REVIEW: THE FIRST MISTAKE, BY SANDIE JONES

 

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan’s arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced . . .

The first mistake could be her last.

 

My Thoughts: The First Mistake takes the reader inside the domestic lives of several characters, beginning with Alice’s world in which she lost her beloved first husband. Now her second husband shows promise…but suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, she begins to see the cracks in the façade.

In confiding in her best friend Beth, Alice thinks she has found the support she needs, but has she really? Certain details do not add up, and she may have misplaced her trust.

Alternating from the perspectives of Alice and Beth, we find ourselves in a quandary. Can we trust any of these characters? Who has the most to gain from a long con game, and who might be hiding deep, dark secrets?

In the end, I couldn’t stop reading and trying to decide who I should root for. A captivating tale with unexpected twists and turns, I had to give this book 4.5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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REVIEW: THE MOTHER-IN-LAW, BY SALLY HEPWORTH

 

A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had en-visioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she no longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.

 

My Thoughts: The Mother-in-Law grabs us from the beginning with a stunning death.

Lucy and Ollie’s marriage has numerous complications, but Diana was an unexpected one. Our multiple narrators take us through the years, from the past and to the present lives of the characters.

My favorite insight into Diana came during her girlhood with the defining moments that created her persona. We start out disliking her behavior, but as time passes, we come to understand her.

The obsessions of Nettie, Ollie’s sister, add an interesting layer to the tale.

Just when I thought that I had figured out who killed Diana, I realized how much intrigue each character brought to the mystery. This glued-to-the-pages story that held me hostage throughout earned 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: DREAMS OF FALLING, BY KAREN WHITE

 

On the banks of the North Santee River stands a moss-draped oak that was once entrusted with the dreams of three young girls. Into the tree’s trunk, they placed their greatest hopes, written on ribbons, for safekeeping—including the most important one: Friends forever, come what may.

But life can waylay the best of intentions….

Nine years ago, a humiliated Larkin Lanier fled Georgetown, South Carolina, knowing she could never go back. But when she finds out that her mother has disappeared, she realizes she has no choice but to return to the place she both loves and dreads—and to the family and friends who never stopped wishing for her to come home.

Ivy, Larkin’s mother, is discovered badly injured and unconscious in the burned-out wreckage of her ancestral plantation home. No one knows why Ivy was there, but as Larkin digs for answers, she uncovers secrets kept for nearly fifty years—whispers of love, sacrifice, and betrayal—that lead back to three girls on the brink of womanhood who found their friendship tested in the most heartbreaking ways.

My Thoughts: Dreams of Falling is a beautifully layered family drama featuring several generations. Themes of dreams, falling, and long-held secrets keep the reader turning pages, not knowing what will be revealed.

Alternating narrators and dual time lines carry the reader from 2010 back to the fifties. Larkin is a young woman trying to escape her past, but news of her mother Ivy’s disappearance takes her back to the loving arms of her nurturing caretakers, Ceecee and Bitty. The beautiful settings were described in such a way that I could actually feel the essence of it all, just as I’ve always done with Karen White’s books. 5 stars.***

A HUMP DAY LOST IN BOOKS…

Today I’m participating in WWW Wednesdays, at Taking on a World of Words Here’s how it works:

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

***

CURRENTLY READING:  Dreams of Falling, by Karen White, a book that has been patiently waiting to be read for almost a year. It is a contemporary women’s fiction novel, set in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, about lifelong friends who share a devastating secret.

 

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BOOKS FINISHED SINCE LAST WEEK-(Titles/Covers Linked to My Reviews):

My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves

Someone Knows, by Lisa Scottoline

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EAGERLY ANTICIPATING:  Such a Perfect Wife, by Kate White:  Release Date: May 7.  Not long to wait!

Synopsis:  Blonde. Beautiful. A loving mother.

And missing since Monday.

On a sunny morning in late September, Shannon Blaine sets off for a jog along the rural roads near her home in Lake George, New York.  It’s her usual a.m. routine, her “me time” after dropping the kids off at school…except on this day she never returns.

Is her husband lying when he says he has no clue where she is? Could Shannon have split on her own, overwhelmed by the pressures of her life? Or is she the victim of a sexual predator who had been prowling the area and snatched her before she knew what was happening.

