The Goddesses by Swan Huntley #Review

The Goddesses cover

This is going to be a another tough review for me, because I don’t really have a lot to say about this book. I checked to see if I’d left any comments on Goodreads as I was reading, and found only one:

July 26, 2017 – 51.0% “First half was a slow burn, but hasn’t lost my interest. Seems to be picking up the pace a bit at the start of the second half. Curious to see where the story goes from this point on.”

Quick Recap: Nancy and her family move to Hawaii after her husband cheated on her, hoping for a new start. Ana leads a yoga class, which is how Nancy meets her. Nancy is captivated by her wisdom and approach to life, and before you know it, the two are inseparable. Nancy neglects her family in favor of Ana, and finds herself doing things she would never have done without Ana’s influence—good things, as well as bad things.

I didn’t dislike this book (if I had, it would have been relegated to the virtual DNF pile), but I didn’t love it, either. And I’m pretty sure that’s because I had Ana pegged as a manipulator with an agenda from the start, and it flabbergasted me that Nancy was clueless about it for so long.

It’s no surprise Nancy fell under Ana’s spell… she was feeling vulnerable after her husband’s affair, living far from home in a place where she doesn’t know anyone, and her teenaged twin sons are becoming juvenile delinquents. What bothered me is how rapidly it happened. It felt unrealistic to me that a woman newly arrived in her new home, determined to work on her marriage and give her sons the guidance they (desperately) needed, would toss all of her responsibilities aside to spend (all) her time with a woman she barely knew.

Not only that, but Ana almost immediately starts telling her sob stories about how incredibly hard her life has been—and Nancy feels more and more sympathy for her with each one, rather than becoming suspicious. Is it just me, or is that odd? Maybe her reaction strikes me as being unrealistic because I’ve been around that particular block of manipulation before. Regardless, it just didn’t ring true for me. If Nancy were a younger woman, perhaps it would have felt reasonable that she did that… but not a middle-aged woman.

This is a novel that struck me as having a lot of potential for a great story, but it didn’t quite get there, in the end. The explosive finale I envisioned as I read the last pages never happened, which is such a shame because the way it ended was lackluster compared to what I expected to happen.

Having said all that… I did keep reading all the way to the end, and I thought Huntley’s writing was pretty good, even though the story itself didn’t enthrall me as I’d hoped. So I’m going to rate this one at three stars (even though I considered changing it to two and a half stars) based on that.

I think this is one of those novels that each individual reader needs to judge for themselves—based on their particular likes and dislikes—whether or not this is a good fit for them as a reader. A quick skim through the ratings on Goodreads shows ratings from low to high, so clearly—while this may not be a book everyone enjoys reading—some people will.

It’s your call, readers.

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Doubleday Books via Netgalley.

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Author: Swan Huntley

Title: The Goddesses

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Published: July 25th, 2017 by Doubleday Books

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

The Descendants meets Single White Female in this captivating novel about a woman who moves her family to Hawaii, only to find herself wrapped up in a dangerous friendship, from the celebrated author of We Could Be Beautiful.

When Nancy and her family arrive in Kona, Hawaii, they are desperate for a fresh start. Nancy’s husband has cheated on her; they sleep in separate bedrooms and their twin sons have been acting out, setting off illegal fireworks. But Hawaii is paradise: they plant an orange tree in the yard; they share a bed once again and Nancy resolves to make a happy life for herself. She starts taking a yoga class and there she meets Ana, the charismatic teacher. Ana has short, black hair, a warm smile, and a hard-won wisdom that resonates deeply within Nancy. They are soon spending all their time together, sharing dinners, relaxing in Ana’s hot tub, driving around Kona in the cute little car Ana helps Nancy buy. As Nancy grows closer and closer to Ana skipping family dinners and leaving the twins to their own devices she feels a happiness and understanding unlike anything she’s ever experienced, and she knows that she will do anything Ana asks of her. A mesmerizing story of friendship and manipulation set against the idyllic tropical world of the Big Island, THE GODDESSES is a stunning psychological novel by one of our most exciting young writers.


About the Author

Author Swan Huntley
Author Swan Huntley

Swan Huntley earned her MFA at Columbia University. She’s received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony and the Ragdale Foundation. She lives in California and Hawaii.

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Gather the Daughters by Jennie Melamed #Review @jennie_melamed @littlebrown

Gather the Daughters cover

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is the story of a group of people living on an isolated island. The story goes that just before the country went up in flames, a small group of men and women brought their families to the island, thus escaping the fate of what would later come to be known as “the wastelands.” The founders formed an entire civilization based around ancestor worship, adhering to the rules set forth by the original inhabitants of the island, such as: limiting the number of children each family is allowed to have, and the declaration that a person may live only so long as they are useful.  Knowledge about the wastelands is practically non-existent, and only an elite group of men known as “the Wanderers” are allowed to go there in order to scavenge for supplies.

