REVIEW: ALMOST MISSED YOU, BY JESSICA STRAWSER

 

 

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.
Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

My Thoughts: From the very first pages of Almost Missed You, I felt a connection to the character of Violet, and her serendipitous first meeting with Finn. I was reminded of occasions in my own life when events happened in such a way that they seemed “meant to be,” so I could totally relate to Violet’s feelings about her missed connections with Finn, and how happy she was that they finally connected. It did seem fated.But as we soon find out in this back and forth storyline, the fault might have been “in their stars.” Or in their overly persistent push to make these connections happen. Finn’s secrets were the huge stumbling block for them, once they did connect. And when events began to unravel, with secrets revealed in a most hurtful way, I was sure that his past would be too much for them to overcome. But could they find a new starting point?

Of course, Violet’s share of the responsibility lay in her failure to probe more into Finn’s past. Did she really ever know him?

Then there were the two “best friends,” Caitlin and George, and how their own actions and lack of transparency had contributed to it all.

I couldn’t stop turning the pages, hoping for some kind of resolution, eagerly waiting to see if Violet would reunite with her child. The fate of the other characters seemed less important to me, as I definitely rooted mostly for her. A book worthy of 5 stars.

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

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REVIEW: RIGHT BEHIND YOU, BY LISA GARDNER

 

 

 

Eight years ago, Sharlah May Nash’s older brother beat their drunken father to death with a baseball bat in order to save both of their lives. Now thirteen years old, Sharlah has finally moved on. About to be adopted by retired FBI profiler Pierce Quincy and his partner, Rainie Conner, Sharlah loves one thing best about her new family: They are all experts on monsters.

Then the call comes in. A double murder at a local gas station, followed by reports of an armed suspect shooting his way through the wilds of Oregon. As Quincy and Rainie race to assist, they are forced to confront mounting evidence: The shooter may very well be Sharlah’s older brother, Telly Ray Nash, and it appears his killing spree has only just begun.

As the clock winds down on a massive hunt for Telly, Quincy and Rainie must answer two critical questions: Why after eight years has this young man started killing again? And what does this mean for Sharlah? Once upon a time, Sharlah’s big brother saved her life. Now, she has two questions of her own: Is her brother a hero or a killer? And how much will it cost her new family before they learn the final, shattering truth? Because as Sharlah knows all too well, the biggest danger is the one standing right behind you.

My Thoughts: The reader is led through Right Behind You by a series of narrators, alternating between Rainie, Quincy, Shelly, and others…and in between those comes the italicized narrative of Telly Ray Nash.

We think we know what happened…and we are just wondering why it happened after all these years. And why would Telly kill the Duvalls, his very loving foster parents? What could have led him to kill apparent strangers in a gas station? Can a young man who has protected his sister morph into a mass killer? What do these killings tell us, and, if the killer is not Telly, then who? What secrets were Frank and Sandra Duvall keeping, and how does Sandra’s past figure into what is happening?

The characters felt real, with Quincy, a former FBI profiler, front and center in the search, and his wife Rainey, who was also involved, worked to keep Sharlah balanced as emotions ran high. Sheriff Shelly Atkins showed us that “small town sheriff” did not define her: she had skills, and her ability to stay calm in the face of the intense actions made her a great part of the team.

The story kept me engaged throughout, although the numerous processes involved in tracking the killer became tedious after a while. But then I perked up as we began to realize that many things did not add up, and that now there were more questions than answers. As the clues led us to the final reveal, I was on the edge of my seat. Definitely 5 stars for me.

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REVIEW: BEHIND HER EYES, BY SARAH PINBOROUGH

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Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

In Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough has written a novel that takes the modern day love triangle and not only turns it on its head, but completely reinvents it in a way that will leave readers reeling.

My Thoughts: The story begins in a predictable kind of way—single mom meets handsome stranger in a bar—and then discovers who that man is when she shows up for work.

