contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Liar’s Child by Carla Buckley

3.5/5 stars

This is the first ARC that I wrote away for and received!! Thank you, Ballantine Books – Random House!!

The first book I read by Carla Buckley was The Good Good-bye and I loved it so much that I ordered her other three books and read them all too! She writes about families in peril, families with ill children, parents who take their eyes off the road for a second and tragedy strikes, major flu epidemics and how that effects families. As a mom, I relate to her characters and their issues.

This is a powerful story of how mental illness effects families, how sometimes it may look like someone is not doing their job, but they are doing the best with what they have, the best they can in their situation. It’s about a father’s love, that doesn’t necessarily look the way we think it should. And, ultimately, it’s about how far we will go to protect the people we love.

The Liar’s Child is about a family where the mother is mentally ill and in addition to her mental illness, she has a shopping addiction which leaves the family with little money. They live in a crappy apartment building and the kids are often left to their own devices. The 12 year old daughter, Cassie, gets into a lot of trouble and the 6 year old son, Boon, is emotionally distraught. The father does the best he can, but must work long hours to pay the families’ bills, much of which the mother spends on online shopping.

Sara Lennox is in the witness protection program and the government puts her in the apartment next door to Cassie and Boon. She observes their family and how the kids are left to their own devices. When a hurricane is heading toward the Outer Banks and the kids are left alone, Sara takes her with her as she tries to escape the island and more.

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Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

Forget You Know Me by Jessica Strawser

3/5 stars

My Review:

Molly and Liza have been friends for a long time.  After Liza moves away, things are strained between the two women.  While Molly’s husband is away on business, the two women agree to Facetime each other one evening after Molly puts her kids to bed.  When Molly leaves the room to check on one of her kids, Liza sees a man in a mask enter the room where Molly is and then her screen goes black.  Liza drives all night to get to her friend to help her, but Molly is cold and unappreciative when Liza gets there.

This book explores a friendship that was close at one time, but has changed over time.  It also explores a marriage that has some issues.  This book explores the things that go unsaid in a relationship and how that can be isolating and effect what was once a close relationship.  I thought it was good, but it got weird in some parts in a way that I didn’t find believable, which is why I am giving it 3 stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

Molly and Liza have always been close in a way that people envy. Even after Molly married Daniel, both considered Liza an honorary member of their family. But after Liza moved away, things grew more strained than anyone wanted to admit—in the friendship and the marriage.

When Daniel goes away on business, Molly and Liza plan to reconnect with a nice long video chat over wine after the kids are in bed. But when Molly leaves the room to check on a crying child, a man in a mask enters, throwing Liza into a panic—then her screen goes black.

When Liza finally reaches Molly, her reply is icy and terse, insisting everything is fine. Liza is still convinced something is wrong, that her friend is in danger. But after an all-night drive to help her ends in a brutal confrontation, Liza is sure their friendship is over—completely unaware that she’s about to have a near miss of her own. And Molly, refusing to deal with what’s happened, won’t turn to Daniel, either.

But none of them can go on pretending. Not after this.

Forget You Know Me exposes the wounds of people who’ve grown apart, against their will. Best friends, separated by miles. Spouses, hardened by neglect. A mother, isolated by pain. The man in the mask will change things for them all.

But who was he?

And will he be back?

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

4/5 stars

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We know from the description that Olivia falls and is brain dead and pregnant and her mom wants to know what happened the night she fell and if she was pushed.  I stayed up way past my bedtime to find out what happened that night!

This book is fast-paced, with hooks at the end of chapters to make you want to read the next chapter.  I don’t like thrillers where you feel that these things could never happen in real life, this book was not like that.  Everything in this book seemed plausible, like it really could happen.  I also really liked that there were so many different possibilities and what happened was not revealed until the end.

This was Christina McDonald’s first novel, but it really does not read like a first novel.  It reads as though the writer has a lot of experience knowing what works and what doesn’t and how to hook readers.

