REVIEW: IN HER BONES, BY KATE MORETTI

 

 

Fifteen years ago, Lilith Wade was arrested for the brutal murder of six women. After a death row conviction, media frenzy, and the release of an unauthorized biography, her thirty-year-old daughter Edie Beckett is just trying to survive out of the spotlight. She’s a recovering alcoholic with a dead-end city job and an unhealthy codependent relationship with her brother.

Edie also has a disturbing secret: a growing obsession with the families of Lilith’s victims. She’s desperate to see how they’ve managed—or failed—to move on. While her escalating fixation is a problem, she’s careful to keep her distance. That is, until she crosses a line and a man is found murdered.

Edie quickly becomes the prime suspect—and while she can’t remember everything that happened the night of the murder, she’d surely remember killing someone. With the detective who arrested her mother hot on her trail, Edie goes into hiding. She’s must get to the truth of what happened that night before the police—or the real killer—find her.

Unless, of course, she has more in common with her mother than she’s willing to admit…

My Thoughts: I was immediately caught up in the story of Edie and her serial killer mother Lilith. How does a daughter escape the legacy of her mother’s sins?

I enjoyed seeing how Edie (known as Beckett) tried to overcome her obsessions, while also struggling to hold down a job, maintain normal relationships, and move beyond the past. But could she ever find any kind of normalcy?

Then when a murder turns everything upside down for her, and she is the prime suspect, she must go off the grid and try to solve the case on her own. In the process, she begins to learn more about her mother and about herself.

In Her Bones is told in alternating narratives: from Edie, Detective Gil Brandt, and then from the excerpts of a book based on the crimes. The anonymous author seems like an insider, because of the details he or she knows. I liked how Edie figured out who wrote the book…and confronted the author.

Despite my fascination, the book was a bit of a slog for me…and I was glad to put the gruesome details behind me. 4 stars.

***
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REVIEW: DAY OF THE DEAD, BY NICCI FRENCH

A decade ago, psychologist Frieda Klein was sucked into the orbit of Dean Reeve—a killer able to impersonate almost anyone, a man who can disappear without a trace, a psychopath obsessed with Frieda herself.

In the years since, Frieda has worked with—and sometimes against—the London police in solving their most baffling cases. But now she’s in hiding, driven to isolation by Reeve. When a series of murders announces his return, Frieda must emerge from the shadows to confront her nemesis. And it’s a showdown she might not survive.

This gripping cat-and-mouse thriller pits one of the most fascinating characters in contemporary fiction against an enemy like none other. Smart, sophisticated, and spellbinding, it’s a novel to leave you breathless.

 

My Thoughts: In this final episode with Frieda Klein, we do not connect with her at first. We see some murders, strangely linked, and meet some detectives who are trying to solve the cases. When Lola, a young woman fascinated with Frieda Klein shows up on the scene, we know that Frieda is sure to appear.

When she does, we almost don’t recognize her. Disguises and hiding places characterize everything about Day of the Dead, as Frieda has hunkered down for a final confrontation with Dean Reeve. He makes brief appearances throughout the story, but none of the detectives, not even Frieda, are able to get close enough to capture him…or even interact with him. Sometimes the story slogged along for me, as I hoped for a brilliant conclusion.

What will happen in the final moments, as Frieda sets her plan in motion, a secretive plan that she must carry out alone? Intensely suspenseful, the story kept me turning pages, even as I could feel a lump in my throat at the idea of what would happen next. And behind the scenes, Lola has carried out her own secret plan. What are her motives, and why is she taking these steps? We sense an ending as we journey along the rivers and canals, as memories of a series of deaths along the way bring us to the climactic moments. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: A YEAR OF EXTRAORDINARY MOMENTS, BY BETTE LEE CROSBY

 

Tracy Briggs has finally gotten her act together. She’s focusing on her own life and helping her hearing-impaired son learn to talk. With her sister married and exploring a new career, Tracy has begun to run the family’s magazine business and feels her life is pretty much perfect. That is, until her son’s deadbeat dad shows up in Magnolia Grove asking for a second chance.

Now that her son is getting the help he needs and a promising new romance with his teacher is in bloom, Tracy wants to keep her life just as it is. But her ex isn’t taking no for an answer. And when a spirited elderly woman enters Tracy’s life in an unexpected way, she’ll have to work harder than ever to keep her new life on track.

