REVIEW: TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY, BY LINWOOD BARCLAY

One weekend, while Andrew Mason was on a fishing trip, his wife, Brie, vanished without a trace. Most everyone assumed Andy had got away with murder—it’s always the husband, isn’t it?—but the police could never build a strong case against him. For a while, Andy hit rock bottom—he drank too much to numb the pain, was abandoned by all his friends save one, nearly lost his business, and became a pariah in the place he once called home.

Now, six years later, Andy has finally put his life back together. He sold the house he once shared with Brie and moved away. To tell the truth, he wasn’t sad to hear that the old place was razed and a new house built on the site. He’s settled down with a new partner, Jayne, and life is good.

But Andy’s peaceful world is about to shatter. One day, a woman shows up at his old address, screaming, “Where’s my house? What’s happened to my house?” And then, just as suddenly as she appeared, the woman—who bears a striking resemblance to Brie—is gone. The police are notified and old questions—and dark suspicions—resurface.

Could Brie really be alive after all these years? If so, where has she been? It soon becomes clear that Andy’s future and the lives of those closest to him depend on discovering what the hell is going on. The trick will be whether he can stay alive long enough to unearth the answers.

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As we follow the trail of Brie’s disappearance and the sightings of someone who looks like her six years later, we are thrust into a mysterious and convoluted tale that involves almost all the characters who have connections to Andrew and Brie.

There is no way that the events are coincidental, so obviously someone has gone to a lot of trouble to manufacture what we are seeing now.

I knew that someone unexpected would turn out to be the one who had hired Brie’s killer, and someone equally surprising had also brought in the look-a-like person. But we are not sure who those individuals would turn out to be until the very end of Take My Breath Away. Another brilliant 5 star read.

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REVIEW: MY DARLING HUSBAND, BY KIMBERLY BELLE

Everyone is about to know what her husband isn’t telling her…

Jade and Cam Lasky are by all accounts a happily married couple with two adorable kids, a spacious home and a rapidly growing restaurant business. But their world is tipped upside down when Jade is confronted by a masked home invader. As Cam scrambles to gather the ransom money, Jade starts to wonder if they’re as financially secure as their lifestyle suggests, and what other secrets her husband is keeping from her.

Cam may be a good father, a celebrity chef and a darling husband, but there’s another side he’s kept hidden from Jade that has put their family in danger. Unbeknownst to Cam and Jade, the home invader has been watching them and is about to turn their family secrets into a public scandal.

With riveting twists and a breakneck pace, My Darling Husband is an utterly compelling thriller that once again showcases Kimberly Belle’s exceptional talent for domestic suspense.

 

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When Jade and her two children are grabbed by someone who has been watching them, the home invasion turns into a frightening countdown to the final moment when Jade’s husband Cam will have gathered the ransom money and arrived in time to save his family.

But Cam is not as financially secure as Jade had believed, and furthermore, the home invader is not a passing stranger. He has a history with Cam…and a vendetta to resolve.  My Darling Husband is not who he seems to be.

As more details are revealed throughout the day, we soon realize that there are so many layers beyond what had initially seemed like a one-off scramble for money. Unexpected motivations stunned me by the very end. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE NEW WIFE, BY SUE WATSON

You can never truly know what goes on behind closed doors…

My darling son, Sam, is marrying his childhood sweetheart and I couldn’t be prouder of the man he’s grown into. Walking out on his abusive father all those years ago was the best thing I ever did. And today he stands, tall and handsome, saying ‘I do’ to my dream daughter-in-law. If I hadn’t pushed them together all those years ago, he might never have found a girl as perfect as Lauren. It’s true what they say, mother always knows best.

But weeks later, Lauren is dead and police cars fill the driveway of their idyllic countryside home. As they question Sam, I sense he’s hiding something. Why won’t he look me in the eye? And who does he rush off to meet as soon as the police are gone?

Desperate, I do what every good mother would do: I let myself into Sam and Lauren’s bedroom. What I see, I will never be able to forget. My son’s beautiful new wife was hiding a dangerous secret. Can I clear my son’s name? And could my life be in danger now too?

