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: YOU’LL NEVER KNOW, DEAR, BY HALLIE EPHRON

 

Seven-year-old Lissie Woodham and her four-year-old sister Janey were playing with their porcelain dolls in the front yard when an adorable puppy scampered by. Eager to pet the pretty dog, Lissie chased after the pup as it ran down the street. When she returned to the yard, Janey’s precious doll was gone . . . and so was Janey.

Forty years after Janey went missing, Lis—now a mother with a college-age daughter of her own—still blames herself for what happened. Every year on the anniversary of her sister’s disappearance, their mother, Miss Sorrel, places a classified ad in the local paper with a picture of the toy Janey had with her that day—a one-of-a-kind porcelain doll—offering a generous cash reward for its return. For years, there’s been no response. But this year, the doll came home.

It is the first clue in a decades-old mystery that is about to turn into something far more sinister—endangering Lis and the lives of her mother and daughter as well. Someone knows the truth about what happened all those years ago, and is desperate to keep it hidden.

 

My Thoughts: In the opening pages of You’ll Never Know, Dear, we meet Lis’s daughter Vanessa, living in Rhode Island and working on post-doctoral sleep studies. One morning, she is awakened by a vision of her grandmother, Miss Sorrel, holding a doll out to her. Soon after, a phone call summons her home to Bonsecours, South Carolina. Her mother and grandmother have been hospitalized due to an explosion at the house. Carbon monoxide poisoning keeps her grandmother hospitalized for a while. But her grandmother insists that the doll is the one she made for Janey.

Once she is home, Vanessa is drawn into the search for the strange doll that might be Janey’s…but busybody neighbor Evelyn, who works with Miss Sorrel on the doll repairs, is sure that the doll is not the right one.

A search leads Vanessa to the woman who brought the doll, who had disappeared when Miss Sorrel asked her where she got the doll…and from there, we follow some twisty pathways to unexpected answers.

Why is the doll that Miss Sorrel first saw now different? Was Miss Sorrel seeing things, or had someone switched the dolls? What happened to all the other dolls the night of the explosion? Were they stolen, and by whom? Why does every path that seems the right one suddenly become even more twisted?

The characters drew me in, and I was captivated by the quest for answers. There were characters that seemed very suspicious to me. Why did they seem to be everywhere and always keeping Vanessa and Lis from the answers? I had my eye on one particular character, but the extent of the deception was so layered and seductive that I literally could not put the book down. Another brilliant read from Ephron. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: MY HUSBAND’S WIFE, BY JANE CORRY

 

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When young lawyer Lily marries Ed, she’s determined to make a fresh start. To leave the secrets of the past behind. But then she takes on her first murder case and meets Joe. A convicted murderer whom Lily is strangely drawn to. For whom she will soon be willing to risk almost anything.

But Lily is not the only one with secrets. Her next-door neighbor Carla may be only nine, but she has already learned that secrets are powerful things. That they can get her whatever she wants.

When Lily finds Carla on her doorstep sixteen years later, a chain of events is set in motion that can end only one way.

 
My Thoughts: Alternating narrators tell the story of My Husband’s Wife, a tale of so many flawed characters with secrets and lies that bind them together.

Lily was one I was rooting for, despite her painful and troubled past, most of which was revealed in bits and pieces…and then, finally, in greater depth at the end.

Carla was a child when we first met her, and I could feel a bit of sympathy for her, but the manipulative aspects of her personality overwhelmed me, and from then on, I was wary of her.

Joe Thomas was Lily’s first client, one she got off for murdering his fiancé. But life would throw some disconcerting curves her way as she came to realize more about him.

Ed, Lily’s husband, was despicable, in my opinion, as he loved controlling those around him, including and especially Lily, and when he showed so much disdain for her, I wanted bad things to happen to him. He did try to make amends at times, but I could not warm up to him at all.

What would ultimately allow some of these damaged characters to move on from the past? Would punishment help them do so?

A riveting and convoluted page turner that would finally bring a bit of clarity to this reader, while reminding us that we do not really know the people we love. 5 stars.

cropped again 5***

REVIEW: I SEE YOU, BY CLAIRE MACKINTOSH

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What if you spent every day on a commuter train, feeling the crush of other people, noticing how some do not give an inch, and you are constantly pushed and pulled? Zoe Walker’s life is like that, and she deals with it. But then one day, she starts to feel as though someone is watching her, then following her, and a series of strange incidences add to the alarm she is starting to feel. Like seeing her photo in the Gazette, next to an advert for a website.

