REVIEW: THE SECRETS SHE KEEPS, BY MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

 

Agatha is pregnant and works part-time stocking shelves at a grocery store in a ritzy London suburb, counting down the days until her baby is due. As the hours of her shifts creep by in increasing discomfort, the one thing she looks forward to at work is catching a glimpse of Meghan, the effortlessly chic customer whose elegant lifestyle dazzles her. Meghan has it all: two perfect children, a handsome husband, a happy marriage, a stylish group of friends, and she writes perfectly droll confessional posts on her popular parenting blog—posts that Agatha reads with devotion each night as she waits for her absent boyfriend, the father of her baby, to maybe return her calls.

When Agatha learns that Meghan is pregnant again, and that their due dates fall within the same month, she finally musters up the courage to speak to her, thrilled that they now have the ordeal of childbearing in common. Little does Meghan know that the mundane exchange she has with a grocery store employee during a hurried afternoon shopping trip is about to change the course of her not-so-perfect life forever…

My Thoughts: I was caught up in the lives of the alternating narrators of The Secrets She Keeps. Both Agatha and Meghan have secrets, but we only learn them in bits and pieces as the story unfolds. Sadness and incredible loss greet Agatha each day of her life. For Meghan, disappointment and betrayal are a familiar part of her world, despite what her life looks like to others.

Meghan’s life seemed perfect on the surface, but the cracks in the veneer began to appear about the same time that we realize that Agatha is a bit of a stalker. Why is Agatha spying on Meghan, and what does she plan to do about what she discovers? How will Meghan keep her own secrets hidden?

At first, I couldn’t believe what was happening, so I focused completely on their lives as the incredible events began to reveal themselves to us.

Like lives on a collision course, the world for each of these women is teetering and spinning out of control. Who will still be standing when it is over? Or is there hope for them both?

To avoid spoilers, I will say no more about what happens to the women and the families at the center of it all. Suffice it to say that I was riveted to the pages of this five star read.

***

WEEKLY UPDATES: JURY DUTY, GET-TOGETHERS, & A MOVIE

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

What a week!  Hot weather is still streaming down, but I’m trying to stay cool.  I went out a few times, always taking my book.  I had lunch with my daughter and grandson on Tuesday…then on Thursday, I had to report to Jury Duty.  That wasn’t fun…we had to wait on uncomfortable chairs in the Assembly Room to find out if we had to serve.  By noon, I was reconciled to being stuck there at least all day…and then, good news!  Half of us were dismissed.  I then happily went to Marie Callender’s to celebrate with a pot pie and wine.  I took a piece of pie home. (Photo of lunch at the bottom of the post).

I did manage to read and review three books this week, and my Read the Books You Buy Challenge now totals 69 books.

This week, I resumed watching The Ranch on Netflix…and I loved the country songs at the beginning of each episode.  Plus, Debra Winger and Sam Elliott always make me smile.

Today I’m having lunch with an old friend who is in town…and then I’m planning to see The Glass Castle.

Sunday, I’m joining my daughter and friends for her birthday brunch:

I’m long past drinking my coffee this morning, so let’s get right to a peek into last week’s reading and blogging.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  What’s in a Name?

Tuesday Potpourri:  Past & Present Moments…

Tuesday Sparks:  “The Lying Game”

A Week in Reading…

Coffee Chat:  Jury Duty, Birthdays, Etc.

Bookish Friday:  “The Identicals”

Friday Potpourri:  Visiting Prague via Photos, Etc.

Review:  Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris BohjalianReview:  Swimming Lessons (e-book), by Claire FullerReview:  Before We Were Yours (e-book), by Lisa Wingate

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INCOMING BOOKS:  (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty mailbox!  I did download three e-books (purchased).

The Good Daughter (e-book), by Karin Slaughter

The Locals (e-book), by Jonathan Dee

Come Sundown (e-book), by Nora Roberts

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WHAT’S NEXT?

I have a long list of books that I have labeled “up next.”  I started reading one that will take a while, as I only read it just before I sleep:

America’s Queen, by Sarah Bradford

The Secrets She Keeps (e-book), by Michael Robotham (Currently Reading)

Mean Streak, by Sandra Brown (I started this one, which is also a bedtime read)

***

That was my week!  What did yours look like?  Here is my celebratory lunch from Thursday:

***

REVIEW: SWIMMING LESSONS, BY CLAIRE FULLER

From the author of the award-winning and word-of-mouth sensation Our Endless Numbered Days comes an exhilarating literary mystery that will keep readers guessing until the final page.

