Ghost At The Table by Sandy Jones

Ghost At The Table is a poignant, wonderful read filled with mystery and intrigue with decades long family secrets as well as multiple love stories which span eras.

Sam is a writer who has decided to write a story based on her grandfather’s time as a bomber serving in an air crew during World War 2. He was named Ralph George Page and was killed in action with several others when the plane they were flying in was shot down in a small town in France. She knew the story well, listening to her grandmother tell it as well as her mother. But, as she begins to go through her late grandmother’s correspondence, she can’t help but ask some questions. Although life after her grandfather died was difficult, her grandmother was able to find love again and her mother Rosemary and her aunt Sylivia were well taken care of.

So, Sam, who is having relationship issues with her married boyfriend of years, decides this would be the best time to not only get away from him, but also travel with her best friend Lizzie to the place where the tragedy happened, poke around, see where her grandfather is buried and find out if anybody is still alive who witnessed the crash to give her a description of just what happened.

But when Sam meets someone who witnessed the accident, she begins to have more questions than answers. A father and daughter saw the wreckage. Although the daughter Victoria had passed, her husband Raoul is still alive but refuses to speak with her to give her details of what his wife had seen.

The deeper Sam delves into the mystery, the less sure she is she truly wants to find the answers. She discovers her grandmother had been keeping secrets and although she seems to have all of her correspondence, it looks as if some are missing. Why?

In the meantime, she discovers her grandmother was not the only one keeping secrets as she finds out her boyfriend had a few himself which rattle’s Sam’s soul. How could she have been so stupid?

Then, all the pieces come together, and Sam finds out the truth as to what really happened to her grandfather. She can’t seem to write it down, to the angst of her editor because she realizes the can of worms which will open when her family finds out. But, although she knows all their lives will be changed forever, she needs them to know just who this mysterious dead person their family has cherished and missed all these years really was and that they should still be proud of him as he still sits at the head of their table.

Ghost At The Table is a love story, a mystery with many surprises and a powerful reminder of what our military endured and still endures as they keep us safe from harm.

Thank you #NetGalley #Matador #GhostAtTheTable #SandyJones for the advanced copy.

The Wishing Game by Meg Shaffer

The Wishing Game is beautiful and uplifting. It’s filled with the trials of life while wishing for dreams which seem unattainable. But, throughout is acceptance and love and well, magic!

Jack Masterson is the Mastermind in a collection of children’s books, although he has not written one in decades. He lives on an island, the real Clock Island which his stories are based on. So popular were the books that children from all over would write to him with their wishes and some even tried to get to his Island. The books are loved by all, but Jack has been unable to continue them. He lives on the secluded island with the illustrator of the series, Hugo Reese who is very worried about Jack. Hugo feels it’s time to move on but can’t leave until he knows Jack will be ok. Hugo knows all of Jack’s secrets which makes him even more worried about leaving.

Lucy Hart is a teacher’s aide. She loves her job and especially one of her students, a young boy named Christopher Lamb whose parents died tragically and is in foster care with an overwhelmed couple dealing with their own children. Lucy desperately wants to foster him or even adopt Christopher, but she is monetarily in no position to do so. Although she has parents and a sister, she left them years ago as her childhood was filled with always feeling left out of her family and very unimportant to them. Her sister, who had been very sickly was most important to the family and Lucy was an afterthought, being shuffled to live with her grandparents. The only thing which got her through these times were the Clock Island books by Jack Masterson. And she has passed her love of these to Christopher in hopes he too can feel the love which exudes from the stories.

And then to everyone’s surprise, it is announced that Jack Masterson has written another Clock Island book. Not only that but he is having a contest and is inviting five lucky people to the Island to play some games, and the winner will get the only copy of the new book to do with what they wish.

And Lucy gets one of the coveted invitations! Now, she and Christopher may actually have a chance of becoming a family!

As the games immediately start, the contestants begin to learn more about Jack and his Island, but they also begin to learn more about themselves. With each person desperately wanting to win, tensions run high, and each challenge becomes more stressful and personal as they reach deeper into the contestant’s own childhoods, much to Lucy’s angst.

