Home Stretch by Graham Norton

British television host Graham Norton has written a beautifully touching coming of age story about a group of families whose lives become intertwined after a horrific accident occurs in their small Irish town. As lives are torn apart from the accident, it’s the intertwined secrets kept buried which seem to cause even more damage.

A group of young adults decide to go to the beach the day before two of them will be married. But the marriage will never occur. A terrible car accident will destroy all their lives. Three of them die. And as the town mourns the dead, their wrath turns to the driver of the car, Connor. Unable to bear this terrible burden on their family and their son, Connor’s parents decide to send him away to Liverpool to work in hopes he will return when the shock subsides. Little do they know it will be years before they even know he is still alive.

Connor, who has secrets he can never share, is thrown into a job and apartment with strangers. Then something happens to him and he is tossed onto the streets, a lost, guilty boy who feels he does not deserve to even be alive. He then spends many years of his life running. Running away from the accident, his life, himself and the embarrassment he thinks he is to his family.

As Connor’s parents give up hope of ever seeing their son again, their daughter Ellen has married one of the survivors of the accident. This marriage she realizes is very tangled. Connor has no idea of the situations back home as he has found his way to residing in New York. But a chance meeting with a stranger will once again change his life forever. Those secrets he has kept buried for years once again will surface and he must decide what to reveal and what must be taken to his grave.

Home Stretch examines the true love of family as well as the forgiveness we have to not only absolve someone of mistakes, but liberate oneself from the horrible burdens some carry. But for others, their ego is too great and they would rather feel nothing rather than be free to live the life they truly want.

Norton’s novel deals with love, loss and pain. But in the end his most important lesson is that the truth will always set you free.

Thank you #NetGalley #HarperCollinsPublishers #GrahamNorton #HomeStretch for the advanced copy. The book will be coming out in late June.

Couple Found Slain: After a Family Murder by Mikita Brottman

Couple Found Slain is the true sad story of a family who was torn apart after the youngest son shot and killed his parents. But the tragedy had started long ago, with parents who were verbally and physically abusive to their children. But that unfortunately was not the end of this story. Quite honestly, it was only the beginning.

In 1992 a 22-year-old named Brian Bechtold walked into a police station and informed the police officer that he had killed his parents over two weeks prior in another state after hearing voices and believing them to be the devil telling him to kill them.

Brian was judged criminally insane and diagnosed with schizophrenia. He ended up at the Clifton T. Perkins Hospital Center, a 250 in-patient facility. But Brian’s journey was far from over. As a matter of fact, unbeknownst to him it was only the beginning of a fight for his life.

Brian’s childhood was not the happiest. He and his siblings were constantly abused by non-caring parents who mentally and physically abused them almost on a daily basis. But for outsiders looking in that just was not the case. They saw a quiet husband who went to work as an engineer and a wife who took care of their growing family. As the years passed and Brian’s siblings moved out, their wrath, especially his father’s began to increase. With his mother ailing from a bout with breast cancer and continued failing health, Brian just snapped.

After his sentence he was placed in a maximum psychiatric hospital. As the years went by and through therapy and medication, Brian seemed to improve. He had begun to see other patients who had done similar or even far worse crimes being released back into society. But when he asked why he was not allowed to be released he was never really given a reason that made sense.

The Perkins Center was not exactly a proficient facility. Patients were improperly medicated, there were clashes with guards, nurses and even administrators, and there were confrontations with patients which included patients murdering each other. There was even an episode of a psychiatrist who worked at the center stalking an administrator.

When Brian questioned why he could not leave, they labeled him paranoid and just drugged him more until he began to refuse the medication. He was accused of trying to hurt guards and other patients. It seemed they wanted to keep insisting he was mentally ill. So when Brian heard from other patients that prison was actually a better facility than the Center, he decided to plan an escape in the hopes that he would end up in prison, thinking he would get a definite sentence and a release date would finally be possible. But that would not be the case.

Since then his mental state has remained stable and he has been trying to get himself released, even going to court and representing himself, something a mentally unstable person would certainly not be able to do.

