Book Review: Just Get Home by Bridget Foley @HarlequinBooks

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Title: Just Get Home
Author: Bridget Foley
Publisher: MIRA
Publication Date: April 13, 2021
Genre: Thriller, Post-Disaster Fiction

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Purchase Links:
Barnes & Noble  // Kobo // iTunes // Amazon
Google // Indiebound // Harlequin
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Just Get Home
Bridget Foley
MIRA, April 2021
ISBN 978-0-7783-3159-9
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

When the Big One earthquake hits LA, a single mother and a teen in the foster system are brought together by their circumstances and an act of violence in order to survive the wrecked streets of the city, working together to just get home.

Dessa, a single mom, is enjoying a rare night out when a devastating earthquake strikes. Roads and overpasses crumble, cell towers are out everywhere, and now she must cross the ruined city to get back to her three-year-old daughter, not even knowing whether she’s dead or alive. Danger in the streets escalates, as looting and lawlessness erupts. When she witnesses a moment of violence but isn’t able to intervene, it nearly puts Dessa over the edge.

Fate throws Dessa a curveball when the victim of the crime—a smart-talking 15-year-old foster kid named Beegie—shows up again in the role of savior, linking the pair together. Beegie is a troubled teen with a relentless sense of humor and resilient spirit that enables them both to survive. Both women learn to rely on each other in ways they never imagined possible, to permit vulnerability and embrace the truth of their own lives.

A propulsive page-turner grounded by unforgettable characters and a deep emotional core, JUST GET HOME will strike a chord with mainstream thriller readers for its legitimately heart-pounding action scenes, and with book club audiences looking for weighty, challenging content.

Minutes, days, perhaps weeks after a major earthquake hits, every survivor’s story becomes a journey of one kind or another, a journey to get to a specific place or people. In Just Get home, we meet a teenager and an older woman who agree to help each other. They have nothing in common, really, other than a need to not be alone in this effort. If anything, the two don’t even share a goal; Dessa wants only to get home to her young child while Beegie has no true home and no one who really cares whether she lives or dies.

Dessa and Beegie are brought together randomly by, first, a vicious crime and then by another, circumstances that are not surprising following such a sudden disaster. As we all know, fear and uncertainty evoke the worst kind of behavior as well as acts of kindness and it’s the latter that initially create the bond between two such different women. Watching their connection grow during their struggles is a thing of emotional satisfaction and becomes the heart of Ms. Foley’s compelling tale.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2020.

An Excerpt from Just Get Home

Prologue

Assist the client in gathering possessions.

Beegie saw it written on a sheet Karen had in her folder. An unticked box next to it.

She knew what it meant. Stuff.

But it was the other meaning that soothed her.

The darker meaning. Possessions.

That was the one she worked over and over in her head.

Beegie imagined her case worker holding up a grey little girl, face obscured by black hair and asking, “This one yours?”  Beegie would nod. Yes, that’s my monster. Together they would shove one snarling, demon-filled person after another into the garbage bags they had been given to pack her things. Soon the bags would fill, growing translucent with strain. When they were done, she and Karen would have to push down on the snapping, bloody faces of Beegie’s possessions so they could close the back of the Prius.

But Karen’s box remained unticked. She didn’t get to help collect Beegie’s possessions, real or unreal, because Beegie’s stuff was already on the street when she got home.

Two garbarge bags filled with nothing special. Her advocate standing next to them with her folder and its helpful advice for what to do when a foster gets kicked out of her home.

Nothing special.

Just almost everything Beegie owned in the world.

Almost but not all.

Whatever.

After Karen dropped her off and Barb had shown her “Her New Home” and given her the rundown on “The Way It Works Here,” Beegie unpacked her possessions into a bureau that the girl who’d lived there before her had made empty, but not clean.

The bottoms of the drawers were covered in spilled glitter. Pink and gold. Beegie had pressed the tips of her fingers into the wood to pull it up, making disco balls of her hands.

But she failed to get it all.

Months later, she would find stray squares of this other girl’s glitter on her clothes. They would catch the light, drawing her back to the moment when she’d finally given up on getting the bureau any cleaner and started to unpack the garbage bags.

There had been things missing.

