BOOKISH FRIDAY: “NOT A HAPPY FAMILY”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists! What a great way to spend a Friday.

Today’s feature is a new book:  Not a Happy Family, by Shari Lapena.

Book Beginnings:

(Prologue)

There are many expensive houses here in Brecken Hill, an enclave on the edge of Aylesford, in the Hudson Valley. Situated on the east side of the Hudson River, about a hundred miles north of New York City, it’s like the Hamptons, but slightly less pretentious.

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Friday 56:

They talk briefly—Catherine telling her to meet them at Dan’s—then Jenna gets out of of bed, throws on some clothes, and goes into the kitchen to leave a note for Jake. But he’s already left one for her.

***

Brecken Hill in upstate New York is an expensive place to live. You have to be rich to have a house there, and Fred and Sheila Merton certainly are rich. But even all their money can’t protect them when a killer comes to call. The Mertons are brutally murdered after a fraught Easter dinner with their three adult kids. Who, of course, are devastated.
 
Or are they? They each stand to inherit millions. They were never a happy family, thanks to their vindictive father and neglectful mother, but perhaps one of the siblings is more disturbed than anyone knew. Did someone snap after that dreadful evening? Or did another person appear later that night with the worst of intentions? That must be what happened. After all, if one of the family were capable of something as gruesome as this, you’d know.

***

What do you think? Would you keep reading?

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REVIEW: THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR, BY LIV CONSTANTINE

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she?

 

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A story that reveals the fragility of memory, The Stranger in the Mirror offers interesting perspectives for the characters. A woman who can’t remember her past and a man who has lost his wife bring layers to these lives.

As we follow along with Addison’s story, and then when we skip over to how Julian becomes part of the picture, I had suspicions and concerns. Did anything about this scenario ring true? Or, as some of the other characters believe, is Julian pulling some trick on Addison?

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, though, as all the details of the past finally become clear. Should we believe what was happening, or should we doubt everything?

By the end of the tale, I was biting my nails, hoping that there would be happiness for somebody. A five star read.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists! What a great way to spend a Friday.

Today’s feature is The Stranger in the Mirror, by Liv Constantine.

***

Book Beginning:

(Addison)

I’d like to think I’m a good person, but I have no way of knowing for sure.  I don’t remember my real name, where I’m from, or if I have any family.  I must have friends somewhere, but the only ones I recognize are the ones I’ve made in the two years since the new me was born—every memory before that has been wiped away.

***

Friday 56:

His expression was serious, and she worried that something was wrong.  “Of course, come in.  What is it?  Are you okay?”  she asked, her heart in her throat, as he took the seat opposite hers.

***

Synopsis:

Addison’s about to get married, but she’s not looking forward to the big day. It’s not her fiancé; he’s a wonderful man. It’s because Addison doesn’t know who she really is. A few years ago, a kind driver found her bleeding next to a New Jersey highway and rescued her. While her physical wounds healed, Addison’s memory never returned. She doesn’t know her real name. Or how she ended up injured on the side of a road. Or why she can’t shake the notion that she may have done something very, very bad . . .

In a posh home in the Boston suburbs, Julian tries to figure out what happened to his loving, caring wife, Cassandra, who disappeared without a trace two years ago. She would never have left him and their seven-year-old daughter Valentina of her own free will—or would she? 

As these two lives intersect, The Stranger in the Mirror hooks readers with riveting drama, told with Liv Constantine’s hallmark blend of glamour, tense psychological thrills, and jaw-dropping twists.

***

Would you keep reading?  I am definitely curious.

***

REVIEW: SKYE FALLING, BY MIA MCKENZIE

When she was twenty-six and broke, Skye didn’t think twice before selling her eggs and happily pocketing the cash. Now approaching forty, Skye still moves through life entirely—and unrepentantly—on her own terms, living out of a suitcase and avoiding all manner of serious relationships. Maybe her junior high classmates weren’t wrong when they voted her “Most Likely to Be Single” instead of “Most Ride-or-Die Homie,” but at least she’s always been free to do as she pleases.

