A compulsive, tenacious, and unexpectedly hopeful thriller set in a Midwestern strip club, told by New York Times best-selling author Marie Rutkoski in the spirit of Gillian Flynn and Tana French.
It’s 1999, and Samantha has danced for years at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s not used to taking anyone under her wing – after all, between her disapproving boyfriend and his daughter, who may as well be her own child, she has enough to worry about. But when Samantha overrides her better judgment to drive a new dancer home, they are run off the road. The police arrive at the scene of the accident – but find only one body.
Georgia, another dancer, is drawn into the investigation as she tries to assist Holly, a Harvard-educated detective with a complicated story of her own. As the point of view shifts from police officers and detectives to club patrons and children, the women round up a list of suspects, all the while grappling with their own understandings of loss and love.
Drawing on her personal experiences as well as interviews with police, Rutkoski immerses us in a subculture that is all too often reduced to cliché. Gripping, deeply feminist, and character-driven, Real Easy spellbinds us and gets to the heart of this timeless question: How do women live out their lives knowing that men can hurt them?
A Macmillan Audio production from Henry Holt and Company.
(Includes a bonus conversation between the author and narrator.)
Wow, when I step outside my normal genres, I go WAY out. This audiobook on NetGalley caught my attention—and once I started listening—kept listening.
It’s 1999 and the reader is introduced to Samantha, a veteran dancer at the Lovely Lady strip club. She’s been there long enough to have the best stage, the following, and the income that comes with experience and being very good at what she does. She lives with her boyfriend and his daughter but she appears to be closer to the daughter than the disapproving and abusive boyfriend.
A new dancer is hired, and as dancers come and go, she is extremely naïve, inexperienced and not the brightest. Samantha provides some mentoring and volunteers to drive her home but neither reach home that night. That’s unfortunate as the reader is just beginning to develop empathy and engagement with her.
The reader is gradually introduced to the entertainers, the employees, and the boss, with a few backgrounds providing the explanation for the how and why they became sex workers. The owner has enforced a number of rules, but the patrons are there to drink and satisfy some carnal urges providing various *ugh* moments. Any violence happens off page and left to the reader’s imagination.
Upon the discovery of the body of the newbie, police become involved in the investigation and the other side of society now views the strip club, the dancers, and the patrons with a jaundiced, somewhat crude eye. The newbie isn’t the first and won’t be the last.
It’s a character-driven narrative as seen through the eyes of the women and the community that supports or protects the trade. The women are drawn with individual goals, stories. This is a world of the salacious underbelly of fringe society and one where most of us are ignorant. It’s dark and atmospheric and a far cry from the sex entertainment trade movies that produce a rather starry-eyed version with happy endings.
While I suspected the perp, was disappointed in the reveal and the slight let-down of the conclusion. Otherwise, I found the audiobook to be engaging and entertaining. It is well paced with little filler and moves the storyline well, producing more than one or two heart-pumping moments. An unusual premise, plot, and unique characters. Looking for something different? This is out now.
I received a complimentary audiobook review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.
Rosepoint Rating: Four point Five Stars
The Author: Marie Rutkoski is the New York Times bestselling author of several books for children and young adults, including THE HOLLOW HEART (September 14, 2021). Her debut for adults, REAL EASY (January 18, 2022), is a literary crime novel.
Born in Illinois, Marie holds degrees from the University of Iowa and Harvard University. She is currently a professor at Brooklyn College and lives in Brooklyn with her family.
(photo credit: Beowulf Sheehan)
©2022 V Williams
Born into slavery, Henry’s young life is spent working in tobacco drying sheds on Missouri plantations. Freed at the onset of the Civil War, he’s alone, starving, and on the run from Confederate militiamen.
Five years later, Clara Hanfield, the daughter of a powerful New York shipping magnate, escapes her tyrannical father and travels west in pursuit of John Elliot, the man she loves. John, a U.S. Army lieutenant, was sent to the Dakota Territory where he discovers a government conspiracy to incite an all-out war with the Indians; a war meant to finally eliminate them as an obstacle to the westward expansion.
Henry finds himself caught in the middle.