But nothing else about Behind Her Eyes follows the normal routes in a story. Alternating narratives by Louise, the single woman, and Adele, David’s wife, take us back and forth in the present…and then all the way back into the “then” of Adele’s life, with her friend Rob.

Early on, we realize that Adele knows more than she is sharing with her new friend Louise, and we suspect that she is playing a very dangerous game. But it will take a while to accept the extent to which Adele will go…and not until the very end will we know who was really calling the shots.

What are the secrets David and Adele are keeping? What does Rob have to do with the dream world that is being shared with Louise? How will a paranormal twist change everything?

Without introducing “spoiler” information, I can only say that I thoroughly enjoyed the journey, up to a point, and even though the revelations at the end left me stunned…I was forced to suspend disbelief in a major way. This book was a case of too many “out there” experiences, which tainted my enjoyment ever so slightly. Therefore, 4 stars.

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BOOKISH FRIDAY: “BEHIND HER EYES”

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Welcome to another Bookish Friday, in which I  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 I am spotlighting my current read:  Behind Her Eyes, by Sarah Pinborough, a dark, electrifying page-turner with a corker of an ending.” —Harlan Coben, #1 New York Times bestselling author.

 

 

 

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Beginning:  (THEN)

Pinch myself and say I AM AWAKE once an hour.

Look at my hands.  Count my fingers.

Look at clock (or watch), look away, look back.

Stay calm and focused.

Think of a door.

LATER

It was nearly light when it was finally done.  A streaky gray wash across the canvas of sky.  Dry leaves and mud clung to his jeans, and his weak body ached as his sweat cooled in the damp, chill air.  A thing had been done that could not be undone.

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56:  (Adele)

It’s right down at the bottom, under all the junk, but unharmed.  The old notebook.  The tricks of the trade as it were.  It’s thin—I tore the last few pages out years ago because some things should stay secret—but it’s held together.

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Synopsis:  Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake, but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.

And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend. But she also just happens to be married to David. And if you think you know where this story is going, think again, because Behind Her Eyes is like no other book you’ve read before.

David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife. But then why is David so controlling? And why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong. But Louise can’t guess how wrong—and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

In Behind Her Eyes, Sarah Pinborough has written a novel that takes the modern day love triangle and not only turns it on its head, but completely reinvents it in a way that will leave readers reeling.

***

The surprises keep coming in this thriller.  What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

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REVIEW: THE THINGS WE WISH WERE TRUE, BY MARYBETH MAYHEW WHALEN

 

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A hot summer day in Sycamore Glen, North Carolina, drew adults and children alike to the community pool, where they would chat with old friends, make new ones, and enjoy what seemed like the beginning of a perfect summer.

What looked like a perfect community at first glance was, like any neighborhood, imperfect, and while those who lived there all looked like nice people, some were more so than others. And most of them had secrets, old and new, that they worked hard to hide.

The Things We Wish Were True is an unveiling, in a sense, with our alternating narrators sharing the ordinary and superficial tidbits of life in Sycamore Glen, while gradually revealing just enough of the secrets they are holding…until finally, everything is unleashed.

Cailey is the first narrator, and she and her brother Cutter are new residents, drawn to the pool to keep boredom at bay, while their mother, Lisa, works hard to keep them fed and clothed. She is trying to ignore those who might steer clear of them because of their house, the “eyesore” of the neighborhood that has been home to a series of renters.

Zell Boyette, an older woman with an empty nest, takes the neighbor children to the pool while their single father, Lance Bryson, works. Zell feels a certain degree of guilt about why Debra, the wife and mother, left the family home a few months ago. But her lips are sealed.

Bryte, mother of three-year-old Christopher, and wife to the love of her life, Everett, holds tight to what she has…fearful that she could lose it at any moment.

Because her secret could lead to a great loss.

Especially once she realizes that Jencey Cabot is back in town with her two children, Pilar and Zara, and she could easily whisk Everett away…as she was his first love.