Torn between the past she knows and the uncertain future, Tracy must decide what is best for both her and her son, learning along the way that ordinary choices can bring extraordinary possibilities.

My Thoughts: When I first started meeting the delightful characters of A Year of Extraordinary Moments, I was immediately caught up in their lives, with all their flaws, hopes, dreams, and losses.

Alice DeLuca is the first one we meet, and I could sense her longing to once again connect with her grandson Dominic. His mother had abandoned him, but Alice raised him. And now that she is terminally ill, time is running out.

In Philadelphia, Dominic is just barely making it, with nothing or nobody meaningful in his life. When his grandmother calls, requesting he visit her in Magnolia Grove, he sets off to make her wish come true.

But once there, Dominic falls back into his old ways, drinking and carousing.

Meanwhile, Tracy is raising Dominic’s son alone, but she has the help of her mother Lila and her sister Meghan.

What, if anything, will bring these disparate family members together? Will Alice’s final days bring some of the joy she has desired? Unexpected events change the course of all their lives, and we discover that sometimes life brings just what we need.

With a great setting and characters I could root for, this book earned 4.5 stars.
***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE LIES WE TOLD, BY CAMILLA WAY

 

A daughter
Beth has always known there was something strange about her daughter, Hannah. The lack of emotion, the disturbing behavior, the apparent delight in hurting others…Sometimes Beth is scared of her and what she could be capable of.

A son
Luke comes from the perfect family, with the perfect parents. But one day, he disappears without a trace, and his girlfriend, Clara, is desperate to discover what has happened to him.

A life built on lies
As Clara digs into the past, she realizes that no family is truly perfect, and uncovers a link between Luke’s long-lost sister and a strange girl named Hannah. Now Luke’s life is in danger because of the lies once told and the secrets once kept. Can Clara find him before it’s too late?

My Thoughts: In the beginning pages of The Lies We Told, we are introduced to two families: Doug, Beth, and their daughter Hannah, living in Cambridgeshire, in 1986; and Luke and Clara, young adults living in London in 2017. Luke’s parents, Oliver and Rose Lawson, have become like a second family to Clara.

Our story takes us back and forth, and we watch Hannah’s life grow more troubling with each year that passes. Her horrific and sociopathic behavior gets more dangerous with time. The behavior, and a dark secret dating back to Hannah’s infancy, keeps this family on tenterhooks.

Meanwhile, in contemporary London, Clara’s world is upended when Luke goes missing. Before he was “taken,” there were e-mails and strange events. Luke, obviously, had a stalker.

Seeing the connections slowly come together for these characters kept me glued to the book. I had figured out that there were very dark links between them all, but just how deep the ties went and how twisted they were would not be revealed until close to the end.

Like dropping bread crumbs, some of the characters lead us along their pathways, while the others try to follow, hoping to learn more about each of them: their lives, their lies, and their secrets. How will each of the characters put everything together? Will they find Luke? What will happen between them all when the sordid secrets are finally out in the open?

Hannah was a frightening character, but Luke was no saint. His flaws contributed to his vulnerability, and his family’s secrets and lies made him the perfect target. I kept turning pages rapidly as the layered and captivating story reached its denouement. 5 stars.


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

REVIEW: THE DREAM DAUGHTER, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

 

When Carly Sears, a young woman widowed by the Vietnam War, receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970, and she is told that nothing can be done to help her child. But her brother-in-law, a physicist with a mysterious past, tells her that perhaps there is a way to save her baby. What he suggests is something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Carly has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage she never knew existed. Something that will mean an unimaginable leap of faith on Carly’s part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

The Dream Daughter is a rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother’s quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.

 

My Thoughts: While I have not read many books involving time travel, Diane Chamberlain’s books always capture me, so The Dream Daughter was definitely one for me.

Having lived in the 1970s, during and after the Vietnam War, I could relate to Carly and her issues, especially her concern about her brother-in-law Hunter’s idea to “send her” to 2001.

In 2001, the surgery for her child was a success, but several setbacks afterwards made it impossible for Carly to travel back to 1970 with her daughter. So she went alone.

From this point on, everything fell apart and turned out completely wrong for Carly. Searching for her daughter and trying to make up for the errors that followed kept me intrigued until the very end.

