Lies Like Poison, By Chelsea Pitcher ~ 4.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: November 10th, 2020

304 Pages

Synopsis: Poppy, Lily, and Belladonna would do anything to protect their best friend, Raven. So when they discovered he was suffering abuse at the hands of his stepmother, they came up with a lethal plan: petals of poppy, belladonna, and lily in her evening tea so she’d never be able to hurt Raven again. But someone got cold feet, the plot faded to a secret of the past, and the group fell apart.

Three years later, on the eve of Raven’s birthday, his stepmother turns up dead. But it’s only belladonna found in her tea, and it’s only Belladonna who’s carted off to jail. Desperate for help, Belle reaches out to her estranged friends to prove her innocence. They answer the call, but no one is prepared for what comes next.

Now everyone has something to lose, and something equally dangerous to hide. And when the tangled web of secrets and betrayal is finally unwound, what lies at its heart will change the group forever.

I have to be honest and say that I’ve been waffling on how to rate and review Lies Like Poison. There is no doubt that Chelsea Pitcher’s writing style is beautifully lyrical which completely enthralled me. However, I did find a few weaknesses which detracted from the story.

The story is told from the perspectives of Belladonna, Poppy/Jack, and Lily. They all have secrets they’re keeping from each other and Raven, and their unreliability kept me me on my toes for a good portion of the book as to what actually happened the day Raven’s stepmother died. There’s also the mystery of who killed Raven’s mother and both wind up becoming intertwined. 

The characters are diverse and interesting. Raven is black, fragile, and very sweet, and it’s heartbreaking what he’s suffered. Two of the girls are in a romantic relationship, which I didn’t really by into at first, but as more of their backstories are revealed, I understood their connection more. But I was especially interested in Poppy/Jack who in addition to dealing with the murder, is also coming to terms with how being trans will effect his relationship with Raven. I absolutely loved his relationship with Raven, and that wound up being my favorite part of the book.

Adults do not come across well in this tale. Even the one parent who I initially liked and was sympathetic to, let me down in the end. I really don’t like books that use this one dimensional type of character development as it never seems plausible to me.

The story itself starts out a little slow, but soon gathers speed. There aren’t many shocking surprises except for one twist near the somewhat too-neat ending, but what saves this from being a ho-hum story is Pitcher’s evocative and poetic writing.

After mulling it over, I’m giving Lies Like Poison 4 Stars instead of the 3 to 3 1/2 stars which was my original intent. Despite its flaws, this contemporary murder mystery, with dark fairytale themes, turned out to be quite memorable, as did its main characters, which makes it a success for me.

Invisible Girl, By Lisa Jewell ~ 4.5 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: Available Now

368 Pages

Synopsis: Owen Pick’s life is falling apart.
In his thirties, a virgin, and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a geography teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct, which he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel—involuntary celibate—forums, where he meets the charismatic, mysterious, and sinister Bryn.

Across the street from Owen live the Fours family, headed by mom, Cate a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection to him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then on Valentine’s night, Saffyre Maddox disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

With evocative, vivid, and unputdownable prose and plenty of disturbing twists and turns, Jewell’s latest thriller is another “haunting, atmospheric, stay-up-way-too-late, read.” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author).

Lisa Jewell is one of my go-to authors for exciting thrillers/mysteries, and she has never let me down. Her latest, Invisible Girl will undoubtedly will further cement her well-deserved reputation as wonderful writer of both character and plot-driven novels.

The story is told from the POVs of Cate, Owen, and Saffyre. Cate I thought was the weakest and found her to be much too easily manipulated. Owen and Saffyre however wonderfully complex characters and their chapters kept me riveted. As for the mystery, well, there are really two: what happened to Saffyre, and who has been sexually assaulting women and young girls in the area. I refuse to give any spoilers, but let me say that all is not as it seems. Just when I thought I had things figured out—BAM—another twist would come that turned everything upside down. Even the ending which at first seems to bring everything to a fitting conclusion, takes a sudden final twist in the last couple of pages.

I swear, at the end of every one of Jewell’s books I think to myself “THAT was her best book yet!” Well, Invisible Girl has done it again. This will definitely please her legions of fans, and most definitely attract new ones. I HIGHLY recommend it for readers who love complicated characters and twisty plots that keep you guessing. 

