The Ballerinas by Rachel Kapeke-Dale

Ballerinas are delicate and beautiful dancers who move with precision and effortlessness. But unbeknownst to their audience, what is going on inside their minds can be quite shocking.

Delphine, Lindsay and Margaux met at ballet school as teens. Since then they have been best friends as well as competitive dancers while continuing to be each other’s cheerleaders. All that was changed when an incident occurred which altered their friendships as well as their individual lives.

Delphine, now in her mid-thirties, who basically ran away from her friends after the incident fled to St. Petersburg, and now has come back to France as a choreographer preparing a new ballet. She is a rising star, she has been told. Hoping to rekindle the friendships, she casts both friends in the ballet, along with a male dancer whom Delphine has never been able to get out of her mind. But she immediately realizes this was perhaps a mistake. You cannot really go back to relationships which had been fractured and never been put back together.

As the tension mounts with the friends, Delphine finds out the woman who basically raised her is having medical problems. Delphine’s mother was a prima ballerina in her day, known all over the world. The most shocking thing her mother ever did was actually have Delphine when she found out she was pregnant. Because as ballerina’s know, pregnancy changes the body and then there goes your career.

But their past secrets and resentments do come back to haunt the women. Who they loved, why they married, and who they left are were never answered questions among them. Delphine soon discovers that her friends whom she thought had it all clearly did not. They too had regrets, a fear of getting older. Even secrets which are hidden in plain sight which will haunt them for the rest of their lives.

The story moves back and forth from their current situations to when they first met and the escapades they all endured, some funny and some heartbreaking. But no matter who was angry at who their camaraderie could not be broken. Until it broke.

Sometimes friendships can become toxic and unhealthy, but true friends are able to move past those parts and regrow what was the base of the bond from all those years ago. Even when the love they have for each other takes a dramatic turn, one no one could have seen coming. But will they survive the new secrets which now must be hidden?

The Ballerinas is an interesting behind the scenes look at what it must be like to be a classical dancer, the pain they tolerate as they put their bodies through enormous stress, as well as the competition element which certainly makes it difficult to be friends, never mind stay friends, But the twist at the end is by far well worth watching the whole performance!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #TheBallerinas #RachelKapeke-Dale for the advanced copy. The book will be out December 7.

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

Author Erin Sterling, who also writes under the name Rachel Hawkins, has written the most charming, funny, entertaining and witchy book of 2021.

Vivienne Jones, a young witch has just broken up with her college boyfriend of three months. It does not help that the town in which she lives, Graves Glen, Georgia was founded by his ancestors. Drunk, and in a bathtub, Vivienne decides to curse this ex-boyfriend, Rhys Penhallow. Not very good at witchcraft and spell-casting she thinks nothing of the words she has just spoken.

But nine years later, those words would not only come back to haunt her, but the whole town! Rhys has descended on the town, begrudgingly by his demanding father to show support for the town for their Founder’s Day celebration. Vivienne, who is now a teacher at the college they attended, is not thrilled that he has come back. Even more disgusting are the feelings she gets when she sees him. She is very dismayed at herself for the lust this gorgeously horrible man can make her feel.

When Rhys asks her to come the caves to ley lines, or recharge the magic of the town, her curiosity of how this is accomplished gets the better of her and she agrees. But what ends up happening when Vivienne and Rhys come together to the caves is nothing but a total disaster! For some reason the town’s witchcraft goes awry causing animals to begin talking, spells to backfire, and a very unhappy, unfriendly ghost from the past to appear who would like nothing better but to banish Rhys Penhallow for eternity.

Now Vivienne, Rhys and Vivienne’s aunt and cousin must somehow work together to try and fix the town’s ley lines so the magic can go back to normal, as well as reverse the curse on Rhys before the end of Halloween day or he will die.

As they begin to spend time together, they realize perhaps what happened between them years before could possibly be causing their current problems. Will time run out before they are able to fix not only the town, but Rhys’ malediction before they are able to admit how they feel about each other?

One thing is for sure, once you begin this adorable tale, you will feel as is a spell was cast on you as you won’t want to put it down until you have finished.

The Secret Next Door by Rebecca Taylor

When Alyson, her husband Justin and their young son Andrew move into the exclusive neighborhood known as The Enclave, she thinks they have finally made it! Although a bit out of their price range, she finally convinced her skeptical husband that it would be well worth the cost. Andrew would be getting the best education in the safest neighborhood with wonderful friendly and affluent neighbors.

But as so many know, no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. The outside can sometimes be the facade needed to cover-up the inside strain and turmoil. Nearby residence can be jealous of what others have. Both monetarily, emotionally and physically.

