REVIEW: ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW, BY KRISTAN HIGGINS

The Frosts are a typical American family. Barb and John, married almost fifty years, are testy and bored with each other…who could blame them after all this time? At least they have their daughters—Barb’s favorite, the perfect, brilliant Juliet; and John’s darling, the free-spirited Sadie. The girls themselves couldn’t be more different, but at least they got along, more or less. It was fine. It was enough.

Until the day John had a stroke, and their house of cards came tumbling down.

Now Sadie has to put her career as a teacher and struggling artist in New York on hold to come back and care for her beloved dad—and face the love of her life, whose heart she broke, and who broke hers. Now Juliet has to wonder if people will notice that despite her perfect career as a successful architect, her perfect marriage to a charming Brit, and her two perfect daughters, she’s spending an increasing amount of time in the closet having panic attacks.

And now Barb and John will finally have to face what’s been going on in their marriage all along.

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A story about family, with its issues, sibling rivalries, and even infidelity, Always the Last to Know was a book I felt like curling up with on a long rainy day. I was drawn to each of the characters, from the artistic Sadie to Juliet with her architecture and her special closeness to the mother Barb. Sadie’s close connection to John, the father, was changed by his illness, and even when she came to stay in the family home, she held on to hope that all would return to normal.

But each family member soon discovers that hopes and dreams do not necessarily come to those who work hard toward that goal. What they do learn, however, is that they can create their own versions of family life, despite the challenges they are facing.

I rooted for Sadie to finally connect to Noah, her long-lost love, discovering a way that they could be together in spite of what seemed like very separate versions of happiness. A story that held my interest until the end, it earned 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: APPLES NEVER FALL, BY LIANE MORIARTY

The Delaney family love one another dearly—it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other . . .

 

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after fifty years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children—Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke—were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure—but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

 
 
 
 
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Apples Never Fall tells the story of a family with secrets and hidden conflicts; the Delaneys keep their story to themselves. They have a façade to protect as a company of tennis stars.

It is hard to say who is in charge of this family, as both Stan and Joy have their roles to play, and they seem to maintain those parts well.

 

The tale sweeps back and forth in time, focusing on the disappearance of Joy, the mother, as police try to find out what happened to her, while directing their gaze upon Stan.

The young woman who had showed up on their doorstep one night, claiming abuse, seemingly takes over the household until family members begin to question her stories and her goals.

Just when I thought I knew where the story was going, it would take a new turn. By the end, I had a much clearer picture of them all and what kept them together in spite of their conflicts. A 5 star read.

 
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REVIEW: HER PERFECT LIFE, BY HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN

Everyone knows Lily Atwood―and that may be her biggest problem. The beloved television reporter has it all―fame, fortune, Emmys, an adorable seven-year-old daughter, and the hashtag her loving fans created: #PerfectLily. To keep it, all she has to do is protect one life-changing secret.

Her own.

Lily has an anonymous source who feeds her story tips―but suddenly, the source begins telling Lily inside information about her own life. How does he―or she―know the truth?

Lily understands that no one reveals a secret unless they have a reason. Now she’s terrified someone is determined to destroy her world―and with it, everyone and everything she holds dear.

How much will she risk to keep her perfect life? And what if the spotlight is the most dangerous place of all?
 
 
 
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Alternating stories sweep back and forth in Her Perfect Life, revealing two sisters: Cassie, the older one who disappeared from college when the younger sister, Lily, was only seven years old, and adult Lily who is struggling to keep her “perfect life” going.

In the past, searches yielded nothing, which left Lily, her mother, and her grandmother believing that Cassie had left on her own and didn’t want to come home.

But in the present, Lily’s TV producer, Greer, decides to work with a detective who has presented himself to her, hoping to find Cassie. And finally solve a case his own father had worked on.

But are those helping Lily find answers truly on her side or is there another agenda? As we follow the narratives of each sister, we come to our own conclusions, and are stunned by the twisted plans of some of the characters. 5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: 28 SUMMERS, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

 

When Mallory Blessing’s son, Link, receives deathbed instructions from his mother to call a number on a slip of paper in her desk drawer, he’s not sure what to expect. But he certainly does not expect Jake McCloud to answer. It’s the late spring of 2020 and Jake’s wife, Ursula DeGournsey, is the frontrunner in the upcoming Presidential election.

There must be a mistake, Link thinks. How do Mallory and Jake know each other?

Flash back to the sweet summer of 1993: Mallory has just inherited a beachfront cottage on Nantucket from her aunt, and she agrees to host her brother’s bachelor party. Cooper’s friend from college, Jake McCloud, attends, and Jake and Mallory form a bond that will persevere—through marriage, children, and Ursula’s stratospheric political rise—until Mallory learns she’s dying.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.
 
