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June 27, 2023

4 Books You Don't Want To Miss

by Susan Roberts

There are always so many great books coming out that it can be easy to miss one or two of the really good ones. Make sure you have these books on your reading list.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. Free books were provided for honest reviews.

The Good Ones by Polly Stewart

book cover of psychological thriller The Good Ones by Polly Stewart
June 2023; Harper; 978-0063234154
audio, ebook, print (304 pages); psychological thriller

An engrossing work of literary suspense that illuminates the push and pull of female friendship and the costs of being "good" when the rules for women begin to chafe.

Nicola returns to her home in Tyndall County after nearly 20 years away.  Her mom has died and she plans to just stay in town long enough to sell her mom's house.  As she begins to connect with people from her past, she finds herself drawn into the mystery of her best friend's disappearance years before.  Her friend Lauren, a popular but also mean girl in school was married to the star quarterback and they had a small baby when Lauren just disappeared without a trace.  All of Nicola's friends have moved on with their lives but she is still stuck in the past thinking about Lauren's disappearance.  She has gotten hooked on true crime podcasts and continues to search the internet for clues about Lauren.  Was she alive somewhere or had she been killed?  And if so, by who?  There are certainly a lot of suspects - her husband, her husband's brother, and some of the people that she'd been mean to during her life.  As she starts to find answers in the small town and the truth begins to unravel, will she be able to quit thinking about her friend or continue to search for answers? 

This book kept me guessing to the end.  Just when I figured out who was responsible for the disappearance, the author would throw in something that made me completely change my mind.  The ending was perfect and answered all of the questions that existed throughout the book.  My only problem with the book is that I didn't really like any of the characters - Nicola was too obsessed with Lauren and her disappearance and her entire life seemed based on Lauren.  Even though I didn't like her much, I felt sorry for her and hoped that she'd get her questions answered.  I didn't like Lauren at all.  She was a spoiled rich girl who treated everyone as if they were beneath her.  She used people for her own enjoyment and as many people that she was mean to, it was no surprise that she'd disappeared.  

The entire mystery around Lauren's disappearance makes this book an interesting read.  Also, the realization that there are still lots of secrets about the disappearance in this small town even 20 years later.  This was a debut novel for Polly Stewart and I look forward to her future books.

Buy The Good Ones at Amazon  

The Traitor Beside Her by Mary Anna Evans

book cover of historical fiction novel The Traitor Beside Her by Mary Anna Evans
June 2023; Poisoned Pen Press; 978-1464215582
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); historical fiction

Trust no one.

It's 1944 and the United States is spending considerable manpower in gathering information from the enemy and breaking their codes.  A college in Virginia has been taken over by the Army and houses hundreds of people working to decode hundreds of documents.  Justine is among them but she is there to find a traitor in the midst of all of the hard-working people.  She is thrilled to be rooming with her friend Georgette.  They've been friends since their shortened training to become spies for the US government.  Working with this intelligent group of people, she finds it hard to believe that there is a traitor among them who is selling secrets to the enemy.  Justine decides to become friendly with her suspects to figure out who the traitor really is.  She has a few clues but when she's attacked, she realizes that someone may be suspicious of her.  It's a real cat-and-mouse game and a real page-turner to find out who the traitor is.  Along with the friendship between Justine and Georgette, there is a bit of romance and a lot of really neat James Bond-type gadgets and disguises.  

I've read several books about code-breakers during WWII but they have all taken place in England.  It was interesting to read about the Code Girls of Arlington Hall and I have spent some time on google to learn more about the work that they did.  I always enjoy reading a book that teaches me about something new.

The Traitor Beside Her appears to be part of a series.  The main character, Justine, is also the main character in an earlier book The Physicists' Daughter.  Also, the ending leaves questions unanswered for a new book.  That said, this book is a standalone and there was no confusion from not reading the first book.  I did enjoy this book so much that I plan to read The Physicists' Daughter soon.

Strangers in the Night by Heather Webb

book cover of biographical fiction novel Strangers in the Night by Heather Webb
March 2023; William Morrow; 978-0063297111
audio, ebook, print (432 pages); biographical fiction

In the golden age of Hollywood, two of the brightest stars would define—and defy—an era…

This book was a stunning look at the love story between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner.  I knew a bit about them before starting this book - probably more about Sinatra because my mom loved his music and played it all the time.  I had no knowledge of their marriage and tumultuous affair and how scandalous it was.  This was a great look at two talented people set in the glittering and glitzy world of Hollywood during its golden age.  

When Frank and Ava first met, they were both married.  He felt an instant spark but she was not too impressed with him and his ego. She was a small-town beauty from rural North Carolina.  Going to Hollywood was a long-time dream but she had a lot to learn.  When she met Frank, she'd already been married several times and once her marriage to Mickey Rooney ended, she had no intention of getting involved with Frank because he was a married man.  At the time, Frank was legendary and his voice was heard all over the world.  He was married to a girl from back home and had three children but that didn't stop him from romancing some of the most legendary women in Hollywood.  Their lust for each other overpowered their common sense and they started an affair that was full of love and nasty disagreements.  As she became more popular in Hollywood, his career was on a downward spiral.  During the good times, they were both tender and supportive of each other but when they argued, there were a lot of hateful words spoken, doors slammed, and phone calls going unanswered.    Both the good times and the bad times were fueled with large quantities of alcohol and a few pills.  I found it very interesting to see how tightly the movie studios controlled the people under contract to them and the movie studios in turn could and did manipulate the press.

This book was a well-researched fictionalized story based on the lives of Frank and Ava.  It brings to life one of the most riveting love stories of Hollywood during the Golden Years of Hollywood.  It's told in first person in alternating chapters by Frank and Ava and gives readers a good view of not only their lives, their fears, and their passions but also a look at life in Hollywood during this time.

Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls  

book cover of literary fiction novel Hang the Moon by Jeannette Walls
March 2023; Scribner; 978-1501117299
audio, ebook, print (368 pages); literary fiction

A riveting new novel about an indomitable young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.

Hang the Moon is the riveting story of one young woman as she grew up in Virginia during Prohibition. Her story reflects the hardships of life during this time period in rural Appalachia.  Everyone thought that she was nothing but her goal was to prove them all wrong.  

Sallie is the daughter of Duke Kincaid.  He is the charismatic 'ruler' of a small town - what he says goes and no one will argue with him.  Sallie grew up in a life of comfort and privilege at least until Duke's second wife decided that she was a troublemaker and had her sent to live with an aunt in a life of poverty for 9 years.  When the wife died and Sallie was brought back to the big house to take care of her younger brother, she was 18 years old.  When she returns, she's determined to take her place in the family but that's very difficult because she's looked down on by the people in town.  But Sallie is willing to stand up to some of the troublemakers in the town filled with lawlessness and confronts the secrets and scandals that hide in the shadows of the Big House, navigates the factions in the family and town, and finally comes into her own as a bold, sometimes reckless bootlegger.

Sallie was a strong but mistreated young woman.  She was met with one obstacle after another in her life.  Even though she was strong and resilient, she had to work twice as hard as a man to fit into the hierarchal structure of society at that time.  But fight she did -- not always with guns but more importantly with her brain and her common sense.  Even though she faced a lot of hardship, she was a well-written character and her growth was apparent throughout the story.  She's a character that I won't soon forget.

Buy Hang the Moon at Amazon

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.  

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