Aided by Clara, John, and his native ally, Standing Elk, Henry must battle hatred, greed, and the ghosts of his past during this turbulent and troubling time in American history.
Being awarded your freedom papers did not make you free! Marauders often caught young freed slaves, destroyed their papers and sold them back into slavery. The culprits were depraved and vicious in the treatment of the liberated.
Henry is born into slavery but given his freedom by his former master. He is not illiterate and some of his crimes include being able to read and write. His childhood sweetheart is attempting to escape with him but is caught and ultimately killed by the marauders. Heartbroken, Henry continues to head north in an attempt to escape their net.
The Native Americans of the Dakota territories are portrayed much more humane and sympathetic than the post Civil War population of middle America. Henry’s life is saved by these people and ultimately learns their language and ways of life. He becomes a scout for the US Army because of his ability to liaison and speak many languages.
Clara Hanfield and John Elliot, are a young couple in love trying to create a life together in the wild west. He has been shipped off, however, by Clara’s father from the military academy at West Point to Fort Laramie. Money and power have always separated lovers as well as the classes. Clara’s father is despotic and determined that his daughter not continue a relationship with John and seeks to destroy the relationship. Her father tries to send her to Pennsylvania. She convinces her escort instead to take her to out west to find John.
Eventually, all paths cross and John takes a sympathetic tack for the Indians he has comes to respect. Henry is intelligent and educated and is immensely empathetic. The storyline is immersive, capturing the emotions and ramping up the tension to the heartrending and poignant conclusion.
We received this beautiful book from the author with the expectation of a review and these are my own opinions. I would read another by this author and this one is highly recommended. 5/5 Stars CE Williams
Genre: Historical Fiction, African Historical Fiction, War and Military Action Historical Fiction
Print Length: 269 pages
Publication Date: April 29, 2019
Source: Direct Author Request
Title Link: In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree
Rosepoint Publishing: Five of Five Stars
The Author: Michael‘s love of books began with Beverly Cleary’s The Mouse and the Motorcycle when he was seven-years-old. Later influenced by the works of John Steinbeck, Harper Lee, Stephen King, James Baldwin, and Cormac McCarthy, Michael developed his style of storytelling. A self-proclaimed blue-collar writer, he draws on his experiences and observations to bring relevant and compelling topics to life.
Michael lives in Northern California and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found wandering around the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges.
His body of work includes the 2014 novel After and Again, the 2015 novel American Flowers, and the 2017 novel, In the Shadow of the Hanging Tree, as well as various shorts and essays.
©2020 CE Williams – V Williams
Susan Wilson, the best-selling author of One Good Dog, delivers another powerful audiobook of loyalty and love.
Single mom Skye Mitchell has sunk her last dime into a dream, owning the venerable, if run-down, LakeView Hotel in the Berkshire Hills. It’s here where she believes she’ll give her 14-year-old daughter, Cody, a better life. But being an innkeeper is more challenging than she imagined, and Cody still manages to fall in with the wrong crowd. In addition, Cody is keeping an earth-shattering secret that she’s terrified to reveal. The once loving, open girl has now become completely withdrawn, and Skye is both desperate and helpless to reach her.
When Adam March and his pit bull, Chance, check in to the hotel, it becomes the first of many visits. Here in these peaceful mountains he finds an unexpected relief from his recent bereavement. He and the beleaguered innkeeper form a tentative friendship. Adam knows the struggles of raising a difficult teenager, and Skye understands loneliness.
And then there is Mingo, a street kid with a pit bull dog of his own. When Cody discovers an overdosed Mingo, Adam takes the boy’s dog not just for safekeeping but to foster and then rehome. But the dog isn’t the only one who needs saving. A makeshift family begins to form as four lost people learn to trust and rely on each other, with the help of two good dogs.
Okay, busted! Here I am with another doggie book, and what an exceptionally fine book it was. Of course, I was able to secure the audiobook, which places you square in the middle of the characters, the scene, and the joyous relationship with the dogs.
Skye Mitchell is escaping her own tragedies and thinking she’d offer herself and her daughter a whole new, hopefully peaceful, life, she purchased the LakeView Hotel and moved. But Cody is fourteen, a typical sullen, uncommunicative teen lost in her own world turned upside down and now with no familiar school or friends. But in addition, Cody knows something her mother would never suspect and which Cody is desperate to conceal.