As the mom of two teen daughters, the thing I did not like about this novel was that the mom didn’t really know her daughter as well as she thought she did.  That made me look hard at my girls and my relationship with them and whether or not I know them well.  They have both just started college and that is a big adjustment with the possibility of new friends and new situations and I just hope they make good choices.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Gallery Books for my copy of this arc in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

Description

5 star reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

No Exit by Taylor Adams

5/5 stars

College sophomore, Darby Thorne, planned to spend Christmas alone at UC-Boulder until she got a call from her sister that their mother was diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. She tried to beat a blizzard home, but wound up having to stop at a rest stop for the night because the roads were impassable. There were two young men and an older couple already at the rest stop. Darby was trying to get a cell signal in the parking lot to tell her family where she was and that she would not make it home that night, when she saw something in the back of a van in the parking lot. A van that must belong to one of the people in the rest stop.

This book was INTENSE. This book set the new bar for thrillers.

I had actually thought I needed a break from thrillers because they were getting predictable and not holding my interest. I had heard great things about this one and had a few days before my next buddy read began when the box from Baker & Taylor came in at work, so I quickly cataloged it and brought it home. And stayed up until 2:30am reading it!!

If you like thrillers that are intense with a lot of action and reliable, strong, female leads, then read No Exit.

4 star reviews, 4.5 star reviews, 5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller, Women's Fiction

My Top Ten Books of 2019 + Honorable Mentions

I saw a lot of book bloggers and bookstagrammers doing this and I thought it would be fun. I learned a lot about what I like to read during the process. I like books that stretch me and challenge my views and make me think.

My favorite books this year:
🥂
The Wife by Alafair Burke– This was my first book by Alafair Burke and I look forward to reading more. This book kept me guessing and I never could have predicted that ending!
🥂
Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering – reminded me of what it was like to be in college and willing to do anything to be liked. I also had an eating disorder and was prone to self-destructive behavior at that time in my life.
🥂
Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia – I fell in love with the outside-the-box thinkers and the rebel heroine and the Boundary Waters. I loved this story that kept me literally on the edge of me seat.
🥂
Bonfire by Krysten Ritter – This book was like Erin Brockovich meets Mean Girls – the factory in town is poisoning people, the main character is assigned to check it out and encounters all the popular people from high school who are still acting like its high school. There is also a sweet romance.
🥂
Speak No Evil by Uzodinma Iweala – this book blew my mind and made me rage and cry and understand life for a smart, successful African immigrant who is gay and from a conservative family. This book challenged me in all the best ways.
🥂
Only Child by Rhiannon Navin – the aftermath of a school shooting and how it effects one family. This felt real to me because we are not perfect in our life or our grief.
🥂
The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy– this book reminded me of what it was like to be a new mother; it reminded me of the solid group of mom friends that I had when my girls were little. The ending was a surprise.
🥂
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times by Jenny Worth – I LOVE this show and the book gets into more details about the people and what the East End of London was like in the 1950s. 🥂
An American Marriage by Tayari Jones – this book showed me what racial profiling FEELS like.
🥂
How to Walk Away by Katharine Center– all the feels and inspiration. There is so much about the human experience in this book. She is left by her fiance when she is in the hospital after becoming paralyzed in an accident that was her fiance’s fault, her fiance’s mother-in-law needs some throat-punching, there is a whole thing with her sister and a lot of sexual tension with her physical therapist.

I had a REALLY hard time narrowing it down to just TEN BOOKS, here are a few more that I REALLY enjoyed:

Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult – this book made me think, it made me see things from perspectives other than my own (as most of Jodi Picoult’s books do) and I love to understand different points of view and challenge my own.
🥂
One Day in December  by Jodi Silver – Love is all around us. I loved this book. It felt real to me. Just seeing someone on the bus and falling in love and having it be easy wouldn’t seem real, but the way this story unfolded felt real and beautiful and at times it ripped my heart out.
🥂
Winter in Paradise by Elin Hildebrand- after four glorious Christmases with the Quinn family, I didn’t think I could get as into a new family, but Irene is my mom-if-adult-kids role model, I love Huck and Ayres and I am Team Cash all the way. This book had me feeling all the feels and immersing myself in another family’s woes.
🥂
The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah – As a child of the 70s who grew up watching Mountain Family Robinson and Grizzly Adams, I’ve always had a part of me that wanted to live off-the-grid and this book gave me a taste of what that might be like. Along with a beautiful love story.
🥂
Watching You by Lisa Jewell – I know this has not been popular, but I loved it. I loved the characters and I found the ending unpredictable. 🥂
Did you read any of these? What did you think?

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

Somebody I Used to Know by David Bell

4/5 stars

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From the publisher:

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She’s the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.

