Rust & Stardust

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 21 Aug 2018

Member Reviews

This book will be great for those will appreciate an homage to a modern classic, and can get past the real life tragic inspiration for it. Stay for good writing and honest, thoughtful exploration, but perhaps proceed with caution if it's just not your moment as a reader.
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How do I even sum up all the parts of this book?

I start by saying I wish I had read and reviewed this in a timely fashion so that I could have promoted it to more people before its day of publishing. I wish life hadn't thrown wrenches in the way to keep me from getting to it because man, oh man, was it amazing. 

This book allowed Sally Horner to be more than just a Wikipedia page even if this novelization of her life was fictionalized for the most part. She was a girl with a mom who tried to do her best by her and an older sister burdened with the responsibility of a mother in poor health and a younger sister she shouldn't have had to help raise. She was manipulated and mistreated all because her mother wanted to give her the opportunity to experience something outside the normal day to day of her life.  

It's somewhat difficult to separate the parts Greenwood created for her story from the parts that were actual facts in Sally Horner's life as much isn't available online about her. It's unfair how life turned out for her and how quickly it ended once she was finally home again. I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish this book but felt I owed it to Sally to read to the end. 

And now I'm sad and angry about the state of the world and the men who think they can just take whatever they want - the worst sort of men who have no regard for anybody's well-being and are sick in the head. Or maybe not sick so much as just downright corrupt.
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Rust & Stardust was a solid read, an extremely well-told story. Yet, somehow, I just did not love it. I tried, I wanted to. Both the real true crime case of Sally Horner and the inspiration behind Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita are incredibly fascinating to me... but this dragged for me. It's a bit hard to explain why.

In terms of pure literary writing, I'd give this something like 4.5 stars- it really is well done. Despite flipping from view point to view point, I was never lost.

But maybe that is where the problem lies for me? A lot of the story revolves around the views of those left behind when Sally was abducted, as well as those she meets along the way. Sure, we get into Sally's head, but not nearly as much as I would have liked. While the story is based on true events, the author herself is quick to note that this is very fictionalized. And I get that. Greenwood put a lot of work and research into the real story behind Sally Horner but the sad truth is a lot is missing. So she filled in the gaps.

And some of those gaps are filled in beautifully. I particularly enjoyed the look into Sally's life at the Good Luck motor park where she makes a few true friends. We get glimpses into how those friends view this odd little girl and the man parading as her father, and as frustrating as a real missing person's case, there were so many times that I wanted to scream "DO SOMETHING" at the book.

It is certainly a story of missed opportunities. Missed chances. Almost freedoms.

The things that happened to Sally made my stomach burn, though they were never graphic. They were written in an oddly beautiful way, a way that did not quite capture the true horror she was living. Maybe it's my love of true crime and darkness- but I wanted to see more. I wasn't looking for or expecting graphic descriptions, but I would have liked to feel more connected to her pain. More connected to Sally... and less connected to her mother (who genuinely made me want to scream).

As a survivor of long term abuse, I could absolutely relate. But maybe that's why I wanted more. Regardless, the story was incredibly well done and I would absolutely read Greenwood again for her excellent storytelling and prose. 

I originally was rounding my 3.5 stars down, but after sleeping on it and really thinking, I'm rounding up to 4. Sure, it was slow and frustrating as hell at times, but it was well done. And I was happy to see the acknowledgements in my ARC copy that the author did not roast Nabokov or his inspiration as she clearly created a work of fiction from the same source material.

I definitely recommend this title if you're a fan (or just have strong feelings about) Nabokov's Lolita. And if graphic situations make you run, you're probably pretty safe with this one. Despite the subject matter, it truly was not graphic. But I also may have a stronger stomach for that sort of thing than the average reader.
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It's hard to believe that a child would believe a stranger was law enforcement and be convinced to leave with them to avoid getting in trouble, especially in the "olden days" that this book takes place. But then I remember that kids are kids and never want to be in trouble or disappoint their parents or make them mad - and the era doesn't change that. 