Ingrid Coleman writes letters to her husband, Gil, about the truth of their marriage, but instead of giving them to him, she hides them in the thousands of books he has collected over the years. When Ingrid has written her final letter she disappears from a Dorset beach, leaving behind her beautiful but dilapidated house by the sea, her husband, and her two daughters, Flora and Nan.  

Twelve years later, Gil thinks he sees Ingrid from a bookshop window, but he’s getting older and this unlikely sighting is chalked up to senility. Flora, who has never believed her mother drowned, returns home to care for her father and to try to finally discover what happened to Ingrid. But what Flora doesn’t realize is that the answers to her questions are hidden in the books that surround her. Scandalous and whip-smart, Swimming Lessons holds the Coleman family up to the light, exposing the mysterious truths of a passionate and troubled marriage. 

My Thoughts: The alternating narratives in Swimming Lessons truly captivated me. One narrator was Ingrid, wife and mother, who has written a plethora of letters to her husband Gil, whom she addresses as “you” in these missives. She is finally having a conversation with him, one which he cannot ignore or dismiss. She is venting about their troubled marriage and the ways in which her life was a disappointment. There are, however, some brighter moments in her letters…mostly about their lives before she had to give up her dreams. Her dreams of an education and her own writing career. The education which she was unable to complete because of the university’s rules regarding married/pregnant students.

Ingrid’s letters were written in 1992, just before she seemingly drowned (or disappeared). She speaks mostly of their lives in the 1970s…but also touches on the later years.

Third person narrators included Gil and Flora. We see Nan from Flora’s perspective, and I didn’t like her very much, probably because she tends to dismiss Flora’s thoughts and ideas, and treats her like a young child. Nan apparently took on the mother’s role after she was gone. Later on, we see a kinder version of her.

Gil seemed like a very selfish man, but since his present day situation shows him troubled and ill, I did feel some sympathy for him.

I loved the descriptions of the book lined rooms and hallways. Stacks of books, sometimes two or three deep, surrounded them all. The fact that Ingrid’s letters were placed in the books in a somewhat planned fashion added to the intrigue of the story.

Would Gil find the letters? Would he finally understand what his wife had been trying to say all those years? Would there be answers to their questions? What stunning events happened to bring the story to a riveting conclusion? And who is the mysterious woman who keeps showing up in Hadleigh? A 5 star read.

***

WEEKLY UPDATES: MORE TRIPLE DIGITS, NETFLIX, ETC.

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

Has it been a week already since I last sat here on a Saturday morning, pondering the events of the past seven days?  The week has unfolded one day at a time, featuring triple digits…what else is new?  I did read and review FOUR books:  two were NetGalley review books, and the other two added to my Read the Books You Buy Challenge, now totaling 66 books.

I finished Season I of Ozark…which grew more and more like Breaking Bad as it progressed.  I hope there are more seasons!!

Next weekend, I am setting aside time to see the movie The Glass Castle, based on the book by Jeannette Walls.  Brie Larson, Naomi Watts, and Woody Harrelson star.

On Thursday, I got a manicure and changed up my nail color to dark blue, with minimal sparkles.  I needed to feel like something was changing here.  The photo, below, was snapped in my bedroom showing me “clutching” Pippa, my Kindle.  In the background you can see one set of bookshelves that now live in the room.

The rest of the week was more reading, some blogging, etc.  So let’s grab some coffee and take a closer look.

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Correcting an Oversight:  Obsessively….

Tuesday Potpourri:  “Sunday Morning Coming Down”

Monthly Wrap-Up:  Hello August!

My Interior World:  Books, Comfy Setting, & My Nook….

Hump Day Potpourri:  Let’s Engage in Reading…

Hump Day Sparks:  Sharing the Moments…

My Interior World:  Coffee, Books, Dreams, Etc.

Bookish Friday:  “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands”

Friday Potpourri:  The Queens of Tidbits & Obsessions…

Review:  Emma in the Night (e-book), by Wendy Walker (NG – 8/8)Review:  Sunday Morning Coming Down, by Nicci FrenchReview:  The Bookshop on the Corner (e-book), by Jenny ColganReview:  The Other Girl (e-book), by Erica Spindler (NG – 8/22)

***

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Nothing in my physical mailbox…but an e-mail brought a new NetGalley review book:

The Best Kind of People (e-book), by Zoe Whittall (NetGalley – 9/19)

***

Then I downloaded these e-books (purchased):

The Address (e-book), by Fiona Davis

Crime Scene (e-book), by Jonathan Kellerman/Jesse Kellerman

The Truth We Bury (e-book), by Barbara Taylor Sissel

The Identicals (e-book), by Elin Hilderbrand

***

WHAT’S NEXT?

