RUST & STARDUST

FIVE SHATTERING STARS

  • Author: T. Greenwood
  • Publication date: August 7, 2018

I love great literature that moves you. You know? I mean, isn’t that why we read? I want to be moved to cry, moved to think, moved to care. 2018 has been a banner year for the psychological suspense novel and now we have a crowning jewel of a book that crosses all the genres.

Rust & Stardust is unusual. If you’ve read any reviews, you’ve heard already this a sad story. Yes, it is absolutely heartbreaking. I can’t even describe how much your soul will ache. BUT it’s also suspenseful, historically relevant and fascinating. Rust & Stardust is not a true-crime book in the traditional sense. This crime of a young girl’s kidnapping in 1948 was headline making at the time and was the inspiration for Nabokov’s Lolita. (A fact that nauseates me. Remind me to check how many stars I gave that classic tale.)

I had a vague familiarity with Sally Horner’s name, but that’s all I knew when I began downloadreading. I resisted every impulse to google, and I’m pleased to announce that in this case, I did abstain. I had no idea how the story would end and the suspense propelled me forward like a slingshot. I rarely put this book down. Sally crawled into my heart and I felt like I understood her. I cared about her—what’s going on, is she going to escape now? I was thinking about Sally constantly. And it’s been a long time since I had a book do that to me. Thank you, T. Greenwood, for this passionate reading experience!

I would describe this book as a cross between The Grapes of Wrath and THE CHANGELING movie starring Angelina Jolie. I know the time periods are a little off between these beautiful works of art, but the important thing IS the time period. It’s the omnipresent lens that we view the story through and acts as much a pivotal character as anything else in the novel. There was a pervasive, deep societal innocence back then. Way before child molesters, mass shootings, and sex traffickers became our daily news. Sally was purely an innocent child, but also her mother, friends, teachers, even the police pushed back their doubts. “This could not be what it looked like.” “This does not happen in America”. In small ways, they all unknowingly contributed to the crime as much as Frank LaSalle, the deviant, corrupted everything he touched.

Rust & Stardust has all the atmospheric setting and attention to detail that Steinbeck, himself, was able to conjure on the page as the Okies trudged through the dust to California. Between the short, beautifully written chapters, Sally’s abduction unfolds as seen by all the different characters involved. While you are very fearful for poor Sally, it is her family’s story of guilt, bitterness and loss that will shatter your heart.

FIVE STARS. I HIGHLY recommend Rust & Stardust. You will be hooked after the first few pages. I promise. Yes, there are some triggers for sensitive readers. However, Greenwood tackles the subject matter in such a consciously delicate manner that the story of Sally’s life comes across as nothing less than poignant, authentic and human. And SERIOUSLY!! Don’t google until you finish the book!!!!

SYNOPSIS

Camden, NJ, 1948.

When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth’s, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says. 

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

T. Greenwood grew up in rural Vermont. She began writing stories at seven years old and wrote her first “novel” at nine on her dad’s giant blue electric typewriter. Bodiesofwater1121

Since then, she has published twelve novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. Her twelfth novel, RUST & STARDUST, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in August 2018.

She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer’s Ink and online for The Writer’s Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters during the school year and spend their summers at her family’s camp on Newark Pond in Vermont.

 

TRUE CRIME REVIEW

EVIDENCE OF LOVE

FIVE Engrossing Stars

  • Authors: John Bloom, Jim Atkinson
  • Publication Date: May 1, 1985

I actually read this for the first time back in 1985 when I was a mere toddler. Well, maybe a little older than that. I grew up in Plano, TX (go Wildcats!) and I remember this Friday the 13th in 1980 almost like it was yesterday.

I had just graduated from high school a few days before. It was the hottest summer in a sweltering Texas history of summers. And most importantly, the very first Friday the 13th movie series was being released in theaters that night. Friday+the+13th+1980

But that afternoon, an average housewife walked in to her friend’s house after vacation Bible school  and butchered her with an ax. FORTY splintering and brutal whacks to her face.

This happened about 5 miles away in a new subdivision of homes right down the road from the Southfork Ranch of Dallas TV fame.

At first, there was news that an escaped mental patient was the killer. OMG. We were actually living out the Friday the 13th movie plot. The unresolved panic went on for a couple of weeks before an arrest was made. And it wasn’t a known psycho, it was Candy Montgomery. Sweet, beloved popular church member.

