REVIEW: THE NURSERY, BY SUE WATSON

Then: Morning light shines into the nursery, casting shadows across the pale pink walls and wooden cot in the middle of the room. She opens the door expecting to hear the soft coo of her daughter Sofia stretching herself awake. But the room is silent. The cot is empty. Her little girl has vanished…

Now: Twelve years have passed, but Emily will never forget the night her life changed forever and she’s happy to have her daughter back beside her. A teenager now, Sofia—who was once a star student—is getting into trouble at school and she’s started asking questions about when she was a baby, but Emily can’t tell her what really happened the night she went missing. Nobody would understand why Emily did what she did, and if anyone ever found out, she could lose her daughter forever.

But when Emily catches Sofia messaging a stranger online, her heart pounds in her chest as she reads the last message received.

Your mother isn’t who you think she is.

Days later, Emily returns home to find the house silent. She checks every room but Sofia has vanished, again. She shudders as she remembers that night in the nursery. Has her past finally caught up with her? And is she already too late to save her precious daughter?

 
 
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From the first pages of The Nursery, the reader is gripped by the danger that seems ever-present in the lives of Emily and Sofia. There are secrets Emily carries from the past, and now she is constantly watching out for Sofia and what might happen to her because of her online connections.

At first, we think we know Emily’s secrets, but more of them come stumbling out from unexpected places, and a dangerous person from her past, aided by someone new in her present, keeps me on tenterhooks. And even when we think we have the answers another twist comes at the very end. A 5 star read.

 
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REVIEW: THE NEIGHBOUR UPSTAIRS, BY KATHRYN CROFT

The break-up of Olivia’s marriage is hard on all involved, but especially her nine-year-old daughter, Ellie. They attempt to build a new life, and focus on the future. But Olivia is crushingly lonely, so when her new neighbour, Michael, extends the hand of friendship, it’s all she can do to stop herself clutching at it and never letting go.

Olivia has no idea how the course of her life will be altered by that choice.

Before long, Michael and Olivia are a couple. There are some difficulties making it work – after all, both parties have emotional baggage. Doesn’t everyone keep some secrets? If only Ellie could adjust, and Michael’s erratic sister, Chloe, didn’t keep bringing drama to their door.

But Olivia doesn’t listen to the warning signs before it’s far, far too late. By the time she realises something is badly wrong with the man she’s involved with, she cannot escape. The only way out is for the truth to explode like a bomb, shattering their lives, and ensuring no one caught in the middle will ever be the same again…

 

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When Olivia first leaves her husband Carl, she and daughter Ellie set about to create their new home in the downstairs flat of a nice building. The Neighbour Upstairs portrays Michael, who seems like a nice person, as someone to fill in the emptiness in this new life. But things are not what they seem, and while I couldn’t believe that Olivia spent so much time giving this weird neighbor so much of her attention, I was actually stunned by the truth when it finally exploded, changing everything about her life.

The story dragged quite a bit for me, and I was frustrated by how Olivia gave in to Michael, trying to create a happy relationship when the man had no redeeming qualities, in my opinion. The dark secret he is keeping would have been the final straw much sooner if Olivia had been paying more attention, and unfortunately, when it did come out, the damage was almost insurmountable. 3.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE FAMILY REMAINS, BY LISA JEWELL


Early one morning on the shore of the Thames, DCI Samuel Owusu is called to the scene of a gruesome discovery. When Owusu sends the evidence for examination, he learns the bones are connected to a cold case that left three people dead on the kitchen floor in a Chelsea mansion thirty years ago.

Rachel Rimmer has also received a shock—news that her husband, Michael, has been found dead in the cellar of his house in France. All signs point to an intruder, and the French police need her to come urgently to answer questions about Michael and his past that she very much doesn’t want to answer.

After fleeing London thirty years ago in the wake of a horrific tragedy, Lucy Lamb is finally coming home. While she settles in with her children and is just about to purchase their first-ever house, her brother takes off to find the boy from their shared past whose memory haunts their present.

As they all race to discover answers to these convoluted mysteries, they will come to find that they’re connected in ways they could have never imagined.

