Category Archives: Touchstone

Review: The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson

Title: The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Historical (60s), Mystery
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Bookseller comes a gripping literary suspense novel set in the 1960s about a deeply troubled family and three women who will reveal its dark truths.

In the autumn of 1960, Angie Glass is living an idyllic life in her Wisconsin hometown. At twenty-one, she’s married to charming, handsome Paul, and has just given birth to a baby boy. But one phone call changes her life forever.

When Paul’s niece, Ruby, reports that her father, Henry, has committed suicide, and that her mother, Silja, is missing, Angie and Paul drop everything and fly to the small upstate town of Stonekill, New York to be by Ruby’s side.

Angie thinks they’re coming to the rescue of Paul’s grief-stricken young niece, but Ruby is a composed and enigmatic seventeen-year-old who resists Angie’s attempts to nurture her. As Angie learns more about the complicated Glass family, staying in Henry and Silja’s eerie and ultra-modern house on the edge of the woods, she begins to question the very fabric of her own marriage.

Through Silja’s flashbacks, Angie’s discovery of astonishing truths, and Ruby’s strategic dissection of her parents’ state of affairs, a story of love, secrets, and ultimate betrayal is revealed.


The Glass Forest by Cynthia Swanson is a gripping mystery about a missing woman and the suicide death of her husband.

In 1960, twenty-one year old Angie Glass is deliriously happy with her husband, Paul, and their baby son P.J. Trouble arrives  with a phone call from Paul’s seventeen year old niece Ruby who informs her undle of her father’s (Paul’s brother Henry)apparent suicide and her mother, Silja’s, disappearance.  Angie insists on accompanying Paul to Ruby’s home in Stonekill, New York to plan Henry’s funeral and settle his affairs.  Angie quickly discover all is not as it appears with Ruby, Silja and Henry but she is woefully unprepared for the information she uncovers about Paul.

Angie is a bit naive but that is most likely a result of her sheltered life in Door County, WI. She and Paul married quite soon after they began their romance and she takes care of P.J. while Paul works as a bartender to supplement the income he earns selling his landscapes to tourists. Angie does not know much about Henry or his family since they only briefly met at her and Paul’s hastily arranged wedding. Not much older than Ruby, Angie wants nothing more than to take care of her suddenly parentless niece.

Ruby is a resourceful young woman who keeps to herself after her aunt and uncle’s arrival. Unexpectedly composed considering she discovered her father’s lifeless body, she is no help to police as they try to figure out where Silja has disappeared to nor can she provide a reason why her mother might have run away. Ruby has no friends her age but she does have a friendship with a mysterious man she meets in the forest behind the family home.

Silja is only seen in flashbacks that detail her first meeting with Henry in 1942 and her life following their marriage. Falling in love at first sight, their whirlwind romance culminates in a sudden wedding right before he ships out for Europe during World War II. She gives birth to Ruby while he is still fighting in the war and she impatiently awaits his return. However, the Henry who comes home is not the same man she wed and their marriage becomes more and more strained over the years.

Angie’s tranquil life slowly unravels before she, Paul and Ruby leave Stonekill. The police are suddenly not certain Henry’s death was a suicide and even more perplexing is Silja’s whereabouts. Whispers and rumors from the small town slowly make their way to Angie and as she tries to separate fact from fiction, she learns some very troubling information about the family she has married into. After she begins searching for the truth, Angie unearths shocking secrets that turn her world upside down.

The Glass Forest is an intricately-plotted novel with a clever storyline and a chilling cast of characters.  Angie is a little too trusting and lacks much experience with the world outside her small town, but she is quick to realize something is not quite right with Ruby, Henry and eventually, Paul. Ruby is somewhat precocious but she is also very pragmatic and does not hesitate to do what she believes needs to be done.  The setting is eerie and adds to the overall disquiet that permeates the unfolding story. Cynthia Swanson slowly builds the tension as the novel steadily wends its way to an absolutely stunning conclusion.

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Filed under Cynthia Swanson, Historical, Historical (40s), Historical (50s), Historical (60s), Mystery, Rated B+, Review, The Glass Forest, Touchstone

Review: White Bodies by Jane Robins

Title: White Bodies by Jane Robins
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


This chilling psychological suspense novel—think Strangers on a Train for the modern age—explores the dark side of love and the unbreakable ties that bind two sisters together.

Felix and Tilda seem like the perfect couple: young and in love, a financier and a beautiful up-and-coming starlet. But behind their flawless façade, not everything is as it seems.

