Category Archives: Bantam

Review: The Deepest Secret by Carla Buckley

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (February 4, 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 0345535243
  • Source: Publisher

Eve Lattimore and her family live on a quiet, suburban street. From the outside, it seems as though they live a relatively normal life. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Her fourteen-year-old son, Tyler, lives with a rare disease that prevents him from going outside during the day. One stray ray of sun can cause his skin to breakout into painful blisters. Eve has spent Tyler’s entire live worrying about and caring for him. During the day, he’s held captive his disease, forced to live like a prisoner in his second-floor bedroom. He can’t attend school, for that would mean he would have to go outside during daylight hours.  Instead, he Skypes into his classrooms and participates remotely. The twilight hours are his salvation; it is the only time he is able to leave the confines of his home and venture outdoors.

Taking care of a child in this condition is far from easy. Her teen daughter, Melissa, is struggling. A teen herself, she is struggling with many of the things typical girls her age face. Unfortunately, as most of her parents’ attention is focused on her brother, she feels lost and alone in the world, often wishing that she had Tyler’s disease. Eve’s husband, David, works hundreds of miles away in DC, returning home only for the weekend.   It is on one rainy night, as Eve is driving to the airport to pick up her husband, that the unthinkable happens.  Eve looks down at a text and she hits something. She assumes it is a deer but when she ventures out into the rain she discovers the unthinkable.

Fearful of what will happen to her family if something happens to her, Eve keeps the incident a secret. What she has done hits close to home; her best friend Charlotte is the most affected.  Eve is so worried about protecting her family that she doesn’t seem to realize it is crumbling before her.

You know those perfect suburban neighborhoods that seem to perfect to be true? This is most definitely one of them.  During Tyler’s nighttime adventures, he is able to see the real, hidden side of his neighbors.  It is as if his neighbors think the darkness of night shadows their true behavior. As Tyler sees his world crumbling around him, he too takes actions to protect his family, actions that are only a temporary fix to the real damage that lies beneath.

I was in a bit of a reading funk before I starting reading The Deepest Secret. I began reading it on Sunday morning and the next thing I know, two hours had passed.  From page one, I was captivated by the storyline, completely mesmerized by the characters.  While this novel is over 400 pages, it certainly didn’t feel like it. I was transfixed; unable to tear myself away for even the briefest of moments.

The characters that Buckley creates are so real, so genuine, that readers will instantly connect with them. Those of us with children, with or without disabilities, will cling to Eve as she faces the unthinkable.  That’s not to say that I didn’t have some issues with Eve; she did make quite a few decisions that made me question her motives. Things would have gone a completely different direction had she been honest up front, but as a mother myself, I constantly found myself questioning if I would have done any different in Eve’s place.

The only issue I had with this novel is that it seemed to wrap up too quickly for me. It isn’t until the very end that the truth is revealed; the rest of the novel is spent following Eve as she evades the truth.  I would have preferred that more attention be given to the “after,” and I think many others would agree. I’d grown so close to the characters that the ending just wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more; I needed closure and to know what happened to the family.

All this said, I still do highly recommend this novel. It would be perfect for a book club discussion as it attacks quite a few themes that would generate a great deal of discussion.

Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to review this title. Be sure to check out the other stops in this tour!

Visit Carla’s website or Facebook for more information.

 

Review: The Winter Palace by Eva Stachniak

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (January 10, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0553808125
  • Source: Publisher

Varvara (Russian for Barbara) is the daughter of a book binder.  When her mother and father pass away within a year of one another, Varvara is taken under the employ of the Empress Elizabeth and finds a home in her court.  With Count Bestuzhev as her mentor, Varvara becomes an all-seeing eye to all the things that take place before her.  She’s waiting for a better opportunity, something to give her the life she’s long desired.

When a young princess Sophie arrives from Zerbst, Varvara has new hope.  Sophie is destined to marry the Empress’ nephew & eventually become Catherine the Great.  Sophie needs an insider, someone to be her confidante, protecting her against those who would like to see her fail. With Varvara by her side, Sophie/Catherine becomes a legend, surviving trials, tribulations, and the coup that allows her to rise and assume the throne of all of Russia.

The Winter Palace is a beautifully written, dramatic glimpse inside the world of Catherine the Great. With the intensity of a suspense novel, readers get a unique view of Catherine’s youth, from a young, shy girl to an incredibly strong leader.  Stachniak’s writing is so detailed, the reader will feel as though they are walking the halls of the palace themselves, a witness to all the (often cruel) actions. Most importantly, this isn’t merely a novel about Catherine the Great, but one about the confidant who was by her side as she rose to power.  Varvara was a truly impressive character. Despite having a difficult start, she evolved into a truly powerful woman.

