REVIEW: THE IT GIRL, BY RUTH WARE

April Clarke-Cliveden was the first person Hannah Jones met at Oxford.

Vivacious, bright, occasionally vicious, and the ultimate It girl, she quickly pulled Hannah into her dazzling orbit. Together, they developed a group of devoted and inseparable friends—Will, Hugh, Ryan, and Emily—during their first term. By the end of the year, April was dead.

Now, a decade later, Hannah and Will are expecting their first child, and the man convicted of killing April, former Oxford porter John Neville, has died in prison. Relieved to have finally put the past behind her, Hannah’s world is rocked when a young journalist comes knocking and presents new evidence that Neville may have been innocent. As Hannah reconnects with old friends and delves deeper into the mystery of April’s death, she realizes that the friends she thought she knew all have something to hide…including a murder.

 

 

curl up and read thoughts

As we follow this mysterious story of The It Girl, we are led on a journey into the past and the present, by way of narratives labeled Before and After. Sometimes the pursuit takes us to interesting places, but we also begin to find it a little slow going, as so much continues to be hidden behind more secrets and lies.

Who can Hannah trust, as she tries to find answers? As I lost myself in the questions, I also found the victim, April, to be a horrible person so much of the time. Beneath her charm, beauty, and hidden beneath the protections of her money and things, was a cruel streak that came out on a regular basis. Not that we want to blame the victim, but so much of what happened to her had to result partially from her own behavior.

Nevertheless, there were many who wanted the truth. So Hannah pursues it. In the end, the twists and turns kept us going until finally we do get the stunning answers. I thought I had it figured out, but at the last minute, there was a definite turn in an unexpected direction. I am giving this one 4.5 stars, mainly because it was tedious at times. I had to keep going, though. I wanted to know!

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REVIEW: REPUTATION, BY SARAH VAUGHAN

As a politician, Emma has sacrificed a great deal for her career—including her marriage and her relationship with her daughter, Flora.

A former teacher, the glare of the spotlight is unnerving for Emma, particularly when it leads to countless insults, threats, and trolling as she tries to work in the public eye. As a woman, she knows her reputation is worth its weight in gold but as a politician, she discovers it only takes one slip-up to destroy it completely.

Fourteen-year-old Flora is learning the same hard lessons at school as she encounters heartless bullying. When another teenager takes her own life, Emma lobbies for a new law to protect women and girls from the effects of online abuse. Now, Emma and Flora find their personal lives uncomfortably intersected…but then the unthinkable happens.

A man is found dead in Emma’s home. A man she had every reason to be afraid of and to want gone. Fighting to protect her reputation, and determined to protect her family at all costs, Emma is pushed to the limits as the worst happens and her life is torn apart.
 
 
 
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The price of a Reputation is high, and in our story, MP Emma Webster is about to find out how a life can unravel so quickly and totally when someone makes a poor choice or two along the way.

Emma was trying to protect her teenage daughter, whose own poor choices had led to a stain on her reputation. As more and more layers are added to the bad moves made by these characters, the suspense ratchets up as we wonder how it will all play out.

When someone is murdered, will the secrets go on after the death of that individual? And will Emma and her daughter’s reputations survive?

A lot of twists and turns along the way take us to a semblance of order, but there will always be the possibility of more secrets being revealed. A 5 star read.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.
 
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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: LOCAL WOMAN MISSING, BY MARY KUBICA

 

People don’t just disappear without a trace…

 

Shelby Tebow is the first to go missing. Not long after, Meredith Dickey and her six-year-old daughter, Delilah, vanish just blocks away from where Shelby was last seen, striking fear into their once-peaceful community. Are these incidents connected? After an elusive search that yields more questions than answers, the case eventually goes cold.

Now, eleven years later, Delilah shockingly returns. Everyone wants to know what happened to her, but no one is prepared for what they’ll find…

 
 
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From the very beginning of Local Woman Missing, the reader is caught up in the intensity of lives turned upside down.

We meet the various friends and neighbors, soon seeing how the characters all have flaws and issues, and when the women begin disappearing, we think we might understand what has happened to each of them. But by the end of the story, we are stunned by the truth when it is finally revealed.

Parts of the story were confusing, as we try to sort through all the lies and secrets. Characters that seemed like good people…were not.