Callie, Tilda’s unassuming twin, has watched her sister visibly shrink under Felix’s domineering love. She has looked on silently as Tilda stopped working, nearly stopped eating, and turned into a neat freak, with mugs wrapped in Saran Wrap and suspicious syringes hidden in the bathroom trash. She knows about Felix’s uncontrollable rages, and has seen the bruises on the white skin of her sister’s arms.

Worried about the psychological hold that Felix seems to have over Tilda, Callie joins an Internet support group for victims of abuse and their friends. However, things spiral out of control and she starts to doubt her own judgment when one of her new acquaintances is killed by an abusive man. And then suddenly Felix dies—or was he murdered?

A page-turning work of suspense that announces a stunning new voice in fiction, White Bodies will change the way you think about obsession, love, and the violence we inflict on one another—and ourselves.


Jane Robins’ debut, White Bodies, is a mesmerizing mystery with a very suspenseful storyline.

Twin sisters Tilda and Callie Farrow are as different as night and day both in looks and temperament. Tilda is quite beautiful, outgoing and popular whereas  Callie is quiet, shy and socially awkward. Tilda’s light shines brightly and her acting career is currently on the upswing. Callie enjoys her job working in a bookstore where she is comfortable discussing books with regular customers. Despite their differences, Tilda and Callie talk daily and get together once a month for movie night.

Although Callie enjoys hanging out with her sister, she is a little taken aback when Tilda begins frequently inviting her to spend time with her and her new boyfriend Felix Nordberg. Callie is initially impressed with Felix’s ability to rein in her somewhat flighty sister but after witnessing a couple of troubling incidents, she becomes convinced that Tilda is the victim of domestic violence. When Tilda brushes off her concerns, Callie joins an on-line support for advice and after she befriends two women on the forum, she has to decide just how far will she go to protect her sister.

Callie is devoted to her sister so it is not any surprise that she is a little worried about some of her disturbing observations. With a long history of trying to protect Tilda from her own frailties and any type of harm from the people around her,  she immediately begins compiling extensive notes in which she documents practically everything about her sister and Felix. Callie soon comes across as obsessed as she goes to extreme lengths to gather information about Felix and his relationship with Tilda.

As Tilda begins pulling away from her sister, Callie begins to heavily rely on two friends she has made on the domestic abuse forum.  After tragedy strikes,  one of the women she has befriended proposes a rather extreme plan but will Callie agree to this outrageous scheme? When Felix unexpectedly dies, Callie is under unbearable pressure to act on her online friend’s behalf, but can she take such a drastic measure?

Fast-paced and engrossing, White Bodies is an intriguing mystery that is impossible to put down. With a meticulously crafted storyline, an increasingly unreliable narrator and clever plot twists, Jane Robins brings the novel to a completely unexpected but satisfying conclusion.  A brilliant debut that I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Jane Robins, Mystery, Rated B, Suspense, Touchstone, White Bodies

Review: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy

Title: The Salt House by Lisa Duffy
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 304 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


In the tradition of Jodi Picoult and Lisa Genova, this gorgeously written, heartbreaking, yet hopeful debut set during a Maine summer traces the lives of a young family in the aftermath of tragedy.

In the coastal town of Alden, Maine, Hope and Jack Kelly have settled down to a life of wedded bliss. They have a beautiful family, a growing lobster business, and the Salt House—the dilapidated oceanfront cottage they’re renovating into their dream home. But tragedy strikes when their young daughter doesn’t wake up from her afternoon nap, taking her last breath without making a sound.

A year later, each member of the Kelly family navigates the world on their own private island of grief. Hope spends hours staring at her daughter’s ashes, unable to let go. Jack works to the point of exhaustion in an attempt to avoid his crumbling marriage. Their daughters, Jess and Kat, struggle to come to terms with the loss of their younger sister while watching their parents fall apart.

When Jack’s old rival, Ryland Finn, threatens his fishing territory, he ignites emotions that propel the Kelly family toward circumstances that will either tear them apart—or be the path to their family’s future.

Told in alternating voices, The Salt House is a layered, emotional portrait of marriage, family, friendship, and the complex intersections of love, grief, and hope.


The Salt House by Lisa Duffy is a poignant portrait of a grief stricken family who are trying to cope with the tragic death of their baby.