This is not only the story about a mentally ill person killing his parents, but of how the system treats these individuals, even when they become a recovery story. What Brian did was reprehensible. But did he have some sort of psychotic break and through the years has fully recovered? If so, why are there no provisions put in place. Why should a patient who is no danger any more live in a facility where there is danger not only by other patients, but from the people who are suppose to protect them. Hopefully this book will shed some light on the problem and perhaps begin a series of changes.

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHoltandCo. #MikitaBrottman #CoupleFoundSlain for the advanced copy. The book will be out in early July.

How Y’All Doing? by Leslie Jordan

Emmy award winning actor, Leslie Jordan, known for his outlandish character Beverly Leslie on Will and Grace and his stints on Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story series has been constantly working, minding his own business for many, many years. But that all changed when during the pandemic he became bored and discovered Instagram. And with one single tweet, “Well, shit. How y’all doing.” he became an instant hit on the social media platform and now has millions and millions of followers.

In his most recent book, How Y’All Doing, Jordan, in his perhaps long-winded, now where was I, funny tale teller way, writes essays about his life, family and acting career. From his love of ponies from a young age, the death of his father when he was very young and of his travels with some eccentric friends, he has mastered the art of storytelling.

In one essay he writes about meeting Carrie Fisher at an AA meeting and after having a discussion with her about his drinking and how it has affected his mother, it unbeknownst to him, led to a call from Debbie Reynolds to his mother, who of course thought the call was a joke!

He spends some of the book writing about the gossip and stories while he was working on the set of The Help with Emma Stone and Octavia Spencer. He also dishes the dirt on other acting gigs such as American Horror Story.

But, as in all lives, he also draws on his darker side as a young gay man trying to find himself and becoming addicted to drugs and alcohol. He explains that after his father was killed in the war his mother struggled to keep the family which included his twin sisters as well as himself together.

He writes with a sense of flair and sarcasm which he also exhibits while doing his Instagram posts. His stories might begin somewhere and veer, but they always come back to his main points and moral of the story. Although a short book, it is filled with sentimental, funny stories and gossip which are enjoyably interesting.

The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Writer Jacob Finch Bonner is a one semi-hit book author. Years ago he wrote a fairly well received first book, with a not terrific selling second book. As years have gone by and he is still struggling to write a third book, with no luck, he now works as a writing teacher at a Master’s Program coaching who he feels are inadequate and undeserving self-centered wanna-be writers.

At the beginning of the current semester, he come across a student who not only is egotistical, but insists that he will become the number one best-selling author of all time because he has thought of a plot which not only has never been conceived, but a story that will blow people’s minds. Jake has heard and seen this type of enthusiasm before, but from this student, Evan Parker, he sees something else. An absolute surety in his story.

Jake of course does not believe Evan Parker, and tells him. He asks for proof that Parker really has written this great American novel. Parker refuses to let him see any of his writing because he says he does not believe another writer would not hesitate to steal his plot. But Jake being the teacher finally convinces Parker to let him read a few pages of this novel. And Jake begrudgingly sees that Parker is correct. He will have a blockbuster on his hands.

As time goes by and Jake continues to attempt another novel, and moves on to a different school, he continually awaits the publication of Parker’s novel because he knows for sure it will be sold. But the book never comes out. Jake decides to do a little digging and discovers Evan Parker had died. Jake realizes this could be the opportunity of his lifetime knowing Parker did not discuss the plot with anyone. He decides to write the book with the plot which Parker took to his grave.

And just as Parker assured him, it became not only a best-seller, but he appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Steven Spielberg is making the movie. His life went from writing an ok book to being a famous author. And he was enjoying every second of his fame!

Until he receives an email out of the blue which changes his life forever. Someone knows his secret. They have made it perfectly clear they will expose him for the plot stealing plagiarist he became. Clearly, Jake has no where to turn. He is in too deep. He cannot tell his editor or publisher what he has done, his career will be ruined. He decides to ignore the email. But whoever the person is persists and takes their case to social media.