I held my breath as the details filtered down to us. I couldn’t believe how many people were caught up in the morass of evil that stemmed from a seemingly good person. 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: HER DARK LIES, BY J. T. ELLISON

 

Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.

From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.

Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…

 

 

curl up and read thoughts

Claire Hunter is the first-person narrator of Her Dark Lies for most of the story. But an unknown alternate narrator keeps us on our toes as we try to figure out the secrets each of the characters is keeping.

First, we are not completely sure that Jack isn’t hiding important events, and even each of his family members are suspect.

Strange events keep unfolding in the week before the wedding, and suddenly people begin dying, one by one.

Twists and turns kept me turning the pages as I tried to decide who and what to believe. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THREE PERFECT LIARS, BY HEIDI PERKS

Laura has returned to work at Morris and Wood after her maternity leave, only to discover that the woman she brought in to cover for her isn’t planning on going anywhere. Despite her close relationship with the agency’s powerful CEO, Harry Wood, she feels sidelined—and outmaneuvered—as she struggles to balance the twin demands of work and motherhood.

Mia was only supposed to be a temporary hire at Morris and Wood, but she’s managed to make herself indispensable to everyone. Everyone, that is, except Laura. If people only knew why she was so desperate to keep her job, they might not want her to stay.

Janie gave up everything to support her husband and the successful agency he runs. But she has her own dark secret to protect…and will go to any lengths to keep it safe.


As I followed along with the alternating narratives in Three Perfect Liars, I was drawn in by each of the women. I could easily see each point of view, so that I knew I would have to choose one of them by the end of the story.Or were they all equally compelling?

The story also takes us to occasional interviews with investigators, who are trying to determine the cause of a massive fire that takes out the company at the center of the tale. Back and forth we go as the timeline carries us along for a ride.

As much as I wanted to find the answers to each woman’s secrets, the story plodded along with few hints until we approached the final denouement. Who would come out the winner, or would there be none? Who started the fire and whose body was discovered? 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE DAUGHTER, BY JANE SHEMILT

Jenny is a successful family doctor, the mother of three great teenagers, married to a celebrated neurosurgeon.

But when her youngest child, fifteen-year-old Naomi, doesn’t come home after her school play, Jenny’s seemingly ideal life begins to crumble. The authorities launch a nationwide search with no success. Naomi has vanished, and her family is broken.

As the months pass, the worst-case scenarios—kidnapping, murder—seem less plausible. The trail has gone cold. Yet for a desperate Jenny, the search has barely begun. More than a year after her daughter’s disappearance, she’s still digging for answers—and what she finds disturbs her. Everyone she’s trusted, everyone she thought she knew, has been keeping secrets, especially Naomi. Piecing together the traces her daughter left behind, Jenny discovers a very different Naomi from the girl she thought she’d raised.

Alternating narratives take the reader through the past and the present in The Daughter. Jenny struggles to move beyond what has happened to her daughter, but she is unable to do so. Thoughts of her relationship with Naomi and those last fateful days before her daughter disappeared seem to consume her.

She spends her time in the family cottage, isolated, but slowly she begins to reach out to others. Helping an ailing neighbor next door reminds her of her nurturing qualities and what is missing in her life, offering an alternative to focusing on her loss.

As the story continues, we start uncovering more pieces to the puzzle of Naomi’s disappearance, and see beneath the perfect exterior of the characters’ lives. Lies, secrets, and unexpected events kept me reading, although I felt frustrated by the slow unwinding of a tome that could have kept me glued to the pages. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: THE PERFECT LIAR, BY THOMAS CHRISTOPHER GREENE

 

Susannah, a young widow and single mother, has remarried well: to Max, a charismatic artist and popular speaker whose career took her and her fifteen-year-old son out of New York City and to a quiet Vermont university town. Strong-willed and attractive, Susannah expects that her life is perfectly in place again. Then one quiet morning she finds a note on her door: I KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

Max dismisses the note as a prank. But days after a neighborhood couple comes to dinner, the husband mysteriously dies in a tragic accident while on a run with Max. Soon thereafter, a second note appears on their door: DID YOU GET AWAY WITH IT?

Both Susannah and Max are keeping secrets from the world and from each other—secrets that could destroy their family and everything they have built. Thomas Christopher Greene’s The Perfect Liar is a thrilling novel told through the alternating perspectives of Susannah and Max with a shocking climax that no one will expect, from the bestselling author of The Headmaster’s Wife.