Take Bonnie Sloan. She is running for political office. She has one son who will be going off to Yale, another son in middle school and a daughter in kindergarten. They are the family everyone looks up to. But quietly, behind closed doors their lives are falling apart. Her husband, who took over his family’s business has basically bankrupted them by making poor business decisions. Their two boys do not get along at all and have horrible physical altercations. And now the only hope for the Sloan family to financially survive is if a new development is built next to their beautiful neighborhood. This has divided residence.

So when Alyson gets invited to attend the exclusive neighborhood book club she jumps at the chance. Her new friend Gabby has been able to wrangle the invitation. Once there, as the women gossip about all the neighbors including her, she begins to drink too much. Alyson wakes up the next morning in her bathroom unable to recall anything from the previous night. Her husband who is under great pressure to figure out how to pay for this house they can’t afford has had enough. He begins to distance himself from his wife. That’s when Alyson’s life truly begins to fall apart.

That morning as Alyson is nursing a hangover, a neighborhood child was found on the road killed the night before. Her husband begins to sleep in his man cave which was her selling point to him when they bought the house. He also locks its door. Her son who she has perhaps pampered a bit too much suddenly has developed issues at school. He can’t keep up with the work in class and has been shown to anger easily.

As the neighborhood speculates on who killed the child, they begin to deliberate whether Alyson’s family is perhaps too unrefined for the beloved community. Alyson is grateful she has Gabby to lean on as her marriage begins to falls apart and her son is ostracized. She is sure once they figure out what happened to the dead child everything else will return to normal. But she is stunned at the contempt her neighbors suddenly have for her family.

But people with too many secrets, including her own husband, always try to find someone else worse than them, don’t they? What will normal ever look like? And the shocking ending will send ripples around the neighborhood with lives changed forever. Who will recover from their secrets? More importantly, who will not?

A palpitating page turner!

Thank you #NetGalley #SourcebooksLandmark #RebeccaTaylor #TheSecretNextDoor for the advanced copy.

The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu

Jasmine Tran has just graduated from college. While her friends are moving into adult life, finding a job or career, or as her best friend is doing, going to law school, Jas has come back home to help her parents in their donut shop. She has every intention of trying to find a job, once she figures out exactly what she wants to do, but unfortunately she finds her parents have become too dependent on her at their shop. So while people she went to college and high school with have moved on, she finds herself in a depressing rut. Working long hours at the shop, going home eating dinner and then either watching television or reading, depending on the day. She feels trapped in her life, trying to please everyone, except for herself.

All her mother really wants for her daughter is to get a boyfriend, get married and work at the shop. Her mother is always trying to fix her up (with distant cousins) or giving her tips on ways she can make herself more appealing (to boys). She wishes she was her brother, the apple of the Tran’s eye who can do no wrong and already has a career path but is away at school. He is difficult to be compared to.

Then Jas gets worse news. The landlord of The Donut Shop has decided to raise the rent. Her parents, never business savvy, have not raised their prices in years. Jasmine now must somehow come up with a plan to save the business, on top of trying to find a job she will finally be able to call her own.

But, one day, something happens which will change her life. Jasmine is accidentally reintroduced to a guy she had a chance encounter with when she was at college. She named him “window guy” back then. Hi real name is Alex Lai and he is perfect in every way. He is also Chinese which makes her parents very happy. But for Jas, nothing ever seems to go right. A disastrous dinner ensues where her parents meet Alex’s mother, and no one is happy about anyone. Jas begins to see and feel as if Alex is not quite as perfect as she once thought.

What do you do when you want to grow up and don’t want to hurt the most important people in your life? Well, lie of course!

So comedy and drama arises as we find Jas trying to navigate life and Alex, an old high school flame her parents never knew about, while trying to get her stubborn parents to agree to some new changes she feels will make the shop more popular. All the while secretly trying to find a job without hurting her parent’s and trying to figure out her own feelings for Alex. And a visit home by her brother does not help the situation.

The Donut Trap is a wonderful funny and thoughtful story of family, love and respect. It deals with the inevitability of coming of age and growing up and making adult decisions, trying to not hurt anyone’s feelings, realizing the importance of loved ones and compromise but recognizing the importance of oneself.

Thank you #NetGalley #Avon #TheDonutTrap #JulieTieu for the advanced copy. The Donut Trap will be out November 9th.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

When Maggie Holt’s family bought Baneberry Hall, an old Victorian house in rural Vermont when she was just five, they all thought they had hit the jackpot! Sure, the house came with a a touch of sordid history, a murder-suicide by the previous seller, and even an accusation of murder against the original owner. His daughter was poisoned and he was charged. But this was the past. Maggie’s family was very stabile.