Jake embarks on a journey to try and find out who this mysterious person could possibly be and figure out how THEY knew about the plot and somehow try and make them stop before his life is ruined. He begins to investigate Evan Parker’s life to see if there is possibly someone from his past (all his family is dead) who knew about Parker’s story.

And what he begins to discover will shock, amaze and horrify Jake as well as the reader. And where the plot inevitably leads Jake will have the reader stunned.

Jean Hanff Korelitz, author of You Should Have Known, which was turned into the HBO mini-series The Undoing, has written a terrifying mystery in The Plot which the reader knows only what Jake knows and we are all kept in the dark until the last page. Incredible!

Thank you #Goodreads #CeladonBooks #JeanHanffKorelitz #ThePlot for the advanced copy.

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

This story is pure magic!

Just before Anna Kate’s mother died, she promised her she would become a doctor. So when Anna Kate’s Granny Zee died, her mother’s mother, who owned a restaurant in small town Wicklow, Alabama, called The Blackbird Cafe, and willed the restaurant to Anna Kate for a certain period of time before she would be allowed to sell, she was just baffled. But Anna Kate loved her grandmother and put her promise of medical school aside (for now) to fulfill her Granny’s wishes.

But as we all know, things just never turn out as they are suppose to. Anna Kate must return to the small town where her late father’s family practically ran her mother out of town. So not only does Anna Kate have to deal with running a restaurant and baking special blackberry pies which have been baked for generations by the women in her family, but she must also deal with her father’s family, especially her father’s mother who for some unknown reason blames her mother for the death of her father.

But as she begins to relax in the town, where a group of birdwatchers have taken up residence to watch the famous blackbirds come out at midnight to sing, something unheard of, and as she tries very hard to perfect the pie her Granny has left her responsible for baking (without a recipe), which helps them sing, she begins to settle into what small town life can be, comfortable. And although she feels sadness that she will never be accepted into her father’s family, she is still planning on leaving when the time arrives, but she does hope she can find out what really happened to her father.

Then there are the new people in her life whom she has grown fond of. The people who were strangers to her when she first came and have now become her friends. There problems have become her problems and all she wants to do is help them. It certainly will be hard for her to leave them.

So as time begins to fly by and her situation starts to draw to a close, Anna Kate faces the most difficult decision of her life. Does she go against the promise she made to her mother and not become a doctor, or does she stay in this little slice of heaven where blackbirds are magical and everybody knows everyone. What would her mother think. If only she could talk to her one last time…

Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is the best of all possible stories. It has funny characters, mystery, and lots of love and conflict. It’s a place not only Anna Kate is conflicted about leaving, but so is the reader who never wants this mystical, feel good story to end.

The Clover Girls by Viola Shipman

The Clover Girls is a wonderful story, although heartbreaking story about the reconnecting of a group of girls who met during their first night of summer camp years ago. Be prepared for tears…yours!

Veronica (V), Rachel, Emily and Elizabeth (Liz) met at Camp Birchwood back in the 1980’s. Dubbed the “Clover Girls” because when they met they were all feeling lonely and lost, and found a four-leaf clover in a field that very night and knew they would be friends forever.

Through their camp years all their lives would have tragedies and mishaps which would mold them into the individuals they became. There were also fights among them and deceits and hurt which, although apologized for, perhaps were never really forgiven.

Now over thirty years later when they all have their own lives and have not seen each other in years, and perhaps are not in the best place they want to be, decisions each has made along the way maybe not the best, families not the closest, careers wished for years ago which never happened, and some regrets, they each receive a devastating letter from Emily which will throw the Clover Girls back together for the very last time.

According to Emily’s letter, her wish is for them to reunite one last time at the now defunct Camp Birchwood to say goodbye. If they are able to mend their differences and stay the week at the camp certain affairs will come to fruition. If not, they can say their goodbyes forever.

Now the women must decide to either work on their disastrous relationships and forgive each other and move on as the best friends they were, or walk away from each other. Unfortunately they must try to heal the wounds from those many years ago which have shaped them into who they are today.

