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: 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 THERAPIST, BY B.A. PARIS

When Alice and Leo move into a newly renovated house in The Circle, a gated community of exclusive houses, it is everything they’ve dreamed of. But appearances can be deceptive…

As Alice is getting to know her neighbours, she discovers a devastating secret about her new home, and begins to feel a strong connection with Nina, the therapist who lived there before.

Alice becomes obsessed with trying to piece together what happened two years before. But no one wants to talk about it. Her neighbors are keeping secrets and things are not as perfect as they seem…

curl up and read thoughts

 

We are introduced to The Therapist with a narrative from the past involving a therapist having a session with someone.

We begin to believe that the therapist from the past might be the murdered character Nina Maxwell, who lived in the house now occupied by Leo and Alice, but are we wrong about that?

As we follow Alice’s quest to help a P.I. figure out who really murdered Nina, we begin to doubt everyone who lives in The Circle…except the one we should be adding to our list of suspects.

A twisted tale that carries us along to an intense ending that earned 5 stars for me.

***The ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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REVIEW: MY LIES, YOUR LIES, BY SUSAN LEWIS

She’s rewriting history, but which version of the truth will she tell?

Joely tells other people’s secrets for a living. As a ghost writer, she’s used to scandal—but this just might be her strangest assignment yet. Freda has never told her story to anyone before. But now she’s ready to set the record straight and right a wrong that’s haunted her for forty years.

Freda’s memoir begins with a 15-year-old girl falling madly in love with her male teacher. As Joely sets out to write this troubling love story, she is spun into a world of secrets and lies she could never have imagined, causing her to question everything she thought she knew about her own family.

Delving further into Freda’s past, Joely’s sure she can uncover the truth—but at what cost?

Breathlessly intriguing from the first page to the last, My Lies, Your Lies is a gripping novel that intertwines the tumultuous past of one mysterious woman to the present of another with a harrowing, unexpected twist.
 
 
 
 
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As we begin My Lies, Your Lies, we are thrust into the story of a ghostwriter contemplating a new assignment. And interspersed with her story is a narrative from 1968 that slowly unfolds to reveal another story. Whose story is it, and what will be revealed?

There were so many layers and so many leaps between the past and the present that I had to keep myself alert for the twists and turns. Just when I thought I knew what would happen, I was surprised.

The characters were connected in many unexpected ways, so I did enjoy discovering how they were linked as I kept reading.

By the end, I wasn’t sure who to trust or who to believe, but I did love learning about them all. A 4.5 star read.
 
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REVIEW: TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, BY CAROLA LOVERING

Skye Starling is overjoyed when her boyfriend, Burke Michaels, proposes after a whirlwind courtship. Though Skye seems to have the world at her fingertips—she’s smart, beautiful, and from a well-off family—she’s also battled crippling OCD ever since her mother’s death when she was eleven, and her romantic relationships have suffered as a result.

But now Burke—handsome, older, and more emotionally mature than any man she’s met before—says he wants her. Forever. Except, Burke isn’t who he claims to be. And interspersed letters to his therapist reveal the truth: he’s happily married, and using Skye for his own, deceptive ends.

In a third perspective, set thirty years earlier, a scrappy seventeen-year-old named Heather is determined to end things with Burke, a local bad boy, and make a better life for herself in New York City. But can her adolescent love stay firmly in her past—or will he find his way into her future?

On a collision course she doesn’t see coming, Skye throws herself into wedding planning, as Burke’s scheme grows ever more twisted. But of course, even the best laid plans can go astray. And just when you think you know where this story is going, you’ll discover that there’s more than one way to spin the truth.

 

 

A story that twists and turns repeatedly throughout, Too Good To Be True spotlights bits and pieces via alternating narrators and letters written by two of the characters to their therapist.

Not only the present is revealed, but a story that began thirty years before, which yields just enough about the characters to keep us guessing. And then we are also gifted with the motives that were carefully hidden and finally out in the open.