My Thoughts: The Perfect Liar opens when Susannah finds a frightening note on their front door. Not sure what to do, she calls her husband Max, who is also concerned. But then he reassures her.

As the story begins to unfold, we learn more about the secrets Max and Susannah are keeping, but neither is aware of the other’s duplicity. As more time goes by, however, we see the lack of trust building between them and feel a hint of what might happen next.

We learn Max’s secrets first, and only part of Susannah’s. As the pages turn quickly, with a rapid pace, the intensity increases. There is a sense of heightening danger throughout, and just when we think we have the answers, we will be stunned by another revelation.

It was hard to know who to root for, as each character seemed to hold just enough of the cards to be a threat to the other.

A thrilling domestic drama that kept me on the edge of my chair, this one earned 5 stars.


***I received the e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

REVIEW: TELL ME LIES, BY CAROLA LOVERING

 

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Lucy knows there’s something about Stephen that isn’t to be trusted. Stephen knows Lucy can’t tear herself away. And their addicting entanglement will have consequences they never could have imagined.

My Thoughts: Tell Me Lies sweeps back and forth through time but begins in the present with Lucy Albright attending the wedding of one of her best friends from college. She is living in Manhattan, but her thoughts on this day take her back to her college years in California.

Lucy and Stephen had one of those relationships that never seemed to progress. They couldn’t seem to stay together for various reasons, but they couldn’t stay apart, either.

What drew them together? What kept them apart? Their inability to make the relationship work or stay away from each other kept me frustrated on their behalf.

They each had issues from the past that factored into their mishaps with one another, and these problems were severe enough that they seemed doomed to never have what they wanted from each other. As the story unfolded, and each narrator shared moments that had affected them, it was easy to see that the patterns of behavior were deeply entrenched, and the traumas of the past had contributed in some way. One shocking event from the past was revealed near the end and made the story feel climactic.

I found each of these characters frustrating and hoped that they would eventually manage to move on. But I was also curious enough to keep reading. I did enjoy how the author added that unique flavor of each setting, from LA to Manhattan, allowing the reader to experience the moments with the characters: tasting the hot dogs or the drinks, feeling the ambience of the various bars and restaurants, and seeing the interiors of the apartments and homes. A slower read than I usually choose, but in the end, it was enjoyable. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: THE GOOD LIAR, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

 

When an explosion rips apart a Chicago building, the lives of three women are forever altered.
A year later, Cecily is in mourning. She was supposed to be in the building that day. Instead, she stood on the street and witnessed it going down, with her husband and best friend inside. Kate, now living thousands of miles away, fled the disaster and is hoping that her past won’t catch up with her. And Franny, a young woman in search of her birth mother, watched the horror unfold on the morning news, knowing that the woman she was so desperate to reconnect with was in the building.

Now, despite the marks left by the tragedy, they all seem safe. But as its anniversary dominates the media, the memories of that terrifying morning become dangerous triggers. All these women are guarding important secrets. Just how far will they go to keep them?

My Thoughts: A story told by multiple narrators, and with occasional flashbacks, The Good Liar gripped me and held on tight. Intensity grew even as more tidbits about the secrets in the lives of the women kept building.

Cecily seemed the one most “normal,” and then a photographer catches the look on her face right after the explosion and it soon circles the globe and makes her secrets even more hard to contain. The photographer, Teo Jackson, begins a documentary with Cecily as the “Poster Child,” and as he interviews her and others, what she is holding back niggles and turns her world more precarious. How can she continue while her own losses could be questioned? Why was she headed to that building on the fatal morning, and how did her lateness protect her?

A memorial a year later features those who died as well as those left behind. A compensation fund for the losses helps some, but also brings one woman out of hiding. What is the significance of the date of the event, soon labeled Triple Ten? Its occurrence on 10/10 at 10:00 a.m. has a secret meaning, but we won’t find out its significance until the end.

What is Kaitlyn hiding that kept her thousands of miles away…until she saw via the news what was happening with her family? What is going on with Franny that leads to Kaitlyn’s secret return, hoping to send Franny out of their orbit? What will she do to change everything?

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, twisting in the winds that symbolize Chicago…and breathless as more and more pieces were revealed. A stunning 5 star read for me.


***My eARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.