Adam March recently lost his wife and the life he’d known, his job losing its previous overwhelming focus, and the only thing keeping him in touch with the here and now is his pit bull, Chance, a rescue. Chance is intuitive, sympathetic, and has a POV of his own–one you swear is visible in his eyes. He often imparts just the touch of grounding that prevents Adam from being inconsolable.
And Mingo, a street kid, left to his own, and his own hasn’t been easy. He’s found the wrong gang, the drugs, and the activities to pay for the habit. But one activity has gone too far for him and there is a depth to Mingo that his homeboys has failed to perceive. He has adopted a pit bull of his own–one he saved despite the odds. And Dawg will repay the kindness.
There are multiple POVs, all that allows the reader inside the head of the characters until you know them so well that you rail against poor decisions or cheer with the better ones. Mingo, I loved him. My heart went out to him, several times, in virtual hugs. What a kid! He wasn’t taught right and wrong–it was instinctive.
There were a number of times I wanted to slap Skye upside the head. Fortunately, she doesn’t really qualify as an antagonist, there are a couple others who fulfill that slot. I did like Adam, he functions as an unbiased therapist between mother and daughter, often quietly covering Cody’s back. The antagonist functions as a creepy ugghy guy, made more repulsive by the narrator and raising the hairs on the back of your neck.
A strong character-driven novel completely hooks you and doesn’t let go. Either way, whether you listen to this audiobook or read it, you’ll be drawn into the thoroughly engaging story and so invested you’re forced to see how the author will play this one out. My only negative (and it’s a small one) is the way Skye was narrated.
I loved this narrative and whether or not you enjoy a book with our canine partners, I’ll bet you’ll love the compelling and unique storyline and characters. Masterfully written, a novel worthy of a book hangover. (I grabbed this one because I’d read The Dog I Loved. See that review here.)
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
Genre: Animal Fiction
Publisher: Macmillan Audio (Publisher)
Listening Length: 11 hours and 51 minutes
Publisher: St Martin’s Press
Print Length: 351 pages
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
Source: Merrillville Public Library – Audiobooks
Title Link: Two Good Dogs
The Author: SUSAN WILSON is the author of ten novels, including the New York Times bestselling One Good Dog. In her most recent novel, TWO GOOD DOGS, the two main characters from One Good Dog, Adam March and his rescued pit bull Chance, make a return. She lives on Martha’s Vineyard. Visit her online at http://www.susanwilsonwrites.com
©2019 V Williams
Genre: Fantasy, Animal Tales, Mothers and Children’s Fiction
Print Length: 145 pages
Publication Date: September 8, 2018
Source: Direct Author Request
Title Link: Impeccable Petunia
As The Two Tails opens, the flock confronts a spiral of death and disappearance. Ensnared by a rapacious raccoon and desperate for a way out, Petunia, the backyard chicken, must throw herself at the mercy of the dark, open road with little more than gumption, a pair of useless wings, and a dubious companion as her guide.
Let me begin by explaining that this is a two-part story with Impeccable Petunia: Part I, Claws, Paws, Feathers, and Jaws being novella size, part II more than double that. The request from the author and the blurb had me intrigued–the protagonist is a chicken??!–and it was illustrated. I really liked the covers and it didn’t sound like it was that long, perfect for me to fit in between some of the longer books I was scheduling. I had intended to skim through Part I so I’d be knowledgeable about Part II, but it didn’t happen and would probably have served up a better appreciation for Part II.
Petunia is not your average chicken for sure! Since I raised chickens (both Rhode Island Reds and Black Barred), I have an affinity for our feathered fowl. Huge difference between those two breeds, both serving the purpose of meat and (brown) eggs. Unfortunately, chickens have personalities and it’s all too easy to name them–i.e., Petunia. But I have no knowledge of Orpington’s, Arauncana’s, or Wyandottes, although they all appear to be easy-going backyard chickens. They do, however, need protection from predators.
