REVIEW: A STRANGER IN THE HOUSE, BY SHARI LAPENA

Karen and Tom Krupp are happy—they’ve got a lovely home in upstate New York, they’re practically newlyweds, and they have no kids to interrupt their comfortable life together. But one day, Tom returns home to find Karen has vanished—her car’s gone and it seems she left in a rush. She even left her purse—complete with phone and ID—behind.

There’s a knock on the door—the police are there to take Tom to the hospital where his wife has been admitted. She had a car accident, and lost control as she sped through the worst part of town.

The accident has left Karen with a concussion and a few scrapes.  Still, she’s mostly okay—except that she can’t remember what she was doing or where she was when she crashed. The cops think her memory loss is highly convenient, and they suspect she was up to no good. 

Karen returns home with Tom, determined to heal and move on with her life. Then she realizes something’s been moved. Something’s not quite right. Someone’s been in her house. And the police won’t stop asking questions.

Because in this house, everyone’s a stranger. Everyone has something they’d rather keep hidden. Something they might even kill to keep quiet.

My Thoughts: A story that wrapped itself around me from the first page, A Stranger in the House takes us into the world of Karen and Tom, living in upstate New York in a lovely neighborhood. But then, one night, everything changed.

Karen’s accident in a sketchy neighborhood left her with amnesia, but also with detectives appearing on her doorstep regularly, asking questions, looking at her as if they don’t believe her. They even turn their skepticism on Tom. Because now it is not just an investigation into an accident, but something more happened that night, and Karen and Tom are both looking like suspects.

Across the street, Brigid is watching, too. Supposedly Karen’s best friend, she has secrets…and reasons to keep them. Why is she obsessed with Tom and Karen?

Besides the cops and the investigation, there is more. Who is skulking around in Karen’s house, moving things, messing things up just enough that she will know it?

I am one of those people who always knows when someone has moved my things, just a bit. It drives me mad! Karen cleverly has started taking photos before she leaves the house. What will she discover?

A captivating story that held me in its grip until the very end, not knowing who to trust and who might be the stranger in the house. Then came a stunning twist I did not expect. 5 stars.

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REVIEW: HEARTBREAK HOTEL, BY JONATHAN KELLERMAN

 

At nearly one hundred years old, Thalia Mars is a far cry from the patients that child psychologist Alex Delaware normally treats. But the charming, witty woman convinces Alex to meet with her in a suite at the Aventura, a luxury hotel with a checkered history.

What Thalia wants from Alex are answers to unsettling questions—about guilt, patterns of criminal behavior, victim selection. When Alex asks the reason for her morbid fascination, Thalia promises to tell all during their next session. But when he shows up the following morning, he is met with silence: Thalia is dead in her room.

When questions arise about how Thalia perished, Alex and homicide detective Milo Sturgis must peel back the layers of a fascinating but elusive woman’s life and embark on one of the most baffling investigations either of them has ever experienced. For Thalia Mars is a victim like no other, an enigma who harbored nearly a century of secrets and whose life and death draw those around her into a vortex of violence.

My Thoughts: Heartbreak Hotel begins with an apparently straightforward meeting between Alex Delaware and an almost one-hundred-year-old woman, and then veers off into a series of murders, all seemingly connected to her in some way.

How did Thalia become so wealthy, when her career as a CPA seemed to suggest a more modest financial portfolio? Who are the seemingly nefarious people surrounding her through the years, and what, if anything, does a certain mobster have to do with her wealth? And with her death? Could an unsolved jewel heist in Beverly Hills bring in more possible suspects?

I always enjoy watching Alex and Milo work their cases, seemingly finding connections when others cannot. The author also shows us a peek into their personal lives, like Alex’s longstanding relationship with Robin, and their gorgeous house in Beverly Glen, and Milo Sturgis’s long term relationship with Rick, a doctor.

Sometimes I believe that Alex and Milo have nothing else to do but work on whatever case has taken over a particular book…but then we see them juggling other cases, too, forming a somewhat realistic picture of their days.

I started to get a little dizzy from all the possibilities in this book, but then as we began checking off the red herrings, I was almost ready to guess what person or persons in the past had come back to haunt poor Thalia. Almost. But there were some final surprises in this enjoyable book that earned 4 stars.

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REVIEW: AFTER SHE FELL, BY MARY-JANE RILEY

Catriona needs help. Her seventeen-year-old daughter Elena was found dead at the bottom of a cliff near her boarding school. The death has been ruled a suicide, but Catriona isn’t convinced.