Although it has been one year since the heartrending loss of baby Maddie, Hope Kelly is still mourning her daughter’s loss. Unable to move forward, her once happy marriage to Jack is faltering and she is somewhat distant from their two daughters, eight year old Kat and sixteen year old Jess.  Since she has not been able to write her column, the family is also struggling financially since they are juggling two mortgages.  Renovations on Jack’s family’s home, The Salt House, are also at a standstill and he refuses to give in to her pleas to sell the property.  Although Hope is aware she is emotionally disengaged, she cannot seem to be able to remove herself from this destructive pattern.

While Hope gives in to her grief, Jack throws himself into work and spends long hours out on the water hauling in his lobster traps.  He is barely able to pay the bills as their savings dwindle and Hope’s income dries up. In the midst of trying to salvage his marriage, his unresolved past comes back to haunt him when Ryland Finn returns to town and threatens Jack’s livelihood.  Jack is already on edge when his exhaustion and stress lead to out of character behavior that could have devastating consequences.

Unlike their parents, Jess and Kat have worked through their grief over Maddie’s death.  Kat is in tune with the strife between her parents and she is trying to make sense of puzzling bits of their overheard conversations. Jess’s friendship with Alex brings unexpected complications to her life as she tries to keep their relationship under wraps.

The Salt House is a beautifully rendered story of sorrow, healing and love that is quite entrancing. The characters are complex and their struggles to learn how to live without Maddie are deeply affecting and realistically portrayed.  Lisa Duffy strikes a perfect balance between sadness and optimism as the Kelly family finally begins to emerge from their grief.  An absolutely captivating debut that will linger in readers’ hearts and minds long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Contemporary, Lisa Duffy, Rated B+, Review, The Salt House, Touchstone, Women's Fiction

Review: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

Title: Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Supernatural (Ghosts & Psychics)
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


An instant page-turner (Lisa Gardner) that straddles the line between thriller and horror…sure to appeal to a wide range of readers, including Stephen King fans. (Booklist, starred) A young woman’s mysterious gift forces her into the middle of a dangerous investigation of a little girl’s disappearance.

Twenty-year-old Finley Montgomery is rarely alone. Visited by people whom others can’t see and haunted by prophetic dreams, she has never been able to control or understand the things that happen to her. When Finley’s abilities start to become too strong for her to handle – and even the roar of her motorcycle or another dazzling tattoo can’t drown out the voices – she turns to the only person she knows who can help her: her grandmother Eloise Montgomery, a renowned psychic living in The Hollows, New York.

Merri Gleason is a woman at the end of her tether after a ten-month-long search for her missing daughter, Abbey. With almost every hope exhausted, she resorts to hiring Jones Cooper, a detective who sometimes works with psychic Eloise Montgomery. Merri’s not a believer, but she’s just desperate enough to go down that road, praying that she’s not too late. Time, she knows, is running out.

As a harsh white winter moves into The Hollows, Finley and Eloise are drawn into the investigation, which proves to have much more at stake than even the fate of a missing girl. As Finley digs deeper into the town and its endless layers, she is forced to examine the past, even as she tries to look into the future. Only one thing is clear: The Hollows gets what it wants, no matter what.


Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger is an intriguing mystery with supernatural elements (ghosts and psychics).

Hoping to gain some type of control over the psychic phenomena she is experiencing, college student Finley Montgomery moved from Seattle to live with her grandmother in The Hollows, NY.  Eloise is a well-known psychic who often teams up with private detective Jones Cooper to help solve unsolvable crimes.  With her grandmother advising her, Finley is beginning to gain control over the whispers she hears and the ghosts she sees, but she is still struggling to accept that these experiences are a “gift” instead of an unwelcome curse.

Finley has a bit of a troubled past but things have begun to turn around for her since she moved to The Hollows.  Somewhat of a wild child who rides a motorcycle to escape the ghosts and their whispers, she is plagued by an odd squeak/clink noise that she is having trouble identifying.  Some of her efforts to track down the source of the sound temporarily quiet the clamor but it never completely vanishes.  Equally puzzling is the spirit of young boy who quietly sits in a corner playing with a toy train.  Her grandmother believes the two things are related to the missing persons case she is working on with Jones.  Eloise is certain that Finley is physically connected to the case and she convinces Jones and Finley to work together.

