“The Ballerinas” by Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Genre: Murder Mystery
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021The Ballerinas 

The story begins with a trio of 12-year-old students at the world-famous Paris Opera Ballet School. Although the timeline is not linear, we follow the girls into middle age. I think this debut novel’s message is to show how these women come to understand their true inner selves and find feminism. The story is filled with way too much female drama and way too little on the demanding physical and mental sacrifices that are part of a ballerina’s daily life. A murder is mentioned in the prologue and not written about again until the end of the novel.  There are the makings of “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty in “Ballerinas.” Despite not enjoying this novel, I would read another by the author to see how she has grown.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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The story begins with a trio of 12-year-old students at the world-famous Paris Opera Ballet School. Although the timeline is not linear, we follow the girls into middle age. I think this debut novel’s message is to show how these women come to understand their true inner selves and find feminism. The story is filled with way too much female drama and way too little on the demanding physical and mental sacrifices that are part of a ballerina’s daily life. A murder is mentioned in the prologue and not written about again until the end of the novel.  There are the makings of “Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty in “Ballerinas.” Despite not enjoying this novel, I would read another by the author to see how she has grown.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Find all my book reviews at:

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“A Good Marriage” by Kimberly McCreight

Genre: Murder Mystery/ThrillerA Good Marriage
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Pub. Date: May 5, 2020

Thrillers are usually at their best when read in the summer, while on vacation, on a beach, or just relaxing in the yard. At this time of year, many of us are not interested in books that require effort.  Unless you are a student, there is nothing thought-provoking on our summer reading list. We are looking for unadulterated entertainment.  At least, until we return to the real world.  But, until then summer, for readers like myself, means spending a lot of time doing nothing but lounging around while getting lost in escapist fiction.  “A Good Marriage” is a good summer thriller.

The story is a combination of Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies” and any legal thriller by John Grisham. In a nutshell, “Marriage” is the tale of a white-collar criminal defense attorney, Lizzie Kitsakis, who takes on the case of a millionaire, Zach Grayson, accused of the brutal murder of his wife, Amanda, in the super-wealthy section of Park Slope, Brooklyn NY. Zach and Lizzie knew each other back when they were in law school.  Although they haven’t had any contact in almost twenty years he tells her that she is the only lawyer who can represent/help him. Yes, you should be wondering why a now stranger is his only hope.  Lizzie, who has her own baggage, is swallowed up in a whodunit case revolving around women who are forces to be reckoned with, a ritzy private school, a hacking scandal, blackmail, and a sex party.  There are so many secrets that they pile up on top of each like a multi-car collision.

As in “Lies,” there are three female best friends and a newcomer to the neighborhood, which is Amanda. She is constantly struggling to understand her Park Slope friends’ ways. “The ladies of Park Slope prefer calculated indifference in matters of dress, a contrast to the glossy perfectionism of their Manhattan neighbors.”  Upping the ante for a delicious summer thriller, a chunk of the murder investigation revolves around the parents’ annual party, which they call “Sleepaway Soiree.”  The name refers to the fact that the kids have all left for summer camp meaning the parents can run wild. The Soiree is a wife swapping party just like in the 1997 movie, “Ice Storm” where appearingly wholesome couples experiment with casual sex. There are actual invitations, caterers, and everything else that goes into putting together an expensive party. “It’s harmless. And no one talks about it after.  It’s like it never happened.” The author enjoys poking fun at her rich characters.

In “Marriage,” McCreight manages to keep the “Lies” theme fresh without having a copycat feel by not retelling, “Lies” but rather repeating its great tensions. “Marriage” is told through multiple points of view. Amanda is killed off early in the book.  The author cleverly keeps her in the plot by using intermittent chapters, on how she spent her last week alive making for further dark suspense. McCreight does a good job of weaving multiple storylines together. However, a few characters felt like walk-ons and did nothing to enhance the story. In the tradition of “A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan, the story is told in different formats such as grand jury testimonies, inner-company memos, school emails, and diaries. This reviewer can usually guess who the murderer is—not this time.  I applaud the author for changing directions so often that she keeps her readers on their toes.

