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.

***

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.

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “THE WIDOWER’S WIFE”

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’s feature is a book I just finished reading.  The Widower’s Wife, by Cate Holahan (click for my review), is a story about a marriage, a cruise, and deadly secrets.

 

Beginning:  (November 16)

Ryan Monahan liked liars.  Not the three-times-a-conversation fibbers, who prettied up the truth to appear less pedestrian at parties and would swear to God they’d had just one, Officer.  Those average assholes weren’t even trying.  No, Ryan liked the real deal, the kind of folks who weaved falsehoods into the very fabric of their lives until they wore their fictions like fine-knit sweaters, feeling safe and warm, wrapped in their bullshit.  They were the challenge.

***

56:  She shook her head like a petulant teenager.  “No way.  He’ll just deny it and I’ll be out the best paycheck of my life.”   She again lowered her voice to a whisper.  “But I do think that he should be held accountable if he did anything to drive some woman to…Well, you know.”

***

Synopsis:  “In this chilling cat-and-mouse tale… Holahan keeps the action going.”
Publishers Weekly

Ana Bacon, a beautiful young wife and mother, tumbled off a cruise ship into dark and deadly waters. Ana is gone–leaving behind her wealthy husband and adorable daughter–but not everything about her disappearance adds up. What secrets did she leave behind?

Investigator Ryan Monahan is a numbers man. So when his company sends him the Bacon case, which could net a ten-million-dollar payout, Monahan doubts that her death is just a tragic accident. But the husband has a substantial alibi and a number of witnesses claim to have seen Ana fall, and the official ruling seems to hold up.

Still, the more Monahan uncovers about Ana’s life, the more he realizes how many people would kill to keep her secrets hidden. And the closer he gets to the truth, the greater the odds grow that he, too, will take a fatal fall.

***

What do you think?  Do the excerpts grab you?  Would you keep reading?

***

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “EENY MEENY”

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’s feature is a recent acquisition:  Eeny Meeny (e-book), by M. J. Arlidge.   It is the “dark, twisted, thought-provoking” (#1 New York Times bestseller Tami Hoag) international bestseller—first in the new series featuring Detective Helen Grace.

 

Beginning:  Sam is asleep.  I could kill him now.  His face is turned from me—it wouldn’t be hard.  Would he stir if I moved?  Try to stop me?  Or would he just be glad that this nightmare was over?

***

56:  Mark hovered in the doorway, unable to step inside.  His head pounding, he was assailed by wave after wave of nausea—the sheer busyness of the room made his head spin.  He was tempted to turn and run, but he knew he had to face the music.

***

Synopsis:  Two people are abducted, imprisoned, and left with a gun. As hunger and thirst set in, only one walks away alive.

It’s a game more twisted than any Detective Helen Grace has ever seen. If she hadn’t spoken with the shattered survivors herself, she almost wouldn’t believe them.

Helen is familiar with the dark sides of human nature, including her own, but this case—with its seemingly random victims—has her baffled. But as more people go missing, nothing will be more terrifying than when it all starts making sense….

***

What do you think?  Do you want to keep reading?

***

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.

BOOKISH FRIDAY: “BEHIND HER EYES”

married-to-books-bookish-logo

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.

 

 

 

behind-her-eyes

 

***

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.

***

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.

***

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?

***

REVIEW: THE TWILIGHT WIFE, BY A. J. BANNER

the-twilight-wife

 

 

 

Thirty-four-year-old marine biologist Kyra Winthrop remembers nothing about the diving accident that left her with a complex form of memory loss. With only brief flashes of the last few years of her life, her world has narrowed to a few close friendships on the island where she lives with her devoted husband, Jacob.

But all is not what it seems. Kyra begins to have visions—or are they memories?—of a rocky marriage, broken promises, and cryptic relationships with the island residents, whom she believes to be her friends.

As Kyra races to uncover her past, the truth becomes a terrifying nightmare.

My Thoughts: It was not difficult to see almost immediately that Jacob Winthrop was a man full of secrets. Soon it became apparent that he was keeping many things from Kyra, or was he lying? Was he keeping her in the dark to protect her, or was something more nefarious happening?

Who is Aiden to Kyra, and why does she keep seeing him in her dreams? Or is she having memories?

Why do many of the island residents seem hesitant when they talk to her? Could the fact of her memory loss be keeping them silent, or have they been kept in the dark, too?

How does an old man named Doug Ingram, whose paintings hang in the library, become an impetus to trying to fill in the gaps in her memory? How does Kyra finally discover the truth?

I raced through this book, not wanting to set it down. So many questions kept popping into my mind, and I figured out certain things right away; but realizing those answers did not spoil the story for me. The Twilight Wife kept me thoroughly engaged, while I waited to see how Kyra would figure things out. A five star read.

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