This case, more than any other in my life, shook me to the core. It was so close to home. It was so crazy. So bizarre. Our little town was obsessed with wanting to know why…I started reading anything I could get my hands on–which wasn’t much. We didn’t have Reddit to scour and hash out our theories and we didn’t have Twitter to get the latest updates. Heck, even the newspaper articles were already a couple of days old by the time they were published and delivered to the front driveway.

What we did have was gossip. Chatter, stories and tales, but all speculation. None of it made sense. You can imagine by the time this fantastic book was published a few years later, it was snatched off the shelves so fast I’m sure it broke records. Finally we could have some answers about what happened that unforgettable day.

John Bloom and Jim Atkinson were local journalists at the time and somehow, who knows how, they were able to get up close and personal with all the major players in this demented story. I think journalists were a lot more trusted and respected back then. You don’t see a lot of murder defendants spilling their stories these days.

We hear first-hand from Candy Montgomery, her childhood, her strict upbringing, salacious details of her marriage. She tells Bloom exactly what happened that murderous day in a chilling, hypnotic tone. I don’t believe Montgomery has ever given anymore interviews–so it is especially effective in this book. Bloom takes us from beginning to end (yes, the shocking trial verdict!!!) and leaves no details out. Yes, it’s juicy and sensationalist, but utterly mesmerizing.

I hadn’t thought of this book in awhile, but I saw it mentioned in a Goodreads Blog featuring psychological suspense authors Laura Lippman and Alice Bolin sharing their favorites. Thanks for reminding me to have another look at one of the best true crime novels out there. I’m pleased to report it still holds up. 38 years later, it is as bizarre and fascinating as ever.

Brush with infamy note: I sat right behind Candy Montgomery at a movie in Dallas. This was either right before her trial or afterwards, I don’t remember which movie (definitely not Friday the 13th) probably a rom-com– because I remember her smiling and laughing during it. Yes, I stared at her for a long time. Trying to read her face. I could not see any traces of an ax-murderer.  She was just perfectly ordinary:  permed teacher-hair and lovely skin and white teeth. Which was all the more terrifying to me.

evidence of love

 

 

IT

GUEST REVIEW by Blake

  • Release date: September 8, 2017 (USA)
  • Director: Andrés Muschietti
  • Budget: 35 million USA
  • Producers: Seth Grahame-Smith, Barbara Muschietti, Dan Lin, Roy Lee, David Katzenberg
  • Screenplay: Cary Fukunaga, Chase Palmer, Gary Dauberman

Let me first start off this review by saying…I am not BooksBeJeweled. I know, talk about a plot twist right? But, have no fear, Jewels isn’t going anywhere! Jewels was just kind enough to let me have a guest review here on her blog.

So for now here is a Movie review on the movie “It” from  Blake, otherwise known as a younger, smaller, better looking version of Jewels because I am lucky enough to call Jewels my mother. Okay, now seriously, on with the show…Unknown-2

So I am no book worm, but I AM a movie worm (?) Being the lovely daughter that I am, I bought tickets for my parents and I to attend a viewing of the movie “It.” I only bought them because I forced them to go, after all these kinds of movies are only good in the theaters right?

At least that’s what we thought until we realized if we waited to see the movie in the comfort of our own home, we wouldn’t be forced to put up with the obnoxious 30-year old men giggling like Pennywise the entire film or burping like they were 12 year old boys having a belching contest. Okay sorry, I know this isn’t supposed to be a review on the theater experience, but c’mon seriously??

Now, this review isn’t going to be comparing the 2017 version to the OG movie or the book, because well, I haven’t read the book or seen the OG movie. YOU’RE GETTING FRESH EYES PEOPLE.  The movie had barely begun before I quickly decided I enjoy any movie that revolves around a group of little boys, riding around on bikes and cussing. I mean honestly, does it get any better than that? The boys were easily the scene stealers of this movie.

The boys’ acting was totally believable, at times I even wondered if some of the dialogue was improvised. The little girl in the movie was a total badass, but also could easily pull at the audience’s heartstrings. I’m not going to lie I could have just watched a whole coming of age movie about the little kids, but I guess that would just be “Stand By Me.”

Now for what we are all here for right? Bill Skarsgard AKA Pennywise. The voice Skarsgard chose to use as Pennywise was perfect. Enticing, yet also something that would be in your nightmares. There were a lot of good, classic jump scares from his character, and amazing special effects. I kind of love that this movie had a lot of over the top scenes, some might say were too cheesy, but they took me back to some classic horror films like “Nightmare on Elm Street” and Stephen King’s “Carrie.”