Greenwood had me absolutely riveted by this story. To be able to tell the story of an actual event when the main characters are no longer able to give their insights and to do well speaks to her ability as an author.
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Somehow I haven’t gotten to read and review this book for an entire year and I’m sad I waited this long because it deserves to be read.  I received an ARC from Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press almost a year to the day ago but instead of reading the ebook version, I went out and bought myself a hard copy because I knew it is something I would want to share with others.
Review of Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood:
⚠️Trigger Warning⚠️
Contents of this novel include rape and molestation, abduction and kidnapping, mass murder, suicide and depression, and traumatic death
A fictional story based on true events; this is a horrifying account of the two years that Florence “Sally” Horner was being held captive by kidnapper and pedophile Frank LaSalle.  While most of the events depicted in this novel were inspired by very real events, much of it was constructed by the authors imagination and was her attempt at imagining what Sally’s life was like during those horrible two years.  Greenwood did a wonderful job at using the backbones of a true story and fabricating a plot to bring to life this horrendous crime.  When reading through these pages, you can feel the pain that the real Sally experienced; and the very raw feelings that her family likely experienced.  It’s a heartbreaking and delicate story that Greenwood was able to capture with grace and just shows how amazing she is at her craft.  I had never heard of Sally Horner before but this novel brought me down yet another rabbit hole researching more about the life of this little girl.  Greenwood brought to light events that tragically and unfortunately happen everyday under our noses but thankfully found a way to keep the memory of Sally Horner alive.
Thank you to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an independent and honest review!
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"Sally had read about lighthouses but had never seen one in real life. Lighthouses were made for sailors, the beacons of light to guide them home. She thought about home; maybe this shining light might lead her mother to her. It was foolish, she knew, but the idea brought an odd, momentary comfort."

This book definitely pulled at my heartstrings.  It is a historical fiction book based on the life of Sally Horner, who at the age of 11, was abducted by a man claiming to be an FBI agent.  This story inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic book, Lolita.  I admit, some of the details were difficult to deal with because I can't imagine a little girl living through this abduction, and it would be a parent's worst nightmare.  The author states that it is fiction based on true events.  In a way, it also reminded me a lot of the Elizabeth Smart abduction. 

The story is told through all different characters, and it is written well. It takes the reader on the road with Sally, and her vile abductor, Frank LaSalle.   It is not a light-hearted read, but it stuck with me throughout my day, even when I wasn't reading.  

I was given this book for my honest review, and I give it 4.5 stars.
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This book is emotional. This book will destroy you. This book is both horrendous and beautiful all at once. Based on the true abduction of Sally Horner, this story brings to light a historically accurate story with deep character development. While difficult to read at times, Sally shines through as a strong girl and her spirit pulls a reader through her difficult journey.
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Wow wow wow wow. I didn’t know that this book was based on the real-life kidnapping of Sally Horner when I requested it. This book is the heartbreaking story of a child, snatched by a pervert in 1948, desperately trying to figure out what’s happening to her. It’s all the more tragic for the elements of truth in it. Greenwood’s writing is lovely, buoying the darker elements. Told from the perspective of Sally, her family, and those she encounters, RUST AND STARDUST illustrates the ripple effects of tragedy and encourages us all to hug our loved ones a little tighter. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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I have such mixed feelings about "Rust and Stardust". It is a beautifully written story based on a horrific case that really did happen in the 1950s. 
11-year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook on a dare and doesn't realize that she has been seen by Frank LaSalle, a 52-year-old who has recently been released from prison. Frank takes advantage of Sally's naivety by telling her he is an FBI agent who can help her avoid being arrested if she does everything that he says. Of course, his intentions are less than noble. I think you get what I am hinting at here. The novel then details the next two years as Sally and Frank avoid the law while Sally suffers relentless mental and physical assaults by Frank. 
This is not an easy book to read but I feel like it should be read. People remember the case in the 1950s and it is believed that the book, "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov was based on the case. The one who seems to have been forgotten is Sally Horner herself and she should be remembered. I can't imagine the horror she lived through and what her life (though it was tragically cut short) was like afterward. "Rust and Stardust," tells the story from Sally's point of view and is compassionate in showing how it must have devastated her. I would definitely recommend this book but be prepared for a story that does not have a happy ending.
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"I am not a biographer, nor am I a true-crime writer; I am a novelist, and this is, in the end, a work of fiction. While the series of events and the settings in which they occur mirror history, the characters and their inner lives are entirely fabricated."
― T. Greenwood, Rust & Stardust