 

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As I immersed myself in The New Wife, I felt connections to the first-person narrator Georgie, and through her eyes, saw the characters that surrounded her. Her view of them felt like the truth, but as time passed, it was soon apparent that they all had secrets and were caught up in lies.

Sam’s lies turn out to be quite different than we imagined, and even though we couldn’t stand Sadie, there was more to her, too. Even Tim and Helen were no longer the sweet friends one could turn to in trouble.

As we begin to sort through the hidden parts of the characters, a more complete picture is revealed. A great twisty story. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE WRONG FAMILY, BY TARRYN FISHER

 

 

Another twisted psychological thriller guaranteed to turn your world upside down. Have you ever been wrong about someone? Juno was wrong about Winnie Crouch. Before moving in with the Crouch family, Juno thought Winnie and her husband, Nigel, had the perfect marriage, the perfect son—the perfect life. Only now that she’s living in their beautiful house, she sees the cracks in the crumbling facade are too deep to ignore. Still, she isn’t one to judge. After her grim diagnosis, the retired therapist simply wants a place to live out the rest of her days in peace. But that peace is shattered the day Juno overhears a chilling conversation between Winnie and Nigel… She shouldn’t get involved. She really shouldn’t. But this could be her chance to make a few things right. Because if you thought Juno didn’t have a secret of her own, then you were wrong about her, too. From the wickedly dark mind of bestselling author Tarryn Fisher, The Wrong Family is a taut new thriller that’s riddled with twists in all the right places.
 
 
 
 

As we enter the world of Winnie and Nigel Crouch from the perspective of Juno, we are not sure what is going on. How is Juno able to insert herself into the deepest secrets of their lives without ever actually interacting with them? I was confused for a while, and then we slowly come to realize what is happening.

The Wrong Family is definitely not what it appears to be, and neither is the story. By the end, I was holding my breath, waiting to see what would happen next. An unforgettable story. 4.5 stars.

 
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REVIEW: SOMETHING SHE’S NOT TELLING US, BY DARCEY BELL

Charlotte has everything in life that she ever could have hoped for: a doting, artistic husband, a small-but-thriving flower shop, and her sweet, smart five-year-old daughter, Daisy. Her relation-ship with her mother might be strained, but the distance between them helps. And her younger brother Rocco may have horrible taste in women, but when he introduces his new girlfriend to Charlotte and her family, they are cautiously optimistic that she could be The One. Daisy seems to love Ruth, and she can’t be any worse than the klepto Rocco brought home the last time. At least, that’s what Charlotte keeps telling herself. But as Rocco and Ruth’s relationship becomes more serious, Ruth’s apparent obsession with Daisy grows more obvious. Then Daisy is kidnapped, and Charlotte is convinced there’s only one person who could have taken her.

Ruth has never had much, but now she’s finally on the verge of having everything she’s ever dreamed of. A stable job at a start-up company, a rakish, handsome boyfriend with whom she falls more in love with every day—and a chance at the happy family she’s always wanted, adorable niece included. The only obstacle standing in her way is her boyfriend’s sister Charlotte, whose attitude swerves between politely cold and outright hostile. Rebuffing Ruth’s every attempt to build a friendship with her and Daisy, Charlotte watches over her daughter with a desperate protectiveness that sends chills down Ruth’s spine. Ruth knows that Charlotte has a deeply-buried secret, the only question is: what? A surprise outing with Daisy could be the key to finding out, and Ruth knows she must take the chance while she has it—for everyone’s sake.

As the two women follow each other down a chilling rabbit hole, unearthing winding paths of deceit, lies, and trauma, a family and a future will be completely—and irrevocably—shattered.


As we follow the convoluted tales of Charlotte and Ruth in Something She’s Not Telling Us, we know that each one has dark secrets from the past. I was on Charlotte’s side from the beginning, as Ruth grew more and more strange with each passing day.

Why did Ruth tell lies at every turn, lies that could easily be picked apart? What was her back story, and what does her mother have to do with it all? Were her grandparents the loving people to whom she owed so much, or is their story even darker?