Will they be able to accomplish what Emily’s letter has requested? Or are these women too involved in their current personal situations to even attempt reconciliations with each other. Perhaps with a little help from Emily, they can try and put their pasts aside and rather than go back to the girls they once were, become the strong and independent women with deep friendships Emily always knew they could be, but were too self absorbed to see years ago.

Once again Viola Shipman has created an uplifting and empowering story about a group of women whose lives are changed for the better. The story is filled with love, and some sadness, but with a theme of hope that not only can relationships change for the better, but one can change their own destiny at any age.

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BOOK SUMMARY: 

As comforting and familiar as a favorite sweater, Viola Shipman’s novels never fail to deliver a heartfelt story of friendship and familty, encapsulating summer memories in every page. Fans of Dorthea Benton Frank and Nancy Thayer will love this new story about three childhood friends approaching middle age, determined to rediscover the dreams that made them special as campers in 1985.

Elizabeth, Veronica, Rachel and Emily met at Camp Birchwood as girls in 1985, where they called themselves The Clover Girls (after their cabin name). The years following that magical summer pulled them in very different directions and, now approaching middle age, the women are facing new challenges: the inevitable physical changes that come with aging, feeling invisible to society, disinterested husbands, surley teens, and losing their sense of self.

Then, Elizabeth, Veronica and Rachel each receive a letter from Emily – she has cancer and, knowing it’s terminal, reaches out to the girls who were her best friends once upon a time and implores them to reunite at Camp Birchwood to scatter her ashes. When the three meet at the property for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, another letter from Emily awaits, explaining that she has purchased the abandoned camp, and now it belongs to them – at Emily’s urging, they must spend a week together remembering the dreams they’d put aside, and find a way to become the women they always swore they’d grow up to be. Through flashbacks to their youthful summer, we see the four friends then and now, rebuilding their lives, flipping a middle finger to society’s disdain for aging women, and with a renewed purpose to find themselves again.

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Viola Shipman is the pen name for Wade Rouse, a popular, award-winning memoirist. Rouse chose his grandmother’s name, Viola Shipman, to honor the woman whose heirlooms and family stories inspire his writing. Rouse is the author of The Summer Cottage, as well as The Charm Bracelet and The Hope Chest which have been translated into more than a dozen languages and become international bestsellers. He lives in Saugatuck, Michigan and Palm Springs, California, and has written for PeopleCoastal LivingGood Housekeeping, and Taste of Home, along with other publications, and is a contributor to All Things Considered.

SOCIAL:

Author Website: https://www.violashipman.com/

TWITTER: @viola_shipman

FB: @authorviolashipman

Insta: @viola_shipman

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14056193.Viola_Shipman

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Thank you #NetGalley #GraydonHouse #Viola Shipman #TheCloverGirls for the advanced copy. You can buy the book today at the links below.

Harlequin 

Indiebound

Amazon

Barnes & Noble 

Books-A-Million

Target

Walmart

Google

Kobo

Broken (in the best possible way) by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson has many things. She has anxiety and depression. She has many physical illnesses. She has OCD. She has a long suffering husband named Victor. They have a daughter. None of these define this woman who writes honestly and incredibly humorously about all of the above. Not one to shy away for ANY embarrassing situation, her books of essays are like manna to people who also suffer from illness, not just the ones mentioned above. Not only is she relatable, but she makes people who suffer feel not as alone.

Reading Lawson’s book with a smile on your face feels like an oxymoron. The chapters always deal with serious issues, such as her not wanting to leave her hotel room when she is on book tour, but you laugh because she tries to take the stigma out of her fear and make it funny in the best possible way. She explains how it is possible to lose just one shoe, six different times in different ways.

She tries to push the reader to embrace their illness and try to look at it lightheartedly. But most importantly, she tries to make them realize they are not alone. And if YOU think you are having a hard time coping, well just listen to this! She certainly does not sugar coat her situations, but she surely does find herself in some comical circumstances.

In one essay about her marriage, she addresses everyone’s admiration for her husband Victor and his undying love for her. But she explains to the reader that the secret to there long marriage is that neither of them has the energy to divorce!