Zoe, a London wife and mother, working every day at a job that she hates, could just be creating drama for herself, right? But then she begins to notice other photos that seem to be connected to other events that happen a few days later…like a murder, or an assault.

I See You is told by alternating characters: Zoe, in the first person narrative, and Kelly Swift, in a third person voice. Kelly is a police officer, especially assigned to transport, and happens to be the one Zoe calls when she begins to fear for her safety. Then there is a mysterious third narrator, the perpetrator, who “teases” us in every chapter.

The story captured me and kept me glued to the pages, and as more events happened, and strange coincidences began to suggest that something very evil was going on, I could not stop reading.

There were other secondary characters that drew me in, like Zoe’s children: Justin, 23, and Katie, 19. They had the usual annoying characteristics of young adults who think they know it all. Then there is Simon, Zoe’s partner, who seemed like someone with a lot of secrets. I wondered about all of them throughout the story.

Discovering what and who was behind it all did not grab me until the end was near…and then, I really hated how it unfolded. The story’s conclusion reminded me once again that you can never know who you can trust, and horror could lurk behind the most ordinary doors. Then, when all was said and done, and when I thought I knew everything, that third narrator popped up with a final reveal. Definitely a page-turner, and despite my feelings at the end, this one earned 4 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***

 

REVIEW: STING, BY SANDRA BROWN

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When Mickey Bolden and Shaw Kinnard met up in a dive bar in Tobias, Louisiana, they had one purpose. A man named Billy Panella had hired Bolden to kill Jordan (Jordie) Bennett, and Kinnard had come along as a partner in the task. They were planning out the hit.

Seeing Jordie come into the bar was a surprise to both of them, as it is obvious that this is not her kind of place, and their Plan A did not include killing her here and now.

So Plan B takes effect, and when she exits, Bolden and Kinnard follow her…and suddenly there is a shot, and Bolden is dead. Before Jordie can realize what is happening, she has been knocked unconscious, and sometime later, she is aware of being bound in the back seat of a car.

After an intense start, what happens next in Sting will keep you turning pages, but the details are sometimes tedious. Hovering over it all is the question: is Kinnard going to kill Jordie, or is something more happening? Over a two-day period, she is kept bound and then blindfolded, but she is also kept hydrated and fed. She has figured out by now that her fate is tied to the criminal financial schemes that her brother Josh and Panella did together. Panella escaped, and Josh was taken into witness protection, so neither has paid for his crimes.

Intense events kept me hopping as I tried to figure out what Kinnard’s goal might be, as it was obvious there was more going on beneath the surface.

When suddenly and unexpectedly, Jordie turns things around and gets the upper hand, everything changes. Cops and EMTs are on the scene, and within hours, we learn more about Kinnard.

The intense attraction between the two is an undercurrent seething between them, so it won’t be long until they act on their feelings.

Will Panella be captured at some point? Will Josh, who has escaped from protection, turn himself in? What will ultimately happen, if anything, between Shaw Kinnard and Jordie? And what will we learn about the relationship between Jordie and Josh that has kept her tied to him, enabling him for years?

The story takes us from Tobias to the French Quarter of New Orleans…and ends up in Bayou Gauche where all the pieces come together in a stunning reveal. Nothing is as it seems, and I did not see any of these last pieces unfolding. A delightful story that kept me engaged, this one earned 4.5 stars.

ratings worms 4-cropped***

REVIEW: DAMAGED, BY LISA SCOTTOLINE

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Set in Philadelphia, the newest Rosato & DiNunzio novel starts right off with Mary DiNunzio, our MC, hitting the ground running. She is intense, dedicated, and good at multi-tasking, which is necessary right now with her wedding looming on the horizon. She and Anthony Rotunno, a college professor, grew up in the same neighborhood. They have much in common.

