light of what being gay more specifically entails. The chapters are also well-segmented, and it’s fairly easy to pick up the book again if for some reason you had to leave it (to go do those pesky things called ‘work’ or ‘sleep’, for instance).

I learnt plenty here: how the introduction of explicitly gay characters in shows like East Enders or Coronation Street was perceived, how their actors were perceived at the time, how it changed with more recent series. Or how specific bands and singers were seen, who became a ‘gay idol’, who remained in the closet, who openly announced it. Or the many people who lost their lives to AIDS—and may not have, if they hadn’t had to remain closeted and more information had been available. Or Clause 28, which I had never heard about until now (not being from the UK probably didn’t help in that regard), and the journey from there to legalising same-sex marriages.

Paul Flynn interviewed quite a few interesting figures within the scope of this book, including Alison (who worked at the Lighthouse, offering end of life comfort to patients dying of AIDS), David Furnish (Elton John’s partner), or football player Robbie Rogers—not being particularly interested in football in general, I admit I somewhat knew that the latter is still a difficult area when it comes to being gay, but I wasn’t sure to which extent.

If anything, I would’ve liked to see more about the AIDS period, and somewhat less about the Kylie Minogue parts, so I guess I’ll have to pick other books for this.

Conclusion: Probably better as an introduction that will give you pointers to what to research in depth, so if you’re already very familiar with the country and period, the book might seem a little simplistic. Otherwise, go ahead.

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