Jones has recently been hired by Merri Gleason to find her eight year old daughter Abbey who was kidnapped during the family’s vacation in The Hollows. An intense search and subsequent investigation turned up little evidence and the case has long since gone cold.  Certain Abbey is still alive, she turns to Jones and Eloise to find her missing daughter.  With Eloise failing to feel any psychic connection to case, Jones reluctantly teams up with Finley to see what they can uncover.  Used to working alone, he grudgingly agrees to let her tag along when he revisits the scene of the kidnapping and he is slightly unnerved by Finley’s unexpected reaction.  Following her rather vivid experience, she is convinced the police overlooked vital clues during the search and she finally persuades Jones to concentrate their efforts in the rural area that is inhabited by locals who are essentially living off the grid.  Before they get too far into the investigation, another person goes missing and they cannot help but wonder if this latest disappearance is just a coincidence or if it is somehow related to their case.

Despite its rather slow start, Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger is an engrossing mystery with an eerie supernatural element.  The characters are superbly developed and imbued with vibrant, life-like traits and human frailties. The tension builds to a fever pitch as the investigation hurtles to a thrilling climax that is full of shocking plots twists.  An absolutely outstanding mystery with a mystical touch that fans of the genres do not want to miss.

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Filed under Contemporary, Ink and Bone, Lisa Unger, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Supernatural Elements, Thriller, Touchstone

Review: River Road by Carol Goodman

river roadTitle: River Road by Carol Goodman
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From the award-winning author of The Lake of Dead Languages comes a chilling new psychological thriller about a professor accused of killing her favorite student in a hit-and-run accident.

Nan Lewis—a creative writing professor at a state university in upstate New York—is driving home from a faculty holiday party after finding out she’s been denied tenure. On her way, she hits a deer, but when she gets out of her car to look for it, the deer is nowhere to be found. Eager to get home and out of the oncoming snowstorm, Nan is forced to leave her car at the bottom of her snowy driveway to wait out the longest night of the year—and the lowest point of her life…

The next morning, Nan is woken up by a police officer at her door with terrible news—one of her students, Leia Dawson, was killed in a hit-and-run on River Road the night before. And because of the damage to her car, Nan is a suspect. In the days following the accident, Nan finds herself shunned by the same community that rallied around her when her own daughter was killed in an eerily similar accident six years prior. When Nan begins finding disturbing tokens that recall the death of Nan’s own daughter, Nan suspects that the two accidents are connected.

As she begins to dig further, she discovers that everyone around her, including Leia, is hiding secrets. But can she uncover them, clear her name, and figure out who really killed Leia before her reputation is destroyed for good?


River Road by Carol Goodman is a suspense-laden mystery about a college professor who is a suspect in the hit and run death of her student.

Nan Lewis is on her way home from a faculty party when she hits a deer on the same stretch of road where a drunk driver killed her young daughter six years earlier. Distraught over learning she was denied tenure and a little foggy from the wine she consumed at the party, she leaves her car to search for the injured deer but finding no trace of it, she drives home.  The next morning, she learns Leia Dawson, one of her brightest students, was killed by a hit and run driver in the same spot where she hit the deer. Despite advice to the contrary, Nan cannot resist trying to find the person responsible for Leia’s death.

Nan is a bit of an unreliable narrator for a good part of the novel. Although she won’t (or cannot) admit it, she is a functioning alcoholic who numbs her pain by throwing back a few bourbons every night. Although convinced she hit a deer, her memory of the night Leia died is a confusing jumble of a vivid dream and actual events that possibly occurred after she fell asleep (or passed out?) in the woods while searching for the injured deer. Equally bewildering are objects left at the scene of the accident that seem to point to Hannah Mulder, the drunk driver who killed Nan’s daughter. Determined to clear her name, Nan ignores police advice to stay out of the case and begins her own willy-nilly investigation which unwittingly puts her in danger.

One of the first people Nan turns to for answers is her ex-lover and colleague Ross Ballantine. Ross hosted the faculty party she attended and while her memory of the night is a little muddled, she clearly remembers that Leia appeared upset when Nan saw her in the kitchen with Ross. Although she finds it difficult to believe that Ross is capable of murder, he has a reputation of being a little too involved with his students. New evidence leads the police to his door but is Ross Leia’s killer?

Another name that keeps popping up in connection with Leia is another one of Nan’s students, Troy Van Donk. Troy is not exactly an upstanding citizen but he is not a mastermind criminal either. However she cannot ignore the possibility he might be involved in Leia’s death once her memories become a little clearer and she realizes she saw Leia and Troy together at the party. As she begins delving deeper into his more unsavory activities at the college, she begins to believe there is a real possibility that Troy killed Leia and then tried to frame Nan for the murder.