While the jumpiness and clown were scary; overall, it was just a fun movie to watch. If you go into this movie wanting to laugh and wanting to scream you will. Just have an open mind and I’m sure you will be surprised by how much you love it. I enjoyed every second, until the men behind us started talking so loud I completely missed the last scene. I regret to inform you I completely missed the last scene. For all I know it could have been terrible, but I somehow seriously doubt that. I guess you’ll just have to go see it and let me know..get it? Go see “It?”

Ok, this is Blake signing off! Back to regularly scheduled programming!

XOXOimg_2971

5 Perfect Podcasts to Binge this Weekend

  • Up and Vanished
  • S-Town 
  • Sincerely, X
  • My Favorite Murder
  • Sworn
  • Bonus Podcast:  What Should I Read Next?

Sometimes my eyes need a break from reading! But, chores and driving are absolutely too boring without a juicy book or podcast in my ears. These are my favorites!

UP AND VANISHED just finished its first season and oh my gosh! If you are even mildly interested in true crime/mystery and you aren’t familiar with this one, you’re in for a treat! Payne Lindsay, an everyday guy from Georgia, decides to launch an investigation into the disappearance of beauty queen and high school teacher, Tara Grinstead. Tara has been missing over 11 years and the case is freezing cold by the time Payne begins to look into the story in his Grandma’s hometown. TALK ABOUT PLOT TWISTS! Payne is a very RELIABLE narrator and the events unfold almost real time.  Not a spoiler (HUGE NATIONAL NEWS ATTENTION was given) to say Payne and his novice crew end up solving the case with the killer(s) arrested and awaiting trial at this moment. Start at the very beginning with Episode 1 to literally watch (listen to) the growing pains Payne experiences going from small time film maker to national crime solving hero. Fascinating.

S-TOWN The second season of the original SERIAL podcast, this season is completely different. Please tell me you already listened to Serial, the grandaddy of all podcasts? If not, that’s your first assignment. S- Town, I believe, started out to be on a similarly arced season with a murder to solve in S-town, Alabama. But (major plot twist) this story ends up being something completely different! I can’t give away anymore than that, it is a journey that you will not believe, won’t stop thinking about, and can’t stop talking about. I listened to it months ago and I still am blown away by the philosophical implications it raises about our country. Bookish hint: Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance.

SINCERELY, X is a new podcast done by TED and Audible. It has quickly become my favorite in only four short (30-ish) minute episodes. The series features talks from speakers whose identities are hidden. Holy smokes, these stories will cut straight through to your heart and brain–so compelling! In Episode 2, entitled Pepper Spray, a woman describes what happened when she snapped one day in a retail store.  If you have ever dealt with anxiety issues, you will feel every ounce of her experience. Each stand-alone episode is presented by a victim or a perpetrator or an entrepreneur or an activist or an empath, or….

MY FAVORITE MURDER the app blurb reads: “Lifelong fans of true crime stories Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark tell each other their favorite tales of murder and hear hometown crime stories from friends and fans.” SO. DRY.  Actually, these two women are both hilarious working Hollywood types (google them). They’re not for everyone, they’re racy, candid and love to curse. They don’t make the murders funny, (no victim shaming ever) but they don’t hesitate to go the extra mile and comment on every aspect of the case they are featuring. I love Karen and Georgia!

SWORN is a spin-off from the UP AND VANISHED series. Listen to Up and Vanished first. Then when you are trying to shake off the withdrawals, turn on SWORN. By this time you’ll love Philip Holloway like he’s your own personal defense attorney and you’ll feel right at home on SWORN. As of right now, there are only three short episodes about The Lake Oconee Murders from Florida. It is going to be another captivating podcast.

WHAT SHOULD I READ NEXT? If you read or blog or blog about reading, you probably know of Anne Bogel. She’s the charming person behind the very popular Modern Mrs. Darcy blog. Each week, Anne interviews a reader and finds out their tastes in books. Then, she makes recommendations about what to read next. I have learned about so many different wonderful books from this show, it’s a no-miss podcast for me. Plus, Anne Bogel has a beautiful voice to die-for!

What podcasts do you love? What am I missing out on? Let me know!

 

 

 

THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN

5/5 stars

  • Member of the Twister Hall of Fame
  • Author: Paula Hawkins
  • Published January 13th 2015 by Riverhead Books

EVERY DAY THE SAME
Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning and night. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. Jess and Jason, she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

UNTIL TODAY
And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel goes to the police. But is she really as unreliable as they say? Soon she is deeply entangled not only in the investigation but in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

The Girl on the Train: A Novel Amazon Great Kindle Deal!