My Review:

When Lori from GetRedPR emailed me about this book, I instantly knew that I wanted to read it.  First of all, I love David Bell’s writing.  Secondly, the premise of the story had me intrigued – was it the same woman?  Two different women?  Why do they look alike?  Why did she have Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket?
This book really kept me going.  There are a lot of twists and turns and things I did not see coming.
The story is told from Nick’s point of view and really lets the reader into the mind of this very normal, relatable, real-seeming, recently divorced man with a stepson.  Nick himself has had issues with the police with regard to the stepson.  Now that this woman he saw in the grocery store is dead, he becomes a suspect for the police.  Nick knows he did not kill her and feels a connection to her since she looks like his college girlfriend who he never got over and he wants to find out why she was looking for him.
David Bell’s writing is so simple and easy to read.  There is not a lot of fluff and it doesn’t get bogged down in long descriptions or explanations, the writing just flows and makes it easy to keep reading and stay up well past a reasonable hour to find out what the heck is going on and you will do that with this book!
5 star reviews, Book reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

Watching You by Lisa Jewell

5/5 stars

I had been thinking I needed a break from thrillers.  I was getting kind of jaded and several thrillers I read recently seemed predictable, but this renewed my faith in thrillers!  I don’t think I have ever given a thriller 5 stars, but this one seriously BLEW MY MIND!

It also renewed my faith in Lisa Jewell’s books.  I read “I Found You” last year, which lead to me quickly finding and reading “The Girls in the Garden”, “The House We Grew Up In” and “The Third Wife”.  All of which I LOVED.  But then I read “Then She Was Gone” and I will be honest, it didn’t seem possible to me and I didn’t like it that much.  I was hesitant to request this from Netgalley and hesitant to read it, because I feel bad giving a bad review, since I knew writers pour their heart and soul into their work.  I went into this book thinking I might not like it and it BLEW MY MIND!!!  It was SO GOOD!!!!

The characters are well developed and you feel invested in their stories.  Jenna is a teenager whose mom might be mentally ill and she has to take care of her.  Jenna’s best friend is Bess, who is very naive.  Joey lives with her brother and his wife and she is struggling with her marriage and growing up.  Freddie is a young autistic boy who is struggling with his own issues.  Then there is Tom Fitzwilliam, the headmaster at the school, who you are not sure if you should like or not, but he seems to have a certain charisma.

The book opens with a murder investigation but none of the characters seem like a murderer.  There is actually A LOT to unpack in this book and the plot is tight as a drum and the pacing is perfect.

This book doesn’t come out until December 26 – perfect for something to look forward to after the letdown of the holidays!  

4.5 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller, Women's Fiction

You Were Always Mine by Nicole Baart

4.5/5 stars

Processed with VSCO with m5 presetMy Review:

Domestic thriller; perfectly paced; wonderfully developed characters

Jessica and Evan are recently separated.  They have two sons, their biological son, Max and their adopted son, Gabe.  The characters are very well developed and relatable.  I wanted to be friends with both Jessica and Evan and I would have liked to see them get back together.

One night Evan is supposed to pick the boys up, but he doesn’t show.  Jess is annoyed until she finds out that he died on a hunting trip–when he was never the outdoorsy type.  Jess and her boys are devastated by Evan’s death and Jess finds herself not accepting it, something doesn’t feel right and she starts to investigate.  She discovers that Evan was in contact with Gabe’s biological mother.  Jess continues to investigate and I could not put this book down!  Domestic thrillers where kids are involved just make me want to make sure that the kids are safe and I can’t stop reading!

I loved this book.  I loved the characters and I wanted to be friends with them.  I could really relate to Jess, she seemed so real to me.  The story kept my interest and was the perfect blend of women’s fiction and thriller written beautifully and paced perfectly.

I am giving this book 4.5 stars because the characters were so well developed and the pacing was so right on and also because I appreciated the statistics regarding open and closed adoptions, biological parents who want to be found and those who don’t and why.  I found it very interesting as I have several friends who were adopted and some have looked for their biological parents and others have not.  I never really understood not wanting to find your biological parent or child, but after reading this I have a better understanding.

From the Publisher:

Jessica Chamberlain, newly separated and living with her two sons in a small Iowa town, can’t believe that a tragedy in another state could have anything to do with her. But when her phone rings one quiet morning, her world is shattered. As she tries to pick up the pieces and make sense of what went wrong, Jess begins to realize that a tragic death is just the beginning. Soon she is caught in a web of lies and half-truths—and she’s horrified to learn that everything leads back to her seven-year-old adopted son, Gabriel.

