The Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick

The Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick
The Promise Girls 
by Marie Bostwick (Goodreads Author)

Reviewed by

 

EXCERPT: Three weeks into the book tour, Joanie still isn’t used to the silence of television studios, ponderous silence that feels like being closed in a concrete box with wall so thick no noise from the outside world can penetrate, just as no sound emanating inside can escape. Joanie can scream as loud as she wants and no one will hear her.

Joanie, Meg, and Avery, and their mother sit in upholstered side chairs, like the ones you see in the waiting rooms of doctors offices, motionless, waiting. Avery is so little her feet can’t touch the floor, but she doesn’t kick her legs or even fidget.

The audience is still as well. They stare at Joanie and her little sisters in a way that makes her think about people at the zoo staring through the glass at the reptile house, waiting for the snakes to do something interesting.

Soon they will – she will. If she doesn’t lose her nerve.

THE BLURB: Every child prodigy grows up eventually. For the Promise sisters, escaping their mother’s narcissism and the notoriety that came with her bestselling book hasn’t been easy. Minerva Promise claimed that her three “test tube” daughters–gifted pianist Joanie, artistic Meg, and storyteller Avery–were engineered and molded to be geniuses. In adulthood, their modest lives fall far short of her grand ambitions. But now, twenty years after the book’s release, she hopes to redeem herself by taking part in a new documentary.

Meg, who hasn’t picked up a paintbrush in years, adamantly refuses to participate, until a car accident leaves her with crushing medical bills. While she recuperates in Seattle, the three sisters reluctantly meet with filmmaker Hal Seeger, another former prodigy. Like them, he’s familiar with the weight of failed potential. But as he digs deeper, he uncovers secrets they’ve hidden from each other–and a revelation that will challenge their beliefs, even as it spurs them to forge their own extraordinary lives at last.

MY THOUGHTS: Family secrets and lies. Always a winner with me, especially when it is as well written and captivating as The Promise Girls by Marie Bostwick. This is the first time I have read anything by this author, but it won’t be the last. She will be joining my very short list of ‘go to’ authors for when I want a rest from the murder and mystery that is my normal fare.

I can say it no better than this- “Reading Marie Bostwick is like wrapping yourself up in a warm, hand-crafted quilt. Her books, rich in character and plot, are stitched together by a skilled wordsmith.” –Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author.

In her letter at the end of the book, the author writes that this book is incredibly special to her, a rare instance when she finished the final manuscript and ‘felt entirely, completely, incandescently happy’with her work. I felt the same way. This is a ‘feel good’ book. A book about family and love, and how easy it is to lose your way in spite of, or perhaps because of, best intentions.

Bostwick has woven a captivating story around a very different type of family. And she has done it well, giving us a look at a childhood that under no circumstances could be termed normal, until it all blows up in their faces, and then we meet the sisters again as adults, all living lives very different than what we might have expected.

 

Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Promise Girls for review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the ‘about’ page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com for an explanation of my rating system. This review and others are also published on

Friday Favorite

Looking for something to read over the weekend?

Nothing on your book radar that is screaming “read me!”?

Check out my Friday Favorite  – it may not be new, it may not even be by an author you have ever heard of, but it will be a book that has captured both my imagination and my heart.

I had always known Penny Vincenzi for her compelling and sweeping family sagas. So I was surprised and excited to find, in 2014, a collection of short stories by her. I have to admit to also being just a little apprehensive. ……after all, her going from writing tomes of 700+ pages to short stories was quite a change, and no doubt, something of a challenge. How did she do? Read on. …..

Love in the Afternoon and Other Delights by Penny Vincenzi
Love in the Afternoon and Other Delights
by Penny Vincenzi (Goodreads Author)

Reviewed by


EXCERPTS: Because this is a book of short stories, I am going to give you two excerpts. The first is from a story titled ‘Knowing Best’.

