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: HERE & GONE, BY HAYLEN BECK

 

It begins with a woman fleeing through Arizona with her kids in tow, trying to escape an abusive marriage. When she’s pulled over by an unsettling local sheriff, things soon go awry and she is taken into custody. Only when she gets to the station, her kids are gone. And then the cops start saying they never saw any kids with her, that if they’re gone than she must have done something with them…

Meanwhile, halfway across the country a man hears the frenzied news reports about the missing kids, which are eerily similar to events in his own past. As the clock ticks down on the search for the lost children, he too is drawn into the desperate fight for their return.

My Thoughts: Audra Kinney is almost at her California destination when she is pulled over. The sheriff of the nearby small town states that her car is overloaded, and that he must lighten it. He opens the trunk and finds some marijuana…which stuns her, as she knows it is not hers. She is arrested anyway. Her children are taken from the scene by an assistant to the sheriff.

Hours later, she realizes that they have been stolen, as the sheriff and his assistant are denying that there were any children with her.

Will anyone listen to her protests? Is there anyone at all who believes a word out of her mouth? Her ex-husband has done a good job of painting her as a drug addict/alcoholic with mental health issues. How can she defend herself against the wealthy ex and his mother?

The intensity of Here and Gone kept me captivated as I watched Audra’s efforts to find a compassionate person amongst those in charge. The FBI agent seems the most likely to help her, but she, too, might be persuaded by those who are lying.

Help comes from an unlikely source, but even as I felt the dawning of hope, I couldn’t stop worrying about them all until the final pages. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE BAD THINGS, BY MARY-JANE RILEY

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Alex Devlin’s life changed forever fifteen years ago when her sister Sasha’s two small children were snatched in broad daylight. Little Harry’s body was found a few days later, but Millie’s remains were never discovered.

Now Jackie Wood, jailed as an accessory to the twins’ murder, has been released, her conviction quashed by the Appeal Court. Convinced Jackie can reveal where Millie is buried, Alex goes to meet her.

But the unexpected information Wood reveals shocks Alex to the core and threatens to uncover the dark secret she has managed to keep under wraps for the past fifteen years. Because in the end, can we ever really know what is in the hearts of those closest to us?

 
My Thoughts: The Bad Things alternates between the perspectives of Alex Devlin, a journalist whose niece and nephew were kidnapped and murdered, and DI Kate Todd, who worked the case back then.

Now, fifteen years later, we see Alex trying to find out from Jackie Wood where Millie was buried, and also hoping to ward off the discovery of her long-buried secret. If she could uncover the location of a specific object from Jackie Wood, she might be able to contain her shame.

But nothing is coming together in quite the way Alex hoped, and another murder will add to the puzzling elements of the case, leading Alex, the cops, and other journalists down all the wrong pathways.

Sasha, the mother of the deceased children, was a very disturbed character, and I was suspicious of her from the beginning. The stories Alex shared about their childhoods added to the picture of her as a self-absorbed woman capable of anything, and someone who also used her “victim” role to keep everyone at bay. Who would dare to probe beneath the surface of this wounded creature?

Finding the truth was definitely circumvented by numerous corrupt individuals, both family members and police, who would do anything to keep everyone in the dark.

Even when we thought we had most of the answers to our questions, another narrator at the end of the book brought a final revelation. 4.0 stars.

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