The island is a particularly restrictive place for girls. They are simply future wives who will marry and have children. But they are allowed a brief respite from a suffocating life bound by rules (called the “shalt-nots”) when summer arrives. They run wild outdoors, doing whatever they want, every summer… until they reach puberty and their “Summer of Fruition”, which marks their final summer of freedom. When it ends, they will marry and have children of their own.

During the summer, one girl sees something horrific—something that should never have happened on the island—and tells the other girls about it.  This sparks a rebellion led by Janey Solomon, who is determined the uncover the secrets of the island and the wastelands. But on a secluded island bound by generations of traditions and practices that are disturbing (to say the least), will it even matter? And what price will these rebellious girls be forced to pay, in the end?

It’s been over a month since I read this novel and I’ve been struggling with how to review it because I’m conflicted on how I feel about it. So I’m going to do something a little different from my usual review, and focus on the good, the bad, and the ugly. (I’m pretty sure one I saw this approach by one (or more?) of the bloggers I follow, but I’m not sure who it was. Whoever you/they are… thank you for the idea!)

The Good

Simply put, Melamed’s writing is fantastic. Had I been unaware this was her debut novel, I would have assumed she already had a few titles under her belt (or rather, on the shelf). The island society she created is vivid, dark, and disturbing. Every character in the book—major or minor—all have distinct personalities. The different areas of the island and the homes are all described well enough for the reader to easily picture them.

Janey Solomon struck me as a particularly strong character, as well as a tragic one. Each of the four girls whose POVs tell the story are compelling characters, but Janey’s portion of the story, for me, was the most intriguing.

The Bad

After all the build-up about the mystery of the wastelands, we are left with no solid answers, only suspicions. I assumed from the start there would be some sort of twist concerning this mystery, and while it was often heavily hinted at, it never happened. I was extremely disappointed by this.

Another thing that bothered me is that the story ends on a cliffhanger (in my opinion). If it ended this way because a future sequel is in the works, then it’s a good thing—it works as a finale for this portion of the story, and is a great starting point for the next portion. But if this is meant as a stand-alone book, it’s a very bad thing, indeed, because it hinted at a pay-off that wasn’t there. With this sort of ending for a stand-alone novel, even the most brilliantly written book of all time is going to leave me feeling sour once I reach the end.

The Ugly

I’ve previously described this story as dark and disturbing, and with good reason. One of the accepted practices of the island is father-daughter incest. Looking back, I can see that it’s vaguely hinted at in the blurb (“free of their father’s hands”), but it never occurred to me that that’s what it meant. It’s never graphically described, but still…

Final Thoughts

I mostly enjoyed reading this book, but I wasn’t a fan of the lack of resolution regarding the mystery of the island and the cliffhanger ending. That was the deciding factor in the three star rating I’ve given this book.

However… I will definitely be keeping an eye out for Jennie Melamed’s next novel. She’s clearly a fantastic writer, and I’m eager to see what she comes up with next!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Little, Brown and Company via Netgalley.

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Author: Jennie Melamed

Title: Gather the Daughters

Genre: Dystopian

Published: July 25th, 2017 by Little, Brown and Company

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

NEVER LET ME GO meets THE GIVER in this haunting debut about a cult on an isolated island, where nothing is as it seems.

Years ago, just before the country was incinerated to wasteland, ten men and their families colonized an island off the coast. They built a radical society of ancestor worship, controlled breeding, and the strict rationing of knowledge and history. Only the Wanderers–chosen male descendants of the original ten–are allowed to cross to the wastelands, where they scavenge for detritus among the still-smoldering fires.

The daughters of these men are wives-in-training. At the first sign of puberty, they face their Summer of Fruition, a ritualistic season that drags them from adolescence to matrimony. They have children, who have children, and when they are no longer useful, they take their final draught and die. But in the summer, the younger children reign supreme. With the adults indoors and the pubescent in Fruition, the children live wildly–they fight over food and shelter, free of their fathers’ hands and their mothers’ despair. And it is at the end of one summer that little Caitlin Jacob sees something so horrifying, so contradictory to the laws of the island, that she must share it with the others.

Born leader Janey Solomon steps up to seek the truth. At seventeen years old, Janey is so unwilling to become a woman, she is slowly starving herself to death. Trying urgently now to unravel the mysteries of the island and what lies beyond, before her own demise, she attempts to lead an uprising of the girls that may be their undoing.