Until three weeks later when the family bolted from the home in the middle of the night never to return. Unfortunately, Maggie has never been able to remember her time at the house. Now thirty, her only inkling of what happened back then was from a best-selling book her father wrote after the fact about their time at the house and what inevitably led to them leaving suddenly. Her parents would never discuss their time at the house no matter how Maggie tried to illicit information from them. She took what her father wrote with a grain of salt, figuring he needed to make a living and this book would help her family, much to the chagrin of the people who lived in the town and had to endure all the ghoulish tourists. His story was weaved with superstition, ghostly visits, lights and music turning on by themselves and past residents who seemed to be able to communicate all of which came to a head the night they fled.

Maggie had always been embarrassed by the book her father had written and tried her whole life to distance herself from his words. But with her father’s recent passing, she soon discovers that he had never sold Baneberry Hall. It now belonged to her. As a matter of fact, he still went there once a year and stayed overnight. He always went on the date of their last day in the house. So against her mother’s implicit wishes, as well as her father’s last words to her which were for her never to go back there, Maggie decides to fix the property up and sell. And while she’s there look around and see if anything jogs her memory.

Maggie neither believes in ghosts, spirits or hauntings. But what Maggie discovers is startling. She begins to experience similar events which her father had documented in his book. She feels as if the house has been waiting for her return for all these years. Could what he wrote actually have been true?

As we read about Maggie’s experiences in one chapter, we are also able to read her father’s book, “House of Horror” in the next. As the similar experiences begin to add up, Maggie cannot help but feel she had been wrong for all these years. What other secrets did her father take to his grave? Why did he make her promise never to return? Is it possible the house is alive and has been patiently waiting for her return? If so what does it want from her.

What she discovers, and finally remembers will overshadow her father’s book. It will frighten her more than any spirit or ghost. Can Maggie survive the house which seems to have taken so many before her?

Home Before Dark is a scary, haunting, ghost story, which should be read with all the the lights on, pure and simple, the way it seems Riley Sager wants.

The Secret of Snow by Viola Shipman

One cannot lose when reading a Viola Shipman book. First, be prepared for a few tears, some smiles, plenty of comfort and always, always a feel-good life lesson you did not think you needed, with an ending which gives you peace, satisfaction, sadness at ending the book and excitement as to when the next will be coming. The Secret of Snow is no exception.

We are first introduced to Sonny Dunes, a 50 year old meteorologist who lives in California as she is having a meltdown live on air after being let go from her job and being replaced by a perky robot meteorologist. Sonny knows the score. At her age, she knows her days are numbered as an on air personality.

Now jobless, she gets a call to become the chief meteorologist at one of her hometown television outlets. They are hoping to boost their ratings by hiring her banking on her new notoriety as a crazy weather broadcaster. Her hometown being in Michigan, which is the total opposite of the warm and fairly quiet weather in California. She cannot stand the thought of going back to the raw cold, the ice and especially the snow…so much snow! Besides, not only would she have to live with her mother, she would also have to see friends she sort of dumped and then ignored from years past. But most of all, her return would bring up the memories of the death of her sister years ago when they were young. A sister who loved the snow more then anything else.

But back to Michigan she goes, unprepared for both the weather and the memories that will be evoked. There she must face a new boss, an acquaintance from college who Sunny never really gave the time of day, a young journalist who is jealous of Sonny and seems to have her envious eyes set on Sunny’s new job and her mother who only wants to help Sunny put her life back on track. A life she has been running away from for years.

The plan…make the watchers fall in love with Sunny by sending her fun, cold and snowy assignments, get them to empathize with her…the local girl who made it big and came back! But, unfortunately that is not what happens. As she tries to adjust to the new job, living with her mother, the weather, and a handsome widower who himself has felt great loss, someone is trying make her look horrible through videos they are sending out. Her initial instinct, as always, is to flee.

How on earth can she stay here knowing wherever she looks, she sees her late sister and the sadness and guilt she always feels. When will she ever be able to forgive herself and move on to a life she is sure her sister would want her to have. Perhaps with the help of her newly made friends, some whom she had rejected years ago and her mother, her only living relative will she be able to face her distress from all those years ago and finally bury her past for good in the snow her sister loved so much.

Thank you #NetGalley #GraydonHouse #ViolaShipman #TheSecretofSnow for the advanced copy.