Then a twelve-year-old girl tracks Skye down during one of her brief visits to her hometown of Philadelphia and informs Skye that she’s “her egg.” Skye’s life is thrown into sharp relief and she decides that it might be time to actually try to have a meaningful relationship with another human being. Spoiler alert: It’s not easy.

Things get even more complicated when Skye realizes that the woman she tried and failed to pick up the other day is the girl’s aunt, and now it’s awkward. All the while, her brother is trying to get in touch, her mother is being bewilderingly kind, and the West Philly pool halls and hoagie shops of her youth have been replaced by hipster cafés.

With its endearingly prickly narrator and a cast of characters willing to both challenge her and catch her when she falls, this novel is a clever, moving portrait of a woman and the relationships she thought she could live without.

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I loved Skye Falling from the very first page.  The first-person narrator brought me right into her interior world through her monologues and her interactions with the people around her.  We get to see her life of the past and how her present life is not as satisfying as she had hoped.

On the journey, we get a first-hand view of Philadelphia and the neighborhoods she has inhabited.

Vicky is an endearing character with a fresh mouth that reveals much about her thoughts and feelings.  She was also a gritty and sometimes tough character who found a way to accept the people in her orbit.

As for Skye, we learn a lot about how one woman navigates her world and chooses what to do next, which kept me turning the pages. 4.5 stars.

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

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “KILL ALL YOUR DARLINGS”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists! What a great way to spend a Friday.

Today’s feature is one of my new books:  Kill All Your Darlings, by David Bell.

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Book Beginning:

Connor – Present

Grendel doesn’t bark when my key hits the lock.

That’s when I know something is wrong.

Grendel, an eleven-year-old beagle mix, still barks at the mailman, the neighbors, squirrels, cats—any strangers at all, despite his age and flagging energy.

***

Teaser:

“The boyfriend or the husband is always the prime suspect,” I say.  “That’s true in real life and in every thriller.  I don’t know why you’re here—“

***

After years of struggling to write following the deaths of his wife and son, English professor Connor Nye publishes his first novel, a thriller about the murder of a young woman.

There’s just one problem: Connor didn’t write the book. His missing student did. And then she appears on his doorstep, alive and well, threatening to expose him.

Connor’s problems escalate when the police insist details in the novel implicate him in an unsolved murder from two years ago. Soon Connor discovers the crime is part of a disturbing scandal on campus and faces an impossible dilemma—admit he didn’t write the book and lose his job or keep up the lie and risk everything. When another murder occurs, Connor must clear his name by unraveling the horrifying secrets buried in his student’s manuscript.

This is a suspenseful, provocative novel about the sexual harassment that still runs rampant in academia—and the lengths those in power will go to cover it up.

***

Would you keep reading?  I’ve been eyeing this one for a while.

***

REVIEW: DREAM GIRL, BY LAURA LIPPMAN

 

In the end, has anyone really led a blameless life?

 

Injured in a freak fall, novelist Gerry Andersen is confined to a hospital bed in his glamorous high-rise apartment, dependent on two women he barely knows: his incurious young assistant, and a dull, slow-witted night nurse.

Then late one night, the phone rings. The caller claims to be the “real” Aubrey, the alluring title character from his most successful novel, Dream Girl. But there is no real Aubrey. She’s a figment born of a writer’s imagination, despite what many believe or claim to know. Could the cryptic caller be one of his three ex-wives playing a vindictive trick after all these years? Or is she Margot, an ex-girlfriend who keeps trying to insinuate her way back into Gerry’s life?

And why does no one believe that the call even happened?

Isolated from the world, drowsy from medication, Gerry slips between reality and a dreamlike state in which he is haunted by his own past: his faithless father, his devoted mother; the women who loved him, the women he loved.

And now here is Aubrey, threatening to visit him, suggesting that she is owed something. Is the threat real or is it a sign of dementia? Which scenario would he prefer? Gerry has never been so alone, so confused—and so terrified.

Chilling and compulsively readable, touching on timely issues that include power, agency, appropriation, and creation, Dream Girl is a superb blend of psychological suspense and horror that reveals the mind and soul of a writer.

 
 
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From the very beginning of Dream Girl, I was caught up in the mind of Gerry Anderson, an author whose memories take him back and forth in time.