Some strange and unexpected events transpired, and for those who find the idea of time travel impossible to wrap their heads around, everything might seem unlikely. How did the September 11, 2001 date complicate events for Carly and her daughter? Would she find a way to fill in the years that eluded her?

By this point, I was held captive by each page, wondering how or if Carly and her dream daughter would connect again. An intense story that will keep me pondering the events. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE OTHER WOMAN, BY SANDIE JONES

 

HE LOVES YOU: Adam adores Emily. Emily thinks Adam’s perfect, the man she thought she’d never meet.

BUT SHE LOVES YOU NOT: Lurking in the shadows is a rival, a woman who shares a deep bond with the man she loves.

AND SHE’LL STOP AT NOTHING: Emily chose Adam, but she didn’t choose his mother Pammie.

There’s nothing a mother wouldn’t do for her son, and now Emily is about to find out just how far Pammie will go to get what she wants: Emily gone forever.

My Thoughts: The Other Woman was a book that captured my interest right away, as I watched the unfolding power struggle between our narrator, Emily, and Pammie, the mother of her fiancé. To others, Pammie was sweet, so Emily could find no allies in her quest to get the upper hand.

Her own mother colluded with Pammie in setting up the “hen do,” when an unexpected and unwelcome guest appeared. But Emily hadn’t shared her thoughts and feelings about Pammie with her mother, not wanting her to worry. What? That was one of her biggest mistakes.

Then there was Adam, almost as annoying as Pammie, always running to his mother’s side and never supporting Emily as she tried to stay afloat.

James, Adam’s brother, seemed supportive, but then he made the moves on her.

What was happening in this Twilight Zone of a family? What has Emily discovered about her predecessor, who died suddenly one day? What are the secrets behind this tragedy?

As I kept turning pages, I wanted Emily to stand up and say “no more!” But she didn’t. She kept forgiving and offering second, third chances…until the final twist had me stunned and saying “no way!”

I had whiplash by then, but something felt wrong and too easy about this ending. After expecting a whole different kind of denouement, I felt a little…let down. It seemed almost unbelievable, which dropped this book down to 3.5 stars for me.

***

REVIEW: LIES, BY T. M. LOGAN

 

Six days ago, Joe Lynch was a happily married man, a devoted father, and a respected teacher living in a well-to-do London suburb. But that was before he spotted his wife’s car entering a hotel parking garage. Before he saw her in a heated argument with her best friend’s husband. Before Joe confronted the other man in an altercation where he left him for dead, bleeding and unconscious.

Now, Joe’s life is unraveling. His wife has lied to him. Her deception has put their entire family in jeopardy. The man she met at the hotel has vanished. And as the police investigate his disappearance, suspicion falls on Joe.

Unable to trust the woman he loves, Joe finds himself at the mercy of her revelations and deceits, unsure of who or what to believe. All he knows is that her actions have brought someone dangerous into their lives—someone obsessed with her and determined to tear Joe’s world apart.

What if your whole life was based on LIES?

My Thoughts: I was immediately hooked on Lies, as the pages quickly turned and more and more duplicity was revealed.

Joe’s first person narrative carried us along, our feelings heightened with each lie revealed, and as we followed each step he took, we were unsure of who the enemies would turn out to be, and whose life would be endangered next.

Joe and Mel’s son William, a sweet four-year-old who was precocious and spoke up with his thoughts and needs, was such a treat, but his vulnerability intensified my hope that Joe would find the answers he sought.

From the beginning, I distrusted Mel. Initially, she seemed loving, but as she began to share the lies, a bit at a time, the tidbits handed out in pieces, it was easy to see that she had a lot more hidden. Her façade was intact, though, making it hard to penetrate it in the quest for full disclosure.

What is the end game for the liars? Is Beth’s husband Ben the evil perpetrator, or is there more to the story? Why are the police so quickly targeting Joe? Who has set up the perfect trap, and why?

Even though I didn’t believe the stories Mel was telling, I wasn’t prepared for what came out in the stunning conclusion. Intense and horrifying, I couldn’t breathe while the events played out.


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

REVIEW: ALL YOUR PERFECTS, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

 

Quinn and Graham’s perfect love is threatened by their imperfect marriage. The memories, mistakes, and secrets that they have built up over the years are now tearing them apart. The one thing that could save them might also be the very thing that pushes their marriage beyond the point of repair.

