REVIEW: I AM WATCHING YOU, BY TERESA DRISCOLL

 

When Ella Longfield overhears two attractive young men flirting with teenage girls on a train, she thinks nothing of it—until she realises they are fresh out of prison and her maternal instinct is put on high alert. But just as she’s decided to call for help, something stops her. The next day, she wakes up to the news that one of the girls—beautiful, green-eyed Anna Ballard—has disappeared.

A year later, Anna is still missing. Ella is wracked with guilt over what she failed to do, and she’s not the only one who can’t forget. Someone is sending her threatening letters—letters that make her fear for her life.

Then an anniversary appeal reveals that Anna’s friends and family might have something to hide. Anna’s best friend, Sarah, hasn’t been telling the whole truth about what really happened that night—and her parents have been keeping secrets of their own.

Someone knows where Anna is—and they’re not telling. But they are watching Ella.

My Thoughts: The story opens with Ella, as she watches two young girls on a train, and the young men hitting on them. At first, she is not bothered, but when the men describe having just been released from prison, red flags go up. Soon the behavior of the girls and the men begins to worry her…but she doesn’t want to overreact.

Over the course of I Am Watching You, alternate narrators tell the story. From the perspective of Anna’s friend Sarah, we learn about her secrets, and also her feelings of guilt.

Anna’s father, Henry Ballard, has been covering up his own secrets, including one that might tell us something important about his relationship with Anna.

But Ella, above all others, has been lambasted in the media about her failure to come forward, and someone has leaked her information. She is now receiving frightening missives…and feels like someone is watching her.

Another narrator is “The Watcher,” an anonymous voice that flaunts “his” or “her” behavior, and gives us little added information, except that someone is definitely watching.

Just when I thought I had it figured out, a stunning last-minute reveal quickened the pace as Ella and the authorities rush to capture that person. Someone seemingly on the sidelines, perhaps the last person one would suspect. A compelling mystery that earned 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: FRACTURED, BY CATHERINE MCKENZIE

 

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Best-selling author Julie Apple (Prentice), who wrote The Murder Game, moves with her family from Tacoma to Cincinnati after a stalker seemingly upends her life.

Her husband, Daniel, and their twins, Sam and Melissa, soon seem to settle into their new lives, and Julie works each day on a second book.

Fractured opens with a scene entitled “Today, 6 a.m.”, and we watch as John Dunbar, Julie’s neighbor, ponders events that have transpired. He is clearly in the middle of something troubling, something tragic that has happened in the recent past. Something involving legal action.

From then on, the non-linear story is told, alternating between Julie and John, and moving forward from “a year ago.” Bits and pieces of events are brought out over this time period, and we soon realize who, among the characters living on Pine Street, could be suspects in the tragedy that occurred; a tragedy that we only find out about eventually.

Right away, I really hated one of the characters. Cindy Sutton, a control freak who seems to set the rules for the neighbors, and eventually starts a website that encourages them to spy on one another, seems hell-bent on judging everyone. She cloaks her actions in terms of “safety,” but the “check-ins” on the site pinpoint what everyone else is doing and where. This site seems to feed into the harassment that begins against Julie…again.

Hanna, John’s wife, was another character I couldn’t warm up to…she seemed all too willing to believe neighbors like Cindy, who distrust Julie. John’s friendship with Julie is another issue between them.

Then there is Chris, John and Hanna’s teenage son, who is sneaking around with Ashley, Cindy’s daughter. Ashley was another teen I didn’t like, probably because she also seems untrustworthy.

With neighbors like these, how can Julie settle in and become part of the seemingly cozy surroundings? How did the behavior of Cindy, Hanna, Chris, and Ashley…among others, contribute to the tragic events that unfolded?

A suspenseful tale that kept me glued to the pages until the very end, the story also generated all the emotions you might experience if these events were happening to people you know. When the final reveal was brought forth, I knew that none of the characters would be the same again. And neither would the readers of this book. 5 stars.

cropped-again-5***

REVIEW: THE HYPNOTIST’S LOVE STORY, BY LIANE MORIARTY

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Ellen O’Farrell enjoyed her professional life as a hypnotherapist, and she loved her house which was left to her by her grandparents. Even its retro charm made her happy, and she didn’t want to update it because it reminded her of her grandparents. With the beach right outside her door, one could say she had it all.

She even had the perfect home office with great windows where she met with her clients.

