REVIEW: THE NANNY, BY GILLY MACMILLAN

 

When her beloved nanny, Hannah, left without a trace in the summer of 1988, seven-year-old Jocelyn Holt was devastated. Haunted by the loss, Jo grew up bitter and distant, and eventually left her parents and Lake Hall, their faded aristocratic home, behind.

Thirty years later, Jo returns to the house and is forced to confront her troubled relationship with her mother. But when human remains are accidentally uncovered in a lake on the estate, Jo begins to question everything she thought she knew.

Then an unexpected visitor knocks on the door and Jo’s world is destroyed again. Desperate to piece together the gaping holes in her memory, Jo must uncover who her nanny really was, why she left, and if she can trust her own mother…

My Thoughts: Alternating narrators and flip-flops between the past and present take us on our journey in The Nanny. Just when we think we’ve figured out who to believe, or who is the most reliable narrator, one of them adds a twist to the stories they tell, offering another dimension. Soon we don’t know who, if anyone, to trust.

As we follow the paths exposed by each character, we learn more and more of their secrets. In the end, will the darkest secrets tell us who we can trust and who to avoid?

I enjoyed traipsing along with the characters, guessing about what we will learn next. By the time we turn the final pages, we will be stunned by how the tale concludes. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE NIGHT VISITORS, BY CAROL GOODMAN

 

ALICE gets off a bus in the middle of a snowstorm in Delphi, NY. She is fleeing an abusive relationship and desperate to protect…

OREN, ten years old, a major Star Wars fan and wise beyond his years. Though Alice is wary, Oren bonds nearly instantly with…

MATTIE, a social worker in her fifties who lives in an enormous run-down house in the middle of the woods. Mattie lives alone and is always available, and so she is the person the hotline always calls when they need a late-night pickup. And although according to protocol Mattie should take Alice and Oren to a local shelter, instead she brings them home for the night. She has plenty of room, she says. What she doesn’t say is that Oren reminds her of her little brother, who died thirty years ago at the age of ten.

But Mattie isn’t the only one withholding elements of the truth. Alice is keeping her own secrets. And as the snowstorm worsens around them, each woman’s past will prove itself unburied, stirring up threats both within and without.

My Thoughts: I was immediately swept up into the drama of The Night Visitors as Alice and Oren get off the bus and are pulled into the unknown life ahead of them. Fleeing abuse, but not sure who they can trust, Alice braces herself against the challenges ahead.

Alice and Mattie’s stories are told in alternating narratives, and we learn more about their lives and their experiences as their stories unfold.

I could relate to Mattie, having had a career in social work. Her own family life was full of secrets and dark judgments, so I could empathize with how she had struggled.

Alice’s secrets brought darkness into their new lives, and because she wasn’t sure if she could trust Mattie, she almost lost the opportunity to accept the good offered to her.

Mysteries seemed to lurk in the old Victorian house where Mattie offers refuge, and I liked the “ghostly elements” in the story. In the end, I was happy that many of the issues were resolved for the characters. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HER ONE MISTAKE, BY HEIDI PERKS

 

Charlotte was supposed to be looking after the children, and she swears she was. She only took her eyes off of them for one second. But when her three kids are all safe and sound at the school fair, and Alice, her best friend Harriet’s daughter, is nowhere to be found, Charlotte panics. Frantically searching everywhere, Charlotte knows she must find the courage to tell Harriet that her beloved only child is missing. And admit that she has only herself to blame.

Harriet, devastated by this unthinkable, unbearable loss, can no longer bring herself to speak to Charlotte again, much less trust her. Now more isolated than ever and struggling to keep her marriage afloat, Harriet believes nothing and no one. But as the police bear down on both women trying to piece together the puzzle of what happened to this little girl, dark secrets begin to surface—and Harriet discovers that confiding in Charlotte again may be the only thing that will reunite her with her daughter….

My Thoughts: What a whirlwind ride! Her One Mistake begins  as a lost child scenario, but as alternating narrators reveal more of the story, we see that the players in this layered and deceptive drama are not who they seem to be.

Harriet and Brian caught my interest early on, as there was something very odd about their dynamic. While townsfolk, along with the media, point a finger at Charlotte, they should be paying attention to the two of them.

As the story unfolds, I must stop the revelations, to avoid spoilers. Suffice it to say you will hang on tight throughout this breathless ride…and you will not be disappointed. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE FAMILY AT NO. 13, BY S.D. MONAGHAN

 

Mary has everything. Beautiful and rich, she lives on an exclusive street in the heart of the city, in a house with gorgeous views and an immaculately maintained garden. Her life looks perfect.

But behind closed doors the truth is very different. Her husband Andrew barely speaks to her, spending his days down in the basement alone. Her teenage nephew is full of rage, lashing out with no warning. Her carefully constructed life is beginning to fall apart.

And then someone starts sending Mary anonymous notes, threatening her and her family…

Everyone has secrets. But is someone at number 13 hiding something that could put the whole family in danger?

 

My Thoughts: Connor is one of the first characters we meet in The Family at No. 13. He is a therapist trying to live and work in a building that has many issues, so when he is offered a bungalow in a nice neighborhood, he thinks everything will be great.

But nothing is as it seems in the new neighborhood, beginning with the fact that a patient he just discharged lives right down the street, and the people next door have a horrific teenage boy living with them. A rage-filled boy who relishes bouncing loudly up and down on a trampoline and torturing animals.