 
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The theme of Same Time Next Year reeled me into 28 Summers, and the setting of Nantucket helped, too.

Nothing could have kept me turning the pages more than the short clips about the summer get-togethers…but hovering overhead was a dark foreshadowing that we glimpsed in the very beginning.

I loved Mallory and Jake…and really hated Ursula. In the end, she did show a bit of compassion, but overall, she was a narcissist that Jake should have kicked to the curb in the early years!

If you loved Same Time Next Year, you won’t be able to stop turning these pages. Along the way, you will meet some interesting characters, too. A 5 star read for me.
 
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REVIEW: LIE BESIDE ME, BY GYTHA LODGE

 

Louise wakes up. Her head aches, her mouth is dry, her memory is fuzzy—but she suspects she’s done something bad.

She rolls over toward her husband, Niall. The man who, until recently, made her feel loved.

But it’s not Niall lying beside her. In fact, she’s never seen this man before.

And he’s not breathing. . . .

As Louise desperately struggles to piece her memories back together, it’s clear to Jonah Sheens and his team that she is their prime suspect—though they soon find she’s not the only one with something to hide.

Did she do it? And, if not, can they catch the real killer before they strike again?
 
 
 
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An intense mystery that pulled numerous characters into the mix, Lie Beside Me kept me rapidly turning pages.

Louise was a major player who told her side of the story to us, even as other characters revealed what they saw of her and how they imagined that events would unfold.

I liked how the numerous police officers showed us their thoughts and actions on the case while also revealing their personal issues and relationships, all of which gave us a chance to know them all and even guess what they might do next.

In the end, I was still surprised by how the case was wrapped up, even as we seemingly watched and listened to everything happening as we went along. A great story that was layered and fascinating and earned 4.5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: THE PERFECT FAMILY, BY ROBYN HARDING

Thomas and Viv Adler are the envy of their neighbors: attractive, successful, with well-mannered children and a beautifully restored home.

Until one morning, when they wake up to find their porch has been pelted with eggs. It’s a prank, Thomas insists; the work of a few out-of-control kids. But when a smoke bomb is tossed on their front lawn, and their car’s tires are punctured, the family begins to worry. Surveillance cameras show nothing but grainy images of shadowy figures in hoodies. And the police dismiss the attacks, insisting they’re just the work of bored teenagers. Unable to identify the perpetrators, the Adlers are helpless as the assaults escalate into violence, and worse. And each new violation brings with it a growing fear. Because everyone in the Adler family is keeping a secret—not just from the outside world, but from each other. And secrets can be very dangerous….

This twisty, addictively page-turning suspense novel about a perfect family’s perfect façade will keep you turning pages until its explosive ending.

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Everything is going wrong in The Perfect Family, and as we follow the thoughts of each member during a frightening and troubling time in their lives, we are as curious as they are about who is terrorizing them.

Alternating voices tell the tale, from Thomas, the patriarch, to Viv, the matriarch. And then Eli and Tarryn, the younger generation, reveal bits and pieces of their issues.

Who is raising havoc in their lives? As the danger increases, we are more puzzled than ever. Could the terrorists be mischievous youngsters, or are the events the work of someone else? Each family member has secrets, and could those hidden aspects of their lives be responsible? I was totally surprised by the revelations. A twisty tale that earned five stars.

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REVIEW: CUL-DE-SAC, BY JOY FIELDING

 

Someone on this quiet, unassuming cul-de-sac will be shot dead in the middle of a sultry July night.

Will it be Maggie, the perfectionist wife, or Craig, the husband who can’t quite live up to her expectations? They’ve packed up their two children and fled their life in California, hoping for a fresh start in Florida, only to find the demons of the past hovering on their doorstep.

Maybe it will be Nick, a highly respected oncologist, or his wife, Dani, a successful dentist, both with well-kept secrets of their own.

Or perhaps the victim will be Julia, an elderly widow, whose troubled grandson has recently moved in with her, introducing unsavory habits and even more unsavory acquaintances into her formerly quiet existence.

Then there’s Olivia and her husband, Sean. Having lost his job at a prestigious advertising agency, Sean is depressed, resentful of his working wife, and drinking heavily. He is also prone to increasingly violent fantasies.

And what of the newlyweds, Aiden and Heidi, whose marriage is already on the rocks, due to Aiden’s reluctance to stand up to his intrusive mother? Matters aren’t helped when Heidi befriends Julia’s grandson, setting the stage for a major blowup.

A diverse group of neighbors, to be sure. Yet all harbor secrets. All bear scars. And all have access to guns.

Not all will survive the night.
 
 
 
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Cul-de-Sac opens with a shooting in a quiet neighborhood.

In the following pages, we meet the residents of the quiet street, each of them appearing normal until we look below the surface.