I was hooked from the beginning but had issues with several of the characters. My favorite was Skye, as she had vulnerabilities that made me want to protect her. As for the others, I was not sorry to see them finally pay some consequences, but in my opinion, they did not pay enough. A 4.5 star read that kept me engaged throughout.

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REVIEW: GUILT BY ASSOCIATION, BY MARCIA CLARK

Los Angeles D.A. Rachel Knight is a tenacious, wise-cracking, and fiercely intelligent prosecutor in the city’s most elite division. When her colleague, Jake, is found dead at a grisly crime scene, Rachel is shaken to the core. She must take over his toughest case: the assault of a young woman from a prominent family.

But she can’t stop herself from digging deeper into Jake’s death, a decision that exposes a world of power and violence and will have her risking her reputation—and her life—to find the truth.

With her tremendous expertise in the nuances of L.A. courts and crime, and with a vibrant ensemble cast of characters, Marcia Clark combines intimate detail, riotous humor, and visceral action in a debut thriller that marks the launch of a major new figure on the crime-writing scene.

 
 
 
 

From the first pages of Guilt by Association, we are drawn into the world of Rachel Knight, a young prosecutor. I liked how the author took us through her days, sharing details that let us into that world. I also enjoyed her personal details, like the fact that she lives in a residential hotel that has a posh ambience. Clearly, she enjoys the good things in life, and the ease that hotel living offers. But she isn’t averse to getting down to the nitty gritty of life on the streets, where she makes the discoveries needed to solve cases.

So when Rachel starts pulling the threads that will unravel a case she is working, she is persistent enough to follow whatever she finds along the way until she has managed to piece together a whole series of cases. The end results were so much more than she could have imagined, and I really loved seeing how she did it all. 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: THE PUSH, BY CLAIRE MCGOWAN

 

 

The party should have been perfect: six couples from the same baby group, six newborns, a luxurious house. But not everything has gone to plan, and while some are here to celebrate, others have sorrows to drown. When someone falls from the balcony of the house, the secrets and conflicts within the group begin to spill out …

DS Alison Hegarty, herself struggling with infertility, is called in to investigate. She’s convinced the fall was not an accident, and finds the new parents have a lot to hide. Wealthy Ed and Monica show off their newborn while their teenage daughter is kept under virtual house arrest. Hazel and Cathy conceived their longed-for baby via an anonymous sperm donor—or so Hazel thinks. Anita and Jeremy planned to adopt from America, but there’s no sign of the child. Kelly, whose violent boyfriend disrupted previous group sessions, came to the party even though she lost her baby. And then there’s Jax, who’s been experiencing strange incidents for months—almost like someone’s out to get her. Is it just a difficult pregnancy? Or could it be payback for something she did in the past?

It’s a nightmare of a case, and as events get even darker it begins to look impossible. Only one thing is clear: they all have something to hide. And for one of them, it’s murder.

 
 
 

The Push zooms in on the lives of the parents in the baby group, before and after the event at the barbecue. Each time we are swept back and forth in time, we learn more hidden details. Secrets are slowly revealed. Someone is sending threatening messages to Jax, her cat disappears, and suddenly her car is inexplicably tampered with. Are all these events connected? Her boyfriend Aaron is searching for his birth mother, and strangely, an unknown person seems to be stalking them both.

What happened on that balcony, and how do the mysterious connections between several of the group members play a role in the increased tensions that came to a breaking point?

Jax was the most interesting character, and seemingly had the most to hide. But Monica, basking in her “perfection,” appeared to be the most likely one to have dark buried untruths lurking beneath that vacuous exterior. And how does her teenage daughter Chloe fit into the drama?

Additional mysterious elements include the identity of the victim for a good part of the story. Once that was unveiled, the clues fell into place for me. I knew that several characters played a role, so as events unfolded, the answers felt as simple as snapping together a puzzle. 5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: THE ARRANGEMENT, BY ROBYN HARDING

 

Natalie, a young art student in New York City, is struggling to pay her bills when a friend makes a suggestion: Why not go online and find a sugar daddy—a wealthy, older man who will pay her for dates and even give her a monthly allowance? Lots of girls do it, Nat learns. All that’s required is to look pretty and hang on his every word. Sexual favors are optional.