I am caught up on NetGalley books until mid-September, so I’ve reached out for some books from my TBR:

Currently Reading:  Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, by Chris Bohjalian

***

Then…my list includes these books, but I might veer off course:

Swimming Lessons (e-book), by Claire Fuller

Before We Were Yours (e-book), by Lisa Wingate

***

And that’s my week…what did yours look like?  Oh, here’s my late lunch from Thursday: Corn Chowder, Caesar Salad, Strawberry Margarita…and Pippa, my Kindle.

***

REVIEW: SUNDAY MORNING COMING DOWN, BY NICCI FRENCH

Psychotherapist Dr Frieda Klein once again finds herself in the midst of a criminal investigation when the rotting body of an ex-policeman is found beneath the floorboards of her house.

The corpse is only months old but the main suspect, murderer Dean Reeve, died over seven years ago.

As the killer picks off his next victims and her home is turned into a crime scene, Frieda’s old life seems like a hazy dream.

With eyes of the world upon her and no answers from the police, Frieda realizes that she will have to track this killer before he tracks down those she loves.

My Thoughts: I have been a fan of this series from the very first outing. Some readers find Frieda Klein to be unlikable, but I am not one of them. Yes, she is determined, and she pursues her goals, even when others disagree with her; she has no qualms about telling others when they are wrong. She is almost always right, too, which annoys the police.

She loves London, and her famous walks through the streets when she is trying to think, to solve a problem, are a big part of her routines. She is a bit obsessive in these routines, but as a reader, I take comfort in how she goes through her days following these patterns. I can count on her to take certain actions when others will not.

I also like how she enjoys her cozy mews house, so when this book opens with the discovery of a dead body under the floor boards of that house, we know that Frieda will be deeply affected.

But what happens next will be even more disturbing. Someone appears to be copying Frieda’s nemesis Dean Reeve, the perpetrator in previous murders that the police do not believe is still alive. Now her friends and loved ones are being targeted. That same Someone is sending Frieda a message. When she figures out who, someone the police have not even suspected, she has a hard time convincing them.

One more person, a police detective, almost dies before they finally get the message.

But will the perpetrator be captured? Will the police finally find Dean Reeve? The ending left me in a quandary. Is the series done, leaving so many loose ends? Or will there be another outing? No matter what, I loved this series and Sunday Morning Coming Down. 5 stars.

***

WEEKLY UPDATES: MORE HEAT, LESS READING….

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

This morning, I woke up and started doing household tasks that I’ve put off all week.  Yes, I had done some things during the week, and I always keep things picked up…but my most hated chores are scrubbing floors!  So that’s what I’ve been doing today.  Done, now!  Just waiting for the bathroom rugs to dry.  I am trying to stay cool, although even with the AC on, floor scrubbing definitely brought up my heat levels.

Reading was good, but not phenomenal.  Three books read and reviewed, and since two of them were review ARCs, my Read the Books You Buy Challenge only went up one, now totaling 64 books.

I finished watching Shetland on Netflix...loved it!  Now I have to find another series!  I have added some to my queue:  Ozark, Friends from College, and Father Brown.  Has anyone seen them?  I’ve enjoyed catching up on my TV shows, like Broadchurch and The Fosters.  A new show I’m watching:  The Bold Type.

So…that’s where some of my reading time went.  And I finally went out to shop a little and had a late lunch one day.  The usual food photo:  soup and a margarita (see at the bottom of this post).

Here’s what morning in my office looks like:

***

And now, let’s take a look back….

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Internet Trolls, Etc.:  Out of the Slime…

Tuesday Sparks:  “Heartbreak Hotel”

A Young Girl’s Interior World:  Excerpting “Web of Tyranny”

My Hump Day Reading:  Engaging!

Coffee Chat:  Hot Weather, Bad Mood…

A Baby Boomer’s Coming-of-Age Tale….

Bookish Friday:  “Emma in the Night”

Friday Potpourri:  Staying Cool with Family….

Review:  Mrs. Fletcher (e-book), by Tom Perrotta – (NetGalley – 8/1)Review:  Girl in Snow (e-book), by Danya Kukafta – (NetGalley – 8/1)Bad Housekeeping (e-book), by Maia Chance

***

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty mailbox!  But I did purchase one newly released e-book.

The Lying Game (e-book), by Ruth Ware

Atmospheric, twisty, and with just the right amount of chill that will keep you wrong-footed—which has now become Ruth Ware’s signature style—The Lying Game is sure to be her next big bestseller. Another unputdownable thriller from the Agatha Christie of our time.

Can’t wait!

***

WHAT’S NEXT?