GATHER THE DAUGHTERS is a smoldering debut; dark and energetic, compulsively readable, Melamed’s novel announces her as an unforgettable new voice in fiction.


About the Author

jennie-melamed
Jennie Melamed
JENNIE MELAMED is a psychiatric nurse practitioner who specializes in working with traumatized children. During her doctoral work at the University of Washington, she investigated anthropological, biological, and cultural aspects of child abuse. Melamed lives in Seattle with her husband and three Shiba Inus.

Liar by K.L. Slater #Review @KimLSlater @bookouture

Liar cover

Since the death of his wife, Ben has relied on help given by his mother, Judi, who cleans his home and cares for her grandsons regularly. All that changes when Ben meets Amber, however. Judi goes from being a constant presence in their lives to someone they occasionally spend time with—and she knows it’s all because of Amber. But why is she doing it, and what can Judi do about it?

Wow, what a book! LIAR kicks off with a bloody bang—someone covered in blood, dead on the floor, and someone else standing over them with a knife… feeling nothing. The end is literally the beginning. It’s not until the (actual) end of the book that we find out who’s who, and what brought on the murder, because the next chapter starts at the beginning of the story.

Amber and Judi are both unlikable characters to some degree, but that isn’t strictly due to their interactions with one another, in Judi’s case. I was annoyed with her sometimes for being a bit too clingy with her son and grandsons, or for being upset at the way things changed in her son’s home after Amber came along—such as the new furniture. It absolutely made sense that Judi would feel that way about it, given the way she was, but it still got on my nerves. (Or maybe I felt that way because Judi had already annoyed me in other ways? Hmm. Probably.) That’s not to say that I didn’t feel sympathetic towards Judi. I did quite often because—whether she was a clingy mother or not—not being allowed to spend time with your loved ones is a hurtful thing, indeed.

Amber struck me as a manipulative woman with an agenda immediately, and I instantly decided there couldn’t possibly be any redeeming factors about her whatsoever. As I slowly learned more about her, however, I had a feeling there was more to Amber than meets the eye.

A lot happens throughout this story, but the last quarter of the book… holy crap! The twists kept on coming, and just when I thought nothing else could happen that would shock me, it did. I was completely blindsided and blown away by a certain event, and scared away at least one life for each of my cats when I yelled “WHAT?!” at the top of my lungs. I had to go back and reread that portion again, because I couldn’t believe what happened. I never saw it coming, and I loved it!

If you’re ready for an insanely addicting psychological thriller that will knock you off your feet, you need look no further than LIAR by K.L. Slater. This fantastic book hooks you from the start and never lets go. Highly recommended!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of Bookouture via Netgalley.

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Author: K.L. Slater

Title: Liar

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Published: June 16th, 2017 by Bookouture

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble


About the Book

How far would you go to protect your family?

Single dad Ben is doing his best to raise his children alone, with the help of his devoted mother Judi. Life isn’t easy, but Judi’s family means everything to her and together, they manage.

Then Ben meets Amber. Everyone thinks this is a perfect match for Ben but Judi isn’t sure … there’s just something about Amber that doesn’t add up.

Ben can’t see why his mother dislikes his new girlfriend. And Amber doesn’t want Judi anywhere near her new family. Amber just wants Ben and the children.

The further Judi delves into Amber’s personal life, the closer she gets to shocking secrets that could change everything. And Judi must make a decision that could lead to the most disastrous consequences.


About the Author

kl_slater
Author K.L. Slater

For many years, Kim sent her work out to literary agents but never made it off the slush pile. At the age of 40 she went back to Nottingham Trent University and now has an MA in Creative Writing.

Before graduating, she received five offers of representation from London literary agents which was, as Kim says, ‘a fairytale … at the end of a very long road!’

Kim is a full-time writer and lives in Nottingham with her husband, Mac.

Author photo and bio via Bookouture.

The Other Girl by Erica Spindler #Review @ericaspindler @StMartinsPress

The Other Girl cover

This is the first Spindler novel I’ve read in a while, and I kicked myself for it repeatedly as I read THE OTHER GIRL. I’ve enjoyed reading other books by this author, so I have no idea why I let myself miss out on so many while I was busy reading other things. I’m going to chalk it up to temporary bookish insanity (defined as neglecting to read books by authors you love to read), brought on (as always) by the distraction of other books. Luckily, all it took was a pre-approved Netgalley widget from St. Martin’s Press to cure me of this terrible condition, and I’m eternally grateful!