In this masterful standalone sequel to her haunting New York Times bestseller, The Family Upstairs, Lisa Jewell proves she is writing at the height of her powers with another jaw-dropping, intricate, and affecting novel about the lengths we will go to protect the ones we love and uncover the truth.

 

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As we begin the journey with The Family Remains, we are introduced to characters that are connected to events from the past, and in some ways, their lives have intersected. At first, we meet Henry Lamb whose past centered around an old house where terrible things happened. We slowly meet other characters connected to him, most of whom are apparently hiding things. And Henry is diligently searching for someone from his distant past, who keeps eluding him.

The story also begins with the discovery of a body in the Thames, which seems to be tied to that same old house.

How will all of these characters finally come together, and what do their secrets tell us? How did their lives go wrong, and how did they all manage to keep their pasts at bay? The stories unfold in different timelines, and in many ways, they were convoluted, but as we learn more about how the characters are connected, we are intrigued. A sometimes confusing story, this one earned 4 stars.

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REVIEW: THE LAST TO VANISH, BY MEGAN MIRANDA

Ten years ago, Abigail Lovett fell into a job she loves, managing The Passage Inn, a cozy, upscale resort nestled in the North Carolina mountain town of Cutter’s Pass. Cutter’s Pass is best known for its outdoor offerings—rafting and hiking, with access to the Appalachian trail by way of a gorgeous waterfall—and its mysterious history. As the book begins, the string of unsolved disappearances that has haunted the town is once again thrust into the spotlight when journalist Landon West, who was staying at the inn to investigate the story of the vanishing trail, then disappears himself.

 

Abby has sometimes felt like an outsider within the community, but she’s come to view Cutter’s Pass as her home. When Landon’s brother Trey shows up looking for answers, Abby can’t help but feel the town closing ranks. And she’s still on the outside. When she finds incriminating evidence that may bring them closer to the truth, Abby soon discovers how little she knows about her coworkers, neighbors, and even those closest to her.

 
 
 
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 I loved following Abby’s journey to discover what was behind the mysterious disappearances in The Last to Vanish. She had the sense that there were answers, but that certain townspeople and individuals were keeping deep secrets. What were the connections between the residents and the disappearances?

Just when I thought I might know the answers, especially after Abby discovers a secret locker, I was surprised by what she did uncover.

A story that kept me turning pages, this one earned five stars.

 
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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.

 

 

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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: THE WIDOW, BY K. L. SLATER

My husband was not a monster. No matter what they say…

The day my husband, Michael, stepped in front of a lorry after being questioned by the police, my world fell apart. He was devoted to me and our six-year-old daughter. But they’d connected him to the disappearance of a young mother from our tiny village.

Now I stand at Michael’s funeral, clutching my little girl’s hand, with tears in my eyes as I insist to all our friends that he died an innocent man. Yet the questions have started, and nothing I say will stop them digging for the truth.

But none of them can read the secrets in my heart, or know about the phone I found hidden in his toolbox…

I’m determined that my daughter will not remember her father as a monster. I will erase any hint of wrongdoing in this house whatever the cost.

Because to keep my daughter safe, the last thing I need is for people to start looking at me…

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From the rather slow beginning of The Widow, we are aware of secrets Michael has kept from Kate, especially after the police begin interrogating him on several occasions. Her experience with him in the marriage has always seemed good, and until these events happened, she had always trusted him. But now she isn’t sure she can believe anything he says. When the doubt grows, she is just about ready to ask more questions of him…and then he is struck and killed by a lorry.

The village turns on her and soon she even loses her job. How can she find answers to her questions? Will she find a way to believe in him again? Darkness grows with the suspicions, and soon we are also wondering what is true and what is not. A book that held my interest throughout, but because of the slow beginning, I am giving this one 4 stars

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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 PATIENT, BY JANE SHEMILT

What price would you pay for falling in love?

Rachel is a respected doctor who lives in a picturesque and affluent English village where her husband Nathan teaches at an elite private school. Competent, unflappable, and nearing 50, Rachel has everything in her life firmly in her control, even if some of its early luster has worn off. But one day a new patient arrives at her practice for emergency treatment. Luc is a French painter married to a wealthy American woman who’s just bought and restored a historic home on the edge of Rachel’s posh neighborhood. The couple has only recently arrived, but Luc is struggling with a mental disorder, and so he goes to the nearest clinic…to Rachel.