To some, the pacing may be slow.  Personally, I thought it was perfect, allowing the growth of these two great women to be revealed slowly, rather than rushed. Fans of history, particularly Russian, will enjoy this fine novel. Highly recommended.

 

 

Review: The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam (August 30, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0553808079
  • Source: Donated

A serial killer is ravaging Atlanta, sending taunting messages to the media. A.P.D. lieutenant Aaron Rauser is desperate to put the killing spree to an end, so he calls upon ex–FBI profiler Keye Street.

Keye had passion and dedication, a path to greatness within the FBI.  Addiction to alcohol trampled those dreams. Now sober, Keye picks up jobs wherever she can, usually serving subpoenas and hunting down bailjumpers. Not having the best reputation lately, Keye isn’t thrilled to be pulled into the limelight, part of one of Altanta’s biggest investigations.

It’s not too long before Keye is wrapped up in the case and becomes the hunted, the stranger she seeks even closer than she could have ever realized.

The Stranger You Seek is an electrifying thriller, the intensity just as hot as a sweltering Atlanta summer. At nearly 300 pages, this is a book you will be desperate to finish in one sitting. Keye is a completely flawed heroine, but the reader can’t help but want to root for her.  The pacing is fast and continues through the entirety of the book. The ending is quite possibly one of the most heart-stopping conclusions I have read in some time; I’m happy to see this is the beginning of the series.  Keye Street is a character I want to follow!

Stay tuned as later today I have a signed copy of the review copy to give away to one lucky reader!

Guest Review: Smokin’ Seventeen by Janet Evanovich

I’m super excited to day to welcome a special guest reviewer to my blog today!  Jessica is my younger sister, and probably the second most avid reader in my family.  She’s been a fan of Janet Evanovich’s book since I introduced them to her a few years ago so when I presented her with the opportunity to review the latest, she couldn’t resist! 

  • Hardcover:320 pages
  • Publisher:Bantam; 1st Edition edition (June 21, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0345527682
  • Source: Planned Television Arts

As an avid and devoted reader of the Stephanie Plum series, I was honored when my sister Jenn asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the latest book in her series.  This review is written with the understanding that the reader has read the previous books in the series. 

Smokin’ Seventeen begins the way most of Stephanie Plum’s days begin…with a stop to pick up doughnuts.  This doughnut stop is ruined though when Stephanie has a run in with Morelli’s Grandma Bella and is given “the eye.”  Will this act be the trigger of Stephanie’s decisions throughout the book?  I’ll leave that to you to decide.

In the previous book, Sizzlin’ Sixteen, the bond’s office is firebombed by Vinnie’s unhappy associates.  Because of this the bond’s office is now being run out of Mooner’s RV with the agreement that Mooner will be supplied with gas and burrito money.  The plot thickens when construction work at the bond’s office site a body with a hand exposed in a shallow grave is discovered.  Looking at the hand, the expensive pinky ring tells everyone that this is the body of Lou Dugan, owner of the local topless bar.  But why dump his body on the bond’s office site?  Stephanie’s curiosities are running. 

With business being down, Stephanie has no choice but to track down the few FTA’s she does have.  Tracking down and bringing in FTA’s has never been Stephanie and Lula’s strength so nothing changes here as they track down a 72 year old vampire, an armed robber who’s toe gets shot off when he calls Lula fat and lets not forget the dancing bear. 

Stephanie’s love triangle continues with occasional hook-ups with both Ranger and Morelli and Stephanie not being able to decide who it is she really wants.  We also must not forget Dave Brewer, a famous high school football player that Stephanie went to school with.  Stephanie’s mom doesn’t think Morelli or Ranger are appropriate choices.  Dave slides into Stephanie’s life making gourmet meals in her apartment for Stephanie and her friends.  How is a girl to pick?  I know my pick…hehehe.

 As several more bodies show up…some with notes attached saying “For Stephanie”, Stephanie can no longer ignore what is going on around her.  She is certain the killer is someone she knows…someone she sees on a regular basis.  Who could it be?  Could it be Nick Alpha, brother of Jimmy Alpha (the one man Stephanie has killed) seeking revenge against Stephanie for the murder of his brother?  Stephanie is determined to link Nick Alpha to the killings.  As the investigation ensues, Stephanie isn’t so sure she has the right guy and soon realizes the killer is someone much closer to her.