In another chapter she gives reasons why due to her anxiety she no longer attends any type of party, with an absolutely hysterical list of things she has said while attending such gatherings.

In Awkwarding Brings Us Together she explains how she once tweeted out something silly and embarrassing she had just said and within minutes had replies from hundreds of people who have had that same cringe worthy experience. One example is “A friend thanked me for coming to her husband’s funeral. My reply? Anytime.” I must have read this essay at least twice laughing harder each time.

But the one essay which was not so funny was her insightful open letter to her insurance company in which she explains how she has had difficulty getting medication paid for even though they agree with the diagnosis, or how an experimental treatment may very well help her, but her illness is not that far along. She tells of the hoops they make her jump only to be in the same position as when she started She writes of being denied a medication only to be told months later she should be on the medication only to be denied the medication. She somberly ends with how lucky she is to be able to afford the medications she has been denied and feels for those who are unable to do the same.

Is it bad that I don’t want Jenny Lawson to not be Broken? Her incredible insight into the feelings of people with anxiety, the humor she shares with us when she laughs at herself, the lessons she does not even realize she teaches gives one hope. Hope of looking at situations much differently. Hope of getting better. Hope of not feeling self-conscious. Hope of not being broken. Thank you Jenny!

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHoltandCo #JennyLawson #Broken for the advanced copy.

The Drowning Kind by Jennifer McMahon

Jennifer McMahon, author of The Invited, has once again created a ghoulish, eerie story about two families whose lives, although generations apart, come together and intertwine to tell a tale of what people will do to save the ones they love while knowing there may be terrible consequences.

In the present, Jax is a social worker who helps children. As a child, she herself wishes there was someone who could have saved her from the turmoil of her family. She has a sister, Lexie, whose mental illness basically ruled their lives as children. Lexie now lives alone in their late grandmother’s Vermont house, just one reason for Jaxs’ resentment of her sister because the house was left to Lexie, not both of them. As of late they have not been close, but when Lexie starts calling Jax and leaving manic messages, Jax thinks its just Lexie off her meds.

But unfortunately, Jax learns much too late that was not the case. Lexie is found dead, drowned in the swimming pool on the property. Now Jax must face the guilt of not having heeded the signs that Lexie was in terrible trouble. She must now go back to the house for Lexie’s memorial and to get Lexie’s personal belongings in order, a task she does not want as the memories of their lives together there were filled with chaos and even at times sinister.

After she settles back into the house, she discovers Lexie had actually been quite obsessed with the history of the property, especially the pool. Through the years there had been a series of drownings in the pool, including her grandmother’s young sister. Suddenly Jax begins to think she sees and hears her sister. She believes Lexie is trying to tell her something, but she cannot understand what. Is she too going crazy?

In 1929 Ethel Monroe, married to Doctor Will Monroe has been trying to get pregnant for over a year, but with no success. Ethel hears of a hotel in Vermont where there are natural springs which have been known to help people who are damaged in some way, heal. She hears stories of people who cannot walk, entering the springs and miraculously walking out on their own accord. She decides to vacation there with her husband, not telling him the real reason she wants to go. She wants to try and wish for a baby in the springs.

Amazingly she gets pregnant! But the baby, who is a girl, is born very ill and they are told will not live the year. Ethel believes the only way to cure her child is by taking her to what is left of the springs as there was a terrible fire and the hotel was burned to the ground. But the scientist in Will does not believe in this type of hocus pocus. Ethel cannot watch their child die. She decides to try on her own to get the water from the springs. But will this work?

And as the two plots collide what emerges are family secrets, startling revelations, ghostly visions and a completely unexpected ending which answers all the questions. The Drowning Kind is an exceptionally haunting read in more ways than one!

Thank you #NetGalley #Gallery/ScoutPress #JenniferMcMahon #TheDrowningKind for the advanced copy.