But just when she needs to focus on the wedding, her newest case grabs her and pulls her all in. Edward O’Brien, the grandfather/guardian of ten-year-old Patrick, has brought in a case that will tug at her heartstrings and keep her absorbed indefinitely. Patrick is dyslexic, but the school district has done nothing to provide services to assist him. One IEP was completed several years before, when he was six, and since then, no services have been set up. He is bullied by the other students, and recently, he was struck by a teacher’s aide. To top things off, the aide quit his job and hired the most obnoxious attorney in Philadelphia, Nick Machiavelli, to sue Edward, claiming that little Patrick pulled a pair of scissors on him.

Damaged is an intense page turner that kept me going until I had to finally stop to sleep. I loved how Mary dug in and found creative solutions to each obstacle that arose, and when tragedy strikes, she is right there with another solution. I loved learning about the ins and outs of special education law, some of which I knew already, but it felt great to polish up this knowledge. Also the children’s services issues are familiar to me, except for the differences between states that are inevitable.

Will Mary win the war against the horrible Machiavelli? Is Patrick more damaged than anyone realized? How will Mary’s absorption in this case affect her upcoming nuptials?

My favorite thing about this author’s novels is how quickly I connect with the characters, and how easy it is to root for some and abhor others. Just when it seemed as though all would finally come together, a few more surprising and agonizing twists shook Mary and her associates to the core. But Mary kept going, her determination and love of family guiding her. Five stars.

***My e-ARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE BLACK WIDOW, BY WENDY CORSI STAUB

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What do singles do when they are suffering the pangs of lost love? In the world of online connections, dating sites proliferate, and sometimes the singles find new love…for a while, anyway.

How does Gaby Duran end up joining such a site, and what does she think when she realizes that her ex-husband Ben is also using the same InTune site?

Her mind travels back to times when they were happy and in love, with their beautiful baby Josh…and then the tragedy of his loss. Could any marriage survive?

Meanwhile, an alternate story follows a woman who calls herself Alex Jones, who has conversations in her head with her “husband” Carmen Rodriguez. Her story unfolds in bits and pieces, and we begin to see that she is anything but sane. Where would her craziness take her? Why is she picking up a certain type of male through her InTunes site—Hispanic single men—and spiking their drinks. What does she do with them in her cellar? And what happens to them when she has finished with them?

After several men of this type turn up missing over a period of months, the police, with the help of Gaby and another woman whose friend is missing, begin to uncover the clues leading to a very strange scene in the forest.

Because the alternating narrators added to the intensifying suspense, I could not stop reading. The Black Widow was a page-turner, and while it was not readily apparent how far this woman would go to achieve her goals, I was glued to the pages to see what would happen to the characters I was rooting for. 4.5 stars.

CURL UP WITH “THE PERFECT STRANGER”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today I am spotlighting a book I downloaded in 2014, from an author I have enjoyed.  The Perfect Stranger, from Wendy Corsi Staub sounds like a really frightening book.  It is a story of one woman who connects with a bunch of bloggers, and now she may regret it.

 

 

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Intro:  (Prologue)

When the doctor’s receptionist called this morning to say that they had the results, it never dawned on her that it might be bad news.

“Hi, hon,” Janine said—she called all the patients “hon”—and casually requested that she come by in person this afternoon.  She even used just that phrasing, and it was a question, as opposed to a command:  “Can you come by the office in person this afternoon?”

Come by.

So breezy.  So inconsequential.  So…so everything this situation is not.

What if she’d told Janine, over the phone, that she was busy this afternoon?  Would the receptionist then have at least hinted that her presence at the office was urgent; that it was, in fact, more than a mere request?

***

Teaser:  Landry’s cell phone rings as she again paces the length of the master bedroom with it in her hand.

It’s about time.

Over an hour has passed since she e-mailed her number, along with a link to the Cincinnati newspaper article—LOCAL WOMAN MURDERED IN APPARENT HOME INVASION—to the three remaining online friends with whom she communicates most regularly:  Elena, Jaycee, and A-Okay. (p. 61).

***

Blurb: In New York Times bestselling author Wendy Corsi Staub’s new thriller, one woman finds herself in the crosshairs of a twisted predator who might just be masked behind a familiar screen name . . .

During the darkest period of her life, Landry Wells found solace in a group of bloggers who had been in her shoes and lived to tell the tale. She’s shared things with her online friends that even her husband and children didn’t know. Things that now, looking back, make her uneasy.