Rebel Rose (Queen’s Council #1), Emma Theriault ~ 4.0 Stars

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Thanks to NetGalley and Disney-Hyperion for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Release Date: November 10th, 2020

352 Pages

Synopsis: Happily ever after is only the beginning as Belle takes on the responsibility of becoming queen and learns to balance duty, love, and sacrifice, all while navigating dark political intrigue—and a touch of magic.

It’s 1789 and France is on the brink of revolution. Belle has finally broken the Enchantress’s curse, restoring the Beast to his human form and bringing life back to their castle in the province of Aveyon. But in Paris, the fires of change are burning, and it’s only a matter of time before the rebellion arrives on their doorstep.

Not so very long ago, Belle dreamed of leaving her provincial home for a life of adventure. But now she finds herself living in a palace, torn between her past as a commoner, and her future as royalty. While Belle grapples with her newfound position, there are those who do anything to keep her from power.

When she stumbles upon a magic mirror that holds a dire warning, Belle wants nothing more than to ignore the mysterious voice calling her to accept a crown she never desired. But violent factions of the revolution may already be lurking within her own castle, and doing nothing would endanger everything she hold dear. With the fate of her country, her love, and her life at stake, Belle must decide if she’s ready to embrace her own strength—and the magic that ties her to so many female rulers before her—to become the queen she is meant to be.

Rebel Rose is the first in the Queen’s Council series, an empowering fairytale reimagining of the Disney Princesses—and the real history behind their stories—like you’ve never seen before.

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It’s probably not a big surprise to you why Rebel Rose would appeal to me. First, there’s that gorgeous cover, and then of course, the continuation of Belle and the Beast’s (here known as Lio), story. Except for a couple of hiccups, I quite enjoyed it.

Surprisingly, the biggest issue I had was with Belle. For the first half she was almost unrecognizable as the character I’m more familiar with. Instead of the self-assured, intelligent Belle, this one was timid and full of self-doubt. She was also annoyingly unsure of what she should be doing in her new role. She obsesses too much over the title of Queen, and lets that get in the way of truly helping her people. Thankfully, in the latter half of the book, she begins to realize the power she holds if she’ll only accept it.

Lio, is very relatable, suffering from severe PTSD after being the Beast for ten long years. Adding to his torment is trying to ensure that the small kingdom of Aveyon isn’t dragged into the violent, political upheaval that France is devolving into. Unfortunately he’s sent off on a diplomatic mission early in the book which I understand is necessary to the plot, yet I found myself missing him and his interactions with Belle. They definitely bring out the best parts of each other.

The villain’s identity is known from nearly the beginning, yet his motivations are somewhat murky even at the end. As for the secondary characters, old favorites such as Mrs Potts, Chip, Cogsworth, Lumière and LeFou make a welcome return, as well as the mysterious Enchantress, who cast the original curse. I especially enjoyed the scenes with Mrs. Potts, whose sage advice was instrumental in encouraging Belle to embrace her role as Queen.

Overall, Rebel Rose is a wonderful start to the Queen’s Council series. It takes the beloved fairytale, skillfully adds in the backdrop of the beginning of the French Revolution, and introduces a few new characters who mingle perfectly and assist Belle and Lio on their destined path. There aren’t many details on forthcoming books in the series, but I’m looking forward to seeing where this leads.

The Old Burying Ground

A beautiful post from Jennie that illustrates the fascinating aspects of cemeteries.

A Teacher's Reflections

I love history.  It’s the stories, and understanding life way back when, that is deeply important – to me.  When those lives are on hallowed ground, in the beauty of fall, history comes alive.

Groton’s Old Burying Ground is simply wonderful.  My school had a fundraiser, a scavenger hunt throughout the town today.  I volunteered at the Old Burying Ground.  First, let me show you how beautiful it was today:

Groton’s first settlers chose the corner of Hollis and School Street for their second Meeting House in 1678.  While the location of the church was changed in 1714, the Old Burial Ground remained at the original site and was the sole public place of burial in the town until 1847.

The most important part, of course, are the headstones.  When we first moved to Massachusetts in 1984, I visited the old cemetery.  I was shocked at what I saw –…

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Halloween Harmonies

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Every Breath You Take, by The Police, has always struck me as being disturbingly stalkerish, and I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. So, being the diabolical person that I am, I thought what a perfect time of year to revisit this 80s classic. The first video is the original 1983 song performed by Sting and The Police. The second is a brilliant 2015 lyric video from Christian Venturina, of Chase Holfelder’s dark cover. And the third video is from the 2017 Halloween episode of Dancing With the Stars where Frankie Muniz and Witney Carson gave it a further memorable spin.