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.

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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?

4 star reviews, thriller

Lies by T.M. Logan

4/5 stars

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My Review:

Riveting, enthralling, captivating, fast moving thriller

I liked Joe Lynch, he was a nice guy, if a little meek and mild, but he is a good dad and and a nice guy.

The whole story was crazy and kept me up late and had me thinking about the book during the day, anxious to get back to it and find out what happened.

Joe thinks his wife is at work, but he and his young son spot her car in traffic, then see her turn into a hotel parking lot.  They follow and Joe gets into an altercation with their family friend, Ben just as his son has an asthma attack.  When Joe returns to see if Ben is ok, Ben is gone.

Ben’s wife reports Ben missing.  But Ben starts sending Joe shocking messages that he is going to take everything from Joe.  But, since Ben is missing, Joe becomes the suspect behind Ben’s disappearance because of the altercation at the hotel.

My heart went out to Ben and I was rooting for him the whole time, but could not predict what would happen in this book.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes psychological thrillers.

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

From the Publisher:

WHAT IF YOUR WHOLE LIFE WAS BASED ON LIES?
When Joe Lynch stumbles across his wife driving into a hotel car park while she’s supposed to be at work, he’s intrigued enough to follow her in.

And when he witnesses her in an angry altercation with family friend Ben, he knows he ought to intervene.

But just as the confrontation between the two men turns violent, and Ben is knocked unconscious, Joe’s young son has an asthma attack – and Joe must flee in order to help him.

When he returns, desperate to make sure Ben is OK, Joe is horrified to find that Ben has disappeared.

And that’s when Joe receives the first message . . .

 

4 star reviews, contemporary fiction, romance, thriller

Leave No Trace by Mindy Mejia

4.5/5 stars

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From the Publisher:

There is a place in Minnesota with hundreds of miles of glacial lakes and untouched forests called the Boundary Waters. Ten years ago a man and his son trekked into this wilderness and never returned.

Search teams found their campsite ravaged by what looked like a bear. They were presumed dead until a decade later…the son appeared. Discovered while ransacking an outfitter store, he was violent and uncommunicative and sent to a psychiatric facility. Maya Stark, the assistant language therapist, is charged with making a connection with their high-profile patient. No matter how she tries, however, he refuses to answer questions about his father or the last ten years of his life.

But Maya, who was abandoned by her own mother, has secrets, too. And as she’s drawn closer to this enigmatic boy who is no longer a boy, she’ll risk everything to reunite him with his father who has disappeared from the known world.

My Review:

4/5 stars

I loved this book and read it in one day–I don’t remember the last time I did that!

This book was like The Great Alone meets Magic Hour (both by Kristin Hannah) with a little Child Finder by Rene Denfeld.

Lucas and Josiah Blackthorne disappeared from society ten years ago and were assumed dead.  Then Lucas is caught robbing a store.  He is violent and nonverbal, so he is sent to a psychiatric facility where he meets Maya who is a speech therapist, wrestling with her own demons.

 

Beautiful setting of the Boundary Waters of Northern Minnesota, a strong female lead character, a thrilling escape, a captivating mysteray and a little romance…this book has everything.  This book also explores issues of mental health in our society and how one action can have a snowball effect and affect people for decades.  I also felt that the author made a statement about power and people who think differently or want different things than the norm.  I thought these issues were well thought out and presented and encouraged deeper thought for the reader.

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

When the Lights Go Out by Mary Kubica

4/5 stars

I was very fortunate to get an eArc of this from Netgalley and Park Row Publishers.

I LOVE Mary Kubica’s books.  I have read them all and I loved them all.  Pretty Baby was her most unique book, different than anything I had read, but When the Lights Go Out might be a close second, if not the most unique book I have read of hers to date.

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Jessie Sloane’s mother is dying of cancer.  It was just her and her mom.  No dad, no real friends, no extended family.  So it all falls on twenty year old Jessie when her mom dies.  The stress of it all is too much for her.  She has no support and things begin to spiral out of control.