When Charlotte finally realizes that Ruth is dangerous, it could be too late, as Ruth has collected Daisy from school one day without notifying Charlotte or Eli. The story goes back and forth in time, so it takes a while, with the intensity building up, for the reader to fill in the missing pieces and realize how dangerous Ruth could be. I was holding my breath and biting my nails until the final revelations. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: DON’T WAKE UP, BY LIZ LAWLER

 

When Dr. Alex Taylor opens her eyes, she is hooked up to an IV, is bound to an operating table, and her legs are raised in stirrups. Disoriented and alarmed, she assumes she’s been anesthetized and brought to surgery after being in an accident. But the man standing over her, with his face hidden behind a surgical mask and wielding instruments, is no doctor she recognizes at the hospi-tal where she works as a successful and respected doctor. He’s a stranger—and he’s calmly and methodically telling her how he’s about to attack her. Before Alex can even scream for help, she succumbs to another dose of anesthesia, rendering her unable to defend herself….

When she comes to on a gurney, she finds herself surrounded by her colleagues and immediately reports the attack and rape. The police are skeptical of her bizarre story. And after a physical ex-am reveals no proof of any attack, even her boyfriend has doubts. Despite Alex’s adamant claims, no one believes her, leaving her to wonder if she has, in fact, lost her mind.

Until she meets the next victim…

My Thoughts: A gripping tale that kept me glued to the pages, Don’t Wake Up takes the reader through the horrendous experiences of Dr. Alex Taylor’s life, watching her career and her personal life unravel.

Not being believed by anyone, not even those who were friends and colleagues, had to be the worst thing for Alex. Even her boyfriend is skeptical. One of the police officers, Greg Turner, seems to be more sympathetic, but his coworker, Laura Best, pushes ahead, determined to ruin the doctor’s life, coming up with reasons to show her in the worst possible light.

Only Seb Morrisey, an old and loyal friend, truly believes her. And then Dr. Maggie Fielding seems empathetic and offers to help.

But what will ultimately happen to turn all sympathy away from Alex once again? How will Alex finally convince her once-friends and colleagues to her side of the story? Or will the truth be as worrisome as the strange events?

As I kept turning the pages, following the intense happenings, I finally guessed who was behind it all…and not a moment too soon. A breathless thriller that earned 5 stars.

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REVIEW: THE DEATH OF MRS. WESTAWAY, BY RUTH WARE

 

On a day that begins like any other, Hal receives a mysterious letter bequeathing her a substantial inheritance. She realizes very quickly that the letter was sent to the wrong person—but also that the cold-reading skills she’s honed as a tarot card reader might help her claim the money.

Soon, Hal finds herself at the funeral of the deceased…where it dawns on her that there is something very, very wrong about this strange situation and the inheritance at the center of it.

My Thoughts: Hal is the kind of character that I root for, with her orphan status and her plucky efforts to find her way in the world despite her disadvantages. But would it be so wrong to finally have a little money of her own? Even if collecting on this inheritance turns out to feel like a con?

The Death of Mrs. Westaway reeled me in, from the early narrative of someone writing in a diary in 1994 to Hal’s present day search for the truth of her heritage. She has never known the identity of her father, and now she is wondering just what, if anything, connects her to the Westaways, other than their shared surname.

She feels a sense of familiarity about Trepassen House, the somewhat creepy mansion in Cornwall, with magpies hovering overhead and a stern and sinister housekeeper within. Its Gothic like aura frightens her, but also tugs at her curiosity and sense of a deeper connection. The grown sons of Mrs. Hester Westaway are imposing, from Harding, the eldest; to Abel, next in line; and then there is Ezra the youngest. His charm is noticeable from the beginning, but is there something else about him that is part of a deeper secret?

What is the story of Maud, the missing daughter? How did the friendship between cousins Maggie and Maud lead to the biggest secret of their lives? What role did Tarot cards play in their lives, and what did they learn from them?