But Ellen’s love life has left much to be desired. She thinks sadly of all the past relationships and what went wrong. So when she meets Patrick Scott, a handsome man with an eight-year-old son named Jack, she is sure that it will just be a matter of time before everything goes wrong.

So when Patrick says “I have to tell you something,” and then disappears from their table for what seems like forever, she knows that it’s all over.

What she learns, however, is that Patrick’s ex-girlfriend Saskia has been stalking him for the past three years.

From this point, The Hypnotist’s Love Story: A Novel becomes a fascinating journey, in which we alternately see the perspectives of Ellen and Saskia, and watch their lives descend into a train wreck of madness. But at the end of the journey, will there be an epiphany for Ellen? For Patrick? And what will Saskia take away from these events? Set in Sydney, Australia, the story brought a great sense of place with it, making me feel as if I were there with them all.

I literally could not stop reading this story. I have loved everything I’ve read by this author, and to pick favorites seems unfair, but I felt so connected to the characters. I was frustrated by the actions of each character at one point or another. Patrick seemed clueless. Why had he allowed everything to go on so long? And he seemingly failed to see Ellen’s frustration at how he destroyed her orderly life when he moved in with her and left packing boxes in her hallway for weeks and seemed to ignore her feelings. I wanted to yell at him.

Saskia was the least likeable of the characters, and while there seemed to be no redemption for her, the drastic events of that one night made change possible. I liked seeing how that could happen, but I mostly enjoyed the thought of Ellen and Patrick being free of her. I will think of these events and these characters for a long time. 5 stars.

TUESDAY INTROS./TEASERS: AN ACCIDENTAL LIFE — MAY 8

Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Should Be Reading.

Just grab your book and share the opening lines; then find another excerpt that “teases” the reader.

Today I’m sharing again from one of my own creations.  An Accidental Life is a story that begins during one long hot summer in California’s Central Valley.

Summertime is hot and dull in the Central Valley of California and four teenage girls from very different families are determined to spice it up. With a single-mindedness that foretells disaster, they push aside all the rules and explore the underbelly of valley life. Drugs, sex, alcohol, adventure, anything to challenge the norm, yet all experienced without the benefit of maturity. As the girls become increasingly uncontrollable, their mothers–from dramatically diverse social backgrounds–are forced to work together to save their daughters. Like a tornado moving across the landscape, lives are wrenched from their foundations…

***

Intro:

Once upon a time, Karin Larson had believed in endless possibilities.  In her childhood, all the adults had asked her the same question: What do you want to be when you grow up?   Picturing a giant list from which she could choose, Karin had played with the task, picking out one thing or another, while watching the reaction of the grownups to help her know if her choices were right or wrong.

Much later, Karin had come to realize that selecting one thing meant giving up something else.  A possibility lost…perhaps forever.  Sometimes, not making any choice at all was just a different way of choosing.

Karin often wondered about those alternate paths.  As a single mother and a social worker for the past fourteen years, she was a responsible and professional person.  She had achieved some expertise in her field.  On the surface, an observer might see her as a calm, reasonably attractive woman in her mid-to-late thirties.

So why did she wake up every morning of her life wishing she were somewhere else and anyone else?

Today was no different from any other.  Karin heard the alarm and cringed.  Then, to stave off the inevitable, she pretended to be on vacation in some tropical island.  She could almost feel the breeze off the ocean, and the scent of suntan lotion wafted toward her.  She could feel her body relaxing into the chaise lounge, while a handsome man approached with a tall, cold drink with one of those little umbrellas on top.  “Mom!” Bridget’s voice interrupted her reverie with its irritatingly teenage quality, that tone that demanded immediate attention.  As she pushed open the bedroom door, she continued.  “I can’t find that book I’m supposed to take back today!  Have you put it somewhere?”  Her tone, almost accusing, brought Karin rudely back to reality.

***

Teaser:  He watched angrily as Molly sat there in the dimness of the bar, talking to that man…that creature who had swooped in and picked her up.  She was turning out to be a regular whore!  That night in the bar in Clovis, and now, this.  What had happened to his beautiful Molly?  She was becoming someone just like all the other women who had disappointed him.  He must take action, and soon!

His agitation increased, but he hovered near the edges of the pub, staying out of sight, blending into the woodwork.  That was his best quality, being able to render himself virtually unnoticeable.  In the end, though, they would all notice him, and then they would be sorry for everything!  p. 316

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What’s the verdict on this opener?  Are you teased by the “teaser”?  Come on by and share your thoughts.  Meanwhile, I’m off to check out your snippets.