Still Reading:  Emma in the Night (e-book), by Wendy Walker (NG-8-8)

***

Because my next NetGalley review books won’t be released until late August and September, I think I’ll try some of my purchased TBR books, like this one:

Sunday Morning Coming Down, (A Frieda Klein Novel), by Nicci French

***

The Bookshop on the Corner (e-book), by Jenny Colgan

***

That was my week!  What did yours look like?  (Below), my Thursday late afternoon repast:  It is very familiar, isn’t it?  But what can I say…I love that soup and that margarita.

***

REVIEW: GIRL IN SNOW, BY DANYA KUKAFTA

When a beloved high schooler named Lucinda Hayes is found murdered, no one in her sleepy Colorado suburb is untouched—not the boy who loved her too much; not the girl who wanted her perfect life; not the officer assigned to investigate her murder. In the aftermath of the tragedy, these three indelible characters—Cameron, Jade, and Russ—must each confront their darkest secrets in an effort to find solace, the truth, or both. In crystalline prose, Danya Kukafka offers a brilliant exploration of identity and of the razor-sharp line between love and obsession, between watching and seeing, between truth and memory.

My Thoughts: Flowing back and forth in time, via alternating narrators, the life and death of a young teenager living in a small Colorado town is shown through the eyes of her watchers; and then we follow their meandering and introspective thoughts about their own lives.

Who were these watchers, and which of them could have taken her life? Or could the perpetrator be someone completely different, someone not on our radar at all?

Cameron was described by other students as a stalker and a boy most likely to bring a gun to school. Actually, he was a budding artist and loved drawing what he could see.

Jade is an abused girl, someone unafraid to push her way into the inner circles, only to be ignored or taunted. She believes that Lucinda stole her boyfriend. Throughout, we see snippets of her writing in the form of a screenplay.

Russ, a police officer, has some secrets from the past. He once had a partner named Lee Whitley, Cameron’s dad, whose actions led to an arrest and his disappearance from town. What had Russ been willing to do to cover for his partner?

Girl in Snow kept me engaged throughout, although it was sometimes difficult to connect with the characters; we saw them only in bits and pieces, and sometimes, like a shift in a kaleidoscope, we watched them morph abruptly into the past.

I was surprised by the reveal at the end, and while it made sense, there were no hints of this person’s culpability ahead of time. After the revelations, there were moments in which we saw the lives of the other characters as they started to move on. I did like knowing what was ahead for them. 4 stars.

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

WEEKLY UPDATES: HOT DAYS & MORE READING…

Good morning! Today’s post will link up to The Sunday Salon, The Sunday Post and Stacking the Shelves, for weekly updates.

**Mailbox Monday is hosted at the home site: Mailbox Monday.

And let’s join Kathryn, our leader in It’s Monday! What Are You Reading?, at Book Date.

Another hot week!  I did read four books again this week, bringing my challenge total to 63 books.

There were some outside activities, too, which I tried to restrict to mornings:  coffee at Barnes & Noble on Wednesday, with a friend; and hair styling on Thursday.

Sadly the rash came back…despite the organic dye.  Luckily I had some of the ointment left over from last time, the kind that worked after several trials.  I also refilled the prescription for more…just in case.  After one day of using it, I’m almost in control of it. 

I may have to shave my head!  LOL.  No, I’ll probably just find a solution that involves going natural.  Whatever that may look like these days.

This morning I had breakfast at Marie Callender’s, after getting my prescription…I didn’t photograph it, as the platter was huge.  I didn’t eat it all…but still.  Piggy time?

Now I’m having more coffee in my “reading” cup.  Check out the dwindling book stacks on the shelf nearby…and I like the morning light coming through the blinds.  Now let’s look at last week’s blogging and reading…the blog posts were minimal, but the reading was good.

 

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Tuesday Potpourri:  “The Secrets She Keeps”

Hump Day Potpourri:  A Week of Reading….

Chatting with Coffee….

Bookish Friday:  “Mrs. Saint & the Defectives”

Looking Back…and Moving Forward….

Review:  My Life to Live, by Agnes NixonReview:  The Marriage Pact (e-book), by Michelle Richmond (NG – 9/25)Review:  The Best of Us (e-book), by Joyce Maynard (NG-9/5)Review:  Every Wild Heart (e-book), by Meg Donohue

***

INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

Empty physical mailbox!  My inbox, however, brought ONE NetGalley Review ARC…as if I need more.

The Blackbird Season (e-book), by Kate Moretti (NG – 9/26)

 

***

WHAT’S UP NEXT?