As we learn more about each of them, we are left guessing about who will explode and turn on someone else.

The shooter could be any one of them, and I had my money on one individual, but I could have been wrong. In the end, I had it figured out.

A year later, everything has changed on the quiet street, but some were able to pick up the pieces. A brilliant story that delved into the lives behind the façade. 5 stars.
 
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REVIEW: THE AFFAIR, BY AMANDA BROOKE

When Nina finds out that her fifteen-year-old daughter, Scarlett, is pregnant, her world falls apart.
Because Scarlet won’t tell anyone who the father is. And Nina is scared that the answer will destroy everything.

As the suspects mount – from Scarlett’s teacher to Nina’s new husband of less than a year – Nina searches for the truth: no matter what the cost.

 

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Told to the reader in alternating voices, The Affair reveals how families are affected by the behavior of an adult and a young girl.

Scarlet has her mind set on keeping her secrets, and from her narratives, we learn more details about what she is hiding.

We also see how the wives of the possible perpetrators are deeply affected by all that unfolds.

The reader must guess the identity of Scarlet’s “lover,” but the full story will not be told until the very end. A 4 star read

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REVIEW: NINE PERFECT STRANGERS, BY LIANE MORIARTY

Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be.

 

Frances Welty, the formerly best-selling romantic novelist, arrives at Tranquillum House nursing a bad back, a broken heart, and an exquisitely painful paper cut. She’s immediately intrigued by her fellow guests. Most of them don’t look to be in need of a health resort at all. But the person that intrigues her most is the strange and charismatic owner/director of Tranquillum House. Could this person really have the answers Frances didn’t even know she was seeking? Should Frances put aside her doubts and immerse herself in everything Tranquillum House has to offer—or should she run while she still can?

It’s not long before every guest at Tranquillum House is asking exactly the same question.

 
 
 
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As Nine Perfect Strangers gather to meditate and deal with their emotional and physical stresses, this reader felt that nothing good could come of this little retreat. After all, none of the guests really know the resort owner/director, and that could be their biggest mistake.

Each guest is introduced to the reader with some back story, and we are hoping for good things, in spite of our misgivings.

My favorite character was Frances, an author, whose last book was rejected, and her love life has definitely gone bad. She will probably be seeking for something she won’t find here.

Masha had so many red flags swirling around her, and the guests did wonder. But perhaps what they see is just the authority she carries with her.

I have had this book since 2018, but I eagerly devoured it now because of the upcoming Hulu original series.  I am glad I read it.

Throughout the tale, we come to know more about each character, but less about Masha, and by the end, we wish they had all done more “due diligence.” A twisted story that left me with more questions than answers, this one earned 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: ALWAYS YOUNG & RESTLESS, BY MELODY THOMAS SCOTT, WITH DANA L. DAVIS

The renowned actress behind the character Nikki Newman of The Young and the Restless tells all in this scintillating memoir, divulging the insider details of her dramatic life and sixty-year career.

Melody Thomas Scott admits she is nothing like her Young and the Restless role, who has seen it all in her forty-year tenure on America’s highest-rated daytime serial. But the high drama, angst, and catastrophes aren’t confined to her character’s plotlines. In this captivating memoir, Melody reveals behind-the-scenes tales of her own riveting journey to stardom.

As Nikki went from impoverished stripper to resourceful, vivacious heroine―with missteps as gripping as her triumphs―Melody became a household name, enthralling global audiences. Her road to stardom was also her road to personal freedom, marked by an escape fit for cinema. In Always Young and Restless, Melody tells of her troubled, untraditional upbringing for the first time.

Learn how she suffered at home with her grandmother, a compulsive hoarder, whose cruelty as her guardian is shockingly extreme, and endured abuse at the hands of industry men; what it was like to act in feature films with Alfred Hitchcock, John Wayne, and Clint Eastwood; and how she took control of her life and career in a daring getaway move. And of course, Melody divulges juicy on-and-off-set details of what it’s like to be one half of the show’s most successful supercouple, “Niktor.” In witty, warm prose, meet the shining, persevering heart of an American icon―and prepare to be moved by a life story fit for a soap opera star.

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As a fan of the show The Young and the Restless, I gravitated to the character of Nikki Reed Newman from the first day she showed up on the set.

Her character reflects a journey as troubled as her own life, growing up with an abusive hoarder grandmother.

How Melody escaped the constraints and trauma of her young life to carve out her niche on one of the most popular daytime dramas was a story I couldn’t stop reading. The anecdotal and conversational tone drew me in, and even if I had never connected with the show or the character, I would have wanted to know more about this woman.

Always Young and Restless is a story I will keep thinking about as I continue to watch the show. 5 stars.#2021ReadNonFic

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