True crime writer Bailey Weggins, on assignment for the website Crime Beat, heads north from New York City to report on the mysterious disappearance. An anonymous tip soon leads Bailey to a grisly, bone-chilling discovery. Every town has its secrets, Bailey reminds herself, and nothing is ever as perfect as it seems. She keeps digging for answers until—when it’s almost too late—she unearths the terrifying truth.

***

This was my week so far.  What did yours look like?

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REVIEW: MY LOVELY WIFE, BY SAMANTHA DOWNING

 

Our love story is simple. I met a gorgeous woman. We fell in love. We had kids. We moved to the suburbs. We told each other our biggest dreams, and our darkest secrets. And then we got bored.

We look like a normal couple. We’re your neighbors, the parents of your kid’s friend, the acquaintances you keep meaning to get dinner with.

We all have our secrets to keeping a marriage alive.

Ours just happens to be getting away with murder.

My Thoughts: Our first-person narrator is the husband in My Lovely Wife, and in a little game he is playing with his wife, he identifies himself as Tobias when he meets potential prey. He also claims to be deaf.

At first, we are unclear about the nature of the game. But slowly we learn more, and even come to understand the origins of the events that transpire. Or at least we think we do.

As the story moves along, with all the expected twists and turns, I know that I didn’t anticipate how things would play out. I should have known, as there were red flags waving all over the place.

Millicent, the wife, seems a little too put together and willing. So agreeable. So lovely, if you will. Could she be the person she seems to be?

The pace quickened shortly after the real game was revealed, and near the end, I was rapidly turning pages, with one hope in mind. Probably not the hope you are imagining, but sometimes the best kind of denouement is for one “bad” person to win out over the other. 5 stars.

***

HUMP DAY IMMERSION IN BOOKS…

Today I’m participating in WWW Wednesdays, at Taking on a World of Words Here’s how it works:

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

***

CURRENTLY READING:  My Lovely Wife, by Samantha Downing, a wildly compulsive debut thriller about a couple whose fifteen-year marriage has finally gotten too interesting…

 

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BOOKS FINISHED SINCE LAST WEEK-(Titles/Covers Linked to My Reviews):

Never Tell, by Lisa Gardner

Stillhouse Lake, by Rachel Caine

Sunset Beach, by Mary Kay Andrews (NG-5/7/19)

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EAGERLY ANTICIPATING:  Big Sky, by Kate Atkinson, releasing on June 25. 

Iconoclastic detective Jackson Brodie returns in a triumphant new novel about secrets, sex, and lies…

I love Atkinson’s Jackson Brodie series more than any of her others, so I’m excited about this one.

Synopsis:  Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son and an aging Labrador, both at the discretion of his ex-partner Julia. It’s picturesque, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes.

Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, is fairly standard-issue, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network-and back across the path of his old friend Reggie. Old secrets and new lies intersect in this breathtaking novel by one of the most dazzling and surprising writers at work today.

***

It has been a good reading week so far.  What does yours look like?

***

A HUMP DAY WITH BOOKS…

Today I’m participating in WWW Wednesdays, at Taking on a World of Words Here’s how it works:

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next, and/or what are you eagerly awaiting?

***

CURRENTLY READING: Never Tell, by Lisa Gardner, an unpredictable thriller that puts fan favorites D.D. Warren and Flora Dane on a shocking new case that begins with a vicious murder and gets darker from there.

 

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BOOKS READ SINCE LAST WEEK: (Titles/Covers Linked to My Reviews)

The Editor, by Steven Rowley

The Perfect Girlfriend, by Karen Hamilton

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EAGERLY ANTICIPATING: 

Lisa Jewell’s The Family Upstairs, is coming on October 29, 2019, and is a “bone-chilling suspense” (People) …another page-turning look inside one family’s past as buried secrets threaten to come to light.

Synopsis:  Gifted musician Clemency Thompson is playing for tourists on the streets of southern France when she receives an urgent text message. Her childhood friend, Lucy, is demanding her immediate return to London.

It’s happening, says the message. The baby is back.

Libby Jones was only six months old when she became an orphan. Now twenty-five, she’s astounded to learn of an inheritance that will change her life. A gorgeous, dilapidated townhouse in one of London’s poshest neighborhoods has been held in a trust for her all these years. Now it’s hers.

As Libby investigates the story of her birth parents and the dark legacy of her new home, Clemency and Lucy are headed her way to uncover, and possibly protect, secrets of their own. What really happened in that rambling Chelsea mansion when they were children? And are they still at risk?