Though more than thirty years her senior, Gabe, a handsome corporate finance attorney, seems like the perfect candidate, and within a month, they are madly in love. At least, Nat is…Gabe already has a family, whom he has no intention of leaving.

So when he abruptly ends things, Nat can’t let go. But Gabe’s not about to let his sugar baby destroy his perfect life. What was supposed to be a mutually beneficial arrangement devolves into a nightmare of deception, obsession, and, when a body is found near Gabe’s posh Upper East Side apartment, murder.

 
 
 

From the beginning of The Arrangement, a sense of doom clouds the relationship between Nat and Gabe. What had started out as a financial matter between them becomes so much more. Especially for Nat. But for Gabe, there is an element of coldness and calculation, and I had fears that grave disaster would come for them.

Could their relationship turn into a loving one or would they each come to regret what they had started?

Unexpected twists kept me turning the pages, wondering what would happen next. A sense of darkness hovered as I kept moving toward what could only be a nightmare conclusion. Stunning events kept the pace intense throughout. 5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: INVISIBLE GIRL, BY LISA JEWELL

Owen Pick’s life is falling apart. In his thirties and living in his aunt’s spare bedroom, he has just been suspended from his job as a teacher after accusations of sexual misconduct—accusations he strongly denies. Searching for professional advice online, he is inadvertently sucked into the dark world of incel forums, where he meets a charismatic and mysterious figure.

Across the street from Owen lives the Fours family, headed by mom Cate, a physiotherapist, and dad Roan, a child psychologist. But the Fours family have a bad feeling about their neighbor Owen. He’s a bit creepy and their teenaged daughter swears he followed her home from the train station one night.

Meanwhile, young Saffyre Maddox spent three years as a patient of Roan Fours. Feeling abandoned when their therapy ends, she searches for other ways to maintain her connection with him, following him in the shadows and learning more than she wanted to know about Roan and his family. Then, on Valentine’s night, Saffyre disappears—and the last person to see her alive is Owen Pick.

 

Invisible Girl introduces the characters in alternating sections, beginning with a young girl who likes to hide out and watch people. She is called Saffyre Maddox and she has been in therapy with another character, Roan Fours, whom she likes to follow and watch, along with his family. What is going on behind her actions, and what happens to her one night when she suddenly goes missing?

Meanwhile, we learn more about Cate, Roan’s wife, along with her teenage children, Josh and Georgia. Their lives seem normal enough, but Cate worries a lot about them and her husband Roan, who has given her reasons to mistrust him at times.

Saffyre’s story unfolds slowly, until we begin to fill in the missing pieces of what happened to her. Even as she emerges from her “invisibility,” other puzzling tidbits come to light about other characters: like Owen and his true story; about a man who hurt Saffyre years before; and about Roan’s secrets. In the end, there was a stunning reveal. 5 stars from me.

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REVIEW: FINAL CUT, BY S.J. WATSON

 

They tried to hide the truth. But the camera never lies…

Blackwood Bay. An ordinary place, home to ordinary people.

It used to be a buzzing seaside destination. But now, ravaged by the effects of dwindling tourism and economic downturn, it’s a ghost town—and the perfect place for film-maker Alex to shoot her new documentary. But the community is deeply suspicious of her intentions. After all, nothing exciting ever happens in Blackwood Bay—or does it?

When I first picked up Final Cut, I was intrigued with the opening scenes of a girl on the beach, suffering from amnesia and a mysterious past. A girl who renames herself Alex.

Years later, she is a filmmaker about to return to the scenes from the past and the strange mystery of girls who have disappeared and/or died. Is Alex one of those girls? What will she remember as she explores the events of the past, along with those in the present? What can she learn from watching clips of old films and documentaries?

Unfortunately, the story moves along so slowly that even the twists and turns don’t really keep me invested. I wanted to love this book and kept reading because I did want to know what happened. And I was glad to finally have some answers. But I can only give this book 3.5 stars.

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