‘Laura Maddox and Fergus O’Connell were very fond of telling people they had met at an old people’s home. Since they were both young, stylish and successful, it was not a story that was easy to believe; nevertheless, it was perfectly true in essence, if not in detail, and was made much of in speeches at their wedding.
The detail was that the meeting place had been not quite an old people’s home, rather a very expensive nursing home, where Laura’s widowed grandmother was recovering from a hip operation and complaining ceaselessly about having to live with a lot of old people (most of whom were in fact the same age as, if not a little younger than, herself), and Fergus’s twice-divorced great-uncle, in a room just two along the corridor, was recovering from a very nasty bout of pneumonia and was constantly in trouble with the nurses for locking himself in the lavatory with a flask of his best Irish whiskey.’

The second excerpt is from a story titled ‘The Brooch’.
‘It was a very beautiful brooch. It was what used to be called paste, and would now be called Diamante: glittery and brilliant and in the shape of a full moon and two stars trailing off it in two slender threads. It was the sort of thing you could make stories up about, which Anna had when she was little – like the moon wearing the stars as a sort of a sash. Or the stars were trying to get away from it. The brooch belonged to her grandmother, Bella, and was pinned to her large, cushiony bosom, and Anna would sit on her knee and play with it. Later on, she had been allowed to wear it when they went to tea with her and she would keep saying she wanted to go to the lavatory so she could pass the big mirror in the hall and admire it, pinned on to her cardigan, right in the middle of her small flat chest. One day, she thought, she would have wonderful bosoms like her grandmother and the brooch would show up much better. She had always known she would have the brooch; her grandmother had promised her that, adding quickly that Rachel, Anna’s older sister, would have her pearls.

THE BLURB: A fabulous collection of short stories and essays by much loved and multi-million-copy bestselling author Penny Vincenzi.

From her sweeping novels to her searing journalism, Penny Vincenzi has been writing all her life, and this is a collection of her work brought together in a single edition for the first time. As well as ten stunning short stories, Penny also shares some of her thoughts on a huge range of subjects from love and relationships to work and families, and gives us a peek at the tantalising first chapter of her new novel – making LOVE IN THE AFTERNOON AND OTHER DELIGHTS a must-have for any Vincenzi fan.

MY THOUGHTS: I love Penny Vincenzi – and this collection of short stories, like the sweeping family sagas she is known for, I just couldn’t put down. Along with the short stories is a preview of her then next book, A Perfect Heritage, and a series of published articles by Penny giving us a great insight into her character, including ‘Getting Older’, ‘Being a Mother’, and ‘My Career in a Nutshell’. She also gives some great tips on writing, and I think this may have overtaken Stephen King’s “On Writing” as my bible.
The short stories are amusing, entertaining and absorbing. Just the way they should be.

 

Depth of Lies by E. C. Diskin

Depth of Lies by E.C. Diskin
Depth of Lies
by E.C. Diskin (Goodreads Author)

Reviewed by


EXCERPT: ‘It was the perfect opportunity to mention Shea’s call, but Kat’s guilt was like a gag. She hadn’t even told Mack about it. Every time Kat thought about how she had ignored that call, tossing the phone aside as if Shea were a nuisance, her heart ached. She had died the next day. Alone in a bathtub. Far from home. Leaving a husband and kids and an entire community baffled and heartbroken. She’d obviously needed her friend. She’d reached out to Kat and Kat had tossed her aside. ‘

THE BLURB: “A brilliant examination of the shadows lurking in every relationship and what happens when you step into the darkness.” —Mindy Mejia, author of Everything You Want Me to Be

When Shea Walker, a sunny, easygoing mom, is found dead in a bathtub with a stomach full of booze and pills, the shocking discovery shatters the complacency of her comfortable suburban community.

Kat Burrows, Shea’s longtime friend and former neighbor, is hit hardest. How could a woman she thought she knew so well come to such a sordid end? What could lead happy, well-adjusted, responsible Shea to accidentally overdose on alcohol and narcotics? Or, worse, drive her to suicide?