Their attraction is instant, and as Rachel’s sense of ethics wars with newly awakened passion, the affair blinds her to everything else happening around her. A longtime patient appears to be following her every movement, turning up unexpectedly wherever she goes. Her somewhat estranged adult daughter Lizzie is hiding a secret—or at least, hiding it from Rachel. Nathan has grown sour and cold as well—or is that merely Rachel’s guilty conscience weighing on her? But when one of her colleagues winds up murdered and Luc is arrested for the crime, everything Rachel didn’t know about her life explodes into the open—along with her affair with her patient—a disgrace and scandal that will have consequences no one could have predicted.

 

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The Patient is an astonishing tale that unfolds in unexpected ways, and just when Rachel thinks she has the answers, everything turns upside down.

The characters were so multi-layered with so much deceit that it would take the whole story to reveal it all. I really didn’t trust Rachel’s husband Nathan, but he seemed to be a good guy…until bits and pieces of his secrets and lies began to reveal themselves. By the very end, we would learn all that had been hidden.

I really wanted things to work out for Rachel, and eventually she was able to pull her life together again.

A page turner that earned 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE LONG WEEKEND, BY GILLY MACMILLAN

Three couples

Two bodies

One secret

Dark Fell Barn is a “perfectly isolated” retreat, or so says its website when Jayne books a reservation for her friends. A quiet place, far removed from the rest of the world, is exactly what they need.

The women arrive for a girls’ night ahead of their husbands. There’s ex-Army Jayne, hardened and serious, but also damaged. Ruth, the driven doctor and new mother who is battling demons of her own. Young Emily, just wed and insecure, the newest addition of this tight-knit band. Missing this year is Edie, who was the glue holding them together, until her husband died suddenly.

But what they hoped would be a relaxing break soon turns to horror. Upon arrival at Dark Fell Barn, the women find a devastating note claiming one of their husbands will be murdered. There are no phones, no cell service to check on their men. Friendships fracture as the situation spins wildly out of control. Betrayal can come in many forms.

This group has kept each other’s secrets for far too long.

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The Long Weekend begins as three women travel to a barn they will be renting as a retreat. Their husbands are supposed to join them the next day.

But soon things go awry, and just when we think nothing can get worse, it does. A threatening letter, supposedly from one of the women in their group who was not invited, stirs things up and soon paranoia and fear dominate them all.

Ruth deals with her feelings by drinking too much, to the point of blackouts; Emily is focused on trying to get in touch with her husband; and Jayne is aloof and dealing with her own problems silently. In addition, the owners of the property are struggling with health issues.

Meanwhile, an unidentified narrator leads us down a path to his own twisted and dangerous ending.

As the twists and turns get darker and more frightening, we are not sure how or when anyone will find safety. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE YOUNGER WIFE, BY SALLY HEPWORTH

THE HUSBAND
A heart surgeon at the top of his field, Stephen Aston is getting married again. But first he must divorce his current wife, even though she can no longer speak for herself.

THE DAUGHTERS
Tully and Rachel Aston look upon their father’s fiancée, Heather, as nothing but an interloper. Heather is younger than both of them. Clearly, she’s after their father’s money.

THE FORMER WIFE
With their mother in a precarious position, Tully and Rachel are determined to get to the
truth about their family’s secrets, the new wife closing in, and who their father really is.

THE YOUNGER WIFE
Heather has secrets of her own. Will getting to the truth unleash the most dangerous impulses
in all of them?

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The story of The Younger Wife begins at a wedding: the joining of a man with a woman much younger, but with a very strange group of participants. First, we see the grown daughters, who are around the age of the bride, and the ex-wife who suffers from dementia. Before the day ends, something tragic happens, and then over the next pages, we read the “before” elements leading up to the event.

Alternating narrators take us through the months and years before, and we begin to see how convoluted things are in this family. The daughters have various disorders, from kleptomania to food issues. We are not sure if the potential bride is a liar or just good at keeping secrets.

By the end of the tale, I felt stunned by the unwinding of the lives of these characters. What to believe? I wasn’t sure I believed any of them. The story did keep me turning the pages, but for me, it earned 4.5 stars.

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