The Last House on Needless Street by Catriona Ward

Ted Bannerman lives in a creepy boarded up house at the end of Needless Street. Deemed odd by his neighbors and by those who encounter him, he is needless to say, a loner. He had been questioned years ago in connection with the disappearance of a young girl at the lake near his house whose body has never been found. Cleared of any wrongdoing he is still obsessed with the vanishing. He spends his days drinking, taking care of his daughter who he will not allow to leave the house, fussing over his cat who does not get along with his child. His cat adores him, or so he thinks…

Ted’s childhood was not a very happy one. He had an overprotective mother who was a nurse and worked a great deal. She explained to Ted that the gene pool on her side of the family was not very good and she did not want him to turn out like anyone from her side of the family. Then one day, as Ted explains, she upped and left and never returned leaving Ted alone.

Dee is the sister of the missing girl who disappeared all those years ago from the lake. She has made it her life’s mission to solve the mystery of what happened to her sister. She has always suspected that Ted, who was a person of interest back then, had something to do with her missing sister Lulu. Dee decides to buy the dilapidated house across from Ted when it comes up for sale. She decides she will do her own investigation of him to see if he can somehow lead her to her sister, or if she can prove his involvement in her disappearance.

As Dee watches Ted and interacts with him, she becomes even more convinced he is hiding something. Her obsession with him grows increasingly all-consuming. But Ted and Dee have more in common than they know. The both hold past secrets deep within their souls. Some harmful and others which protect them.

Without giving too much away, I will say as the story progresses the shocking lives of Ted and Dee will be made clear. Sometimes it is hard to discern between good and evil, love and hate, fear and heroics and the weak and the strong. Try to never judge a book by its cover because the story inside can be incredibly more shocking.

The Last House on Needless Street is a perfectly crafted tale of horror, pain and courage.

Thank you #NetGalley #Nightfire/Macmillan #CatrionaWard #TheLastHouseonNeedlessStreet for the advanced copy.

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Nina Riva has led a very complicated life. Her mother died when she was still in high school leaving her to raise not only herself, but her three other siblings while barely making ends meet running her mother’s family restaurant in Malibu. Their father, Mick Riva, a very famous crooner with an incredible career as well as libido, turned his back on his family years ago. But today is the Riva annual end of summer party. The guest list is massive. It’s at Nina’s mansion which sit up on a cliff and overlooks the beach. Well, it’s not really her house, but her soon to be ex-husband’s. That’s way Nina is having a difficult day. Her tennis pro husband has recently left her for another tennis pro. She cringes at the thought of everyone seeing her so vulnerable tonight. But as usual Nina does not think about herself, but of her siblings, Jay, a professional surfer, Hud a photographer and Kit, her youngest sister who wants to follow in Jay’s footsteps. They look forward to this party all year.

But they too are having problems of their own. Jay may have to give up surfing, Hud has been keeping secrets and Kit who at twenty has never been kissed and has decided that tonight’s the night.

Nina’s upbringing was difficult, her mother an alcoholic, her father coming in and out of her mother’s life, Nina having to always be the adult in the room. Then she was spotted surfing by a photographer and her life catapulted her into both fame and fortune. And this seems to be where her problems really began. She was not made for stardom. So as much as she understands the party must go on, she dreads the feeling of embarrassment of the evening when all eyes will be turned to her to see how she is reacting to the news of her husband’s infidelity.

But the evening begins to take an awkward turn from the first ring of the doorbell as the guests arrive, two not expected at all and the siblings will find themselves not only fighting with each other, but with ghosts from long ago. As the evening progresses and the usual chaotic party begins to take a turn into complete pandemonium, with guests literally hanging from chandeliers, the family will have to come together when these revelations come to light. They each will need to come to grips with hurtful memories no one ever wanted to revisit. By the next morning, their lives will be changed forever.

The story, which is told between two times, an hourly accounting of the day of the party leading up to and into the next morning, and the love story of Nina and her sibling’s mother and her father Mick and all the heartbreak it caused.

It is a story of love, loss, greed and having to make tough decisions. It is a story of a family united by Nina’s perseverance always afraid to think of herself for fear her family will be torn apart. And finally, by its conclusion, a united family who will finally all take their individual control back as the create a new family unit.

The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer

Rachel Rubenstein-Goldblatt lives in New York City. Her father is a well-known rabbi, her mother a doctor. Rachel’s occupation is a secret from her parents and just about everyone else. You see, Rachel lives and breaths for one holiday a year…Christmas! And to make matters worse, she is a best-selling Christmas author known as Margot Cross whose books have been turned into movies. She can hardly brag about that to her orthodox Jewish family.