***

My week was full of ups and downs, but the books, while not plentiful, were engaging.  What did your week look like?

***

BLUE MONDAYS…AGAIN…

It is Monday, but it’s not raining.  I am feeling a bit blue, though.  Something I promised myself NOT to feel on Mondays.  Not since I first created this blog.

Last night, I came home after picking up my granddaughter Fiona from work…after she had blown a tire on her car.

Finally home again, I approached my garage, only to find the door wide open!  I know I closed it when I left.

Well, after trying to close the door again, I realized that it wouldn’t stop.  It just kept going up and down.

A neighbor came over to try to help…but I’m going to need maintenance staff.  Why do these things always happen on weekends?  The neighbor manually closed the door for me.  And I felt secure again.  And met my next-door neighbor for the first time!  It’s always good to know your neighbors.

I woke up early this morning, so I could be ready for maintenance staff.  They are usually quite prompt, but I want to call again to remind them.  Otherwise I’m stuck in my garage today!

***

Here is my Monday morning coffee…and I just watched a show about flipping houses…on Hallmark.

***

How did your Monday begin?

***

REVIEW: THE PERFECT GIRLFRIEND, BY KAREN HAMILTON

 

Juliette loves Nate.

She will follow him anywhere. She’s even become a flight attendant for his airline, so she can keep a closer eye on him.

They are meant to be.

The fact that Nate broke up with her six months ago means nothing. Because Juliette has a plan to win him back.

She is the perfect girlfriend. And she’ll make sure no one stops her from getting exactly what she wants.

True love hurts, but Juliette knows it’s worth all the pain…

 

My Thoughts: The Perfect Girlfriend is narrated in the first-person voice of Elizabeth/Lily/Juliette. After her break-up with Nate, she has created a new life for herself, while keeping a close eye on him, planning for that time when they will be together again. Her obsession and her total focus dominate the pages.

She knows his schedule and regularly stops in at his empty flat when she knows he is on a flight somewhere. She manages to gain entry, and she knows his passwords so that she is able to check his online accounts.

Her behavior escalates alarmingly, and every new plan seems to bring her closer to a psychotic break, reminiscent of the “bunny boiler” of a familiar movie. Just when you think she can’t go to darker depths, she shocks us with the intensity of her actions. And yet she carries on with some sort of normalcy in her job as a flight attendant. She even earns a promotion as a safety ambassador.

As we turn the pages, numbed by the boldness of each move she makes, we learn bits and pieces of her childhood and adolescence…and the origins of her destructive behavior. By the end, I couldn’t stop reading, waiting for the stunning ending, wondering who she would target next. 4.5 stars.***

REVIEW: THE EDITOR, BY STEVEN ROWLEY

 

After years of trying to make it as a writer in 1990s New York City, James Smale finally sells his novel to an editor at a major publishing house: none other than Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Jackie—or Mrs. Onassis, as she’s known in the office—has fallen in love with James’s candidly autobiographical novel, one that exposes his own dysfunctional family. But when the book’s forthcoming publication threatens to unravel already fragile relationships, both within his family and with his partner, James finds that he can’t bring himself to finish the manuscript.

Jackie and James develop an unexpected friendship, and she pushes him to write an authentic ending, encouraging him to head home to confront the truth about his relationship with his mother. Then a long-held family secret is revealed, and he realizes his editor may have had a larger plan that goes beyond the page…

 

My Thoughts: The Editor is an engaging story that focuses on the publishing industry of the recent past. Set in 1990s Manhattan, the tale features the unique and captivating addition of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as the charming editor for a struggling author. Her literary gifts remind us all of how rare such bookish delights seem set against our contemporary world of Print-on-Demand literature in various formats.

James Smale, as the author, is on a chaotic journey when the story begins. His dysfunctional family is the centerpiece of his work, which offers the opportunity for Jackie to guide him through the process of rewriting his own life by reconnecting with his mother, the protagonist of his fictionalized autobiography. His mother has kept him at arm’s length, remaining silent to his questions about their family history. Jackie’s advice: let her tell her story. Will an unexpected secret widen the rift between them, or be the first step forward to a new relationship?

The book and its characters swept me back to an illusory time when we were not bombarded by social media, the 24 -hour news cycle, and constant cynicism. I miss being able to admire those in positions of power. For a little while, the glow of a golden time that I always think of as a part of Jackie and the lives she led settled over me and held me captive. 4.5 stars.***