This book is a two-part narrative, with Jessie telling the contemporary story of her mother’s death, but there is another story at play: a woman’s journal entries from the late 1990s.  The journal entries tell a beautiful love story.

This is a book that can go in a lot of different directions.  There is a lot here to think about.

I enjoyed this novel immensely.  I would have liked it to have gone into more detail on certain things – but hopefully, it will give someone else the idea to flesh those parts of the story out more.  Without giving too much away, I would say that this is a story about life and family, love and struggle, what we do for love and how we identify ourselves through our relationships.

It is a very powerful novel and one that would be GREAT for book club discussions.

 

 

 

4 star reviews, thriller, Women's Fiction

Everything You Want Me To Be by Mindy Mejia

4/5 stars

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Recently, I received a galley copy of Mindy Mejia’s new book, Leave No Trace, which is coming out September 4.  I had never read anything by Mindy Mejia and I absolutely LOVED Leave No Trace, so when I saw that she had another novel, I knew that I wanted to read it.

This book is about Hattie, an 18 year old girl who is wise beyond her years, growing up in a rural farming town in Minnesota and dreaming of moving to New York City.

My Review:

This book opens with Hattie attempting to run away.  The next chapter is the discovery of her dead body.  I have an 18 year old daughter and I almost put this book down because it hit too close to home.  But I LOVED–like I can not stress enough how much I LOVED “Leave No Trace” so I persisted.  And I am so glad that I did.  This book is a wild ride.  I thought I had figured out who murdered Hattie, but all I can say is: Read to the very last page.

This book is told from the point of view of three characters: Hattie; the chief of police of their small town and her dad’s best friend, Del; and Hattie’s teacher who also directs the school play that Hattie stars in, Peter Lund. I will be honest.  I did not like Hattie.  I think she was a sociopath.  She played people and was extremely self-centered, she had no feeling for other people.  But I really did like both Del and Peter and I found them sympathetic characters.

This book is different from other thrillers in that it takes you deep into the many layers of a sociopath’s personality.  It was also shocking in parts.  If you like thrillers, don’t miss this one and pre-order your copy of Leave No Trace or put in your library hold today!!

 

 

From the Publisher:

No one knows who she really is…

Hattie Hoffman has spent her whole life playing many parts: the good student, the good daughter, the good girlfriend. But Hattie wants something more, something bigger, and ultimately something that turns out to be exceedingly dangerous. When she’s found brutally stabbed to death, the tragedy rips right through the fabric of her small-town community.

It soon comes to light that Hattie was engaged in a highly compromising and potentially explosive secret online relationship. The question is: Did anyone else know? And to what lengths might they have gone to end it? Hattie’s boyfriend seems distraught over her death, but had he fallen so deeply in love with her that she had become an obsession? Or did Hattie’s impulsive, daredevil nature simply put her in the wrong place at the wrong time, leading her to a violent death at the hands of a stranger?

Full of twists and turns, Everything You Want Me to Be reconstructs a year in the life of a dangerously mesmerizing young woman, during which a small town’s darkest secrets come to the forefront…and she inches closer and closer to death.

 

4 star reviews, Book reviews, thriller

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

4/5 stars

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From the Publisher:

Two Truths and a Lie. The girls played it all the time in their cabin at Camp Nightingale. Vivian, Natalie, Allison, and first-time camper Emma Davis, the youngest of the group. But the games ended the night Emma sleepily watched the others sneak out of the cabin into the darkness. The last she–or anyone–saw of them was Vivian closing the cabin door behind her, hushing Emma with a finger pressed to her lips.

Now a rising star in the New York art scene, Emma turns her past into paintings–massive canvases filled with dark leaves and gnarled branches that cover ghostly shapes in white dresses. When the paintings catch the attention of Francesca Harris-White, the wealthy owner of Camp Nightingale, she implores Emma to return to the newly reopened camp as a painting instructor. Seeing an opportunity to find out what really happened to her friends all those years ago, Emma agrees.