This story is actually told from three women’s points of view. For all intents and purposes, you will only remember Rachel. She’s the main character and her drunken memories help to create, dare I say it?  The all-time MOST UNRELIABLE  NARRATOR in literary history.  That’s why I love this book so much!  Well, one of the reasons. Actually, every character in this book is unreliable. Who can you trust? NO ONE. Put the clues together and solve this mystery yourself.

The new label being thrown around these days is “domestic noir” and I believe describes this sub-genre much better than “psychological thriller”or “chick” noir (ick).  This is the tribe of books I have embraced. And millions others. We may be in danger of overdosing on domestic noir now.

The novelist, Julia Crouch, described the subgenre in her blog in 2013. “In a nutshell, Domestic Noir takes place primarily in homes and workplaces, concerns itself largely (but not exclusively) with the female experience, is based around relationships and takes as its base a broadly feminist view that the domestic sphere is a challenging and sometimes dangerous prospect for its inhabitants.”

Paula Hawkins set the domestic noir scene on fire with this book. We had all been waiting (2 years!) for someone to replace Gillian Flynn on the bestseller list and she did it. Girl on the the Train is a much more delicious variation on the textbook standard that Gone Girl had established. I think it is an easier, faster read than Gone Girl and not as cynically, bitterly dark and depressing as Gone Girl.

The highly anticipated movie version of The Girl on the Train left me deflated. I thought The_Girl_on_The_Trainit was shot in such a slick manner, way too glossy while the book was unabashedly gritty. I couldn’t get past that! Oh, Hollywood. What are ya gonna do about it?  I love Emily Blunt as Rachel. But, the movie is a miss. Read the book.

BTW: the Audible version is outstanding.

LIFE OF PI

5/5 Stars

  • Member of the TWISTER HALL OF FAME
  • Author: Yann Martel
  • Published August 29th 2006 by Seal Books (first published 2001)

Life of Pi is a fantasy adventure novel by Yann Martel published in 2001. The protagonist, Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel, a Tamil boy from Pondicherry, explores issues of spirituality and practicality from an early age. He survives 227 days after a shipwreck while stranded on a boat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

Yes, I’m aware that this isn’t a suspense/thriller type story in the least.  There are some pretty gruesome descriptions of animals devouring each other, but that doesn’t really count. Does it?

I have to include this gorgeous modern day fable in my Hall of Fame simply because the entire story is a twist. Is Pi telling the truth? Did he really spend 227 days with a Bengal tiger on a raft in the ocean? The beauty lies in what the reader wants to believe.  No matter how you react to the ending, you will find evidence in the book to back up your belief.

Life of Pi is now studied in most high school English classes for good reason. Yann Martel combines literary devices masterfully,  you could read this book one hundred times and never catch all the allusions, metaphors, and symbols. It is a rich and charismatic text that poses questions on religion, survival, nature, morality and truth.

This is a book that has stayed with me for years.  If you haven’t read this book, WHY NOT??? Also, you could watch the movie! (The book vs. movie snob in me approves highly of the movie).

Amazon paperback Life of Pi

Amazon Kindle Life of Pi

Amazon dvd Life of Pi

ENJOY.

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP

5/5 stars

As I sleep, my mind will erase everything I did today. I will wake up tomorrow as I did this morning. Thinking I’m still a child, thinking I have a whole lifetime of choice ahead of me…

Memories define us. So what if you lost yours every time you went to sleep? Your name, your identity, your past, even the people you love–all forgotten overnight. And the one person you trust may only be telling you half the story.

Welcome to Christine’s life.

I must have read this gripping book at least 3 times. A true psychological drama with twists, turns and such a sense of urgency that you will not be able to stop reading. You will want to scream at the main character, Christine, GET OUT of that house! DON’T TRUST Ben! The beauty of this suspense is that the answers are so close, but the reader doesn’t see them because Christine cannot see them. She is suffering from a kind of short term amnesia and must keep a diary every day just to remember who she is and what day it is. And so much more. .. It is a brilliant story and I cannot recommend it enough.

BTW: The image ABOVE is from the movie. Although Nicole Kidman stars, it was really disappointing. It comes off as clunky, not nearly as slick and suspenseful at the book reads. Once again, the book wins! Sigh.

Amazon US  Paperback

Amazon US Kindle Before I Go To Sleep: A Novel

Amazon US Audio Before I Go to Sleep: A Novel