When her old friend, journalist Alex Devlin, arrives in Hallow’s Edge to investigate, she quickly finds that life at private boarding school The Drift isn’t as idyllic as the bucolic setting might suggest.

Amidst a culture of drug-taking, bullying and tension between school and village, no one is quite who they seem to be, and there are several people who might have wanted Elena to fall…

My Thoughts: I was immediately caught up in Alex’s quest to find answers. Soon after she settles into the cottage provided by Catriona Devonshire, she is threatened, hassled, and even beaten up.

I liked Alex Devlin, and enjoyed a previous book in which she dealt with the aftermath of a family tragedy.

Set near London, After She Fell was a story that had me rooting for the main characters. I liked how Alex persisted in her attempt to find out the truth, and how she managed to keep going despite the efforts of the people of Hallow’s Edge to block her.

What, if anything, does Elena’s stepfather Mark have to do with events? How are the teen druggies involved? Are the posh girls somehow connected to how things play out? What responsibility did the school head play in what happened?

Our first person primary narrator was Alex, but we alternately see Elena’s perspective providing us with clues, just weeks before she died. As we follow the bread crumbs, we finally realize the truth in the story that kept me engaged throughout. The pace was a bit slow at times, but the characters intrigued me. 4 stars.

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REVIEW: THE SEVEN HUSBANDS OF EVELYN HUGO, BY TAYLOR JENKINS REID

 

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ‘80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

My Thoughts: For all those who love iconic celebrities, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo might just be the most addictive read ever.

I was quickly drawn into Evelyn’s story, as told to young writer Monique Grant, and although the dual narratives and timelines could have been challenging, they were seamless and captivating. As if the two women, decades apart and so different in life experiences, had suddenly developed one voice, Evelyn’s story flowed, and when there was a pause, we had the opportunity to peek into Monique’s Manhattan life as a newly single woman going through a divorce.

The stunning reveal at the end was one I truly did not see coming. It answered questions I had, however, about why Monique was singled out to write Evelyn’s memoir.

By the end, I did not want to say goodbye to either character, as I was caught up in the lives of both women. 5 stars.

***

WEEKLY UPDATES: BLOGGING, READING, & NETFLIX

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.

Where did the week go?  I went out and about, the weather was in the 90s most days, which was great…and I read and reviewed THREE books.  My Read the Books You Buy total is now 72.

For the most part, I don’t recall much about the week, except that the books I read were good.  On Netflix, I finished The Ranch and started Friends from College.  I’m not sure about that one, since, after two episodes, I don’t like the characters that much.  There doesn’t seem to be any kind of plot, and they all behave like teenagers, even though they are in their forties.  I may have to give it more time…or just stop watching.

I’m writing this on Friday evening so I won’t have to get up early on Saturday.  I am feeling really tired lately and I’d like to sleep in.

Let’s take a look at last week:

LAST WEEK ON THE BLOGS:

Sunday Potpourri:  General Quirkiness…and Favorite Things

Tuesday Potpourri:  Ogling New Release Books…

Tuesday Sparks:  “Crime Scene”

Hump Day Potpourri:  My Reading Week….

Coffee Chat:  Books, Netflix, Movies, Etc.

Bookish Friday:  “Here & Gone”

Hope:  My One Word That Guides Me….

Review:  The Secrets She Keeps (e-book), by Michael RobothamReview:  The Identicals (e-book), by Elin HilderbrandReview:  Here & Gone (e-book), by Haylen Beck

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INCOMING BOOKS: (Titles/Covers Linked to Amazon)

One book came in my mailbox!  I also downloaded four e-books (purchased).

Then She Was Gone, by Lisa Jewell

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Downloads:

A Stranger in the House (e-book), by Shari Lapena

Seeing Red (e-book), by Sandra Brown

Exposed (e-book, A Rosato & DiNunzio Novel), by Lisa Scottoline

Watch Me Disappear (e-book), by Janelle Brown

***

WHAT’S NEXT?

As usual, I have a list of possibilities…and I tend to veer off any path that I set up for myself.  But first:

Currently Reading:  The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo (e-book), by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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Maybe these:

Home, by Harlan Coben

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

***

And that was my week.  What did yours look like?  Here’s tonight’s dinner, from California Pizza Kitchen:  Baked Potato Soup, Strawberry Margarita…and Pippa, my Kindle.

***

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:

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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)

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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)

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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

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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.

***