What events had set in motion the dark plan that would bring Hal to Trepassen hoping for an inheritance, and where a twenty-year secret would be revealed? A 5 star read.

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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: EMMA IN THE NIGHT, BY WENDY WALKER

One night three years ago, the Tanner sisters disappeared: fifteen-year-old Cass and seventeen-year-old Emma. Three years later, Cass returns, without her sister Emma. Her story is one of kidnapping and betrayal, of a mysterious island where the two were held. But to forensic psychiatrist Dr. Abby Winter, something doesn’t add up. Looking deep within this dysfunctional family Dr. Winter uncovers a life where boundaries were violated and a narcissistic parent held sway. And where one sister’s return might just be the beginning of the crime.
My Thoughts: Emma in the Night was a story that began when Cassandra Tanner came home, three years after she and her sister Emma had disappeared. Jonathan and Judy Martin remained at the family home, and when Judy opened the door upon Cass’s knock, she didn’t seem to recognize her daughter. Or was she pretending?

Alternating narrators take us from the past to the present and back again, weaving together a tale of a narcissistic mother, a cruel stepfather and his equally cruel son, and two sisters who learned at an early age that love means playing tricks and resorting to emotional weapons. A bitter custody battle, a home that was a battleground, and uncertainty of one’s place in the world or in the family would create the kinds of scenarios that unfold in this novel.

Dr. Abigail (Abby) Winter and Leo Strauss are FBI agents tasked with interviewing Cass and her family. The stories Cass tells are interspersed with her reflections and thoughts about past events. She constructs a story that will capture the interest of the media and the agents…and then, at some point, the story starts unraveling as Abby realizes that some things about Cass’s tale feel contrived. They don’t quite add up.

I thought it was interesting that Cass referred to her mother as Mrs. Martin, even to her face. It was clear that there was no love lost between them, although Judy Martin, the mother, was good at putting a perfect face on things. Sometimes she could even fool her daughters, making them believe that she loved them. She definitely needed to “win” whatever battle they were playing, garnering all the attention from whoever happened to be in the room.

Very cleverly drawn, the characters felt real, while their actions had me wondering what to believe, even as I wanted everything to come together in a picture perfect way at the end.

Abby’s narratives were astute and it was clear that she had expertise with the narcissistic personality due to her own family life. Sometimes she worried that she wasn’t objective, but in the end, her assessment was spot on.

I liked how we slowly discovered the truth…and then were left with a bit of hope, along with some fear for the future. 5 stars.


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

REVIEW: GOOD ME, BAD ME, BY ALI LAND

Milly’s mother is a serial killer. Though Milly loves her mother, the only way to make her stop is to turn her in to the police. Milly is given a fresh start: a new identity, a home with an affluent foster family, and a spot at an exclusive private school.

But Milly has secrets, and life at her new home becomes complicated. As her mother’s trial looms, with Milly as the star witness, Milly starts to wonder how much of her is nature, how much of her is nurture, and whether she is doomed to turn out like her mother after all.

When tensions rise and Milly feels trapped by her shiny new life, she has to decide: Will she be good? Or is she bad? She is, after all, her mother’s daughter.

My Thoughts: In Milly’s first person narrative voice, we see the world around her from her perspective, and it is a sad, emotionally devastating world.

Living in the foster home of a psychologist named Mike, one would think she would have the best care and treatment available to her, but early on I could tell that Mike had his own agenda, and he could also be clueless about his own family. His wife, Saskia, is remote and probably narcissistic, and his teenage daughter Phoebe is able to hide her feelings, her attitudes, and her behavior. Not just in a typical teenage way, but in a hurtful, pathological way.

Milly, on the other hand, proves to be adept at her own secret agenda, and as more time goes by, we see her behavior ratchet up to an extremely manipulative level as she hears her mother’s imaginary voice guiding her and reminding her that she has to make her own wishes come true.

What will Milly do to secure her future? How does Phoebe’s behavior backfire on her? And how, finally, does Milly have the last word? A chilling story, Good Me, Bad Me captured me and held me hostage for the duration. 5 stars.

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