REVIEW: THE WIFE, BY ALAFAIR BURKE

 

When Angela met Jason Powell while catering a dinner party in East Hampton, she assumed their romance would be a short-lived fling, like so many relationships between locals and summer visitors. To her surprise, Jason, a brilliant economics professor at NYU, had other plans, and they married the following summer. For Angela, the marriage turned out to be a chance to reboot her life. She and her son were finally able to move out of her mother’s home to Manhattan, where no one knew about her tragic past.

Six years later, thanks to a bestselling book and a growing media career, Jason has become a cultural lightning rod, placing Angela near the spotlight she worked so carefully to avoid. When a college intern makes an accusation against Jason, and another woman, Kerry Lynch, comes forward with an even more troubling allegation, their perfect life begins to unravel. Jason insists he is innocent, and Angela believes him. But when Kerry disappears, Angela is forced to take a closer look—at both the man she married and the women she chose not to believe.

My Thoughts: Angela’s loyalty to Jason, despite the growing evidence against him, fits perfectly with what we know about her background. How could her judgment be anything but impaired after what she has been through?

But what we learned about the supposed victims gave me pause, too.

Throughout The Wife, I kept going back and forth on what I believed to be true. And then I was floored by the additional information that came forth as the novel progressed.

Alternately narrated in the first person voice of Angela, followed by the third person narrative of the detective Corrine Duncan, I was completely fascinated and eager to keep guessing.

What did we really know about Angela and her time in the past? Could she have a dark side from that experience, and would she completely surprise us about how she would react to what is happening in the present? Some stunning revelations turn the story upside down…but definitely kept me turning the pages. 5 stars.

***
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REVIEW: WATCH ME, BY JODY GEHRMAN

 

Kate Youngblood is disappearing. Muddling through her late 30s as a creative writing professor at Blackwood College, she’s dangerously close to never being noticed again. The follow-up novel to her successful debut tanked. Her husband left her for a woman ten years younger. She’s always been bright, beautiful, independent and a little wild, but now her glow is starting to vanish. She’s heading into an age where her eyes are less blue, her charm worn out, and soon no one will ever truly look at her, want to know her, again.

Except one.

Sam Grist is Kate’s most promising student. An unflinching writer with razor-sharp clarity who gravitates towards dark themes and twisted plots, his raw talent is something Kate wants to nurture into literary success. But he’s not there solely to be the best writer. He’s been watching her. Wanting her. Working his way to her for years.

As Sam slowly makes his way into Kate’s life, they enter a deadly web of dangerous lies and forbidden desire. But how far will his fixation go? And how far will she allow it?

 

My Thoughts: Alternating first person narratives tell the tale in Watch Me. At first we see that Sam has a crush on Kate, his professor, and she is flattered by his attention. But with each page we turn, the darkness escalates until we are left with fear and angst.

Intense, dark, thrilling…all of the ingredients in a cat and mouse game that can only end badly, yet keep the reader glued to the pages. Will Kate realize the danger? Will Sam’s obsession lead to disaster?

What I did enjoy, aside from the intensity, was getting to know these two characters. Kate’s lonely and solo existence involves a lot of drinking at home, especially after her best friend Zoe has a baby and is no longer available for nights out.

Sam’s existence seems completely focused on Kate and the dream he has for the two of them. Even the persistent attention of a young sexy student named Jess is not enough for him to take his eye off his goals. We empathize a bit with him as we learn about his childhood and how he was dragged from place to place, putting up with his mother’s drug abuse and her series of abusive boyfriends.

Set in the small town of Blackwood, Ohio, the story unfolds in such a way that we never really know what will happen next. As writers, the characters could almost be creating fiction for us. Could any of it be really happening? We are watching them, unable to believe what we are seeing. The characters are as addictive to the reader as they are to each other. We turn the pages quickly in order to find out what happens next. In the end, we are stunned by it all. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley

REVIEW: NEVER LET YOU GO, BY CHEVY STEVENS

 

 

Eleven years ago, Lindsey Nash escaped into the night with her young daughter and left an abusive relationship. Her ex-husband, Andrew, was sent to jail and Lindsey started over with a new life.

Now, Lindsey is older and wiser, with her own business and a teenage daughter who needs her more than ever. When Andrew is finally released from prison, Lindsey believes she has cut all ties and left the past behind her. But she gets the sense that someone is watching her, tracking her every move. Her new boyfriend is threatened. Her home is invaded, and her daughter is shadowed.

Lindsey is convinced it’s her ex-husband, even though he claims he’s a different person. But has he really changed? Is the one who wants her dead closer to home than she thought?

With Never Let You Go, Chevy Stevens delivers a chilling, twisting thriller that crackles with suspense as it explores the darkest heart of love and obsession.