All joking aside, I’m glad I didn’t miss out on reading this one. I’m really loving crime thrillers lately, and this one is especially good. Miranda “Randi” Rader has a rich back story that is crucial to the entirety of the story. She is a “bad” girl gone good… as a teenager, she was a juvenile delinquent from the wrong side of the tracks, a known liar up to no good. Her life changed after the night she was held against her will—along with another girl—and managed to escape to find help that never came because no one would believe her. This was the turning point in Miranda’s life, culminating in her becoming a detective in the Harmony, Louisiana Police Department. During the investigation of two murders, Miranda realizes that—despite having changed her life and becoming a respected officer and person in the community—the specter of “Randi” Rader still loomed large enough to cast doubt on her integrity as an officer when evidence found at the crime scenes appears to tie her to the victims of both murders.

I love it when a character has to prove they’re not the person they used to be, so I enjoyed seeing Miranda fight her way through the ghosts of her past. The sub-plot of the story, having to do with Miranda’s relationship with her family, was as good as the main plot. There were times I wished that aspect of her life was explored in more detail, even though it wasn’t the main story, because it was so fascinating to read. Equally compelling were the scenes with Jake, her partner, both on and off the job.

All the characters in this novel—both major and minor—are well written and easily pictured in the mind’s eye as you read. I found myself wanting to know more about all of them, no matter how minor a character they were, because they were all so interesting. In many books, minor characters are easily forgettable once their small role in the story is complete, but that’s certainly not the case here, in my opinion.

I was able to figure out the murderer’s identity, but it wasn’t easily done. Spindler made use of subtle misdirection that cast doubt on my suspect-of-choice many times, and it wasn’t until I’d almost reached the big reveal that I felt certain I’d figured it out. For this reason, I didn’t let it affect my rating… THE OTHER GIRL definitely earned every one of the four stars I’ve given it!

If you’re a Spindler fan currently suffering from temporary bookish insanity, or a fan of crime thrillers who hasn’t yet had the pleasure of reading one of her books, I highly recommend that you read THE OTHER GIRL. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did!

I received an advance review copy of this book courtesy of St. Martin’s Press via Netgalley.

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Author: Erica Spindler

Title: The Other Girl

Genre: Crime Thriller

Publication Date: August 22nd, 2017 by St. Martin’s Press

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Purchase Links

Amazon | Barnes & Noble |Book Depository


About the Book

From the New York Times bestselling author of Justice for Sara and The First Wife Erica Spindler comes The Other Girl, a chilling new thriller about a ritualistic murder of a college professor that sends a small town cop back into the trauma she thought she’d put behind her.

A horrific crime. One witness—a fifteen year old girl from the wrong side of the tracks, one known for lying and her own brushes with the law.
Is it any surprise no one believed her?

Officer Miranda Rader of the Harmony, Louisiana PD is known for her honesty, integrity, and steady hand in a crisis—but that wasn’t always so. Miranda comes from the town of Jasper, a place about the size of a good spit on a hot day, and her side of the tracks was the wrong one. She’s worked hard to earn the respect of her coworkers and the community.

When Miranda and her partner are called to investigate the murder of one of the town’s most beloved college professors, they’re unprepared for the brutality of the scene. This murder is unlike any they’ve ever investigated, and just when Miranda thinks she’s seen the worst of it, she finds a piece of evidence that chills her to the core: a faded newspaper clipping about that terrible night fifteen years ago. The night she’d buried, along with her past and the girl she’d been back then. Until now that grave had stayed sealed…except for those times, in the deepest part of the night, when the nightmares came: of a crime no one believed happened and the screams of the girl they believed didn’t exist.

Then another man turns up dead, this one a retired cop. Not just any cop—the one who took her statement that night. Two murders, two very different men, two killings that on the surface had nothing in common—except Miranda.


About the Author

Author Erica Spindler
Author Erica Spindler

A New York Times and International bestselling author, Erica Spindler’s skill for crafting engrossing plots and compelling characters has earned both critical praise and legions of fans. Her stories have been lauded as “thrill-packed page turners, white- knuckle rides and edge-of-your-seat whodunits.”

Erica loves meeting and interacting with her fans, both in person and online. She has a wicked sense of humor, an optimistic spirit and loves coffee, chocolate and red wine, not necessarily in that order.

In 2002 her novel Bone Cold won the prestigious Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence. A Romance Writers of America Honor Roll member, she received a Kiss of Death Award for her novels Forbidden Fruit and Dead Run and was a four-time RITA® Award finalist. In 1999 Publishers Weekly awarded the audio version of her novel Shocking Pink a Listen Up Award, naming it one of the best audio mystery books of 1998.

Erica lives just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, with her husband and two sons.

Author photo and bio via Goodreads.