Currently Reading:  Mrs. Fletcher (e-book), by Tom Perrotta (NG – 8/1)

***

I also need to read some more e-ARCs in the next couple of weeks, like…

Girl in Snow (e-book), by Danya Kukafka (NG – 8/1)

Emma in the Night (e-book), by Wendy Walker (NG – 8/8)

***

I would also love to grab one or two books from my TBR (Purchased)…but we shall see.

***

That’s my week…what did yours look like?  A couple of nights ago, I read while eating this salad, topped off with my Pomegranate Martini.

***

REVIEW: EVERY WILD HEART, BY MEG DONOHUE

Passionate and funny, radio personality Gail Gideon is a true original. Nine years ago when Gail’s husband announced that he wanted a divorce, her ensuing on-air rant propelled her local radio show into the national spotlight. Now, “The Gail Gideon Show” is beloved by millions of single women who tune-in for her advice on the power of self-reinvention. But fame comes at a price. After all, what does a woman who has staked her career on being single do when she finds herself falling in love? And is the person who is harassing her in increasingly troubling ways a misguided fan or a true danger to Gail and her daughter, Nic?

Fourteen-year-old Nic has always felt that she pales in comparison to her vibrant, outgoing mother. Plagued by a fear of social situations, she is most comfortable at the stable where she spends her afternoons. But when a riding accident lands Nic in the hospital, she awakens from her coma changed. Suddenly, she has no fear at all and her disconcerting behavior lands her in one risky situation after another. And no one, least of all her mother, can guess what she will do next…

My Thoughts: I love a good mother/daughter tale, and a single mother raising a teenager resonates with me.

Gail is one of those characters I enjoy: feisty, opinionated, protective, talented, and smart. She is famous for all of those qualities on her radio show, and although she works at night and her daughter is at school in the daytime, they still manage to keep in touch.

But Nic’s form of social anxiety worries her mother…and then when she has the horse riding accident, everything changes. It is as if a part of Nic, a wild side, has been awakened. Part of that awakening came in the form of a boy named Lucas Holt, a senior boy drawn to her, just as she was to him.

Every Wild Heart kept me engaged all the way through, and I enjoyed the alternating narratives of Gail and Nic. Seeing each perspective kept me rooting for each of them.

I wanted Gail to succeed, and a great offer for her to do a TV show was very tempting for her, but with all that Nic was going through, she was struggling with the decision. What would ultimately bring out the best in each of them without the other being sidelined? How would they find a way to work through the fearsome times? How would a sudden stalker threatening Gail and Nic bring the story to a crashing conclusion?

I was stunned by the stalker reveal…and then the pieces fell into place for Gail and Nic moving forward. 4 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE MARRIAGE PACT, BY MICHELLE RICHMOND

Newlyweds Alice and Jake are a picture-perfect couple. Alice, once a singer in a well-known rock band, is now a successful lawyer. Jake is a partner in an up-and-coming psychology practice. Their life together holds endless possibilities. After receiving an enticing wedding gift from one of Alice’s prominent clients, they decide to join an exclusive and mysterious group known only as The Pact.

The goal of The Pact seems simple: to keep marriages happy and intact. And most of its rules make sense. Always answer the phone when your spouse calls. Exchange thoughtful gifts monthly. Plan a trip together once per quarter. . . .

Never mention The Pact to anyone.

Alice and Jake are initially seduced by the glamorous parties, the sense of community, their widening social circle of like-minded couples.

And then one of them breaks the rules.

The young lovers are about to discover that for adherents to The Pact, membership, like marriage, is for life. And The Pact will go to any lengths to enforce that rule.

My Thoughts: First of all, I couldn’t imagine why Jake and Alice would sign up for something so secretive and mysterious. Wouldn’t they have wondered about the “consequences” mentioned in the contracts? Wouldn’t the control the organization seemed to exert bother them?

I wanted them to somehow get out of the weird group before anything bad happened, but hovering overhead were the implicit threats, the idea of The Pact’s all-encompassing influence, and concerns about people who had mysteriously disappeared.

Jake was the first-person narrator, so it was probably natural for me to connect to his side of things, and even though he loved Alice, I could see how he worried about why she seemed more into the group than he was. Since she was a lawyer, I couldn’t quite imagine her willingness to be “all in.” But then I recalled the mention of her dysfunctional family, and it made more sense.

What is behind the mysterious meetings that JoAnne, an old college friend, arranges with Jake? Is she seriously in trouble, or is she part of some covert operation?

The whole idea that the group somehow monitored their every move made me feel creepy and also fascinated. I couldn’t stop reading. As the dangers in The Marriage Pact  escalated, I was hanging onto every word, hoping for a positive resolution. 5 stars.

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