Rust & Stardust is based on the 1948 true event kidnapping of 11 year old Florence “Sally” Horner, and her captor, 52 year old Frank LaSalle. This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally, physically and sexually assaults Sally while the two of them travel westward from New Jersey to California.

This was a difficult story to get through. There were times when I didn't think I can read any further. It was just so heartbreaking. Even though this is a work of fiction, the author did a phenomenal job on recreating the horrors that Sally must have endured. Not only does the author capture the harrowing experiences for the kidnapped, but he also created a flawless imagery of the impact an abduction has on those encountered along the way as well as those left behind. 

I went into the story blind, not knowing anything about Sally. I wish the author went into more detail on "the ending". I had to go back a page and reread it.

Even though this book was beautifully written, it dealt with a lot of dark subject matters. I highly recommend this book along with reading the author's note at the end of the book.

Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a copy of T. Greenwood's "Rust & Stardust" in exchange of an honest review.
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I am sorry for not reviewing fully but I don’t have the time to read this at the moment. I believe that it wouldn't benefit you as a publisher or your book if I only skimmed it and wrote a rushed review. Again, I am sorry for not fully reviewing!
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Rust and Stardust is a difficult novel to get through. It is a novel based on a true story in the 1950's in Camden, NJ. Sally is going home from school. She meets up with a group of girls to be included with the "in crowd". They convince her to steal a notebook at Woolworths. But, then a stranger notices what she is told to do. He poses as a FBI agent. Lies to her convinces her if she doesn't do what she is told. Great harm will come to her. The novel is a page turner, and heart wrenching, and very sad. There were no happy times. Until she does meet up three adults. That realize something is wrong. Finally, does Sally tell the truth? Can she trust them?. I'm not going to tell you anything further. Just that it does keep you up at night, and a page turner. It reads exactly as it sounds. A true crime story, not a novel. 

Spoiler Alert

What it did for me. What is a young girl thinking? What does the suspect do? How can anyone do these things? Why hasn't she tried to escape? 

Thats all i can tell you. Or, I will ruin it.
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So, I understand this isn't really a true crime novel. The author did an excellent job identifying this in her afterword. I greatly appreciated the information given regarding what was truth, what was based on truth and what was entirely made up. 

The subject of this book was very painful for me, I am sure it will be painful for most anyone. It is not a sweet rambling story. It is about a girl who is abducted and abused in every way possible. It is also about her family and various other people that were affected by her disappearance. 

I like to think that little Sally was able to find little joys and beauty around her in the two years she was kept by this monster going by many names. No one can know what really happened during that time, what she thought about or how she coped. Somehow Greewood turned this story into something hopeful. I find myself fascinated by the many facets of this story. The shadows are dark and the rays of light luminous. I have read reviews where the reader was irritated by the constant shuffle of POV. I thought this would annoy me as well. When a story is presented this way I find myself growing tired of one POV or another and it feels like it detracts from the story over all. I am glad to say that this technique worked for me here. I found myself emotionally invested in almost every character (My least favorite being the mother. I have little patience for a wallower). The wrap up was not too tedious, though I could have done without much of it especially the fictional characters.

Get ready for a rollercoaster ride of emotions if you are so inclined to give this book a try. I wouldn't compare it to Lolita, but I will say if you couldn't stomach Lolita I would stay away from this one too. 

ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you NetGalley!

Find my review on Goodreads!
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Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.  This was a hard read but at the same time a wonderful read.  I will be sharing this book title with my reading buddies.
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St. Martin's Press and NetGalley provided me with an electronic copy of Rust & Stardust.  I was under no obligation to review this book and my opinion is freely given.

Rust & Stardust was inspired by the real true crime story of Florence Sally Horner, an eleven year old abducted from Camden, New Jersey in 1948 by ex-con Frank LaSalle.  Her harrowing, nearly two year ordeal, is captured by the author through research and filled in with fictionalized details.  Sally's plight, as well as the agony that her family faced during the time of her disappearance, slowly moves the plot forward to its eventual conclusion.

Sally was a sheltered girl, naive in many ways, which is well documented by the author.  The problem that I had with Rust & Stardust was that it was not as compelling as it should have been.  This is the story of an atrocity committed against a child, but the words did not convey any great feelings or emotions.  Given the fact that the real Sally Horner was abducted, abused, verbally tortured, and had her innocence ripped from her, this fictional account should have provoked an emotional response.  Rust & Stardust was a good read, but should have been more compelling.
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My apologies, I thought that I did provide feedback for this when I read it months ago. The book was beautifully written. What is a heartbreaking true story does not seem to be exploited for shock value, instead descriptions are modest and it seems to shine a light on the tragic story of Sally Horner. Though the material may be hard to read for some I would recommend it to many.
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Despite the entire premise of this novel (and Lolita) having a major ick-factor, I decided to try it for the historical aspect. Unfortunately I was not wowed by the writing or the characters. The writing was pretty dry and the formatting made the chapters extremely short much of the time. I did feel as though there were too many character POV changes, particularly since some of them did not add much to the story. I also found it difficult, based on what I've read of the true story, what was wholly fictional and what was true. It seemed as though the author may have taken a lot of liberties, some I did not understand the need for, although the basic facts were accurate. One of the facts that she did use was the absolute gullibility of both Sally and her mother. Aside from the abuse, this was the most difficult thing to put up with in the novel. I find it difficult, even knowing how those times were, how someone could be so absolutely, mind-numbingly gullible. I know it is true, but as a person who even as a young child did not take any crap from adults known and unknown (there are many stories...), gullibility just greatly irks me. 

Overall, the story of Sally is quite sad (and ends so badly) but the writing rather dwindled the potential of this book.
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I received this book as an ARC from NetGalley.

This book did not appeal to me and I was unable to complete it.

The subject matter was depressing. The writing was not compelling and I found myself struggling to continue.
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I am not sure if this would be considered Historical Fiction or based on a true story, but I think it is both as well as crime, drama and a very, very sad story. Make sure you read the author's notes at the end of the story to find out what motivated her to pen this book and to learn more about the true story of Sally Horner. I had no idea this was based on a true occurrence when I started reading it and that made this story even more traumatic to read.

11 year-old Sally Horner lives in Camden New Jersey in 1948. She is a quiet, happy child, who has a hard time making friends. When she finally gets up enough nerve to go up to a group of girls to try and join their group, they decide to take advantage of this young girl. They tell her she can be part of their group, but she needs to be initiated by stealing something from Woolworth’s. Sally is scared to steal and hurt her mother, but really wants to have friends so she slips a marble composition notebook into her sweater and hurries to leave the store. Sally doesn’t realize that stealing that notebook will change her life forever. Enter 52-year-old Frank LaSalle, just released from prison. He sees Sally steal the notebook and makes his move. He tells her he is from the FBI and tells Sally that she needs to do what he tells her or she will be arrested and thrown in jail. Terrified, Sally agrees and tricks her mother into letting her go to "the shore" with her friend's father. What follows is two years of abuse.