Rachel has another secret. One she has kept from her book editors. She was diagnosed with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome when she was in college. On bad days she can not get out of bed, and sleeps for twenty hours. On good days she can get up and watch a bit of television. Rachel had to drop out of college, and she needed to reevaluate her career goals, figure out what she could possibly do which would keep her motivated and interested without having to go to work a 9 to 5 job somewhere. That was when she discovered her love of writing, especially creating Christmas stories!

But when her editor calls her into her office to suggest she change her next Christmas novel into a Hanukkah story she is not happy. Although she of course knew all about Hanukkah traditions, none seemed as exciting as the exhilaration of Christmas. But Rachel’s editor was adamant. Either write a Hanukkah story or lose your next contract. So Rachel begins to try and plot her next move. With her parents not knowing what she does for a living, just her real name on the book would blow her cover.

Adding to her stress which does not help her physical condition at all, she learns her years ago summer camp love, Jacob Greenberg was coming back from Paris, France where he mysteriously took off for after their one summer of torturing each other to organize a Hanukkah celebration in New York called the Matzah Ball. Her father was asked by Jacob Greenberg to light the last candle on the Menorah the day of the Ball.

That’s when something clicks inside Rachel. She decides she will write the story of their courtship during summer camp in which he dumped her and pull the Matzah Ball into the story. Which means she must get a ticket to the already sold out event. Which means she has to ask Jacob Greenberg. Who says no. Unless she wants to be a volunteer, which for Rachel would normally be out of the question because of her health, but she jumps at the chance. That’s when Jacob begins his I will get you back for dumping me in summer camp tour.

Soon, they begin to see each other in different lights. Jacob seems caring. Rachel is kind and smart. Is it possible for these two hot heads to finally make peace with the friction they have felt for each other all these years? Perhaps they can not only learn more about each other, but about themselves. As Rachel pours her heart and sweat into the Matzah Ball, she sees the Hanukkah traditions as she never has before. Why did she think there was no story here? But Rachel and Jacob still have some personal obstacles to climb. Can they let go of their past and open up to a new future?

The Matzah Ball is an adorable story, but it is also a remarkable learning experience for those unaware of ME, which unfortunately author Jean Meltzer has, but who has learned to not only live with, but incorporate into her work-life and which hopefully will inspire others with the same disease to believe in themselves and to aspire to accomplish what they want.

Thank you #NetGalley #MiraBooks #TheMatzahBall #JeanMeltzer for the advanced copy.

The Family Plot by Megan Collins

The Lighthouse family knows everything there is to know about murderers and serial killers. They were home-schooled by their mom. She had been obsessed with true-crime since her parents were murdered. Hence her children are named after murdered famous people. They are proficient in how murders occurred as well as placement of the murder victim’s body. This is how the Lighthouse children grew up. So needless to say, living on a secluded island where everybody knew everybody and where a serial killer was murdering young women, the family was a bit notorious.

Dahlia Lighthouse knew her family was different and did not fit in. How many families have the sheriff of the community constantly in their backyard with a flashlight? But the children stuck together until they were of the age to be able to leave the island. Then they moved away. Except when Dahlia left, she had to leave alone. Dahlia had a a twin, Andy who had promised they would leave together. But on their sixteenth birthday Andy disappeared, leaving a note. Dahlia was heartbroken that he left without her. So when Dahlia was able to leave the island, she spent all her time and energy trying to find out where her brother had gone and why he left without her.

So when Dahlia’s father dies and she has to return to the island, she hopes to find Andy there. Instead as they dig up the family plot where the father is to be buried, they discover a body. It is Andy. Her twin. Her other half. How could she not have known he was dead? Who killed him all those years ago and why?

As the police begin to investigate Andy’s homicide, the Lighthouse children begin their “normal” mourning routines when someone is killed. They build diorama’s of the murder with placement of the body, they prepare for their usual memorial museum of the murdered person. Normal stuff.

Dahlia goes about trying to solve her twin’s death. Suddenly she finds clues which may also uncover who the serial killer may have been all those years ago. She also discovers a part of Andy’s life she never knew existed. That is when the mystery turns even more gruesome. Is it possible for a family who are so far away from being normal learn to come to grips with a life of lies they all lived?

But just when the reader thinks they have the story figured out, the surprises come. One after the other, until you are left with a shockingly unpredictable conclusion. The Family Plot is the most intriguingly entertaining, morbidly enjoyable, plot twisting story to come along in quite awhile. Think Adam’s Family meets the Zodiac Killer. Deliciously different.

Thank you #NetGalley #Atria Books #MeganCollins #TheFamilyPlot for the advanced copy.