In this installment, Petunia has apparently been taken inside the human’s house to recover from a predator assault where she’d just like to stay. The narrative introduces many support characters, including cats, a raccoon, and a dog. But it is Max the cat that Petunia determines she must rescue after he is taken away. While she is away, the pecking order disintegrates, and factions split. Samantha has long wanted to take control of the coop and she is pushing her agenda right up until the foxes (absent the cat) begin coming around to raid the coop.
The gossip, bickering, back-biting (tee hee), and rivalries push and pull until Winchester the raccoon makes a deal to help defend the chicken yard. Amazing how well-fleshed the persona of these individual chickens, let alone the sneaky, low-down agenda of the raccoon. The author did an amazing job of anthropomorphizing the characters so that even facial expressions, wing nuances, or tail flickers were easily pictured. The author obviously knows chickens and other domestic animals.
While I marveled at the imagination and creativity that went into the well-developed storyline, I was not able to really get into the pecking order squabble with the hens, the constant fear in which they lived, fighting to keep from being carried off in the jaws of a fox. The tale turns dark, sad, heavy. Petunia returns and the conclusion resolves most issues but remains a tension-filled setting. Petunia returns to tend her garden, Winchester to his prize–but not for long. There are illustrations, but viewed on my cell phone were small, dark, and difficult to see.
I received this ebook download from the author in return for a review and these are my honest opinions. I do not feel it is a children’s story with an almost noir feeling, more an adult tale and I’m sure there is an appropriate target for the book. Recommended for anthropomorphic fantasy-loving readers. You won’t believe the world of chickens!
Rosepoint Publishing: Three point Five of Five Stars
The Author: [Katie Christine] From a young age Katie’s parents instilled in her a love of animals and art. She has many fond childhood memories of long summer afternoons spent curled up in a quiet corner of the local library. She lives outside Seattle, Washington with her husband/illustrator, Jonathan Edward, their Super-Sheltie, Niles and cats, Frankenstein and Penelope.
Katie Christine holds degrees from UCLA and USC, enjoys the outdoors, gardening, reading, and discovering new music.
©2019 V Williams
In October I began participating in Book Beginnings who is hosted by Gillian at Rose City Readers. Every Friday you have the opportunity to share the first sentence of the book you are currently reading. Include the title of the book and the author’s name. You may wish to share your impression of the book to date as well. Also please share your post with Mister Linky on her blog site. This week I am spotlighting Oh Holy Fright by Teresa Trent.
“What would possess Joe Nelson to give the Christmas solo to a woman who sings like a washing machine full of rocks?”
(And because there is a natural tie-in to The Friday 56, it is common to combine the two.)
The only rules are for participation in The Friday 56 is to grab a book, any book or the one you are #currentlyreading, turn to page 56 or 56% in your eReader, and find a sentence (or a few, but don’t spoil it!), post it, and then add your post URL to the Linky on the host site Freda’s Voice – there yah go! How’s that for easy!
Ruby spun around in front of me. “I know you’re looking at my jacket, Betsy. Like it?”
The white fur of the jacket was lustrous. I would never have bought it for myself, and I also thought it was more suited for a woman much younger than Ruby. She was running the risk of looking like the famous abominable snowman from the claymation version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. “Very nice,” was all I could manage to say.
So what am I thinking?
Nice to get into a slightly unusual scenario for a cozy mystery! I can relate to a choir member hurting your ears since I was part of several choirs for more than fifteen years. And there is always one…
This review is scheduled for Christmas Day. Don’t you just love that cover?
©2018 V Williams
Cee at Cee’s Photography hosts a weekly Fun Foto Challenge. This week’s challenge is Things People Play With. Can’t you have fun with this one!! The challenge is basically self-explanatory. If you have a photo you’d like to submit, click on her website and check it out. It’s a very simple procedure. Have fun. Let’s see how creative you can be on this challenge then link your photo(s) to the comment box on her website!
I have lots of playtime photos, motorcycling (my BIKE how I miss it!), and coming up winter projects–knitting. Painting! Both hubby and I used to paint–he inherited from his mother, me from my grandfather (author/artist Stanley McShane) and this is one of his from 1936. And then there is off-roading, rails in the Yuma desert, warm sandy hills.
Lots of fun, colorful things to play with. Toys never get old. Oh, and blogging, of course!
©2018 V Williams
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