As he lies in his bed, cared for by two strange women who are passing for nurses, it doesn’t take long for me to feel the intensity of what is bound to come in this situation.

The letters and strange phone calls that may or not be happening lead us on a slow and torturous journey toward a horrifying end.

Even as I worried about how things would unfold, I didn’t imagine how dark things would become. I rooted for Gerry, even though he was not the kind of protagonist one might cheer for. A surprising twist at the end stunned me, even as I knew that I should have seen it coming. 4.5 stars.

 
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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “SURVIVE THE NIGHT”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists! What a great way to spend a Friday.

Today’s feature is one of my new books:  Survive the Night, by Riley Sager.

 

Book Beginning:

Staying isn’t an option.

That’s why Charlie has agreed to get into a car with a perfect stranger.

She’s promised Robbie—promised herself as well—that she’ll bolt if anything about the situation strikes her as shady.

***

Friday 56:

It was the tooth that led police to conclude the worst:  Maddy was another victim of a man who had struck twice before.

The Campus Killer.

***

Synopsis:

Josh Baxter, the man behind the wheel, is a virtual stranger to Charlie. They met at the campus ride board, each looking to share the long drive home to Ohio. Both have good reasons for wanting to get away. For Charlie, it’s guilt and grief over the shocking murder of her best friend, who became the third victim of the man known as the Campus Killer. For Josh, it’s to help care for his sick father—or so he says.

The longer she sits in the passenger seat, the more Charlie notices there’s something suspicious about Josh, from the holes in his story about his father to how he doesn’t want her to see inside the trunk. As they travel an empty, twisty highway in the dead of night, an increasingly anxious Charlie begins to think she’s sharing a car with the Campus Killer. Is Josh truly dangerous? Or is Charlie’s jittery mistrust merely a figment of her movie-fueled imagination?

One thing is certain—Charlie has nowhere to run and no way to call for help. Trapped in a terrifying game of cat and mouse played out on pitch-black roads and in neon-lit parking lots, Charlie knows the only way to win is to survive the night.

***

Would you keep reading?  I love this author’s books.

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REVIEW: SYCAMORE, BY BRYN CHANCELLOR

Out for a hike one scorching afternoon in Sycamore, Arizona, a newcomer to town stumbles across what appear to be human remains embedded in the wall of a dry desert ravine. As news of the discovery makes its way around town, Sycamore’s longtime residents fear the bones may belong to Jess Winters, the teenage girl who disappeared suddenly some eighteen years earlier, an unsolved mystery that has soaked into the porous rock of the town and haunted it ever since. In the days it takes the authorities to make an identification, the residents rekindle stories, rumors, and recollections both painful and poignant as they revisit Jess’s troubled history. In resurrecting the past, the people of Sycamore will find clarity, unexpected possibility, and a way forward for their lives.

 

Skillfully interweaving multiple points of view, Bryn Chancellor knowingly maps the bloodlines of a community and the indelible characters at its heart—most notably Jess Winters, a thoughtful, promising adolescent poised on the threshold of adulthood. Evocative and atmospheric, Sycamore is a coming-of-age story, a mystery, and a moving exploration of the elemental forces that drive human nature—desire, loneliness, grief, love, forgiveness, and hope—as witnessed through the inhabitants of one small Arizona town.

 
 
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Sycamore takes the reader back and forth through time, as we follow the residents of the small Arizona town. One of their own, a young teenage girl new to the town, went missing in December 1991. But as our tale sweeps back and forth from the past to the present, we learn about a relationship that turns the town upside down just before Jess disappears, and for many years, there was speculation that she had either run away due to the shame or that someone had hurt her.

 

As the residents’ lives continue and change, the town itself goes through its own metamorphosis until one day, a newcomer makes a discovery that will spin them all out again. What was the truth about Jess Winters and her disappearance? Would any of them ever recover from it?

The characters were interesting and were all linked around these events in some way. It was hard to keep track of them all throughout the story, but I couldn’t stop turning the pages. 4.5 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE THINGS WE CANNOT SAY”

Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which we  share excerpts from books…and connect with other bloggers who do the same.

