REVIEW: WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING, BY KATHRYN CROFT

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When Tara Logan wakes up naked in a strange bed, and then realizes that there is a man in bed with her, she panics. For the man is her neighbor Lee Jacobs, and he is dead. Stabbed with a knife. And she has no memory of what, if anything, went on between her and Lee. Plus, there is not a drop of blood on her.

Thus begins the twisted tale that only gets more complex as time goes by. First, Tara decides to say nothing, hoping that the police will find whoever killed Lee. For she is sure that she didn’t. Not because she knows what happened, because she doesn’t.

While You Were Sleeping, set in and around London, is the kind of story full of characters you can suspect. It might have been Lee’s wife Serena. They had been having trouble.

Or perhaps it could have been Tara and Noah’s daughter Rosie, who has been behaving oddly. Even more so than usual, and she finally “confessed” that Lee had been hitting on her, but denied that anything had happened. However, when someone lies as much as Rosie does, it’s hard to believe anything she says. Then, from one moment to the next, Rosie’s story changes. She is also very horrible to her mother most of the time, so it would be easy to believe she had done something this despicable.

At one point, Mikey, a coworker of Tara’s, appears to be stalking her, and pushing for a relationship. He claims to have damaging information he could give the police. Could he know more because he was the actual killer?

Meanwhile, something has happened to Tara’s sister Lisa; she shows up covered with bruises. She comes to stay with Tara for a while for her own protection, and helps with Rosie, with whom she has a good relationship. Tara is grateful for the support of her sister.

Just when you think you have it all figured out, though, the stunning reveal knocks you over, and you think: Wow! I didn’t see that coming. But then again, isn’t it always the least likely suspect?

So many twists and turns and unlikeable characters, any one of whom could be guilty of something. At the very least, everyone was telling lies, keeping secrets, or hiding the truth. Trying to sort it all out and figure out the truth was enough to keep me glued to the pages. All of which made it a 5 star read.

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REVIEW: THE SISTER, BY LOUISE JENSEN

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A story about secrets, lies, and a friendship bond that lasts through tough times, but then is broken by death, The Sister was a page turner that kept me guessing.

Grace and Charlie met when they were very young, and after Charlie has stood up for Grace when a boy (Dan) pokes fun at her. Later, Grace, Charlie, and Dan will all become friends, and the group includes a few others. Some who stay friends, while others do not.

Set in a village in the UK, I enjoyed the back and forth sweep through time, as more and more was unveiled with each thrust backward.

What did Charlie mean when she said she had “done a bad thing”? What secrets had Lexie, her mother, kept that would impact all of their lives? What has Dan done that will ultimately derail their relationship? How has the mysterious Anna brought about the unraveling of their lives?

Grace’s narration carried us through the story, and I felt sympathy for her troubles, but I was also frustrated by her tendency to trust too easily. In the end, she flips 180 degrees to total suspicion, seeing danger behind every corner. Was she correct in her assessment of the situation?

Twists and turns kept me wondering, but the ultimate secret would endanger them all. The characters were all pretty unlikeable, beginning with Lexie, who was a mean drunk. Then there was Anna, whom I saw through right from the beginning, although I didn’t know the half of what she was hiding. Would I ever trust Dan again, after his betrayal is revealed? Probably not. But I couldn’t wait to find out what would eventually happen to them all. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: SIRACUSA, BY DELIA EPHRON

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Two couples now living in Portland, Maine, plan a trip together, destination Siracusa, in Sicily, but the odd history between them all foreshadows catastrophe ahead.

Lizzie, a journalist who grew up in Berkeley, has chosen the destination in honor of her now deceased father. She has memories of stories he told about the charming town, which others see as decrepit and decomposing.

Her husband Michael, a Pulitzer prize-winner struggling with a novel, is hoping to find what he needs to finish the book. He has a larger-than-life personality, and basks in the glow of others as he tells his tales. He is a “serial fabricator.”

Taylor and her husband Finn seem completely unsuited for each other. Finn still lusts for Lizzie, with whom he once had an affair, and Taylor is wrapped up in a very strange symbiotic relationship with her ten-year-old daughter Snow, who accompanies them on the trip.

Snow…what a strange child, and somehow, she ends up as the centerpiece for the darkness ahead. Her mother believes she is just shy, but brilliant. Others see her as charming, but Lizzie intuits the darkness in her. What unfortunate events will have them pondering the hidden depths of this child? Why is she so drawn to Michael, and will the “crush” she has on him lead to tragedy?

Meanwhile, an interloper arrives in the form of Michael’s latest conquest. What will her presence add and subtract from the vacation?

Siracusa was a tale of unraveling relationships, darkness, and the lies we tell to keep others interested. I enjoyed the multiple narrators that fleshed out the characters and the story, although I rooted for none of them, except possibly Lizzie. Flawed and somewhat jaded, they remind me of people I’ve known, so I couldn’t stop reading this book which earned:

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REVIEW: THE COUPLE NEXT DOOR, BY SHARI LAPENA

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In upstate New York, new parents Marco and Anne Conti are enjoying an evening next door with neighbors Graham and Cynthia Stillwell. Actually, Marco seems to be enjoying himself flirting with Cynthia, while Anne feels troubled while she watches.

They were supposed to have a babysitter, but at 6:00 p.m., the girl cancelled. It would have made sense to take the baby along to the dinner party next door, but Cynthia has insisted that it should be an adults only party.

Later, she would say that she would have been fine with the baby there, if she’d known about the cancelled sitter.

But who knows what any of them would have done? Why were Cynthia and Graham so adamant about having an “adults only” party? Why is there a secret camera trained on the backyard?