So, Lucy’s dilemma becomes one of heartache. Does she revisit her sad and lonely childhood or does she challenge herself in hopes of adopting Christopher. But her one fear is she will never be the mother he truly needs because of her own past.

Sometimes it’s the personal challenges one must overcome in order to win, even if sometimes the material prize is lost. Who will win? And what is Jack Masterson’s real prize?

The Wishing Game is masterful, full of charm, difficult issues and uncomfortable decisions, but in the end just as in one of the Clock Island books, a lesson to be well learned.

Thank you #NetGalley #BallentineBooks #TheWishingGame #MegShaffer for the advanced copy.

The New Mother by Nora Murphy

The New Mother is a terrifying emotional journey about one mother’s life after giving birth to her first child. What was supposed to be the happiest time of her life, turns into a nightmare with irrational feelings, inability to cope with the smallest things, fear, delusions and exhaustion which then leads to a breakdown in her marriage with the man living next door who then preys on her vulnerability.

Natalie and Tyler Fanning have moved into a new home to await the birth of their first child. With the excitement of the soon to be newborn growing, all seems great! Yes, Natalie, a lawyer will be taking a short maternity leave, but she is excited that she is heading towards becoming partner and although she knows it will be difficult with a baby, she’s sure she can handle whatever is thrown at her

And then their son Oliver is born.

From the beginning, Natalie can’t seem to settle him down. He cries all the time with the exception of when he’s in her arms. She spends hours breastfeeding him and holding him and is unable to sleep. She’s sometimes resentful of her husband Tyler who sleeps through the night and then leaves to go to work in the morning. She is exhausted, stressed and alone.

Enter Paul, the sympathetic neighbor from next door who is a stay-at-home dad who is a writer whose wife works outside the home. He not only has the magic touch with Oliver but understands Natalie’s fears and problems as he too went through the same issues when his daughter was born. He becomes Natalie’s cheerleader, and she starts to rely on him more and more.

But Paul is not who he pretends to be. He is in a bad marriage and has not been happy for a long time. He begins to form a plan as he starts to see a way out of his miserable situation. Unfortunately, Paul’s plan would not help Natalie at all and even put her in jail but, those are the breaks when you need a life change.

The longer Natalie needs Paul’s help, the better off his plan has of working, and when there is a party at his house for the neighbors, he sets his ultimate plan into motion. Natalie doesn’t understand what is happening and now to add to her exhaustion she is confused as to what is going on.

But Natalie begins to see Paul for what he is and realizes she is his patsy. Can she somehow through her exhaustion, forgetfulness, loss of time and now with her husband disbelieving her save herself and her family as she becomes the main suspect in a horrible crime?

The New Mother is a true cat and mouse psychological thriller which also touches on the effects of post-partum not just on the new mother, but how it can affect all those around her and how there can be a light at the end of the tunnel if you can find someone who just says to you something’s wrong.

Thank you #NetGalley #MinotaurBooks #TheNewMother #NoraMurphy for the advanced copy.

How To Sell A Haunted House by Grady Hendrix

Once again Grady Hendrix pushes the macabre envelope with an ingenious horror tale in the Hendrix way with the telling of a horror story about family secrets, dysfunction, a house which decides it needs more and, puppets, of course!

Louise must come home. She has not been home in years. She left her traumatic life behind her, had a daughter and moved away. Far away. She is happy with this life. But when both her parents are killed in a horrible car accident, she has to go home assuming she will have to plan everything because her loser of a brother Mark can barely function, even though he is an adult. He can’t handle his own life let alone plan a funeral.

So, she leaves her daughter and flies to Charleston. From her first step into her childhood home, something feels off. As she walks through the house with all the puppets and dolls from her mother’s Christian ministry, handmade by said mother, she begins to get a creepy feeling. Especially with the oldest puppet who had been her mother’s when she was young and then Mark and Louise’s. While in her childhood bedroom, she hears the television go on. She thinks her brother has finally arrived, but when she goes into the living room all she sees are two dolls sitting on a lounger looking as if they are watching television. She continues walking the inside of the house and AGAIN the television goes on. She just wants to believe there is something wrong with the remote.