Familiar faces, unchanged cabins, and the same dark lake haunt Nightingale, even though the camp is opening its doors for the first time since the disappearances. Emma is even assigned to the same cabin she slept in as a teenager, but soon discovers a security camera–the only one on the property–pointed directly at its door. Then cryptic clues that Vivian left behind about the camp’s twisted origins begin surfacing. As she digs deeper, Emma finds herself sorting through lies from the past while facing mysterious threats in the present. And the closer she gets to the truth about Camp Nightingale and what really happened to those girls, the more she realizes that closure could come at a deadly price.

My Review:

The Last Time I Lied was an unpredictable mystery.  I could not figure out who did it.  The main character, Emma Davis, is an artist.  She was the last person to see the girls that went missing and had been their friend.  When the summer camp re-opens, she is asked to be the art teacher.  She goes back to the camp 15 years later to try to figure out what happened to them.  Someone puts birds in her room and she knows someone is spying on her, but she doesn’t who.  It’s very creepy with a lot of twists and turns.

It was told in alternating narratives from 15 years ago (when the girls went missing) to now.  The pacing was very fast paced.  My daughter read it in 2 days.  It took me a bit longer because I had a lot going on, but we both enjoyed it immensely.

I would like to thank Netgalley for my copy.

4 star reviews, Book reviews, contemporary fiction, thriller

Believe Me by JP Delaney

4/5 stars

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Happy Pub Day!!

My Review:

Riveting, Intense, Edge of Your Seat Read

This book was twisted and creepy and had me staying up really late several nights because quite frankly, I was too caught up in the book to realize the time and I may or may not have been too scared to sleep.  Even when I turned off the light and all the next day, I found myself thinking about the book and counting down the minutes until I could read it again and find out what the heck happened!

I thought the eye on the cover looked like Nicole Kidman’s eye, so I kept picturing her as Claire.  I think she would make a good Claire.

I would like to thank Netgalley and Random House-Ballantine for my copy in exchange for my honest review.

From Publisher:

 

 

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

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott

4/5 stars

IMG-2474From the Publisher:

A life-changing secret destroys an unlikely friendship in this “magnetic” (Meg Wolitzer) psychological thriller from the Edgar Award-winning author of Dare Me.
Kit Owens harbored only modest ambitions for herself when the mysterious Diane Fleming appeared in her high school chemistry class. But Diane’s academic brilliance lit a fire in Kit, and the two developed an unlikely friendship. Until Diane shared a secret that changed everything between them.

More than a decade later, Kit thinks she’s put Diane behind her forever and she’s begun to fulfill the scientific dreams Diane awakened in her. But the past comes roaring back when she discovers that Diane is her competition for a position both women covet, taking part in groundbreaking new research led by their idol. Soon enough, the two former friends find themselves locked in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse that threatens to destroy them both.
Named one of the Most Anticipated Books of 2018 by Cosmopolitan, Book Riot, and Entertainment Weekly

My Review:

This book is about Kat and Diane, two girls that meet at camp and are instantly drawn to each other as girls who are away from home and friends at fifteen sometimes can be.  The last night of camp, with their roommates, they confide secrets in each other.

A year later, Diane is the new student at Kat’s high school.  Kat is smart and desperate to get out of her working class town and Diane encourages her and helps her believe in herself and her ability to get into a prestigious program.

Years later, Kat is working on a research project for PMDD – Premenstraul Dysphoric Disorder – which is basically where women get very violent before their periods.  Kat joins the very competitive team and it’s sort of down hill from there, a lot comes out about the past.  Several team members are murdered.  A mystery is unraveled.

I love Megan Abbott’s writing.  She is a go-to author for me.  Her writing is so darkly poetic and raw and visceral.  Her descriptions of things so interesting and literary.  But, when I read that this was about a science lab, I was afraid I might not like that part, but since it was about PMDD – which I had heard of but never knew much about – I found it fascinating. PMDD is a severe form of PMS that is sometimes used as a defense for a crime.  I found that very interesting.

This book moves fast and both Kat and Diane’s characters are probed deeply for psychological issues, something that I really enjoy in a novel.