My Thoughts: From the very beginning of Never Let You Go, I was glued to the pages, watching as Lindsey and Sophie struggled to move beyond the past and truly start over.

But every time they thought they could finally trust again, another unexpected glitch would knock them down.

Narrated by Lindsey and Sophie, the story arc goes back and forth in time, starting with the beginning of Andrew and Lindsey…and then showing us what life looks like for them after Andrew is released from prison. Set primarily on Vancouver Island and parts of British Columbia, the story and characters of this novel felt so real…as if I was walking along with them, stalked just as they were.

As much as Andrew seemed to be the same old lying, abusive man, there were too many things that didn’t quite add up. So, as a reader, I started suspecting this one and then that one. Who could be manipulating the situation, heading toward some kind of revenge?

Just when I thought “ah, it could be him,” or even “it might be her,” I would realize that the scenario didn’t work. I couldn’t trust anyone, and I felt a semblance of what Lindsey must have felt for her whole adult life. Never trusting, never feeling safe.

So I was stunned, as only one can be, when I figured out who was behind it all…and why. I started to piece it together near the end, and then the explosive, riveting events came to a crashing conclusion. A truly 5 star read that I will not forget.

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

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: 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.

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SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAYS: “BREAKDOWN”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by Books & a Beat.

Today’s feature is Breakdown, by Jonathan Kellerman, another thriller spotlighting Alex Delaware and Milo Sturgis.

 

 

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Intro:  Noise was everywhere.  To avoid it, Tina figured you had to die.

When she and Harry lived in Manhattan, the nerve-scraping clangor of garbage trucks and delivery vans had served as early-morning alarm clocks.  Waking up to the din was jarring and souring for Tina but useful for Harry because he slept like a drunk and had to be on the subway by seven.

Here in L.A., nestled in the alleged luxe of upper Bel Air, mornings were quiet.  Until they weren’t:  the house groaning and creaking randomly, scolding reminders that they’d traded New York bedrock for the traitorous sand of earthquake country.

***

Teaser:  The hands dropped a bit.  The near-stuporous confusion behind them might’ve been mental illness but I bet the real cause was Kristin Doyle-Maslow’s manipulation.  Zelda had no conscious need to see me; The Hyphen’s project required an inaugural documented patient and I was the sucker who’d responded to a guilt trip. (p. 53).

***

Blurb:  Psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware meets beautiful and emotionally fragile TV actress Zelda Chase when called upon to evaluate her five-year-old son, Ovid. Years later, Alex is unexpectedly reunited with Zelda when she is involuntarily committed after a bizarre psychotic episode. Shortly after Zelda’s release, an already sad situation turns tragic when she is discovered dead on the grounds of a palatial Bel Air estate. Having experienced more than enough of L.A.’s dark side to recognize the scent of evil, Alex turns to his friend LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis for help in finding out who ended Zelda’s broken life.

At the same time, Alex is caught up in another quest: the search for Zelda’s missing son. And when other victims vanish from the same upscale neighborhood, worry turns to terror.

As Alex struggles to piece together the brief rise and steep fall of a gorgeous, talented actress, he and Milo unveil shattered dreams, the corruption of a family, and a grotesque betrayal of innocence. With each devastating revelation and damning clue, Alex’s brilliant mind is challenged as never before—and his determination grows to see a killer caged and the truth set free.

***

What is your verdict?  Keep reading, or not?  I always enjoy the author’s Alex Delaware stories, so I’m definitely in this one until the end.

***

REVIEW: THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE ME, BY HOLLY GODDARD JONES

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A group of teenage bullies; a teacher stressed out from doing more than her share of the parenting; an older man, Wyatt Powell, who is realizing that life is passing him by; and a wild thirty-something woman who goes missing…

These characters and more populate the canvas of The Next Time You See Me, set in a small town named Roma, Kentucky, near the Tennessee border, where those wanting to party cross over regularly to the bars in a section called Tobacco Patch. The time period: 1990s.

The author drew me in with her vivid descriptions of these characters, making me feel as though they were people I might know. People with flaws and vulnerabilities. The teenagers were typically annoying, but one of them, Emily Houchens, the target of much of the bullying, is hiding something. And over-privileged Christopher Shelton is confused, and also behaving badly.

The stressed-out teacher is Susanna Mitchell, mother of four-year-old Abby, and wife to Dale, whose work consumes him to the exclusion of everything else. His behavior and attitude toward Susanna put him on my “very annoying” list…perhaps he will redeem himself at some point.

Veronica (Ronnie) Eastman is Susanna’s wild sister who parties regularly, hooking up with less-than-appropriate men. When she goes missing one October weekend, Susanna and her mother both believe that somehow she connected with the wrong man. But Susanna’s husband Dale is dismissive, saying she probably took off on a vacation.