When baby Cora disappears, sometime after Marco last checked on her—they’ve been checking every half hour—their world turns upside down. They only discover that she is missing when they return home around 1:30 a.m.

Police, reporters, and public scrutiny follow them in the upcoming weeks, and there is plenty of suspicion from everyone.

Anne’s postpartum depression becomes an issue…and then there are Marco’s financial difficulties. When Anne’s wealthy parents offer a large reward to the kidnapper, if the baby is returned, the suspicions increase as one can only wonder who actually took the baby.

What secrets from the past cast a shadow on every character? What will the police discover about Marco, about Anne, and about Cynthia? Does Anne’s strangely cold stepfather Richard have something to hide?

Behind every twist and turn is another possible scenario, until the reader must second-guess everyone and everything. The Couple Next Door kept me thoroughly engaged throughout. And then, when all the pieces seemed to fit, another shocker seemed to come out of nowhere. Until I thought about it, and realized that it all made sense.  Rating:

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***My copy of the eARC came to me from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: THE GIRL YOU LOST, BY KATHRYN CROFT

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In the opening pages of The Girl You Lost, we meet a character who has been victimized, and as we learn more about her, we are immediately curious as to her connection to a group of unknown narrators whose alternate passages draw us into the sick and nefarious world of a group of young men.

Meanwhile, Simone and Matt Porter are still grieving the loss of their infant daughter eighteen years before. Little Helena, age six months, was grabbed from her grandmother in the park.

Suddenly we are watching as a young woman named Grace Rhodes approaches Simone with a story that seems unbelievable…and incredible, at best. She is the young woman victimized in the beginning and she has a story to tell. Can she be believed? Could Grace be the missing child Helena? But just as Simone is pondering the story, Grace disappears. Did she give up when she realized that her lies had been uncovered? Or is there more going on?

Intense and thrilling, we are left wondering who the young men are and what, if anything, they have done to Grace and others.

In the end, while I was not completely surprised by the connections between the characters, the behavior of one in particular stunned me.

Set in London, the story kept me intrigued, even as I had a sick feeling of dread about what would ultimately be revealed.

Rating:  ratings worms 4-cropped

***

REVIEW: FLIGHT PATTERNS, BY KAREN WHITE

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A story with themes about journeys beginning and ending, the patterns of flight innumerable, the destination always being home, Flight Patterns takes us along for the ride. We find out more than we ever hoped to know about bees, we learn about loss and those who choose to stay apart rather than to forgive. And finally, we learn about how healing can begin.

Georgia Chambers, living her life in New Orleans, has stayed away from the family home in Apalachicola, Florida, ever since something happened between her and her sister Maisy Sawyers ten years before. Between the two of them, they are keeping the secrets and hanging onto the pain.

Meanwhile, their mother Birdie has not spoken a word for all that time, and the past is suddenly churning up, threatening to explode, right when Georgia returns to Apalachicola with a client in tow. James Graf is hoping to find out about a unique china pattern that belonged to his mother, a Limoges pattern with a unique design of bees circling it. And Georgia happens to be an expert in antiques. She also recalls seeing a soup cup in her own family home, one that might be part of the set.

What will Georgia discover in her quest for the china’s history? How will it take her to a family secret in France, one that might just have something to do with Birdie’s silence? How will a stolen truck only recently recovered help them all sort out the puzzle? And what will finally bring Georgia together with her sister Maisy, her niece Becky, and start the forgiveness process?

What a great story! I must admit that Georgia was my favorite character, with Becky my second favorite. I never warmed up to Maisy, really disliking her tendency to blame everyone else and not acknowledge her own faults. But in the end, she started to grow on me. James was delightful, and I kept rooting for him and his own healing. 5 stars.

FRICTION, BY SANDRA BROWN

 

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Ranger Crawford Hunt is one of those legendary heroes who jumps into whatever fray he faces, saving the day. But some consider his behavior dangerous and even risky. Which is why, after his wife’s death four years before, his daughter Georgia ended up in the custody of her maternal grandparents, Joe and Grace Gilroy. Now Ranger is about to begin the fight of his life as he seeks custody of his daughter. A hearing that will bring out all the bad feelings between him and the Gilroys.

Judge Holly Spencer was appointed to her judicial role after the death of the previous judge, and now faces an election to make her job permanent. Her role to decide custody in the matter of little Georgia had brought her to the court room that day—a day that would change everything in her life.

Before the hearing is scarcely underway, a masked man in a strange uniform bursts into the courtroom, shoots the bailiff, and seems about to shoot the judge. Crawford jumps in, just as he tends to do, and saves Holly, and also, at the same time, kicks the man’s knee out from under him. But the man escapes, and later is cornered on the roof and killed.

Or so they thought.

The case becomes complicated when the shooter of the bailiff and the man on the roof turn out to be two different people. Who is the shooter? Why was he targeting Holly Spencer? Or was someone else the target?

Friction kept me turning the pages eagerly, hoping to find out more about the motivations for the crimes, and staving off my angst at the annoying characters that seemed hell-bent on focusing on Crawford as the one behind the events of that day.

Detective Neal Lester seemed to have a particular blind spot when it came to Crawford, to the point that his investigation continued down very strange pathways.

Joe Gilroy, the grandfather, was combative with Crawford, denying him visits, and taking out a restraining order based on something the inept Neal Lester had said.

I like a story that gets my ire up, though, as it keeps me going even when I’ve been reading far too long. I had some concerns about how things might work out in the end, especially between Crawford and Holly, for whom a romantic relationship seemed to be developing. In the end, things were wrapped up almost too quickly, after the mystery was solved and the criminals were dealt with. But I enjoyed this 4.5 read.