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“Little Disasters” by Sarah Vaughan

Genre: Mystery and ThrillersLittle Disasters
Publisher: Atria
Pub. Date: August 18, 2020

Mini-Review

I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book is not a mystery (though this might be upsetting if you had your heart set on one). You may be able to call this a thriller but only because you will wonder the fate of a nine-month-old baby.  The novel is actually about examining mental health issues concentrating on postpartum depression at its most severe. The author does a wonderful job of showing how shocking the illness can be. This is also a story about female friendships being tested.  A doctor is faced with the dilemma of abiding her Hippocratic Oath when her good friend’s baby is in the emergency room.  The baby is there with a head trauma and there is reason to doubt the mother’s explanation of how the accident took place. The author does an excellent job writing on the baby’s mother’s feelings of shame, anxiety, and trying to keep her baby safe from herself—Heartbreaking.  However, I was disappointed when the author throws in side stories about the two women’s childhoods with abusive parents. It is the author’s attempt at writing on the differences between actual abuse and thoughts. Insight into mental illness is always good, but this came off as obvious.  As if the reader couldn’t figure out the differences on their own.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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“Whisper Network” by Chandler Baker

Genre:  Women’s Fiction/Legal Thriller Whisper Network
Publisher:  Flatiron Books
Publication Date:  July 2, 2019

I like to read one summer thriller each year.  This one caught my eye since the book’s blurb reads like “Big Little Lies” in the #MeToo movement.   I thoroughly enjoyed “Lies,” so I figured I’d give “Whisper Network” a try.  A glimpse at the back cover is enough to drive home the many similarities between the two books.  Once again, three very rich longtime female friends befriend a younger woman and she becomes part of their inner circle.  This time the women are not stay-at-home moms but high powered attorneys.  This is where #MeToo comes into the story.  Rather than a sexually abusive husband as the bad guy, there is a sexually abusive boss.  All four women are afraid they will lose their jobs if they complain.   Like the husband from “Lies,” the boss dies under mysterious circumstances. Once more, the women are suspects.  And so, the legal thriller begins.  As long as you go in aware of the strong resemblance between the novels you will enjoy “Network” as I did.

One character in this novel has such well-described physical and personality traits as another from “Lies” that I could see Reese Witherspoon’s face as she portrayed the role in the “Lies” TV series.  In the author’s notes, she explains that when she was a young summer associate at a law firm she experienced male harassment by the much older and well-established lawyers who worked at the firm.   In Baker’s actual life, it was the older women in the firm with more skill in handling such instances who came to her rescue.  She said the Witherspoon-like character was actually a real-life person from that summer.  I felt a bit more respect for the author.   She wasn’t just copycatting a character from “Lies.”

The only issue I had with the book is that the author seems to be beating the reader over the head with the novel’s message of how women must stand together against badly behaving men.   At times, it feels like she is giving us females a sermon on the unfair treatment of women in the working world.  Unlike an author such as Joyce Carol Oats—who frequently writes about sexually abused women—the violence in “Network” reads as sensationalized rather than nuanced, which can carry a harder punch.   But, then again, not all authors have almost 60, usually award-winning novels under their belt.   Although Baker pours her heart out with her feminist cry (I could almost hear Helen Reddy singing “I am woman, hear me roar”) this is still basically a beach read with a moral.  I grant you a very entertaining beach read that preferably should be read while sitting on a pool or lawn chair with a glass of chilled wine in your hand.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the publisher at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

Click to purchase Whisper Network on Amazon

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“The Promise” by Teresa Driscoll

My Rating:   Three StarsThe Promise
Genre:          Psychological Thriller
Publisher:    Thomas & Mercer
Pub. Date:   Feb. 7, 2019

On a personal note, my husband had open heart surgery on Feb. 8th and remains in the hospital from complications.  He is not out of the woods yet, but he is on the mend.  Thank you for all your support.

I hope you understand why this review only has a star rating.  I miss reviewing but at the moment I am too preoccupied.

I received this Advance Review Copy (ARC) novel from the author at no cost in exchange for an honest review.

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