All Your Perfects is a profound novel about a damaged couple whose potential future hinges on promises made in the past. This is a heartbreaking page-turner that asks: Can a resounding love with a perfect beginning survive a lifetime between two imperfect people?

My Thoughts: They met on what could have been the worst day of their lives. In a hallway outside an apartment that would reveal a betrayal for each of them. But they turned those moments into a beginning. Of something more. Something better.

Quinn and Graham did connect after that horrible day, and what started in those moments would turn into something wonderful. And sad. Could they rise about the imperfections? Would all that was perfect between them lose its luster as they forgot the good they still could have?

I enjoyed how All Your Perfects flipped back and forth between “then” and “now,” and how a traumatic event that would definitely bring an end to one of their biggest dreams could be a turning point. Something that would take them back to the beginning and to a special box that contained treasures from times before. I came to care about these characters and how they managed to change the course of their relationship. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: NOT HER DAUGHTER, BY REA FREY

 

Emma Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes, brown hair. Missing since June.
Emma is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal. When a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her—far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure whether she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now Emma is gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But what about Emma’s real mother, back at home?

 

My Thoughts: As I plunged into the moral dilemmas of Not Her Daughter, I found myself rooting for Sarah, who had chosen to take Emma away from an abusive home. I could feel the anxiety of the child, afraid of her mother, and I also felt for Sarah, who knew that traditional protective services in a broken system might not be able to keep the child safe.

But then again, should someone take a child to protect her, with no legal authority to do so? If caring people decided to take matters into their own hands, there would be no safeguards at all for a child. Who could say that the child is truly protected just because a kindly stranger offers her own brand of safekeeping? What, if any, opportunity might there be for the abusive parent, in this case, Amy Townsend, to mend her ways and try again?

The story was written in such a way that, with Sarah’s first person voice, we can feel how much she wants to take care of the child she has seen abused on several occasions. And in other sections of the book, we are offered a look into Amy’s perspective and slowly come to acknowledge that the bonds between Amy and Emma are broken…possibly irretrievably. What is the best course of action for Emma…and also for Amy and Sarah?

I enjoyed following Sarah as she kept ahead of those searching for the child, giving up her own home and career to protect Emma. Sometimes it felt like a grand adventure. But I didn’t feel she had made the best choices. In the end, there seemed to be a satisfactory solution, but it was unrealistic, in my opinion. 4 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE SEASON OF SILVER LININGS, BY CHRISTINE NOLFI

 

When Ohio pastry chef Jada Brooks and her two best friends restored the glorious Wayfair Inn, it was a boon to Sweet Lake—and to their own lives. Now Linnie and Cat are focused on private matters: one engaged, the other swept up in newlywed bliss. Jada has also begun looking to the future by dating widower Philip Kettering and forging a sudden, sweet bond with his six-year-old daughter.

But the past isn’t finished with Jada. When a curious guest checks into the Wayfair, her delving questions stir Jada’s guilt about the heartbreaking events that scarred the town seven years ago. The risks Jada must take by revealing the truth will test every assumption she’s made about the meaning of family and the magic of enduring love.

 

My Thoughts: Set in Sweet Lake, Ohio, The Season of Silver Linings is the third outing for this series about the Wayfair Inn, and the friends whose lives connect there.

April will be Linnie’s wedding to Daniel Kettering, and her best friends Jada and Cat are helping out with preparations, while handling most of the business of the inn.

This story primarily features Jada and her budding relationship with Philip Kettering, whose adorable daughter Fancy has captured her heart. Jada and Philip have known each other for several years, but only recently has their friendship started to grow and change. Fancy is at the heart of these changes.

The Sweet Lake Sirens, a group of older, somewhat eccentric women, are a constant presence in the inn and the town, and just when you think they are involved elsewhere, they pop up, like busy bees you would like to swat. But then they do something sweet and kind, and you are reminded of how much you really love them.

An unusual guest who arrives at a very hectic time turns out to have secrets from the past…and many questions for Jada. Can Jada uncover the woman’s secret agenda? When she realizes how her own past connects to the guest’s, she will have a dilemma. What will she do?

A story that takes us into the dark past and a deep sadness, it also reveals the many layers of those who live and work in Sweet Lake. Happiness might lie at the end of this journey…but what will need to happen first? A five star read.

***