 Janet Evanovich doesn’t disappoint at anytime in Smokin’ Seventeen.  Between Stephane’s continued love triangle with Ranger and Morelli…the crazy and random FTA’s Stephanie and Lula try to apprehend, I was one reader that was kept on my toes.  I love this series and look forward to many more.  Stephanie lives a life full of plenty of excitement and lets not forget the good looking men.  What more could a girl ask for?  ;-)

Review: The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Bantam; First Edition edition (March 22, 2011)
  • ISBN-10: 0553807226
  • Source: Publisher

  • Willa Jackson returns to the small southern town of Walls of Water, North Carolina eight years ago when her father passed away.  Growing up, she was sort of a wild child, a prankster, known by her fellow classmates as the Walls of Water High School joker.  Now as an adult, Willa promises to settle down in the town she once loved. She is now survived by her grandmother Georgie, who lives in a nursing home. She has a fairly successful life, owning her own organic sporting goods store. 

    As a child, she would look upon the Blue Ridge Madam mansion, the place her family called home generations ago until the 1930s when they became impoverished. She continues to look up on the old mansion, now under renovation, with a bit of reverence.  She doesn’t know that much about the life her grandmother once had while living there.

    Paxton Osgood is woman constantly on the go, obsessed with details.  She’s determined to return the Blue Ridge Madam to it’s original glory.  The Madam is the venue of a gala and Paxton is desperate to impress the Women’s Society Club. Paxton, in her thirties, still lives at home with her parents.  Despite attempting to move out, she can’t seem to get out from under the wings of her mother.  The closest she can get to independence is moving out into the pool house.

    Sebastian Rogers is Paxton’s closest (and seemingly only real) friend. They make quite the interest “couple”-in high school Sebastian wore a purple trenchcoat and eyeliner.  Paxton loves Sebastian and wants more, but due a scene she witnessed when they were both younger, realizes that is impossible. Bottom line, Paxton is a woman who has everything, yet has nothing.

    Her twin brother, Colin, was able to escape the tight constraints of their parents.  Now a landscape architect, he’s agreed to come home for only a month to help landscape the renovated mansion.

    While moving an ancient tree to the grounds of the Blue Ridge Madam, the crew uncovers items that forever changes the view of the majestic mansion.  Secrets long buried are unvelied, and the unexpected duo of Paxton and Willa (who as young girls despised one another) must unveil the mystery behind what happened in Walls of Water, so many years ago.

    I’ve been a fan of Allen’s writing for some time now.  As with her past novels, Allen succeed at painting a stunningly detailed vision of southern life. She never fails to provide a novel rich in details and well-constructed characters.  The setting of The Peach Keeper is a beautiful one, rich in southern flaire.  Unfortunately, also rich in snobby southern aristocrats.  Young women forced to work hard to impress the other members of society is fairly typical for the South.  So are deep dark secrets.  Families would stop at nothing to protect the integrity of the family name…including murder.

    I’ve been so pleased to have discovered quite a few books lately with mysterious storylines.  The Peach Keeper is yet another one that I have discovered and become quite take with. Allen’s writing is full of rich detail. Following is just an example, a scene describing the move of a giant oak tree to the grounds of the Blue Ridge Madam:

    Watching the actual planting was breathtaking, like watching a primitive battle between man and beast.  The tree seemed like some great animal, fighting against the hunters trying to capture it.  As the machinery lowered the gigantic root ball covered in burlap and wire, the men grabbed the roaps tethered to the limbs.  They yelled, and the tree groaned and actually seemed to writhe against its restraints. the men holding on to the ropes moved in sync, running one way, then the next.  They knew this animal; they knew its habits.  they knew how to tame it.

    This is just a brief sampling of the breathtakingly gorgeous writing within this novel.  Reading each page is like reading a piece of music, the words flowing across the pages like notes of music.

    If you love southern fiction with strong characters with a touch of mystery (and ghosts!) this is the perfect read for you. A story of love, family, a tinge of romance, and the true meaning of friendship, it’s a book that you can’t afford to miss. Highly recommended.

    Thank you to TLC Book Tours for providing me the opportunity to participate in this tour. Please be sure to check out the remaining stops in this tour:

    Thursday, May 5th:  Alison’s Book Marks

    Friday, May 6th:  Bookfoolery and Babble

    Monday, May 9th:  A Library of My Own

    Tuesday, May 10th:  Teresa’s Reading Corner

    Wednesday, May 11th:  Unabridged Chick

    Monday, May 16th:  A Bookshelf Monstrosity

    Wednesday, May 18th:  Two Kids and Tired

    Friday, May 20th:  In the Next Room