Compelled to uncover the truth of Shea’s final months, Kat delves beneath the orderly surface of her familiar world to discover a web of thwarted desire, shameful secrets, and shocking betrayal that suggests a scarier explanation for what happened to Shea. As her carefully constructed reality begins to crumble, Kat must question every reassuring assumption her life is built upon to solve the mystery…and summon the courage and resourcefulness to survive it.

MY COMMENTS: Secrets, lies and friends. An intoxicating combination in the hands of author E. C. Diskin. We all lie, to our friends, for our friends and sometimes about our friends. We all have secrets, with our friends, and from our friends. But ultimately the secrets Shae kept and the lies she told are what killed her.

Depth of Lies by E. C. Diskin is told in two timelines, ‘now’, when Shae is dead and Kat is trying to find out why, and ‘then’, as we follow Shae to her death. Did she kill herself, was it a terrible accident, or was she killed?

Diskin ratchets up the tension and suspense as the book progresses. We see behind the facades that each of the women present to each other, to their husbands, to the world at large. They might think that they know everything about each other, but they only know what their friends want them to know.

Depth of Lies is compelling reading. It is a deftly written, unpredictable journey through the emotional entanglements of a group of women in their early 50s, women who have raised their families together, who have been there for each other in sickness and in health. Will Shae’s death bind them even closer together, or will it be the catalyst that rips them apart?

A very enthusiastic 4☆.

Thank you to Thomas and Mercer via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Depth of Lies by E. C. Diskin for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page for an explanation of my ratings. This review and others are also published on https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2130109814

Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone

Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone
Half Past
by Victoria Helen Stone (Goodreads Author)
reviewed by


EXTRACT: ‘She wanted to be back in Chicago. Back in her apartment. In her bed. In her marriage. She wanted to wake up, dry and warm, and realize the past six months had been a bad dream. A nightmare that didn’t make any sense in the morning. Why had she come back to Iowa? And how could Jeff possibly hate her so much? It was nonsense. Jeff didn’t hate anyone. And what utter foolishness to think her sweet steady mother wasn’t her mother at all.

THE BLURB: At forty-five, Hannah Smith is at a crossroads. That’s her spin on it. The reality is she’s divorced, jobless, and moving back to her family home in Iowa to keep an eye on her mother, who’s slipping into dementia. Her return stirs up the same unnerving sense of disconnect Hannah has felt since childhood—always the odd girl out, the loner outshone by her two older sisters. Hannah knew the feelings of hurt would come back. But she never expected fear. Because when her mother looks into her eyes and whispers, “You’re not my daughter,” Hannah is beginning to believe it’s not just the rambling of a confused woman.

It’s the truth.

Now Hannah’s following the trail of a family mystery to the dark coast of Big Sur, where years ago a lie was born—and buried. As frightened as she is to unearth it, Hannah knows this is the last chance she has before her past—and all its terrible secrets—are lost forever

MY VIEWS: Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone took me by surprise. It is good. It is damned good. Very damned good. I was expecting something a little Schmaltzy, with a fair bit of romance thrown in. Don’t ask me where I got this idea. I just had it, okay? Instead I got this emotionally raw, absorbing story of family relationships that kept me glued to my Kindle from start to finish.

Stone is actually romance novelist Victoria Dahl, which I did not know until I read ‘about the author’ at the end of the book. Not that I have ever read anything by either of her names. But after publishing more than 25 romance novels, her work has taken a darker turn under a nom-de-plume. Go Victoria!

Stone has given us a wonderfully complex but very real character in Hannah Smith. Growing up she had pushed boundaries and always wanted more. More answers. More freedom. She had fought hard against the restrictions her parents placed on her. She’d run off, walked away, skipped out on her obligations. And now at 45, she’s still doing it. Still walking away from things, running away. Turning her back and moving on. Still wanting more. …..Half Past is a good reminder that we should be careful what we wish for. A glowing 4.5 ☆

Thank you to Lake Union Publishing via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of Half Past by Victoria Helen Stone for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own. Please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page for an explanation of my ratings. This and other of my reviews can also be viewed at https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2125855091?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1