In the middle of trying to figure out what happened to Leia, Nan is forced to confront her drinking problem and her unresolved grief and guilt over her daughter’s death. She also must face the uncomfortable truth about her role in the demise of her marriage. Equally eye opening is the realization that her apathy at work and inattention to the details of her student’s lives may have indirectly played a role in Leia’s death. As she finally indulges in some long overdue soul searching, Nan’s insight into her own behavior becomes the impetus she needs to make positive changes in her life. But when faced with adversity, will she revert to old habits?

Although a bit of a slow starter, River Road by Carol Goodman is an engrossing mystery. The characters are sympathetic and likable despite their all too human frailties and flaws. The plot is full of unexpected twists and turns and the liberal use of red herrings successfully obscures the perpetrator’s identity for a good part of the novel. A fascinating whodunit that I highly recommend to readers of the genre.

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Filed under Carol Goodman, Contemporary, Mystery, Rated B, Review, River Road, Touchstone

Review: Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra

gonzo girlTitle: Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary (90s), Humor, Satire
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Alley Russo is a recent college grad desperately trying to make it in the grueling world of New York publishing, but like so many who have come before her, she has no connections and has settled for an unpaid magazine internship while slinging drinks on Bleecker Street just to make ends meet. That’s when she hears the infamous Walker Reade is looking for an assistant to replace the eight others who have recently quit. Hungry for a chance to get her manuscript onto the desk of an experienced editor, Alley jumps at the opportunity to help Reade finish his latest novel.

After surviving an absurd three-day “trial period” involving a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, violent verbal outbursts, brushes with fame and the law, a bevy of peacocks, and a whole lot of cocaine, Alley is invited to stay at the compound where Reade works. For months Alley attempts to coax the novel out of Walker page-by-page, all while battling his endless procrastination, vampiric schedule, Herculean substance abuse, mounting debt, and casual gunplay. But as the job begins to take a toll on her psyche, Alley realizes she’s alone in the Colorado Rockies at the mercy of a drug-addicted literary icon who may never produce another novel—and her fate may already be sealed.

A smart, rollicking ride told with heart, Gonzo Girl is a loving fictional portrait of a larger-than-life literary icon.


Gonzo Girl is an engrossing debut novel by Cheryl Della Pietra. Based on the author’s experiences as Hunter S. Thompson’s personal assistant, this fictionalized story is a poignant and sometimes harrowing account of a recent college graduate’s daily life with an author whose days are a drug and alcohol fueled blur of outrageous and oftentimes, dangerous, excess.

Alley Russo has big dreams of escaping her family’s blue collar life and while she has a degree from an Ivy League college, she is still tending bar while working as an unpaid intern at a magazine. When she learns Walker Reade is looking for a personal assistant, she jumps at the chance to work for the iconic writer. She is horrified when her job interview entails dropping acid, snorting coke and binge drinking, but she desperately needs the connection to publish her own manuscript. Although she has a few reservations, Alley accepts the job and since she does not get paid until Walker finishes his latest book, she has more than enough incentive to motivate him to write. He manages to churn out a page or two a day, but Alley is appalled at the lackluster drivel he produces and she begins rewriting these dismal attempts before submitting them to his editor. Trying to manage Walker’s excessive behavior becomes increasingly difficult as he begins a downward spiral that turns violent and it is up to his long time assistant Claudia Reynolds to smooth over the numerous problems that threaten to topple the one time literary genius.

By the time Alley begins working for Walker, he is in his early fifties and definitely on the downside of his once illustrious career. His over the top behavior once enhanced his writing ability, but his brilliance is now lost in a haze of drugs and alcohol. He is verbally abusive to the women around him and once he adds coke to the mix, he is downright mean. Walker surrounds himself with a cadre of hangers-on who encourage his out of control behavior and their antics escalate to the point Walker is a danger himself and everyone around him.

Gonzo Girl is definitely an entertaining novel that is fast-paced and compelling (in a train wreck kind of way). Cheryl Della Pietra offers a fascinating peek into the self-indulgent and somewhat debauched lifestyle of a larger than life author whose once impressive talent becomes lost in a haze of addiction. All in all, a surprisingly enjoyable (if sometimes horrifying) read that I highly recommend to fans of Hunter S. Thompson.

Oh and if you’re curious about the title, check out this interesting article on Wikipedia.

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Filed under Cheryl Della Pietra, Contemporary, Fiction, Gonzo Girl, Rated B, Review, Touchstone