REVIEW: UNDER MY SKIN, BY LISA UNGER

 

What if the nightmares are actually memories?

It’s been a year since Poppy’s husband, Jack, was brutally murdered during his morning run through Manhattan’s Riverside Park. In the immediate aftermath, Poppy spiraled into an oblivion of grief, disappearing for several days only to turn up ragged and confused wearing a tight red dress she didn’t recognize. What happened to Poppy during those lost days? And more importantly, what happened to Jack?

The case was never solved, and Poppy has finally begun to move on. But those lost days have never stopped haunting her. Poppy starts having nightmares and blackouts—there are periods of time she can’t remember, and she’s unable to tell the difference between what is real and what she’s imagining. When she begins to sense that someone is following her, Poppy is plunged into a game of cat and mouse, determined to unravel the mystery around her husband’s death. But can she handle the truth about what really happened?

My Thoughts: Poppy’s first person narrative takes us up and down and around the bend, as she struggles with the aftermath of her husband Jack’s murder.

Under My Skin captured my interest, but I often found myself lost between her reality, her dreams, and her drug induced moments. Her friends seemed to be caring and nurturing, but I was soon suspicious of them and their smothering ways. Were they caring or controlling? Were they protective or were they hiding their own dark secrets?

Because it was hard to decipher Poppy’s state of mind, I had to reread sections to grasp what was going on: was she in a disturbed reality, a dream, or was she lost in her memories? Was she being stalked? Was a hooded man following her?

I especially disliked Layla, Poppy’s long time best friend, who seemed so bossy and controlling. And one of Jack’s old friends, Alvaro, was dark and brooding, and set off red flags for me. But what we discover before the end of the tale was how little we knew about any of them.

Set in Manhattan, the story also takes us to The Hollows, a spooky small town that shows up in other books by the author. 4 stars.

***
Advertisements

REVIEW: THE STOLEN MARRIAGE, BY DIANE CHAMBERLAIN

 

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love—and the life—she was meant to have?

My Thoughts: I was immediately caught up in the story of Tess and Vincent; I felt her pain when one mistake led to impossible choices.

Her pregnancy and marriage to wealthy Henry Kraft would take Tess outside her comfort zone. No longer living in Little Italy in Baltimore, she struggled to fit into her new life in Hickory, North Carolina.

But even as she tried to settle into her new life, Henry’s behavior toward her was puzzling, and the hostility she felt from all the townspeople, including her mother-in-law, made her adjustment almost impossible. Would she ever unravel the secrets Henry held deep within?

When Tess finished her licensing for her R.N. and, despite her husband’s objections, began working as a volunteer nurse during the polio epidemic that had hit the town, she started to regain her feelings of self-worth and confidence.

When an unexpected person from her past gives her new hope, she suddenly and unexpectedly finds just the power she needs to regain her life. And a mysterious journey leads her to treasures she had never anticipated. The Stolen Marriage was a beautiful story that kept me rapidly turning pages. 5 stars.

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

REVIEW: LIES & OTHER ACTS OF LOVE, BY KRISTY WOODSON HARVEY

26760230

 

 

For Annabelle, her grandmother Lovey was the voice in her head, the spiritual mentor who guided her with her inspirational messages, like “it is not the truth that sets you free. The truth is the thing that destroys lives, that shatters the mirror…”

Growing up in Raleigh, NC, Annabelle was also surrounded by a bevy of female cheerleaders, from her mother, Jean, the mayor, to her aunts: Laura, Martha, Louise, and Sally. Of course, there was also D-Daddy, her grandfather.

Alternately narrated by Annabelle and Lovey, Lies & Other Acts of Love wraps itself around us in the cozy comforts of a family of nurturing supporters. But as we meander along the pathways of the past with Lovey, or join Annabelle in her journey toward a true kind of love, we learn about the secrets, the lies, and even the almost lethal deceptions that live behind the curtain of each family. And we realize that sometimes you have to forgive the flaws of those you love.

I felt sad for Annabelle’s missteps, and could feel the angst of her emotional pull toward a man who turned out to be wrong for her. When she almost passed by the one who would be the perfect match, I was shouting from the sidelines. The characters were flawed, but fascinating, and the settings felt so real I could have been there in the flesh. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: GETTING EVEN, BY SARAH RAYNER

19286668Two friends, Orianna and Ivy, who also happen to be colleagues, are torn apart by the unexpected promotion of one of them.

Ivy is so enraged by Orianna’s promotion to Creative Director at their advertising agency in London, that she immediately begins a crusade, albeit sneakily, to get even.

Will Orianna, who originally believes that Ivy is taking everything pretty well, eventually discover the lengths to which her friend has gone? Will Ivy’s secrets, the ones that go beyond the current situation, be discovered?

Getting Even is a captivating tale of friendship, work, and romance…and how envy and lust can turn into something quite malevolent.

Even more compelling was how the author showed a variety of relationships and scandals within the workplace and in a local gym, and invited the reader to take a peek into the private lives of all the characters–some we were rooting for and others we loved to hate. And what fun to see how the various secrets and betrayals were finally revealed…and then to glimpse a final twist, making you wonder who really did come out on top. 4.0 stars.

SECRETS OF THE PAST — A REVIEW

15818324Responding to a summons from a dying man, Sophie Shepard arrives in Clearfield, VA, after a few postponements…only to discover that Arthur Cubeck has already died.

Before she has a chance to return home again, she is contacted by a lawyer, requesting her presence at the reading of Mr. Cubeck’s will. Apparently there has been a bequest left to her.

Sophie has had a premonition that the unusual request from Mr. Cubeck must have something to do with her birth mother, but in the days that follow, everything becomes murkier and nothing is clear at all.

Meanwhile, Sophie enjoys connecting with some of the townsfolk, like the proprietor of the B & B, a chatty woman named Jesse, and the handsome doctor named Drew McCarren. These connections somehow make staying on for a bit more pleasant.

But suddenly everything turns dark and mysterious, and tragic events are unfolding. And all of it seems to point in her direction. Something About Sophie: A Novel (P.S.) is a mystery, a story about small town life, and secrets that have been hidden for decades, but now clamor to be told.

There were parts of the tale that were intriguing, fun, and even suspenseful. In fact, although I had most of the story figured out before the end, there were a few surprises. Because of the unexpected moments, I am awarding the story 3.5 stars.