And the puppets and dolls seem to give off an electricity. As if they know something she does not. As her anxiety increases, she decides to wait for her brother outside. But the inevitable starts when he arrives. They begin fighting because not only has he already planned the funeral, but he insists that in the will he gets the house. To Louise’s surprise, he is right. But why? She had always been told she would get the house and was counting on the money she would get selling it to pay for her young daughter’s schooling.

Mark and Louise come to an agreement and decide they will sell the house much to their relatives’ disapproval. For some reason they feel the house needs to stay in the family. But this is one thing the siblings can agree on. The house has a bad vibe and needs to go.

But unfortunately for them, the house knows what they want to do and will not let them under any circumstances sell. Thus begins the haunting, and the brother and sister who do not get along at all must somehow ban together and figure out how to put an end to what’s happening and try and find out just why it’s happening.

With spinetingling detail, How To Sell A Haunted House tells the story of a dysfunctional family who are in denial as to what took place years before Mark and Louise were born, and continued unknowingly as they grew up only to now have the house explode with anger at the thought they will not be there. The story reads like a horrible nightmare you have where you wake up sweating and your heart beating a thousand miles a minute, or a story someone tells in the dark around a campfire and goes BOO at the end!

You will never look at a puppet the same way again.

The End

Such Good Friends by Stephen Greco

Such Good Friends is a treasure trove of juicy, gossipy items about the friendship between Truman Capote and Lee Radziwill, the sister of Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis. It takes the reader through their first encounter, delves deeply into their years long friendship and ends with the demise of the relationship all together. Of course, included is the glamour of High Society and the ways in which the rich are able to manipulate not only each other, but the media as well. But for the most part, it is a story of two friends whose relationship runs its course, and both seem devastated but too stubborn to forgive the other.

In this historical fiction account, which is told by Lee Radziwill’s housekeeper, Marlene, someone with her own set of secrets, it relays not only Radziwill’s friendship with Capote, but Marlene’s as well. It captures the good, the bad and the scandelous.

The story begins, with the end. Marlene, the former housekeeper, cook and writer-to-be is at Lee Radziwill’s funeral, having been invited to the service. There she reminisces about her time with the two friends and the deterioration of both Capote’s life and their years long friendship.

She captures Truman’s Swans drama, a group of women who took Capote as their best friend and spilled all their tea to only to have him betray them and then not understand what he did wrong. His years of frustrating writer’s block. She documents stories in Radziwill’s life such as her own affair with Greek tycoon Aristotle Onasis, only to find out her sister was having her own tryst, to JKF’s assassination, to Truman’s suggestion that Radziwill venture into acting and writing. But the final straw for Radziwill was Truman’s long-lasting obsessive fight with Gore Vidal.

Name dropping of the rich is plentiful! Andy Warhol, Gloria Vanderbilt to name two. Sadly, the story ends with the desertion of all of Capote’s friends which spiraled him into a horrible world of loneliness and drinking.

But within the story of the glamorous and beautiful is Marlene’s own story. She never married and kept all the secrets of her beloved employer and her good friend, until the end.

Such Good Friends is a wonderful read filled with the rich and famous and their history, but also with the disintegration of friendship and how neither could ever find it in their hearts to forgive the other. It examines Capote’s demons in depth and what inevitably took his life.

Thank you #NetGalley #KensingtonBooks #SuchGoodFriends #StephenGreco for the advanced copy.

The French Art of Living Well by Cathy Yandell

The French Art of Living Well is a tremendously enjoyable read of all things French, their culture, history, literature, food and much more, written by a woman who has lived there and immersed herself in trying to understand and live and understand the life of joy they all seem to have, and how they were able to feel this all the time.

Yandell who was born in the Unites States but has lived on and off in France as a single woman as well as a married woman with children for years. In this artful book which I would recommend to anyone thinking of going to France, she outlines just about everything one would need to know as well as tries to answer how she tried to learn how to achieve the Joie de vivre (joy of living) which the French seem to have discovered and mastered.

Within the book of essays, she tries to explain the differences in American life versus French life, including the way in which even doing the simplest things are totally different. In France, life is just so much slower, easier and less complicated. In almost every sense, the French always seem to stop and smell the roses no matter what is happening. They listen. To each other, to their surroundings, to their history. They respect each other, their history, their art and culture.