Alternating narrators tell the stories of the neighborhood. Mary’s voice is a first-person look into her life and her experiences. We later learn the story of the boy, Finbarr, which does offer a more compassionate perspective, but does not make him any more likable.

What are the secrets that are dictating the lives of the neighbors, and how will Connor deal with the new life he has chosen? What convoluted events will turn the neighborhood upside down and change the lives of the residents? 4.5

***

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.

***

REVIEW: WE WERE MOTHERS, BY KATIE SISE

 

A scandalous revelation is about to devastate a picturesque town where the houses are immaculate and the neighborhoods are tightly knit. Devoted mother Cora O’Connell has found the journal of her friend Laurel’s daughter—a beautiful college student who lives next door—revealing an illicit encounter. Hours later, Laurel makes a shattering discovery of her own: her daughter has vanished without a trace. Over the course of one weekend, the crises of two close families are about to trigger a chain reaction that will expose a far more disturbing web of secrets. Now everything is at stake as they’re forced to confront the lies they have told in order to survive.

My Thoughts: We Were Mothers offers a peek behind closed doors as friends and neighbors in a small town show up for various social events, even as their lives are untangling a web of secrets and lies.

Alternating narrators take us to the past, while also bringing out the contemporary dramas in their lives.

At times, I found the characters confusing, as we zeroed in on their troubles. There was little to differentiate them from one another, except for their names. I had to take notes to keep their stories separate.

By the end, their individual stories seemed to mesh together, making them even less unique and more like cardboard characters. Perhaps the truth behind each story did not distinguish them much, but overall, their lives were all in crisis of one kind or another, which kept me reading. Not memorable or interesting enough, however. 3 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE OTHER WIFE, BY MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

 

Childhood sweethearts William and Mary have been married for sixty years. William is a celebrated surgeon, Mary a devoted wife. Both have a strong sense of right and wrong.

This is what their son, Joe O’Loughlin, has always believed. But when Joe is summoned to the hospital with news that his father has been brutally attacked, his world is turned upside down. Who is the strange woman crying at William’s bedside, covered in his blood – a friend, a mis-tress, a fantasist or a killer?

Against the advice of the police, Joe launches his own investigation. As he learns more, he dis-covers sides to his father he never knew – and is forcibly reminded that the truth comes at a price.

 

 

My Thoughts: Joe is struggling with the loss of his wife, and parenting his two young daughters, Charlie and Emma, is a constant reminder of the loss. Emma’s struggles are interfering with her behavior at school, and when the staff suggest that she has deeper issues, Joe resists the labels they are putting on her. He is a psychologist, after all, and wouldn’t he know if his own daughter had serious problems?

His Parkinson’s Disease is under control, mostly, but there are daily reminders of what lies ahead.

When his father is brutally attacked and injured, Joe fiercely pushes ahead to find answers, despite the warnings from the police. But there is something troubling about his father’s mistress, Olivia, who insists she is his wife. In learning more about her history, as well as William’s own past mistakes and errors of judgment, Joe begins to realize that the mysteries are dark and deep.

I enjoyed The Other Wife and the characters and felt as though I knew them all.

What would Joe uncover as he meets up with friends and acquaintances from the past? Would the old adage “follow the money” take him to unexpected places and answers? Old resentments add to the mix, and when we reach the conclusion, we feel hope. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HER PRETTY FACE, BY ROBYN HARDING

 

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she thought that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into Forrester’s world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart.

Because one of these women is not who she seems.

My Thoughts: Her Pretty Face opens with an article from 1996: a teenager was murdered in Arizona. What, if anything, connects these happenings to the current day characters?

I could empathize with Frances and how she has been ostracized by the other school moms due to something her son Marcus did. One can sense that she has had her own experiences from childhood that set her apart…if she could only talk about those events.

So when the gorgeous and wealthy Kate offers friendship, and their sons get along, which really helps Marcus begin to settle into the school, Frances feels connected and understood for the first time ever. Something had happened in her own past that led to her feelings of alienation.

In a back and forth storyline that begins to reveal more from the past events, I could see where the plot was taking us…and then was stunned by the final revelations. Daisy, Kate’s teenage daughter, gave an alternating narrative that led us to a greater understanding of the characters and their secrets, while intriguing us with more questions.

A riveting 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: CROSS HER HEART, BY SARAH PINBOROUGH

 

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa’s world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it’s up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren’t meant to be broken.

My Thoughts: From the first pages of Cross Her Heart, we can sense something that regularly niggles at Lisa, our MC. Some dark secret from the past that she has tucked away carefully, which makes her seem overly obsessive about some things. Her teenage daughter Ava resents how carefully her mother guards her, as if danger lurks.

When her dark past is revealed after photos are shown in the news, we are still not completely sure about those secrets. Throughout the story, I felt there was a lot more to the past; secrets even Lisa kept to herself back then. Some events she doesn’t even remember clearly. As we rapidly turn the pages, going back and forth in time, we learn more about what really happened all those years ago…and what someone is doing to torture Lisa in the present.

Now she must find the secret tormentor, someone she believes is out there, despite the evidence that suggests otherwise. What will Lisa do to finally put the past to rest? How will her BFF Marilyn help her?

I loved how the characters fought for the truth…and for peace with the past. 5 stars.

***