Susanna knows this is unlikely. She makes a report to the police, and is stunned to realize that the detective she will be working with is someone from her past: Tony Joyce. They didn’t get together when she was in high school, because her racist father would have objected.

Now Tony is feeling something for Susanna…and wondering where it will go, and Susanna is also feeling the attraction again.

What has happened to Ronnie? Why does Wyatt turn out to be a person of interest? What happens to Emily when she goes missing? And how does a buxom nurse named Sarah figure into the story?

As the story unfolded in unexpected ways, flashing backwards and forwards, a grim reality is revealed…and we are left with a sadness and a nostalgia for the fleeting moments in life that are sometimes all we can hang onto. Unforgettable. 4.5 stars.

HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “THE OBSESSION”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Today’s eagerly anticipated book is from Nora Roberts.  The Obsession will be released on April 12, 2016.

 

 

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Synopsis:  The riveting new novel from the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Liar.
 
“She stood in the deep, dark woods, breath shallow and cold prickling over her skin despite the hot, heavy air. She took a step back, then two, as the urge to run fell over her.”

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

***

What do you think?  Does this one excite you?  Make you want to read it sooner rather than later?  Come on by and share your thoughts!

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HUMP DAY SERENDIPITY: “DON’T YOU CRY”

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Welcome to another Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.

Every week, we gather around the blogosphere and search out the upcoming book releases, sharing our thoughts and blurbs.  Today I am eagerly awaiting a book from an author recently added to my favorites list: Mary Kubica, whose newest book, Don’t You Cry, will be released on May 17, 2016.

 

 

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New York Times bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica returns with an electrifying and addictive tale of deceit and obsession 

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person Quinn thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dishwasher. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under the stranger’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end.

***

I loved two other books by this author, The Good Girl and Pretty Baby, so I am very excited to read this one.  What are you anticipating?

***

 

SERENDIPITOUS TUESDAY: EXCERPTING “X: KINSEY MILLHONE BOOK #24”

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Welcome to another Tuesday celebrating bookish events, from Tuesday/First Chapter/Intros, hosted by Bibliophile by the Sea; and Teaser Tuesdays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

Today’s feature is a book from an author I have enjoyed, and whose mystery series has brought to life one of my favorite heroines.  Sue Grafton’s latest is X (Kinsey Millhone Book #24).  I received my e-ARC from NetGalley:  release date – August 25, 2015.

 

 

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Intro:  In the Beginning:

Teddy Xanakis would have to steal the painting.  What other choice did she have?  She believed it was a Turner—a possibility she couldn’t confirm unless she shipped it to the Tate in London, where the Turner scholars, Evelyn Joll and Martin Butlin in particular, could make a judgment about its authenticity.  Unfortunately, the painting was currently in the basement of the house that was now solely in Ari’s name, where it had sat for years, unrecognized and unappreciated.  She might have blamed herself for the oversight, but why on earth would anyone expect to find a priceless painting in such homely company?

She and Ari had bought the house when they moved from Chicago to Santa Teresa, California.  The estate had been owned by the Carpenters, who passed it down from generation to generation until the last surviving family member died in 1981, having neglected to write a will.  The estate attorney had locked the doors and put the house up for sale.  Teddy and Ari had bought it fully equipped and fully furnished, right down to the rolls of toilet paper in the linen closet and three sets of sterling flatware in the silver vault.  The antiques, including several exquisite Persian carpets, were appraised as part of the purchase price, but in the process a small group of paintings had been overlooked.  The attorney had paid the taxes owed, handing the IRS and the State of California the hefty sums to which they were entitled.

***

Teaser:  (After the divorce)

Teddy made three trips to the house, thinking she could walk in casually and remove the painting without attracting notice.  Unfortunately, Ari had instructed the staff to usher her politely to the door, which is what they did.  Of one thing she was certain—she could not let Ari know of her interest in the seascape or her suspicions about its pedigree. (2%).

***

Blurb:  X:  The number ten. An unknown quantity. A mistake. A cross. A kiss.

X:
 The shortest entry in Webster’s Unabridged. Derived from Greek and Latin and commonly found in science, medicine, and religion. The most graphically dramatic letter. Notoriously tricky to pronounce: think xylophone.

X: 
The twenty-fourth letter in the English alphabet.

Sue Grafton’s X: Perhaps her darkest and most chilling novel, it features a remorseless serial killer who leaves no trace of his crimes. Once again breaking the rules and establishing new paths, Grafton wastes little time identifying this sociopath. The test is whether Kinsey can prove her case against him before she becomes his next victim.

***

I always eagerly await each new “alphabet book”…and I am as fond of the writing style and MC as I have ever been.  What do you think?  Do the excerpts pique your curiosity?  Does the blurb?

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