Within the stories, Yandell gives amazing history lessons as to why the French were the first at certain things, why they covet their art, food and the people themselves. We get a glimpse at the freedom the French feel and the respect they have for their country, although sometimes their government sees things differently!

Some examples of the differences between cultures which jumped out at me are the respect they have for each other. It is always important to greet someone no matter what the circumstances are and to say goodbye to them. Never bring carnations to someone hosting a dinner party. No matter how late you are nothing comes between the French and their coffee and croissants. When you use your words, sometimes its meaning may not translate appropriately.

The French Art of Living Well is a wonderful life lesson of all things French, filled with funny enticing antidotes, interesting history, music art and food lessons of a proud people who simply live their life every day in a thrilling, pleasurable way.

Thank you #Goodreads #St.Martin’sPress #TheFrenchArtofLivingWell #CathyYandell for the advanced copy.

The Guest by Emma Cline

Emma Cline’s The Guest is an uncomfortable read for all the best reasons. With a plot which emotes feelings of awkwardness and embarrassing lack of morals, one is drawn into the life of a young woman who is lost in so many ways.

Alex is a young, beautiful woman in her early twenties who is a grifter. That’s all she’s ever known. It’s the end of summer and having just come from New York City where she scammed her roommates as well as her last “boyfriend”, who is still trying to get in touch with her, she is now living it up on Long Island with an older man, Simon she met at a party where he invited her to stay at his house near the beach with him until his annual Labor Day party. Perfect. Her summer is secure.

Until she makes a few mistakes. First, she damages his car and quite frankly could care less and then she makes a fool out of herself at a party he takes her to and embarrasses him.

The next day, she is given her walking papers…a train ticket back to the city and a ride to the station. But Alex knows what awaits her back there, with no money, nowhere to live and an ex stalking her she decides to stay in Long Island and await Simon’s infamous Labor Day party. It’s only in a week. She is positive once he sees her there, all will be forgiven.

But, before that can actually happen, she must somehow survive the remaining days somewhere with someone. Thus begins her biggest scam yet, surviving on greed, damaging both items and innocent people. With no moral compass, she destroys whatever is in her path without looking back. Always able to justify her behavior while waiting for what she considers her happy ending.

The Guest is an incredibly intense, but fascinating look at one person’s obsessive greed and selfishness to get whatever she wants no matter what it takes and no matter who she may have to destroy in the process.

Thank you #NetGalley #RandomHouse #TheGuest #EmmaCline for the advanced copy.

The Three of Us by Ore Abaje-Williams

The Three of Us is an intense unique story which takes place in one day. Its premise is two best friends since childhood whose culture says women are perhaps less than men, and one of them gets married, one still single and she clearly does not understand why her friend got married. Especially to the man she did which starts a tug of war for the attention of the married woman. You would think this is childish, but this game which has been played for years has finally caused the husband to finally tell them what he feels.

The only name used is Temi, the friend of the married couple. Temi, who seems to resent the marriage and the husband who she antagonizes every chance she gets, and hurtfully, the wife always siding with Temi and treats her husband like a joke when he is around. And he says nothing out of respect for their friendship.

So, one day, Temi arrives at the home of the married couple to visit her friend who doesn’t work, and they begin the day as usual, drinking, eating and gossiping and reminiscing. Temi of course continually giving her husband digs. What makes this uncomfortable to the reader is that it seems the wife enjoys the jabs and laughs with Temi.

They talk about their history, how the two women met and how the couple met, which also includes Temi’s immediate dislike of the husband. The relationship between Temi and the husband has never been good, but in the past three years of marriage it seems to have deteriorated even more.

When the husband calls his wife to tell her he’s coming home from work early, he realizes Temi is there. He tries to explain to his wife his feelings about the situation which she seems to laugh off. Upon his arrival the husband and wife argue as Temi has gone out for more alcohol. But when the husband finds out his wife has been telling Temi very private information about their life, he realizes he just cannot do this anymore. Something must give in this dysfunctional relationship.

The Three of Us looks at how close relationships change or should change when there is a shift or new addition of another person. All parties should do their best to compensate for the extra person and respect the feelings and the choices the friend makes, although that perhaps may not include the other friend. But unfortunately, when one friend is too selfish and narcissistic to see the needs of the others and one friend cannot bear to stand up for their husband, it is a no-win situation. Then what do they do?