Years ago, Gabe’s birth mother requested a closed adoption and Jessica was more than happy to comply. But when her house is broken into and she discovers a clue that suggests her estranged husband was in close contact with Gabe’s biological mother, she vows to uncover the truth at any cost. A harrowing story of tenacious love and heartbreaking betrayal, You Were Always Mine is about the wars we wage to keep the ones we love close, perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty and Jodi Picoult.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Atria books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book reviews, thriller

I Know You Know by Gilly MacMillan

3/5 stars

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In 1996, two ten year old boys went missing and were found – one dead, one near dead – in a shallow grave.  The detective was in over his head and a mentally impaired man was an easy target to take the blame for the murders.

Twenty years later, a friend of the boys starts a podcast to investigate what really happened after an investigative journalist brings up suspicion that the mentally impaired man did not commit the murders.

This book is told from three perspectives: Cody Swift, a friend of the murdered boys who has started the podcast to investigate what really happened; Jessy Paige, who was the mother of one of the boys and a prostitute at the time of their murders, now living a totally different lifestyle with a husband and teen daughter; and John Fletcher who was the detective on the original case and is now investigating a body found in the same area the boys were found.

I found this book extremely difficult to follow.  I did have a digital ARC, so it is possible that this was addressed in the published copy, but John Fletcher’s parts would go back and forth between current day and 1996 and it would take me a bit to figure out what time period they were talking about.  It would have been helpful if there had been some indication of what time period each section of the story was in, like maybe a 1996 or a Current Day separating the sections.

I thought it was interesting, however, how John Fletcher’s parts in the story were like a True Crime television series and Cody Swifts were like a transcript of a podcast.  The ending was a big surprise and a real WOW moment.

I would have given this book 2 stars because it was difficult to follow and it didn’t pull me in and make me want to keep reading.  BUT the ending was really good, so I gave it 3 stars.

I received my review copy from Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review.

Book reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

The Last House on Sycamore Street by Paige Roberts

3.75/5

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My Review:

I really liked this book and would have given it 4 stars, but I am not sure that other people would like it as much as I did.  It’s basically just the real life of a young couple and their young son.  They buy a house, they unpack, they work, the husband’s parents babysit.  I enjoy getting a glimpse into how other people live and I often find that interesting and think we all have a story to tell…but I am not sure that someone else wouldn’t find that kind of boring and feel like the story drags.

The family that owned the house before them forget to get the mail forwarded and Amy and Rob end up finding out that family is having financial issues.  They also end up befriending the family that used to live there – which I found a little odd and unrealistic, but maybe I am just being cynical.  They end up realizing that the family that used to live in the house has some addiction issues and that puts Amy and Rob and their son Noah at risk.

It is a completely realistic and relatable story.  I would not be surprised if this has all happened to someone or if someday I hear a friend tell me this happened to someone they know and for that reason, I am giving it 3.75 stars, because 3.5 isn’t enough and although it was a 4 star read for me, I can see where it would drag in spots for someone else, so I can’t give it 4 stars.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Kensington Books for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

From the Publisher:

As intriguing as it is relatable, Paige Roberts’ compulsively readable novel delves into the secrets and ties that lie between friends—and neighbors.

When Amy Kravitz opts to leave Washington, D.C., behind in favor of a less stressful life in the Philadelphia suburbs, she has a certain kind of house in mind. And on a charming street in a
family-friendly neighborhood, she and her husband Rob find it. It’s a perfect brick colonial with plenty of space, a beautiful yard, and great schools nearby. The sellers, Julian and Grace Durant, are eager to make a deal. In an unexpected bonus, the Durants’ young son, Ethan, strikes up a friendship with Amy and Rob’s introverted four-year-old, Noah.

Soon, Amy is unpacking boxes in her new home and arranging playdates for Noah and Ethan. But as weeks go by, Amy suspects something isn’t quite right. Julian’s mail keeps arriving at their old address, and Amy can hardly miss the “Final Notice” stamped on the envelopes in big, red letters. Behind the
laid-back veneer projected by the Durants, Amy senses lives reeling out of control. But how much does Grace know, how much is she choosing to ignore—and is there more at stake in Amy speaking up or in staying silent?