Open Book by Jessica Simpson

In Simpson’s candidly brutal honest book she details her life-long struggles from being sexually abused as a young child, to becoming addicted to alcohol and drugs. She spares no embarrassment as to how her love life became an addiction as well, one which kept her coming back for more and more verbal and psychological abuse. But, she also describes the moment she realized she needed help and was able to come out of the despair as a new perfectly imperfect person and be ok with that.

But throughout the book while giving us these glimpses into her life, she also tells very funny stories, her misuse of words, the sticking her foot in her mouth and oops moments. As deep as her dark moments may get, there are many lighthearted stories which make you smile intertwined.

She begins the book at the end, telling the reader she has come out the other side of her addictions and despair, then proceeds to explain from the beginning how it all began. First being sexually abused by a family friend at such a young age she did not even know there was a name for it, to the most pivotal moment in her teens when her cousin Sarah, a mentor to her and someone she aspired to be just like, was killed in an auto accident. With her death Simpson devoted (and still does) her life to honoring Sarah’s memory.

She also writes of her love of God and how her strength is always drawn through him. The daughter of a preacher, she has kept her deep faith no matter what choices she has made. And has never blamed Him for any of her bad choices. If anything she credits Him for those choices as it made her who she is today.

By keeping journals from a young age she was able to go back and look at what she had been thinking and why she made the decisions in her life at the time. In one journal entry she writes of meeting Nick Lachey and thinking he was going to be the man she married, even though their age difference years and would unfortunately be one of the reasons for their break-up.

She gives us a candid glimpse into her not so healthy relationship with musician John Mayer, who seemed to play with her head time and time again and added to her low self esteem, something which would come into play over and over when people would comment on her weight or her looks or her choices.

But this “dumb blonde” was not really very dumb. About ten years ago she created a clothing line which has branched out into a billion dollar brand. With the help of her mother and close group of friends whom she trusts, and therapy, she has been able to pick up the pieces of her life, figure out ways to change those negative feelings and be more present in the life of family and friends, but especially in her own life.

Although she knows she is not perfect and never will be and will always be a work in progress (as we all are), she does give sage advice as to how to not make the mistakes she has and that if you do need help, seek it.

Open Book was a sad yet funny yet uplifting story about an innocent girl’s journey from a young age who was able to grow-up into a strong woman, wife and mother with a little help from her friends, family and therapy.

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

The reading of The Lost Village is as haunting and frightening a story as any M. Night Shyamalan movie I have ever seen!

Alice Lindstedt is attempting to film a documentary about a “lost village” where it seems overnight all of its residence just disappeared. Years later, still no one can figure out what occurred in this small sleepy village. But the mystery is quite personal to Alice. Her grandmother was from there. She had married and left just before the mass exodus. She too had no idea what happened to her family who stayed behind. Although she told Alice tales about the people and her relatives, she needed to find out more.

When Alice and her small crew arrive, it seems as if time had just stood still those many years ago; dishes in sinks, a coffee cup and plate on a table, laundry half folded. They seem to be witnessing the eerie remnants of a lost community. What could have happened to all those people? Although they are excited to wander the empty village in hopes of clues, there is also an unnatural feeling attached to many of the structures perhaps as if the village is watching them.

And when they do begin to investigate those feelings begin to become reality. Episodes of not feeling alone, of being watched and shadow figures all start to rattle the well-being of the team. Are they real or just in their imaginations. Then this uncomfortableness turns into reality as there is an explosion and they are now trapped in the village.

It is then they realize they really may not be alone, that someone or something wants to do them serious harm, perhaps kill them. But who? Is it one of them? They find refuge in the church where they begin to learn more about the villagers and especially the very animated and hypnotic pastor whom most seemed to love. They learn of a young woman’s mysterious pregnancy whose child’s birth becomes just another puzzle to the team.

They begin to become paranoid, not being able to trust each other only to finally come to an incredible realization. With that understanding comes the explosive, intense and shocking ending you could not see coming. The Lost Village is a terrific suspenseful horror story with a build-up of palpable anxiety which ends with an astonishing finish. This story should only be read with the lights on…trust me!

Thank you #NetGalley #MinotaurBooks #TheLostVillge #CamillaSten for the advanced copy.