Thank you #NetGalley #Penguin/RandomHouse #OreAbaje-Williams #TheThreeofUs for the advanced copy.

Killing Me by Michelle Gagnon

Killing Me, killed it! The story, which is fast paced and funny is about a serial killer and the two women who admirably dislike one another trying to solve the mystery as to who the murderer could be since no one at the FBI seems to be able. Both women have different types of seedy pasts and both women are certainly type A personalities. What could go wrong?

College student Amber Jamison wakes up and discovers she is the next victim of a serial killer who has been killing girls in the area. How could she have been so stupid as to get herself into a mess like this? But just as he goes to end her life, a mysterious woman swoops in, kills the killer and tells Amber to forget she ever saw her and leaves. Just leaves.

But a visit from an FBI agent about the serial killer and her fingerprints being at the scene, something mystery girl was supposed to have taken care of (thanks!) leads Amber to have to flee. You see Amber’s past is not very legal so to say. So, she decides she can’t stick around and goes on the run.

She ends up in Las Vegas at a “motel” where she encounters a kind-hearted manager and a beautiful call girl. With no money she tries to survive under the radar, which goes out the window when someone leaves a mysterious envelope for her and it is filled with pictures of murdered women from Las Vegas motels. She has no idea why she would get this other than perhaps her ex-mysterious friend thinks she would be good at solving murders…not!

But then she gets a shocking visit from her nemesis and finds out she has been tracking her because she knows Amber is the next victim of the serial killer. Now the gruesome twosome must attempt to work together before he kills Amber or someone else. It seems her now partner has been playing cat and mouse with the killer for years. And with good reason.

Now, they have to somehow agree to a plan, make sure no one is injured, find him and kill him. Easy!

Kill Me was an absolutely enjoyable read which I did not want to end. The story was suspenseful, there were lovable characters, hilarious dialogue and great twists! I did read to the last sentence in the Acknowledgement and let me just say…I cannot wait!

Thank you #NetGalley #G.P.Putnam’sSons #KillingMe #MichelleGagnon for the advanced copy.

Quietly Hostile by Samantha Irby

Samantha Irby started out as a blogger many years ago and not only has become a funny essayist but also a sought-after television writer. Her essays can be raw, but with very good reason. She seems to always find herself in the most awkward, uncomfortable situations, enough to well, write a book! I adore her! She is never afraid to tell us about the good, the bad, and the smelly!

Her humor comes by way of a strange life, with a mother who was ill and a father who was gone. Later in life as she relays in this book that she discovers a stepbrother and others she never knew existed. The toll from her childhood not only formed who she is today, but estranged her from her sister, but that’s okay.

Embarrassment is Irby’s middle name. And that’s what makes this book so good. Irby’s internal dialogue with herself is hysterical, enlightening but also empathizing. Her book dedication says it all…open the book, just for that!

Her essays touch on very relatable topics as how she and her wife had to adjust to living with each other, such as the day Irby opened the refrigerator and discovered all these new and odd healthy food items, but she also had to get use to a couple of stepchildren and how to deal with them. Her advice is priceless!

One of her essays honestly is a true test of embarrassment when she seems to have taken, eaten, or smelled something which sent her to the hospital with anaphylactic shock and all that came before her visit, and during the visit, only to find out that typical Irby, she has no idea what caused the problem.

She and her wife, like many during the pandemic, decided to adopt a dog, but each time they found one it was always taken. And then her wife found one, which Irby was not too keen on and life as they knew it would never be the same!

For anyone interested in writing for television, she gives a detailed description of how to write a pilot and all that entails…years and when the final production is finished only be told we’ll pass.

But for me, the BEST essay is the one in which she breaks down old Sex and the City episodes. Irby, now a writer for And Just Like That, gives her take on what she believes should have happened in the episodes and why. ( I read this essay twice because it was hysterical)!

The title Quietly Hostile fits Irby’s personality perfectly. She doesn’t have a lot to say outwardly, but her inside dialogue fits all of us to a tee!

Thank you #NetGalley #Vintage #SamanthaIrby #QuietlyHostile for the advanced copy.