That Beegie had expected.

But what she had not expected was to find two other neatly folded garbage bags. These were the ones she had used to move her stuff from Janelle’s to the Greely’s. She had kept them, even though back then Mrs. Greely was all smiles and Eric seemed nice, and even Rooster would let her pet him.

Beegie had kept the bags because she’d been around long enough to know that sometimes it doesn’t work out.

In fact, most times it doesn’t work out.

And you need a bag to put your stuff in and you don’t want to have to ask the person who doesn’t want you to live with them anymore to give you one.

But when Mrs. Greely had gathered Beegie’s possessions, she had seen those bags and thought that they were important to Beegie. It made sense to her former foster mother that a “garbage girl” would treasure a garbage bag.

This got Beegie thinking about stuff. The problem of it. The need for things to hold your other things. Things to fix your things. Things to make your things play.

And a place to keep it all.

In Beegie’s brain the problem of possessions multiplied, until she imagined it like a landfill. Things to hold things to hold things, all of it covered with flies, seagulls swooping.

Everything she ever owned was trash or one day would be.

Seeing things this way helped. It made her mind less about the things that hadn’t been in the bag… and other things.

Beegie picked at ownership like a scab, working her way around the edges, flaking it off a bit at a time. Ridding herself of the brown crust of caring.

Because if you care about something it has power over you.

Caring can give someone else the ability to control you and the only real way to own yourself was let go.

So she did.

Or she tried.

Some things Beegie couldn’t quite shed. The want of them stuck to her like the glitter. The pain of their loss catching the light on her sleeves, flashing from the hem of her jeans. The want would wait on her body until it attracted her attention and then eluded the grasping edges of her fingers.

Excerpted from Just Get Home by Bridget Foley, Copyright © 2021 by Bridget Foley. Published by MIRA Books.

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About the Author

Originally from Colorado, Bridget Foley attended NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and UCLA’s School of Theater, Film & Television. She worked as an actor and screenwriter before becoming a novelist. She now lives a fiercely creative life with her family in Boise, Idaho.

Find the author:

Website // Goodreads // Instagram

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**A copy of this book was provided by the publisher
via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.**

Book Review: The Comeback by Ella Berman @ellabee @BerkleyPub

The Comeback
Ella Berman
Berkley, August 2020
ISBN 978-0-593-09951-3
Hardcover

Teen actress Grace Turner was only fourteen when she was discovered by director Able Yorke. With her parents and younger sister Esme she moves to Los Angeles from England, where she appears in a television series and films. When she is nominated for a Golden Globe for “Lights of Berlin,” she drops out of sight.

The Comeback begins as Grace emerges from her exile. She has been living with her parents, in a nondescript suburban neighborhood, and her sister, who has been suspended from her school for sexting. Her mother was a modestly successful model back in England and now watches the Kardashians on television and swallows diet pills.   Grace has been asked to present a Lifetime Achievement Award to Able Yorke, and she has difficulty coming to terms with her feelings for him. He has controlled every aspect of her life for eight years.

Grace rents a house across from Able Yorke, watches his wife and children, and obsesses about what she will say to him when they meet again. There are many echoes of the Harvey Weinstein case woven through this book. In the end, Grace believes there are many ways to get hurt, but you can still fight back. A well-written and disturbing look at how young women are treated in the entertainment industry.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, January 2021.

Book Review: Riley by Paul Martin Midden

Riley
Paul Martin Midden
Whitmann Blair Publishing, February 2020
ISBN: 978-0-9859223-8-2
Trade Paperback

This is a novel about relationships, as are most novels. Riley follows that pattern, but at much more nuanced depth. It is a deep, carefully constructed story about the title character, Riley, a writer, and several of her relationships. What sets this novel apart is the circumstance of the story and the unusual dimensions. Here is a narrative that exists on more than one level.

Riley is a novelist, living in Washington, D.C. and separated from her husband whom she is about to divorce. As she adjusts to her single life and pursues the story line in writing her second novel, she discovers parallels to her own circumstances, some of which are supporting, others disturbing, in the life of her novel’s principal character. At times she seems unsure whether she is dealing with her own circumstances or those of Suzanne, her novel’s protagonist.