One of the bloggers is dead, victim of a random crime—or was it? Did she trust too easily; reveal too much? At the funeral a thousand miles from home, Landry is about to come face to face at last with the others. These women are her closest confidantes in the world: they understand her; they know everything about her—and one of them might be a cold-blooded killer . . .

***

What do you think?  Does this one grab you?  Would you keep reading?  I know I’m ready for something that totally engages me.

***

REVIEW: HOUSE OF GLASS, BY SOPHIE LITTLEFIELD

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Jen Glass keeps control of her world with lists written in neat handwriting in pretty notebooks. Her sister Tanya makes fun of her obsession, but Jen knows that her list making is a way of organizing her thoughts, so when the time comes to act, you don’t waste precious moments on false starts and dead ends. She fears a loss of control, and would do anything to avoid it.

Now Jen and Tanya are in Murdoch, clearing out their deceased father’s apartment. Jen is appalled by the detritus of their father’s life. He had left them years ago, and their mother had died shortly afterwards. There are no sentimental memories for Jen.

Her own life, back in Calumet, is arranged the way she likes, with a beautiful home, handsome husband Ted, and two beautiful children, Livvy, a teenager, and Teddy, a preschooler.

But there are niggling doubts about how perfect her life really is. Ted has lost his job, Livvy has become more and more belligerent, and Teddy has stopped speaking.

So when Jen returns home, after dealing with her father’s things, she is hoping to start putting her world right again. Suddenly, out of the blue, Jen and Ted’s world crashes down around them when intruders break into their home and hold them captive. For 48 hours, nothing at all is under their control, and the author shows in excruciating detail how wrong their world has become. Frightening and heart-pounding, House of Glass reveals the inner thoughts of the characters as they suffer through the horrendous experiences.

But then, from some hidden place inside, where memories of the past were locked, Jen found the strength to take action.

How did their world turn upside down? Who or what brought the evil into their home? How did the events of those two days bring the past back into Jen’s memory, helping her reconcile the past with the present? And how would she begin again? The characters were flawed, but relatable, except for the perpetrators, who were pure evil. I would definitely recommend the book for those who love thrillers, and I enjoyed how the past informed the present. 4.0 stars.

CURL UP WITH INTROS/TEASERS: “PRETTY GIRLS”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s featured book is an ARC from Amazon Vine:  Pretty Girls, by Karin Slaughter.

 

 

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Intro:  When you first disappeared, your mother warned me that finding out exactly what had happened to you would be worse than never knowing.  We argued about this constantly because arguing was the only thing that held us together at the time.

“Knowing the details won’t make it any easier,” she warned me.  “The details will tear you apart.”

I was a man of science.  I needed facts.  Whether I wanted to or not, my mind would not stop generating hypotheses:  Abducted.  Raped.  Defiled.

Rebellious.

That was the sheriff’s theory, or at least his excuse when we demanded answers he could not give.  Your mother and I had always been secretly pleased that you were so headstrong and passionate about your causes.  Once you were gone, we understood that these were the qualities that painted young men as smart and ambitious and young women as trouble.

***

Teaser:  Claire had no doubt these movies were obscene.  Maybe she’d been right about Agent Fred Nolan yesterday.  The FBI had tracked the downloaded files to Paul’s computer.  Claire had seen a 60 minutes story where a government whistleblower had said connecting your computer to the Internet was tantamount to jacking yourself directly into the NSA.  They probably knew that Paul had looked at the movies. (p. 92).

***

Blurb:  Sisters. Strangers. Survivors.

More than twenty years ago, Claire and Lydia’s teenaged sister Julia vanished without a trace. The two women have not spoken since, and now their lives could not be more different. Claire is the glamorous trophy wife of an Atlanta millionaire. Lydia, a single mother, dates an ex-con and struggles to make ends meet. But neither has recovered from the horror and heartbreak of their shared loss—a devastating wound that’s cruelly ripped open when Claire’s husband is killed.

The disappearance of a teenage girl and the murder of a middle-aged man, almost a quarter-century apart: what could connect them? Forming a wary truce, the surviving sisters look to the past to find the truth, unearthing the secrets that destroyed their family all those years ago . . . and uncovering the possibility of redemption, and revenge, where they least expect it.

***

I am excited about this book.  What do you think?  Would you keep reading?

***