The chapters alternate between Sally and many other secondary characters. We read about Sally’s time with LaSalle, the places they lived, and the people Sally came in contact with. There are chapters from Sally’s mother, sister, and brother-in-law while they are trying to find her. They all struggle with guilt, anger, and blame. So many things could have changed the outcome of this story. What is even more of a mystery, is why Sally does not take advantage of so many times she could have gotten away or told someone. She was so brainwashed to think something worse would happen, that she seemed to accept her lot in life. This story is chilling, emotional, and heartbreaking. I had to switch it up with some lighter stories in order to finish this one. Having said that, this story is riveting. I wanted to find out what was going to happen. Who would finally realize that there was something wrong? When would Sally realize she had to speak up?

As I said at the beginning, this story is based upon a true crime story. It was also the basis for the book "Lolita", but the author placed herself as an observer of Sally's story and what she describes is fiction. Many of the characters were based on situations such as the circus being in town and the circus performers staying in the same trailer park were Sally and Frank lived, but the interactions are fiction. Many people will find this book too difficult to read. The incidences of abuse are not graphic, most are just innuendo or Sally writing about them in her journal after the fact, but that may still bother many readers. I am glad I read this book, it was disturbing, but the author did an amazing job. I look forward to reading more by T. Greenwood.
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I wasn’t exactly sure what this novel would be like—true crime stories are usually more on the grim, graphic side, and as for “Lolita” (for which Sally Horner’s story was partly an inspiration), I admit I liked it more for its value as a classic than for its theme. Still, “Rust & Stardust” looked like it’d be an interesting read, and that it was… as well as heart-breaking in many ways. (Especially when you already know how things went for the real Sally Horner.)

One thing I really appreciated with it is how it never veers into graphic/descriptive territory when it comes to the sexual abuse Sally suffered. I’m not a prude, but reading about women being defiled in terms that make the whole thing look like “stuff being done to a piece of meat” has never been something I particularly relish, and when the victims are kids, how to put it… That’d just be the worst. So I was really glad that, while there’s no doubt as to what LaSalle does to Sally, there’s also no need to say more. We get it. We get the picture. He’s a disgusting man. And we can leave it at that.

There’s also a really frustrating side to the story, in that it shows us several close calls where, had things gone just slightly differently, Sally could’ve been found much sooner. It always hinges on a tiny thing, on just the wrong timing—frustrating, but also all too human, because it puts the reader face to face with something that most of us may indeed not recognise in time to act. It’s all about “someone has to do something”, but the someones who could act are sometimes oblivious, and sometimes make their decision just that tad bit too late to be useful. And, to be fair, most of the characters were so naive! Granted, it was 1948, and we can assume there weren't so many horror stories of kids being abducted at the time, and people wouldn't be as savvy and wary as they generally (well, supposedly) are now. Still, I felt like slapping them sometimes and tall them "duh, this is so obvious!"

(I say “frustrating”, but with a dash of anticipation, like when you’re left with a cliffhanger.)

The novel doesn’t entirely follow Sally’s ordeal either, and the author took some freedoms with the side characters: people whom Sally meets, who may or may not be in positions to help her, and who provide a ray of sunshine in her existence while LaSalle drags her around. What it was exactly like for the real Sally, we’ll never know, but here, it felt as if these encounters allowed her to survive, to remain strong enough in spite of all the grim sides. There’s an (expected) turning point when she reaches that stage where she starts to look more like a young woman, something that doesn’t “appeal” to Frank, and in turn, he gradually treats her differently—and you can’t help but shiver, on top of the previous shivers due to the whole paedophilia part itself, because it’s when you also start wondering “how long until he discards her because she’s not a little girl anymore?”

I guess I had more trouble, all in all, with the overall style. The writing was OK but not the best ever, and there were moments in the story when the rhythm felt strange; or perhaps that was because everything focused on the characters and little on the investigation itself, so there wasn’t the same kind of suspense I usually associate with “crime stories”?

Nevertheless, I “enjoyed” the book, also for telling this story that deserved telling. 3.5 to 4 stars here.
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