After a sudden, out-of-character erotic encounter, Riley feels perplexed and seeks counseling from friends and from professionals. Readers are thus positioned on multiple bluffs following many characters in often deep and penetrating development of character and relationships.

The web of this novel is multi-layered and rife with a complex blend of life and fantasy. Authors will recognize sometimes fraught circumstances as they struggle to sort out the fictional lives of their characters from the realities of life. The judicious progress of many relationships in the story are testimony to the care with which this narrative is constructed. In every chapter, step by inexorable step, readers will be drawn to follow, not just Riley’s journey, but those of other characters as well.

Nicely written, the multiple plots are all well dealt with and the several conclusions are satisfying. In sum, here is a well-designed complicated canvas of several problematic intersecting lives.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, June 2020.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Review: Weycombe by G.M. Malliet @GMMalliet @midnightinkbook

Weycombe
A Novel of Suspense
G.M. Malliet
Midnight Ink, October 2017
ISBN 978-0-7387-5426-0
Hardcover

Weycombe is a novel of psychological suspense.  In it, Jillian, an American, who worked for the BBC in London until she was laid off (“made redundant” in British- speak) married a minor nobleman and moved to the tony gated village of Weycombe, is frustrated with her marriage, fearing that her husband no longer loves her.  When the village real estate agent, Jillian’s neighbor, is murdered Jillian decides to investigate in order to help the police who, by the way, are not especially interested in her help.  Then a shopkeeper is also murdered, and Jillian intensifies her efforts as do the police.  But clues are few and the police investigation is stalled.  Jillian, however, begins to suspect that her husband might be involved.

As Jillian talks to the various women in her neighborhood circle hoping something someone knows will help to discover the murderer, the police investigation seems to be going nowhere. Jillian reviews her list of suspects and the clues she has found but seems to be no further along than the police.

Weycombe is a fascinating novel of psychological suspense though some might be annoyed by long descriptions of events that deserve only a brief mention.  Readers with a great deal of experience with mystery novels will likely deduce the murderer’s identity; however, the author has planted clues throughout the book that will likely keep even the most skeptical reader at least interested in finishing it.  I enjoyed Weycombe very much and recommend it.

Reviewed by Melinda Drew, December 2019.

Book Review: Girl Unknown by Karen Perry

Girl Unknown
Karen Perry
Henry Holt and Co., February 2018
ISBN 978-0-8050-9874-7
Hardcover

In this story of a girl who tears apart the lives of all the members of a family, author Karen Perry (actually two authors Paul Perry, Karen Gillece) shows how assumptions and lies affect the most basic relationships. David Connolly, a professor at an Irish university, his wife Caroline, and their two children, teenager Robbie and eleven year old Holly, are getting along as well as any family. There was a rough patch the previous year, when Caroline was on the verge of an affair, but she pulled back, and family life is getting back to normal.

After class one day David is approached by a freshman student, a frail and beautiful young woman by the name of Zoe. With her masses of white blonde curls, she seems otherworldly, and David can’t believe his ears when she tells him “I think you might be my father.”

David had an affair with Zoe’s mother Linda while he was in graduate school, before he married Caroline, and Linda never contacted him to say she was pregnant. Zoe offers to mail in a DNA test, and David meets with her at a local pub to talk it over. Zoe shows him the positive results, and after he tells Caroline about Zoe, the recriminations begin. Zoe claims Caroline insulted her, and physically assaulted her. Zoe says that her stepfather threw her out and she is destitute, but when David visits the stepfather, he discovers that Zoe had been given up for adoption, had only appeared in her birth mother’s life the year before she died, and had been left money for her studies. When confronted, Zoe claimed the check bounced.

The reader wonders why David and Caroline didn’t check out her story more, and when they did, they didn’t act on it. They allowed her to live with them even though she had been proved to be a liar. She manipulated them, and their friend Chris, an older man who was taken in by Zoe’s lies. The tragic and somewhat surprising conclusion could have been avoided had they been more vigilant. But they vetted Zoe less than they would a minimum wage worker. The story is told from the viewpoints of David and Caroline, in alternate chapters. Readers who enjoy psychological suspense, like Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or Jodi Picoult may enjoy the shifting realities of this book. Perry is the  author of The Innocent Sleep and other books.

Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2018.

Book Review: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Lying in Wait
Liz Nugent
Gallery/Scout Press, June 2018
ISBN 978-1-5011-6777-5
Hardcover

A fast-paced, unsettling story of murder and psychosis in Dublin, Ireland. From the first sentence we know that the distinguished jurist Andrew Fitzsimmons killed Annie Doyle. Why we don’t find out for much of the book but we begin to see how the event affected the respective families right away. Andrew Fitzsimmons is overwhelmed with guilt and remorse, his wife Lydia around whom everyone else revolves blames Annie for the entire situation, and their coddled son Laurence just knows something is badly wrong with his parents. The Doyles are distraught with the disappearance of their problematic daughter and even more so when the police investigation uncovers drug use and prostitution in Annie’s recent past. Annie had already disappointed them by becoming pregnant out of wedlock a few years earlier, and her strict father committed her to one of the famous Irish baby homes. When Annie came home after two years, she was indelibly changed.

The book begins in 1980 with the murder and ends in 2016 with a stunning resolution. Each chapter is told from the perspective of Lydia, Laurence, or Karen, Annie’s sister. Karen in particular is a sympathetic character whose life is devastated by the disappearance of her sister. Lydia seems to be self-centered and possessive at the start, perhaps to be expected of an only child from a wealthy family, and then the gaps in her empathy with anyone she encounters including her husband begin to point to something much more serious. The person most affected is her son Laurence, upon whom she focuses all of attention.

The other characters – Judge Fitzsimmons, his mother and brother, the Doyle parents, the police, Laurence’s coworkers and girlfriends – are all filtered through the lens of Karen, Lydia, and Laurence but because the narrator is so clearly defined it is easy to sort through the narrator’s perceptions to understand what these other people are thinking and feeling. The girls attracted to Laurence, a sheltered, obese teen when the book opens, are an interesting reflection of his own internal state and his maturation process.

A fascinating and troubling book. Starred reviews from Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist.

Reviewed by Aubrey Hamilton, May 2018.

Book Review: The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

The Breakdown
B. A. Paris
St. Martin’s Press, July 2017
ISBN 978-1-250-12246-9
Hardcover

From the publisher—

If you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

Cass is having a hard time since the night she saw the car in the woods, on the winding rural road, in the middle of a downpour, with the woman sitting inside―the woman who was killed. She’s been trying to put the crime out of her mind; what could she have done, really? It’s a dangerous road to be on in the middle of a storm. Her husband would be furious if he knew she’d broken her promise not to take that shortcut home. And she probably would only have been hurt herself if she’d stopped.

But since then, she’s been forgetting every little thing: where she left the car, if she took her pills, the alarm code, why she ordered a pram when she doesn’t have a baby.

The only thing she can’t forget is that woman, the woman she might have saved, and the terrible nagging guilt.

Or the silent calls she’s receiving, or the feeling that someone’s watching her…

It used to be that when a book was labeled as a thriller, I knew exactly what I was about to read, a pulse-pounding story full of action and with danger chomping at the heels of the good guys at every turn but without a lot of introspection. Short chapters and a frenetic pace would keep me flipping the pages as fast as I could. Nowadays, though, the term has become so loosey-goosey that it means almost nothing and I have to wonder what I’m going to get.

The Breakdown is not a thriller but it can fairly be called suspense. Yes, there is a sense of danger but we also spend a lot of time in the protagonist’s head (amplified by the first person present tense narration) trying to figure out what’s going on, stressing out over every little thing, suffering guilt over whether she might have been able to prevent the murder and obsessing over the possibility she has started early onset dementia. That last is frightening all by itself and made me feel very uneasy for Cass but it was hard to relate it to the core mystery of the story until certain things started to become pretty obvious.

I have mixed feelings about this book because, while I found it too predictable and I really don’t like first person present tense in crime fiction, I still enjoyed it enough to keep reading. I was relatively sure early in the story what was happening but I wanted to see how Ms. Paris would get me there because she has such a command of words, a nice turn of phrase, if you will, that the simple act of reading her work is a pleasure.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, July 2017.