Let’s begin the celebration by sharing Book Beginnings, hosted by Rose City Reader; and let’s showcase The Friday 56 with Freda’s Voice.

To join in, just grab a book and share the opening lines…along with any thoughts you wish to give us; then turn to page 56 and excerpt anything on the page.

Then give us the title of the book, so others can add it to their lists! What a great way to spend a Friday.

Today’s feature is a book I’ve had on my shelf for a while:  The Things We Cannot Say, by Kelly Rimmer.

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Beginning: (Alice)

I’m having a very bad day, but however bad I feel right now, I know my son is feeling worse.  We’re at the grocery store a few blocks away from our house in Winter Park, Florida.  Eddie is on the floor, his legs flailing as he screams at the top of his lungs.  He’s pinching his upper arms compulsively; ugly purple and red bruises are already starting to form.

***

Friday 56: (Alina)

When I passed the little bundle back through the window, I wanted to say something—anything.  I wanted to apologize and to beg their forgiveness, not for anything I’d done wrong, but for all that I hadn’t done. (56%).

***

Synopsis:

In 1942, Europe remains in the relentless grip of war. Just beyond the tents of the Russian refugee camp she calls home, a young woman speaks her wedding vows. It’s a decision that will alter her destiny…and it’s a lie that will remain buried until the next century.

Since she was nine years old, Alina Dziak knew she would marry her best friend, Tomasz. Now fifteen and engaged, Alina is unconcerned by reports of Nazi soldiers at the Polish border, believing her neighbors that they pose no real threat, and dreams instead of the day Tomasz returns from college in Warsaw so they can be married. But little by little, injustice by brutal injustice, the Nazi occupation takes hold, and Alina’s tiny rural village, its families, are divided by fear and hate.

Then, as the fabric of their lives is slowly picked apart, Tomasz disappears. Where Alina used to measure time between visits from her beloved, now she measures the spaces between hope and despair, waiting for word from Tomasz and avoiding the attentions of the soldiers who patrol her parents’ farm. But for now, even deafening silence is preferable to grief.

Slipping between Nazi-occupied Poland and the frenetic pace of modern life, Kelly Rimmer creates an emotional and finely wrought narrative. The Things We Cannot Say is an unshakable reminder of the devastation when truth is silenced…and how it can take a lifetime to find our voice before we learn to trust it.

***

What do you think?  I have put this one off for far too long.  I’m eager to start reading it.

***

REVIEW: SIX WEEKS TO LIVE, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

A gripping psychological suspense novel about a woman diagnosed with cancer who sets out to discover if someone poisoned her before her time is up, from the bestselling author of the “addictive and fast-paced” (Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author) thriller You Can’t Catch Me.

Jennifer Barnes never expected the shocking news she received at a routine doctor’s appointment: she has a terminal brain tumor—and only six weeks left to live.

While stunned by the diagnosis, the forty-eight-year-old mother decides to spend what little time she has left with her family—her adult triplets and twin grandsons—close by her side. But when she realizes she was possibly poisoned a year earlier, she’s determined to discover who might have tried to get rid of her before she’s gone for good.

Separated from her husband and with a contentious divorce in progress, Jennifer focuses her suspicions on her soon-to-be ex. Meanwhile, her daughters are each processing the news differently. Calm medical student Emily is there for whatever Jennifer needs. Moody scientist Aline, who keeps her mother at arm’s length, nonetheless agrees to help with the investigation. Even imprudent Miranda, who has recently had to move back home, is being unusually solicitous.

But with her daughters doubting her campaign against their father, Jennifer can’t help but wonder if the poisoning is all in her head—or if there’s someone else who wanted her dead.

 

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From the very first page of Six Weeks to Live, I was hooked. I have loved every book by this author, and this one did not disappoint.

The book is full of family drama with characters you love to hate, including our first-person narrator Jennifer. Is she guilty, too? Or are others in her family circle to blame?

In the beginning, we all want to point our fingers at the horrible ex-husband Jake, but as more is revealed about each daughter, we can’t stop peeling back the layers to find the truth.

By the very last page, we have our answers, but I was still stunned by what we had learned. But then again, sometimes the least likely person becomes the villain.

A brilliant read that earned 5 stars.

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