I loved the mix of characters with secrets, and I tried to guess them as I read along…but some were easier to guess than others.

At the dark end of the secrets was a big one right across the street from Zell’s cozy little house. Who would open the door on that one? Would any of the characters lose everything by the end? Could their secrets destroy them? And what near tragedy would start the spool unreeling, thus opening the door for revelations? A delightful book that I could not stop reading, I’m definitely recommending this for everyone who loves family stories and neighborhoods that seem too perfect. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE MOTHERS, BY BRIT BENNETT

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In the opening pages of The Mothers, we are introduced to the hovering presence of the older women in the church, called “the mothers,” members of what is designated the Upper Room. The women oversee the parishioners…and they gossip. Sometimes they get things wrong, but they never stop.

Set in Oceanside, CA, in a black community, the church is definitely at the center of the action, but for Nadia Turner, a seventeen-year-old girl headed for bigger things, already accepted into her college in Michigan, there are moments of rebellion. And love. With the pastor’s son, Luke Sheppard, whose mother already gives Nadia the stank-eye. But she also doesn’t say much, as poor Nadia’s mother committed suicide six months before…and her father is someone who does good deeds for the church.

Then something happens that will sever the bond between Nadia and Luke, and shortly thereafter, she meets and connects with another motherless girl, Aubrey Evans, who lives with her sister Mo and her gay partner Kasey. Aubrey could be portrayed as the exact opposite of Nadia, on the surface, since Mrs. Sheppard has taken her under her wing. And makes her approval clear.

We follow each of the characters for a few years, as Nadia goes off to college, then law school, with only the occasional visits home. In one such visit, she and Luke connect again, and share some secrets from that time in their past.

What will happen to the two of them? Will Luke’s new path in life challenge what they once had, and what they might find again? Could Aubrey become the one who severs the bond forever?

What great characters! I loved seeing where they went and what they did. The multiple narrators took us back and forth in time, showing us events that we could not have imagined. When someone overheard the pastor arguing with Nadia’s father, that secret would become fodder for the mothers, the overseers, those who would forever keep track of the secrets, and what would become of the young women in their “charge.” In the end, I loved this passage, in the voice of those mothers, sharing thoughts about Nadia and her one last return home:

“We see the span of her life unspooling in colorful threads and we chase it, wrapping it around our hands as more tumbles out. She’s her mother’s age now. Double her age. Our age. You’re our mother. We’re climbing inside of you.”

Beautifully written, the author has become another favorite. Five stars.

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REVIEW: IN HER WAKE, BY AMANDA JENNINGS

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From the opening lines of In Her Wake, the reader is confronted with the sadness and loss Bella Campbell Bradford has suffered in the aftermath of her mother’s death. Elaine Campbell had been a loving mother, but there was always something amiss in their lives. Elaine’s fearfulness, her unwillingness to leave the house, and the overprotectiveness that turned Bella’s childhood into a prison are only the tip of the iceberg.

Her father Henry was kind, but also distant, a trait Bella chalked up to his being a doctor.

Bella’s husband David is overly controlling, and with his tendency to always take care of everything, from what to eat and where to work, she realizes that she must take some time away alone, to sort through her thoughts. Especially after a tragedy that occurs within hours of her mother’s funeral. A letter from Henry charts her course.

She goes to the Cornish coast for answers. There she finds more than she bargained for. What happened in France twenty-five years ago, and how does a cottage in Bristol figure into the lives of the Campbell family? Who is Bella, and what other secrets and lies have made her into the person she is today?

Finding the truth beneath the lies will lead her down some frightening pathways, but in the end, she will discover more than she had ever hoped for. Knowing that she can sort through her past on her own helps her decide how to deal with David.

Along the way, the reader gets to enjoy the local characters, like Dawn Tremayne and her mum, Alice. The author showed the reader the village of St. Ives in all its colorful quirkiness, which helped ease the shocking truths that seemed to come out of nowhere…and just kept unfolding. 4.5 stars.

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